We have long delayed acknowledging the receipt of this book, hoping for time to do it justice, but, that time of leisure not arriving, we will no longer omit briefly to express our pleasure at the appearance of the Chronicle of the Cid on the banks of the Merrimack, the most noble and romantic of ballad narratives in the city of factories.
This is not the first time Mr. Bixby has signalized himself by a valuable present to the public of works which others had not courage or judgment to undertake. The Correspondence of Bettina Brentano with Goethe, commonly called Goethe’s Correspondence with a Child, which has afforded to many minds delight so fresh and peculiar, was published at Lowell by him.
The Life of “My Cid,” in Southey’s beautiful arrangement, has hitherto been accessible to only a few among us, and those will be happy in knowing that the many can now fill the summer day with its grand chivalrous pageant, and refresh themselves amid the crash of domestic life with the robust individualities of an age and nation of Kings; for the Spanish heroes were all kings—kings of men by their own right—fairer, nobler, taller, truer, more generous and brave than their brethren.
Scanned by the moral code of today, the character of “My Cid” looks somewhat awry. He is stern, yet in his loyalty to men, sometimes forgets the Right. But, seen by the standard of his own time, he is a genuine grandee and knight, loyal as the ideal Goetz of the Iron Hand, and more majestic in the splendid Spanish style, with its mellow lights and deep shadows.
We envy the youths and maidens who have free days and weeks of greenwood leisure to live over again the romantic life of the Past. They will not need to snatch a feverish joy, as was our case when such lot was ours, from hasty interrupted interviews with a borrowed Cid, but can each clasp a Campeador all his own to the youthful heart that longeth after chivalry.
For those who have not an idea of the nature of the book, and yet have the eaglet’s desire to visit a high eyry, we copy the closing paragraph of the book; they will need no farther hint, but send their pocket money direct to Lowell:*
Many are the things which belonged to Ruydiez the Cid Campeador, which are still preserved with that reverence which is due to the memory of such a man. First, there are those good swords Colada and Tizona, which the Cid won with his own hand. Colada is a sword of ancient make: it hath only a cross for its hilt, and on one side are graven the words Si, Si . . . . . . that is to say, Yea, Yea: and on the other, No, No. And this sword is in the Royal Armory at Madrid. That good sword Tizona is in length three quarters and a half, some little more, and three full fingers wide by the hilt, lessening down to the point; and in the hollow of the sword, by the hilt, is this writing in Roman letters, Ave Maria gratia plens Dominus, and on the other side, in the same letters, ‘I am Tixona,’ which was made in the era 1040—that is to say, in the year 1002. This good sword is an heir-loom in the family of the Marquises of Falces. The Infante Don Ramiro, who was Cid’s son-in-law, inherited it, and from him it descended to them. Moreover, the two coffers which were given in pledge to the Jews Rachel and Vidas are kept,—the one in the Church of St. Aguda at Burgos, where it is placed over the principal door, in the inside,—and the other is in the Monastery of St. Pedro de Cardeña, where it is hung up by two chains on the left of the dome; on the right, and opposite to this coffer, is the banner of the Cid, but the color thereof cannot be known, for length and time and the dampness of the Church have clean consumed it. In the middle is his shield hanging against the wall, covered with skin, but now so changed that no blazonry or device is to be seen. In the Sacristy there are the keys of the coffer, a great round chest of satin-wood, the setting of the amethyst cup which he used at table, and one of the caskets which the Soldan of Persia sent with the myrrh and balsam; this is of silver, and gilt in the inside, and it is in two parts, the lid closing over the other part; its fashion is like that of the vessels in which the three Kings of the East are represented bringing their offerings to Christ when he was newly born. On the upper part is graven the image of our Redeemer, holding the world in his hand, and on the other the figure of a serpent marvelously contorted, peradventure in token of the victory which Jesus achieved over the enemy of the Human Race. That noble chess-board, the men whereof were of gold and silver, was also in the Monastery in the days of King Don Alfonso the Wise, but it hath long since been lost, no man knoweth how. Moreover there is in this Sacristy a precious stone of great size, black and sparkling; no lapidary hath yet known its name. The Convent have had an infant Jesus graven thereon, with the emblem of the Passion, that it might be worthily employed. It is thought also that the great cross of crystal which is set so well and wrought with such great cunning, is made of different pieces of crystal which belonged to the Cid. But the most precious relic of the Cid Ruydiez which is preserved and venerated in this Monastery, is the cross which he wore upon his breast when he went to battle; it is of plain silver, in four equal parts, and each covered with three plates of gold, and in the flat part of each five sockets set with precious stones of some size, and with other white ones which are smaller; of these little ones, some are still left, fastened in with filigrane. In the middle of the cross is a raised part, after the manner of an artichoke, ending in white and green enamel; and it is said that in the hollow thereof are certain relics, with a piece of the holy wood of the true cross. Verily, that part of the writing which can still be read implieth this, for thus much may at this day be discerned . . . . CRUCIS SALVATOR * * SANCTI PETRI * * PORTO. Of the four limbs of this cross, the upper one is wanting. King Don Alfonso, the last of that name, asked for it, and had it made into a cross to wear himself, when he went into battle, because of the faith which he had, that through it he should obtain the victory: of the lower limb little more is left than that to which the plates of silver and gold were fastened on. From point to point this cross is little more than a quarter.
There is no doubt that the soul of the blessed Cid resteth and reigneth with the blessed in Heaven. And men of all nations and at all times have come from all parts to see and reverence his holy body and tomb, being led by the odor of his fame, especially knights and soldiers, who, when they have fallen upon their knees to kiss his tomb, and scraped a little of the stone thereof to bear away with them as a relic, and commended themselves to him, have felt their hearts strengthened, and gone away in full trust that they should speed the better in all battles into which they should enter from that time with a good cause. By reason of this great devotion, and the great virtues of my Cid, and the miracles which were wrought by him, King Phillip the Second gave to his Ambassador, Don Diego Hurtado de Mendza, to deal with the Court of Rome concerning the canonization of this venerable knight, Rodrigo Diaz. Now Don Diego was a person of great learning, and moreover, one of the descendants of the Cid; and being greatly desirous that this thing should be effected, he sent to the Monastery of St. Piedro de Careña, and had papers and depositions sent from thence, and made a memorial of the virtues and miracles of the Campeador, showing cause why this blessed knight should be canonized. But before the matter could be proceeded in, the loss of Sienna took place, whereupon he was fain to leave Rome; and thus this pious design could not be brought about.—Nevertheless the Cid hath alway been regarded with great reverence as an especial servant of God: and he is called the Blessed Cid, and the Venerable Roderigo Diaz. Certes, his soul resteth and reigneth with the blessed in Heaven. Amen.
Here endeth the Chronicle of that Right Famous and Good Knight the Blessed Cid, Roderigo Diaz de Bivar, the Campeador.