Historical Source for Fatima

      With reference to the origin of Fatima in Portugal and the love story behind it, here is a historical account regarding it.  It is from The Dublin University Magazine, Volume 40 by William Curry, Jun & Co., under the title of Leaves from the Portuguese Olive.No. III, text dated 1852, and subtitled The Cancioneros.   I've divided the History of it, into more paragraphs than it had, with spacing between.  A couple of asterisks were placed in the original text and footnoted at the bottom of the page.  I've bracketed these and placed them right after the asterisk itself.  Bernardo de Brito was a Cistercian monk and chronicler who died in 1617.  The story of Fatimá and her captor Gonzalo is followed by other narratives and information also found in Leaves from the Portuguese Olive. JR

                                                           The History

       "Brito has preserved, in his history of the Cistercian Order, another old lay, also founded on the issue of a skirmish between the Moors and Christians, and written by the hero of the adventure himself, Gonzalo Hermiguez.*    [ * Herminguez is "the son of Hermigo;" The termination "ez" being equivalent to the Norman "Fitz"―so Henriquez is "the son of Henry." ]    He was the son of Hermigo Gonzales, a warrior under Alfonso Henriquez, Count of Portugal, (as he was styled), who struggled for the independence of his country against the Mahometan intruders; and who gave them so signal a defeat at Ourique (in Alentejo), that he was crowned king on the field by his victorious troops (1139), and founded and maintained the kingdom of Portugal. At Ourique, Hermigo Gonzales overthrew so many of the Moors, chiefly by his agility, that he obtained the cognomen of O Luctador, the Wrestler. His son, Gonzalo Hermiguez, inherited his father's prowess; of which he gave so many proofs in the continual strife between the Moors and the Christians, that he became celebrated by the appellation of Traga Mouros, or "the Moor Eater."     

        "Towards the close of the reign of King Alfonzo Henriquez (about 1189), Gonzalo Hermiguez determined to make reprisals on the Moors for the captives they had taken from among the natives of his country. With a band of intrepid followers he embarked in boats on the River Saldao, or Sado, and pursued his course to the Town of Alcacer do Sal (in Alentejo), then in the hands of the Moors. It was midsummer ; the Mahometans were celebrating their Feast of Bairam, and, with the females of their families, were sporting and dancing on the grass, near the open gates of the town.

      "The Lusitanians lay sometime in ambush, watching their movements; and Gonzalo was particularly attracted by a beautiful Moorish girl whom he saw sporting with her female companions, full of graceful gaiety, and he resolved to appropriate her as his prize.

      "He and his followers rushed from their lurking place upon the dancers; but, though the Mussulmans were taken by surprise, they fought bravely and obstinately, and frequently snatched from Hermiguez the lovely prize he had seized. But Fatima (such was her name), had, on her side, remarked the young Portuguese at his first appearance, admired his valour and his fine person, and was not a little flattered by the value he set upon herself, as testified by the desperate efforts to obtain her, which made him the centre of the fight, and the object of general attack from her countrymen; and it would seem, that instead of being alarmed, or offering any resistance, she threw herself in the way of recapture by Gonzalo as often as she was snatched from him; but his courage and determination prevailed, and he bore off his captive in triumph.

      "Subsequently, his eloquence converted her to Christianity—love, no doubt, sharpening his controversial acumen, and softening down her prejudices; at her baptism she exchanged the name of Fatima for that of Oriana, and, passing from the font to the altar, she was wedded to her victorious lover— victorious alike in battle and in controversy, and he composed a short romance as a memorial of his exploit, and of his hallowed love.

      "This little poem is more rude and less intelligible in language, and less regular in structure than that of the preceding ballad, which, however, is older by three centuries; it has but faint traces of rhyme, or of the assonance of vowels, so usual in the Peninsular poetry. 

      "Why a poem of the twelfth century should be more barbarous than one of the eighth, must be explained by the circumstance, that Brito copied the more recent poem from an old MS. of its own era; and that he gave the earlier romance as sung in his own time (the end of the sixteenth century, and beginning of the seventeenth), by the people of Beira; where, being orally preserved, it became gradually and naturally modernised, in its descent from the lips of one generation to those of the succeeding.

       "The poem of Gonzalo Hermiguez presents so many*  [ * Bouterwek has given  the commencement  of the original; but sadly corrupted, and miswritten.]  difficulties, that we are unable, in our version, to offer an exact likeness of the original.  We give the sense (as well as we can collect it), but in the length of the lines, and the recurrence of the rhymes, we have ventured to fill up its irregularities and deficiencies. This old poem, unlike the ancient prolix romances, that begin at the beginning, plunges at once "in medias res."   The first stanza at once relates the frequent captures and rescues of Fatima, in the thick of the fight; the second describes Gonzalo's reflections on his first seeing her from his ambush ; the third tells us of his affection for the wife he had doubly won :—

                             Here, awhile I held thee; there the shock repell'd thee,
                                         Still, still, as waver'd the fortunes of the fight,
                              Here did'st thou grasp me; there again unclasp me;
                              Thence would'st thou fly to me; hence did'st draw nigh to me,
                                         As here the champions parted, or there combin'd their might.

                               Mem'ry shew'd thee brightly; sporting, free and lightly,
                                          As when first I saw thee, with thy smiling face.
                               Then, my fancy warming, thought—"0 maid, so charming!
                               In this land around me, happy fate has found me
                                           Prize like thee to follow hi the eager chace."

                                Oriana, dearest! trust the lay thou hearest;
                                            Life to me is only life since blest with thee:
                                Life no value knowing, save of thy bestowing—
                                Thou prize, that battle gave me, dost, in turn enslave me,
                                            For nothing fairer, dearer, thro' all the world I see !
        Text from Leaves of the Portuguese Olive, that preceded the account of Fatimá
(broken into more paragraphs than the original)

       We have now reached (in chronological order) the era of Garcia de Resende,* to whom Portugal is so much indebted as the compiler and editor of the " Cancionero Geral," or general sons: book; in which is preserved a collection of interesting specimens of early Portuguese poetry, which would otherwise have long since utterly perished.

      Before the time of Resende, some old Cancioneros had existed in manuscript ; but they have either been wholly lost, or have become inaccessible to the researches of the zealous student. Even Bouterwek and Sismondi acknowledge that their anxious researches failed to discover any of the older " Cancioneros," or song books. A few relics of their contents only have reached posterity, like fragments which, disengaged from a submerged wreck, float obscurely along upon the troubled waves of the ocean of Time. From the little now known of the elder Cancioneros, it appears that the subjects of the ancient Muse of the Peninsula were—first, Love, the all-absorbing passion, held by the warm and tender Southerns as at once spiritually a religion, and temporarily the business of life ; secondly, Adventures in the Wars with the Moors; thirdly, Devotional Poems; fourthly (and less in proportion to the others), Louvores, or Panegyrics on Friends, or on Heroes and celebrated Characters.

      The oldest specimen with which we are acquainted is a kind of rude ballad, which Bernardo de Brito, the Cistercian monk and chronicler (he died, 1617), has given in his history of the Lusitanian monarchy, and which he extracted from an ancient MS. Cancionero no longer extant. The ballad commemorates, in monotonous rhymes and bald language, an obscure and romantic adventure that occurred during the dominion of the Moors in the Peninsula, and in the reign of Abdurrahman, the Moorish King of Cordova (in the latter part of the eighth century).

      Abdurrahman, a brave soldier and skilful politician, had frequently vanquished the Christians, the only portion of whose soil that remained free from the domination of the Crescent was the little kingdom in the mountains of the Asturias; and the victorious Moor had gained such ascendancy, as to extort from the cotemporary Christian kings the most abject treaties, and among them one which the Christian writers of those times have been ashamed to mention, though it is related by the Arabic historians, and is often alluded to in the old Spanish Cancioneros of a subsequent date. It is the disgraceful tribute of a hundred young maidens of noble birth and a hundred others of inferior rank, to be chosen annually from amongst the handsomest of the Christian females, and carried to Cordova, and distributed among the Mahometan harems. True, Aurelio (he died, 775) strove to avoid this degrading and unmanly impost. He was compelled by force of arms to submit, as were also his successors, Silo and Mauregato.

      Mauregato, the natural son of Alfonso L, King of Leon, having deposed the rightful heir, Alfonso, his half-brother, was fain to sustain his usurped throne by the aid of the powerful Moors, and to court the friendship of Abdurrahman, to whom he promised to pay the maiden tribute unresistingly and punctually. The subjects of Mauregato were incensed at an odious tax, which was not only degrading to them as men, but which brought, every year, disgrace and mourning into so many families, and rent asunder the tenderest ties. But they had neither political nor military strength to battle for its abolition in the field. All their demonstrations were necessarily confined to the gallant exertions of isolated parties. The young men of different districts occasionally formed themselves into little bands, and watched in

[Footnote to page]
* See No. II in the Dublin University Magazine, No. CCXXXII., for April, 1802.

ambush the passage of some Moorish detachment, returning from a town or village with the extorted quota of maidens. On perceiving a favourable opportunity, they would attack the Moslems at disadvantage, and often succeeded in rescuing the captives, and restoring them to the embraces of their agonised parents. These encounters kept alive the chivalrous spirit of the young men, and gave rise to many romantic incidents, of which some reminiscences are preserved in old Spanish Cancioneros and Romanceros (or ballad books). Many a warm and lasting love sprang up, at first sight, between deliverer and delivered—many a young victor surrendered his own freedom on the spot into the fair hands whose chains he had just unbound— many a sensitive girl gazed admiringly on her champion's face, embellished by the glow of action, and dignified by the pride of victory, and quickly exchanged gratitude for love.

      During the reign of the detested Mauregato (who died, 783), a Moorish escort was returning to Cordova with six young girls, taken from some part of the north of Portugal. A party of young men, headed by one Goestor Ansur and his brother, watched them till they entered a thick wood of figtrees to rest and refresh themselves. Then the Christians attacked them unawares, and a battle ensued. Goestor Ansur had his sword broken in the combat; but he tore off the branch of a fig-tree, and fought valiantly with it, till he and his comrades obtained a complete victory, and liberated the lovely prisoners. The eventual issue of the encounter was marriage between the maidens and their benefactors.

      The scene of the exploit is still pointed out by the name of " Figueira das Donas,"*  i. e., the Figwood of the Women (from Figo, a fig). It is not far from Viseu, in the province of Beira, to the north of the Mondego. Goestor Ansur, in memory of his achievement, assumed on his shield, for arms, five fig-leaves proper, on a field Or; and took the name of " Figueiredo (from Figueral, a figwood) ; his brother taking "the appellation of "Figueroa;" and they became the founders of the families of Figueiredo and Figueroa;—names which, in after times, have been inscribed by their bearers on the pages of Spanish and Portuguese history and literature. The Spanish branch of Figueroa was ennobled in the person of Don Gomez Soarez Figueroa, by Henry IV. of Castile (1468), with the title of Count of Feria,and his descendant was afterwards advanced to the rank of Duke of Feria by Philip II., in 1577.

     The ballad celebrating the above exploit, which is preserved by the Monk Brito, and which was sung for two or three centuries in the province of Beira, seems to have been composed by Figueroa, the brother and zealous imitator af [spelling as in text] Goestor Ansur, who was himself captivated by a fair captive. It is written in long stanzas of short lines, which echo each other, with one monotonous unvarying rhyme, and in language so meagre, that we find it difficult to make our translation duly correspond with the skeleton-like original :—


Into the Figwood camo Figueiredo;
   Into the Figwood too came I;
Six fair maids lie there discover'd,
   Six fair maids I did descry.
Weeping, sighing, he perceiv'd them :
   I, too, saw them weep and sigh.
"Who maltreats ye? Wherefore must ye
Bear this lot of cruelty ?"
            Into the Figwood came Figueiredo,
            Into the Figwood, too, came I.

Thus to me a maiden answered :
    "Sir, I cannot tell you why ;
Woe to realm where wicked monarch
   Works his people misery.
Had I weapons, I mistake me
   If their use I would not try;
No man then should captive drag me—
   This foul law I would defy.
Now, farewell, good youth! I know not
   If again beneath the sky,
Yet to meet and speak together
   E'er shall be our destiny."
             Into tho Figwood came Figueiredo,
             Into the Figwood, too, came I.

{Footnotes to page]
* There are various places in Portugal called Figueira; as Figueira, at the mouth of the Mondego, a flourishing market town ; Figueira, between Coimbra and Thomor, &c. but the affix "of the women" marks the scene of the adventure.
Feria, a small town in Spanish Estramadura, four leagues from the frontiers of Portugal, on a hill, having a strong castle, and a fertile territory.
Pronounced in four syllables, as Fi-ga-re-do.

Thus spake I to her: " 0, never
   Think from thee my feet shall fly:
I at goodly price will purchase
   Charms that thus delight mine eye..
Still, through regions strange and distant,
   I thy steps will 'company;
Long, long ways, though rough and weary,
   Shall seem short when thou art by.
Well I know the Arab language,
   I can speak it skilfully:
Any Moor who dares oppose us,
   I will smite him, he shall die."
              Into the Figwood came Figueiredo,
              Into the Figwood, too, came I.

To the Moor those captives guarding
   I with stealthy step drew nigh ;
Fiercely did he threat my maiden—
   Then my wrath blaz'd fierce and high.
Figueiredo broke a Fig branch:
   Then a Fig branch, too, broke I.
Fast he plied his club around him,
   I as fast my club did ply;
We the Moor robb'd of the maidens
   He had seiz'd in robbery,
Then to her with whom I'd spoken,
   Did I bind a tender sigh,
             Out of the Figwood went Figueiredo,
             Out of the Figwood, too, went I.


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