The Last Battle Of The Cid

by Ada Cambridge

Ada Cambridge

Low he lay upon his dying couch, the knight without a stain,
The unconquered Cid Campeadór, the bright breastplate of Spain,
The incarnate honour of Castille, of Aragon and Navarre,
Very crown of Spanish chivalry, Rodrigo of Bivar!
Sick he lay, and grieved in spirit, for that Paynim dogs should dare
Camp around his knightly citadel, Valencia the fair!
For that he no more should face them, in his beauteous armour dight,
To whom God and Santiago aye gave victory in the fight.
Faintly rising o'er the ramparts came the murmur of the siege,
And he could but pray for Christendom, his country and his liege;
For his well-belovèd city, granite-girdled, pennon-starred,
And the royal wealth of treasure that its stately portals barred.
"Santiago, at whose altar I did watch mine armour bright,
And was girt with golden spur and brand, a consecrated knight!-
Santiago, by my vow redeemed at Compostela's shrine,
Let the Paynim life-blood only touch these blessed walls of mine!
"Santiago, warrior saintly, who with Don Fernando's host
Stormed and won the gates of Coimbra, guard my fortress on the coast!
Keep the holy leper's blessing, though the snow is on my hair;-
Strike the base-born unbelievers!-save Valencia the fair!"
Lo, a sudden cloud of glory filled his chamber as he prayed!
Lo, San Pedro stood beside him, all in shining robes arrayed!
"For thy love, Rodrigo Diaz, to Cardeña's house," said he,
"I have offered intercessions, and the Lord hath answered me.
"Thou must die, O well-beloved!-thirty days, and thou must die!
Yet in death shall Santiago grant thee still a victory.
Thou shalt ride forth to the battle-Santiago shall be there-
For the Faith and Don Alfonso and Valencia the fair."
Silence reigned within the chamber; none stood near the hero's bed;
All that dazzling flood of glory slowly, softly vanishèd.
He could only hear the murmur from the ramparts rise and fall;
He could only see the cross-bars stretching dimly on the wall.
In San Pedro's chapel lay the Cid, his eyes with rapture dim,
And proclaimed the wondrous favour that the Lord had granted him.
Then he parted from his vassals, and went humbly to confess;
And the warrior-bishop clothed his soul in its baptismal dress.
'Twas the holy day of Pentecost that saw Ruy Diaz die-
Evermore the spotless mirror of Castillian chivalry!
They, in whom his will was shrinèd, Alvar Fanez and his knights,
Stood to watch the hero vanquished who had won a thousand fights.
Doña Ximena, the faithful, with her tears bedewed his feet,
And anointed all his body with pure incense, rich and sweet.
Then in silence and in sorrow the twelve days of waiting fled;
And the warders on the ramparts dared not whisper, "He is dead."
In the midnight, dark and quiet, fell the torches' lurid glare
On the palaces and portals of Valencia the fair;
And a solemn, slow procession, mounted all in royal state,
Like the spectre of an army, passed beneath the city gate.
In the van was borne the ensign, known and dreaded far and wide,
With four hundred noblest knights ranged proudly by its side.
Toward Castille and Cardeña were those haughty faces set,-
And that banner never more did crown Valencia's parapet.
Then came mules, with treasure laden, stepping softly on before,
Compassed round with knights in armour-to the full four hundred more.
Then a band of belted nobles, stern and silent; and amid
Their levelled lances, he of Bivar-the Campeadór- the Cid.
On his milk-white steed, Babieca, whom none else did e'er bestride,
Clad in all his princely trappings, did the lifeless warrior ride;
Girt with helm and spur and blazoned shield, and grasping in his hand
The bright crosslet of Tizona, his thrice-consecrated brand.
Geronymo and Gil Diaz held the slackened bridle-rein-
His true bishop and true vassal-as they moved on to the plain;
And Ximena and her maidens, 'mid the torchlight weird and dim,
With six hundred knights in harness, followed slowly after him.
In the solemn hush and darkness, with no joyful clarion-cry,
And no clash and clank of weapons, riding all so silently;-
Thus they passed out from the city e'er the summer morning broke,
And were found arrayed for battle when the infidels awoke.
Great and mighty was the Moorish host, by thirty monarchs led,
But a greater was the army with Rodrigo at the head;
For behold! came Santiago to the bloody battle-plain-
Santiago, with a hundred thousand warriors in his train.
Each in robe of shining whiteness, with a red cross on his breast,-
Each with fiery sword uplifted or with golden lance at rest;
Santiago, saintly leader, on a charger white as snow-
Sent to aid the Cid Campeadór in vanquishing the foe.
All the Paynims looked amazèd on the dreadful beauteous sight.
As the tender light of morning softly crept out from the night;
Then they harnessed them in silence, sternly grasping shield and spear,
And pressed on in serried column, full of wonder, full of fear.
There was one loud shock of battle, then they wildly turned to flee,
And the Cid and Santiago swept their hosts into the sea.
Twenty kings and twenty armies in that bloody fight were slain,
And were left, with upturned faces, stiff and stark upon the plain.
Fair and shining came the daylight, all in liquid summer sheen-
But no more was Santiago, or his white-robed warriors, seen;
Only one small train of nobles, riding on, with stately pace,
To San Pedro de Cardeña and the great Cid's resting-place.
By the altar in the chapel, where the monarch's throne doth stand,
Sat the dead Cid, robed in purple, with his good sword in his hand.
And again the Moorish ensign fluttered proudly in the air,
Lifted high above the ramparts of Valencia the fair.

Last updated August 18, 2022