The Book of the Epic
by Helene A. Guerber
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End of the Song. Having thus punished the traitor and converted the heathen, Charlemagne, lying in his chamber one night, receives a visit from the angel Gabriel, who bids him go forth and do further battle against the pagans. Weary of warfare and longing for rest, the aged emperor moans, "God, how painful is my life!" for he knows he must obey.

When the emperor's justice was satisfied, His mighty wrath did awhile subside. Queen Bramimonde was a Christian made. The day passed on into night's dark shade; As the king in his vaulted chamber lay, Saint Gabriel came from God to say, "Karl, thou shalt summon thine empire's host, And march in haste to Bira's coast; Unto Impha city relief to bring, And succor Vivian, the Christian king. The heathens in siege have the town essayed, And the shattered Christians invoke thine aid." Fain would Karl such task decline. "God! what a life of toil is mine!" He wept; his hoary beard he wrung.

Here ends the Song of Theroulde.


[Footnote 8: Another version of this story can be found in the author's "Legends of the Middle Ages."]

[Footnote 9: See the author's "Story of Old France."]

[Footnote 10: All the quotations in this chapter are from John O'Hagen's translation of the "Song of Roland."]

[Footnote 11: See the author's "Legends of the Rhine."]


Who would list to the good lay Gladness of the captive grey? 'Tis how two young lovers met, Aucassin and Nicolette, Of the pains the lover bore And the sorrow he outwore, For the goodness and the grace, Of his love, so fair of face.

Sweet the song, the story sweet, There is no man hearkens it, No man living 'neath the sun, So outwearied, so foredone, Sick and woful, worn and sad, But is healed, but is glad. 'Tis so sweet. So say they, speak they, tell they the tale.[12]

This popular mediaeval ballad is in alternate fragments of verse and prose, and relates how the Count of Valence made desperate war against the Count of Biaucaire, a very old and frail man, who saw that his castle was in imminent danger of being taken and sacked. In his distress, this old lord besought his son Aucassin, who so far had taken no interest in the war, to go forth and fight. The youth, however, refused to do so, saying his heart was wrapped up in love for Nicolette, a fair slave belonging to a captain in town. This man, seeing the delicacy of his slave and realizing she must belong to some good family, had her baptized and treated her as if she were an adopted daughter.

On account of Nicolette's lowly condition, Aucassin's father refuses to listen when the young man proposes to marry her, and sternly bids him think of a wife better suited, to his rank. The young lover, however, vehemently insists that Nicolette is fit to be an empress, and vows he will not fight until he has won her for his own. On seeing how intractable this youth is, the father beseeches the owner of the slave to clap her in prison, so that Aucassin will not be able to get at her in any way.

Heart-broken to think that his lady-love is undergoing captivity in his behalf, Aucassin spends his time moping. To induce him to fight, his father finally promises that if he will go forth and drive away the foe he will be allowed to see Nicolette and kiss her. The prospect of such a reward so fires the young hero, that he sallies forth, routs the besiegers, and, seizing the Count of Valence, brings him back a prisoner. On entering the castle, he immediately begins to clamor for Nicolette, but his father now declares he would rather see the maiden burned as a witch than to let his son have anything more to do with her. Hearing this, Aucassin indignantly declares such being the case he will free his prisoner, an act of generosity which infuriates his father, who hopes to be enriched by the count's ransom. To punish Aucassin, the Count of Biaucaire now thrusts him into prison, but, although the lovers are sharing the same fate, they languish apart, and, therefore, spend all their time lamenting.

One night, when the moon is shining bright, Nicolette, who has heard she is likely to be brought to trial and burned, decides to effect her escape. As the old woman who mounts guard over her is fast asleep, she softly ties together her sheets and towels, and, fastening them to a pillar, lets herself down by the window into the garden, from whence she timidly steals out into the night.

The poem now artlessly describes Nicolette's beauty as she trips over the dewy grass, her tremors as she slips through the postern gate, and her lingering at the foot of the tower where her lover is imprisoned. While pausing there, Nicolette overhears his voice lamenting, and, thrusting her head into an aperture in the wall, tells him that she is about to escape and that as soon as she is gone they will set him free. To convince her lover that it is she who is talking, Nicolette cuts off a golden curl, which she drops down into his dungeon, repeating that she must flee. But Aucassin beseeches her not to go, knowing a young maid is exposed to countless dangers out in the world, and vehemently declares he would die were any one to lay a finger upon her. He adds that she alone shall be his wife, and that the mere thought of her belonging to any one else is unendurable. This declaration of love cheers poor Nicolette, who is so entranced by her lover's words that she fails to notice the approach of a patrol. A young sentinel, however, peering down from the walls, touched by Nicolette's beauty and by the plight of these young lovers, warns them of their danger. But not daring to speak openly to Nicolette, he chants a musical warning, which comes just in time to enable her to hide behind a pillar. There she cowers until the guards pass by, then, slipping down into dry moat,—although it is a perilous undertaking,—she painfully climbs up its other side and seeks refuge in a neighboring forest, where, although the poem informs us there are "beasts serpentine," she feels safer than in town.

It is while wandering in this wilderness that Nicolette runs across some shepherds, whom she bribes to go and tell Aucassin a wild beast is ranging through the forest, and that he should come and slay it as soon as possible. Having thus devised means to entice her lover out of Biaucaire, Nicolette wanders on until she reaches a lovely spot, where she erects a rustic lodge, decking it with the brightest flowers she can find, in hopes that her lover, when weary of hunting, will rest beneath its flowery roof, and guess that it was erected by her fair hands.

Meantime the Count of Biaucaire, hearing Nicolette has vanished, sets his son free, and, seeing him sunk in melancholy, urges him to go out and hunt, thinking the exercise may make him forget the loss of his beloved. Still, it is only when shepherds come and report that a wild beast is ranging through the forest, that the youth mounts his steed and sallies forth, his father little suspecting that instead of tracking game, he is bent on seeking traces of his beloved.

Ere long Aucassin encounters an old charcoal-burner, to whom he confides his loss, and who assures him such a sorrow is nothing compared to his own. On discovering that the poor man's tears can be stayed with money, Aucassin bestows upon him the small sum he needs, receiving in return the information that a lovely maiden has been seen in the forest. Continuing his quest, Aucassin comes in due time to the flowery bower, and, finding it empty, sings his love and sorrow in tones that reach Nicolette's ear. Then, dismounting from his horse to rest here for the night, Aucassin manages to sprain his shoulder. Thereupon Nicolette steals into the bower and takes immediate measures to mitigate the pain.

The mere fact that Nicolette is beside him helps Aucassin to forget everything else, and it is only after the first raptures are over, that they decide not to linger in the forest, where the Count of Biaucaire will soon find and separate them. To prevent such a calamity, they decide to depart together, and, as there is no extra steed for Nicolette to ride, her lover lifts her up on his horse before him, clasping her tight and kissing her repeatedly as they gallop along.

Aucassin the Franc, the fair, Aucassin of yellow hair, Gentle knight, and true lover, From the forest doth he fare, Holds his love before him there, Kissing cheek, and chin, and eyes; But she spake in sober wise, "Aucassin, true love and fair, To what land do we repair?" "Sweet my love, I take no care, Thou art with me everywhere!" So they pass the woods and downs, Pass the villages and towns, Hills and dales and open land, Came at dawn to the sea sand, Lighted down upon the strand, Beside the sea.

Thus the lovers travel all night, reach the sea-shore at dawn, and wander along it, arms twined around each other, while their weary steed follows them with drooped head.

At sunrise a vessel nears the shore, upon which they embark to get out of reach of the wrath of the Count of Biaucaire. The vessel, however, is soon overtaken by a terrible tempest, which, after tossing it about for seven days, drives it into the harbor of Torelore. This is the mediaeval "topsy-turvy land," for on entering the castle Aucassin learns that the king is lying abed, because a son has been born to him, while the queen is at the head of the army fighting! This state of affairs so incenses Aucassin, that armed with a big stick he enters the king's room, gives him a good beating, and wrings from him a promise that no man in his country will ever lie abed again when a child is born, or send his wife out to do hard work. Having effected this reform in the land of Torelore, Aucassin and Nicolette dwell there peacefully, for three years, at the end of which time the castle is taken by some Saracens. They immediately proceed to sack it, carrying off its inmates to sell them as slaves. Bound fast, Aucassin and Nicolette are thrust into separate ships, but, although these are going to the same port, a sudden tempest drives the vessel in which Aucassin lies to the shore of Biaucaire. There the people capture it, and finding their young master, set him free, and invite him to take possession of his castle, for, his father having died during his absence, he is now master of all he surveys.

Meantime Nicolette, landing at Carthage, discovers that this is her native town, and recognizes in her captors—her father and brothers. They are so overjoyed at recovering this long-lost sister that they propose to keep her with them, but Nicolette assures them she will never be happy until she rejoins Aucassin. Meantime she learns to play on the viol, and, when she has attained proficiency on this instrument, sets out in the guise of a wandering minstrel to seek her beloved. Conveyed by her brothers to the land of Biaucaire, Nicolette, soon after landing, hears that Aucassin, who has recently returned, is sorely bewailing the loss of his beloved. Presenting herself before Aucassin,—who does not recognize her owing to the disguise,—Nicolette plays so charmingly that she draws tears from his eyes. Then she begs to know his sorrows, and, on hearing he has lost his lady-love, suggests he woo the king of Carthage's daughter. Loudly averring he will never woo any one save Nicolette, Aucassin turns sadly away, whereupon the strolling minstrel assures him he shall see his beloved before long. Although it seems impossible to Aucassin that this prediction should be verified, Nicolette has little difficulty in fulfilling her promise, for, hastening back to her old home, she obtains some of her own clothes, and, thus restored to her wonted appearance, presents herself before the delighted Aucassin, who, overjoyed to see her once more, clasps her rapturously to his heart.

The ballad adds that the two lovers, united for good and all, lived happy ever after, and were an example to all faithful lovers in the beautiful land of Biaucaire.

Many years abode they there, Many years in shade or sun, In great gladness and delight. Ne'er had Aucassin regret, Nor his lady Nicolette. Now my story all is done— Said and sung!


[Footnote 12: All the quotations in this chapter are from Andrew Lang's version of "Aucassin and Nicolette."]


Literature was born in Spain only when the Christians began to reconquer their country from the Moors. The first literary efforts therefore naturally reflected a warlike spirit, and thus assumed the epic form. Very few of these poems still exist in their original shape save the Poema del Cid, the great epic treasure of Spain, as well as the oldest monument of Spanish literature. Besides this poem, there exist fragments of epics on the Infantes of Lara and on Fernan Gonzales, and hints of others of which no traces now remain. These poems were popularized in Spain by the juglares, who invented Bernardo del Carpio so as to have a hero worthy to offset to the Roland of the jongleurs,—their French neighbors. But the poems about this hero have all perished, and his fame is preserved only in the prose chronicles. In the Cronica rimada of the thirteenth century, we discover an account of the Cid's youth, together with the episode where he slays Ximena's father, which supplied Corneille with the main theme of his tragedy.

The Spaniards also boast of a thirteenth century poem of some twenty-five hundred stanzas on the life of Alexander, a fourteenth century romance about Tristan, and the chivalric romance of Amadis de Gaule, which set the fashion for hosts of similar works, whose popularity had already begun to wane when Cervantes scotched all further attempts of this sort by turning the chivalric romance into ridicule in his Don Quixote.

The Spaniards also cultivated the epic ballad, or romanceros, previous to the Golden Age of their literature (1550-1700), drawing their subjects from the history or legends of France and Spain, and treating mainly of questions of chivalry and love. Arthur, the Round Table, and the Quest for the Holy Grail, were their stock subjects, previous to the appearance of Amadis de Gaule, a work of original fiction remodelled and extended in the fifteenth century by Garcia Ordonez de Montalvo. During the Golden Age, Spain boasts more than two hundred artificial epics, treating of religious, political, and historical matters. Among these the Auracana of Erzilla, the Argentina of Centenera, and the Austriada of Rufo can be mentioned. Then Velasco revived the Aeneid for his countrymen's benefit, and religious themes such as Azevedo's Creacion del Munde became popular.

The latest of the Spanish epics is that of Saavedra, who, in his El Moro Exposito, has cleverly revived the old Spanish legend of the Infantes of Lara. It is, however, the Cid which is always quoted as Spain's representative epic.


This poem, of some three thousand seven hundred lines, is divided into two cantos-and was written about 1200. It is a compilation from extant ballads in regard to the great Spanish hero Rodrigo Diaz de Bivar, born between 1030 and 1040, whose heroic deeds were performed at the time when the Christian kings were making special efforts to eject the Moors, who had invaded Spain three hundred years before.

The first feat mentioned relates that Rodrigo's father, having been insulted by Don Gomez, pined at the thought of leaving this affront unavenged, until his son, who had never fought before, volunteered to defend him. Not only did Rodrigo challenge and slay Don Gomez, but cutting off his head bore it to his father as a proof that his enemy was dead, a feat which so pleased the old gentleman that he declared Rodrigo should henceforth be head of the family.

After thus signalizing himself, Rodrigo was suddenly called upon to face five Moorish kings who had been making sallies into Castile. Not only did he defeat them, but took them prisoners, thereby winning from them the title by which he is commonly known, of "The Cid" or "The Lord."

Shortly after this Donna Ximena, daughter of Don Gomez, appeared before King Ferrando demanding satisfaction for her father's death, and consenting to forego revenge only on condition that Rodrigo would marry her. The young hero having assented, the couple were united in the presence of the king, after which Rodrigo took his beautiful bride to his mother, with whom he left her until he had earned the right to claim her by distinguishing himself in some way.

It seems that Ferrando of Castile was then disputing from the king of Aragon the possession of Calahorra, a frontier town. Both monarchs decided to settle their difference by a duel, stipulating that the town should belong to the party whose champion triumphed.

Ferrando having selected Rodrigo as his champion, our hero set out to meet his opponent, delaying on the way long enough to rescue a leper from a bog. Then, placing this unfortunate on his horse before him, Rodrigo bore him to an inn, where, in spite of the remonstrances of his followers, he allowed the leper to share his bed and board. That night, while lying beside his loathsome bed-fellow, Rodrigo suddenly felt a cold breath pass through him, and, on investigating, discovered that his companion was gone. He beheld in his stead St. Lazarus, who proclaimed that, since Rodrigo had been so charitable, he would meet with prosperity, and might know whenever he felt a cold shiver run down his spine that it was an omen of success. Thus encouraged, Rodrigo rode on to take part in the duel, but he had been so delayed that the battle call had already sounded, and Alvar Fanez, his cousin, was preparing to fight in his stead. Bidding his cousin step aside, Rodrigo entered the lists, and soon won Calahorra for Ferrando.

Pleased with what Rodrigo had done, the king now showered honors upon him, which so aroused the jealousy of the courtiers that they began to conspire with the Moors to ruin him. It happened, however, that they addressed their first proposals to the very kings whom Rodrigo had conquered, and who proved loyal enough to send him word of the plot. On discovering the treachery of the courtiers, the king banished them, but the wife of Don Garcia pleaded so eloquently with the Cid, that he furnished the banished man with letters of introduction to one of the Moorish kings, who, to please his conqueror, bestowed the city of Cabra upon him.

Although treated with such generosity, Don Garcia proved ungrateful, and even tried to cheat the Moors. Hearing this, the Cid, siding with his former enemies, came into their country to take away from Don Garcia the city which had been allotted for his use.

During one of Ferrando's absences from home, the Moors invaded one of his provinces, whereupon Rodrigo, in retaliation, besieged the city of Coimbra. While he was thus engaged his army suffered so much from lack of provisions that it finally seemed as if he would have to give up his undertaking. But the monks, who had advised the Cid to besiege the city, now came to his rescue, and by feeding his army from their own stores enabled Rodrigo to recover another town from the pagans.

Delighted with this new accession of territory, Ferrando knighted Rodrigo, who meantime had added to his title of the Cid that of Campeador, "the champion," and hereafter was often mentioned as "the one born in a fortunate hour." In addition, the king bestowed upon Rodrigo the governorship of the cities of Coimbra and Zamorra, which were to be reoccupied by Christians.

Shortly after this, the Pope demanded that Ferrando do homage to the empire, but the king rejoined that Spain was independent and therefore refused to obey. Hearing that large forces were marching against him to compel him to submit, Ferrando placed the Cid at the head of an army, and our hero not only defeated the enemy at Tobosa, but won so brilliant a victory that the Pope never ventured to renew his demands.

Feeling death draw near, Ferrando divided his realm between his sons, who became kings of Castile, Leon, and Gallicia, and bestowed upon his daughters the cities of Zamorra and Toro. Although disappointed not to inherit the whole realm, the eldest prince, Don Sancho, dared not oppose his father's will, until one of his brothers proceeded to dispossess one of their sisters. Under the plea that the promise made to their father had already been broken, Don Sancho now set out to conquer the whole realm, but proved so unfortunate in his first battle as to fall into his brother's hands. There he would have remained for the rest of his life, had not the Cid delivered him, taken his captor, and confiscated his realm in Sancho's behalf. Hearing this, the third king, Alfonso, clamored for his share of his brother's spoil, and, as none was allotted him, declared war in his turn. In this campaign Sancho proved victorious only when the Cid fought in his behalf, and the struggle resulted in the imprisonment of Alfonso, who would have been slain had not his sister asked that he be allowed to enter a monastery. From there Alfonso soon effected his escape, and hastened to seek refuge among the Moors at Toledo.

Don Sancho, having meantime assumed all three crowns, became anxious to dispossess his sister of Zamorra. But the Cid refused to take part in so unchivalrous a deed, and thereby so angered the king that he vowed he would exile him. When the Cid promptly rejoined that in that case he would hasten to Toledo and offer his services to Alfonso to help him recover all he had lost, Sancho repented and apologized. He did not, however, relinquish his project of despoiling his sister of Zamorra, but merely dispensed the Cid from accompanying him.

Because Zamorra was well defended by Vellido Dolfos,—the princess' captain,—King Sancho was not able to take it. He so sorely beset the inhabitants, however, that Vellido Dolfos resolved to get the better of him by strategy. Feigning to be driven out of the city, he secretly joined Don Sancho, and offered to deliver the city into his hands if the king would only accompany him to a side gate. Notwithstanding adverse omens, the credulous Sancho, believing him, rode off, only to meet his death at the postern gate, inside of which his murderer immediately took refuge.

On learning that his master has been slain, the Cid hastened to avenge him, and, as Sancho had left no heir, proclaimed Alfonso his successor. We are told that this young prince had already heard of his brother's death through a message from his sister, and, fearing the Moors would not allow him to depart for good, had merely asked permission to visit his kin. The wary Moorish king consented, but only on condition Alfonso would promise never to attack him or his sons, should he become king.

When Alfonso arrived at Zamorra, all the Spaniards readily did homage to him save the Cid, who refused to have anything to do with him until he had solemnly sworn he had no share in his brother's death. To satisfy the Cid, therefore, Alfonso and twelve of his men took a threefold oath in the church of Burgos; but it is said Alfonso never forgave the humiliation which the Cid thus inflicted upon him.

The new monarch proved to be a wise ruler for the kingdoms of Leon, Castile, Gallicia, and Portugal. He was not without his troubles, however, for shortly after his succession the Cid quarrelled with one of his nobles. Next the Moorish kings became disunited and Alfonso's former host summoned him to his aid. Not only did Alfonso assist this king of Toledo, but invited him into his camp, where he forced him to release him from the promise made on leaving his city. Not daring to refuse while in the power of the Christians, the Moorish king reluctantly consented, and was surprised and delighted to hear Alfonso immediately renew the oath, for, while not willing to be friends with the Moors under compulsion, he had no objection to enter into an alliance with them of his own free will.

Not long after this the king of Navarre sent forth his champion to challenge one of Alfonso's, the stake this time being three castles which the Cid won. But the Moors, taking advantage of the Cid's illness which followed this battle, rose up against Alfonso, who was compelled to wage war against them. In this campaign he would have fallen into the enemy's hands had not the Cid risen from his sick-bed to extricate him from peril! By this time the renown of the Cid was so great, that people in speaking of him invariably termed him "the Perfect One," thereby arousing such jealousy among the courtiers, that they persuaded Alfonso his subject was trying to outshine him! In anger the king decreed Rodrigo's immediate banishment, and, instead of allowing him the customary thirty days to prepare for departure, threatened to put him to death were he found within the land nine days later! As soon as the Cid informed his friends he was banished, one and all promised to follow wherever he went, as did his devoted cousin Alvar Fanez.

It is at this point that the present poem of the Cid begins, for the ballads covering the foregoing part of the Cid's life exist only in a fragmentary state. We are told that the decree of banishment proved a signal for the courtiers to plunder the hero's house, and that the Cid gazing sadly upon its ruins exclaimed, "My enemies have done this!" Then, seeing a poor woman stand by, he bade her secure her share, adding that for his part he would henceforth live by pillaging the Moors, but that the day would come when he would return home laden with honors.

On his way to Burgos the Cid was somewhat cheered by good omens, and was joined by so many knights in quest of adventure that no less than sixty banners fluttered behind him. A royal messenger had, however, preceded him to this city, to forbid the people to show him hospitality and to close his own house against him. The only person who dared inform the Cid of this fact was a little maid, who tremblingly reported that he was to be debarred from all assistance.

"O thou that in a happy hour didst gird thee with the sword, It is the order of the king; we dare not, O my lord! Sealed with his royal seal hath come his letter to forbid The Burgos folk to open door, or shelter thee, my Cid. Our goods, our homes, our very eyes, in this are all at stake; And small the gain to thee, though we meet ruin for thy sake. Go, and God prosper thee in all that thou dost undertake."[13]

Pausing at the church only long enough to say a prayer, the Cid rode out of the gates of Burgos and camped on a neighboring hill, where his nephew Martin Antolinez brought him bread and wine, declaring he would henceforth share the Cid's fortunes in defiance of the king. It was to this relative that the Cid confided the fact that he was without funds and must raise enough money to defray present expenses. Putting their heads together, these two then decided to fill two huge chests with sand, and offer them to a couple of Jews in Burgos for six hundred marks, stating the chests contained treasures too heavy and valuable to be taken into exile, and assuring them that, if they solemnly pledged themselves not to open the chests for a year, they could then claim them, provided the Cid had not redeemed them in the meanwhile. Trusting to the Cid's word and hoping to enrich themselves by this transaction, the Jews gladly lent the six hundred marks and bore away the heavy chests.

Having thus secured the required supplies, the Cid proceeded to San Pedro de Cardena, where he entrusted his wife Ximena and two daughters to the care of the prior, leaving behind him funds enough to defray all their expenses. Then, although parting with his family was as hard as "when a finger-nail is torn from the flesh," the Cid rode away, crossing the frontier just as the nine days ended. He was there greatly cheered by a vision of the angel Gabriel, who assured him all would be well with him.

The prayer was said, the mass was sung, they mounted to depart; My Cid a moment stayed to press Ximena to his heart: Ximena kissed his hand, as one distraught with grief was she: He looked upon his daughters: "These to God I leave," said he; "Unto our lady and to God, Father of all below; He knows if we shall meet again:—and now, sirs, let us go."

As when the finger-nail from out the flesh is torn away, Even so sharp to him and them the parting pang that day. Then to his saddle sprang my Cid, and forth his vassals led; But ever as he rode, to those behind he turned his head.

Entering the land of the Moors with a force of three hundred men, the Cid immediately proceeded to take a castle and to besiege the city of Alcocer. But this town resisted so bravely, that after fifteen weeks the Cid decided to effect by strategy the entrance denied by force. Feigning discouragement, he, therefore, left his camp, whereupon the inhabitants immediately poured out of the city to visit it, leaving the gates wide open behind them. The Cid, who was merely hiding near by, now cleverly cut off their retreat and thus entered Alcocer through wide-open gates.

No sooner did the Moors learn that the Cid had conquered this important place, than they hastened to besiege it, cutting off the water supply, to compel the Christians to come out. To prevent his men from perishing of thirst, the Cid made so vigorous a sortie that he not only drove the enemy away, but captured their baggage, thus winning so much booty that he was able to send thirty caparisoned steeds to Alfonso, as well as rich gifts in money to his wife. In return, the bearer of these welcome tokens was informed by King Alfonso that Rodrigo would shortly be pardoned and recalled.

Meanwhile the Cid, leaving Alcocer, had taken up his abode on the hill near Medina, which still bears his name. Thence he proceeded to the forest of Tebar, where he again fought so successfully against the Moors that he compelled the city of Saragossa to pay tribute to him. Rumors of these triumphs enticed hundreds of Castilian knights to join him, and with their aid he outwitted all the attempts the Moors made to regain their lost possessions. We are also told that in one of these battles the Cid took prisoner Don Ramon, who refused to eat until free. Seeing this, the Cid took his sword, Colada, and promised to set him and his kinsmen free if they would only eat enough to have strength to depart. Although doubtful whether this promise would be kept, Don Ramon and his follows partook of food and rode away, constantly turning their heads to make sure that they were not pursued.

He spurred his steed, but, as he rode, a backward glance he bent, Still fearing to the last my Cid his promise would repent: A thing, the world itself to win, my Cid would not have done: No perfidy was ever found in him, the Perfect One.

As some of his subjects were sorely persecuted by the Moors, Alfonso now sent word to the Cid to punish them, a task the hero promised to perform, provided the king would pledge himself never again to banish a man without giving him thirty days' notice, and to make sundry other wise reforms in his laws. Having thus secured inestimable boons for his fellow-countrymen, the Cid proceeded to besiege sundry Moorish castles, all of which he took, winning thereby much booty. Having thus served his monarch, the Cid was recalled in triumph to Castile, where he was told to keep all he had won from the Moors. In return the Cid helped Alfonso to secure Toledo, seeing the king with whom this king had sworn alliance was now dead. It was while the siege of this city was taking place that Bishop Jerome was favored by a vision of St. Isidro, who predicted they would take the city, a promise verified in 1085, when the Cid's was the first Christian banner to float above its walls. Our hero now became governor of this town, but, although he continued to wage war against the Moors, his successes had made the courtiers so jealous that they induced the king to imprison Ximena and her daughters.

Perceiving he was no longer in favor at court, the Cid haughtily withdrew, and, when Alfonso came down into Valencia, demanding that the cities which had hitherto paid tribute to his subject should now do so to him, the Cid retaliated by invading Alfonso's realm. None of the courtiers daring to oppose him, Alfonso had cause bitterly to repent of what he had done, and humbly assured his powerful subject he would never molest him again. Ever ready to forgive an ungrateful master, the Cid withdrew, and for a time king and subject lived in peace.

Although the Cid had permitted the Moors to remain in the cities he had conquered, they proved rather restive under the Christian yoke, and guided by Abeniaf finally told the Moors in Northern Africa that if they would only cross the sea they would deliver Valencia into their hands. But this conspiracy soon became known to the Moors who favored the Cid, and they immediately notified him, holding their town which was in dire peril for twelve days.

To keep his promise, Abeniaf finally hauled some of the Moors up over the walls by means of ropes, and the presence of these foes in their midst compelled the Moors who favored the Cid to leave the city in disguise, thus allowing Abeniaf and his allies to plunder right and left and even to murder the Moorish king. This done, Abeniaf himself assumed the regal authority, and began to govern the city in such an arbitrary way that he soon managed to offend even his own friends.

Meantime the Moors who had fled rejoined the Cid, and, when they reported what had occurred, Rodrigo wrote to Abeniaf, reproaching him for his treachery and demanding the surrender of the property he had left in town. Because Abeniaf replied that his allies had taken possession of it, the Cid termed him a traitor and swore he would secure revenge. Thereupon our hero set out with an army, and, finding himself unable to take the city by assault, began to besiege it, pulling down the houses in the suburbs to secure necessary materials to construct his camp. Then he began a systematic attack on the city, mastering one of its defences after another, and carrying on the siege with such vigor that he thereby won additional glory. All the Moorish captives taken were sent out through his lines into the open country, where they were invited to pursue their agricultural avocations, and assured protection, provided they would pay tribute of one-tenth of the produce of their lands.

Meantime the people in the besieged city suffered so sorely from hunger, that they finally sent word they would treat with the Cid if he would allow Abeniaf and his followers to leave the country unharmed. The Cid having consented to this proposal, the invading Moors withdrew to Morocco, whence, however, they soon returned in increased numbers to recapture Valencia and take their revenge upon Abeniaf, who had proved treacherous to them too. To check the advance of this foe, the Cid flooded the country by opening the sluices in the irrigation canals, and the invaders, fancying themselves in danger of drowning, beat a hasty retreat. Because Abeniaf took advantage of these circumstances to turn traitor again, the Cid besieged him in Valencia for nine months, during which the famine became so intense that the inhabitants resorted to all manner of expedients to satisfy their hunger.

Throughout this campaign the Cid ate his meals in public, sitting by himself at a high table and assigning the one next him to the warriors who won the most distinction in battle. This table was headed by Alvar Fanez, surrounded by the most famous knights. A notorious coward, pretending to have done great deeds, advanced one day to claim a seat among the heroes. Perceiving his intention, the Cid called him to come and sit with him, whereupon the knight became so elated that when he again found himself on the field of battle he actually did wonders! Seeing his efforts, the Cid generously encouraged him and, after he had shown himself brave indeed, publicly bade him sit with the distinguished knights.

The city of Valencia having finally opened its gates, the Cid marched in with a train of provision-wagons, for he longed to relieve the starving. Then, sending for the principal magistrates, he expressed commiseration for their sufferings, adding that he would treat the people fairly, provided they proved loyal in their turn. But, instead of occupying the city itself, he and the Christians returned to the suburbs, enjoining upon the Moorish governor to maintain order among his people, and slay none but Abeniaf, who had proved traitor to all.

Soon after, seeing that the Moors and Christians would never be able to live in peace within the same enclosure, the Cid appointed another place of abode for the Moors. Then he and his followers marched into Valencia, which they proceeded to hold, in spite of sundry attempts on the part of the Moors to recover possession of so important a stronghold.

When the Moorish king of Seville ventured to attack the Cid, he and his thirty thousand men experienced defeat and many of his force were drowned in the river while trying to escape. Such was the amount of spoil obtained in this and other battles, that the Cid was able to make his soldiers rich beyond their dreams, although by this time he had a very large force, for new recruits constantly joined him during his wars with the Moors.

As the Cid had vowed on leaving home never to cut his beard until recalled, he was now a most venerable-looking man, with a beard of such length that it had to be bound out of his way by silken cords whenever he wanted to fight. Among those who now fought in the Cid's ranks was Hieronymo (Jerome), who became bishop of Valencia, and who, in his anxiety to restore the whole land to Christian rule, fought by the Cid's side, and invariably advised him to transform all captured mosques into Christian churches.

But lo! all armed from head to heel the Bishop Jerome shows; He ever brings good fortune to my Cid where'er he goes. "Mass have I said, and now I come to join you in the fray; To strike a blow against the Moor in battle if I may, And in the field win honor for my order and my hand. It is for this that I am here, far from my native land. Unto Valencia did I come to cast my lot with you, All for the longing that I had to slay a Moor or two. And so, in warlike guise I come, with blazoned shield, and lance, That I may flesh my blade to-day, if God but give the chance. Then send me to the front to do the bidding of my heart: Grant me this favor that I ask, or else, my Cid, we part!"

Now that he had a fixed abiding place, the Cid bade Alvar Fanez and Martin Antolinez carry a rich present to Don Alfonso, and obtain his permission to bring his wife and daughters to Valencia. The same messengers were also laden with a reward for the Abbot of St. Pedro, under whose protection the Cid's family had taken refuge, and with funds to redeem the chests of sand from the Jews at Burgos, begging their pardon for the deception practised upon them and allowing them higher interest than they could ever have claimed. Not only did the messengers gallantly acquit themselves of this embassy, but boasted everywhere of the five pitched battles the Cid had won and of the eight towns now under his sway.

On learning that the Cid had conquered Valencia, Alfonso expressed keen delight, although his jealous courtiers did not hesitate to murmur they could have done as well! The monarch also granted permission to Donna Ximena and her daughters to join the Cid, and the three ladies set out with their escorts for Valencia. Nine miles outside this city, the Cid met them, mounted on his steed Bavieca, which he had won from the Moors, and, joyfully embracing wife and daughters, welcomed them to Valencia, where from the top of the Alcazar he bade them view the fertile country which paid tribute to him.

But, three months after the ladies' arrival, fifty thousand Moors crossed over from Africa to recover their lost territory. Hearing this, the Cid immediately laid in a stock of provisions, renewed his supplies of ammunition, and inspected the walls and engines of his towns to make sure they could resist. These preparations concluded, he told his wife and daughters they should now see with their own eyes how well he could fight! Soon after the Moors began besieging the city (1102), the Cid arranged that some of his troops should slip out and attack them from behind while he faced them. By this stratagem the Moors were caught between opposing forces, and overestimating their numbers fled in terror, allowing the Cid to triumph once more, although he had only four thousand men to oppose to their fifty thousand! Thanks to this panic of the Moors the Cid collected such huge quantities of booty, that he was able to send a hundred fully equipped horses to King Alfonso, as well as the tent which he had captured from the Moorish monarch. These gifts not only pleased Alfonso, but awed and silenced the courtiers, among whom were the Infantes of Carrion, who deemed it might be well to sue for the Cid's daughters, since the father was able to bestow such rich gifts. Having reached this decision, these scheming youths approached the king, who, counting upon his vassals' implicit obedience to his commands, promised they should marry as they wished.

When the bearers of the Cid's present, therefore, returned to Valencia, they bore a letter wherein Alfonso bade the Cid give his daughters in marriage to the Infantes of Carrion. Although this marriage suited neither the old hero nor his wife, both were far too loyal to oppose the king's wishes, and humbly sent word they would obey.

Then the Cid graciously went to meet his future sons-in-law. They were escorted to the banks of the Tagus by Alfonso himself, who there expressed surprise at the length of the Cid's beard, and seemed awed by the pomp with which he was surrounded, for at the banquet all the chief men ate out of dishes of gold and no one was asked to use anything less precious than silver. Not only did the Cid assure his future sons-in-law that his daughters should have rich dowries, but, the banquet ended, escorted them back to Valencia, where he entertained them royally.

The wedding festivities lasted fifteen days, but even after they were over the Infantes of Carrion tarried in Valencia, thus giving the Cid more than one opportunity to regret having bestowed his daughters' hands upon youths who possessed neither courage nor nobility of character. While the young men were still lingering in Valencia, it happened one afternoon—while the Cid lay sleeping in the hall—that a huge lion, kept in the court-yard for his amusement, escaped from its keepers. While those present immediately rushed forward to protect the sleeper, the Cid's sons-in-law, terrified at the sight of the monster, crept one beneath the hero's couch and the other over a wine-press, thus soiling his garments so he was not fit to be seen. At the lion's roar the Cid awoke. Seeing at a glance what had occurred, he sprang forward, then, laying a powerful hand on the animal's mane, compelled him to follow him out of the hall, and thrust him ignominiously back into his cage.

Because the Infantes had so plainly revealed their cowardice, people made fun of them, until they roused their resentment to such an extent that, when the Moors again threatened Valencia, they offered to go forth and defend the Cid. This show of courage simply delighted the old hero, who sallied forth accompanied by both sons-in-law and by the bishop, who was a mighty fighter. Although most of the warriors present did wonders on this occasion, the Infantes of Carrion were careful not to run any risk, although one of them purchased a horse which a soldier had won from the Moors, and shamelessly passed it off as his own trophy. Pleased to think this son-in-law had so distinguished himself, the Cid complimented him after the battle, where he himself had slain so many Moors and won so much booty that he was able to send another princely present to Alfonso. Perceiving they were still objects of mockery among the followers of the Cid, the Infantes now begged permission to take their wives home, although their real intention was to make these helpless girls pay for the insults they had received. Although the Cid little suspected this fact, he regretfully allowed his daughters to depart, and tried to please his sons-in-law by bestowing upon them the choice swords, Tizona and Colada, won in the course of his battles against the Moors.

Two days' journey from Valencia the Infantes prepared to carry out the revenge they had planned, but while conferring in regard to its details were overheard by a Moor, who, vowing he would have nothing to do with such cowards, left them unceremoniously. Sending on their main troops with a cousin of the girls, Felez Munoz, who served as their escort, the Infantes led their wives into a neighboring forest, where, after stripping them, they beat them cruelly, kicked them with their spurs, and abandoned them grievously wounded and trembling for their lives. When the Infantes rejoined their suite minus their wives, Felez Munoz, suspecting something was wrong, rode back hastily, and found his cousins in such a pitiful plight that they were too weak to speak. Casting his own cloak about the nearly naked women, he tenderly bore them into a thicket, where they could lie in safety while he watched over them all night, for he did not dare leave them to go in quest of aid. At dawn he hurried off to a neighboring village and secured help. There, in the house of a kind man, the poor ladies were cared for, while their cousin hastened on to apprise the Cid of what had occurred.

Meantime the Infantes had met Alvar Fanez conveying to the king another present, and, on being asked where were their wives, carelessly rejoined they had left them behind. Ill pleased with such a report, Alvar Fanez and his troops hurried back in quest of the ladies, but found nothing save traces of blood, which made them suspect foul play. On discovering what had really happened to the Cid's daughters, Alvar Fanez hurried on to deliver the present to the king, and indignantly reported what treatment the Cid's daughters had undergone at the hands of the bridegrooms the king had chosen for them, informing him that since he had made the marriage it behooved him to see justice done. Horrified on hearing what had occurred, Alfonso summoned the Cortes, sending word to the Cid and to the Infantes to appear before it at Toledo three months hence.

Meantime the Cid, learning what had befallen his poor girls, hastened to them, took them home, and, hearing that the king himself would judge his case, decided to abide by the decision of the Cortes. At the end of the third month, therefore, the Cid's followers—who had preceded him—erected in the royal hall at Toledo the ivory seat he had won at Valencia, and Alfonso himself openly declared the Cid quite worthy to occupy a throne by his side, seeing no one had ever served him as well as the man whom the courtiers were always trying to belittle. The day for the solemn session having dawned, the Cid entered the hall, followed by a hundred knights, while the Infantes of Carrion appeared there with equal numbers, being afraid of an attack. When summoned to state his wrongs, the Cid quietly rose from his ivory throne, declaring that, having bestowed upon the Infantes two swords of great price, he demanded their return, since, as they refused to have anything more to do with his daughters, he could no longer consider them his sons. All present were amazed at the mildness of the Cid's speech and at his demanding merely the return of his swords, and the Infantes, glad to be let off so easily, promptly resigned both weapons into the Cid's hand. With his precious swords lying across his lap, the Cid now declared that having also given the Infantes large sums of money he wished those returned also, and, although the young men objected, the court sentenced them to pay the sum the Cid claimed. Both of these demands having been granted, the Cid next required satisfaction for the treatment the Infantes had inflicted upon his daughters, eloquently describing to the Cortes the cruelty and treachery used.

"So please your Grace! once more upon your clemency I call; A grievance yet remains untold, the greatest grief of all. And let the court give ear, and weigh the wrong that hath been done. I hold myself dishonored by the lords of Carrion. Redress my combat they must yield; none other will I take. How now, Infantes! what excuse, what answer do ye make? Why have ye laid my heartstrings bare? In jest or earnest say, Have I offended you? and I will make amends to-day.

"My daughters in your hands I placed the day that forth ye went, And rich in wealth and honors from Valencia were ye sent. Why did ye carry with you brides ye loved not, treacherous curs? Why tear their flesh in Corpes wood with saddle-girths and spurs, And leave them to the beasts of prey? Villains throughout were ye! What answer ye can make to this 'tis for the court to see."

When the Cid added that Alfonso was responsible for these unfortunate marriages, the monarch admitted the fact, and asked what the Infantes of Carrion could say in their own defence. Insolently they declared the Cid's daughters not worthy to mate with them, stating they had, on the whole, treated them better than they deserved by honoring them for a time with their attentions.

Had not the Cid forbidden his followers to speak until he granted permission, these words would have been avenged almost as soon as uttered. But, forgetting his previous orders, the aged Cid now demanded of Pero Mudo (Dumby) why he did not speak, whereupon this hero boldly struck one of the Infantes' party and challenged them all to fight.

Thus compelled to settle the difficulty by a judicial duel, the king bade the Infantes and their uncle be ready to meet the Cid's champions in the lists on the morrow. The poem describes the encounter thus:

The marshals leave them face to face and from the lists are gone; Here stand the champions of my Cid, there those of Carrion; Each with his gaze intent and fixed upon his chosen foe, Their bucklers braced before their breasts, their lances pointing low, Their heads bent down, as each man leans above his saddle-bow. Then with one impulse every spur is in the charger's side, And earth itself is felt to shake beneath their furious stride; Till, midway meeting, three with three, in struggle fierce they lock, While all account them dead who hear the echo of the shock.

The cowardly Infantes, having been defeated, publicly confessed themselves in the wrong, and were ever after abhorred, while the Cid returned to Valencia with the spoils wrung from his adversaries, and proudly presented to his wife and daughters the three champions who had upheld their cause.

He who a noble lady wrongs and casts aside—may he Meet like requital for his deeds, or worse, if worse there be. But let us leave them where they lie—their meed is all men's scorn. Turn we to speak of him that in a happy hour was born. Valencia the Great was glad, rejoiced at heart to see The honoured champions of her lord return in victory.

Shortly after this the Cid's pride was further salved by proposals of marriage from the princes of Aragon and Navarre, and thus his descendants in due time sat upon the thrones of these realms.

And he that in a good hour was born, behold how he hath sped! His daughters now to higher rank and greater honor wed: Sought by Navarre and Aragon for queens his daughters twain; And monarchs of his blood to-day upon the thrones of Spain.

Five years now elapsed during which the Cid lived happy, honored by all and visited by embassies even from distant Persia. But the Cid was now old and felt his end near, for St. Peter visited him one night and warned him that, although he would die in thirty days, he would triumph over the Moors even after life had departed.

This assurance was most comforting, for hosts of Moors had suddenly crossed the seas and were about to besiege Valencia. Trusting in St. Peter's warning, the Cid made all his preparations for death, and, knowing his followers would never be able to hold the city after he was gone, bade them keep his demise secret, embalm his body, bind it firmly on his steed Bavieca, and boldly cut their way out of the city with him in their van.

Just as had been predicted, the Cid died on the thirtieth day after his vision, and, his corpse having been embalmed as he directed, his followers prepared to leave Valencia. To the amazement of the Moors, the gates of the city they were besieging were suddenly flung open wide, and out sallied the Christians with the Cid in their midst. The mere sight of this heroic leader caused such a panic, that the little troop of six hundred Christian knights safely conveyed their dead chief and his family through the enemy's serried ranks to Castile. Other detachments led by the bishop and Gil Diaz then drove these Moors back to Africa after securing immense spoil.

Seeing Valencia abandoned, the Moors whom the Cid had established without the city returned to take possession of their former houses, on one of which they discovered an inscription stating that the Cid Campeador was dead and would no longer dispute possession of the city.

Meantime the funeral procession had gone on to the Monastery of St. Pedro de Cardena, where the Cid was buried, as he requested, and where his marvellously preserved body sat in his ivory throne ten years, before it was placed in its present tomb.

For two years and a half the steed Bavieca was reverently tended by the Cid's followers, none of whom, however, ever presumed to bestride him. As for Ximena, having mounted guard over her husband's remains four years, she finally died, leaving grandchildren to rule over Navarre and Aragon.

And so his honor in the land grows greater day by day. Upon the feast of Pentecost from life he passed away. For him and all of us the Grace of Christ let us implore. And here ye have the story of my Cid Campeador.


[Footnote 13: All the quotations in this chapter are taken from translation, of "The Cid" by Ormsby.]


Portuguese literature, owing to its late birth, shows little originality. Besides, its earliest poems are of a purely lyrical and not of an epical type. Then, too, its reigning family being of Burgundian extraction, it borrowed its main ideas and literary material from France. In that way Charlemagne, the Arthurian romances, and the story of the Holy Grail became popular in Portugal, where it is even claimed that Amadis de Gaule originated, although it received its finished form in Spain.

The national epic of Portugal is the work of Luis de Camoens, who, inspired by patriotic fervor, sang in Os Lusiades of the discovery of the eagerly sought maritime road to India. Of course, Vasco da Gama is the hero of this epic, which is described in extenso further on.

In imitation of Camoens, sundry other Portuguese poets attempted epics on historical themes, but none of their works possess sufficient merits to keep their memory green.

During the sixteenth century, many versions of the prose epics or romances of chivalry were rife, Amadis de Gaule and its sequel, Palmerina d'Inglaterra, being the most popular of all.

Later on Meneses composed, according to strict classic rules, a tedious epic entitled Henriqueida, in praise of the monarch Henry, and de Macedo left O Oriente, an epical composition which: enjoyed a passing popularity.


Introduction. The author of the Portuguese epic, Luis de Camoens, was born at Lisbon in 1524. Although his father, commander of a warship, was lost at sea during his infancy, his mother contrived to give him a good education, and even sent him to the University at Coimbra, where he began to write poetry. After graduating Camoens served at court, and there incurred royal displeasure by falling in love with a lady his majesty chose to honor with his attentions. During a period of banishment at Santarem, Camoens began the Lusiad, Os Lusiades, an epic poem celebrating Vasco da Gama's journey to India in 1497[14] and rehearsing with patriotic enthusiasm the glories of Portuguese history. Owing to its theme, this epic, which a great authority claims should be termed "the Portugade," is also known as the Epic of Commerce or the Epic of Patriotism.

After his banishment Camoens obtained permission to join the forces directed against the Moors, and shortly after lost an eye in an engagement in the Strait of Gibraltar. Although he distinguished himself as a warrior, Camoens did not even then neglect the muse, for he reports he wielded the pen with one hand and the sword with the other.

After this campaign Camoens returned to court, but, incensed by the treatment he received at the hands of jealous courtiers, he soon vowed his ungrateful country should not even possess his bones, and sailed for India, in 1553, in a fleet of four vessels, only one of which was to arrive at its destination, Goa.

While in India Camoens sided with one of the native kings, whose wrath he excited by imprudently revealing his political tendencies. He was, therefore, exiled to Macao, where for five years he served as "administrator of the effects of deceased persons," and managed to amass a considerable fortune while continuing his epic. It was on his way back to Goa that Camoens suffered shipwreck, and lost all he possessed, except his poem, with which he swam ashore.

Sixteen years after his departure from Lisbon, Camoens returned to his native city, bringing nothing save his completed epic, which, owing to the pestilence then raging in Europe, could be published only in 1572. Even then the Lusiad attracted little attention, and won for him only a small royal pension, which, however, the next king rescinded. Thus, poor Camoens, being sixty-two years old, died in an almshouse, having been partly supported since his return by a Javanese servant, who begged for his master in the streets of Lisbon.

Camoens' poem Os Lusiades, or the Lusitanians (i.e., Portuguese), comprises ten books, containing 1102 stanzas in heroic iambics, and is replete with mythological allusions. Its outline is as follows:

Book I. After invoking the muses and making a ceremonious address to King Sebastian, the poet describes how Jupiter, having assembled the gods on Mount Olympus, directs their glances upon Vasco da Gama's ships plying the waves of an unknown sea, and announces to them that the Portuguese, who have already made such notable maritime discoveries, are about to achieve the conquest of India.

Bacchus, who has long been master of this land, thereupon wrathfully vows Portugal shall not rob him of his domain, while Venus and Mars implore Jupiter to favor the Lusitanians, whom they consider descendants of the Romans. The king of the gods is so ready to grant this prayer, that he immediately despatches Mercury to guide the voyagers safely to Madagascar. Here the Portuguese, mistaken for Moors on account of their swarthy complexions, are at first made welcome. But when the islanders discover the strangers are Christians, they determine to annihilate them if possible. So, instigated by one of their priests,—Bacchus in disguise,—the islanders attack the Portuguese when they next land to get water. Seeing his men in danger, Da Gama discharges his artillery, and the terrified natives fall upon their knees and not only beg for mercy, but offer to provide him with a pilot capable of guiding him safely to India.

This offer is accepted by Da Gama, who does not suspect this pilot has instructions to take him to Quiloa, where all Christians are slain. To delude the unsuspecting Portuguese navigator into that port, the pilot avers the Quiloans are Christians; but all his evil plans miscarry, thanks to the interference of Mars and Venus, who by contrary winds hinder the vessels from entering this port.

Book II. The traitor pilot now steers toward Mombaca, where meanwhile Bacchus has been plotting to secure the death of the Portuguese. But here Venus and her nymphs block the entrance of the harbor with huge rocks, and the pilot, realizing the Christians are receiving supernatural aid, jumps overboard and is drowned!

Venus, having thus twice rescued her proteges from imminent death, now visits Olympus, and by the exercise of all her conquettish wiles obtains from Jupiter a promise to favor the Portuguese. In accordance with this pledge, Mercury himself is despatched to guide the fleet safely to Melinda, whose harbor the Portuguese finally enter, decked with flags and accompanied by triumphant music.

Now Gama's bands the quiv'ring trumpet blow, Thick o'er the wave the crowding barges row, The Moorish flags the curling waters sweep, The Lusian mortars thunder o'er the deep; Again the fiery roar heaven's concave tears, The Moors astonished stop their wounded ears; Again loud thunders rattle o'er the bay, And clouds of smoke wide-rolling blot the day; The captain's barge the gen'rous king ascends, His arms the chief enfold, the captain bends (A rev'rence to the scepter'd grandeur due): In silent awe the monarch's wond'ring view Is fix'd on Vasco's noble mien; the while His thoughts with wonder weigh the hero's toil. Esteem and friendship with his wonder rise, And free to Gama all his kingdom lies.[15]

Book III. As Vasco da Gama has solemnly vowed not to leave his ship until he can set foot upon Indian soil, he refuses to land at Melinda although cordially invited to do so by the native king. Seeing the foreign commander will not come ashore, the king visits the Portuguese vessel, where he is sumptuously entertained and hears from Da Gama's own lips an enthusiastic outline of the history of Portugal. After touching upon events which occurred there in mythological ages, Vasco relates how Portugal, under Viriagus, resisted the Roman conquerors, and what a long conflict his country later sustained against the Moors. He also explains by what means Portugal became an independent kingdom, and enthusiastically describes the patriotism of his countryman Egas Moniz, who, when his king was captured at the battle of Guimaraens, advised this prince to purchase his liberty by pledging himself to do homage to Castile. But, his master once free, Egas Moniz bade him retract this promise, saying that, since he and his family were pledged for its execution, they would rather lose their lives than see Portugal subjected to Castile.

"And now, O king," the kneeling Egas cries, "Behold my perjured honor's sacrifice: If such mean victims can atone thine ire, Here let my wife, my babes, myself expire. If gen'rous bosoms such revenge can take, Here let them perish for the father's sake: The guilty tongue, the guilty hands are these, Nor let a common death thy wrath appease; For us let all the rage of torture burn, But to my prince, thy son, in friendship turn."

Touched by the patriotism and devotion of Moniz, the foe not only spared his life, but showered favors upon him and even allowed him to go home.

The king, thus saved from vassalage by the devotion of Moniz, is considered the first independent ruler of Portugal. Shortly after this occurrence, he defeated five Moorish rulers in the battle of Ourique, where the Portuguese claim he was favored with the appearance of a cross in the sky. Because of this miracle, the Portuguese monarch incorporated a cross on his shield, surrounding it with five coins, said to represent the five kings he defeated. Later on, being made a prisoner at Badajoz, he abdicated in favor of his son.

After proudly enumerating the heroic deeds of various Alphonsos and Sanchos of Portugal, Da Gama related the touching tale of Fair Inez de Castro (retold by Mrs. Hemans), to whom Don Pedro, although she was below him in station, was united by a secret marriage. For several years their happiness was unbroken and several children had been born to them before the king, Don Pedro's father, discovered this alliance. Taking advantage of a temporary absence of his son, Alphonso the Brave sent for Inez and her children and sentenced them all to death, although his daughter-in-law fell at his feet and implored him to have mercy upon her little ones, even if he would not spare her. The king, however, would not relent, and signalled to the courtiers to stab Inez and her children.

In tears she utter'd—as the frozen snow Touch'd by the spring's mild ray, begins to flow, So just began to melt his stubborn soul, As mild-ray'd Pity o'er the tyrant stole; But destiny forbade: with eager zeal (Again pretended for the public weal), Her fierce accusers urg'd her speedy doom; Again dark rage diffus'd its horrid gloom O'er stern Alonzo's brow: swift at the sign, Their swords, unsheath'd, around her brandish'd shine. O foul disgrace, of knighthood lasting stain, By men of arms a helpless lady slain!

On returning home and discovering what his father had done, Don Pedro was ready to rebel, but was restrained from doing so by the intervention of the queen. But, on ascending the throne when his father died, Don Pedro had the body of his murdered wife lifted out of the grave, decked in regal apparel, seated on the throne beside him, and he compelled all the courtiers to do homage to her and kiss her dead hand, vowing as much honor should be shown her as if she had lived to be queen. This ceremony ended, the lady's corpse was laid in a tomb, over which her mourning husband erected a beautiful monument. Then, hearing his wife's slayers had taken refuge with Peter the Cruel, Don Pedro waged war fierce against this monarch until he surrendered the culprits, who, after being tortured, were put to death.

Vasco da Gama also related how another king, Fernando, stole fair Eleanora from her husband, and vainly tried to force the Portuguese to accept their illegitimate daughter Beatrice as his successor.

Book IV. Rather than accept as queen a lady who had married a Spanish prince,—who would probably unite their country with Spain,—the Portuguese fought the battle of Eljubarota in favor of Don John, and succeeded in dictating terms of peace to the Spanish at Seville. Some time after this the king of Portugal and his brother were captured by the Moors, and told they could recover their freedom only by surrendering Ceuta. Pretending acquiescence, the king returned to Portugal, where, as he had settled with his brother, who remained as hostage with the Moors, he refused to surrender the city.

After describing the victories of Alfonso V., Vasco da Gama related how John II., thirteenth king of Portugal, first began to seek a maritime road to India, and how his successor, Emmanuel, was invited in a vision, by the gods of the Indus and Ganges, to come and conquer their country.

Here as the monarch fix'd his wond'ring eyes, Two hoary fathers from the streams arise; Their aspect rustic, yet, a reverend grace Appear'd majestic on their wrinkled face: Their tawny beards uncomb'd, and sweepy long, Adown their knees in shaggy ringlets hung; From every lock the crystal drops distil, And bathe their limbs, as in a trickling rill; Gay wreaths of flowers, of fruitage and of boughs, (Nameless in Europe), crown'd their furrow'd brows.

Book V. Such was the enthusiasm caused by this vision that many mariners dedicated their lives to the discovery of this road to India. Among these Gama modestly claims his rank, declaring that, when he called for volunteers to accompany him, more men than he could take were ready to follow him. [History reports, however, that, such was the terror inspired by a voyage in unknown seas, Vasco da Gama had to empty the prisons to secure a crew!] Then the narrator added he had—as was customary—taken ten prisoners with him, whose death sentence was to be commuted provided they faithfully carried out any difficult task he appointed.

After describing his parting with his father, Vasco da Gama relates how they sailed past Mauritania and Madeira, crossed the line, and losing sight of the polar star took the southern cross as their guide.

"O'er the wild waves, as southward thus we stray, Our port unknown, unknown the wat'ry way, Each night we see, impress'd with solemn awe, Our guiding stars and native skies withdraw, In the wide void we lose their cheering beams, Lower and lower still the pole-star gleams.

* * * * *

"Another pole-star rises o'er the wave: Full to the south a shining cross appears, Our heaving breasts the blissful omen cheers: Seven radiant stars compose the hallow'd sign That rose still higher o'er the wavy brine."

A journey of five months, diversified by tempests, electrical phenomena, and occasional landings, brought them to Cape of Tempests, which since Diaz had rounded it was called the Cape of Good Hope. While battling with the tempestuous seas of this region, Vasco da Gama beheld, in the midst of sudden darkness, Adamastor, the Spirit of the Cape, who foretold all manner of dangers from which it would be difficult for them to escape.

"We saw a hideous phantom glare; High and enormous o'er the flood he tower'd, And 'thwart our way with sullen aspect lower'd: An earthy paleness o'er his cheeks was spread, Erect uprose his hairs of wither'd red; Writhing to speak, his sable lips disclose, Sharp and disjoin'd, his gnashing teeth's blue rows; His haggard beard flow'd quiv'ring on the wind, Revenge and horror in his mien combin'd; His clouded front, by with'ring lightnings scar'd, The inward anguish of his soul declar'd. His red eyes, glowing from their dusky caves, Shot livid fires: far echoing o'er the waves His voice resounded, as the cavern'd shore With hollow groan repeats the tempest's roar."

The King of Melinda here interrupts Vasco da Gama's tale to explain he has often heard of that Adamastor, a Titan transformed into a rock but still possessing supernatural powers.

Resuming his narrative, Da Gama next describes their landing to clean their foul ships, their sufferings from scurvy, their treacherous welcome at Mozambic, their narrow escape at Quiloa and Mombaca, and ends his account with his joy at arriving at last at Melinda.

Book VI. In return for the hospitality enjoyed on board of the Portuguese ships, the king of Melinda supplies Da Gama with an able pilot, who, steering straight for India, brings the Portuguese safely to their goal, in spite of the fact that Bacchus induces Neptune to stir up sundry tempests to check them. But, the prayers of the Christian crew and the aid of Venus counteract Bacchus' spells, so Da Gama's fleet enters Calicut, in 1497, and the Lusitanians thus achieve the glory of discovering a maritime road to India!

Book VII. We now hear how a Moor, Moncaide, detained a prisoner in Calicut, serves as interpreter for Da Gama, explaining to him how this port is governed by the Zamorin, or monarch, and by his prime minister. The interpreter, at Da Gama's request, then procures an audience from the Zamorin for his new master.

Book VIII. The poet describes how on the way to the palace Da Gama passes a heathen temple, where he and his companions are shocked to behold countless idols, but where they can but admire the wonderful carvings adorning the walls on three sides. In reply to their query why the fourth wall is bare, they learn it has been predicted India shall be conquered by strangers, whose doings are to be depicted on the fourth side of their temple.

After hearing Da Gama boast about his country, the Zamorin dismisses him, promising to consider a trade treaty with Portugal. But, during the next night, Bacchus, disguised as Mahomet, appears to the Moors in Calicut, and bids them inform the Zamorin that Da Gama is a pirate, whose rich goods he can secure if he will only follow their advice.

This suggestion, duly carried out, results in Da Gama's detention as a prisoner when he lands with his goods on the next day. But, although the prime minister fancies the Portuguese fleet will soon be in his power, Da Gama has prudently given orders that, should any hostile demonstration occur before his return, his men are to man the guns and threaten to bombard the town. When the Indian vessels therefore approach the Portuguese fleet, they are riddled with shot.

Book IX. Because the Portuguese next threaten to attack the town, the Zamorin promptly sends Da Gama back with a cargo of spices and gems and promises of fair treatment hereafter. The Portuguese thereupon sail home, taking with them the faithful Moncaide, who is converted on the way and baptized as soon as they land at Lisbon.

Book X. On the homeward journey Venus, wishing to reward the brave Lusitanians for all their pains and indemnify them for their past hardships, leads them to her "Isle of Joy." Here she and her nymphs entertain them in the most acceptable mythological style, and a siren foretells in song all that will befall their native country between Vasco da Gama's journey and Camoens' time. Venus herself guides the navigator to the top of a hill, whence she vouchsafes him a panoramic view of all the kingdoms of the earth and of the spheres which compose the universe.

In this canto we also have a synopsis of the life of St. Thomas, the Apostle of India, and see the Portuguese sail happily off with the beauteous brides they have won in Venus' Isle of Joy. The return home is safely effected, and our bold sailors are welcomed in Lisbon with delirious joy, for their journey has crowned Portugal with glory. The poem concludes, as it began, with an apostrophe from the poet to the king.

The Lusiad is so smoothly written, so harmonious, and so full of similes that ever since Camoens' day it has served as a model for Portuguese poetry and is even yet an accepted and highly prized classic in Portuguese Literature.


[Footnote 14: See the author's "Story of the Thirteen Colonies."]

[Footnote 15: All the quotations in this chapter are from Mickle's translation of the "Lusiad."]


The fact that Latin remained so long the chief literary language of Europe prevented an early development of literature in the Italian language. Not only were all the popular European epics and romances current in Italy in Latin, but many of them were also known in Provencal in the northern part of the peninsula. It was, therefore, chiefly imitations of the Provencal bards' work which first appeared in Italian, in the thirteenth century, one of the best poets of that time being the Sordello with whom Dante converses in Purgatory.

Stories relating to the Charlemagne cycle found particular favor in Northern Italy, and especially at Venice. In consequence there were many Italian versions of these old epics, as well as of the allegorical Roman de la Rose.

It was at the court of Frederick II, in Sicily, that the first real school of Italian poetry developed, and from there the custom of composing exclusively in the vernacular spread over the remainder of the country. These early poets chose love as their main topic, and closely imitated the Provencal style. Then the "dolce stil nuovo," or sweet new style, was introduced by Guinicelli, who is rightly considered the first true Italian poet of any note. The earliest Italian epic, the "Buovo d'Antona," and an adaptation of Reynard the Fox, were current in the first half of the thirteenth century at Venice and elsewhere. In the second half appeared prose romances, such as tales about Arthur and his knights, the journey of Marco Polo, and new renderings of the old story of Troy.

Professional story-tellers now began to wander from place to place in Northern and Central Italy, entertaining auditors of all classes and ages with stories derived from every attainable source. But the first great epic poet in Italy was Dante (1265-1321), whose Divina Commedia, begun in 1300, is treated separately in this volume. Although Petrarch was prouder of his Latin than of his Italian verses, he too greatly perfected Italian poetry, thus enabling his personal friend Boccaccio to handle the language with lasting success in the tales which compose his Decameron. These are the Italian equivalents of the Canterbury Tales, and in several cases both writers have used the same themes.

By the fifteenth century, and almost simultaneously with the introduction of printing, came the Renaissance, when a number of old epics were reworked. Roland—or, as he is known in Italy, Orlando—is the stock-hero of this new school of poets, several of whom undertook to relate his love adventures. Hence we have "Orlando Innamorato," by Boiardo and Berni, as well as "Morgante Maggiore" by Pulci, where Roland also figures. In style and tone these works are charming, but the length of the poems and the involved adventures of their numerous characters prove very wearisome to modern readers. Next to Dante, as a poet, the Italians rank Ariosto, whose "Orlando Furioso," or Roland Insane, is a continuation of Boiardo's "Orlando Innamorato." Drawing much of his material from the French romances of the Middle Ages, Ariosto breathes new life into the old subject and graces his tale with a most charming style. His subject was parodied by Folengo in his "Orlandino" when Roland began to pall upon the Italian public.

The next epic of note in Italian literature is Torquato Tasso's "Gerusalemme Liberata," composed in the second half of the sixteenth century, and still immensely popular owing to its exquisite style. Besides this poem, of which Godfrey of Bouillon is the hero and which is par excellence the epic of the crusades, Tasso composed epics on "Rinaldo," on "Gerusalemme Conquistata," and "Sette Giornate del Mundo Creato."

Some of Ariosto's contemporaries also attempted the epic style, including Trissino, who in his "Italia Liberata" relates the victories of Belisarius over the Goths in blank verse. His fame, however, rests on "Sofonisba," the first Italian tragedy, in fact "the first regular tragedy in all modern literature."

Although no epics of great note were written thereafter, Alamanni composed "Girone il Cortese" and the "Avarchide," which are intolerably long and wearisome.

"The poet who set the fashion of fantastic ingenuity" was Marinus, whose epic "Adone," in twenty cantos, dilates on the tale of Venus and Adonis. He also wrote "Gerusalemme Distrutta" and "La Strage degl' Innocenti," and his poetry is said to have much of the charm of Spenser's.

The last Italian poet to produce a long epic poem was Fortiguerra, whose "Ricciardetto" has many merits, although we are told the poet wagered to complete it in as many days as it has cantos, and won his bet.

The greatest of the Italian prose epics is Manzoni's novel "I Promessi Sposi," which appeared in 1830. Since then Italian poets have not written in the epic vein, save to give their contemporaries excellent metrical translations of Milton's Paradise Lost, of the Iliad, the Odyssey, the Argonautica, the Lusiad, etc.



Introduction. In the Middle Ages it was popularly believed that Lucifer, falling from heaven, punched a deep hole in the earth, stopping only when he reached its centre. This funnel-shaped hole, directly under Jerusalem, is divided by Dante into nine independent circular ledges, communicating only by means of occasional rocky stairways or bridges. In each of these nine circles are punished sinners of a certain kind.

Canto I. In 1300, when thirty-five years of age, Dante claims to have strayed from the straight path in the "journey of life," only to encounter experiences bitter as death, which he relates in allegorical form to serve as warning to other sinners. Rousing from a stupor not unlike sleep, the poet finds himself in a strange forest at the foot of a sun-kissed mountain. On trying to climb it, he is turned aside by a spotted panther, an emblem of luxury or pleasure (Florence), a fierce lion, personifying ambition or anger (France), and a ravening wolf, the emblem of avarice (Rome). Fleeing in terror from these monsters, Dante beseeches aid from the only fellow-creature he sees, only to learn he is Virgil, the poet and master from whom he learned "that style which for its beauty into fame exalts me."

Then Virgil reveals he has been sent to save Dante from the ravening wolf (which also personifies the papal or Guelf party), only to guide him through the horrors of the Inferno, and the sufferings of Purgatory, up to Paradise, where a "worthier" spirit will attend him.

Canto II. The length of the journey proposed daunts Dante, until Virgil reminds him that cowardice has often made men relinquish honorable enterprises, and encourages him by stating that Beatrice, moved by love, forsook her place in heaven to bid him serve as Dante's guide. He adds that when he wondered how she could leave, even for a moment, the heavenly abode, she explained that the Virgin Mary sent Lucia, to bid her rescue the man who had loved her ever since she was a child. Like a flower revived after a chilly night by the warmth of the sun, Dante, invigorated by these words, intimates his readiness to follow Virgil.

Canto III. The two travellers, passing through a wood, reach a gate, above which Dante perceives this inscription:

"Through me you pass into the city of woe: Through me you pass into eternal pain: Through me among the people lost for aye. Justice the founder of my fabric moved: To rear me was the task of power divine, Supremest wisdom, and primeval love. Before me things create were none, save things Eternal, and eternal I endure. All hope abandon, ye who enter here."[16]

Unable to grasp its meaning, Dante begs Virgil to interpret, and learns they are about to descend into Hades. Having visited this place before, Virgil boldly leads Dante through this portal into an ante-hell region, where sighs, lamentations, and groans pulse through the starless air. Shuddering with horror, Dante inquires what it all means, only to be told that the souls "who lived without praise or blame," as well as the angels who remained neutral during the war in heaven, are confined in this place, since Paradise, Purgatory, and Inferno equally refuse to harbor them and death never visits them.

While he is speaking, a long train of these unfortunate spirits, stung by gadflies, sweeps past them, and in their ranks Dante recognizes the shade of Pope Celestine V, who, "through cowardice made the grand renunciation,"—i.e., abdicated his office at the end of five months, simply because he lacked courage to face the task intrusted to him.

Passing through these spirits with downcast eyes, Dante reaches Acheron,—the river of death,—where he sees, steering toward them, the ferry-man Charon, whose eyes are like fiery wheels and who marvels at beholding a living man among the shades. When Charon grimly orders Dante back to earth, Virgil silences him with the brief statement: "so 'tis will'd where will and power are one." So, without further objection, Charon allows them to enter his skiff and hurries the rest of his freight aboard, beating the laggards with the flat of his oar. Because Dante wonders at such ill-treatment, Virgil explains that good souls are never forced to cross this stream, and that the present passengers have richly deserved their punishment. Just then an earthquake shakes the whole region, and Dante swoons in terror.

Canto IV. When he recovers his senses, Dante finds himself no longer in Charon's bark, but on the brink of a huge circular pit, whence arise, like emanations, moans and wails, but wherein, owing to the dense gloom, he can descry nothing. Warning him they are about to descend into the "blind world," and that his sorrowful expression—which Dante ascribes to fear—is caused by pity, Virgil conducts his disciple into the first circle of hell. Instead of lamentations, only sighs are heard, while Virgil explains that this semi-dark limbo is reserved for unbaptized children, and for those who, having lived before Christ, must "live desiring without hope." Full of compassion for these sufferers, Dante inquires whether no one from above ever visited them, and is told that One, bearing trophies of victory, once arrived there to ransom the patriarchs Adam, Abel, Noah, and others, but that until then none had ever been saved.

Talking busily, the two wend their way through a forest of sighing spirits, until they approach a fire, around which dignified shades have gathered. Informing Dante these are men of honored reputations, Virgil points out among them four mighty figures coming to meet them, and whispers they are Homer, Horace, Ovid, and Lucan. After conversing for a while with Virgil, these bards graciously welcome Dante as sixth in their poetic galaxy. Talking of things which cannot be mentioned save in such exalted company, Dante walks on with them until he nears a castle girdled with sevenfold ramparts and moat. Through seven consecutive portals the six poets pass on to a meadow, where Dante beholds all the creations of their brains, and meets Hector, Aeneas, Camilla, and Lucretia, as well as the philosophers, historians, and mathematicians who from time to time have appeared upon our globe. Although Dante would fain have lingered here, his guide leads him on, and, as their four companions vanish, they two enter a place "where no light shines."

Canto V. Stepping down from this circle to a lower one, Dante and Virgil reach the second circle of the Inferno, where all who lived unchaste lives are duly punished. Smaller in circumference than the preceding circle,—for Dante's hell is shaped like a graduated funnel,—this place is guarded by the judge Minos, who examines all newly arrived souls, and consigns them to their appointed circles by an equal number of convolutions in his tail.

For when before him comes the ill-fated soul, It all confesses; and that judge severe Of sins, considering what place in hell Suits the transgression, with his tail so oft Himself encircles, as degrees beneath He dooms it to descend.

On beholding Dante, Minos speaks threateningly, but, when Virgil again explains they have been sent hither by a higher power, Minos too allows them to pass. Increasing sounds of woe now strike Dante's ear, until presently they attain the intensity of a deafening roar. Next he perceives that the whirlwind, sweeping violently round this abyss, holds in its grasp innumerable spirits which are allowed no rest. Like birds in a tempest they swirl past Dante, to whom Virgil hastily points out Semiramis, Dido, Cleopatra, Helen, Achilles, Paris, and Tristan, together with many others.

Obtaining permission to address two shades floating toward him, Dante learns that the man is the Paolo who fell in love with his sister-in-law, Francesca da Rimini. Asked how she happened to fall, the female spirit, moaning there is no greater woe than to recall happy times in the midst of misery, adds that while she and Paolo read together the tale of Launcelot they suddenly realized they loved in the same way, and thus fell into the very sin described in this work, for "book and writer both were love's purveyors." Scarcely has she confessed this when the wind, seizing Francesca and Paolo, again sweeps them on, and Dante, hearing their pitiful moans, swoons from compassion.

Canto VI. Recovering his senses, Dante finds Virgil has meantime transferred him to the third circle, a region where chill rains ever fall, accompanied by hail, sleet, and snow. Here all guilty of gluttony are rent and torn by Cerberus, main ruler of this circle. Flinging a huge fistful of dirt into the dog's gaping jaws to prevent his snapping at them, Virgil leads Dante quickly past this three-headed monster, to a place where they tread on the shades which pave the muddy ground. One of these, sitting up, suddenly inquires of Dante whether he does not recognize him, adding that he is the notorious Florentine glutton Ciacco. Fancying this shade may possess some insight into the future, Dante inquires what is to become of his native city, and learns that one political party will drive out the other, only to fall in its turn three years later. The glutton adds that only two just men are left in Florence, and, when Dante asks what has become of his friends, tells him he will doubtless meet them in the various circles of Hades, should he continue his downward course.

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