Jugando estaba el rey moro    y aun al ajedrez un día,

Todays’s poem is another Spanish ballad going back to the wars of Reconquest between the Spanish and the Moors in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries as Spanish forces gradually took back territory taken by the Moors after their invasion of Spain in 711, keeping most of the peninsula for over 500 years. This poem tells the story of a game of chess between the Moorish king and a leader of the Spaniards, with significant territories being wagered on the outcome of the game. Gripping stuff…

Jugando estaba el rey moro y aun al ajedrez un día,
con aquese buen Fajardo con amor que le tenía.
Fajardo jugaba Lorqa y el moro rey Almería;
jaque le dio con el roque, el alférez le prendía.

A grandes voces dice el moro: -La villa de Lorqa es mía.
Allí hablara Fajardo, bien oiréis lo que decía:
-Calles, calles, señor rey, no toméis la tal porfía,
que aunque me la ganases, ella no se te daría.
Caballeros tengo dentro que te la defenderían.

Allí hablara el rey moro bien oiréis lo que decía:
-No juguemos más Fajardo, ni tengamos más porfía;
que sois tan buen caballero que todo el mundo os temía”.

So the scene is set with the Moorish king playing a game of chess with the Spaniard, Fajardo. They are good friends, apparently. As a wager, Fajardo puts up the town of Lorca, and the Moorish king gambles Almeria, a major coastal city north of Malaga. There is a somewhat mysterious sequence of moves, it reads as if the Moorish king puts Fajardo in check with his rook, and then Fajardo’s knight takes the rook (but maybe it is the other way around). Anyway, the Moor claims victory in the game and the town of Lorca. But Fajardo is defiant, warning the king that even if he ahs won the town in the game of chess, the town will be defended by Fajardo’s knights who are in the town. At that the Moorish king says they should not play again or challenge each other as Fajardo is such a good knight that everybody fears him.

I doubt that this is a true incident, but the poem brings home the spirit of the Spanish side in defending their territories and also the interactions and camaraderie that could exist between leaders on both sides. History mostly remembers Moorish Spain as being the kingdom of Granada or the Caliphate of Cordoba, in southern Spain, but from the invasion in 711, right up until the battle of Naves de Tolosa in 1211, the Moors ruled territories as far north as The Cordillera Cantabrica, including such major cities as Toledo and Valladolid.

The Poetry Dude

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