09 Abr “BORDER ROMANCES” in the HISTORY OF GRANADA.
“Border Romances “
Among the cultural wealth and material history of Granada, equally as abundant as hidden, we find literary pieces of singularly high sentimental value. Their lyrical importance as a kind of popular romance from the XIVth century deserves more research and exploration. We refer to them as “border romances,” revealing the genre for their unique theme, setting and content. These romances have left an indelible mark on the history of the Kingdom of Granada.
After six centuries their dramatic and elegiac tones offer the perspective of one who loses gracefully and seeks the sympathy of the winner. Gaps between the official rendering of events create heroes, vanquishing the newly-defeated to a servile class. The latter’s attributes sometimes slip recognition, only later coming to light and commending some of their qualities. An inclusive historical frieze is often helpful to understand what happened from both perspectives.
Most of the romances reflect the warnings, raids, riots, looting and even duels between knights that occurred in border areas, at the protective walls, or at the actual siege of cities.
What is revealed translates to the deep admiration for Granada, its legendary beauty, and appreciation of its treasures. The seasoned, well-prepared and eventually defeated Moors do not save their praise for the victor’s bravery, good looks and indomitable persistence in the “Mohammedan mushroom” that are Granada, Malaga and Almeria. Born in the heat of the re-conquest, the themes contain all the great elements of heroism on both sides.
Sentimental poetic chronicles of defeat also lyrically suggest the greatness of the kingdom which has been broken, gradually dismantled, and finally delivered in the hands of the victorious Christians. These verses were sung or recited in camps to inflame the soldiers or
in public squares to emphasize the greatness of the conquerors. They retain the simplicity of things that are sung because they are part of the collective experience, denoting loss and pain and the vicissitudes of life.
The romances, many copies of which became dilapidated or lost to time during the fourteenth century, were to be continued as the oral thread of epic poems. Those that were miraculously preserved are testament to the observers and chroniclers of the era and are now part of the collection of Spanish popular poetry and patrimony.
Anonymously created, they are built of eight-syllable verses in rhyming pairs. They were easy to memorize for an audience eager for this kind of oral historical recreation, which grew throughout the fifteenth century. Many of the facts of weapons, meetings, and clashes between the two communities are reflected in them. Poetry was common to all regions of the Granada border where the events described happened.
The romances are preserved as Antequera, Baeza, Baza, Knights Moclín, the Sierra Bermeja, King Chico and some others . We can now read, as fully illuminated, the last of the grenadine lyric poetry. From my point of view, one of them, “The Alhama” is Moorish; equally, too, is “Abenamar, Abenamar “. Then the balance tips toward the Christian side.
In so far as it relates to the history of the Kingdom of Granada, this research should not go unnoticed by astute scholars, readers, or musicologists. It is equal to the vast magma of the other wonderful historical court romances such as Arthurian, Arabian and other general romantic ballads.
Fortunately, today we can celebrate as a singer and musician Fernando Barros Lirola dares to compose and sing with respect and admirable delicacy that which has been revived from the ashes of oblivion.
Isacio Rodriguez, historian