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Ruy Diaz, The Cid Campeador
by [?]

Bernardo del Carpio is not the chief Spanish hero of romance. To find the mate of Roland the paladin we must seek the incomparable Cid, the campeador or champion of Spain, the noblest figure in Spanish story or romance. El Mio Cid, “My Cid,” as he is called, with his matchless horse Bavieca and his trenchant sword Tisona, towers in Spanish tale far above Christian king and Moslem caliph, as the pink of chivalry, the pearl of knighthood, the noblest and worthiest figure in all that stirring age.

Cid is an Arabic word, meaning “lord” or “chief.” The man to whom it was applied was a real personage, not a figment of fancy, though it is to poetry and romance that he owes his fame, his story having been expanded and embellished in chronicles, epic poems, and ballads until it bears little semblance to actual history. Yet the deeds of the man himself probably lie at the basis of all the splendid fictions of romance.

The great poem in which his exploits were first celebrated, the famous “Poema del Cid,” is thought to be the oldest, as it is one of the noblest in the Spanish language. Written probably not later than the year 1200, it is of about three thousand lines in length, and of such merit that its unknown author has been designated the “Homer of Spain.” As it was written soon after the death of the Cid, it could not have deviated far from historic truth. Chief among the prose works is the “Chronicle of the Cid,”–Chronica del famoso Cavallero Cid Ruy Diez,–which, with additions from the poem, was charmingly rendered in English by the poet Southey, whose production is a prose poem in itself. Such are the chief sources of our knowledge of the Cid, an active, stirring figure, full of the spirit of mediaevalism, whose story seems to bring back to us the living features of the age in which he flourished. A brave and daring knight, rousing the jealousy of nobles and kings by his valiant deeds, now banished and now recalled, now fighting against the Moslems, now with them, now for his own hand, and in the end winning himself a realm and dying a king without the name,–such is the man whose story we propose to tell.

This hero of romance was born about the year 1040 at Bivar, a little village near Burgos, his father being Diego Lainez, a man of gentle birth, his mother Teresa Rodriguez, daughter of the governor of the Asturias. He is often called Rodrigo de Bivar, from his birthplace, but usually Rodrigo Diaz, or Ruy Diez, as his name is given in the chronicle.

While still a boy the future prowess of the Cid was indicated. He was keen of intellect, active of frame, and showed such wonderful dexterity in manly exercises as to become unrivalled in the use of arms. Those were days of almost constant war. The kingdom of the Moors was beginning to fall to pieces; that of the Christians was growing steadily stronger; not only did war rage between the two races, but Moor fought with Moor, Christian with Christian, and there was abundant work ready for the strong hand and sharp sword. This state of affairs was to the taste of the youthful Rodrigo, whose ambition was to become a hero of knighthood.

While gentle in manner and magnanimous in disposition, the young soldier had an exalted sense of honor and was sternly devoted to duty. While he was still a boy his father was bitterly insulted by Count Gomez, who struck him in the face. The old man brooded over his humiliation until he lost sleep and appetite, and withdrew from society into disconsolate seclusion.

Rodrigo, deeply moved by his father’s grief, sought and killed the insulter, and brought the old man the bleeding head of his foe. At this the disconsolate Diego rose and embraced his son, and bade him sit above him at table, saying that “he who brought home that head should be the head of the house of Layn Calvo.”