The Legend of Bertha Broadfoot 3: The Italian Family

Section 1:

MS V13: Berta de la Pie Grant

Venice, Biblioteca marciana fondo francese manuscript XIII (=256), usually abbreviated V13, is a collection of chansons de geste in Franco-Italian assonanced decasyllables, containing: Bovo d’Antona (Part 1, unknown number of pages lost at the beginning), Bertha Broad-Foot, Bovo Part 2, Karleto, Berta e Milone, Enfances Ogier, Orlandino, Chevalerie Ogier, and Macario, of all of which it is the only copy. Franco-Italian was never a spoken dialect, but rather a literary creation. The MS and poems date from the early 1300s.

Pepin holds court in Paris on Pentecost, at which Aquilon of Bavaria (father of Naimon), Bernard of Clairmont, Salomon and others attend. They urge him to take a wife, and a çubler announces that the most beautiful woman he has ever seen is named Berta da li pe grandi, daughter of King Alfaris of Hungary and his wife Belisant. The barons all agree that this is a good plan, and Pepin sends as ambassador to Hungary Aquilon, Bernard, Morando de Rivere, and Grifon of Altafoglia [Hauteville]. The King receives them warmly, then consults with his family. He tells Berta that Pepin is short and ugly, but very rich and very brave. She agrees to marry him, and they depart. On their way home, they stop at the castle of Belençer of Magance, whose daughter happens to look exactly like Berta. The two become friends at once, and Berta takes the damsel with her to Paris. As they near that city, Berta asks the girl to take her place in King Pepin’s bed, because she is exhausted from the long ride. King Pepin is surprised to see his bride’s tiny feet, but decides the çubler must have been lying. In the morning, the girl bids her henchman take Berta into the forest and kill her. The man is touched by pity, however, and spares Berta’s life after making her swear never to return to France. Berta wanders into the forest. Continue reading

Advertisements

The Legend of Count Grifos Lombardo

The legend of Count Grifos Lombardo is preserved only in a single Spanish ballad, first printed 1562. It has been thought to have some connection to the legend of the birth of Bernardo del Carpio.

Durán 325, Class V; Wolf 137, Class I. “En aquellas peñas pardas.” First printed in the Cancionero llamado Flor de enamorados, 1562.
Charlemagne orders Count Grifos Lombardo, who lives in Moncaya, arrested, because he raped a girl on the Way of Saint James, who was daughter of a duke, and niece of the Pope. He is cast into prison strong, with seven counts to guard him, on penalty of death if he escapes. He is at last sentenced to marry his victim.

Where Moncaya may be I do not know, but Moncayo is a mountain in Aragon, close to the Way of Saint James, but not on it.

Some other Hispanic ballads also begin with the rape of a pilgrimess to Saint James, after which their plots diverge wildly. Collectively, they are known to scholars as El Conde Preso, or as Conde Grifos Lombardo, but one can actually distinguish four different plots that share this name and this opening:
1. The Kick at the Scaffold [El Puntapie a la Horca]
2. Dom Garfos
3. Bury Me Not in a Church [No Me Entierras en Sagrado]
4. The Judgment of God [Justiça de Deus]
This classification and these titles, like the letters referring to some of the ballads below are from my own system, an attempt to keep the forty-seven versions included in the PHBP straight. They are not used by anyone else.

1. The Kick at the Scaffold. The most common (Eighteen versions in the PHBP, and I know of at least two that they are missing1) and the closest to the legend of Bernardo. Known in Asturias, Leon, Lugo, Cantabria, and even Cuba.

1Menéndez y Pelayo, Antología De Poetas Líricos Castellanos, Volume X, p. 48. 10. Bernaldo del Carpio – I. “Íbase por un camino.” Also one in the Romancero judeo-español en el Archivo Menéndez Pidal.

Count Miguel del Prado is arrested, not for theft or murder, but for raping a noblewoman on the Way of Saint James. She was the king’s daughter, and the Pope’s niece. Since she is so highly-born, his penalty is harsh. He is guarded by a hundred during the day, and a hundred and four by night. He wishes for his cousin Don Bernardo to come.

Bernardo does indeed come, with one sword at his belt and one in his hand. He demands the count’s freedom from the king (sometimes Alfonso). The king assures him his cousin shall be pardoned, and invites him to eat, drink, and play cards. But as they play, a page comes and tells Bernardo that the count is about to be hanged anyway. Bernardo throws the cards in the king’s face. The king bids him respect the crown, but Bernardo refuses. He leaps down the palace stairs in a single bound, mounts his horse without stirrup, and rides to the scaffold. He arrives just in time. He destroys the scaffold with a kick, sends the hangman’s head flying with his sword, and gives a sword to his cousin, saying that no kinsman of his shall die on the scaffold.

In some versions, Bernardo is playing cards at his palace when a page tells him the news. Sometimes the king’s invitation to play comes before the falsely-promised pardon. Sometimes Bernardo meets the king in the street, sometimes in the palace. His mighty leaps either occur when leaving the palace, or when leaving his own house. Sometimes the hangman is spared. The princess’ family varies, as do other minor details.

In a unique version from Leon, 1916 (PHBP 0118:3), the cousins kill a hundred soldiers, and the king is obliged to give the infanta in marriage to the Count and a princesa to Bernardo.

2. Dom Garfos. A much less common version, ends tragically (three versions in PHBP, all from Portugal).

C: 1867, Covilhã, Castelo Branco, Beira-Baixa, Portugal. Braga, Romanceiro Geral, No. 25. (PHBP 0118:18)
R: 1919, Portugal. Thomas, Cantares do Povo, pp. 6-8. (PHBP 0118:11)
AA: 1958, Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro, Portugal. Leite de Vasconcellos, Romanceiro Português, I:49-50. (PHBP 0118:17).

The count (Dom Golpes, AA) was taken, not for thefts or murder, but for outraging a noblewoman who went to Saint James. She complains to the king, who gives the count a choice between marrying her and dying. He chooses neither, and calls for his nephew Dom Garfos C, Gaiferos R, Dom Golpes (again) AA, who arrives, and to whom he explains the situation C, R, AA. Garfos obtains his pardon from the king, who bids him go home and sleep soundly, for his uncle will be freed at midnight C, before dawn R, AA.

At midnight, however, he awakens from a nightmare that his uncle has been hanged in the palace yard. In C, his wife, the king’s daughter, informs him that it was no dream: she heard the whole thing. He runs to the gallows, where seven counts C, seven noblemen R, came to see the hanging. [As he leaves the palace, he meets seven counts who are coming thither to gloat AA]. He kills six, and the seventh barely escapes. He threatens the king, who is at a balcony window, and swears revenge C, R. [The survivor is sent to the king, whom Golpes meets shortly afterward, and threatens AA]. He returns home and stabs his wife four times, for her father, her mother, his health, and her treason C.

The Sephardic versions, not in the PHBP, are even bloodier. See the Romancero judeo-español en el Archivo Menéndez Pidal [Madrid, 1978]. In this one, the rapist is sentenced to be hanged at midnight. As he is being led out, he calls for his nephew. His nephew’s wife, however, is the king’s daughter, and tells her husband that it is merely the howling of a dog he hears, and so the nephew arrives too late to save the count. He swears vengeance, and kills his wife, cuts off her breasts, shows them to the king, and proceeds to kill the king, the queen, the princess, and all the courtiers he can find. He then embalms his uncle and sits him on the throne.

1-2. At least two versions are known which combine Puntapie and Dom Garfos:
I: 1893, Castelo de Frades, Cereixedo, Cervantes, Luga, Becerreá, Lugo, Spain. (PHBH 0118:8)
V: 1948, Villaselán, Sahagún, Riberas del Cea, León, Spain. Romancero general de León I, pp 140-141. (PHBP 0118:6)

I (PHBP 0118:8) begins like Puntapie, but after Count Aguilar del Pardo calls for his nephew Gaifer, we cut to the latter awakening from a nightmare that his uncle has been hanged. His wife informs him that it was no dream; she heard his laments. He curses his wife, arms, and rides out. He sees his uncle dead, destroys the scaffold with a kick, knocks the hangman’s teeth out, kills the king’s three sons, but still is not satisfied.

V (PHBP 0118:6) has the plot of Dom Garfos, but many of the lines and phrases are from Puntapie. Count Leonardo calls for his nephew Don Golfo. Don Golfo awakens from a nightmare, and his wife Doña Sancha tells him it was no dream. He leaps down fifteen stairs, and kills some counts who were celebrating his uncle’s execution. The king bids him cease, but he threatens to kill the king, too. He cuts his uncle’s body down, washes it, and has it buried honorably in a church.

3. Bury Me Not. The most common Portuguese form of the ballad (18 versions in PHBP) has been combined with another ballad, No me entierran en sagrado. “Bury me not in a church.”

The Count not only rapes the maiden, but gives her to his henchman. He is given a choice between marrying her and death, and chooses death. He asks that he not be buried in a church, nor in holy ground, nor in an open field, but that his body be placed on his horse, that all who see him may know he died for love.

4. The Judgement of God. Dead in oral tradition. Only recordings known are from the 1800s.

Almeida Garrett’s Justiça de Deus in his Romanceiro, Volume II, p. 295, No. XVI. He confessedly cobbled two versions together and likely made changes of his own.

Braga, Romanceiro Geral, p. 65, No. 26. Justiça de Deus. “Préso vae o conde, préso.” From Beira-Alta, would appear to be an attempt to restore Almeida Garrett’s version as he heard it.

In this version (and only this version) we are actually told how the poor pilgrimess escaped. The count and his henchman abandoned her in the woods, but she was rescued by an old soldier who was going on pilgrimage himself. He takes her to the king’s court, where the count is arrested, tried, and given a choice between death and marriage. He chooses death, but the soldier says this is not right. He must make an honorable woman out of his victim. He casts off his pilgrim’s garb and reveals himself to be a holy bishop. He marries the count and the pilgrimess, after which the count dies. [Almeida’s version ends with two lines explicitly stating that the soldier was Saint James, which Braga rejects.]

Book I, Canto XIV, Part 3

The Orlando Innamorato in English translation, Book I, Canto XIV, Stanzas 41-60

41
I do not know, my lords, if ere this time
You’ve heard the fame of great Uberto bruited?
He was a knight most courteous and fine,
Strong and courageous and for all things suited.
He scanned th’horizon with his watchful eye,
(For diligence he ever was reputed)
And thuswise was he when the lady fair
Came to the side of Count Orlando there.

42
King Adrïano and the bold Grifon
Stand in the loggia and discourse of love.
While Aquilante sings with Chiarïon,
The first the tenor part, the next above,
While Brandimarte sang the baritone;
And King Balllano was discoursing of
Swords, lances, armor, horses, weapons, war
With Belarussia’s baron, Antifor.

43
The damsel takes Orlando by the hand
And on his finger puts the wondrous ring
Which magic hath no power to withstand.
At once the Count remembers everything,
But when he sees who ’tis before him stads,
He quick forgets all else, save how to bing
Pleasure to her, though scarcely can he deem
He is awake, and this is not a dream.

44
The damsel hastily explaineth all
About the garden, how he thither came,
And Dragontine captured him in thrall
And wiped all memory clean from his brain.
And then for succor and for aid she calls,
With humble prayer asking if he’ll deign
To fight ’gainst Agricane and his horde,
Who waste her land with fire and with sword.

45
But Dragontina, standing in the palace
Looked out the window and beheld the dame.
She ran to find her knights, snared by the chalice,
But none are armed; her caution was her bane.
Now Count Orlando in the saddle tall is,
And in his arms Uberto he restrained,
Before he had the chance to stir one foot,
And then the ring upon his finger’s put.

46
The situation quickly is made clear.
Obert will help the spell be overthrown.
Now pay attention, lords, and you shall hear
Their wondrous deeds most worthy to be known.
They captured first the sons of Olivier,
The one Don Aquilant, the one Grifon.
The count had not yet recognized the boys,
But now he did. Great was Orlando’s joy.

47
And greater joy upon the brothers came,
Seeing each other at this blesséd hap.
Now Dragontina nearly goes insane,
Seeing her garden lost by sad mishap.
The potent ring makes all her magic vain.
The palace vanished with a thunderclap.
Bridge, river, fairy, vanished where they stood,
And left the barons standing in a wood.

48
They stand in stupefaction and amaze.
At one another stare they all and seek
Among the knights for a familiar face.
The Count of Brava, who is first to speak,
Addressing all assembled in that place,
Explains what happened, then proceeds with meek
And humble words, to ask the lords to fight
For her who rescued them from such a plight.

49
He tells of Agricane’s mighty war,
And how he has destroyed the lovely city,
And in the keep she is besiegéd sore.
Ev’ry last cavalier is filled with pity
And swears to bering the lady fair succor,
As long as he can fight, or on horse sit he,
And to force Agricane to retire,
Or in attempting the great deed, expire.

50
They set out, all together, on the road.
The lady guides them, and the knights escort.
Of Trufaldino now must things be told;
Who was holed up within the tiny fort.
Evil when young, and worse when he was old,
He was as treacherous as he was short.
No one suspected him. Each trusting head
Of Turk and of Circassian lay abed.

51
Torindo’s valor can avail no more
Than all of Sacripante’s chivalry.
For each of them is lying wounded sore
From fighting in the battle valiantly.
They’ve lost much blood, and they are weak therefore,
And they are overpowered instantly.
King Trufaldino binds them hand and foot.
Into a turret’s attic are they put.

52
He sends a messenger to Agrican,
Saying that he can have at will the keep.
The rock is his, and his the barbican.
Both of the kings were tied up in their sleep,
And now he wished to place them in his hand.
But the great Tartar’s ire runneth deep.
With eyes ablaze and with a haughty look,
He thus addressed the messenger, who shook:

53
“Go tell thy lord that Termagant forbid
That any man on earth should ever say
That traitors helped in anything I did.
By honest strength I’ll win; no other way.
I’ll fight in daylight, not by darkness hid,
But thee and thy false lord I shall make pay
For impudence to thus suggest this thing.
You scoundrels from the battlements will swing.

54
“Fool though thou art, thou still must be aware
You cannot long remain within your fort;
And once I take it, thou wilt hang in air,
Out of a tower window by thy foot.
Thou and thy Trufaldin will make a pair,
And ev’ry person who his hand hath put
To do a treason so black and immense
Will likewise dangle from the battlements.

55
The herald listened, while his face had turned
Now ghostly white, and now as red as flame.
He wished that long ago he had returned,
And thinks that Tartar has to be insane.
The king turned ’round, once he the offer spurned,
And the miscreant when back the way he came.
He went as swift as if the Fiend pursued,
Without the rich reward he’d thought his due.

56
Trembling all over, he regained the hold,
And told King Trufaldino what befell.
Now turn we to Orland, brave and bold,
Who came with his companions, right good-willed.
By night and day without a rest they rode.
One morn they reached the summit of a hill.
From the top they look down, and all they see
Is the vast campment of their enemy.

57
Such were the numbers nearly infinite
So many tents and such  mass of banners,
Angelica is dumbstruck at the sight.
They must pass through these legions in some manner,
Before they can regain the fortress’ height.
But the brave knights do not an instant stammer.
They see that glory will be their reward,
Taking the lady home by force of sword.

58
About the treason, nothing o they know,
Which wicked Trufaldino has prepared.
But on the mountaintop with hearts aglow,
They plan out how the duties will be shared
To let Angelica in safety go,
Though all the world in arms against them fared.
They don their armor and they mount their steeds,
Discuss and form a plan that may succeed.

59
In this formation, then, they will confront
And pass through all of this enormous rabble.
The Count Orlando will be at the front,
With Brandimarte, to begin the battle.
Then four knights will protect from all affront
The lady in a ring around her saddle.
Oberto, Aquilant, and Chiarïon
With Adrïano will escort her home.

60
Angelica, defended by these four
Need have no feat of any foeman’s blow.
The rearguard will be made of three, no more.
But everyone his valor well will show.
Grifone, Belarussian Antifor,
And King Ballano, who does not fear know.
The whole brigade is ready for to start.
They fear not all the world, these noble hearts.

Notes

The Legend of Girart of Roussillon – Origins and Influence

ORIGINS OF THE LEGEND

Girart of Roussillon, Girart of Vienne, and Girart of Euphrate are all inspired by the same historical figure: Girart II, Count of Paris, born 810, ascended 837, died c. 878.

Now Girart I of Paris had married Rotrude (who may have been the daughter of Carloman, son of Charles Martel), and founded the Girardid dynasty of Counts of Paris. His three sons, Stephen, Begon, and Leuthard I, succeeded him in turn as Counts. Leuthard I had two sons: Girart and Adalard. Adalard served as King Louis the Pious’ seneschal, and Girart became Count of Paris. Meanwhile, Count Hugh of Tours had two daughters: Bertha and Ermengarde. Girart II married Bertha sometime before 819, and Ermengarde married Lothair I, son of Louis the Pious and king of Middle Francia, Bavaria, and Italy, and Emperor of the West. In 836, Girart was sent on official business to Italy. In 837, he was made Count of Paris. He lost the title in 841, when he took the side of Lothair I against King Charles the Bald and broke down the bridges across the Seine to inconvenience the latter. Girart was among Lothair’s soldiers at the Battle of Fontenoy in 841, when that king and his nephew Pepin II of Aquitaine were decisively defeated by Louis the German and Charles the Bald. Lothair nonetheless made Girart his count of the palace in 842. When Lothair I died in 855, his son Charles, still a child, inherited Provence as his kingdom, and Girart became his regent. In 860, Girart repelled a band of Vikings who had sailed up the Rhone. The following year, Charles the Bald attempted to disinherit his nephew, but he was repelled, possibly by Girart, and returned to France. Around this time, Girart and Bertha founded the monasteries of Vézelay and Pothièrs. In 863, Charles of Provence died young and childless, and his lands passed to his brother Lothair II, King of Lotharingia, for whom Girart continued to administer them until that king’s death in 869, whereupon his territories were divided by his uncles Louis the German and Charles the Bald. Charles went to occupy Provence, but met with resistance from Girart and Bertha. Charles laid siege to Vienne, which was ably defended by Bertha while Girart was holding another castle nearby. Charles, however, first burnt all the lands around Vienne and then promised the people mercy if they surrendered. The people told Bertha they wished to surrender, Bertha send word to Girart, and Girart formally surrendered to Charles on Christmas Eve, 870. The couple went into retirement in their fiefs near Avignon, where Girart died between 877 and 879. He was buried in the abbey of Pothièrs, in Langres, where once could be seen Girart’s tomb on the Gospel side of the chapel, Bertha’s on the Epistle, and, in front of the altar, an epitaph for their infant son Thierry.

Bedier would have it, as usual, that the legend was created in the 11th or 12th century by some minstrel who had heard or read the monks’ chronicles of their founder, Girart. He argues that the only similarities between Girart of Paris and Girart of Roussillon are that they fought a king named Charles, had a wife named Bertha, had a son who died young, and founded certain monasteries, all facts that a minstrel could have learned at the abbey. The minstrels did not, however, know about such striking facts as Girart of Paris’ defeat of the Vikings, his protection of the young prince Charles of Provence against his cruel uncle, Bertha’s protection of Vienne on her own, etc., all things we would expect them to know if the story of Girart had been passed down orally.

Although Saint Badilon is real, the cult of St. Mary Magdalene at Vézelay seems to have been an invention of the eleventh century. Although Girart and Bertha did obtain for their monasteries the relics of Ss. Pontien, Eusebius, Andéol and Ostien, there is no record of the relics of the Magdalen there prior to 1050. Unfortunately for Vézelay, in the mid 1200’s a tomb was discovered in Provence. This tomb was, in reality, a Gallo-Roman tomb of the 500’s with a carving of Pontius Pilate washing his hands and a servant holding the washbasin. The discoverer, however, thought the servant was Mary Magdalene preparing to wash the feet of Christ, and the word went out that St. Mary Magdalene’s tomb had been found. The monks of Vézelay now claimed that they had received their relics from the south, but their popularity declined, and the cult in Provence flourished. Had it not been for this discovery, there would have been no association of the Magdalen with Provence, no tradition of St. Lazarus as bishop, no legend of St. Martha taming the Tarrasque, no Holy Blood, Holy Grail, no Da Vinci Code, and Dan Brown would be an obscure third-rate hack writer, instead of a rich and famous third-rate hack writer.

The relics at Vézelay were destroyed the Protestants during the Wars of Religion, and the church turned into a stable. The relics currently venerated there are replacements sent from elsewhere. The shrine in Provence was destroyed during the Revolution, but the skull was saved and is now in a rebuilt shrine. The most likely candidate for the real relics are those brought to Constantinople in the ninth century, but I can find no information on what became of them afterwards, or if they are still preserved today.

Read more on St. Mary Magdalene here.

Val Pergunde is perhaps Valprionda, a suburb of Cahors.

INFLUENCE

Girart of Roussillon appears already in the Oxford Song of Roland as one of the Twelve Peers, and he dies at Roncesvalles. Later works incorporated him into the elaborate genealogies of the Paladins, and made him the brother of Aymon of Dordone, Doon de Nanteuil, and Bueve d’Aigremont. He plays hardly any role, however, in the poems of the Nanteuil cycle or those of the Aymonids. On occasion he fights alongside his kinsmen, but they seldom if ever, if I recall correctly, allude to the events of his life story as given in his own chansons. Later still, Girart was made into one of the twelve sons of Doon de Mayence. Besides the three mentioned above, the other eight were: Gaufrei (father of Ogier the Dane), Grifon d’Hautefeuile (of Altafoglia, one of the Maganzans), Othon, Ripeus, Seguin of Bordeaux (father of Huon), Pierre (father of the Swan Knight), Morant de Riveirs, and Hernaut de Girone.

Some MSS of Hervis de Metz insert an episode, between Hervis proper and the beginning of Garin le Loherain, wherein Girart is at war with Charles Martel. Charles asks the Pope for permission to tax the Church, reminding him that he has always given generously to her and now needs her help. The Pope agrees, but Girart is on the warpath and nearly at Paris. Charles has enough money now, but not yet enough men, and so, reluctantly, sends to Hervis for aid. Hervis makes ready to go to France, but before he gets there, Girart conveniently dies of illness. He is buried in an abbey he founded at Bar-sur-Aube.

There are other minor references to Girart. Auberi le Bourguignon conflates Girart of Roussillon and Girart of Eufrate in a prologue. Adenet le Roi alludes to the story in Bertha Broadfoot, as does the anonymous Italian who wrote the Entrée en Espagne. Girart is mentioned in some of the chronicles, more usually as the founder of abbeys than as the adversarial brother-in-law of Charles the Bald or Charles the Hammer, or as the real Girart II of Paris.

Let thus much suffice for the Legend of Girart of Roussillon, and let us now speak of Auberi of Bourguignon, to him his fiefs were given when he died without inheritors.

Book I, Canto VIII, Part 2

The Orlando Innamorato in English translation, Book I, Canto VIII, Stanzas 21-40

21
Rinaldo says to him, “Thou soon wilt know
Which of us two can better wield a blade!”
And viciously towards the brute he goes.
When the brute saw him, he was so afraid,
He turned his shoulders and he was not slow
But swiftly for a little stream he made.
One only bridge across this stream was thrown,
The which was made of one enormous stone.

22
On one end of the bridge there was a ring,
To which the giant fixed the chain’s hook tightly,
And when Rinaldo on the bridgestone springs,
And is about to slay the giant lightly,
The villain pulls the chain with all his strength.
The bridge collapses, “Holy God Almighty,”
Rinaldo cries, “O Virgin Mother, save –”
And with these words, he fell into a cave.

23
The cavern was tenebrous, foul, and wet,
And over it, rolled on the river black.
Across the mouth of it was spread a net
In which the baron’s captured. Nor doth slack
The foul giant. He takes no rest yet,
But slings the trussed-up knight across his back
And taunts him. “Wherefore didst thou give my friend
Such trouble? I still caught thee in the end.”

24
Rinaldo makes no answer to the churl,
But in his mind he thus laments his state.
“I see, how Fortune in her spite has hurled
Disgrace upon disgrace upon my pate.
Whoever is most luckless in the world
Would count him blessèd if he knew my fate,
For in such misery I have arrived,
I do not know how it could be described.”

25
As he lamenteth thus, tied up and bound,
The giant to the Cruel Castle came,
Where skulls and severed heads the merlons crowned,
And stuck on hooks, dead men and women hang,
But what was worst of all, were strewn around
The limbs and organs of men freshly slain.
The castle’s crimson stones seem from afar
Fire, but covered with men’s blood they are.

26
Rinaldo prays to God. He’s all alone.
I must admit that he was filled with fright.
Before him now appears an ancient crone.
Her dress was black, her unkempt hands were white,
Her face was wrinkled, her hands skin and bone.
She seemed both merciless and full of spite.
She bade the giant drop Rinaldo down.
Thus she addresses him, while he’s still bound.

27
“Perhaps, sir knight, thou’st heard from flying fame,”
The crone beings, “The customs full of sorrow,
Which we upon this barren rock maintain.
If not, then know that thou shalt die tomorrow,
And in what little time to thee remains,
Lest thou shouldst hope a further space to borrow,
I shall relate to thee the root and cause
Of our most cruel customs and fierce laws.

28
“A noble cavalier of matchless might
Was once this castle’s sovereign and lord.
He gave largesse, and kept his honor bright;
All travelers were welcome at his board.
He gave all wand’rers lodging for the night,
Damsels and pilgrims, cavaliers and bards.
His wife a lady was of high degree;
The fairest woman in the world was she.

29
“Grifone was this worthy baron named.
As Altaripa was this castle known.
His lady rightly was as Stella famed,
Because her beauty like the day-star shone.
It was in May, when Earth her joy regained,
Grifone left his castle, all alone,
And passed along the rolling ocean’s strand,
The very beach where you this morn did stand.

30
He roamed into the woods, and chanced to meet
Another knight, who out a-hunting rode.
He hailed him joyfully, and did him greet
With invitation to his own abode.
My husband was this knight of whom I speak:
Marchino, who did fair Aronda hold.
Grifone led him to this very hall,
And honored him, the way he did to all.

31
“Now, as it happened by unhappy chance,
Stella the beautiful he chanced to see.
And Love became his master with one glance.
He saw her comeliness and modesty,
And on her soft and lovely countenance
He gazed, and Love o’er him had mastery.
He longs for nothing, thinks of nothing else
Than how to have the lady for himself.

32
“He left the castle, meditating harm,
And came back home. We saw a great change in
His countenance, but knew not Stella’s charms.
He left Aronda with some of his kin
And took a shield that bore Grifone’s arms,
(For in his face, he somewhat looked like him)
And in the forest he did hide his band,
With armor on, and weapons in their hands.

33
“But he laid by his arms, as if the deer
He meant to hunt, and loud his horn he blew;
Grifon the courteous that winding hears,
For he was in the woods that morning, too.
He finds Marchino the accurst, who peers
Around to spot Grifone’s retinue,
And once he’s certain that he’s all alone,
‘Alas! I’ve lost it!’ he begins to moan.

34
“He hangs his head and sadly looks around,
Then starts, pretending that he just now sees
Grifon, and says to him, ‘I’ve lost my hound,
And know not where to look among these trees.’
They go together, and soon reach that ground
Where Don Marchino’s men plot villainies.
Not to prolong the history past reason,
They fall upon him and kill him by treason.

35
“Guised as Grifon, the gates he passes through,
And doesn’t leave a single man alive.
Young men and old, without remorse he slew,
The maidens, and the widows, and the wives.
Stella alone he spared, fair Stella who
Beholds the dead. He heart in anguish writhes.
To kiss and speak her fair Marchino starts,
But makes no impression on that pilgrim heart.

36
“She always thinks upon the cruel deeds
The wicked traitor wrought deceitfully,
And always close within her heart she keeps
Her much-belov’d Grifone’s memory.
Vengeance for him’s the only thing she seeks,
Vengeance, she thinks no thing could sweeter be.
At last, he cruel desires find consummation
Through the most fearful being in creation.

37
“The creature deadliest, most merciless,
The one most ravenous. More fierce than Hell is she:
A wife, who once was loved, who once knew bliss,
Who has been scorned and thus succumbs to jealousy.
The fiercest lion’s not more pitiless.
Than firedrakes or scorpions more fell is she.
Such is the wife, such is the woeful lover,
Who sees herself forsaken for another.

38
“I may well say it, for I proved it true,
When I found out about my husband’s deeds.
No greater grief I ever had been through.
Like a mad dog I howled in my grief.
When thou hear’st of the cruelty I used
That day, it scarce will win from thee belief.
But when love hath by jealousy been slain,
‘Tis strange if any goodness there remain.

39
“By my Marchino I had two young sons;
I slit the first one’s throat with my own hand.
The other stood and saw what I had done,
And said, ‘Stop, Mother! I don’t understand!’
I grabbed him by his feet, the wretched one,
And dashed his brains out on a boulder grand.
And dost thou think that my revenge was done?
May, rather I had only just begun.

40
“They still were warm, when I them cut in four;
And drew their little hearts out of their chests.
I chopped their limbs up. How my heart was sore!
But lust for vengeance all my soul possessed.
I save their heads, not for the love I bore
Them once. No love remained within m y breast.
I had no love, no pity, no remorse.
I wished to give my vengeance greater force.

Keep Reading

Notes

Notes to the Eighth Canto, Part 2

The Orlando Innamorato in English translation, Book I, Canto VIII, Stanzas 21-40 Notes

25. Merlon. The stones that stick up in a battlement.
Blood. Blood dries black, as Boiardo and his audience were well aware. The castle must do a lively business in executions.
29. Grifone. Not to be confused with Grifone son of Olivier or the various Grifones of House Maganza.

Back to Part 2

On to Part 3

The Spanish Charlemagne Ballads 12: Bernardo at Roncesvalles

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.

648, BERNARDO AND HIS MEN SALLY TO THE FIELD AGAINST THE FRENCH. Class VIII. “Aguardando que amanezca”
Bernardo surveys the field from a mountain top, and bids his three hundred men fear not, for ten Spaniards are a match for a thousand foreigners. They join with the Saracens, and ride to battle.

649, ON THE SAME SUBJECT. Class VIII. “Con los mejores de Astúrias”
Benardo leaves Leon with the best men of Asturias, to stop Charlemagne from usurping the crown Alfonso the Chaste has offered him. He gives a rousing speech to his men, then spurs his horse, shouting, “Follow me, all you who are sons of the brave!”

650, THE FRENCH PREPARE CONFIDENTLY FOR THE BATTLE OF RONCESVALLES. Class VIII. “Blasonando está el frances”
The French are encamped at Roncesvalles. Roldan, the twelve Peers, and Charlemagne are confident that soon they will quarter the fleur-de-lis with a castle and a lion [the arms of Spain], and that no one on earth can stand against them.

651, BERNARDO, THE CHAMPION OF RONCESVALLES, WITH THE DEATH OF ROLDAN AND THE TWELVE PEERS OF FRANCE. By Gabriel Lobo Laso de la Vega. Class VIII. “Con crespa y dorada crin”
Charles the Frank leads his massive army into Roncesvalles at dawn, to conquer Spain, with his twelve Peers behind him. Alfonso of Castile and Marsilio of Aragon, are waiting for him, with their respective champions, Bernardo and Bravonel. After a long and bloody fight, the Spaniards are victorious. Roldan and Oliveros are dead, with the flower of France. Charlemagne flees, with the greatest losses ever known.
Number 652 is a reworking of this one, with many unaltered lines, but much less detail.

652, ON THE SAME SUBJECT. Class VIII. “Con crespa y dorada crin.”
The Gauls lead a massive army into Roncesvalles at dawn. Bernardo and Marsilio are waiting for them. After a long and bloody fight, Bernardo and Bravonel are victorious. The French flee, leaving their banner behind.

653, BERNARDO DEFEATS AND KILLS ROLDAN. Class VIII. “El invencible frances”
The invincible Frenchman, the senator of Rome, who converted Agrican, defeated Almonte, held off an army at Abraca by himself, is dead. Brava’s lord could not defeat El Carpio’s. After slaying Dudon, Oliveros, Aquilante and Grifone, and spilling a lake of French blood, Alfonso’s nephew attacked Charles’, and slew him.
No mention is made of Roland’s invincibility requiring Bernardo to strangle him.

For the other Spanish ballads of Roncesvalles, see this page.