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Ballads, Literature, and Historical Fact - ("Voces corren", "Celestina, Don Quijote")Author(s): Henk de VriesSource: Jahrbuch fr Volksliedforschung, 44. Jahrg. (1999), pp. 13-23Published by: Deutsches VolksliedarchivStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/848854Accessed: 14/10/2010 17:06
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Ballads, Literature,and Historical Fact1("Voces corren", Celestina, Don Quijote)
VonHENK DE VRIESSpanish balladry begins in the 14th century,when political unrest called forshort songs in which the latest news was told. The earliest of such news-ballads(romancesnoticieros)date from the 1320s,but there is a substantialgroupof them
about the civil war which ended when king Peter was murderedby his bastardbrotherHenry of Trastimaran 1369.Some of the ballads n favorof Petersurviv-ed after the king's death; but understandably,most of the civil war balladsweknow are those in favour of the winningparty.One of these,which tells about thesiege of the town of Baezain 1368,near the borderwith the muslimpartof Spain,is the first so-called frontier ballad (romance ronterizo)2.All through the 15thcenturyuntil the fall of Granada n 1492,ballads were composed about sieges ofborder towns andskirmishesbetween Christiansand Moors.It seems likely that the balladin Spainoriginatedas a meansto spreadnewsandpropaganda.Once it hadbecomepopular- when a market or shortnarrativesongs had been created- ballads were composed about epic subjects.Some ofthese, a very few, have been shown to be fragmentsof old epics grown independ-ent; but most epic balladswere born as new poems about epic subjects3.Manyderivefrom literarysources,especiallyfrom the chronicles n which the epics hadbeen prosifiedbefore the epic traditioncame to an end. A large group of Spanishballadsare aboutFrenchepic subjects.A clear and useful classificationof balladswas madeby the Britishcritic En-twistle4. The Spanishnews-ballads and frontier-ballads,which arisedirectly outof a historicalevent, he calls historicalballads.Literaryballads are those whichderive fromwrittensources,like most Spanishballadsaboutepic subjects.Balladswithout directties with eitherhistoricalevent or writtensource,which belong tothe same internationalstock as folktales, he named adventure ballads;some ofthese were written down in Spanishas earlyas the 15th century,when the balladin Spainwas gainingprestigeas a poetic genre.
Anabridgedersion f thisarticlewasreadbefore heplenum f theSymposiumf theInternationalociety or FolkNarrativeResearch eldApril22-28, 1996 n Beijing,China.2 Smith 1964:114-5. Galmis 1985#4590. First lines: "Cercada tiene a Baeza / ese arraiezAbdalla Mir".3 Deyermond 1971:126.4 Entwistle 1939. Deyermond 1971:126.
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Henkde VriesWith the fall of Granada he productionof frontier ballads came to a naturalend, but the existing traditional ballads soon became immensely popularwhenthey were printed on single sheets. From around 1550 onwards they were
publishedin largecollections.The ballad was now adoptedby writing poets as apoetic form and used for lyrical expressionand novelesquethemes. Even a veryintellectualpoet like Luis de G6ngora knew how to blend the traditionalformswith his personal style. Lope de Vega,even before he becamefamousas a drama-tist, was known for his romancesmoriscos lyricalballadsaboutamorousMoors,some of which reflecthis own love problems.In the polymetric Spanishcomedianot only was the balladmetre used for all narrative ections of the dialogue,butmany existing ballads were compilatedto compose dramas about themes of na-tionalhistory,like Guill6nde Castro's wo dramasaboutRodrigode Bivar,whichinspiredCorneille to his famous Le Cid. I should also mention the satiricalbal-ladsby Quevedo andothers.To summarize n a metaphorthe life of the Spanishballad,it was born in thefourteenthcentury, grew up in the fifteenth,wooed and marriedhigh literature nthe sixteenth,andin the seventeenth ived on in its offspring,the nationaltheatre.The other half of the truth is that balladscontinued to be sung and were thuspassed on from one generationto the other, living in the memories of people,manyof whom could not evenread.Afterprintedballadsdegeneratednto storiesabout vulgarthemes, and Spanish ntellectualsceasedto take any interestin bal-lads,the livingoral traditionwas rediscoveredby the RomanticMovement.Fromabout 1850 balladswere recorded n all regionsof the IberianPeninsulaexcept inCastile, and the theory was proposed that oral balladtraditionno longer existedin the centreof the Peninsula5.
One:from 1900 back to 1497But on the 28th of May 1900 the newly marriedcouple Ram6n MenendezPidal and MariaGoyri, while on their honeymoon waiting in Osma to watch an
eclipseof the sun, madea thrillingdiscovery.Talkingwith a washerwomanaboutballads,MrsMenendezPidal recitedone called'Laboda estorbada' TheDisturb-ed Wedding);and soon the washwomanstartedsinging in a clear voice a balladunknownto the Pidals- which later,afterstudy,turnedout to be an orallytrans-mittedrecord,never beforewrittendown, of the death of young princeJuan,heirto the throne,in 14976.The singerhad learnedthis balladas a child in hervillageLaSegura n the provinceof Burgos,Castile.Now the eclipseof the sun got littleattentionof the young couple, who at once engagedin recordingboth text andmelody of the new old ballad,which, as Menindez Pidalput it later,represented5 SeePidal1953,II, chapter VIII.6 Textandstudy n Goyri1904.This ballads #4560in Galmes1985.First ines:"Vocescorren, ocescorren, vocescorren orEspafiaquedonJuan lcaballeroestaimalitoen la cama".MelodynGoyri1904:31ndPidal1953:1,95.14
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Ballads, iterature,ndHistorical actthe rising sun of Castilian tradition after a night of three centuries'. MenendezPidal becamethe father of Spanishphilology and the leadingscholar in Spanishepic andballadry;he died,nearlya hundredyearsold, in 1968.
The two ballads referred o, the one recitedby Don Ram6n'syoung wife andthe other one performedby the washerwoman, llustratehow balladsmay lose allreference o historicalfact or conserve it with precision.The widespreadballad about the disturbedwedding exists in two mainforms.In both, a newly wed couple is separatedas the young husband s sent to a war ina far country;he tells his young wife to wait for him for seven years:aftereightyears she will be free to marryanotherman. In the one main form the husbandcomes home just in time to preventhis wife's new marriage8;n the other,as thehusbandstays away longer than he said he would, the wife sets out on a journeyto look for him andfinds him just in time to preventhis new marriage.The ver-sions of this second groupare called 'La condesita'- The Young Countess9.Thesecond form seems to be an inversion of the first,but possibly both forms derivefrom the same Frenchepic,Horn et Rimel, in which indeed there are two disturb-ed marriages,and from which also other Spanishballads have sprung"1.Bothforms have lost all reference o historicalfact, and this is only natural:ballads aresung and transformedfreely without concern for historicaltruth. It is only bychance thatelements of historicaltruth aresometimes saved.Such is the casein the balladthat the washerwomansang.This balladmay haveoriginatedas a news-balladshortlyafter thatsorrowful 4th of October 1497whentwenty-year-oldprinceJuan,only son of the CatholicMonarchs,aftertwo weeksof illness declaredhis lastwill anddied in Salamanca.Don Juanhad beenmarriedfor half a year to seventeen-year-oldMargaretof Austria, the only daughterofemperorMaximilianand Mary of Burgundy,and in his last will he recommendsher to his royal parents, askingthat her dowry be given to her as promised,anddeclares the child she carries to be his lawful and universal heir.The hope for anew successor to the throne was lost the following yearwhen the young widowmiscarrieda daughter.Later,Margaretwas a successfulgovernessof the Nether-lands for abouttwenty yearsuntil her death in 1530.The Castilianballadandother versionsfromPortugalandLe6n revealthat thedeathof the princedeeply moved all Spain;they conserve the name of Don Juan7 Pidal1953, II, 291-2.8 Seean example n D6bax 1982:331-3,'Romancedel condeAntores'(Firstlines: "Sia lossieteafios no vengo / si a los siete afios no mais").9 Examplesin D6bax 1982:333-5, 'Romance de la condesitao el conde Sol' (First lines:"Grandesguerras e publican entreEspafiay Portugal")y Diaz Roig 1983:289-90, Lacondesita'(First ines: "Yase hamovido laguerra entreFranciay Portugal").
10 Galmes 1985/1:103and /2:86-7. Galmes includes the famous balladabout Gerineldo,which MenendezPidal consideredas anadventure-ballad f freeinvention,in the groupof balladswhich derive from Horn et Rimel (##4492-4504of his catalogue, n which Labodaestorbadas #4500).
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Henk de Vriesbut callhim knightor king, not prince;they referto his declaringhis lastwill andto the pregnancyof his young wife. A most surprisingdetail conservedby thewasherwoman'sballad s the nameof one of the physiciansattendingon the dyingprince,"doctor de la Parra".A medicalmanby this name indeedis known to haveattendedon severalroyal persons, and it is very likely that he should have beencalledto theprince'ssickbed.The ending of the ballad,'however,deviatesfrom historicaltruth and differsfrom one versionto the other.In the Castilianwasherwoman's ersion,when DonJuantells his wife that he is going to die, she passes out and cannot be broughtback to consciousness; the doctors take a beautiful baby from her womb; thefatherpronouncesa benedictionon it; andall threeof them die in the samehourand go straightto heaven. In a balladfrom Le6n the mother dies but the childlives and in the father'sbenediction is profecied to become a prince of Spain.These endings seem to reflect an event of 1498: the 23rd of August that yearqueen Isabelof Portugal,a daughterof the CatholicMonarchs,died in Zaragozawhile giving birth to a son who was proclaimedheir to the thrones of SpainandPortugal.As these examplesshow, one traditionalballadmay lose all reference o histor-ical fact while the other conserves astonishing details of historical truth; andindeedthe very same balladin which a precisehistoricaldetail is found may takeelementsfrom severalhistorical events andput them togetherto form one narra-tive. This is all in the natureof an oralballadtradition,which not only conservesbut continuallytransformsand re-creates.
Two:from 1500 back to 1492When we find ballad-linesused as quotations in literaryworks in prose, likethe two classicsof Spanish iterature amnow coming to speakof, we may comeacrossrelationsto historical act of anentirelydifferentkind.An anonymouswork entitled Comedia de Calistoy Melibeamarksthe end ofthe fifteenth century. It is known in three unique copies of three differenteditions 11. In all except the earliest edition acrostic verses reveal the name of theauthor,Fernandode Rojas.An enlargedversionwas printedfrom 1502onwardsunderthe title Tragicomediatc. Soon the work was to be known by the nameofits most exuberantcharacter,he old bawdand witch Celestina.The title 'Comedy' is ironic. Calisto, rebuffedby Melibea,the only daughterof rich Pleberio, resorts to the old witch's help in order to make the girl lovehim. His servantsquarrelwith the old woman about theirpartof the reward,killher and are executed. Calisto after makinglove to Melibeatrips over his ladderand falls to his death.Melibeathrows herself off the tower of her father'shouse.
PleberioaccusesFortune,Worldand Love. The title 'Comedy' covers a tragedy,11 Burgos1499?,Toledo 1500,Sevilla1501.
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Ballads, iterature,ndHistorical actalthoughadmittedly,comic elementsplay a large part in it. The simple argumentis splendidly developed12. Although the work is entirely in dialogue withoutany interventionof a narrator, ome call it a novel because of its "complexity,the solidity of an imagined but real world, psychological penetration,[and] aconvincinginteractionbetweenplot, themeand characters"1The lovers are twenty-three and twenty years old. PrinceJuan, had he notdied, and his princessMargaretwould have been Calisto's and Melibea'sage in1500,when the firstcompleteedition of this bitterComedia,with aprefaceby theauthorand verses revealinghis name in acrostic,was publishedin Toledo. Con-temporaryreaders would not fail to see this possible allusion, but the cleverwould eventuallydismissit, as they would dismiss the author's atersuggestioninthe prefaces hat the first act was writtenby an "old author"andhe himself wrotethe other fifteen acts in fifteen days. Rejecting the literal meaning, they wouldtake the hint and understand that these fifteen days are an allusion to fifteencenturies of christianity;andthe cleverest,discoveringthat the acrostic s the keyto a code, would find the secret message that lays hidden behind the text inarithmeticalform14. They would marvel at the complexity of the meaningfulconstructions made of numbersrepresenting he personsof the Comedia,thirteennaturaland three allegoricalpersons; and they would start reading Pleberio'sclosing speech against Fortune, World and Love as the Spanish people's accu-sation againstthe Inquisition, the State and the Roman Catholic Church. It isonly naturalthat Fernando de Rojas,being of Jewish descent,did not take eitherthe expulsionof theJews in 1492or the prosecutionof crypto-Jews ightly.The octosyllabicballadmetrecan be detectedin Pirmeno'sdescriptionof the'old whore' Celestina(Act I) andvery clearlyin two narrative ections with bal-lad-like beginnings,one where Pirmeno explainsto his master how he came toknow the witch (Act I) andthe otherwhen Melibea,speakingfromthe top of thetower, tells her father her sad story (Act XV of the Comedia,XX of the Tragico-media).Both sectionsbeginby determiningvaguely the beginningof the story tobe told: "Manydays,a greatnumberof dayshavegone by ...". The geminationofexpressions("Dias grandesson passados ..."; "Muchos dias son passados ...")signals to the reader that 'day' may sometimes be taken to mean 'greatday' or'century'.Right after the opening scene in which he is given the brush-off by Melibea,Calisto shuts himself in his room, and aftertrying to expresshis low mood in asong, hands the lute to his servantSempronio,askinghim to sing the saddestsonghe knows. The servant'sansweris the firstappearancen printof the beginningofa balladwhich in the sixteenth century was very well-known: "Lookingdownfrom Rock Tarpeya Nero watchedhow Rome was burning; children and old12 Lida1962,hermagnumpus.SummarynLida1961,chaptersV-VI.13 Deyermond 1971:169-70.14 Vries 1990and 2000.A shortnote in Vries 1984:428-34.
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Henk de Vriespeople screaming, he let none of this concernhim."15A conversationdevelops.Calisto: "Greater s the fire that burns me, and smaller the mercy of the personI'm thinkingof." Sempronio:"How can the fire that burns one living person begreaterthan the fire that burnt such a city, such a multitude of people?"Calisto:"I will tell you how. Greater s the flame that burnsfor eighty yearsthanthe onethat passes in a day; and greater s the flame that burns a soul than the one thatburns a hundred thousand bodies." Semproniois clearlyspeakingof the Romanpast, but the present tense that slips from Calisto's mouth could be taken as areference o the stakesof the Inquisition;I think it is just that,and that its poten-tial dangerto the authorwas the reasonwhy it was changedto past tense in the1502 and later editions. It is no coincidence that right afterthese words Sempro-nio detectsin his mastera heretical hought,andto the servant'squestionwhetherhe is aChristian,Calisto answersthathe considershimself to be a Melibean.Sempronioquotes only the first four lines of the ballad.If Rojasknew a com-plete ballad like the one printed in two collections fifty years later16,Calisto'swords area double allusion to the stakes;for his reference o a flamethat "passesin a day"is in clear contradictionwith the ballad'sassertionthat the city of Romekept burning"for sevendayswith theirnights".
Three:from 1605 back to 1596Let us now leap forward a hundredyears, from Celestina to Don Quijote.Cervantesuses the opening lines of the Nero-balladin threeplacesof his famousnovel. In the first part of 1605, as in La Celestina,it is a girl accused of beingwithout mercy,andalso in a situation of dramaticallyrustratedove, who is com-paredto Nero17.In the secondpartof 1615 this happensfirst to Don Quijote, in aburlesqueballadsung to him by a maidtrying to make him believe she is in lovewith him18;then to good-natured, carefreeSancho Panza drinking wine andeatingcaviarwith his formerneighbourRicote, one of the moriscosexpelledfromSpaina few yearsago, now secretlycome back from Franceto searchfor his wifeanddaughterwho, for all he knows, havebeenbroughtto Argelia19.Ballad-linesappear n the text many times when Don Quijote himself recitesthem, especiallyfrom ballads of the Carolingeancycle, as he is a greatadmirerofthe knightsaroundCharlemagne.Threechaptersof the firstpartof the novel be-
15 "Mira Nero de Tarpeya / a Roma c6mo se ardfa; / gritos dan nifios y viejos, / y d1denada se dolia."16 Cancionero de romances, Antwerp, c. 1548 and 1550. Gonzalo Menindez Pidal in Pidal1953:1, 386 gives a melody taken from Declaraci6n de instrumentos (1555) by fray JuanBermudo.
17 The shepherdess Marcela, in ch. 14, Gaos 1987:1, 277.18 The girl's name is Altisidora, ch. 44, Gaos 1987:11,614.19 In this case,without namingNero, by simpleallusion:Sancho "letnone of this concernhim"; ch. 54, Gaos 1987:11,760.
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Ballads, iterature,ndHistorical actginwith a recitedpoem, and one of thesepoems is a ballad,but a new one writtenby Cervantes or the occasion20.Many chaptersof both partsbeginwith one, twoor several accidentalverse-lines'- prose lines thatmay be read asendecasyllables,octosyllables,heptasyllables: o manyindeedthatwe may presumethatCervanteswrote them not by chancebut deliberately21.Three chaptersof the whole workbegin with a verse-line quotation integratedin the prose. One of these is anendecasyllable22;ut the other two areballad-lines,one in eachpartof the novel.Chapternine of the second part begins with a ballad-linedetermininga precisemoment in time: "Media noche era por filo" - "It was on the stroke ofmidnight"23.And chapterone of the firstpart beginswith a ballad-lineto deter-mine the place where Don Quijote lived: "En un lugarde La Mancha" "In aplaceof La Mancha".
It is the fifth line of a new balladfirstpublishedin 159624andthen again n thegreatcompilationwhich appearedn 160025;ts first line reads"Un lenceroportu-gues".A Portuguese inen-drapercourtsa marriedwoman,who plays him a dirtytrick:she invites him to her bedroom,but when he has taken off his clothes, herhusbandappearsand beats him up, and the poor man escapesin his underwear.Not only the linen-draper,but also the sacristan, he chemist and the barberhadpretended to the lady's favour, and the love songs the suitors perform to thesound of their guitars,serenading n the street under her window at two o'clockof the night,areincorporated n the ballad,which bears the commontitle for sucha mixture of differentmetres,Ensaladilla 'littlesalad').Cervanteswrites: "In a placeof la Mancha, he name of which I do not wish toremember" 6.This is in clear contrastwith the ballad,which reads,speakingofthe linen-draper:"... in a place of la Manchawhich he will not forget so long ashe lives"- in orderto anticipateright at the beginningthe event to be told: thatthe man gets the thrashingof his life. But these two lines - "en un lugarde la20 It, andchapter43, beginwith the line "Marinerosoy de amor".The other two chaptersare 14, which begins with Gris6stomo'scanci6n ("Yaque quieres,cruel, que se pub-
lique ..."), and 40, which begins with a couple of sonnets.21 Gaos 1987:I,1048-9 givesaninventoryin anadditionalnote to 942,4.22 "Callaron odos, tirios y troyanos":these are the first words of chapter26 of Part II.Gaos 1987:II,388 observesthat it is the first line of Book II of the Aeneid in the transla-tion by GregorioHernaindez e Velasco,1555.23 It is the firstline of a balladwhich begins:"Medianoche erapor filo, / los gallos queriencantar: / conde Claros con amores / no podia reposar"(Galm6s 1985#4512; Smith1964:171-83;Diaz Roig 1983:194-9).The associationwith the amoroustheme is appro-priate,for SanchoPanza s leadingdon Quijoteto where he hopes to findDulcinea.24 Flores 1596:112v-116r.25 Romancerogeneral1600:359r-360r.26 Many criticsused to believe that Cervanteswas alludingto a particularplace; see therefutationby Gaos 1987:1,50, note to 4b. Interestingn ourcontextis the observationbyE L6pez Estradaquotedby Gaos 1987:1,980 in his additionalnote to 50,4b:"decuyosnombresno se acuerda"was anotarial ormulaused in the evidencegiven by witnesses.
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Henk de Vriesmancha que no le saldri en su vida"- area pun; the second meaningis: "(in aplace)of the stain that will never be washed away"27.The maliciousanonymouspoet hints at the linen-draper's eingof Jewishdescent,and seems to imply thatinthe placeof the event there livedmany people like him.I believethis balladto be a covertanti-Semiticcommentary o certaineventsofthe years just before 1596 which I found described by the historian RafaelCarrasco28.For twenty years or more Portuguese people of Jewish descent hadcome to la Manchato live here.They were linen-drapers,but combinedthis tradewith agriculture,grew vegetablesand wine and kept silk-worms. The men hadcome first andsomewhatlaterbroughttheir wives over.The sons of thesefamilieswent to Portugalto look for a wife; but around1590 even grandmothers ametola Mancha,a sure sign of definitive settlement.They lived ratherapartfrom theother population. That they lived as Jews was their closely guardedsecret. TheInquisitiondid not suspectthem.They were discoveredby chance.In March1593 an Inquisitorvisited la Mancha to hear witnesses about a casewhich had nothing to do with the Portuguese.Some people who had beenwork-ing for a Portuguesefamily told him about strange things they had observed.InApril andJuly two brothersliving in SantaMaria del Campo were arrested,andfrom Februaryto April of the following year the rest of their family were takeninto custody, except four who got away in time. In the panic caused by twelvearrests a servantin La Roda in July 1595 denouncedthe people he worked for,which led to another ten detentions. Then until July 1596 half a dozen peopleliving in Tobarra,Yecla andAlbacetewere detained.The prison of the Inquisition, in the castle of Cuenca, was extremelyunhealthy,and cold in winter;the cells were crowded.Eight of the prisonersgotvery ill; two men died; A woman gave birth,and the child was takenaway fromher at once. All twenty-eightprisonerswere tortured.Fromtheir cells they wouldlet each other know what they had declared in the interrogations,singing inPortugueseto avoidbeingunderstood.Two autosde fe were held, one in September1596 andthe secondin December1598. Of the twenty-eight prisoners,four were sentencedto deathand burnedatthe stake:two women from SantaMariadel Campo, a grandmotheragedeighty-eight and her daughter;andtwo men, the agedheadof the La Roda family and amanfrom Tobarraknown for his righteousness,his firmness n the faithof Israel,and his riches. Not only the prisonerswere sentencedbut also the four peoplewho hadfled and two personswho had died beforethis persecutionbegan:thesesix andone who haddied in prisonwere burntin effigy.The other man who diedin prison had been the first detainee andhe was 'reconciled' n effigy: the puppetrepresentinghim was not burnt,becausehe had made "avery good confession".Four people were fined variousamountsof money and obliged to forsweartheir27 In Flores 1596mancha s printedwith a lower-casem.28 Carrasco 1987.
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Ballads, iterature,ndHistorical actfaith. The remainingeighteen were 'reconciled', that is sentenced to perpetualconfinementand confiscationof all their property. Perpetualconfinementmeantin practicethatthey had to stay for four or five yearsin prison,wherethey hadtoreturn every evening after going out during the day to work for their living,dressed in the habit of the penitent. The last document about the case is thepetition to be released, iled in 1600by those who had been convictedin 1596.The ballad about a Portuguese linen-draperwhich was firstpublishedin printin 1596may have been written after the first wave of arrests n the springof 1594or after the second wave in the summer of 1595,both of which would havegivenpeople much to talk about.Just a few years ago, in 1592,an auto de fe in Toledohad causedquite a stir,and once the two groupsof people in la Manchahad beenarrested,it was an easy guess what would happen to them. And so the balladcontains allusions to things to be expected. In one metaphorthe lady and herhusbandare a court of justice who sentence the linen-draper o confiscationofhis goods. And when the Portuguese is admitted into the lady's house, hisdisappointedrivals, n a covert but clearenoughallusion to the stake,wish Cupidto be burnt with his own fire.The pun on the name of the region was an easy and obvious one, as manchawas the usual term for any so-called 'defect'in someone's'purityof blood'. Sincethe fifteenthcentury,an increasingnumber of institutionsdemanded his limpiezade sangre,thus hamperingthe career of anyone unable to prove that he had noJewishor Moorishforbears.It may not be easy to prove beyond allpossible doubt thatCervanteswas con-sciously and deliberatelyquoting the ballad,but the contrastingnew context inwhich he placesthe ballad-line "thenameof which I do not wish to remember"instead of "which he will neverforget"- makes it very likely that he wanted hisreadersto remember he pun on "the stain that will never wash out" and gatherfrom the title of the book that Don Quijote de la Mancha himself carriedsuch aso-called 'stain'.In Don Quijote's madness,he was satirizingthe madness of hisdays, when anybody could cast doubt on somebody'sidentity.The author is notsure about his hero's real name before he went out of his right mind: was itQuijada, Quesada, Quijana?When the ingenious gentlemandoes decide to be aknight errant he chooses a new name that sounds good: Don Quijote de laMancha.And after having been so beaten up in his first adventurethat he isunable to move,when the neighborwho takeshim home on the backof a donkeyremindshim that he is not any of the ancientnoblemenfrom the balladswhich hekeepsrecitingbut sefiorQuijana,Don Quijote answers:"I know who I am, and I know that I may be, not only those I have said,butall the twelve Peers of France,and even all the Nine Worthies;for all the featsachieved by all these together and by every single one of them, mine willoutrival." 929 Ch. 5, Gaos 1987:I,122-3.
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Henkde VriesEven the Nine Worthies! These were threeJews: Joshua,David,JudasMacca-baeus; three Gentiles: Hector, Alexander,Julius Caesar;and three Christians:
KingArthur,Charlemagne,Godfrey of Bouillon. Don Quijote is implyingthat ifhe only wants to, he may be not only a Christian like all those Christianheroes,but a Gentile, or a Jew. I think it very likely that through these words of DonQuijote, Cervantes was alluding to the preoccupationof many Spanish peoplewith their so-called old-Christian descent.It may seem dubious that he was hint-ing at a more dangerous message: hat whether one is aJew, a 'heathen'or Mus-lim, or a Christian, s of no importance n the face of eternity,that all humans areequal and all that matters is just that: being human. On the other hand, ifCervantes wanted to propagateideas so dangerousthat no person in his rightmind would even dreamof pronouncingthem, creatinga madmanto voice themwould seem an obvious solution - all the more so becausefor all his madness,Don Quijote is no fool: thereis profoundwisdom in some of his sayings.In our own days it still seems quixotic to hope that a universalmutualaccept-anceof all creedsmay one day rule the world. But Don Quijote nevergivesup. Sowhy should we? In the meantime,ballads and literature,while allowingus to bewhoeverwe want to, mayhelpus find out who we are.
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