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The Maiden Tribute*

THE reign of King Ramiro was short, but glorious. He had not been many months seated on the throne, when Abderahman, the second of that name, sent a formal embassy to demand payment of an odious and ignominious tribute, which had been agreed to in the days of former and weaker princes, but which, it should seem, had not been exacted by the Moors while such men as Bernardo del Carpio and Alphonso the Great headed the forces of the Christians. This tribute was a hundred virgins per annum. King Ramiro refused compliance, and marched to meet the army of Abderahman. The battle was fought near Albayda, (or Alveida,) and lasted for two entire days. On the first day, the superior discipline of the Saracen chivalry had nearly accomplished a complete victory, when the approach of night separated the combatants. During the night, Saint Iago stood in a vision before the King, and promised to be with him the next morning in the field. Accordingly, the warlike apostle made his appearance, mounted on a milk-white charger, and armed cap-a-pee in radiant mail, like a true knight. The Moors sustained a signal defeat, and the Maiden Tribute was never afterwards paid, although often enough demanded. Such is, in substance, the story, as narrated by Mariana, (see Book vii. chap. 13,) who fixes the date of the battle of Alveida in the year 844, being the second year after the accession of King Ramiro.

Mr. Southey says that there is no mention of this battle of Alveida in the three authors who lived nearest the time; but adds, that the story of Santiagoās making his first appearance in a field of battle on the Christian side is related at length by King Ramiro himself, in a charter granting a perpetual tribute of wine, corn, &c., to the Church of Compostella. Mr. Southey says that the only old ballad he has seen in the Portuguese language is founded upon a story of a Maiden Tribute. See the Notes to his ćCid,ä p. 377.


The Maiden Tribute

THE noble King Ramiro within the chamber sate,
One day, with all his barons, in council and debate,
When, without leave or guidance of usher or of groom,
There came a comely maiden into the council-room.

She was a comely maiden, — she was surpassing fair;
All loose upon her shoulders hung down her golden hair;
From head to foot her garments were white as white may be;
And while they gazed in silence, thus in the midst spake she.

ĪSir King, I crave your pardon, if I have done amiss
In venturing before ye, at such an hour as this;
But I will tell my story, and when my words ye hear,
I look for praise and honor, and no rebuke I fear.

ĪI know not if Iām bounden to call thee by the name
Of Christian, King Ramiro; for though thou dost not claim
A heathen realmās allegiance, a heathen sure thou art;
Beneath a Spaniardās mantle thou hidest a Moorish heart.

ĪFor he who gives the Moor-King a hundred maids of Spain,
Each year when in its season the day comes round again, —
If he be not a heathen, he swells the heathenās train;
āTwere better burn a kingdom than suffer such disdain.

ĪIf the Moslem must have tribute, make men your tribute-money,
Send idle drones to teaze them within their hives of honey;
For when ātis paid with maidens, from every maid there spring
Some five or six strong soldiers to serve the Moorish King.


ĪIt is but little wisdom to keep our men at home,
They serve but to get damsels, who, when their day is come,
Must go, like all the others, the heathenās bed to sleep in;
In all the rest theyāre useless, and no wise worth the keeping.

ĪAnd if it is fear of battle that makes ye bow so low,
And suffer such dishonor from God our Saviourās foe,
I pray you, sirs, take warning, — yeāll have as good a fright,
If eāer the Spanish damsels arise themselves to right.

ĪāTis we have manly courage within the breasts of women,
But ye are all hare-hearted, both gentlemen and yeomen.ā —
Thus spake that fearless maiden; I wot when she was done,
Uprose the King Ramiro and his nobles every one.

The King called God to witness, that come their weal or wo,
Thenceforth no Maiden Tribute from out Castile should go;
ĪAt least I will do battle on God our Saviourās foe,
And die beneath my banner before I see it so.ā

A cry went through the mountains when the proud Moor drew near,
And trooping to Ramiro came every Christian spear;
The blesséd Saint Iago, they called upon his name; —
That day began our freedom, and wiped away our shame.

* From Ancient Spanish Ballads; Historic and Romantic,, Translated with Notes by J. G. Lockhart; Wiley and Putnam; New York; 1842; pp. 67-69.

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