LA CHANSON DE ROLAND
Translated from the Seventh Edition of Leon Gautier, Professor at the Ecole des Chartes, Paris.
Licencie en droit, Paris University, French Lecturer at Johns Hopkins University.
New York Henry Holt and Company 1885
Copyright, 1885 by Henry Holt & Co. W. L. Mershon & Co., Printers and Electrotypers, Rahway, N. J.
DANIEL C. GILMAN,
President of Johns Hopkins University,
IS MOST RESPECTFULLY DEDICATED.
Several years ago, the maker of this version translated into French one of the early works of H. W. Longfellow. This circumstance was not forgotten by the American poet who kindly consented to listen to this new attempt at rendering into English the "CHANSON DE ROLAND."
To his encouragement is due the present publication. The writer will ever proudly treasure up the remembrance of his friendly welcome and counsel....
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The translator has followed, as literally as possible, the text of the Oxford MS., as revised by Leon Gautier. The parts inclosed in parentheses are interpolations of the learned Professor. This revised text should be kept in hand by the English reader for comparison with the original, which is nine centuries old. The translator may thus be more likely to obtain the indulgence of the reader for the quaint representation, in a modern language, of the coloring of this most ancient poem.
The orthography of all the names, as well as their prosodic accent, has been preserved in their ancient form; and accordingly, an index has been appended to the work.
The seventh edition of Leon Gautier's "CHANSON DE ROLAND," contains a vast amount of explanatory notes, grammatical and historical, to which the reader is referred.
HISTORY OF THE POEM.
On the 15th of August, 778, in a little Pyrenean Valley, still known in our days by the name of Ronceval, a terrible event took place. Charlemagne, returning from his expedition to Spain, crossed that valley and the Pyrenees, leaving his rear-guard in command of Roland, Prefect of the Marches of Brittany. His main army had passed unmolested; but at the moment when the rear-guard advanced into the defiles of the mountain, thousands of Gascons rushed from their ambush, fell upon the French army and slaughtered the whole guard to the last man. So perished Roland.
Eginhard, the historian of Charlemagne, terminates his narrative with these words: "The House-intendant, (Regiae mensae praepositus), Eggihard, Anselm, Count of the Palace, Roland, Prefect of the Marches of Brittany (Hruolandus britannici limitis praefectus), with many more, perished in the fight. It was not possible to take revenge on the spot. The treacherous attempt once perpetrated, the enemy dispersed and left no trace." (Eginhard's Life of Charlemagne, Vol. I., p. 31; edition of the Societe de l'histoire de France.)
From the moment of the defeat of Ronceval, legend commenced its labor upon this truly epic event which, in its origin, is absolutely French, but has found its echoes throughout Europe, from Iceland to Eastern regions.
The commentators generally agree in dating the composition of the Poem before the first crusade in the year 1096. The author, it is ascertained, was Norman, the dialect used by him being Norman throughout. Whether this author was really Turoldus, named in the last line of the Poem, is a point which Leon Gautier refuses to affirm. We refer the reader to the very interesting preface of Genin, and to the learned introductions of Leon Gautier, for more complete information.
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The word "Aoi," which is placed at the end of every stanza, and found in no other ancient French poems, is interpreted differently by the commentators. M. Francisque Michel assimilated it at first to the termination of an ecclesiastical chant—Preface, xxvii.—and later to the Saxon Abeg, or the English Away, as a sort of refrain which the "jongleur" repeated at the end of the couplets. M. Genin explains it by ad viam, a vei, avoie, away! it is done, let us go on!
M. Gautier, with his skeptical honesty, declares the word unexplained. See Note 9, p. 4, of his seventh edition.
The most complete and ancient is that of Oxford, in the Bodleian Library, marked "Digby, 23," a copy of the XIIth. century. All others are Rifaccimenti, Refashionings.
Two in Venice, in St. Mark Library, XIIIth. century; French MSS., No. 4 & 7.
In the National Library, Paris, No. 860, XIIIth. century.
The Versailles MS., now deposited in the Library of Chateauroux, a copy of which is in Paris Nat. Library; 15, 108; XIIIth. century.
In the Lyons Library, 964; XIVth. century.
In Cambridge, Trinity Collage, R. 3-32; XVIth. century.
One called the Lorrain, a fragment found near Metz.
The Karlomagnus Saga, an Icelandic copy of the Oxford MS.; XIIIth. century.
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In M. Petit de Julleville's Introduction to his version can be found a chronological list of the works which concern the "CHANSON DE ROLAND," the translations of it, and dissertations on the subject in France and Germany.
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There are twenty-one translations in different languages:
Four in German, by Th. Mueller, Hertz, Boehmer, Eug. Koelbing.
One in Polish, by Mad. Duchinska.
One in Danish, by Unger.
One in Icelandish, Karlomagnus' Saga.
Twelve in French, by Francisque Michel, Bourdillon, Delecluze, Genin, P. Paris, Vitet, Jonain, de Saint-Albin, d'Avril, Petit de Julleville, Lehugeur and Leon Gautier, of whose translation seven editions were issued.
Two in English, one in England by J. O'Hagan, and one in America, the latest and present one.
Besides, a version from Vitet's French paraphrase, by Mrs. Marsh.
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COUNCIL HELD BY KING MARSILE.
Carle our most noble Emperor and King, Hath tarried now full seven years in Spain, Conqu'ring the highland regions to the sea; No fortress stands before him unsubdued, Nor wall, nor city left, to be destroyed, Save Sarraguce, high on a mountain set. There rules the King Marsile who loves not God, Apollo worships and Mohammed serves; Nor can he from his evil doom escape. Aoi.
The King Marsile abides in Sarraguce Where underneath an orchard's leafy shade, Upon a terrace with blue marble paved He rests. Around him twenty thousand men And more are ranked. His Dukes and Counts he calls: "Oyez, Seigneurs, what gath'ring ills are ours: Great Carle, the Emperor who rules Sweet France Comes to this land to 'whelm us with his might. To give him battle I no army have, Nor people to array against his host: Your counsel give me, Lords, as my wise men, And so defend your King from death and shame;" But answer none a single Pagan gave, Save Blancandrin del Castel Val-Fonde. Aoi.
Blancandrin, 'midst the wisest Pagans wise, Who, in his vassalage a valiant knight, Most prudent counsels gave to help his lord, Said to the King:—"Be not by this dismayed! To Carle the proud, the fierce, send messengers With words of faith and love. Send to him gifts Of bears and lions, packs of dogs; present Seven hundred camels also, fifty score Of molted falcons, and four hundred mules With heavy weight of gold and silver packed; Then fifty chariots with their burthens heaped: Well can this treasure all his soldiers pay. Within this land he long enough has camped. To France—to Aix let him at last return; There will you join him on Saint-Michael's feast, Accept the Christian law, and swear to be His man in faith and honor. Should he ask Hostages, ten or twenty grant, to lure His trust; let us send our wives' sons. Mine—although He die, I give. Far better that their heads Should fall than we lose honor and domain, Than we ourselves to beggary be brought." Aoi.
He further said:—"By this right hand of mine, And by the beard the air waves on my breast, Soon shall you see the host of Franks disperse; To France, their land, the Franks will take their way. When each has gained the shelter of his home, King Carle will in his chapel be at Aix, To celebrate Saint Michael's solemn feast. The day will come, the term allowed will pass, And from us shall he hear nor word nor news. The King is fierce, his soul is hard; and thus Each hostage head beneath his sword shall fall. 'Twere better far that these should lose their heads Than we for aye lose glorious Spain the Fair, And suffer so great ills and doleful woes." Then say the Pagans:—"This may be the truth." Aoi.
Hereat the King Marsile the council closed. Then summon'd he Clarin de Balaguer, Estramarin and Eudropin his peer; With Priamon Guarlan the bearded knight, And Machiner together with Mahen His uncle, Joimer and Malbien born Beyond the sea, and Blancandrin, to hear His words. These ten, the fiercest, he addressed: "Seigneurs Barons, ye shall go toward Carl'magne; He to Cordres, the city, now lays siege. Bear in each hand a branch of olive-tree In token of humility and peace. If by your arts his favor you can gain, I give of gold and silver, lands and fiefs To each, whatever he may ask of me." The Pagans answer all:—["Well said our lord!"] Aoi.
Marsile his council closed:—"My Lords, ye shall Set forth;—an olive branch bear in each hand: And in my name adjure King Carlemagne That by his God he mercy have on me; And ere a month be past, he shall behold Me follow with a thousand faithful knights, There to submit myself to Christian law And be his man in love and faith; and if He hostages require, them shall he have." Quoth Blancandrin:—"Good treaty will be yours." Aoi.
Marsile then ordered forth the ten white mules The King of Sicily once sent to him;— Golden their bits—their saddles silver-wrought— And on them mounted his ambassadors. Thus holding each a branch of olive-tree, They rode away and came to Carle of France. Nor can he from the treacherous snare escape. Aoi.
COUNCIL OF CHARLEMAGNE AT CORDOBA.
Cheerful and blithe the Emp'ror, for Cordres Has been subdued, its massy walls o'erthrown, Its towers by mighty catapults destroyed; And there his knights have found abundant spoils Of gold and silver, and rich garnitures. Nor was one Pagan in the city left Alive, who did not own the Christian Faith. Now is the Emperor within a wide And spreading orchard; there around him stand Rolland and Olivier, Samsun the Duke, And Anseis the bold, Gefrei d'Anjou, Gonfaloneer of Carle, and also there Gerin and Gerier. Where these were, came Of others many more. In all, from France Were gathered fully fifteen thousand knights. Upon white pallies sit these chevaliers; They play at tables to divert themselves; The wiser and the elder play at chess. In mimic sword-play strive the joyous youths. Under a pine-tree, near an eglantine, Is placed a faldstool of pure gold whereon Sits he, the King—great Ruler of Sweet France. White is his beard, his head all flowering white; Graceful his form and proud his countenance; None need to point him out to those who come The Pagan messengers, dismounting, stood Before him, proffering humble faith and love. Aoi.
Blancandrin was the first to speak, and said Unto the king:—"Hail! in the name of God, The Glorious One we must adore! To you I bring this message from Marsile the brave: Well has he studied your Salvation's Law; And would upon you lavish his great wealth. Bears—lions—packs of hounds enchained he gives, Seven hundred camels also—fifty score Of molted falcons—mules, four hundred, packed With gold and silver—fifty carts to carry These gifts, and bezants of the purest gold He also sends, which will your soldiers pay. Too long within our land you have remained; To France—to Aix he wills you straight return. There will he follow you: so says my lord." To God the Emperor uplifts his hands; Bends low his head and counsel takes in thought. Aoi.
The Emperor sat silent with drooped head. Ne'er rash in words, he never speaks in haste. At last he rose. Proudly he looked and spake Unto the messengers:—"Ye have well said That King Marsile e'er stood my greatest foe! On these fair-seeming words how far can I Rely?" The crafty Saracen replied: "Would you have hostages? you shall have ten, Fifteen, yea, twenty. Though his fate be death My son shall go, and others nobler still, I deem. When to your lordly palace, home Returned—when comes Saint Michael del Peril, His feast, my Lord will follow to those springs, He says, brought forth by God for you, and there Baptized, a faithful Christian will become!" Carl'magne makes answer:—"He may yet be saved!" Aoi.
The eve was soft and fair, the sunset bright; The ten mules stabled by the King's command; In the great orchard a pavilion raised To house the messengers, his Pagan guests. Twelve sergeants to their service were assigned, And there they rested till the dawn repelled The night. With day the Emperor arose; Heard mass and matins first, then having gone Beneath a stately pine, he summons all His wisest barons, council grave to hold, Thus ever guided by the men of France. Aoi.
Beneath a pine the Monarch has repaired; His barons to the council called: the Duke Ogier—Archbishop Turpin—old Richard, Also his nephew Henri, and the brave Count Acelin of Gascuigne—Tedbald De Reins—his cousin Milon—Gerier, Gerin, together with the Count Rolland, And Olivier, the brave and noble knight. One thousand Franks of France and more were met— Then Ganelon came, who treason wrought; and now Was opened that ill-fated council thus: Aoi.
"Seigneurs Barons," began the Emp'ror Carle, "The King Marsile his messengers hath sent To offer me large store of his great wealth; Bears—lions—hounds in leash;—of camels he Gives seven hundred—falcons, fifty score— Four hundred mules packed high with Arab gold, And more than fifty chariots loaded full; But he demands that I return to France. There will he follow: then arrived at Aix, Will in my palace take Salvation's Faith, Will Christ obey, and hold his lands from me; But what is in his heart, I do not know." The French exclaim:—"Of him we must beware!" Aoi.
The Emp'ror ended thus. But Count Rolland Approving not the terms, stands forth and speaks Unto the King with arguments adverse: "Trust never more Marsile. 'Tis full seven years Since we came into Spain. For you I took Both Noples and Commibles; gained Valterne And all the land of Pine, and Balaguer, And Tuele and Sebile—yet King Marsile Still plotting treachery, sent from his horde Of Pagans, fifteen men; each bore in hand Like these, a branch of olive-tree, and spake The self-same words. On that you counsel took From your too lightly flattering French; two Counts Of yours you to the Pagan sent, the one, Bazan, Bastile the other, and their heads He struck off near Haltoie. As you began, War on! To Sarraguce your army lead, Besiege her walls, though all your life it take, And thus avenge the knights the felon slew." Aoi.
At this the Emperor, bending low his head, Twists his mustache and plucks his hoary beard, Answering his nephew neither yea nor nay. The Franks keep silence—all save Ganelon Who rose and stood before the King, and spake Bold words and haughty:—"Put not faith in fools, Nor me nor others; follow your own rede! Since King Marsile makes offer to become Your man, with hands joined; furthermore will hold Spain as a fief from you; yea, will receive Our law as his law, he who counsel gives Such proffer to reject, cares not a whit What death we die. No counsel take of pride; Let pass the fools and listen to the wise." Aoi.
And now Duke Naimes arose: his beard and hair As white as drifted snow. In all the court No better vassal stood; and to the King: "Have you marked well the words Count Ganelon In answer spoke but now? His plan is wise; Follow it then. This King Marsile in war Is overcome, his strongholds all pulled down; By warlike engines are his walls destroyed, His cities burned, his men subdued;—when now He for your mercy prays, foul sin it were To press him harder. Since he, furthermore Will bind his word by gift of hostages, [One of your barons also send to him.] In truth no longer this great war should rage." The French all cry:—"Duke Naimes has spoken well." Aoi.
"Seigneurs Barons, which of you shall we send To meet the King Marsile in Sarraguce?" Duke Naimes responds:—"I, with your leave will go; Give me the glove and staff."—"Nay," quoth King Carle, "A sage you are in council, well I know: By this mustache and by this beard of mine, So far away from me you shall not go. Back to your seat, since none hath summoned you." Aoi.
"Seigneurs Barons, which of you shall we send As messengers to Sarraguce where rules Marsile?"—Rolland responds:—"Behold me here!" "—You shall not, by my troth!" cries Olivier, "Your pride too fierce, and courage far too hot; I fear some misadventure from your zeal. Should our King grant me but his leave, 'tis I Will go!"—The King exclaimed:—"Be silent both— Nor you, nor he, shall yonder set your foot! Ay, by this hoary beard of mine, I swear, Not one of my twelve Peers shall thither go." The French are dumb—-all silenced by these words. Aoi.
Turpin de Reins arises from the ranks And to the King he says: "Let your Franks stay, To this land seven years ago you came, And they have suffered much of toil and pain. Give me the glove and staff, and I will go And speak my mind to that proud Saracen." With anger great the Emperor replies: "Back to your seat on yonder pallie white Nor speak another word, save by command!" Aoi.
Then said the Emperor:—"Chevaliers of France, Choose ye for me a baron of my realm, One who can bear my words to King Marsile!" Rolland rejoins:—"Let my step-father go; If he remain, no wiser man is found." The French say:—-"Well can he fulfill the task: [If the King wills, 'tis right he should be sent."] Aoi.
Thus spoke the King:—"Sire Ganelon, draw near: Receive the glove and staff—you heard the Franks Pass judgment, and on you their choice has fallen." Said Ganelon:—"All this Rolland has done! My life-long, never will I love him more, Nor Olivier, his comrade and his friend, Nor the twelve Peers, for that they love him well. Here in your presence, I defy them all!" The King replied:—"Too wroth you are. At once You shall depart.—I spoke it."—"Sire, I go, Although for me there is nor shield nor guard: Basile had none, Bazan, his brother, none! Aoi.
"To Sarraguce I go, and know full well Who thither goes, may ne'er return. Nay more, Your sister is my wife, and I by her Have one fair son, Baldewin, the goodliest child Who [if he live] will be a noble knight. To him I leave my fiefs and honors: guard Him well, for him these eyes no more shall see." Carle answers:—"Much too tender is your heart; Since I command, your duty 'tis to go." Aoi.
Count Ganelon, at this, rose full of wrath, And, casting from his neck his zibelline Of fur, stood forth, clothed in his silk blialt. Gray were his eyes and very fierce his face; Graceful his form—his breast, of mighty mold. So fair was he, all eyes upon him rest. "Rolland," he said, "wherefore this foolish wrath? Since thy step-father, 'tis well known, I am, For this thou choosest me to seek Marsile! 'Tis well. If God but grant me safe return, I such ill fortune hurl on thee, shall smite Thy life from now and ever with a curse." Rolland replies:—"Mad words and proud I hear. All know it well, I care for no man's threat; But since a wise man must this message bear, If the King wills it, in your place I go." Aoi.
"Thou shalt not take my place," said Ganelon; "My vassal art thou not, nor yet am I Thy lord; and since the King hath given me Command this service I should take, I shall Go to Marsile. But once in Sarraguce Will I with fuel feed my heart's fierce ire." Rolland, on hearing this, began to laugh. Aoi.
When Ganelon saw the laughter of Rolland, It seemed as though his breast would burst with wrath; His brain was well-nigh maddened by his rage. Unto the Count he cried:—"I love you not; This judgment have you caused on me to fall! Right Emp'ror, in your presence, lo! I stand, And I am ready to fulfill your word." Aoi.
The King presents to him his right hand glove; But Ganelon would well have ne'er stood there, For ere he touched the royal glove, it fell. The French exclaim:—"What bodes this omen? Shall This embassy not have a woeful end?—" "Seigneurs," said Ganelon, "you will hear of this!" Aoi.
Said Ganelon:—"Give me dismissal, Sire! Since I must go, my time is precious." Then Adjured the King:—"For Jesus' sake and mine!" With his right hand he Ganelon absolved And blessed, deliv'ring up the brief and staff. Aoi.
Count Ganelon his own house seeks, to make Equipment and prepare his arms: his choice The best that he can find. With golden spurs He clasps his heels; belts to his side his sword, Murgleis, and mounts his courser Tachebrun. His uncle Guinemer the stirrup held; There many a chevalier you might have seen In tears, who said: "Baron, such evil fate Was yours. You, in the King's Court so long, and there Revered as liege-man high!—The man who judged That you should go, not Carle himself shall cure Or save; the Count Rolland bethought him not Of that high lineage whence you sprang!"—And they Entreat:—"My lord with you take us along!" But Ganelon replies:—"Lord God forbid! Better to die alone than with me fall So many brave!—Lords, to sweet France ye will go. Salute for me my wife, and Pinabel, My friend and peer, and my son Baldewin whom Ye all know—guard him—hold him for your lord." The Count departs and goes upon his way. Aoi.
THE EMBASSY AND CRIME OF GANELON.
The Count rides on beneath tall olive trees And joins the messengers of King Marsile. To meet him Blancandrin has checked his speed: With skillful words each to the other spake. Blancandrin said: "A wond'rous man is Carle Who conquered Pouille and overran Calabre, Crossed the salt-seas to England, and from thence Gained tribute for Saint-Pierre. In this our land What claims he?" "Such his might," said Ganelon, "No man shall ever match with him in arms." Aoi.
Said Blancandrin: "The Franks are noble, but Those Dukes, those Counts harm much their lord, who give To him such counsels, wronging him and all." Ganelon answered: "No man, save Rolland, Know I, who should this blame incur; it was But yestermorn, the King sat in the shade, When Rolland came before him, all encased In glittering arms, fresh from the siege and sack Of Carcasonne, holding an apple red; And thus his uncle greeted: 'Sire, behold! I lay the crowns of all Kings at your feet.' Swift punishment should overtake such pride, For ev'ry day he blindly runs to death. Were he but slain, all lands might rest in peace." Aoi.
Blancandrin said: "Most cruel is Rolland Who makes all nations cry for mercy thus, And will o'er all the lands his power impose. Upon what people doth he then rely For such attempt?" Ganelon said: "The French!... They love him so, they fail him ne'er in aught. Lavish is he of gifts: Silver and gold, Mules, chargers, silken robes and garnitures, He gives the King himself all that he craves; From here to the far East, all lands must fall!" Aoi.
Blancandrin with Count Ganelon rode on, Until together had they pledged their faith To snare Rolland and lead him to his death. Thus on they rode through vales and mountain-paths, Till Sarraguce was reached. Beneath a yew They lighted: a faldstool by shady pines O'erhung, was spread with Alexandrine silk. There sat the King who ruled all Spain, and stood Around him twenty thousand Saracens, Who neither spoke nor breathed, to hear the news; And lo! came Blancandrin with Ganelon. Aoi.
Blancandrin stepped before the Pagan King With Ganelon the Count held by the wrist. Thus to Marsile he said: "Mohammed save The King! Apollo, too, whose holy law We keep. We bore your message to Carl'magne; Both hands he lifted, praying to his God; No other answer gave.—He sends you here One of his noble Barons, a rich Frank. Learn from his lips if it be peace or war." Responds Marsile: "Then let him speak. We hear!" Aoi.
Then Ganelon, who well had weighed his thoughts, Begins to speak as one of knowledge vast, And says unto the King: "By God be saved, The Glorious God we must adore! Carl'magne The Baron, sends his message to Marsile: The holy Christian Faith if you receive, One half of Spain he grants to you in fief. These terms refuse, and your fair Sarraguce He will besiege, and drag you forth in chains To Aix, his royal city, there to meet A felon's doom."—Quivering with rage and fear, The King Marsile, who held a gold-winged dart, Aims it at him; but others stayed his hand. Aoi.
The King Marsile turned pale, and full of wrath, Brandished the shaft of his winged dart on high. Ganelon saw, laid hand upon his sword, And quick unsheathed two fingers' breadth of blade, Saying: "Sword of mine you are most fair and bright; As long as by me borne in this King's court, Never shall say the Emperor of France Ganelon died alone in foreign land, Ere a high price for you the best have paid!" The Pagans cry in haste: "Check this affray." Aoi.
The wisest Pagans urged the wrathful King, Till, yielding, on his throne he has resumed His seat. The Kalif said: "Great wrong you brought Upon us, menacing to strike the Frank. You should have hearkened to his words." "This wrong," Said Ganelon, "I calmly will endure; But for the gold that God hath made all wealth Stored in this land, I would not leave untold, While I have power of speech, the message sent By Carle, the mighty Emperor, through me His messenger, to thee his mortal foe." Ganelon on the ground his mantle dropped Of Alexandrine silk, and richly lined With zibelline; Blancandrin took it up: But from his sword the Count would never part; And his right hand still grasps the golden hilt. The Pagans say:—"Behold a Baron true!" Aoi.
Then Ganelon strode nearer to the King And said:—"All idle is this wrath of yours. This is the message of King Carle of France; Hear his command:—"Receive the Christian law"— One half of Spain he grants to you in fief, And to Rolland, his nephew, he will give The other half. (A haughty partner he Will prove.) To this agreement should you not Consent, 'gainst Sarraguce his host will lay The siege; by force you will be tak'n and bound, And brought to Aix, the royal seat. Hope not To ride on palfrey, nor on steed, on mule Female or male;—on a vile beast of burden You shall be thrown, and doomed to have your head Struck off.—Behold the Brief our Emp'ror sends!" With his right hand he gives it to the King. Aoi.
White with exceeding wrath, the King Marsile Has brok'n the seal, let fall the wax on earth, And, glancing on the Brief, has read the script: "I learn from Carle who holds France in his sway, That I should bear in mind his ire and grief: Bazan—Basile, his brother, they whose heads I took on Mount Haltoie, his anger's cause. If I my body's life would save, to him The Kalif, my good uncle, I must send, Or else can he ne'er be my friend."—Then spake To King Marsile his son:—"This Ganelon," Said he, "speaks madly, and such wrong hath done, That he should live no more. Now give him up To me, that I to him quick justice deal!" Ganelon, hearing this, unsheathed his sword, And set his back against a branching pine. Aoi.
Into his orchard King Marsile repaired, Attended only by his wisest men; Came thither too the gray-haired Blancandrin With Turfaleu his son and heir; with them The Kalif, brother and good friend of King Marsile.—Said Blancandrin:—"Recall the Frank; To serve us he has pledged his faith."—The King Replied:—"Go, bring him hither."—Then he took Ganelon's fingers into his right hand, And brought him to the grove before the King; And lo! was woven there the traitor's plot. Aoi.
The King Marsile said:—"Fair Sire Ganelon, Unwise and all too hasty was I, when In my great wrath I poised my lance to strike. This gift of sables take as your amends: More than five hundred marks their weight in gold. Before to-morrow-eve the boon is yours." Ganelon answers:—"I reject it not. May God, if 'tis his will, your grace reward." Aoi.
Marsile spake thus:—"Sire Ganelon, believe, Much I desire to love you, and of Carle I crave to hear. Is he not old, his prime Has he not passed? Men tell me he has lived More than two hundred years; his body dragged Throughout so many lands; so many blows Upon his shield!—So many mighty Kings To beggary reduced!—When will he cease To march on battle-fields?"—Then Ganelon Responded:—"Such is not King Carle; no man Alive who sees and knows him but will tell How our great Emperor is Baron true. I could not praise and honor him enough, For no man lives so valiant and so good. His valor ... who on earth could ever tell? His soul God with such virtue has illumed, I'd rather die than quit my noble lord!" Aoi.
The Pagan said:—"Amazed am I at Carle So old and so white-haired; his age, I know, Two hundred years and more. His limbs he toiled Across so many lands; so oft was struck By swords and spears; so many kings compelled To beg!—When will he cease to war?"—"Carle?—ne'er!" Ganelon answered, "while his nephew lives: No vassal like him 'neath the starry arch; And bold as he his comrade Olivier. The twelve Peers held by Carle so dear, behold! The vanguard form of twenty thousand knights; With them King Carle is safe, and fears no man." Aoi.
Again the Pagan:—"I am wonder-struck On knowing Carle so old and so white-haired! Methinks he passed two hundred years; by arms He won so many lands—so many wounds In battle he received from trenchant swords! So many powerful kings on battle-fields Conquered or slew!—When will he cease to war?" "—Never!"—said Ganelon, "while lives Rolland: From here to farthest east no knight his peer E'er lived: his comrade too, Count Olivier, Is brave; and the twelve Peers, so dear to Carle, The van-guard make of twenty thousand knights. Carle may have peace, and fears no living man!" Aoi.
"Fair Sire," said King Marsile to Ganelon, "Than mine no fairer people can you see: Four hundred thousand knights I can array In combat 'gainst King Carle and 'gainst his Franks."— Ganelon says:—"The time has not yet come, Yea, and great loss your people then will have. But leave this folly, and to wisdom hold; Offer the King of treasures such a store That all the French will marvel at the gift. For twenty hostages that you will send, Back to Sweet France will Carle ere long repair. His rear-guard, notice well, will rest behind: There will Rolland, his nephew, be, I trow, With Olivier the brave and courteous knight. Trust to my counsel and both Counts are doomed, Nay, Carle shall see his lofty pride cast down And never more shall covet war with you." Aoi.
[Thus King Marsile] said:—"Fair sire Ganelon, What means have I to kill the Count Rolland?" Ganelon answered:—"This can I well say: The King will reach the wider pass of Sizre And leave his rear behind, where great Rolland Eke Olivier, whom both he greatly trusts, Will be the chiefs of twenty thousand Franks. On these your hundred thousand Pagans throw, And let them straightway make an onset fierce: Stricken and slain shall be the men of France; I say not that of yours none shall be slain, But follow up this fight with like attack, And Count Rolland cannot escape them both, Then will you deeds of chivalry achieve, And free your life from war for evermore." Aoi.
"Who could contrive that there Rolland should die, Would strike off Carle's right arm. Then on the field That wond'rous host in death shall lie. No more Thereafter could King Carle such forces raise, And the Great Land at last would rest in peace." Marsile, this hearing, kissed him on the neck, And then began his treasures to display. Aoi.
Exclaimed Marsile:—"What further [shall I say?] No good adviser he of faith unsure. Swear if Rolland be there that he shall die!" Thus answered Ganelon:—"Your will be done." Upon the relics of his sword Murgleis The treason swore; thus forfeited himself. Aoi.
An ivory-faldstool there was set. Marsile The order gives to bring a book before it, Mohammed's law and that of Tervagant, The Spanish Saracen thus took his oath: "If in the rear-guard Count Rolland be found, He will attack him there with all his men; And, if it may be, there Rolland shall die." Ganelon answers:—"May [our treaty thrive!]" Aoi.
Behold a Pagan, Valdabrun, who armed Marsile a Knight; with cheerful smile he said To Ganelon:—"Take this my sword; no man E'er drew its peer; the hilt alone is worth More than a thousand marks.—For love I give it, But lend us help against the Count Rolland, And show us how to find him in the rear." "—So shall it be," replies Count Ganelon; Whereon they kissed each other's chin and face.
Another Pagan came. 'Twas Climorin Who gayly smiling, said to Ganelon: "My helmet take—None better have I seen, But help us now against Marchis Rolland That we may throw dishonor on his name." "—Well shall it be," responded Ganelon, And then they kissed each other's lips and cheek. Aoi.
And now behold, comes Bramimunde the Queen; "Sire Ganelon," said she, "I love you much, You, by my sire and all our men esteemed. Two necklaces unto your wife I send, With jacinths and with amethysts and gold Adorned, worth more than all the wealth of Rome; Jewels so rich your Emp'ror never had." The Count receives and puts them in his hose. Aoi.
The King calls up Malduit, his treasurer: "Hast thou prepared my gifts for Carle the King?" Malduit responds:—"Yea sire, the whole are there: Seven hundred camels with their loads of gold And silver; then of hostages a score, The noblest ever lived beneath the stars." Aoi
Marsile took by the shoulder Ganelon And told him:—"Thou hast wisdom and art brave. By that great law ye hold the best, beware Thy heart fails not. Rich treasures will I give To thee: ten mules laden with purest gold From Araby; each year shall bring the like. Meantime of this great city take the keys, And in my name present this wealth to Carle. But let Rolland be ordered to the rear. If in the pass or mount I find the knight, I swear to give him combat to the death." Says Ganelon:—"Methinks too long I stay."— He mounts his horse and goes upon his way. Aoi.
The Emperor nears his realm, and reaching now The city of Valterne sacked by Rolland And left in ruins, which thereafter lay A hundred years a desert; there he waits For news of Ganelon, and tribute due By the great land of Spain. One morning when The early dawn was brightening into day, Count Ganelon drew nigh unto the camp. Aoi.
In early morn the Emperor arose. Having attended mass and matins both, Upon the verdant grass, before his tent He stood, surrounded by the Count Rolland, The valorous Olivier, and the Duke Naimes, With many more besides. There also came The perjurer, the treacherous Ganelon, Who, stepping forth, with most perfidious tongue Began to speak:—"Hail! God save Carle the King!— I bring you here the keys of Sarraguce: Great treasures follow through my care conveyed With hostages a score. So, guard them well. The King Marsile the brave bears not the blame If I bring not the Kalif unto you. Myself three hundred thousand men in arms Beheld, with hauberks clad, and helmets clasped, Swords by their sides, hilts bright with gold inlaid, Who with him crossed the sea, not to submit To Christ's law which they will not hold nor keep. But scarce five leagues had they sailed on the main, When wind and tempest rising, down they sank. All perished!... Never shall you see them more. Had but the Kalif lived, I would have brought Him hither. For the Pagan King, know well, Ere you shall see this first month pass away, Your vassal will he be, with joined hands, And hold the realm of Spain a fief from you." Thus said the King:—"Thanks be to God for this! Well have you done, and great your recompense Shall be."—He bids a thousand trumpets sound... The camp is struck:—the Franks then load their mules And set forth on their journey to Sweet France. Aoi.
THE REAR GUARD.
ROLLAND DOOMED TO DEATH.
King Carle the Great has made a waste of Spain, The cities violated, the castles seized. Now saith the King his war is at an end, And toward Sweet France the Emperor directs His steed.... The Count Rolland the pennon white Has planted on a hill, high 'gainst the sky. In all the country round the Franks their tents Are pitching, while the Pagans ride along The mighty vales. In hauberk clad—their backs In armor cased; with helmets clasped—sword girt On thigh—shields on their necks—each lance in rest, Within a thicket on the mount they halt. Four hundred thousand men there wait the dawn. The French yet know it not. Ah God! what woe! Aoi.
Passes the day; the shades of night have fallen. Carle the great Emp'ror sleeps; and in a dream He marches through the deep defiles of Sizre. In his right hand his ashen spear he holds, Which suddenly Count Ganelon has snatched From him, and shook and brandished in such wise That, breaking, high tow'rd Heav'n the splinters flew. Carle sleeps—naught from his slumber can arouse him. Aoi.
Another vision followed hereupon: He is in France, in his Chapelle, at Aix. A bear his right arm caught with such sharp fangs [That from the bone the flesh is torn away.] From toward Ardennes he saw a leopard come, Which in his dream, made on him fierce attack; But then a greyhound dashes from the hall Unto Carle's rescue, swift of leap and bound; First from the treach'rous bear the hound tears off An ear, then with the leopard combat makes. "See!" cry the French, "what battle fierce is here." But they know not which of the two will win The field—Carle still asleep naught can awake. Aoi.
Vanished the night, and the clear dawn appeared. With noble mien the Emperor mounts his steed, And 'mid the host one thousand trumpets sound: "Barons," said Carle:—"You see those deep defiles And narrow passes—judge who in the rear Will take command." Said Ganelon:—"Rolland, My step-son, whom among your valiant knights You prize the most." Carle hearing this, upon Him sternly looked:—"Thou art the devil's self," Said he, "or else a mortal rage has stung Thy heart! Say, who before me in the van Will march? 'Twill be Ogier de Dannemarche! You have no better Baron for the post." Aoi.
When hears the Count Rolland the lot has fallen Upon himself, as loyal knight he speaks:— "You, sire step-father, dear and well beloved Must be, since you have named me for the rear; Nor shall Carl'magne, the King of France, lose aught, Nor palfrey, nor fleet steed, if knowledge true I have, nor male nor female mule that man Can ride, nor beast of burden, horse or ass, Unreckoned for with these good swords of ours." Said Ganelon:—"The truth you speak, I know." Aoi.
When hears Rolland the rear shall be his lot, To his step-father thus in wrath he speaks:— "Ah! traitor, evil man of race impure, Thou thought'st to see me here let fall the glove As thou erst dropped the staff before the King!" Aoi.
The Count Rolland [addressing thus Carl'magne:] "Give me the bow that now your hand doth hold, For, to my knowledge, none will e'er throw blame On me for dropping it, as fell on earth Your right hand glove, when he received the staff." With head declined the Emperor remains: Oft plucks and twists the beard on lip and cheek, Nor can his eyes restrain their falling tears. Aoi.
Naimes after came—no better ever was A vassal in the court. He said to Carle: "You hear him; greatly wroth is Count Rolland; The rear guard is assigned to his command; No baron have you that with him would make Exchange. Give him the bow and your hand has bent, And look for those who best may lend him help." Carle gives the bow which Count Rolland receives. Aoi.
The Emperor calls to Rolland and says:— "Fair sire, my nephew, truly you must know Half of my army will I leave with you; Keep them; in their good help your safety lies." Then said the Count:—"Of this will I do naught! May God confound me, ere my race I shame; But twenty thousand valiant knights I keep! Through the defiles you can in safety pass And fear no harm from man while yet I live." Aoi.
Rolland sits on his steed, and nigh him rides His comrade Olivier. There came Gerin, Gerier the brave, Othon and Berengier; There came Sansun, Anseis the fierce; there came Also Gerard de Roussillon the old, Together with the Gascuin Engelier. The Archbishop said:—"I, by my head, will go!" "—And I with you," exclaimed the Count Gualtier; "Rolland's own man am I, and follow him!" From all are chosen twenty thousand knights. Aoi.
The Count Rolland calls up Gualtier de l'Hum: "One thousand Franks of France, our land, array, And with them cover heights and passes, that The Emperor may lose none of his host." Responds Gualtier:—"This am I bound to do For you."—Forthwith one thousand Franks of France O'errun each height and pass.—None shall descend Despite ill news, ere seven hundred swords Unsheathe. That very day King Almaris Who rules Belferne, met them with battle fierce. Aoi.
High are the mounts, the valleys murky-dark— The rocks are black, the gorges terrible. The French toiled through them painfully; their march Was heard for fifteen leagues; then the Great land Reaching, they viewed Gascuigne, their lord's estate, And sweet remembrance felt of honors, fiefs, Of lovely maidens and of noble wives: Not one is there but weeps from tenderness; But more than all is Carle distressed; he mourns His nephew left in the defiles of Spain.... By pity moved he cannot choose but weep. Aoi.
The twelve Peers staid in Spain. A thousand score Of Franks are under their command, to whom Unknown is wavering fear or dread of death. Carl'magne to France returns—within his cloak He hides his face—Naimes, riding near, inquired: "What thought, O King, weighs now upon your heart?"— "Who questions me doth wrong. So sad am I I can but mourn. Sweet France by Ganelon Shall be destroyed. An angel in my sleep Appeared, and, dreaming, I beheld my lance Broken up within my hand by him who named My nephew for the rear guard ... and I left Him in a foreign land;—O mighty God, Should I lose him, I ne'er should find his peer!" Aoi.
Carle the great King, no more restrains his tears: One hundred thousand Franks great sympathy Give him, with strangest fear for Count Rolland. Vile Ganelon, the wretch, this treason wrought! He, from the Pagan King received rich gifts Of gold and silver, silk and ciclatons, Lions and camels, horses, mules. Behold, King Marsile summons all his Counts from Spain, His Viscounts, Dukes and Almazours; with these The Emirs, and the sons of noble Counts; Four hundred thousand gathered in three days, In Sarraguce are beaten all the drums; Mohammed's image to the loftiest tower Is raised on high.—No Pagan but adores And prays before him.—They then madly ride Throughout the land, o'er mountain and o'er vale. At last they see the gonfalons of France; It is the rear-guard of the twelve compeers: Nor will they fail to give them battle now. Aoi.
Hastes to the front the nephew of Marsile, Goading the mule that bears him, with a staff. Says to his uncle, gayly laughing loud: "Fair King, till now I served you well; for you Endured hard pain and grief.—The only fee I ask is this:—To strike Rolland! I swear To give him death with my good trenchant sword, And if his help Mohammed will bestow, On me, forever shall all Spain be free, From the defiles of Aspre to Durestant. Carle then will yield,—the Franks, surrender all; No more in all your life will you have war." The King Marsile bestows on him the glove. Aoi.
The nephew of Marsile holds in his grasp The glove, and to the King with haughty pride Speaks:—"Fair Sire King, your gift I dearly prize; Choose you for me eleven of your Knights, And I will go and combat the twelve Peers." The first response was that of Falsaun: He was the brother of the King Marsile.— "Fair nephew, we shall go, both you and I; In battle side by side, we shall engage. The rear of Carle's great host is doomed to die!" Aoi.
King Corsalis stands on the other side; He comes from Barbary; a soul of guile. Still speaks he there not unlike vassal true Who would not for the gold of heav'n be base: "If there I find Rolland, we meet in fight. I am the third; now choose ye out the fourth." See you the spurring Malprimis de Brigal, Faster on foot than runs the fastest steed? Before Marsile in a loud voice he cries: "I shall my body take to Ronceval; If there I find Rolland, by me he dies." Aoi.
An Emir now is there, from Balaguer. Of handsome form, with proud and cheerful face, When on his steed he vaults, well doth he show With what great pride his armor's mail is borne. For truest vassalage he is renowned; Were he but Christian, 'twere a baron true. Before Marsile he stands and loudly cries: "My body I will take to Ronceval; If there I face Rolland his doom is sure, Eke Olivier and the twelve peers, all die. The Franks shall perish in despair and shame. Carl'magne is old and dotes. O'erwhelmed, at last He will give up this waging war, and Spain Forever shall be kept beneath our sway." The King Marsile on him bestows great thanks. Aoi.
Then from the Moorish land an Almazour Steps forth. All Spain can show no greater wretch. Before Marsile he makes a boastful vaunt: "To Ronceval will I my people lead— Full twenty thousand men with lance and shield. If I Rolland find there, I pledge his death; No after-day shall dawn but Carle shall weep." Aoi.
From elsewhere comes Turgis de Turteluse. He is a count, and o'er this city wields His sway; hate unto Christians has he vowed, And stands with all the rest before Marsile. He thus addressed the king: "Ne'er be dismayed! More worth Mohammed than Saint Pierre of Rome; But serve him well, the honor of the field [Is ours]. I'll meet Rolland at Ronceval Where none can guard him. Mark this sword of mine; Its blade, so good and long, in desperate fight Will cross with Durendal; and you will hear Which of the two shall win the victory. Abandoned unto us the French must die. The old King Carle will have both grief and shame, And never more on earth will wear a crown." Aoi.
Comes up besides Escremiz de Valterne, A Saracen, and of that country lord. Before Marsile among the throng he cries: "To Ronceval I go, to crush the proud; Nor shall Rolland, if there, bear off his head, Nor Olivier, chief of the other knights; The twelve peers, all are doomed to perish there. The French shall die, and France become a waste. Of such good vassals Carle will see the loss." Aoi.
And came with Esturgant, Estramaris, His friend; both wretches, traitors, villains are.... Thus spake Marsile: "Come forth, Seigneurs; ye both To Ronceval's defiles shall go and help Me there to lead my host." Both answer: "King, At your command, Rolland and Olivier Will we assault. No power can the twelve peers From death defend against our trenchant swords Whose blades shall redden with hot blood. The French Are doomed to death and Carle to doleful life. France, the Great Land, shall through our arms become Your realm. Come, King, to see this verified; The Emperor's self a captive we'll present." Aoi.
There hastens Margariz de Sibilie Who holds the country toward the distant sea. His beauty such, all ladies are his friends; Not one looks on him but to smile, nor can Restrain her laughing joy. No Pagan else More glorious deeds of chivalry achieved; Pressed through the crowd, he cries above the rest Unto the king: "Be not dismayed, for I To Ronceval will go to kill Rolland, And Olivier shall not escape alive; To martyrdom the twelve Peers are condemned. See my good sword with gold-embossed hilt, Given me by the Amiralz of Prime; I pledge my faith it will be dyed in blood. The French shall perish, France be steeped in shame, And Carle the old, with beard all blossom-white, Shall see no day uncursed by grief and wrath. Before one year we shall have conquered France And slept beneath the roofs of Saint-Denis." At this, the Pagan king bowed low his head. Aoi.
Next you can see Chernubles de [Val-neire]. His hair so long, it sweeps the earth, and he Can, for his sport, lift greater weight than bear Four hundred loaded mules.—In his [far-land] They say—the sun ne'er shines, corn cannot grow, The rain falls not, the dew wets not the soil; No stone there but is black, and it is said By some that in that land the demons dwell. Thus said Chernubles:—"My sword hangs at my belt; At Ronceval I will dye it crimson! should I find Rolland the brave upon my path, Nor strike him down, then trust to me no more; This my good sword shall conquer Durendal, The French shall die, and France must be destroyed." At these words, rally King Marsile's twelve Peers, And lead one hundred thousand Saracens Who for the battle hasten and prepare, Arming themselves beneath a grove of pines. Aoi.
The Pagans put their Moorish hauberks on; The greater part are triply lined; they lace Their helms of Sarraguce, gird to their thighs Swords of Vienna steel; bright are their shields; Their lances from Valence; their banners white And blue and crimson. Mules and sumpter-beasts Are left behind. They mount their battle steeds, And forward press in closely serried lines. Clear was the day, and brilliant was the sun; No armor but reflected back the light. A thousand clarions sound their cheering blasts So loud, the French can hear—. Says Olivier: "Rolland, companion, hearken! Soon, methinks, We shall have battle with the Saracens!" To which Rolland: "God grant it may be so. Here must we do our duty to our King; A man should for his Lord and for his cause Distress endure, and bear great heat and cold, Lose all, even to his very hair and skin! 'Tis each man's part to strike with mighty blows, That evil songs of us may ne'er be sung. The wrong cause have the Pagans, we the right. No ill example e'er shall come from me." Aoi.
PRELUDE TO THE GREAT BATTLE.
Olivier from the summit of a hill On his right hand looks o'er a grassy vale, And views the Pagans' onward marching hordes; Then straight he called his faithful friend Rolland: "From Spain a distant rumbling noise I hear, So many hauberks white and flashing helms I see!—This will inflame our French men's hearts. The treason is the work of Ganelon Who named us for this post before the King." "Hush! Olivier!"—the Count Rolland replies, "'Tis my step-father, speak no other word." Aoi.
Count Olivier is posted on a hill From whence Spain's Kingdom he descries, and all The swarming host of Saracens; their helms So bright bedecked with gold, and their great shields, Their 'broidered hauberks, and their waving flags, He cannot count the squadrons; in such crowds They come, his sight reached not unto their end. Then all bewildered he descends the hill, Rejoins the French, and all to them relates. Aoi.
Said Olivier: "I have seen Pagans more Than eyes e'er saw upon the earth; at least One hundred thousand warriors armed with shields, In their white hauberks clad, with helmets laced, Lances in rest, and burnished brazen spears. Battle ye will have, such as ne'er was before. French Lords, may God inspire you with his strength! Stand firm your ground, that we may not succumb." The French say: "Cursed be those who fly the field! Ready to die, not one shall fail you here." Aoi.
Olivier said: "So strong the Pagan host; Our French, methinks, in number are too few; Companion Rolland, sound your horn, that Carle May hear and send his army back to help." Rolland replies:—"Great folly would be mine, And all my glory in sweet France be lost. No, I shall strike great blows with Durendal; To the golden hilt the blade shall reek with blood. In evil hour the felon Pagans came Unto the Pass, for all are doomed to die!" Aoi.
"Rolland, companion, sound your olifant, That Carle may hear and soon bring back the host. With all his Baronage the king will give Us held!"—Replied Rolland:—"May God fore-fend That for my cause my kindred e'er be blamed, Or that dishonor fall upon sweet France. Nay, I will deal hard blows with Durendal, This my good sword now girt unto my side Whose blade you'll see all reeking with red blood. Those felon Pagans have for their ill fate Together met—yea, death awaits them all." Aoi.
"Companion Rolland, sound your olifant! If Carle who passes through the mounts shall hear, To you I pledge my word, the French return." Answered Rolland:—"May God forbid!—Ne'er be It said by living man that Pagans could Cause me to blow my horn, to bring disgrace Upon my kin!—When on the battle field, I'll strike one thousand seven hundred blows, And Durendal all bleeding shall you see. [The French are brave and bravely will they strike.] Those Spanish Moors are doomed to certain death." Aoi.
Olivier said:—"To me there seems no shame; I have beheld the Moors of Spain; they swarm O'er mountains, vales and lands, hide all the plains; Great is this stranger host; our number small." Rolland replies:—"The more my ardor grows. God and his [blessed] angels grant that France Lose naught of her renown through my default. Better to die than in dishonor [live.] The more we strike the more Carle's love we gain!" Aoi.
Rolland is brave and Olivier is wise; Both knights of wond'rous courage—and in arms And mounted on their steeds, they both will die Ere they will shun the fight. Good are the Counts And proud their words.—The Pagan felons ride In fury on!—"Rolland," said Olivier, "One moment, look! Our foes so close, and Carle Afar from us—you have not deigned to blow Your horn! If came the king, no hurt were ours. Cast your eyes toward the great defiles of Aspre; There see this most unhappy rear-guard. [Those Who here fight, ne'er shall fight on other fields."] Rolland retorts:—"Speak not such shameful words. Woe unto him who bears a coward's heart Within his breast. There firm shall we remain; The combat and the blows from us shall come." Aoi.
Now when Rolland the battle sees at hand, More than a leopard's or a lion's pride He shows. He calls the French and Olivier: "Companion, friend, pray, speak of this no more. The Emperor who left his French in trust To us, has chos'n those twenty thousand men. Right well he knows none has a coward's soul. A man should suffer hurt for his good lord, Endure great cold or scorching heat, and give Even to his flesh and blood—Strike with your lance, And I with Durendal, my trusty sword, Carle's gift. If here I die, may he who wins It, say:—'Twas once the sword of a brave knight." Aoi.
Turpin the Archbishop from another side, Spurring his courser, mounts a hill and calls The French around. This sermon to them speaks: "Seigneurs Barons, Carle left us here: for him, Our King, our duty is to die, to aid In saving Christendom, the Faith of Christ Uphold. There, battle will ye have, for there Before your eyes behold the Saracens. Confess your sins, and for God's mercy pray! For your soul's cure I absolution give.... If you should die, as holy martyrs ye Will fall, and places find in Paradise!" The French alight and fall upon their knees; The Godly Archbishop grants them benison, Giving for penance his command to strike. Aoi.
The French arise. They stand assoiled and quit Of all sins, blessed by Turpin in God's name. On swift destriers they mount, armed cap-a-pie As Knights arrayed for battle. Count Rolland Calls Olivier:—"Companion, sire, full well You know, it is Count Ganelon who has Betrayed us all, and guerdon rich received In gold and silver; well the Emp'ror should Avenge us! King Marsile a bargain made Of us, but swords will make the reck'ning good." Aoi.
Through the defiles of Spain hath passed Rolland Mounted on Veillantif, his charger swift And strong, bearing his bright and glitt'ring arms. On goes the brave Rolland, his lance borne up Skyward, beneath its point a pennon bound, Snow-white, whose fringes flap his hand. Fair is his form, his visage bright with smiles. Behind him follows Olivier his friend; The French with joy, him as their champion, hail. He on the Heathens throws a haughty glance, But casts a sweet and humble look upon His French, and to them speaks with courteous tone: "Seigneurs Barons, march steadily and close. These Pagans hither came to find a grave; We here shall conquer such great spoil to-day As never yet was gained by Kings of France." Even as he spoke the word, the armies met. Aoi.
Said Olivier:—"No care have I to speak, Since you deigned not to blow your olifant, All hope of help from Carle for you is lost. He knows no word of this; the fault lies not In him, nor are yon Knights to blame—ride on And gallop to the charge as best you can. Seigneurs Barons, recoil not from the foe, In God's name! bearing ever this in mind, Hard blows to deal and hard blows to endure Forget we not the war-cry of King Carle!" At this word all the French together shout. Who then had heard the cry, "Montjoie!" had known What courage is. Then all together rush Right onward; God! with what an onset fierce! Deeply they spur their steeds for greater speed; They burn to fight. What else can they desire? The Saracens stand firm and nothing fear.... Behold the Franks and Pagans hand to hand.... Aoi.
The nephew of Marsile—his name Aelroth, Forward the first of all spurs on his horse Against our French, hurling forth insulting words: "To-day, French villains, ye will joust with us; Who was to guard you, has betrayed you; mad Must be the King who left you in the pass. So now the honor of sweet France is lost, And Carle the great shall lose his right arm here." Rolland heard.—God! what pain to him! He drives His golden spurs into his courser's flanks, And rushes at full speed against Aelroth; His shield he breaks, dismails the hauberk linked; Cleaving his breast, he severs all the bones, And from the spine the ribs disjoint. The lance Forth from his body thrusts the Pagan's soul; The Heathen's corse reels from his horse, falls down Upon the earth, the neck cloven in two halves. Rolland still taunts him:—"Go thou, wretch, and know Carle was not mad. Ne'er did he treason love, And he did well to leave us in the pass. To-day sweet France will not her honor lose! Strike, Frenchmen, strike; the first sword-stroke is ours; We have the right, these gluttons have the wrong!" Aoi.
Then comes a Duke whose name is Falsarun; He is the brother of the King Marsile. The lands of Dathan and of Abirun He holds: no viler wretch lives under Heaven. Vast is his forehead, and the space between His deeply sunken eyes is half a foot. Seeing his nephew dead, in grief he bounds Forth from the serried ranks, and shouts aloud The Pagan war-cry, furious 'gainst the French. "To-day," he cries, "at last sweet France shall lose Her fame!"—When Olivier heard this, in wrath He pricks with golden spurs his charger's flanks, And, like true baron, lifts his arm to strike, Shivers the Pagan's shield, his hauberk tears Apart. The pennon's folds pass through his breast As with the shaft he hurls him from the selle, A mangled corpse;—here lies he on the ground. Unto the prostrate body Olivier Says proudly:—"Wretch, to me thy threats are vain! Strike boldly, Franks! The victory shall be ours! Montjoie!" he shouts, the battle-cry of Carle. Aoi.
A king, named Corsablis, from Barbarie, A distant land, is there.—The Pagan host He calls;—"The field is ours with ease: the French So few in numbers we may well disdain, Nor Carle shall rescue one; all perish here. To-day, they all are doomed to death!" Turpin The Archbishop heard him; lived no man on earth He hated more than Corsablis; he pricks His horse with both his spurs of purest gold, And 'gainst him rushes with tremendous force. The shield and hauberk split; and with a stroke Of the long lance into his body driven, Corsablis lifeless drops across the path; Him, though a corpse, Turpin addresses thus: "Thou, coward Pagan, thou hast lied! Great Carl My lord, was ever and will ever be Our help; and Frenchmen know not how to fly. As for thy fellows, we can keep them here; I tell you, each this day shall die.—Strike, Franks, Yourselves forget not. This first blow, thank God, Is ours! Montjoie!" cries he, to hold the field. Aoi.
Gerin attacks Malprimis de Brigal Whose good shield now was not a denier worth: The crystal boss all broken, and one half Fall'n on the ground. Down to the flesh Gerin His hauberk cleaves, and passes through his heart The brazen point of a stout lance. Then falls The Pagan chief and dies by that good blow; And Sathanas bears off the wretched soul. Aoi.
Gerier, his comrade, strikes the Amurafle, Breaks his good shield, his hauberk white unmails, Plants in his heart a spear's steel point with such Good aim, one blow has pierced the body through; And his strong lance-thrust hurls him dead to earth.— Said Olivier: "A noble combat ours!" Aoi.
Duke Sansun rushes on the Almazour; He splits the shield with painted flowers and gold Embossed. The strong-mailed hauberk shelters not, As he is pierced through liver, heart and lungs. For him may mourn who will—death-struck he falls: "That is a Baron's stroke!" the Archbishop cries. Aoi.
Anseis gives his steed the rein, and charges Fierce on Turgis de Turteluse; beneath The golden boss asunder breaks the shield, Rips up the hauberk double-linked; so true The thrust, that all the steel passed through his breast. With this one blow the shaft has struck him dead. Rolland exclaimed: "The stroke is of a Knight!" Aoi.
Then Engelier, the Gascuin of Burdele, Spurs deep his horse, and casting loose the rein, Rushes upon Escremiz de Valterne; Breaks down the buckler fastened to his throat And rends his gorget-mail; full in the breast The lance strikes deep and passes in between The collar bones; dead from the saddle struck He falls.—And Turpin says: "Ye all are lost!" Aoi.
Othon assails a Pagan, Estorgant, His thrust hits hard the leather of the shield, Effacing its bright colors red and white, Breaks in his hauberk's sides, and plunges deep Within his heart a strong and trenchant spear, From off the flying steed striking him dead. This done, he says:—"No hope for you remains!" Aoi.
And Berengier smites now Estramaris, Splits down his shield, shivers his coat of mail In shreds and through his bosom drives a lance. Dead 'midst one thousand Saracens he drops. Of their twelve Peers now ten have breathed their last: Chernuble—Margariz, the Count, survive. Aoi.
Most valiant Knight is Margariz. 'Mid all Beauteous, strong, slender, quick of hand. He spurs His horse and charges Olivier; beneath The boss of purest gold his shield breaks down, Then at his side a pointed lance he aims; But God protects him, for the blow ne'er reached The flesh. The point grazed only, wounding not. Then Margariz unhindered rides away And sounds his horn to rally his own men. Aoi.
The battle rages fierce. All men engage. Rolland, the dauntless, combats with his lance As long as holds the shaft. Fifteen good blows It dealt, then broke and fell; now his good sword, Loved Durendal, he draws, spurs on his steed 'Gainst Chernubles, splits his bright helm adorned With gems; one blow cleaves through mail-cap and skull, Cutting both eyes and visage in two parts, And the white hauberk with its close-linked mail; Down to the body's fork, the saddle all Of beaten gold, still deeper goes the sword, Cuts through the courser's chine, nor seeks the joint. Upon the verdant grass fall dead both knight And steed. And then he cries: "Wretch! ill inspired To venture here! Mohammed helped thee not.... Wretches like you this battle shall not win." Aoi.
The Count Rolland rides through the battle-field And makes, with Durendal's keen blade in hand, A mighty carnage of the Saracens. Ah! had you then beheld the valiant Knight Heap corse on corse; blood drenching all the ground; His own arms, hauberk, all besmeared with gore, And his good steed from neck to shoulder bleed! Still Olivier halts not in his career. Of the twelve Peers not one deserves reproach, And all the French strike well and massacre The foe. The Pagans dead or dying fall. Cries the Archbishop: "Well done, Knights of France! Montjoie! Montjoie! It is Carle's battle cry!" Aoi.
Olivier grasps the truncheon of his lance, Spurs through the storm and fury of the fight, And rushes on the Pagan Malsarun, Breaks down his shield with flowers and gold embossed, Thrusts from their orbs his eyes; his brains dashed out Are crushed and trampled 'neath the victor's feet; With seven hundred men of theirs he fell. The Count next slew Turgis and Estorgus; But now the shaft breaks short off by his hand. Then said Rolland: "What mean you, Compagnon? In such a fight as this 'tis not a staff We need, but steel and iron, as I deem. Where now that sword called Halteclere, with hilt Of gold and crystal pommel?" "I lack time To draw it," valiant Olivier replies, "So busy is my hand in dealing blows!" Aoi.
Lord Olivier then his good sword unsheathed, For which Rolland entreated him so much, And showed it to his friend with knightly pride; Strikes down a Pagan, Justin de Val-Ferree, Whose head is severed by the blow; cuts through Th' embroider'd hauberk, through the body, through The saddle all with studs and gold embossed, And through the back-bone of the steed. Both man And steed fall on the grass before him, dead. Rolland exclaims: "Henceforth, you are indeed My brother! These, the strokes loved by King Carle!" And echoes round the cry: "Montjoie! Montjoie!" Aoi.
The Count Gerin sits on his horse, Sorel, And his companion Gerier, on Passe-Cerf, They loose the reins, and both spur on against A Pagan, Timozel. One strikes the shield, The other strikes the hauberk;—in his heart The two spears meet and hurl him lifeless down. I never heard it said nor can I know By which of them the swifter blow was struck.— Esperveris, son to Borel, was next By Engelier de Burdele slain. Turpin With his own hand gave death to Siglorel Th' Enchanter who once entered hell, led there By Jupiter's craft. Turpin said:—"Forfeit paid For crime!"—"The wretch is vanquished," cried Rolland, "My brother Olivier, such blows I love!" Aoi.
The combat paused not. Franks and Pagans vie In dealing blows; attacking now, and now Defending. Splintered spears, dripping with blood So many; o'er the field such numbers strewn: Of banners torn and shattered gonfalons! So many valiant French mowed in their prime, Whom mothers and sweet wives will never see Again, nor those of France who in the Pass Await them! Carle for these shall weep and mourn. But what avails? Naught can he help them now. Ill service rendered Ganelon to them The day when he to Sarraguce repaired To sell his kin. Ere long for this he lost Both limb and life, judged and condemned at Aix, There to be hanged with thirty of his race Who were not spared the punishment of death. Aoi.
The battle rages. Wonders all perform; Rolland and Olivier strike hard; Turpin Th' Archbishop, deals more than a thousand blows; The twelve Peers dally not upon the field, While all the French together fight as if One man. By hundreds and by thousands fall The Pagans: none scapes death, save those who fly Whether they will or no, all lose their lives. And yet the French have lost their strongest arms, Their fathers and their kin they will ne'er see Again, nor Carle who waits them in the Pass.
* * * * *
Meantime in France an awful scourge prevails: Wind, storm, rain, hail and flashing lightning bolts Conflict confusedly, and naught more true, The earth shook from Saint Michiel-del-Peril As far as to the Saints, from Besancon Unto the [sea-port] of Guitzand; no house Whose walls unshaken stood; darkness at noon Shrouded the sky. No beam of light above Save when a flash rips up the clouds. Dismayed Beholders cry:—"The world's last day has come, The destined end of all things is at hand!" Unwitting of the truth, their speech is vain.... 'Tis dolour for the death of Count Rolland! Aoi.
The French [strike] hard; they strike with all their force. In multitudes—by thousands die their foes; Not two out of one hundred thousand now Survive. [Turpin] says:—"Brave are all our men;— None braver under Heaven—In the Geste Of France 'tis writ true vassals have our Kings." Seeking their friends, they overrun the field. Their eyes are filled with tenderness and tears For their dear kindred they so fondly loved.... Now King Marsile with his great host appears.... Aoi.
Marsile advances 'midst a valley deep, Surrounded by the mighty host he brought, In twenty squadrons mustered and arrayed. Bright shine the helmets strewn with gold and gems, And shields and hauberks graved. They sound a charge With seven hundred clarions sending forth Loud blasts throughout the land—Thus said Rolland: "Companion Olivier, my brother, friend, The traitor, Ganelon, has sworn our death.... His treason is too sure; the Emp'ror Carle For this vile crime will take a vengeance deep. A long and cruel battle we shall have, Ere this unknown to man. There, I will fight With my good Durendal; you, friend, will strike With Halteclere—Those noble swords we bore Throughout so many lands; such combats won By them, vile strains must never chant their deeds." Aoi.
When the French see the Pagan cohorts swarm The country o'er, they call on Olivier, Rolland and the twelve Peers to guard their lives. Unto them now the Archbishop speaks his mind: "Barons, be not unworthy of yourselves! Fly not the field, for God's sake, that brave men Sing not ill songs of you! Far better die In battle. Doomed, I know, we are to death, And ere this day has passed, our lives are o'er. But for one thing ye can believe my word: For you God's Paradise stands open wide, And seats await you 'mid the blessed Saints." These words of comfort reassure the French; All in one voice cry out:—"Montjoie! Montjoie!" Aoi.
There was a Saracen from Sarraguce Lord of one half the city—Climorin, Unlike a Baron; he received the faith Of Ganelon, and sealed the treacherous bond By pressing on his lip a kiss—Besides Unto him gave his sword and carbuncle. "I will," said he, "put your great France to shame And from the Emperor's head shake off the crown!" Mounted on Barbamouche that faster flies Than hawk or swallow on the wing, he spurs His courser hard, and dropping on its neck The rein, he strikes Engelier de Gascuigne; Hauberk nor shield is for him a defense: Deep in the core the Pagan thrusts his spear So mightily, its point comes out behind, And with the shaft o'erturns him on the field A corse;—he cries. "Fit for destruction these! Strike, Pagans, strike, and let us break their lines!" The French cry: "God! to lose so brave a Knight!".... Aoi.
The Count Rolland calls Olivier: "You know, Companion, sire, Engelier is no more.... No better Knight had we"—The Count replies: "God grant that I avenge him well!" He drives His golden spurs into his charger's flanks; And waving Halteclere's blood dripping blade, The Pagan he assails, and deals a blow.... O'erthrown is Climorin. The fiends of hell Bear off his soul. The Knight then slays the Duke Alphaien, beheads Escababi, Unhorses seven Arabs with such skill They rise no more to fight. Then said Rolland: "Wroth is my sire, and by my side achieves Renown! by such good blows Carl's love is gained. Strike, Chevaliers! strike on!"—he cries aloud. Aoi.
From otherwhere is Valdabrun who armed Marsile a Knight; lord of four hundred ships. There is no sailor but swears by his name; 'Twas he by treason took Jerusalem, Who there the shrine of Solomon profaned, And slew before the Fonts the Patriarch; 'Twas he, received Count Ganelon's vile oath And gave him with his sword a thousand marks; Faster than falcon in its flight his steed Named Graminond. He sharply spurs his flanks And rushes 'gainst the mighty Duke Sansun, Breaks down his shield—the hauberk rends, and thrusts Within his breast the pennon of the flag; The shaft o'erthrows him from the saddle, dead. "Strike Pagans! strike, for we shall conquer them!" The French say:—"God! what Baron true we lose!" Aoi.
When Count Rolland sees Sansun lifeless fall, You may well know what grief was his. He spurs His horse down on the Pagan. Durendal More worth than precious gold he lifts to strike With all his might; gold studded helm, head, trunk, Hauberk asunder cleaves; the blow, e'en through The gold boss'd saddle, strikes the courser's back, Killing both horse and man. Blame or approve Who may. The Pagans say:—"Hard is this blow!" Retorts Rolland:—"For yours no pity can I feel—With you the vaunting and the wrong!" Aoi.
An African fresh from the desert land Was there, Malquidant, son of king Malcud; His armor highly wrought in beaten gold Outshines all others in the sun's bright rays. Mounted upon his horse named Salt-Perdut, He aims a blow at Anseis' shield, and cuts The azure and vermillion all away. His hauberk rives asunder, side from side, And through his body pass both point and shaft. The Count is dead.—His last breath spent and flown. The French say:—"Baron, such great woe for you!" Aoi.
The Archbishop Turpin rides across the fields; No shaven priest sang ever mass so well As he, and showed such prowess in his deeds. He to the Pagan:—"May God send all ills To thee, who slew the knight my heart bewails!" Turpin spurs hard his good steed 'gainst the wretch; One blow strikes down his strong Toledo shield: The miscreant dead upon the green sward falls. Aoi.
Elsewhere stands Grandomie who is the son Of Capuel king of Cappadoce. He sits A steed named Marmorie, than flying bird More swift. Loosening the rein, and spurring deep, To smite Gerin with all his force he rides; Torn from the neck which bears it, shattered falls The purple shield, through the rent mail he drives The whole blue pennon in his breast. Gerin Drops lifeless by this blow, against a rock. The Pagan also slays Gerier, his friend, And Berengier, and Gui de Saint-Antoine; Assailing then the noble Duke Austoire Who holds Valence and fiefs along the Rosne, He strikes him dead. The Saracens extol Their triumph, but how many fall of ours! Aoi.
Hearing the Frenchmen's sobs, the Count Rolland Grasps in his hand his sword, all reeking blood. His mighty heart nigh breaking with his grief, Cries to the foe:—"May God all evils send On thee! him hast thou slain for whom thou shalt Most dearly pay!—" He spurs his flying steed.... Conquer who may—these two fight hand to hand. Aoi.
A wise and valiant knight was Grandonie, Virtuous and fearless vassal. 'Mid his way Encountering Count Rolland, though never seen Before, at once he knew 'twas he, as well By his proud mien and noble beauty, as By his fair countenance and lofty look. Awe-struck, despite himself, he vainly tries To fly, but rooted to the spot he stays. The Count Rolland smites him so skillfully, He splits in two the nazal, helm, nose, mouth, And teeth, the body and mailed-armor, then Hews through the golden selle, both silver-flaps; With a still deeper stroke the courser's back Is gashed. So both are slain past remedy. The men of Spain cry out all sorrowful; But say the French:—"Well our defender strikes." Aoi.
Marv'lous the battle, and the tumult fierce; The French of strength and fury full, raise high Their swords: backs, ribs and wrists are slashed; the flesh Cut through rent garments to the quick; along The verdant soil the red blood runs in streams. The Pagans cry:—"We cannot more endure! Great land, Mohammed curse thee!—More than all This people bold."—Not one who does not cry "Marsile! ride on, O King, thy aid we need!" Aoi.
A battle fierce and wonderful!—Hard strike The French with glittering lance, and there you might Have seen what miseries man can suffer: Mowed And heaped in bloody mounds, all gasping out Their lives, some on their backs, some on their teeth— The Saracens give way, willing or not; By the French lances forced, they fly the field. Aoi.
Marsile his warriors massacred beholds, And, bidding all his horns and trumpets blow, Rides forward, and his whole van rides with him. In the van rode a Saracen, Abisme, The vilest wretch among his men, sunk deep In crimes and shame, who has no faith in God, Sainte Marie's son; as black as melted pitch His face; more fond of blood and treason foul Than of the gold of all Galice. None saw Him laugh or play; for courage and rash deeds He pleased the vile Marsile whose dragon flag He bears. No pity can the Archbishop feel For him, and at his sight he craves to try His arm, all softly saying to himself: "This Saracen is but a heretic; Far better die than not to give him death. Ne'er cowardice nor coward I endured!" Aoi.
The Archbishop gives the signal for the fight; He rides the horse he captured from Grossaille, A King he slew among the Danes: a horse Of wondrous fleetness, light-hoofed, slender-limbed; Thigh short; with broad and mighty haunch; the flanks Are long, and very high his spine; pure white His tail, and yellow is his mane—his ears Are small—light brown his head. This paragon Of all the beasts of earth has not his peer. The Archbishop, baron-like, spurs on the horse, Full bent upon the encounter with Abisme; He gains his side and hard he strikes his shield Glittering with gems, topaz and amethyst, Crystals and carbuncles, which to him gave The Emir Galafes—a demon's gift To this in Val-Metas. Him Turpin smites Nor mercy shows; 'gainst such a blow avails The shield but little; sheer from side to side Passes the blade ... dead on the place he falls. At such exploit amazed, the French exclaim: "The archbishop's crosier in his hand is safe!" Aoi.
The Count Rolland calls Olivier: "With me, Companion, sire, confess that 'mong brave knights The archbishop upon earth or under Heav'n Has not his peer in casting spear or lance." Olivier answers:—"To his rescue on!" At this the French once more resume the fight. Hard are the blows, rough is the strife—Meantime The Christian host in greatest sorrow mourn. Aoi.
Whoever could this fight describe? Rolland And Olivier vie with Turpin in skill And glorious deeds—The slain can counted be; In charts and briefs their numbers are enrolled: More than four thousand fell, so says the Geste. Four times the French arms were victorious, But on the fifth, a cruel fate they met; The knights of France found there a grave, except Three more whose lives God saved; yet those brave knights, Ere falling, their last breath will dearly sell. Aoi.
Seeing so many warriors fall'n around, Rolland unto his comrade Olivier Spoke thus: "Companion fair and dear, for God Whose blessing rest on you, those vassals true And brave lie corses on the battle-field: Look! We must mourn for France so sweet and fair, From henceforth widowed of such valiant knights. Carle, 'would you were amongst us, King and friend! What can we do, say, brother Olivier, To bring him news of this sore strait of ours!" Olivier answers:—"I know not; but this I know; for us is better death than shame." Aoi.
Rolland says;—"I will blow mine olifant, And Carle will hear it from the pass. I pledge My word the French at once retrace their steps." Said Olivier:—"This a great shame would be, One which to all your kindred would bequeathe A lifetime's stain. When this I asked of you, You answered nay, and would do naught. Well, now With my consent you shall not;—if you blow Your horn, of valor true you show no proof. Already, both your arms are drenched with blood." Responds the Count:—"These arms have nobly struck." Aoi.
"The strife is rude," Rolland says—"I will blow My horn, that Carle may hear."—Said Olivier:— "This would not courage be. What I desired, Companion, you disdained. Were the king here, Safe would we be, but yon brave men are not To blame"—"By this my beard," said Olivier, "I swear, if e'er I see again sweet Aude, My sister, in her arms you ne'er shall lie." Aoi.
Rolland asked Olivier—"Why show to me Your anger, friend!"—"Companion, yours the fault; True courage means not folly. Better far Is prudence than your valiant rage. Our French Their lives have lost, your rashness is the cause. And now our arms can never more give Carle Their service good. Had you believed your friend, Amongst us would he be, and ours the field, The King Marsile, a captive or a corse. Rolland, your valor brought ill fortune, nor Shall Carle the great e'er more our help receive, A man unequaled till God's judgment-day. Here you shall die, and dying, humble France, ... This day our loyal friendship ends—ere falls The Vesper-eve, dolorously we part!" Aoi.
The Archbishop heard their strife. In haste he drives Into his horse his spurs of purest gold, And quick beside them rides. Then chiding them, Says:—"Sire Rolland, and you, Sire Olivier, In God's name be no feud between you two; No more your horn shall save us; nathless 'twere Far better Carle should come and soon avenge Our deaths. So joyous then these Spanish foes Would not return. But as our Franks alight, Find us or slain or mangled on the field, They will our bodies on their chargers' backs Lift in their shrouds with grief and pity, all In tears, and bury us in holy ground: And neither wolves, nor swine, nor curs shall feed On us—" Replies Rolland:—"Well have you said." Aoi.
Rolland raised to his lips the olifant, Drew a deep breath, and blew with all his force. High are the mountains, and from peak to peak The sound re-echoes; thirty leagues away 'Twas heard by Carle and all his brave compeers. Cried the king:—"Our men make battle!—" Ganelon Retorts in haste:—"If thus another dared To speak, we should denounce it as a lie." Aoi.
The Count Rolland in his great anguish blows His olifant so mightily, with such Despairing agony, his mouth pours forth The crimson blood, and his swoll'n temples burst. Yea, but so far the ringing blast resounds; Carle hears it, marching through the pass, Naimes harks, The French all listen with attentive ear. "That is Rolland's horn!—" Carle cried, "which ne'er yet Was, save in battle, blown!—" But Ganelon Replies:—"No fight is there!—you, sire, are old, Your hair and beard are all bestrewn with gray, And as a child your speech. Well do you know Rolland's great pride. 'Tis marvelous God bears With him so long. Already took he Noble Without your leave. The Pagans left their walls And fought Rolland, your brave Knight, in the field; With his good blade he slew them all, and then Washed all the plain with water, that no trace Of blood was left—yea, oftentimes he runs After a hare all day and blows his horn. Doubtless he takes his sport now with his peers; And who 'neath Heav'n would dare attack Rolland? None, as I deem. Nay, sire, ride on apace; Why do you halt? Still far is the Great Land." Aoi.
Rolland with bleeding mouth and temples burst, Still in his anguish, blows his olifant; Carle hears it, and his Franks. The king exclaims: "That horn has a long breath!" Duke Naimes replies: "Rolland it is, and in a sore distress, Upon my faith, a battle rages there! A traitor he who would deceive you now. To arms! Your war-cry shout, your kinsman save! Plainly enough you hear his call for help." Aoi.
Carle orders all the trumpeters to sound The march. The French alight. They arm themselves With helmets, hauberks and gold hilted swords, Bright bucklers, long sharp spears, with pennons white And red and blue. The barons of the host Leap on their steeds, all spurring on; while through The pass they march, each to the other says: "Could we but reach Rolland before he dies, What deadly blows, with his, our swords would strike!" But what avails?—Too late they will arrive. Aoi.
The ev'n is clear, the sun its radiant beams Reflects upon the marching legions. Spears, Hauberks and helms, shields painted with bright flowers, Gold pennons all ablaze with glitt'ring hues. Burning with wrath the Emperor rides on; The French with sad and angered looks. None there But weeps aloud. All tremble for Rolland.
* * * * *
The King commands Count Ganelon be seized And given to the scullions of his house. Their chief, named Begue, he calls and bids: "Guard well This man as one who all my kin betrayed." Him Begue received, and set upon the Count One hundred of his kitchen comrades—best And worst;—they pluck his beard on lip and cheek; Each deals him with his fist four blows, and falls On him with lash and stick; they chain his neck As they would chain a bear, and he is thrown For more dishonor on a sumpter mule, There guarded so until to Carle brought back. Aoi.
High are the mountains, gloomy, terrible, The valleys deep, and swift the rushing streams. In van, in rear, the brazen trumpets blow, Answ'ring the olifant. With angry look Rides on the Emp'ror; filled with wrath and grief, Follow the French, each sobbing, each in tears, Praying that God may guard Rolland, until They reach the battle-field. With him what blows Will they not strike? Alas! what boots it now? Too late they are and can not come in time. Aoi.
Carle in great anger rides—his snow-white beard O'erspreads his breast-plate. Hard the Barons spur, For never one but inwardly doth rage That he is far from their great chief, Rolland, Who combats now the Saracens of Spain: If wounded he, will one of his survive? O God! What Knights those sixty left by him! Nor King nor captain better ever had.... Aoi.
The Count Rolland casts o'er the mounts and vales A glance: French corses strew the plains in heaps; He for them mourns as gentle chevalier. At such a sight the noble hero weeps: "Seigneurs, to you may God be merciful! To all your souls may He grant Paradise, And there may they on beds of heavenly flowers Repose!—No better vassals lived! so long Have ye served me! So many lands for Carle Ye won!—The Emperor for this ill fate Has nurtured you!—O land of France, most sweet Art thou, but now forsaken and a waste. Barons of France, to-day I see you die For me; nor can I save or e'en defend Your lives. Be God your aid, who ne'er played false! Olivier, brother, I must not fail thee! If other death comes not, of grief I die. Come, sire companion ... come to fight again!" Aoi.
Soon to the field returns the Count Rolland With Durendal in hand; as a true knight He fights. Faldrun del Pin he cleaves in half With twenty-four among the bravest foes. Never was man so bent upon revenge. As run wild deer before the chasing hounds, Before Rolland the Pagans flee.—"Well done!" The Archbishop cries, "Such valor a true Knight Should have, when mounted, armed, on his good steed! Else, not four deniers is he worth: a monk In cloister should he be, and spend his life In praying for our sins!...." "Strike," said Rolland, "No quarter!"—At the word the French renew The combat ... yet the Christian loss was great. Aoi.
When soldiers on the battle-field expect No quarter—desperate they fight; and thus The French, like lions, fiercely stand at bay. Like a true baron King Marsile rides forth Upon his steed Gaignon, and spurs him on Against Bevum, of Belne and Digun lord, His buckler cleaves, his hauberk with a blow Shatters, and lays him dead upon the field. Then fall beneath the Pagan King, Ivoire And Ivun; then Gerard de Roussillon.— The Count Rolland is nigh and cries aloud: "God give damnation unto thee who thus So foully slay'st my friends! But ere we part, Dearly shalt thou abye it, and to-day Shalt learn the name my good sword bears."—He strikes The King a true Knight's stroke, and his right hand Lops at the wrist; then Turfaleu the fair, Marsile's own son, beheads. The Pagans say: "Aid us, Mahum! Avenge us, Gods of ours, On Carle, who brought such villains to our land, As rather than depart will die."—And each To each cries: "Let us fly!"—Upon the word, A hundred thousand turn in sudden flight. Whoever calls them, ne'er will they return. Aoi.
Alas, it not avails! If Marsile flies, His uncle Marganice unhurt remained. 'Tis he who held Carthage, Alferne, Garnaille, And Ethiopia, a land accursed; Chief of the Blacks, a thick-nosed, large-eared race. Of these he more than fifty thousand leads, Who ride on proudly, full of wrath, and shout The Pagan war-cry.—"Here," said Count Rolland, "Here shall we fall as martyrs. Well I know Our end is nigh; but dastard I count him Who sells not dear his life. Barons, strike well, Strike with your burnished swords, and set such price On death and life, that naught of shame shall fall On our sweet France. When Carle, my lord, shall come Upon this field, and see such slaughter here Of Saracens, fifteen to one of ours, Then will he breathe a blessing on his Knights." Aoi.
When sees Rolland this tribe accursed, more black Than ink, with glist'ning teeth, their only gleam Of white, he said:—"Truly I know to-day We die! Strike, Frenchmen, that is my command." And Olivier, "Woe to the laggards," cries. These words the French hearts fired to meet the fray. Aoi.
The Pagans, when they mark how few the French, Are filled with pride and comfort, and they say One to the other:—"Their King Carle is wrong!"— Upon his sorrel steed sits Marganice; Urging him hard with pricking spurs of gold, Encounters Olivier—strikes him behind, Drives his white hauberk-links into his heart, And through in front came forth the pointed lance. The Kalif cries:—"That blow struck home! Carlmagne, For thy mishap, left you to guard the Pass! That he has wronged us, little may he boast. Your death alone for us a vengeance full!" Aoi.
Olivier knows his death-wound. In his hand He grasps Halteclere's bright steel, and strikes a blow Well aimed upon the Kalif's pointed helm; He scatters golden flow'rs and gems in dust. His head the trenchant blade cleaves to the teeth, And dead the Kalif falls.—"Pagan accursed," He cries, "not here shalt thou say Carle lost aught; To wife nor lady shalt thou ever boast In thine own land, that thou hast reft from Carle One denier's worth, or me or others harmed!" And then he called Rolland unto his aid. Aoi.
Olivier feels that he is hurt to death. No vengeance can suffice him; Baron-like He strikes amid the press, cuts shields embossed And ashen shafts, and spears, feet, shoulders, wrists And breasts of horsemen. He who saw him thus Dismember Saracens, corse over corse Heap on the ground, would of a vassal true Remembrance keep. Nor does he now forget The rallying cry of Carle:—"Montjoie!" he cries Loudly and clear; then calls Rolland, his friend And compeer:—"Sire companion, stand by me! This day our breaking hearts forever part!" Aoi.
Rolland looks Olivier full in the face; Pale, livid, colorless; pure crimson blood Drips from his body, and streams on the earth. "God!" cried Rolland, "I know not what to do, Companion, friend, thy courage was betrayed To-day; nor will such courage e'er be seen In human heart. Sweet France, oh! how shalt thou, As widow, wail thy vassals true and brave, Humbled and wrecked! The great heart of King Carle Will break!" He spake and on his saddle swooned. Aoi.