History is defined different ways. Here it will be defined as the reality of what happened in the past: the truth of what occurred.
While the reality of a happening or a sequence of them may be recorded, the record itself may be in error, incomplete, or be seen or thought of differently. You see this in differing accounts of something. But the fact remains, the history of what happened doesn't change: it was, what it was.
It reminds me of the
words in the Rubaiyat by the Persian poet, Omar Khayyam:
"The moving- finger writes
and having- writ,
In reading about Fatima in Portugal
the place in Portugal near
where the Blessed Virgin appeared in 1917
I encountered the
story of a Moorish Princess who was captured during the 12th Century in
Portugal, during the time of the Christian reconquest. I ran
into differing accounts, in writings about it, and I speak here of writings
that go back in time.
Much afterwards, I read a poem about this skirmish ― which I would call here more of an action ― that was written by the English poet Robert Southey who lived from 1774 to 1843 and who spent some time in Portugal. His poem was dated 1801, Bristol, which was 51 years prior to the Dublin University publication. In the short introduction to it, Southey said the story "...is related at length by Bernardo de Brito in his Cronica de Cister, an even earlier account than the Dublin University one. Brito was a Cisterian chronicler who lived from 1569-1617. Southey's account agreed in some degree with the Dublin one, yet it differed.
Looking into it, I was informed that there were 12 copies of this particular chronicle in this country but none were available to be checked out because of their condition, and all were in Portuguese. I also learned at the same time, that there apparently was a digitized copy of the University of Alberta in Canada, that could be seen on line. This proved to be true, but it too, was in Portuguese. I downloaded enough of the chronicle from the Canadian site, but still had the problem of finding out what it said in Portuguese, it not being my language. I also found I could order a copy of it in Portuguese, in book form, through Amazon, which I did, but had to await it's arrival. At least I had the story, even though it was locked in the words of another language. I wanted to learn what it had to say.
A librarian told me of a copy in English at the British Library, so I attempted to obtain photocopies of the pages I needed. I contacted the British Library and eventually received an answer from the Rare Books Reference Team in London. The respondent said, "Unfortunately, I cannot find a record of any English translation in our collection of the Chronica de Cister by Bernardo de Brito." In fact, "no holdings" in English were found in the UK, so the search had extended well beyond their facilities, to Great Britain itself.
There must've been an English translation at some point in history as it found it's way into the Dublin University Magazine. Southey also knew the story and it may be that he got it from the Portuguese themselves. In 1795 he went Portugal with a Rev. Hill and developed an interest in their history and that of the Spanish. In 1800 he returned to Portugal when he gathered information and started writing a history of the country
A kind lady who had spent some time in Brazil when younger, and was familiar with Portuguese from her time there, helped me get a start at translating and loaned me two of her large dictionaries, one very large one in Portuguese and a thick one in both Portuguese and English. I went about continuing to attempt to translate the text myself. It's proved to be time consuming and not without linguistic difficulty.
Using the digital copy from Canada, I looked up word after word, poring over the Portuguese-English dictionary. I looked into other linguistic information, like verb forms. Eventually I started to write down word meanings in a notebook, in alphabetical order. My notes had been on scattered pieces of paper.
I couldn't find certain words as printed in the text. While it wasn't true for all the puzzling text, there were instances where one could make sense if you allow for a mistake in type setting, just as can occur in the print world today. There was, for example,"tas" at the top of a column, preceded by the word, "trombe," at the bottom of the preceding column. However, trombe had a period after it, a sign of definite separation. Finally, ignoring the period as a mistake and putting the two together, it worked. There is such a word as "trombetas," meaning trumpets, and it fit the context. Another was "ametade." In this case, if the "a" is separated from the rest of the word, as "a metade", it could be the preposition "a" meaning "to," and "metade" meaning "half, middle." This seemed to fit the thought of the narrative. And the important thing is to translate thought.
One of the differences between versions that I've found so far in
subject to revision, if need be
― is that the Christians
didn't just come to Alcacer do Sal by the Sado River; they came "por mar,
outros por terra," that is, by sea and others by land. They apparently
assembled at Almada, on the mouth of the Tagus River, across from Lisbon. Those who came by sea, went out into the Atlantic, came south off the
Iberian coast, and entered the estuary of the Sado. This two-pronged
approach was a co-ordinated undertaking, broader in scope in the
Chronica de Cister
than what seemed to be the case in the Dublin Magazine account.
I imagine that with travel on sea and open water, their mission was fraught with the
possibility of discovery.
Copyright © 2005 - John Riedell - All