The Legend of Bernardo del Carpio 11: The Pentecost Court and Bernardo’s Banishment



Section 1: Chronicles

Lucas and Rodrigo: Give no details, only saying that Bernardo rebelled after the Battle of Toledo, and that he made peace before the battle of Polvorosa.

PCG: Year 8 of Alfonso the Great’s reign [873]. King Alfonso held court at Pentecost, to which came, among others, Orios Godos and Tiobalt. But Bernaldo did not come, until the Queen promised him that she would ask for his father’s liberty. He came, and she asked, but Alfonso refused, and Bernaldo denounced and insulted him in front of the whole court, reminding him of all his faithful service, prompting Alfonso to banish him. His kinsmen Blasco Meléndez, Suero Velásquez, and Nuño de Leon leave with him. They retreat to Saldaña, where they make war against Alfonso for two years.

Ocampo: Year 36 of Alfonso the Chaste’s reign, the fifth of Louis the Pious, AD 815 [really 818].

Section 2: Ballads Based on the PCG.

Burguillos Durán 634, Class I; Wolf 10, Class I; Pidal Eruditos 7. “Andados treinta y seis años”

Printed in the Cancionero sin año, Cancionero de 1550, Silva I.

In the year 853 [Spanish Era, = AD 815], the thirty-sixth year of Alfonso the Chaste’s reign [really 818], he is at Leon, and holds a feast. Don Arias and Don Tibalte are saddened to see that Bernardo is absent, and ask the Queen to ask him to come to the feast. She promises his father’s liberty to Bernardo if he comes. He fulfills his end of the bargain, but the King flatly refuses to grant the Queen’s request.

Burguillos Durán 637, Class I; Wolf 11, Class I; Pidal Eruditos 8a-b “En gran pesar y tristeza”

Found in the Cancionero sin año, Cancionero de 1550, Silva I.

Bernardo is sorrowful, after Alfonso threatens to throw him in jail, too, if he ever asks for his father’s freedom again. He reminds the king of his many services, such as saving the day at Benavente, killing King Ores and King Alzaman at Zamora, and rescuing Alfonso at the battle of the Orbi River. He then defies the king, and renounces his vassalship. Alfonso gives Bernardo nine days to leave the kingdom, on pain of death. Bernardo retreats to Saldaña, gathers his loyal men, including Blasco Meléndez, Suero Velásquez, and Nuño de Leon, and wars against Alfonso until the latter’s death.

Pidal’s 8b, from a MS, includes the detail of Bernardo giving Alfonso his horse, a detail omitted by Ocampo.

Lorenzo de Sepúlveda Durán 635, Class IV; Pidal Eruditos 14. “El casto Alfonso hizo cortes”

Alfonso the Chaste holds court in Leon. Bernardo does not come. The nobles go before the Queen, and ask her to ask him to come to the feast. She promises his father’s liberty to Bernardo if he comes. He fulfills his end of the bargain. Bernardo then reminds the king of his services, such as killing King Ores at the battle of Benavente, saving the day at Zamora, and rescuing the King at the Oruega River. Alfonso refuses to release the Count, and so Bernardo defies him and starts a rebellion.

Section 3: Con Cartas y Mensajeros

Con cartas y mensajeros.” Durán 654, Class I; 655, Class VIII. Wolf 13, 13a, Class I. Pidal Romance Primitivo de Bernardo 1a-1j.

1a, from the Cancionero de 1550¸ “Con cartas y mensajeros” is Durán 654, Class I. Wolf 13a, Class I.

1b, from Silva segunda, “Las cartas y mensajeros” is Wolf 13, Class I. 1450-1550.

1c, from Bib. Nac. de Madrid sign. 1317, fol. 444a, “Cuatrocientos sois, los míos.” 1500’s.

1d, from Cartapacio de la Biblioteca Real. “Con trecientos cavalleros.” A reworking from the late 1500’s.

1e, a reworking by Gabriel Lobo Lasso de la Vega. Frequently reprinted. “Con solos diez de los suyos” is Durán 655, Class VIII. Very late 1500’s.

1f, oral tradition, from Pedro Antonio Maldonado, age 68, San Felipe, Aconcagua, Chile, (printed 1912) is descended from 1e.

1g, a composite of three oral versions (printed as 1h, 1i, 1j), collected 1916 from Cadiz and Seville.

The King sends letters to Bernardo. Bernardo suspects treason A, and throws the letters on the ground A, in the fire B. He tells the messenger that he respects his immunity, and bids him tell the King that he holds him in no esteem, but that he will come see him anyway A. [Here the assonance switches in A]

[CD begin] Bernardo has four hundred men ABC, three hundred D. He leaves a hundred to guard the castle of Carpio, one hundred to guard the frontiers of his fief, and takes two hundred to see the King ABC. He leaves one hundred outside the city, fifty outside the palace door, thirty on the staircase, and meets the king with twenty B. He takes only ten in with him, the rest wait outside in pairs D. Bernardo greets the King ABC but does not kiss his hand B, and asks why he has been summoned BC. The King calls Bernardo a traitor and the son of a traitor, and accuses him of trying to hold El Carpio de heredad, when by rights it should be en tenencia ABCD. Bernardo denies he is a traitor, and reminds the King of the time he saved his life in battle by the Enzinal A, by the Romeral BD, at Roncesvalles against the French C, by giving him his horse when his own had been slain ABCD whereupon the King promised him El Carpio de heredad ABC and to free his father, which he has not done A. Bernardo slew his two brothers in that battle, and no bishop or archbishop is willing to absolve him B. Bernardo’s father died in the king’s service, which a good son would have avenged D. The King bids his men seize him ABD, whereupon Bernardo calls on his men ABCD. The King pretends he was merely joking ABCD. Bernardo says it wasn’t a very funny one, and says that the King can have El Carpio; it will be easy for him to recapture it AB. The King bids Bernardo go in peace B, and grants him El Carpio de heredad AC.

E Bernardo comes with ten men before the King, hat in hand. He has three hundred men outside, keeping silent. The King calls him a traitor and a son of a traitor, and accuses him of making El Carpio his own, when by rights it is held en tenencia. Bernardo denies it all, and reminds the King of the time he saved his life in battle by the Romeral by giving him his horse when his own had been slain whereupon the King promised to free his father, which he did not do, and his father died in prison. The King orders his men to seize Bernardo. No one moves, for they see Bernardo put his hand on his sword hilt. Bernardo tells the King that his men are right to be afraid of him. His men shout “Viva Bernardo!” and all take up the cry. The King pretends it was a joke, and Bernardo says he knew it was a joke all along, and leaves with his men. The King fumes and plots vengeance.

F Bernardo del Carpio asks for his father’s liberty, but the king calls his father a traitor and threatens to kill Bernardo. Bernardo gives a signal, and his thousand men spring to arms. The king pretends he was merely joking. Bernardo returns to El Carpio in fury, and swears not to return until the king has made amends.

G When King Alfonso ruled Leon, he sent three letters and a messenger to Bernardo. Bernardo, just a lad, suspects treason, throws the letters in the fire, and kills the messenger. He asks his tutor for advice, and his tutor answers that killing messengers is bad, when the guilt lies with King Alfonso. Bernardo summons his four hundred men, leaves one hundred to guard the castle, and one hundred to guard the borders. As he and his two hundred men ride to court, some think they are Moors, and some that they are Murcians, but the king knows it must be Bernardo, come to demand his father. Bernardo comes before the king, hat in hand, and greets him and his men. The king calls him a son of a traitor. Bernardo answers that his mother did not think so. Alfonso orders his men to seize him, but none dare move, for Bernardo grabs his sword hilt. Instead, all cry “Viva Bernardo!” The King pretends it was a joke, and Bernardo says he knew it was a joke all along, for the King is not nearly strong enough to seriously threaten him.

Milá considers AB to be “the only primitive romance of Bernardo, the only one in which one hears the echo of heroic poetry.”

The terminology used by Alfonso supports this position. He accuses Bernardo of trying to take El Carpio en heredad [that is, as his permanent possession, instead of en tenencia, as a fief.]2 In D the distinction is lost. Mercedes Vaquero thinks this conflict over a fief was the original germ of the entire legend, and that the story of Count Sancho was added later, based on the fact that some of the ballad versions never mention him.

2 Vaquero, Mercedes. “Relaciones feudo-vasalláticas y problemas territoriales en el Cantar de Bernardo del Carpio”, Charlemagne in the North: Proceedings of the Twelfth International Conference of the Société Rencesvals, Edinburgh, 4th to 11th August 1991, eds. Philip E. Bennett, Anne Elizabeth Cobby and Graham A. Runnalls, Edinburgh, Société Rencesvals British Branch; London, Grant and Cutler, 1993, p. 475-484.

El Carpio is a castle on the River Tormes, ten miles southeast of Salamanca, in the debatable land between Castile and Leon.3

3 Vaquero, Mercedes.

The two brothers are likely an exaggeration of the story of Don Bueso.4

Milá y Fontanals, Manuel. De La Poesia Heroico-Popular Castellana. Barcelona, 1959. “Obras de Manuel Milá y Fontanals I. [orig. pub. 1874]. p. 240.

1e has been translated by Lockhart, who combines it with Durán 661.

The Biblioteca Real MS of the Crónica de 1344, which has many unique passages, includes a prose rendering of part of Con Cartas. Bernardo has four hundred knights. He leaves two hundred to guard his lands and takes two hundred to Salamanca [apparently on the raid?].5

5 Menéndez Pidal Romancero Tradicional 166.

Section 4: Other Literary Ballads

Durán 633, Class VIII; Pidal Artificiosos 22. “Al casto rey Don Alfonso” First printed Romancero General de 1600.

Bernardo asks Alfonso for his father’s freedom, invoking his father’s great age, and that he has suffered enough. He recalls his services when Charlemagne invaded, and reminds him that, after, all, there was a legitimate marriage, and he [Bernardo] is no bastard, but a loyal and dutiful knight.

Pidal Artificiosos 23. “Sentado está de finojos” From a manuscript c. 1593.

The terror of the Moors and the honor of the Christians kneels before Alfonso the Chaste, wearing not costly clothes, but armor, as is suiting to his noble heart. He asks for his father’s liberty, saying it was not so great a crime for him to love above his station. He rebukes Alfonso for having offered the kingdom to a Frenchman. Bernardo rescued Leon then by killing the Peers, and Alfonso promised him his father’s liberty, which he has not granted. The wicked king walks away into his hall. Bernardo leaves, furious.

Pidal Artificiosos 24a-b. “Del Carpio sale Bernardo”

24a, from Romancero de Pedro de Padilla, 1583.

24b, from a manuscript between 1582-1600. “De León sale Vernardo.” An abridged version, adds nothing new.

Bernardo leaves El Carpio, dressed in black armor, and comes to where King Alfonso is holding court. He prostrates himself at his feet and asks for his father’s freedom, reminding Alfonso of his service, saying surely his deeds have atoned for his father’s crimes. The king angrily responds that he would rather die than grant Bernardo’s request.

Durán 636, Class VIII; Pidal Artificiosos 25. “A los piés arrodillado” From the Romancero General de 1605.

Bernardo throws himself at Alfonso’s feet, and beseeches mercy for his old, grey-haired father, who has suffered so long already. He beseeches Alfonso to think of his sister, and to reward him (Bernardo) for his mighty labors. And if he won’t, then Bernardo swears he will take vengeance.

Pidal Artificiosos 26. “En la gran cibdad de Burgos” From a manuscript c. 1590-1600.

King Alfonso the Chaste held a grand feast at Burgos to please his queen. The knights are richly decked out and joust well, but at the height of the festivities, an unknown knight rides by Alfonso’s place without doing him reverence. The king sends knights to ask who he is, and he answers that he is Bernardo del Carpio, and announces that he will declare war on Alfonso if his father is not freed. The knights take this ultimatum to the king, who answers that it is no surprise that a traitor’s bastard should be a traitor himself. Bernardo hears him, however, and declares that he is no bastard and his father no traitor. He calls for all those who love him to follow him, and leaves the court, followed by many.

Pidal Artificiosos 31. “Cortes arma el rey Alfonso.” From a 16th century MS.

King Alfonso holds court in Leon, and meets with his barons to ask what he should do about the treason of Count Fernán González with his dear sister. The barons answer that he should be put to death, but then Bernardo walks in, and all fall silent. He asks what they were talking about. Alfonso tells him. Bernardo calls the king a liar, and says that his father was never a traitor, and that if he were a good son he would avenge him. Alfonso orders his men to seize Bernardo, but no one moves, for they know who Bernardo is, and how good his sword. Truly, good knights do not obey their king when his command is unjust.


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