Chronicle of the Cid, by Robert Southey

The Translator’s Preface

This Chronicle of the Cid is wholly translation, but it is not the translation of any single work. The three following have been used.


The first and only other edition of this Chronicle was printed in 1552. The Infante Don Fernando, who was afterwards Emperor, seeing the manuscript at Cardena, ordered the Abbot Don Fr. Juan de Velorado to publish it, and obtained an order from his grandfather Fernando the Catholic King to the same effect. The Abbot performed his task very carelessly and very inaccurately, giving no account of the manuscript, and suffering many errors to creep into the text, which might have been corrected by collating it with the original.

Beuther, Escolano, and others, ascribe it to Abenalfarax, the nephew of Gil Diaz. Berganza is of opinion that the main part was written by Gil Diaz himself, because the manuscript at Cardena says, “Then Abenfax the Moor, who wrote this Chronicle in Arabic, set down the price of food.” And Abentaxi, according to him, was the name of Gil Diaz before his conversion. Abenalfarax is named in the end of the book as the author: he concludes therefore that it was completed by him; . . . and this the Coronica General confirms by saying, Segun cuenta la Estoria del Cid, que de aqui adelante compuso Aben Alfarax su sobrino de Gil Diaz en Valencia. The printed Chronicle however says Abenalfarax where Berganza reads Abenfax, and writes Alfaraxi for the Moorish name of Gil Diaz. This question is not easily decided. There is nothing Arabian in the style of the Chronicle, except the lamentation for Valencia, which is manifestly so. It is most probably the work of a Spaniard, who used Arabic documents.

It is equally impossible to ascertain the age of this Chronicle. The Abbot who published it judged that it was as old as the days of the Cid himself. This supposition is absurd. Lucas of Tuy and the Archbishop Rodrigo are frequently cited in it. It was however an old manuscript in 1552. A much older was seen in 1593 by Don Gil Ramirez de Arellano, which according to his account was in Portuguese, but agreed in the main with that which had been published. The older the language, the more it would resemble Portuguese. Another question is, whether it has been inserted in the Coronica General, or extracted from it: for that the one copied from the other is certain: but it is equally certain from the variations, that each must have had some other original; . . . perhaps the Arabic. If the Chronica del Cid be extracted from the General Chronicle, which is giving it the latest date, even in that case it was written before the end of the thirteenth century; that is, little more than 150 years after the Cid’s death; and whatever fiction has been introduced into the story, must have been invented long before, or it would not have been received as truth, and incorporated into the general history of Spain. This question has not been, and perhaps cannot be decided. There are some errors in the Chronicle of the Cid are corrected in the General Chronicle, and sometimes it contains passages which are necessary to explain an after-circumstance, but are not found in the other.*

* The language of the Chr. del Cid is sometimes of greater antiquity than the other, . . . for instance; . . . E tamano fue el plazer del Rey D. Fernando e de los suyos quamano fue el pesar del Rey D. Ramiro de Aragon e de los suyos.

In the Cor. Gen., quan grande and tan grande are the phrases. But this is a subject which none but a Spaniard can properly investigate.


Las quatro partes enteras de la Cronica de Espana, que mando componer el Serenissimo Rey Don Alonso llmado el sabio, donde se contienen los acontescimientos y hazanas mayores y mas senaladas que sucedieron en Espana, desde su primera poblacion hasta casi los tiempos del dicho senor Rey. Vista y emendada mucha parte de su impresion por el maestro Florian Docampo Cronista del emperador rey nuestro senor. Con previlegio imperial.

Fue impressa la presente Cronica general de Espana en la magnifica, noble y antiquissima cibdad de Zamora: por los honrrados varones Augustin de paz y Juan Picardo companeros inpressores de libros, vezinos de la dicha cibdad. A costa y espensas del virtuoso varon Juan de Spinosa mercader de libros vezino de Medina del Campo. Acabose en nueve dias del mes de deziembre. Ano del nascimiento de nuestro salvador Jesu Cristo de mill y quinientos y quarenta y un anos. Reynando en Espana el Emperador Don Carlos nuestro Senor y Rey natural.

Florian de Ocampo relates the history of this first edition in his epistle dedicatory to Don Luys de Stuniga y Avila. The printers of Zamora, he says, came to him and besought him to give them something which they might publish to the use and glory of those kingdoms whereof they and he were natives. He had at that time in his house a manuscript of this Chronicle, which had been lent him by the Licentiate Martin de Aguilar. Aguilar joyfully gave up the manuscript to the printers, and Ocampo undertook to correct the press as far as s which he could in those hours which he could spare from his studies and pursuits: this, says he, I did with such fidelity that I would never permit the style, nor order, nor antique words to be changed, holding any such alteration to be an offence committed upon the work of another. Notwithstanding this becoming respect for antiquity, Ocampo passes a censure upon the style at the end of the Sumario. He says, Todas estas cosas sobredichas van escritas en estas quatro partes con palabras antiguas y toscas, segun las usavan los Espanoles al tiempo que las hazian, quando se presciavan mas de bien obrar que de bien hablar; puesto que siempre fue y sera gran alabanca bien hablar a los que bien obran.

The Spanish Chronicles were all villainously printed, because the printers made use of the first manuscript they could find, and the correctors did their best to bring the language to that of their own times, after the newest and most approved fashion. This mischief Ocampo prevented as far as he could, but he should have done more; Ocampo was not a common Corrector of the Press; be was Chronicler to the King of Castile, and any manuscript in the kingdom he had asked for would have been put into his hands as readily as that of his friend Aguilar. The copy which he implicitly followed happened to be remarkably faulty. Words and sentences are omitted in almost every column, whole chapters are wanting, and even one entire reign. Zurita collated the printed book with a manuscript of great antiquity, which had once belonged to the famous Marques de Santillana; and this copy, in which he had witb his own hand inserted all the omissions, was in the possession of the Marques de Mondejar. An imperfect manuscript, which is likewise of great antiquity, is at Salamanca, in the Collegio de S. Bartolome; some man of letters has prefixed a note to it, saying that it contains many chapters which are not to be found in the printed book . . . y tiene tambien otra utilidad que es, el hallarse aqui los vocablos y voces castellanas antiguas en su pureza, sin haberse limado al tiempo presente, como la imprimio Florian de Ocampo. If this writer be accurate, the copier of Aguilar’s manuscript had modernized the book as well as mutilated it.

Ocampo calls this work la Chronica de Espana, que mando componer el Serenissimo Rey D. Alonso. The manuscript which Zurita collated has la Estoria de Espana que fizo el mui noble Rey D. Alonso. The Marques de Mondejar possessed three manuscripts, neither of which supported Ocampo’s reading, nor afforded the slightest ground for supporting it. On the other hand, Don Juan Manuel, Alonso’s nephew, expressly says that the King made the Chronicle, and in the Prologue the King says so himself. That Florian de Ocampo, who printed the Prologue, should have overlooked this, is inconceivable; and why he should deny the King wrote it, in direct contradiction of the King’s own authority, is what he has not explained, and what nobody can explain for him. Don Francisco Cerda y Rico says, the real author was Maestro Jofre de Loaysa, Archdeacon of Toledo, and afterwards Abbot of Santander; and this he says he has proved in a dissertation which was ready for the press. I know not whether this dissertation has appeared, neither do I know that at the distance of more than five centuries any proof can possibly be obtained to show that Alonso the Wise did not write the history, which he himself says he wrote, and which we know he was capable of writing.

The printed Chronicle is divided into four parts, and the last part is not Alonso’s work. Ocampo gives it as his own opinion, and that of many other intelligent persons, that it was not written by the author of the three former, because it contained nothing but what was to be found in other books; because the style was different, and the language ruder, . . . the whole being in fact composed of fragments put together without any attempt at improving them, and because in many places the writer expressed himself as if he had been contemporary with the persons whose feats he was then recording. There is no doubt that this opinion is right. It ends with the death of King St. Fernando, Alonso’s father. It is in this part that the history of the Cid is contained.

This very curious work was reprinted at Valladolid in 1604. It is the later edition which I have used.


Sandoval first mentioned this poem, which is preserved at Bivar, and gave the four first lines, calling the whole “Versos Barbaros y Notables.” Berganza afterwards inserted seventeen lines in his Antiguedades. The notice which they thus gave of its existence excited the curiosity of Sanchez, to whom Spanish literature has been so greatly indebted, and he published it in the first volume of his Coleccion de Poesias Castellanas Anteriores al Siglo XV.

Some leaves are wanting at the beginning of the manuscript, and one in the middle. The whole fragment consists of 3744 lines, the three last of which are added by the transcriber:

Quien escribio este libro del’ Dios paraiso: Amen.

Per abbat le escribio en el mes de mayo

En era de mill e CC..XLV. anos.

Who Per Abbat was, and whether Abbat implied his rank or his name, cannot now be known: . . . it is certain that he was the copier of the book, not the author, by the language, which is much older than the date of the manuscript. But there is a difficulty concerning the date. There is a space between the CC and the XLV; and that space is just as much as another C would have filled. Perhaps, says Sanchez, the copier put one C too much, and erased it; perhaps he placed the conjunction e, part of the date being expressed by words and part by figures, and afterwards erased it as superfluous; or possibly some person thought to give the manuscript greater value by obliterating one C, to make it appear a century older. The writing seems to be of the fourteenth century. It is of little consequence; even upon that supposition the date is 1307; and no person can doubt that the language of the poem is considerably older than that of Gonzalo de Berceo, who flourished about 1220; . . . a century is hardly sufficient to account for the difference between them. Sanchez is of opinion that it was composed about the middle of the twelfth century, some fifty years after the death of the Cid; . . . there are some passages which induce me to believe it the work of a contemporary. Be that as it may, it is unquestionably the oldest poem in the Spanish language. In my judgment it is as decidedly and beyond all comparison the finest.

One other source of information remains to be mentioned, the popular ballads of the Cid.


Sarmiento (Mem. para la Hist. de la Poesia, SS 546. 548. 550.) delivers it as his opinion, that the popular ballads of the Twelve Peers, Bernardo del Carpio, Fernan Gonzalez, the Cid, &c. were composed soon after the age of the heroes whom they celebrate, and were what the Copleros, Trouveurs, Joculars, and all the common people, sung at their entertainments. That these being orally preserved, were subject to frequent alterations as the language of the country altered; and thus when at length they were committed to writing, their language was materially different, but their substance remained the same. In support of this authority which he assigns to them in point of fact, he observes that the Cor. General frequently cites the Joglares or popular poets. Their present form he assigns to the end of the fifteenth century.

Sarmiento describes the collection which he had seen of the Ballads of the Cid as containing one hundred and two ballads, in old style, and in eight-syllable verse. This is the Historia del muy valeroso Cavallero el Cid Ruy Diez de Bivar, en Romances, en lenguage antiguo, recopilados por Juan de Escobar. Sevilla, 1632. The ballads in this little volume are chronologically arranged; it is, I believe, the only separate collection, and by no means a complete one. Two which Escobar has overlooked are among the Romances nuevamente sacados de Historias Antiguas de la Cronica de Espana por Lorenzo de Sepulveda vezino de Sevilla. Van anadidos muchos nunca vistos, compuestos por un Cavallero Cesario, cuyo nombre se guarda para mayores cosas. Anvers, 1566. This volume contains forty-one ballads of the Cid, scattered through it without any regular order. There are thirty-two in the Romancero General, en que se contienen todos los Romances que andan impressos en las nueve partes de Romanceros. Aora nuevamente impresso, anadido, y emendado. Medina del Campo, 1602. Twelve of these are not in Escobar’s collection; and probably others which he has overlooked may be found in other Romanceros. Many of these ballads are evidently little older than the volumes in which they are contained; very few of them appear to me to bear any marks of antiquity, and the greater part are utterly worthless. Indeed the heroic ballads of the Spaniards have been over-rated in this country: they are infinitely and every way inferior to our own. There are some spirited ones in the Guerras Civiles de Granada, from which the rest have been estimated; but excepting these, I know none of any value among the many hundreds which I have perused. I have very seldom availed myself of the Romances del Cid.

The Chronicle of the Cid is the main web of the Story of the Cid. I have omitted such parts as relate to the general history of Spain but have no reference to Ruydiez, and I have incorporated with it whatever additional circumstances, either of fact or costume, are contained in the Cronica General or the Poema del Cid. The poem is to be considered as metrical history, not metrical romance. It was written before those fictions were invented which have been added to the history of the Cid, and which have made some authors discredit what there is not the slightest reason to doubt. I have preferred it to the Chronicles sometimes in point of fact, and always in point of costume; for as the historian of manners, this poet, whose name unfortunately has perished, is the Homer of Spain.

Last updated Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 22:30