Spain is home to a large number of beautiful ballads, called romances. Some of these ballads are about lovers. Many are about the Moors who ruled Spain for so many long centuries. There are a large number about the famous Cid who fought the Moors. There is also a large cycle about the Paladins of France, and about Bernardo del Carpio, who, the Spaniards say, killed the mighty Roland in the battle of Roncesvalles. While there are several collections of English translations of the Spanish ballads, scholars and translators tend to focus on the Moorish and love ballads. It is difficult to find any complete account of this branch of the Carolingian legend, which is why I decided to write a summary of every Spanish ballad related to Charlemagne. I quickly discovered that this is an impossible task. The folk tradition is still alive and well, not only in Iberia, but in every land to which the Spanish Jews moved after being exiled by Ferdinand and Isabella. New variants are constantly being recorded, and no Professor Child has yet arisen to make a complete collection of the folksongs and to standardize the titles by which they are known.
The closest thing to a definitive collection of Spanish ballads that currently exists is the Romancero General of Agustin Duran, published in 1877, which includes every ballad printed prior to the 1800’s. This means it does not include any folksongs from the Spain of his day, or, naturally, from later. These folksongs sometimes contain very interesting variants from the printed texts. Many of these later folksongs can be found at the Pan-Hispanic Ballad Project and Folk Literature of the Sephardic Jews, two confusingly arranged messes of websites which I leave it to you to sift through if my dozen posts on Duran’s ballads leave you wanting more.
Duran’s magnum opus is in two volumes, which are volumes 10 and 14 of the Biblioteca des Autores Españoles. The numbers of the ballads below are those of this collection, as are the divisions into classes, based on antiquity.
Class I ballads are pure folksongs.
Class III are productions of uneducated or scarcely educated minstrels.
Class V are early literary ballads, attempts to imitate the oral tradition.
Class VIII are Renaissance or Siglo d’Oro literary ballads, which do not attempt to imitate the oral tradition.
Also note that most of the titles were supplied by Duran. Spanish ballads are usually identified by their first lines.
The principal English translations of Spanish ballads are:
Thomas Rodd, Most Celebrated Ancient Spanish Ballads relating to the Twelve Peers of France mentioned in Don Quixote. 1812.
John Gibson Lockhart, Ancient Spanish Ballads. 1823.
John Bowring, Ancient Poetry and Romances of Spain. 1824.
James Young Gibson, The Cid Ballads and other Poems and Translation from Spanish and German. 1887.
Roger Wright, Spanish Ballads, 1987.
BALLADS FROM THE ITALIAN EPICS
THERE WILL BE SPOILERS FOR THE ORLANDO INNAMORATO AND THE ORLANDO FURIOSO. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
All these ballads, naturally, are class VIII. There are no translations unless noted.
403, CERVINO DYING. “Muerte, si te das tal priesa”
Isabela laments over the dying Cervino [Zerbino]. He tells her he will live in her heart forever.
404, OLIMPIA Y VIRENO. “De su querido Vireno”
Olimpia makes a long lament on finding herself abandoned.
405, OLYMPIA Y VIRENO. “Subida en un alta roca”
Olympia makes a lyrical lament, with a refrain, on finding herself abandoned.
406, ANGELICA AND RUGERO. “En una desierta isla”
Rugero rescues Angelica from the pirates who have tied her to a rock as an offering to a sea monster. He uses his magic shield to stun the beast, after giving her the magic ring so as to not stun her. She recognizes her ring, becomes invisible, and flees, leaving Rugero to lament in ottova rima.
407, SACRIPANTE AND ANGELICA. By Lucas Rodriguez. “Por una triste espesura”
Sacripante, having lost Angelica in a duel, dies of grief.
This does not happen in the Innamorato nor the Furioso. Perhaps one of the sequels?
408, ANGELICA AND MEDORO. “Envuelto en su roja sangre”
Medoro, lying wounded, laments that he could not bury his king. Angelica passes by, sees him, and falls in love.
409, ANGELICA AND MEDORO. By Lucas Rodriguez. “Sobre la desierta arena”
Medoro, lying wounded, laments that he could not bury his king. Angelica passes by, sees him, falls in love, and cures him. The happy couple travel on to Hungary.
410, ANGELICA AND MEDORO. Regalando el tierno vello”
Angelica and Medoro sit under an elm tree, kissing. There is a refrain, roughly “O daring Moor! All the world will envy thee therefore!”
411, ANGELICA AND MEDORO. By Luis de Góngora. “En un pastoral albergue”
Angelica saves the wounded Medoro. They fall in love and live happily in the countryside, writing their names on every tree and rock. God save us from the madness of the Count!
Generally regarded as one of Góngora’s best works. Duran thinks it more beautiful than Ariosto’s own description. Sadly, the only English translations are either in prose, or pompous eighteenth-century conceits.
412, ANGELICA AND MEDORO. “Las heridas que á Medoro.”
Anglica cures Medoro, they confess their love for each other.
413, ANGELICA AND MEDORO. “Con aquellas blancas manos”
The author tells how Angelica and Medoro loved, and wishes his lady would love him the same way.
414, THE MADNESS OF ROLDAN. “Entre los dulces testigos”
Orlando discovers Medoro’s love-carvings, and laments.
415, THE MADNESS OF ROLDAN. “Aqui gozaba Medoro”
Orlando reads one of Medoro’s poems on a tree, and angrily hacks into it with Durindana. Then he sees another one, and goes mad.
416, THE MADNESS OF ROLDAN. By Lucas Rodriguez. “Suspenso y embravecido”
Orlando reads Medoro’s poems, curses Angelica, laments, and goes mad until Astolfo cures him. God save us from such love!
1892, HOW ROLDAN WENT MAD FOR LOVE OF THE BEAUTIFUL ANGELICA. “Hel, helo por do viene”
Mandricardo meets Roldan, Zerbino, and Isabela, explains who he is, and his oath never to wear a sword save Durindana, which will complete his suit of armor once worn by Hector. He explains that Durindana is in the possession of Roldan, whom murdered his father. Roldan and Mandricardo duel. Roldan wins, and then comes upon the bower of Angelica and Medoro, where he reads the Moor’s love-poems, [in ottova rima]. He proceeds to go on a rampage.
Duran didn’t discover this poem until after printing his first volume, and threw it into an appendix of volume II, whence the odd number.
417, DORALICE ABANDONS HER BETROTHED RODAMONTE, AND CHOOSES MANRICARDO. “Con soberbia y gran orgullo”
Rodamonte, King of Zarza and Argel, is in search of Doralice, who has abandoned him for King Mandricardo of Tartary. Mandricardo reaches the pagans’ camp, where Ferraguto meets them and is able to prevent a duel. After some argument, they agree to let the lady decide. She chooses Mandricardo. Rodamonte laments.
Duran omits a romance by Lucas Rodriguez beginning Con superbia muy crecida, since it is only a slightly enlarged version of this one. He claims this is a class V romance, which I suspect is a typo.
418, RODAMONTE JEALOUS AND SPURNED. By Lucas Rodriguez. “De sus dioses blasfemando”
Rodamonte rides on, cursing women. He hears a voice say, “Do not curse women,” and repents.
The voice is not in Ariosto.
419, DISCORD IN AGRAMANTE’S CAMP. By Lucas Rodriguez. “En el real de Agramante”
Adaptation of the famous discord in Agramante’s camp. Rodamonte wants to duel Mandricardo over Doralice. Mandricardo wants to duel Rugero over the right to bear the Trojan eagle as a coat-of-arms. Rugero wants to duel Rodamonte over who owns the horse Frontino. Marfisa wants to duel Mandricardo over an insult. Agramante draws lots, and Mandricardo and Rodamonte will duel first. As Gradasso helps Mandricardo arm, he notices that the Tartar has Durindana, and challenges him to a duel for it. Sacripante, helping Rugero arm, notices that Rugero is riding his horse, Frontino. Agramonte can barely restore order, the duel takes place, and Rodamonte kills Mandricardo. Gradasso gets Durindana.