One day on my way to Compostela
as a pilgrim a shepherdess I saw.
I’ve seen none so fine in all of my life
nor any that spoke finer than she,
so I composed this pastoral for her.
Right then I said: “Fair maiden,
do you want me as your suitor?
I will give you good Estella veils
and fine Rocamador ribbons
with other presents to please you
and beautiful cloth for a tunic.”
And she said: ” I would not take you
as my suitor, since I never saw you
until this moment. I would not take your
presents either for they are not mine
as I think, if I accepted them,
somewhere some poor girl will suffer.
And if I should see her what would I say,
if she said through my fault she lost
her love and the presents he was bringing?
I don’t know anything I could tell her.
If it were not for this one thing I fear
I cannot say I would not say yes.”
I said to her, “Shepherdess, you are right,
but believe me, if it is not too hard,
but there is no one else in the world
I could love aside from you
and that’s why I am here now asking
if you will take me as your vassal.”
And she said, like a well-educated woman,
“Then I shall accept you as my suitor
and when the pilgrimage is done
come here to the Sar where I live
if you want to take me away, I think
I will go away with you at your expense.
This is a charming little poem I found in an otherwise exceptionally dull book, Leyendas y milagros del Camino de Santiago, by Xosé Ramón Mariño Ferro (Eliaga Ediciones, 2010, p.170). It was written at the time of Alfonso X and is filled with the spirit of courtly love. The word I have translated as suitor is “entendedor” in Spanish and the note from the book is helpful in explaining this:
Entendedor, in the rules of courtly love, is one of the grades or steps in the relation between the lover and his lady. The complete scale is made with the fenhedor or timid; the pregador or supplicant; the entendedor or accepted suitor; and the drutz or lover.
I took this book with me on the Camino that I just completed with my son, walking from Lugo to Santiago in three and a half days. That Camino does not go past the Sar which is the river on the south side of Compostela. The Sar is a river that appears in other love poems and is the title of a famous book of poems by Rosalía de Castro, En las orillas del Sar.