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  • The Song of the Cid: A Dual-Language Edition with Parallel Text
  • Gregory B. Kaplan
The Song of the Cid: A Dual-Language Edition with Parallel Text. Trans. Burton Raffel. Intro, and notes María Rosa Menocal. New York: Penguin, 2009. xxv+254pp. ISBN: 978-0-14-310565-7

The publication of The Song of the Cid, a new translation by Burton Raffel (with an introduction and notes by María Rosa Menocal) of Spain's only surviving, nearly complete epic poem, invites a comparison with previous renditions, in particular The Poem of the Cid, its predecessor in the Penguin Classics series, which includes a translation by Rita Hamilton and Janet Perry and an introduction and notes by Ian Michael. This comparison raises the obvious question of whether a new translation is necessary. The answer to this question is affirmative inasmuch as there is a niche for such a translation in courses in areas other than medieval Spanish literature, for which instructors require an edition designed for nonspecialist readers with an English rendition that preserves the spirit of the original work.

Michael's highly annotated introduction in The Poem of the Cid is intended for those who seek a thorough overview of the major features of the poem and issues related to its structure, versification, and theories regarding its composition; these readers are likely to consult the wide range of studies that Michael identifies in his notes. In The Song of the Cid Menocal offers a more concisely written introduction that makes the epic poem accessible to readers with limited background knowledge. Menocal does an excellent job covering the most important aspects of the work, in particular the historical facts concerning Rodrigo Díaz's life, and includes a concise description of suggested further readings. On several occasions, she centers her discussion on [End Page 208] concepts that the epic poem is purported to communicate and those that are actually expressed in the text; for example, she explains that the theme of Christian reconquest is much less important than the theme of exile and that the work itself is not "openly anti-Muslim". Without going into great detail, Menocal points out important facts related to the original manuscript, including the 1779 edition by Tomas Antonio S´anchez, the reference to Per Abbat in the explicit, and the lacuna at the beginning of the manuscript; she also mentions other medieval works that deal with the Cid. In addition, Menocal briefly touches upon the theories concerning the possible oral or learned composition of The Song of the Cid and discusses the modern critics that assessed it against the backdrop of Francisco Franco's regime.

Like the original Penguin volume, the English translation in The Song of the Cid is accompanied by a parallel Old Spanish text that appears to be identical to the Spanish text in The Poem of the Cid. One unfortunate omission of the Spanish text in The Song of the Cid is that it does not, unlike the older Penguin edition, include verse numbers or folio numbers that correspond to the surviving manuscript, which are very helpful when comparing the text with paleographic or facsimile editions.

Raffel's translation is based on Colin Smith's 1985 edition of the Poema de Mio Cid, although, as his "Note on the Translation", explains, "I have occasionally not followed Smith, particularly with regard to line sequence and the correct placement of the arabic numerals indicating a new section (laisse)". A major difference between the old and new Penguin editions is the form into which the translation has been rendered; whereas Hamilton and Perry provide a prose translation of the work, Raffel follows the original text with a verse translation.

The process of completing a translation inevitably involves choices. In general Raffel's rendition is a pleasure to read, and he successfully preserves the lively tone of the original text, as is evident in the following passages:

After three weeks, as the fourth began,My Cid thought it was best to confer with his men:"They've blocked our water supply; soon we'll be out of bread.We can't sneak out at night;They're terribly strong for us...


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