Poetry played a vital role in the dissemination of information during the Crusade period. It provided a compact, easily memorized way of spreading news in a time bereft of the benefit of mass printing. According to Michael Routledge, who penned a chapter on Crusade songs and poetryin The Oxford Illustrated History of the Crusades, poetry was not only a way of recording and spreading news of current events, but also served to record and extoll the virtues and values of the ruling Medieval aristocracy.These values included commitment to one’s lord, and an acceptance of the feudal duties of auxilium (armed help in time of attack by enemies) and consilium (counsel and rendering of justice) (Routledge 97).
A fine example of poetry’s use in the above context can be found in Paul Blackburn’s translation of the medieval Spanish epic Poem of the Cid. The poem is a fictional account of the life of the eleventh-century adventurer and military commander Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar. The poem’s title derives from Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar’s Arabic title, Sayyidi (the Cid) or “My Lord”. The poem’s content describes a series of events transpiring after the main character, the Cid, is exiled from his homeland. Within the body of the poem, situations extolling the medieval virtues of commitment to one’s lord, auxilium, and consilium are revealed.
The theme of commitment to one’s lord is prevalent throughout the Poem of the Cid. Initially, the Cid is exiled because his enemies have turned his lord, King Alfonso, against him. Despite being banished from his home and family, the Cid uses every opportunity that comes his way to show his valor and loyalty to Alfonso. In reality, being exiled should have turned a man like the Cid into a freebooter who had the right to earn a living however possible for himself and his followers. As a free agent, so to speak, the Cid would have been able to claim authority over whatever territory he conquered, and could even…