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Commentary On The Poem Of The Cid

1773 words - 8 pages

Commentary on The Poem of the Cid

Poetry played a vital role in the dissemination of information during the Crusade period. It provided a compact, easily memorized way of spreading news in a time bereft of the benefit of mass printing. According to Michael Routledge, who penned a chapter on Crusade songs and poetry in The Oxford Illustrated History of the Crusades, poetry was not only a way of recording and spreading news of current events, but also served to record and extoll the virtues and values of the ruling Medieval aristocracy. These values included commitment to one's lord, and an acceptance of the feudal duties of auxilium (armed help in time of attack by enemies) and ...view middle of the document...

Instead, the Cid continues to carry out his duties as a vassal in absentia. The Cid's adventures take him deep into the interior of Moorish Spain and yield a multitude of spoils. Throughout the poem, the Cid sends Alfonso a share of these riches, as a token of his loyalty. On three separate occasions, the Cid sends his loyal vassal, the knight Minaya, to deliver horses taken in battle to Alfonso. The horses, eventually totaling 330, serve as a catalyst for the Cid regaining his lord's favor. The first attempt fails, but the second gains the Cid the right to be reunited with his wife and two daughters. The third equine gift, after his conquest of Valencia and subsequent defeat of a Muslim army sent to relieve the city, gains him back his former status. In addition to portraying the Cid as a an exemplar of what a loyal vassal should be, the Poem of the Cid also serves as a guide on how to be a excellent lord. He is generous to his followers and is respectful of their ideas and advice. He trusts the loyal Minaya to act as his intermediary to Alfonso. During the trial to end the Poem, the Cid's vassals offer up a challenge to arms in order to protect his honor (Nelson 1) The University of Kansas's Lynn Nelson sees the Cid's reconciliation gifts as a test of Alfonso's honor. She says the gifts appear to honor the king, but in effect are presented as a temptation: "It would appear as if Rodrigo is simply honoring Alfonso, but he is in fact tempting him. Alfonso should refuse the horses, since a lord accepts such gifts only from a vassal, or he should take the horses and take (the Cid) back into his favor. He does neither....instead he points out that Manaya is his vassal and in his favor....and accepts the horses as a gift from Manaya, offering nothing in return. (Nelson 2)." According to Nelson, Alfonso's failure to act properly in each situation in which he is put by the Cid leads to the commitment theme of the poem being applied only to the Cid, who in her words, "was a good vassal, if only he had a good lord." In contrast to Alfonso, Nelson believes the Cid exemplifies what a good lord should be. Both the Cid and his vassals bring riches and military glory to the other and live in perfect harmony, trust, and comradeship (Nelson 2). As the word of the Cid's successes in Moorish Spain spread, men flocked to his banner at every opportunity. The Cid's host grows throughout the Poem as his original army of loyal vassals is swollen with volunteers who have come to share in the plunder. This mass movement was partially motivated by the medieval virtue of auxilium, or giving armed help to one's lord in times of attack. While many of the knights who flocked to the Cid's expedition were not his direct vassals, his reputation for generosity had drawn them to the promise of spoils galore. Those loyal vassals who attended the Cid from the beginning of the story, Manaya, Martin Antolinez, Pedro Bermudez, etc., fulfill their auxilium duties with enthusiasm and...

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