Lope de Vega. Las Almenas de Toro, recounted by Ezra Pound.

 

Another delightful play of this historico-romantic sort is La Almenas de Toro. It has an additional interest for us in that Ruy Diaz appears in it, the time treated being slightly earlier than that shown in the Poema del Cid.

The play in brief outline is as follows:

King Ferdinand had divided his kingdom at his death, leaving the cities Toro and Zamora to his daughters, Urraca and Elvira. The new King, Sancho, is not content. At the opening of the play we find the King, the Cid, and the Conde Ancures before the gates of Toro, which Elvira has closed through fear of her brother. The Cid advises the King to let the sisters keep their cities. The King rejects this counsel, and the Cid is sent forward as ambassador.

Elvira comes forth upon the city wall, and replies with delightful irony to the King’s proposition that she become a nun.

Elvira

            Tell him, my Cid,

            That I have turned Toro into a cloister

            (Suffice it to see that the gate is well locked.)

            It is unfitting that a cloister

            Be opened to a secular person.

The King sees his sister on the battlements, and, without knowing who she is, falls in love with her.

The King:

            On the battlements of Toro

            There passed a damozel, or

            To speak more truly

            ‘T was the sun’s self passed us,

            Fair the form and light the passing

For her whom I saw on the wall that subtlety wherewith astronomy painteth aloft her divers sights upon the azure mantle of the sky, hath made me such that I believe many imagined things should be true.

The Cid tells him that it is his sister.

            The King:

                        An ill flame be kindled in her!

Pastoral action is brought into the play as relief, “contra el arte,” as Lope says in his preface.

King Sancho attacks Toro and is repulsed. At the beginning of the second act Bellido Dolfos begins to plot. Then, under cover of night (a purely imaginary night) two soldiers with guitars come out onto the battlements. Lope is constantly opposed to new-fangled scenery and constantly scenic in imagination. Here the soldiers sing while the siege is in progress.

Dolfos, with a thousand men, approaches and pretends to be Diego Ordonez with relief form Zamora. The ruse succeeds, the town is taken, and Elvira flees.

Dolfos, who had been promised the King’s sister in marriage if he took the town, is jealous, and says that the king, or Ancures, or the Cid, has hidden Elvira to cheat him and prevent her marrying below her station. In the meantime the pastoral action runs its course. The Duque de Borgoña, travelling incognito meets with Elvira, who has disguised herself in country clothing. The people, despite the improbability of the minor entanglement, are convincingly drawn.

Bellido Dolfos finally murders King Sancho. Toro declares for his brother Alfonso, “el de Leon,” with whom we are familiar in the Poema, but Elvira returns, and the town receives her in triumph. 

 

Reference

Pound, Ezra. [Synopsis of  Las Almenas de Toro by Lope de Vega.] Spirit of Romance. New York: New Directions, 1968. 191-93. Print.

 

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