The Poem of the Cid

Poem of the Cid Page Folio 40V
The Poem of the Cid is an epic poem of 3,737 lines (several hundred lines were missing, notably 50 lines at the beginning). It is the only remaining medieval Spanish epic poem and one of the fundaments of Spanish literature. The manuscript of the Poem of the Cid was found in the archive of the Concejo de Vivar in the 1500's and first copied there in 1596. The handwriting was by a single person and has been dated to the 14th Century. The language of the poem is archaic, and places its composition as early as 1140. At the conclusion of the poem, one Per Abbat inserts a note that he is the scribe of the manuscript, and that he completed his work in aera 1245. This 1245 refers to the number of years from the formation of the Roman provinces in Spain, which was 38 years before the start of the Christian era.

It is clear that the manuscript was a written record of a song recited by roving minstrels. More recently scholars have believed the old-fashioned speech to be an example of using this kind of language for epic poetry. Alternatively, it may reflect the date of the oral origination of the song. In any case, they accept Per Abbat's claim to have written down the original in 1207. The dating of the handwriting is attributed to the existing manuscript having been made in the 14th Century from an earlier original.

Based on linguistic grounds, familiarity with the local geography, and glowing references to the citizens of certain towns, scholars have argued that the minstrel poet was from Medinaceli, or Esteban de Gormaz; or Fresno de Caracena, all close together in the south of present-day Soria province. Others speculate the author was a monk at the monastery of San Pedro de Cardena near Burgos. They point out the manuscript was found at Vivar, and that the monks were interested in promoting the pilgrim traffic to the Cid's grave there and were familiar with French epic poems.

Texts via the Gutenberg Project
Commentary © Mark Wade, 2006.
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