Poema de Mio Cid
Guest Lecture for Medieval History

Dr. Robin Vose
Wednesday, 11 February 2009
11:30-12:20, ECG11


I am not an expert on Medieval Spanish Literature. The last time I read the Poema de Mio Cid, prior to this week, was in 1984. How many of you were born when I last read this poem? I have further recorded two readings of the PMC, in 1975 and back in graduate school, at the University of Toronto, for my Comprehensive Examinations in 1969. This is the "specialised" background from which I present this poem.

I was always taught, both as a graduate student and as an undergraduate student, that it is more important to read one poem a hundred times than it is to read one hundred poems once. That is a piece of advice that I pass on to you now: read often, read deep, and do not take anything at its apparent surface value.

Bearing this in mind, I am not going to talk to you today about the PMC since it is too long and the content is enormous, I would speak too vaguely, and at too great a length and to no purpose. Dr. Robin Vose is reading the poem with you, and he is the expert in the historical background, the relationship of fiction to history, of creativity to fact. Dr. Vose, in fact, knows much more about the PMC than I do. And that is a fact.

What I will do, instead of talking generally about the poem, is to concentrate on one line of the poem, taken from the opening twenty lines. Yes! That's right! I'll concentrate on ONE line of the poem: line 20. By studying that one line in depth, I hope to be able to give you a small idea, an inkling as they say, of what the text is, how it came into being, the liberties that have been taken with the text by editors and scribes, the oral tradition from which the text springs, and the epic tradition by which the text is bound. If I can do that, in less than fifty minutes, then I will have achieved something with you here today.

But I cannot do it alone. For me to do this, I will need your active help. I will need you to play some little games along with me and I will need you to use your creative imaginations to create with me a far away time and a far away place that has everything and nothing to do with the reality of St. Thomas University, Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada
1 Football Chants

Let us begin by travelling to Manchester United in the 1960's. There is a young footballer there called George Best and he is being hailed as a crowd favourite and the world's best soccer player. Whenever he appears on the field, in his red shirt, the crowd chant his name:
"Georgie, Georgie # # Georgie Best!"

In my opinion, and I know many people differ from me on this point, a noisy class is a happy class. So: let's make some noise. Chant with me, please:"Georgie, Georgie # # Georgie Best!" Don't forget the two handclaps (##), the pauses, and then the acceleration through the last part of the chant.

Another Manchester United soccer hero was Dennis law. When playing for Hull City in England's second division, as it was then, Dennis Law scored six goals in one game. That game was abandoned because of the fog before half time! Everybody together please: "Dennis, Dennis ## Dennis Law."One more time please, all together now: "Dennis, Dennis ## Dennis Law."

Of course, we must pay tribute to our Lord and master, and therefore we will make one more effort to warm you up: "Robin, Robin, ## Robin Vose"! We could, of course, have chanted Robin Hood! or Roger Moore! The key is in the repetition, the rhythm, the pause, the acceleration, the double hand clap.

Now, I want you to close your eyes and use your imaginations: imagine you are not seated at your desks, but on horseback. Before you is a squadron of about 350 enemy soldiers. You are on horse back. You have a lance and a shield. You are wearing chain mail. You wish (a) to make yourself brave and (b) to strike fear into their hearts. It is, let us say, about 1095, and you are a part of El Cid's army. He commands you to shout out the war-cry: so you do so: "Ruy Diaz, Ruy Diaz"! You beat your shield twice with your spear or spear butt ## "Campeador". You might also have chanted "El Cid! El Cid! ## Campeador!"

[Comment on student chant and attempt to perfect it: ] Make lots of noise and remember that you are striking fear into the heart of your enemies and showing yourselves to be brave. You are also letting your opposition know that the man they fear most is here, on the battlefield, before them and beside you.

Ruy Diaz, Ruy Diaz, ## Campeador!
Georgie, Georgie, ## Georgie Best!
Gretzky, Gretzky! ## You're the best!

900, almost one thousand years and we are still doing it. We've come a long way, haven't we!

2 After the Game / Battle

So, you have won a famous victory. The enemy have been defeated. You have counted up the booty and the dead. You are all rich men (war band) and women (family members and camp followers). What next? [Wait for suggestions from class] That's right: Party Time!

So: now I want you to close your eyes and imagine the party. You have had a lot to eat and you have had a lot to drink. Now it's time for the entertainment. The Singer of Songs, juglar, bard appears and he starts to recite your poem, the poem of your battle, the battle you have just fought.

[Construct poem of battle scene you created in class. Call on presence of Cid and need for whole poem.]

I will begin by reciting to you, in Spanish, the first twenty lines of your poem, the PMC. You are in exile, following the Cid. You are locked out from your homes. You have been banished by your king. Now imagine your feelings as you hear the words sung or recited:
[ Read first twenty lines in English first and then in Spanish]

Think about the exile, think about leaving home

[Talk about migration from Eastern Canada / Maritimes to Western Canada / Alberta Oil Fields. Talk about the feelings of migrant workers and families. Creative exercise: describe scene at airport, bus station, train station as you leave].

Now think about the road you have travelled and the battle you have just fought. Then comes line 20:

"Dios que buen vasallo ## si tuviese buen senor"

All the bitter-sweetness of exile and battle is summed up in this line. It is your line. Every time you hear it, as the poem is repeated, you will say it out loud, in a chorus that builds as the poem continues:

"Dios que buen vasallo ## si tuviese buen senor"

[Repeat with class and repeat with feeling; note for later those who are saying hubiese vs tuviese!]

3 Repetition:

Certain epithets and lines are repeated constantly throughout the poem. And this is one of them. As a follower of El Cid, you will have memorized it and it will resonate throughout the recitation of the cycle. Think of it as a chorus, as a repetition of feeling. Think of it as your bitterness and resentment at being sent into Exile swims to the surface.

4 Punctuation:

When I was in school in England, a long, long time ago, one of the exercises that we did was a punctuation exercise. Here's an example from the school leaving paper in English that I took when I was 15 years old. Your job is to make sense of this line / these lines / these words and punctuate them as best you may.

Note that it is your job to make sense out of these words, although they may seem meaningless to you. Here they are! Go for it!
[Circulate: time flies you cant they fly too fast and then give students time to solve the puzzle before moving on. Provide answer on board if they can't!]

5 The Original Manuscript

[Next circulate a photocopy of a Photostat or photocopy of one page of the original manuscript]

Now, I want you to imagine you are a scribe, or a copyist, and that you are going to copy this page out in a fair copy. You will see that there is little punctuation, little capitalization, and very little assistance in terms of spelling, pronunciation, meaning, notes, footnotes etc. You are now trying to make sense out of approximately 3700 lines of this text! Have fun! And good luck to you!

6 One line

To simplify your task, I will examine one line with you, our mesmeric line:

"Dios que buen vasallo ## si tuviese buen senor"

Here it is, in the five different versions I discovered in my own library. Note that although there is only one manuscript, there are before us five radically (or not so radically) different interpretations of that one line.

[Circulate my own version of it, from 5 different sources (Appendix A); then go through the textual problems, one by one. Expand on this problems of grammar (oviesse, uviesse, hubiesse, tuviese) and pronunciation which may or may not appear at first glance; b/v (bilabial plosive, labio-dental fricative + English vs Spanish sounbds) , p/b (voiced, unvoiced), o > ue > uo (Explain difference between vowels and consonants; describe vowel triangle) etc etc Begin with hemi -stitch / caesura and meaning, one line with no break or one line with a central break, two sentences. Move forward from here to syllable count and making up the syllables, especially double counts, poetic licence, reconstruction, paragogic -e etc]

7 Variants in Oral Poetry

[Talk about variants in oral poetry: Use "A partridge in a pear tree" and various rugby versions of the first repeated chorus of the Twelve Days of Christmas as an example of oral transmission! This oral transmission includes theories of el poeta-pueblo (Menéndez Pidal), romances noticieros and basic build up theory, single creator theory, and multiple sources and scribes theory.]

8 The Bow Tie Effect

Multiple variants

v1 v2 v3 v4 v5

The sole surviving manuscript

Multiple editions

E1 E2 E3 E4 E5


Applywhat you are learning about this one line to the whole poem.

Appendix A

1 '¡Dios, qué buen vassallo, si oviesse buen señor!'
Ian Michael (Penguin Books)

2 '¡Dios, que buen vassalo! ¡Si oviesse buen señor!'
Colin Smith (Oxford)

3 "Dios, qué buen vassallo, si oviesse buen señore!"
Ramón Menéndez Pidal (Clásicos Castellanos)

4 <<Dios, qué buen va§§a[l]lo, §i ouie§§e buen señor[e]!>>
Ramón Menéndez Pidal (Crestomatía)

5 "¡Dios, qué buen vassallo, si hobiesse buen señore!"
Rodolfo Ragucci (Literatura Medieval Castellana)



























qué / q














Punctuation: There is none (or very little anyway, limited to comma and period) in the original ms.

Accentuation: Again, there is very little in the original manuscript; note que / q

Paragogic -e: señor / señor[e] / señore usually added by later editors to adjust syllable count and rhyme scheme.

Variant spelling: vassallo / vassalo / va§§a[l]lo this is typical of early language variants and can correspond to the education of the scribe, a defect in the manuscript, a dialectal variation, a corruption in speech, the accent of the speaker etc. Note too the variant spellings of oviesse / ouie§§e / hobiesse to which may be added, for example, oviese / uviese / ubiese / toviese / tuviese

Scribe or copyist: The manuscript may be copied by more than one scribe and more than one copyist; it may also be the work of a single creative artist.

Source or sources: The sources of the ms. are not known; they may be oral (unlikely in 1207, but more probable earlier), there may be an earlier ms. copy (or multiple copies) each with its own variants; there may be a single creative artist working from a variety of sources.

More variants: There are undoubtedly more variants, as many as there are editors. I have copied five variations, from my own library, to one line.

My own variants: Note that § is the closest that I can get to the S larga (Long S) of the Menéndez Pidal Crestomatía. Hence, we are now faced with yet another variant!

Appendix B

Punctuate the following line, bearing in mind the possible two speaker / one speaker theory!

time flies you cant they fly too fast

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