With Spurs of Gold
Heroes of Chivalry and Their Deeds
Frances Nimmo Greene
Dolly Williams Kirk
Boston Little, Brown, and Company 1928
Copyright, 1905, BY LITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY
All rights reserved
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
These brief historical sketches were written primarily for young people, though it is hoped that some older readers may find pleasure in renewing their acquaintance with heroes of chivalry whose names are familiar still, but whose deeds are recalled to mind but vaguely.
It is the purpose of the book to enliven the study of history by giving the romantic details omitted in text-books, and to enable the readers to form a more vivid and lifelike conception of the great men with whom it deals and the turbulent and picturesque times in which they lived.
The endeavor of the authors has been to narrate events and portray character accurately and impartially, but in the sympathetic spirit that recognizes the wide difference between modern standards of conduct and the ideals of the Middle Ages,—the spirit that strives to depict vividly and adequately the fine, strong virtues and great deeds that won for these knights the unbounded admiration of their own age, rather than to dwell upon those traits and acts that are justly condemned by the finer moral sense of the twentieth century. Emphasis is laid upon the noble in character and deed rather than the ignoble, on the great rather than the little.
In the preparation of the book many histories, chronicles, and legends have been consulted, and it is hoped that a fair degree of accuracy has been attained where the narrative belongs to the domain of history. The stories of Roland and the Cid, of course, are largely legendary, and there is evidently a considerable admixture of fiction in the contemporary accounts of Godfrey and Richard. The authors have endeavored to follow recognized historical authority closely when practicable; but historians differ so widely among themselves that it is often impossible to determine which version of events is most reliable. No important fact has been stated without good historical authority, but one or two minor incidents of Godfrey's life and crusade were taken from Tasso's "Jerusalem Delivered." In the treatment of a few unimportant events, some imaginative details and circumstances strictly in harmony with the meagre historical record of facts have been added to give color and interest to the narrative. Also in several instances where the subject-matter of a conversation or speech is purely legendary, or is given by historians in the third person, it has been put in the first person in order to render the story livelier and more vivid. No other liberties have been taken with facts as related by historians of learning and repute.
"THIS IS THE RULE FOR THE GALLANT KNIGHT" 1
A STEED! A STEED! 3
ROLAND AND OLIVER 7
THE CID RODRIGO DIAZ DE BIVAR 51
THE CID'S WEDDING 84
GODFREY AND THE FIRST CRUSADE 89
THE TROUBADOUR 139
THE CARRIER DOVE 140
THE CAPTIVE KNIGHT 141
RICHARD COEUR-DE-LION 145
RICHARD'S LAMENT 196
THE LAST CRUSADER 198
THE CHEVALIER BAYARD 203
SIR PHILIP SIDNEY 255
SIDNEY IN TOURNAMENT 291
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
"'Ah, my ill-starred blade!' he cried; 'no longer may I be thy guardian!'" Frontispiece
The Knighting of the Cid Page 59
"'Look, my lord, my dear lord! the hound hath found water!' cried Sigier" " 109
"There for months he was kept a close prisoner, loaded with chains" " 190
"As Bayard lay thus, there was hardly an officer among the Spanish who did not come to speak kindly to him" " 251
Sir Philip Sidney and Penelope Devereux " 266
THE MOORS IN SPAIN
In the seventh century an Arab by the name of Mohammed, or Mahomet, established a new religion in the East. This religion was called Islam, meaning The Faith, and its followers were known as Mohammedans, Mussulmans, or Moslems. The principal article of their belief is expressed in the formula, "There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet."
The new faith spread rapidly, and Mohammed soon became the ruler of all the people who received him as a prophet. His successors, called Caliphs, or Khalifs, conquered Palestine, Syria, Persia, and northern Africa. The inhabitants of the countries thus added to the Mohammedan empire usually adopted the faith of their conquerors, and undertook to carry it into other lands.
In 711 A. D., a body of these Mohammedans, under the leadership of Tarik, crossed the strait between Africa and Spain and landed at the place since known as Gibraltar (Jebel-el-Tarik, or The Rock of Tarik). The invaders were met near Xeres by the Christians, under the command of Roderick, King of the Visigoths, and the fierce battle of Jerez de La Frontera, or Guadalete, took place. At the end of three days' fighting, Roderick was slain, and the Christians were completely routed. Victory after victory for Tarik followed, and in three short years all Spain, except the extreme northern part, was in the hands of the invaders.
These victorious followers of Mohammed, though people of various nationalities, were all designated by the Spaniards Moors, from the name of a tribe that came from Morocco, or Saracens, from an Arabic word meaning eastern. Often they were called simply infidels, meaning unbelievers.
The Moors were not only skilled warriors, but a people of much intelligence, and made far more rapid advances in civilization than the Spaniards. They fostered education, and founded schools and libraries. They possessed a considerable knowledge of astronomy, algebra, chemistry, and natural history, and attained great excellence in the arts of music, poetry, and architecture. They built splendid cities, adorned with magnificent mosques and palaces. The wonderful mosque of Cordova and the beautiful Alhambra at Granada remain to this day as monuments of the Moorish skill in architecture.
Nor were the Moors cruel or tyrannical rulers. It was not often that a Moorish emir or king ill-treated or persecuted his Christian subjects. As a rule, the Christians were allowed more privileges and greater freedom than was usually accorded to a conquered people in those days. But the Spaniards were proud and intensely religious, and they bitterly resented their state of subjection to a foreign and "infidel" people. Again and again they attempted to overthrow the power of the Moors and to drive them from Spain. For more than seven hundred years, war was waged at intervals between the conquerors and the conquered. There could be no permanent peace between Mohammedans and Christians, for each people despised the religion of the other, and each was determined to rule in Spain.
Gradually, Moorish Spain, at first under the rule of one emir, became separated into a number of small kingdoms, which were often hostile to each other. This state of disunion among the Mohammedans materially aided the efforts of the Christians to regain control of Spain. Little by little the Spaniards reconquered their native land. In 1492 A. D., Ferdinand and Isabella, sovereigns of Castile, Leon, and Aragon, conquered Granada; and with the fall of Granada ended the long rule of the Moors in Spain.
THE AGE OF CHARLEMAGNE
In the fifth century that part of Europe then called Gaul was invaded in succession by three Germanic races. The Visigoths first conquered and took possession of the southern part of the country. They were followed by the Burgundians, who settled in the eastern portion. Then came the terrible Franks, who were not content with seizing the northern territory, but immediately began a war of conquest against the other two tribes. The long conflict that followed ended at length in the triumph of the Franks. These fierce Franks then established themselves firmly as the ruling race, and in course of time Gaul came to be known as the land of the Franks, or France.
The kingdom thus established by the Franks under their dreaded chief, Clovis, flourished for a time; but eventually the kings of his line became so weak in character and so wicked in conduct as to be unfit to rule, and the country fell into a state of wretched disorder. At last these Merovingian princes became so utterly incapable that the kingly authority fell into the hands of certain state officials called "Mayors of the Palace."
In the eighth century one of these mayors—a bold and energetic warrior, by the name of Charles, or Karl—became in reality the ruler of France, though a weak Merovingian prince still bore the empty title of king.
At that time the Mohammedans who had conquered Spain some years before were seized with the ambition to conquer all Europe and add it to the empire of Islam. Under the leadership of Abderrahman, Moorish governor of Spain, these Saracens crossed the Pyrenees and invaded France. The Christians of all races, roused by the greatness of the threatened danger, ceased warring among themselves and rallied as one people to the defence of their country and their religion. A large army under the command of Charles, or Karl, ruler of the Franks, met the invaders near Tours. There, in 732 A. D., was fought the famous battle of Tours, or Poictiers, in which Charles and his Christian warriors utterly routed the formidable Mohammedan army. By this great victory, the threatened advance of the Moslem power was checked, and Europe was saved to the Christian faith. The victorious general, Charles, because of this great blow dealt to the Infidels, received the surname of Martel, or the Hammer.
But the fame of Karl Martel, though great and well-deserved, is far surpassed by the renown of his grandson, Charlemagne, or Charles the Great. The kingship of France, Charlemagne inherited from his father, Pepin, who, more ambitious than Karl Martel, dethroned the Merovingian puppet king and made himself king in name as well as in fact. Charlemagne, during his reign of forty-five years, added vast territories to his Frankish kingdom by successful wars waged against surrounding tribes of heathen Saxons, against the Moors in northern Spain, the inhabitants of Bavaria, the Avars beyond that country, and the people of Lombardy, in what is now Italy.
In the year 800 A. D., on Christmas Day, the great Frankish king was crowned emperor by the Pope at Rome. He was hailed as a successor to the Roman Caesars, the people shouting,—
"Long life and victory to Charles Augustus, crowned by God, the great, pious, and pacific Emperor of the Romans!"
Charlemagne, in truth, well deserved the title of emperor, for at that time his sway extended over France, northern Spain, northern Italy, the greater part of Germany, Belgium, and Switzerland,—almost half of Europe. But Charlemagne was more than a successful warrior, a conqueror of nations. He was a man of powerful intellect, whose keen insight, sound judgment, and iron will enabled him to rule wisely and well the various races of his vast empire. Charlemagne was an earnest student and a man of extensive learning for those days, familiar with Latin and Greek, proficient in logic, rhetoric, music, astronomy, and theology. Delighting in study himself, the emperor recognized the vital importance of general education. By founding schools and compelling attendance upon them, by himself setting an example of devotion to study, thus encouraging others to intellectual pursuits, by inviting to his court famous scholars from neighboring countries,—in every way possible, Charlemagne endeavored to impress upon his people the value of mental culture and the importance of education.
His court became the resort of learned men and renowned knights from all lands, and the fame of Charlemagne spread far and wide. Poets celebrated his achievements as a warrior, his virtues as a man, his wisdom as a ruler. Nor was their praise unmerited. By the most wonderful military genius, this chieftain of a wild Frankish tribe carried out his ambitious project of establishing a great Christian empire. That he only partially succeeded in his more noble purpose of civilizing the barbarous tribes he ruled, was due solely to the magnitude of the task. The zealous and splendid effort he made, the measure of success he attained, in battling against the darkness and ignorance of his time, entitle Charlemagne to a place among the truly great men of the world. His greatness has stamped his name on the time, and the "Age of Charlemagne" stands out in happy contrast to the darkness of preceding and subsequent times.
It was the custom in the earliest ages of Christianity for its followers to make pilgrimages to Palestine. All pious Christians desired to visit the land where Christ had lived and died for their redemption, and they believed firmly that the blessing of God awaited those pilgrims who made long and perilous journeys to worship at the tomb of their Lord. These pilgrimages became much more numerous in the fourth century, when the Roman emperor, Constantine, was converted to Christianity and put a stop to the persecution of the Christians. This emperor and his mother, Saint Helena, restored Jerusalem, and there erected magnificent churches for the worship of Christ. Then, from all parts of the Christian world, thousands of pilgrims journeyed to the Holy City in peace and safety.
But Jerusalem was not destined to remain in the hands of the Christians. After having been taken by the Persians and retaken by the Christians, the city yielded in the seventh century to the Mohammedans, under the Caliph Omar, a successor of Mohammed. From that time on, Christians living in Palestine and pilgrims from other countries were oppressed and persecuted, and the pilgrimage to Jerusalem became both difficult and dangerous. During the reign of Charlemagne, respect for the fame and power of that great Christian emperor induced the celebrated Caliph Haroun-al-Raschid to treat the Christians with mildness, and to allow them to worship in peace at Jerusalem; but under the succeeding Mohammedan rulers of Palestine, the Christians were subjected to every manner of insult and outrage. Those courageous pilgrims who dared all the perils of a journey to Jerusalem and returned home in safety, spread abroad throughout Europe the sad story of their own trials, the sufferings of their fellow-Christians in Palestine, and the desecration of holy places.
These stories excited deep indignation and pious horror in all hearers, for it was an age of intense religious faith and enthusiasm; and the feeling arose in the hearts of Christian people that it was an imperative religious duty to rescue the Holy Land and the Sepulchre of their Lord from the Infidels. This feeling grew and spread and strengthened into a religious conviction throughout Christendom. So when Peter the Hermit, a monk returned from Palestine, traveled through Europe, and preached eloquently the sacred duty of delivering the Holy Land, he found everywhere enthusiastic hearers.
The people burned with zeal to undertake the pious task; and when Pope Urban, at the Council of Clermont, in 1095 A. D., gave the sanction of the Church to the enterprise, all Europe rushed to arms. Those who vowed to do battle for the holy cause bore the sign of the cross, and hence the expedition to Palestine was called a "crusade," from the Latin word crux, meaning cross.
The history of this First Crusade is given in the sketch of Godfrey de Bouillon, and that of the Third Crusade in connection with the story of Richard Coeur-de-Lion. These two were the most famous crusades, although others were undertaken at different periods. The last crusade took place in the thirteenth century, under the leadership of Louis IX. of France—Saint Louis—and was unsuccessful. After that time, the Christians made no further attempt to rescue the Holy Land, and it is still in the hands of the Mohammedans.
With Spurs of Gold
"THIS IS THE RULE FOR THE GALLANT KNIGHT"
Amend your lives, ye who would fain The order of the knights attain; Devoutly watch, devoutly pray; From pride and sin, oh turn away! Shun all that's base; the Church defend; Be the widow's and the orphan's friend; Be good and leal; take naught by might; Be bold and guard the people's right;— This is the rule for the gallant knight.
Be meek of heart; work day by day; Tread, ever tread, the knightly way; Make lawful war; long travel dare; Tourney and joust for ladye fair; To everlasting honour cling, That none the barbs of blame may fling; Be never slack in work or fight; Be ever least in self's own sight;— This is the rule for the gallant knight.
Love the liege lord; with might and main His rights above all else maintain; Be open-handed, just and true; The paths of upright men pursue; No deaf ear to their precepts turn; The prowess of the valiant learn; That ye may do things great and bright, As did Great Alexander hight;— This is the rule for the gallant knight.
EUSTACHE DESCHAMPS (Fourteenth century).
A STEED! A STEED!
A steed! a steed! of matchless speed! A sword of metal keene! Al else to noble hearts is drosse— Al else on earth is meane. The neighing of the war-horse proude, The rowling of the drum, The clangour of the trumpet loude— Be soundes from heaven that come. And, oh! the thundering presse of knightes, When as their war-cryes swelle, May tole from heaven an angel bright, And rouse a fiend from hell.
Then mounte! Then mounte! brave gallants all, And don your helms amain; Deathe's couriers, Fame and Honour, call Up to the field againe; No shrewish tear shall fill our eye When the sword hilt's in our hand; Heart-whole we'll parte and no whit sighe For the fayrest of the land. Let piping swaine and craven wight, Thus weepe and puling aye; Our business is like to men to fighte And like to Heroes, die!
MOTHERWELL'S Ancient Minstrelsy (Author unknown).
ROLAND AND OLIVER
THE TRAGEDY OF RONCESVALLES
"Roland is daring and Oliver wise, Both of marvelous high emprise; On their chargers mounted and girt in mail, To the death in battle they will not quail."
ROLAND AND OLIVER
"Montjoie! Whoever heard that cry Would hold remembrance of chivalry."
In days of old there lived a powerful Christian emperor by the name of Charlemagne. His kingdom extended over the greater part of the territory which now constitutes the countries of France, Germany, and Italy; and the "Franks," as his people were called, followed him with a loving loyalty that has been celebrated in song and story for twelve hundred years. Around Charlemagne were gathered not a few knights whose names will forever be remembered with that of their emperor, and whose deeds will live as long as the chivalric instinct thrills the breast of man.
Now this great emperor, though loving and generous toward his subjects, could yet brook no shadow of opposition; and when he discovered that his beloved sister Bertha had, without his consent, wedded the knight, Milon, he at once banished the disobedient pair from the land of France.
Fleeing before the awful displeasure of Charlemagne, Milon and his wife wandered about in foreign parts as mendicants, and at length took refuge in a cave near a small town in Italy. Here, under these adverse circumstances, a little son was born to them—one destined to be the hero of two countries, the "Roland" of "the French Iliad" and the "Orlando" of Italian song and story.
While Roland was yet a little lad, his father departed for unknown lands to seek fame and fortune, leaving the boy and his mother to eke out a scanty existence as best they might.
As Roland grew in years and in youthful graces, he became a favorite with the peasant boys of the village, and, in spite of his ragged clothes and his humble abode, was soon made their leader. But there was one lad in Sutri who had no love for the stalwart young mendicant. Oliver, son of the governor of the town, and consequently a youth of high station, conceived quite a dislike for him, and a feud existed between the two until it was ended by Roland in a most singular way.
Meeting the son of the governor on neutral ground one day, the fiery young cave-dweller proposed that they settle their quarrel with their fists. Oliver, being in no whit a coward, quickly consented. The contest which ensued was a long and stubborn one, for the two lads were very nearly equally matched in strength and endurance and courage. Finally, however, the half-clad, disowned nephew of Charlemagne stood triumphant. The quarrel was indeed settled; for Oliver, being a lad of mettle, and loving and admiring valor wherever he found it, arose from his honorable defeat the sworn friend and admirer of his doughty conqueror.
And the friendship of Oliver meant much to the poor lad who had defeated him. It often meant food when he was hungry, and clothes when he was cold, and always insured him support in all the boyish contests in their native village. But, better than all these, it meant to Roland the loyal, lifelong devotion of a comrade who became as part of his own soul.
While Roland was yet only a stripling, the great emperor, Charlemagne, passed through the town of Sutri, and while there dined in public on the village green. Now the young Roland had not yet come to the age when he could provide for his mother and himself. The times were hard with them—especially hard on this great feast-day of the emperor, for they were hungry, and knew not where to turn for food.
Now it chanced that Roland, fierce with the fierceness of the half-starved, came suddenly upon some of the emperor's attendants just as they were bearing trays of rich viands to place before their master. The sight of food and the thought of his mother's sufferings instantly swept all things else from the lad's mind. Rushing upon the attendants, he wrested the viands from them, and made off to his mother's cave before they could realize what had happened.
When the emperor was informed of the incident, his brows knitted in deep thought, for he had dreamed a dream on the night before, which troubled him sorely. He had seen the fierce, half-famished lad in his vision, and had been warned to follow him.
After a moment's thought, Charlemagne dispatched three of his knights to find the boy and bring him to the royal presence. The three who were so commissioned had little trouble in finding the lad, but they came near having a serious conflict with him when they attempted to enter, uninvited, the cave he felt to be his castle. His mother, however, restrained the impetuous youth with her pleadings, and the messengers of Charlemagne entered.
When Bertha learned that the knights had come from the emperor, she disclosed to them her own identity and the identity of the lad they had come to seize. This was Roland's first knowledge of his great lineage, and he heard and beheld as in a dream, as the knights knelt before his mother and promised to obtain for her the emperor's pardon.
Dazed, dreaming still, the gaunt, sinewy lad took his way to Charlemagne, in company with the knights who had been sent to fetch him. But in the presence of his emperor,—his kinsman,—the dream feeling passed, and Roland rose to the occasion with the pride and independence of his race.
When the white-haired, careworn emperor looked upon his sister's son, his heart went out to him with a great yearning; for the lad was tall and strong, the lad was proud and unconquered. And Charles the Great opened his empty arms and took the boy to his heart, nevermore to be exiled from it.
Roland and his mother returned to France with the emperor to be, from that time on, part of the royal household, and to enjoy riches and honor.
But the great happiness that was Roland's was not without its heartache. He and his beloved Oliver were completely separated by this change, and drifted further away from each other with the drift of years.
As soon as Roland was grown to manhood, Charlemagne made him captain of his "peers,"—the twelve knights who, for their bravery and their trustworthiness, were chosen to be next to the emperor himself in authority.
Among all the twelve, young Roland was the most daring, the most impetuous. His splendid qualities won for him the hearts of the many; but the few were jealous of him, and charged that he exercised undue influence over the emperor and incited the white-haired Charlemagne to deeds of daring and violence that were none of his own conceiving. Chief among Roland's accusers was the envious Count Ganelon. Ganelon had become step-sire to the young peer by wedding the widowed Bertha, but the nearness of the tie between him and Roland only seemed to make him yet more bent on injuring the emperor's favorite.
However much of truth there was in the charges of Roland's enemies, this is certain,—he did become the very darling of the emperor's heart, and he did perform such deeds of daring and prowess as made even the knightly peerage of Charlemagne behold with wonder and amazement.
The first act of personal daring by which he distinguished himself was his engaging and slaying the giant Ferragus. This achievement won for Roland the hearts of the people, and led them to watch his crescent glory with national pride.
Now in these days a terrible heathen enemy threatened the Christian faith and civilization of Europe. Years before, several Mohammedan races from Asia—dark, relentless, resistless—had swept over northern Africa, and, crossing Gibraltar, overrun the fair land of Spain. North, east, and west they spread, conquering the Christians and preaching their heathen doctrines with fire and sword. So the beautiful and once Christian Spain came to be ruled for many years by the invaders, who founded cities, built palaces, and raised Moslem kings to her thrones. Nor were the Mohammedans content here. They repeatedly attempted to cross the Pyrenees Mountains and overrun the rest of Europe.
Now it chanced that just as a Moorish invasion seemed most imminent, Charlemagne had serious trouble within his own kingdom. Guerin de Montglave, Lord of Vienne and vassal to Charlemagne, revolted against the emperor.
With his usual determination, King Karl dispatched a large army against Guerin, and would have waged bloody war against him had not the peers interposed and counselled otherwise. They represented to the emperor the seriousness of beginning civil war when the Moors were daily threatening invasion from the south, and finally succeeded in getting his consent to a settlement of the quarrel with Guerin by single combat.
Guerin signifying his willingness to this plan, arrangements were soon made for the combat. As all expected, Roland was chosen to maintain the justice of the emperor's cause; and as both Roland's friends and enemies wished a happy settlement of the quarrel with Guerin, the selection was heartily approved.
Guerin de Montglave chose his youngest grandson to do battle for Vienne; and many a smile was exchanged between Franks when they heard that this young knight accepted with delight the honor that his grandsire conferred upon him.
The combat was to be held upon a small island in the Rhone, and the warriors of the two camps were accordingly grouped on opposite sides of the river, as spectators.
When Roland and his antagonist faced each other at opposite ends of the field, each armed from top to toe, each with his face concealed by his visor, they were so nearly of the same size and bearing that they might easily have been mistaken, the one for the other, but for the colors that fluttered from their lances. Yet there was almost sorrow in the ranks of Charlemagne's army for the young stranger knight so soon to be laid in the dust,—for who could hope to match with Roland?
Their sympathy was all too soon changed to astonishment, for in hardly a moment after the sound of the trumpet in signal for the onset, the champions clashed together in the center of the lists with apparently equal force. Both lances were shivered; both horses reeled from the shock; both riders kept their seats; both banks of the Rhone echoed and re-echoed with cheering.
The combatants dismounted and drew their swords. For two hours and more they fought—stroke for stroke and thrust for thrust. The spectators stood breathless with amazement. Neither champion showed sign of weakening; neither gained advantage. Suddenly, with one mighty stroke, Roland buried his blade in the shield of his antagonist so deep that he could not withdraw it, and at almost the same instant the stranger knight struck so fiercely upon Roland's breastplate that his sword snapped off at the hilt.
Having thus disarmed themselves, the two antagonists rushed together, each attempting to fling the other to earth. Long and full stoutly they struggled; and when at last it became apparent to the now silent, fearful spectators that neither would be likely to gain advantage, the combatants each suddenly snatched at the other's helmet to tear it away. Both succeeded. The straining spectators then beheld a most amazing sight. The two antagonists fell apart for an instant and looked into each others' uncovered faces, then rushed into each others' outstretched arms. This time there was no striving; they were apparently embracing each other in an ecstasy of delight.
And such was indeed the case, for the stranger knight was Oliver. For nearly three hours had he and Roland striven against each other as strangers and enemies. Now they were face to face and heart to heart after the cruel striving—after years of separation. What wonder, then, that cause and country were forgotten!
And in spite of cause and country and king and kinsman, the two boyhood comrades could not be induced to oppose each other further. Happily for all concerned, the trouble between Charlemagne and Guerin was settled in a few days in peaceful conference.
Roland and Oliver, having thus found each other, refused to be separated again; and the good emperor honored the redoubtable Oliver by making him one of his peers.
No longer was Roland undisputedly first in valor at the court of Charlemagne. Oliver had so grown in prowess since his first encounter with Roland that he was now the peer of his friend in every point. Indeed, so exactly equal were the achievements of these two that from their story has come the well-known expression "a Roland for an Oliver," meaning, matching a deed with a deed as great. There was this difference between them, however: whereas Roland was fearless to recklessness and proud and presumptuous to his own destruction, Oliver was wise, discreet, and modest. Yet this very difference seemed to bind them more closely to each other. But there was a yet stronger and closer tie between them in Alda, the beautiful sister of Oliver.
After their grandfather, Guerin, had repented of his revolt and again become submissive to the emperor, Alda came with her brother to the court of Charlemagne. Of all the ladies in the land she was the most beautiful, and the gentleness which distinguished her brother was hers in a marked degree. Many a mighty knight strove to win her favor; but though she was kind to all, her smiles were reserved for her brother's comrade, and erelong she became his promised wife.
Great was Oliver's delight to find that the friend who had been a brother to him was to be his brother in yet another sense. King Karl, too, consented joyously to the troth, for he loved the gentle Alda even as he loved her courageous brother.
But no time was there then for marriage feasts and rejoicings. The heathen were clamoring at the gates of Christendom, and it became the duty of every knight of the true religion to bid a hasty farewell to his lady and buckle on his sword.
All France rushed to arms, and not a moment too soon. Marsilius, Saracen King of Spain, was preparing to cross the Pyrenees!
Long and bitter was the war which ensued, but Charlemagne saved France to the Franks and to the true faith. But King Karl and his men were not content with merely saving France from the infidels. At one time the Frankish hosts crossed the Pyrenees and conquered nearly all of northern Spain. For seven long years King Karl and his Franks warred in the peninsula. Keep and castle went down before the Christians; city after city capitulated to them; the land was theirs from mountain to sea, except the single town of Saragossa, in which the Moslem king, Marsilius, together with a powerful army, had taken refuge.
The beautiful Saracen city of Cordres was the last to fall before the arms of Charlemagne. Long and stoutly did the besieged stronghold hold out against the conqueror, but at last its gates were carried and its towers and walls battered to earth.
"Not a heathen did there remain, But confessed him Christian, or else was slain."
In celebration of the taking of Cordres, Charlemagne shortly afterwards held court with great pomp and splendor in a beautiful orchard in the heart of the conquered city.
It was the custom of the emperor to take counsel of his peers and knights in all matters of import, and he now desired to discuss with them how best to bring to a happy close this long and bitter war,—for Marsilius was still in possession of Saragossa. With the fall of Cordres the end seemed near at hand; and Charlemagne rejoiced, for he had grown old and weary of strife, and he longed to return to his own again. No less relieved at heart, his warriors gathered about him that day, eager to plan some means of ending their cruel exile.
The sky was fair, as with the promise of yet fairer things; and the olive-trees of Cordres spread out their branches above and about the Christian hosts as if in token of the peace they so earnestly craved.
Seated upon a throne of beaten gold was the Emperor of ample France. Proud, and mighty of frame was he, but the curls that rested on his shoulders and the beard that flowed over his bosom were white as the snow-caps of the Sierra Nevadas. Small wonder the Moslems believed that two hundred winters had piled their snows upon his head!
The flower of Frankish chivalry pressed about him—fifteen thousand doughty knights of France. Gorgeous carpets were spread upon the greensward, upon which the cavaliers sat at games or practised fencing with light arms. But nearest to the great Charlemagne—and dearest too—were the two sworn comrades, Roland and Oliver.
King Karl had not yet opened the council when there rode into the orchard twelve messengers from King Marsilius, each mounted upon a snow-white mule, each bearing an olive-branch of peace. A gallant company they seemed—fair and honest—as they alighted from their beasts and knelt at the feet of the Christian emperor.
Great was the astonishment among the Franks to behold what seemed to them a miraculous answer to their prayers for peace; and they listened, spell-bound, as the leader of the heathens bowed to the earth and said:—
"O king, may thy God of glory save thee! Our lord, Marsilius, doth send greeting to thee. Much hath he mused on thy Christian law, and now he hath determined to embrace it as his own. If it please thee to depart from the land of Spain, where too long thou hast tarried, King Marsilius will hasten after thee, and in thine own city of Aix, at Michaelmas, will receive Christian baptism and swear fealty to thy royal self forever. Our lord doth further say that, an so it please thee to hearken unto him, he will lay much of his wealth at thy feet. Bears and lions and dogs of chase will he send to thee; seven hundred camels that bend the knee, and a thousand hawks also. Four hundred mules laden with gold and silver such as fifty wains could scarce bear away shall be thine, so it please thee to depart, O king!"
The Frankish lords stood silent.
King Charlemagne, never hasty of speech, bent his hoary head in thought for many minutes. When he raised it again, a lofty look was on his face.
"Thou hast spoken well," he said, "but King Marsilius was ever a deadly foe to us. How may we know that his fair promises will not lack of fulfilment?"
"Hostages wilt thou, my lord?" cried the heathen. "Ten or twenty or more will I give thee,—mine own son the first. King Marsilius will come to redeem them, for he would fain be laved in the fountain of thy Christ."
"Yea, he may yet be saved!" cried the pious emperor. Then he caused good cheer to be made for the Saracen emissaries. Twelve servitors were detailed to attend their bidding, and they remained in the Christian camp till morning.
Now when the dawn came, Charlemagne arose and attended mass, as was his wont. Then he betook himself to the orchard, and again summoned his barons around him. He had pondered much during the hours of darkness, and was now determined to act as his lords advised.
A goodly company they gathered about him—Archbishop Turpin, the warlike churchman, Duke Ogier bold, and Richard the Old were close about the throne. Gerien and Gerier, brothers-in-arms, were there, and Roland and his faithful Oliver, and many other knights, including, alas! Count Ganelon.
Then Karl spoke to his barons concerning the offer of the Saracen king. He reviewed the rich promises of Marsilius, and reminded the Christian company of the heathen king's desire to be baptized, adding, however,
"I know not what may lie in his heart." When he had ceased speaking, there arose a warning cry from the Franks—
Scarcely was the word repeated when Count Roland came forward and faced his uncle.
"Believe not this Marsilius!" he cried. "For full seven years we have warred in Spain, and he hath been ever a traitor. Hast thou forgot the time when he sent unto thee fifteen of his heathen bearing olive boughs of peace and speaking flattering words, as now? Hast thou forgot that when thou didst hearken unto his words and send two of thy chiefest knights to treat with him, he did cause their heads to be stricken off? War! I say. End as you began. Besiege him in Saragossa!"
Roland ceased, and the Franks were silent; but every eye was bent on him as he stood in his youthful pride before the emperor. Right well beloved was he among his people, for many a brave city had gone down before him. There was not his peer for courage and spirit in all the Frankish hosts, except, perhaps, the gentle Oliver. The emperor bent his head and mused. Suddenly Count Ganelon sprang to his feet.
"Be not misled by me or others!" he cried, addressing the emperor. "Look to thine own interest, my lord. King Marsilius assures thee of his faith. He will be thy vassal, and receive thy Christian law even as ourselves. Who counsels thee against this treaty cares not what death we die. Good does not come from counsel of pride, my lord; list to wisdom, and let madmen be."
Then the white-haired and reverend Duke of Naimes arose; there was than he no better vassal in all France.
"My King," he said in deepest reverence, "well hath Count Ganelon made reply. King Marsilius is broken and beaten in battle. Thou hast captured his castles and shattered his walls; thou hast burned his cities and slain his soldiers; it were a sin to molest him further. Receive the hostages he offers, and send him in return one of thy Christian knights to arrange terms of peace with him. It is time this war were closed."
"The duke hath spoken well!" the Franks exclaimed. The emperor paused, then said, at length,
"Who, then, amongst you were best to take this mission?"
"I," said the duke, quickly. "I pray thee yield me thy royal grace."
"Nay," answered King Karl; "thou art my wisest counsellor. By my beard I swear thou shalt not depart from my side."
"I," cried Count Roland, "will go right gladly."
"Not so," said Oliver; "thou art too fiery to play such perilous part. I shall go myself, if the king so will."
"Silence, I command ye both!" said the king. "Neither of you shall perform this errand." Then he commanded his knights to make a choice from among their number for the perilous journey.
Again Roland spoke:
"Be it, then, my step-sire, Ganelon. In vain will ye seek for a meeter man."
Instantly the Franks echoed Roland's choice, crying,
"So it please the king, it is right and just!"
Ganelon heard, and his rage against Roland was fierce indeed. He flung his mantle from him, and faced the younger knight in a mighty wrath.
"Thou madman!" he cried. "What meaneth this rage against me? I am thy step-sire, and thou doomest me to danger like this! So God my safe return bestow, I promise to work thee ill as long as thou hast the breath of life." Then Roland answered him haughtily—
"Am I known to reck of the threats of men? But this is work for the sagest. So it please the king, I will go in thy stead."
At this, Count Ganelon's anger was deep and bitter indeed; and he spurned the insulting offer of his step-son to go in his stead, after which he turned to King Karl, saying,
"O righteous emperor! I stand ready to execute thy high command."
Then the emperor bade him go to King Marsilius with the terms of peace, which were that he, the Moslem, was to hold half of Spain in vassalage to Charlemagne; that the other half of the conquered territory was to be ruled by the emperor's well-beloved Roland; and that Marsilius was to journey to France at Michaelmas and receive Christian baptism.
Bitter indeed it was to Count Ganelon that his enemy should thus profit by the perilous service to which he himself had been thus condemned, but he was too proud to retreat in the face of danger.
Now, when all was arranged, the emperor handed Ganelon a missive to Marsilius; he gave the count his right-hand glove also, in token of the high authority with which he vested him.
As the count bent low to receive his commission, the emperor's glove dropped to the ground, and the startled Franks whispered to one another:
"God! What is this? Evil will come of this quest." But it was treated as an accident, and Ganelon passed on his journey.
And on that journey he held deep and evil converse with the heathen concerning Roland and his overweening pride.
Now when the Saracen emissaries were returned to Saragossa, they stood before Marsilius, crying, "Mahomet save thee!" and presented Ganelon, who bore King Karl's answer.
When the Christian was summoned to speak, he gave his emperor's answer boldly. Marsilius listened in silence to the terms of treaty till Ganelon reached the part where Charlemagne declared that if his terms were rejected, he would besiege Saragossa, and bear Marsilius captive to France, there to die a "villainous death of shame." At this Marsilius was sorely enraged, and, forgetting how serious were his straits, sprang from his throne, and would have dealt death to the Christian had not his wise nobles interposed and persuaded him to temper his wrath with judgment.
When Marsilius was pacified, Ganelon was again asked for the terms of the treaty, and he again gave them as they had been intrusted to him. Much the heathen questioned him concerning King Karl, and he answered without fear, always praising his emperor; but when Marsilius desired of him the secret of Charlemagne's aggressive and warlike policy,—for the emperor was past the age when men are given over to ambition,—Ganelon assured him that Roland was the evil genius of the emperor, always urging him to greater deeds of violence, always inciting him to greater heights of power.
The wily heathen put the question several times, in as many forms, but Ganelon's answer was always the same,—Roland ruled the emperor, and as long as Roland lived, so long would Charlemagne slay and oppress. And he ended significantly,—
"Whoso shall bring death to Roland shall wring from Karl his greatest strength; he shall see the marvelous hosts of Franks melt away and leave this mighty land at peace."
Then villainous heathen and treacherous Christian devised there a plan by which the gallant Roland was to suffer death, and the Frankish power in Spain was to be forever destroyed. It was Ganelon's evil brain that conceived the plot; it was the heathen, Marsilius, who was to execute it.
By his own terms of treaty, Charlemagne agreed to withdraw his Franks from Spain; and to do this, it would be necessary for him to lead them through a deep and narrow defile in the Pyrenees Mountains. Ganelon knew full well that the emperor would intrust the rear-guard of his army in the retreat to none but his valiant Roland, for there would be great danger of the treacherous Moslems' falling upon the rear and dealing slaughter among the retiring hosts. This fact Ganelon pointed out to the Saracen king, and he undertook to have Roland placed in the rear-guard of the Franks. He suggested that the Moslem hosts be massed together in overwhelming numbers, ready to make a sudden descent upon the rear-guard when Karl should be too far in front to save them.
Marsilius agreed eagerly, and in his joy at the thought of revenge, he fell upon Ganelon's neck and kissed him. Then he bade his attendants bring royal gifts, which he bestowed upon the traitor; after which they both took a solemn oath to compass the fall of Roland,—Ganelon swearing by the cross on his sword-hilt, and Marsilius by the Koran, the sacred book of the Mohammedans.
The joyful Moslems closed around Ganelon, and he pledged them Roland's death with many kisses, receiving from them costly gifts and great riches. Then Marsilius made ready the riches he had promised to Charlemagne, and sent them and twenty hostages, with Ganelon, to the emperor.
So Count Ganelon came back to his emperor with treason in his heart and a lie on his lips, and "Charles the Great" believed him.
Then all was astir in the Frankish camps; a thousand bugles sounded retreat, and a hundred thousand faces were turned toward France and home. There was eager joy in the Christian ranks that day, and the mighty Karl sighed with relief,—
"My wars are done."
But the ambitious and fiery Roland was ill-satisfied, and Count Ganelon carried in his breast fiendish hatred and jealousy.
From the nature of the country, and the plan of the march homeward, it was plain to all that the rear of the army was the position most exposed to danger; so it was of great concern to Charlemagne who should be left to guard it. As was his custom in matters of great import, the emperor took counsel with his knights as to who should be left to command the rear-guard, and before any one else could speak, Count Ganelon answered,—
"My liege, on my step-son let thy royal choice fall. Knight like him thou hast none beside."
Roland heard, and he knew full well the deep hatred that prompted the count's reply, but he made answer in full knightly fashion,—
"Sir step-sire, I thank thee that thou hast named me for this trust, and I do assure thee that if King Karl lose aught in this retreat, our swords shall tell the reason."
So it was settled as Ganelon and the Saracen king had schemed,—Roland, the first of Charlemagne's peers and the darling of the emperor's heart, was left to guard the rear of the retiring hosts; and the heathen, silently, and by thousands and tens of thousands, were massing together,—watchful, alert.
Count Roland hastened to make him ready. He donned a suit of peerless armor, and hung his flower-emblazoned shield about his neck. Girt at his side was his matchless "Durindana,"—the blade that had been given to Charlemagne by an angel, who told the emperor that it must be the sword of a valorous captain. Thus arrayed and armed, with the gold fringe of his white pennon floating over his shoulders, Roland rode out on his fiery "Veillantif"; and his men, as with one voice, exclaimed,—
"We will follow thee!"
The ones who followed him were the flower of the Frankish army,—twenty thousand picked men. First chosen of all was Oliver, and among the others was the valorous Archbishop Turpin.
Then right cautiously the van-guard began the homeward march. Beyond the Pyrenees lay their well-beloved France; and they pressed on toward her vine-clad provinces, but with anxious thoughts of the rear-guard, leagues behind, between them and the Moslem hosts. The way to home and loved ones lay through the Vale of Roncesvalles. This vale was a long and narrow defile in the mountains, through which the army was obliged to march in a scattered and dismembered way; and so it was that Karl and the van had already gained France, while the beloved Roland and his chosen followers were just entering the pass of Roncesvalles.
Now Charlemagne knew full well where the danger lay, and he was grievously concerned for his sister's son. Moreover, on the night before, he had dreamed a dream, in which he beheld a vision, symbolizing the treachery of Ganelon. But it was not a time to hearken to the misgivings of his heart, and the emperor pressed on, solacing himself with the thought that his best and bravest were behind with the rear-guard.
From far over the marches of Spain the heathen hosts were gathering. Swiftly, surely, their serried ranks were closing in on the Christian band. Mountain, plain, and valley glittered red with their burnished arms, as on their light Arab steeds they swept like the wind of the desert on Roland's track. And as the rear-guard of the Christian army rode into the deep defile of Roncesvalles, the Saracen bugles rang out a challenge from the far distance.
Now Oliver, though brave as any of King Karl's peers, was wise enough to recognize danger and to fear it. The sound of the war-trumpet brought him at once to Roland's side, and he said,—
"Sir Comrade, there is battle at hand with the heathen!"
But Roland lacked wisdom, and exclaimed with his usual pride,—
"God grant it may be so! Let us be strong for mighty blows, lest songs of scorn be sung against us. No craven part shalt thou see me fill this day."
Oliver was not so anxious for an encounter with the enemy, and he hastily climbed to a high point to get some idea of their numbers. Far over the plain his eye could reach, and he was bewildered and dismayed by the sight before him. Greater far than he had reckoned were the Paynim hosts, and many times more ominous was their battle-array. One long look at their serried, glittering masses, and he hastened down to Roland.
"My comrade," urged he, "I have seen the enemy, and never on earth did such host appear. I pray thee, sound thy horn, that Karl may hear and return to our succor." But Roland answered:
"Such deed were madness! Lost in France would be my glory. My good sword shall seal the felons' fate."
"Nay, Roland, sound on thine ivory horn, that Karl may bend his legions back and lend us aid," exclaimed his wise companion. In vain he pleaded.
Nearer and nearer the Moslems swept, and Oliver exclaimed in reproach,—
"See, comrade, see how close are they, and help, alas, how far! The rear-guard will make their last brave stand this day!"
But Roland was drunk with the joy of battle and cried,—
"My friend, my brother, my Oliver, the emperor hath left us here his bravest. Full twenty-thousand men he gave to us, and among them no coward heart. I shall so strike with this matchless blade that he who wears it when I lie dead shall say, ''Twas the sword of a valorous captain.'"
The time was all too short—the Moslems were almost upon them. Archbishop Turpin, seeing their straits, spurred his horse to a jutting crag, and addressed the men. There was silence among the Franks as the voice of the beloved churchman rang through the hollow pass:
"Barons, we are here for our emperor's sake; strike we for him, though death be our portion." He stretched out his arms above them, and the Franks alighted and knelt on the ground, crying, "Mea culpa!" Then he assoiled them and blessed them, giving them for penance, to smite their best.
The next instant the storm of battle broke, and Paynim and Christian closed in the death-struggle, each hoping, believing, to find in the blood of the other his passport into Paradise; each with the name of God on his lips.
Well might the emperor bow his white head in woful fear, though the blue skies of his native France were smiling above him. Death stalked triumphant at Roncesvalles, and Frank and Saracen yielded him tribute till the pass was covered with the dying and the dead.
If only King Karl could have seen his knights that day, the glory of the sight would have blotted out its tragedy. Roland was proud, but there was none braver than he; and he flung himself upon the enemies of his king, his country, and his God with a fierce courage that none might withstand. Wherever his splendid form was seen, his followers greeted him with loud acclaim, and he cheered them on with their emperor's battle-cry,—"Montjoie, Saint Denis!"
No less courageous was his dear comrade. But no fierce joy impelled Oliver to the great deeds that he performed. He saw his duty, and met it like a true knight.
Nor were the ten others of the emperor's peers less zealous in his cause. Each gave his all for Charlemagne; and if that all was less than the mighty Roland gave, it was not the fault of the knight who pledged it.
Conspicuous in the fight was the great archbishop,—here blessing and assoiling according to his holy office; there rushing to the charge like the warrior that nature had made him, crying,—
"Strike, barons! Remember your chivalry!"
But not to the Franks alone belong all the glory and all the praise. The Moslem hosts that opposed them were "worthy of their steel,"—equally zealous in their own cause, equally certain of the approval of God.
Wilder and fiercer grew the strife, and Paynim and Christian mingled together in dire confusion. At length the Moslem ranks wavered for an instant, gave back a little, and then broke in panic. And a pitiful remnant of the mighty host of King Marsilius fled from the field, leaving slain in the pass the great body of that once proud army. But even this remnant did not escape, for they were followed by the Christians; and only one, wounded and bleeding, escaped to tell King Marsilius the story of his woful loss.
Nearly an hundred thousand Moslems lay dead in the pass of Roncesvalles. But they had sold their lives full dearly. Beneath, above, and beside them were piled the flower of the Frankish army—Christian and Paynim, asleep on one mother's breast, unheedful alike of triumph and defeat.
In spite of the fact that theirs had been the places of greatest danger all through the battle, Roland and Oliver and the good archbishop had escaped unhurt; and they and their comrades betook them to the sad duty of searching the bloody field for their best-beloved dead. Long they had wandered thus among the dead and dying, when a mighty blast of trumpets smote on their ears.
"O God, our Father, what straits are ours!" they cried, as looking up they beheld in the distance another Saracen host, greater by far than the one they had crushed, bearing down upon them.
Now happened a thing most wondrous to tell. In far-away France an awful darkness came down upon the land; a great whirlwind swept the face of the country; the rain fell, the earth rocked, and the thunder rolled along the sky. For a long time the darkness was unbroken, save when the lightning cleft the storm-clouds and gave to the scene a yet wilder fear. On all there came a mighty dread, and they deemed the end of the world at hand. They knew not that it was an augury of the fateful tragedy at the gates of Spain.
The lone heights about Roncesvalles had looked upon the Christian in his pride and triumph; now were they destined to behold another sight.
Like that awful storm-cloud, the heathen came down upon the Christian few, the thunder of hoof-beats waked the echoes of Roncesvalles, and the hard earth reeled with the shock of arms.
The rear-guard made their last brave stand that day. Lance to lance and sword to sword, they held their own while there was yet life in them, and they achieved all but the impossible. Twice did the heathen swarms break and fly before the fierce onslaughts of the Christians, but twice, reinforced, they rushed to the attack again. Knight after knight went down before them,—Engelier, Duke Sampson, Anseis, Gerien, and Gerier! Where might the emperor find their like again?
At length only sixty of the Franks were left, pressed together by the Moslem thousands. Every man in that "marvelous little companie" knew that death that day would be his portion; but each was stanch and true, and was resolved to sell his life "full hardily."
As the once haughty Roland gazed on his slaughtered men and on the pitiful few who rallied around him in his last stand against the Moslem power, his heart smote him grievously for the ruin he had wrought, and he cried to his companion,—
"Would to God he had been with us—our emperor and friend! Speak, Oliver, and lend thy counsel. How may we yet send tidings to Karl?" But Oliver, in spite of his usual gentleness, was bitter against his friend, and he said mockingly,—
"'Such deed were madness; lost in France would be thy glory!'"
But Roland's anguish and humility were great, and he insisted,—
"I will sound upon my horn that Karl may hear."
"Nay," cried Oliver. "Wouldst thou call for aid?"
The broken-hearted Roland protested, but Oliver continued bitterly,—
"See how our Franks lie slain of thy madness, nevermore to render service to our emperor. Thou too shalt die, and forever shall France be dishonored!"
Thus, in face of death, did these two quarrel—they who had been dearer than all else to each other. The good archbishop heard their strife, and rebuked them sadly, saying,—
"Sir Roland, and thou, Sir Oliver, I pray ye, in the name of God, contend not. To wind the horn shall not avail to save us now. Yet were it meet to sound it, too; for Karl will return to avenge our fall, and bear our bodies back to gentle France to sleep in hallowed earth."
Then Roland sounded a mighty blast upon his horn,—so mighty that a vein in his temple burst with the effort, and the bright blood flowed from his lips. But the powerful strain, echoing and re-echoing along the hollow pass of Roncesvalles, came faintly to the ear of Karl, and told its tale of tragedy.
"It is Roland's horn," cried the white-haired emperor. "He had not blown it save in dire distress." Then, though the traitor, Ganelon, did all in his power to dissuade him, Charlemagne turned back along the mountain path toward Spain.
And even in that hour, though weakened by loss of blood, and heart-sick at the fate he had brought upon his comrades, Roland rushed to the fight once more,—fleeter, fiercer, and more terrible.
"Oh, Oliver, brother," he cried in his anguish, "I die of shame and grief if I escape unhurt!"
Deeper yet he pressed into the fight, and showered blows as only Roland could, driving the foe before him. But, alas! the heathen hosts were thick as the sands of their native deserts, and thousands upon thousands came to reinforce their wavering ranks. Then Roland cried,—
"Our hour of fate is come!" and even as he spoke, a villainous heathen bore down upon Sir Oliver and thrust him through with his lance.
"Sir Roland, Sir Comrade," the dying Oliver cried—for his anger against his friend had burned out—"ride near me still; our parting is at hand."
"O God, my gentle Oliver!" cried the anguished Roland, "is this the end of all thy valor? Ah, hapless France, bereft of thy bravest! Who shall measure thy loss!" His grief was greater than he could bear, and he swooned upon his charger's neck.
Now Sir Oliver's eyes were dimmed with bleeding, so that he knew not friend from foe; and soon, in the surge of battle, he mistook his swooning comrade for a Moslem, and dealt a fierce blow on Roland's golden crest. The stroke did naught but rouse his unconscious friend, for the arm of the dying Oliver had lost its wonted power.
"My comrade," said Roland, softly, "didst thou strike me knowingly? I am Roland, who loves thee so dearly."
And Oliver answered,—
"Have I struck thee, brother? Forgive it me. I hear thee, but I see thee not." Then Roland pressed closer to him, saying,—
"I am not hurt, my Oliver."
Then Oliver alighted from his horse, and couching upon the red earth, cried aloud his Mea Culpa. Then passed his gentle spirit to Paradise; and Roland cried in his anguish,—
"Since thou art dead, to live is pain!"
But life and pain were Roland's for yet a little space, and he had need to bear him to the end a cavalier. Rousing himself from his grief, he beheld about him a mere handful of the sixty he had counted last, each fighting "as if knight there were none beside"; so, grasping Durindana, he pressed into the strife. The next instant he beheld the good archbishop flung to the ground from a dying charger. But Turpin was on his feet almost instantly; and though he bore four lance-wounds in his body, he raised his sword on high and ran to the side of Roland, crying,—
"I am not defeated! A brave soldier yields with life alone!" Then wreaked he such vengeance upon the heathen hordes that some say God wrought a miracle in his behalf.
If miracle of God there was, it was not granted to save the Christian few from destruction. In the last struggle, the valiant Turpin, wounded and afoot, and the matchless Roland faced the Moslem hosts alone.
Fled was Count Roland's pride and vanity. With certain death before him, his one thought was to summon Karl to vengeance, and to die like a cavalier. The pain in his brow, from the bursting of the vein, was growing more and more intense; not long, he knew, could his fainting spirit bide. Once again he raised his ivory horn to his lips, and sounded a call to the hosts of Charlemagne.
It was but a feeble strain, but on the north wind an answer came. Suddenly, along the pass, rang a peal of sixty thousand clarions, and the mountains caught up the strain and shouted it back again.
"King Karl! King Karl!" the echoes seemed to call to each other.
"Let us flee and save us!" cried the heathen. "These are the trumpets of France! Karl, the mighty emperor, is upon us!"
Never was heathen but trembled at that name. Aghast for one moment the hosts of the Moslem stood, then, like hunted things, they broke and fled from the field.
As the infidels gave way in dire panic, Count Roland called to the archbishop,—
"Let us give the heathen back their onset!" and he spurred his Veillantif after their flying numbers.
"Who spares to strike is base," answered the valiant churchman; and wounded though he was, he joined in the pursuit.
"Leave not this Roland alive!" cried one of the fleeing infidels; and he turned and flung his javelin at the Christian knight. A hundred Moslems at once followed his lead. Weapon after weapon was hurled upon the dauntless Roland; but though his armor was all broken, and his raiment frayed, his flesh remained unscathed. Veillantif, his noble charger, however, was slain under him, and fell to the ground, pierced by thirty wounds.
The heathen vanished; and Roland, unable to keep up on foot, was left alone on the field. His first thought was to succor the good archbishop, who had been grievously wounded in the fight, so he turned back and searched till he found the faithful Turpin.
"The field is thine, and God's the glory," was Turpin's greeting to him; and even as he spoke, his head drooped upon his breast, and his pious spirit passed away. So died the great Archbishop Turpin,—a champion ever of the Christian faith with word and weapon.
Noble and generous always, Roland had thought of his comrade first. Now, left alone, his thoughts turned upon himself, and he knew from the pain in his brow that his end was at hand. Karl and his legions were still some leagues away; he might not hope to meet his emperor again, but he desired much that Charlemagne should know that his Roland had died unconquered.
So he grasped his Durindana and his ivory horn, and recrossed the marches of Spain—as far as he had followed the fleeing heathen. There, on a mound, between two great trees, he laid him down to die. Yet was his spirit troubled, for he knew that if he died thus, his good sword might fall into unworthy and unknightly hands.
"Ah, my ill-starred blade!" he cried; "no longer may I be thy guardian. Yet never shalt thou know master who shall turn his face from mortal enemy."
So saying, he struggled to his feet, and essayed to shatter his blade upon a great rock. Many blows he smote with it, yet it broke not. Then Roland was sorely grieved. Once more he summoned his failing strength, and showered such mighty strokes upon the stone that the blade, unbroken still, was bent "past word to tell."
Then, for death was upon him, Roland laid him down in the shade of a pine. His sword and his horn he placed beneath his head, that Karl might know he had not surrendered. When this was done, he raised his right glove to heaven as a sign of repentance, and cried aloud,—
"O God, I do repent me of my sins, both great and small, from my natal hour to this day. Father, receive my soul!"
Saint Gabriel leaned from heaven, so the legend says, and took the raised glove from his hand.
And Karl, his emperor, came, and found him with his head upon his unsurrendered sword, and his face toward Spain.
* * * * *
The vengeance that Charlemagne wreaked upon the traitor, Ganelon, and upon the Moslems in Spain was unspeakably terrible.
It is touching to know, however, that Roland's lady-love—Oliver's gentle sister Alda—refused to be comforted when she heard of her lover's death. She died of a broken heart at the feet of Charlemagne, even as the emperor begged her to accept his own son in marriage, and thus become, in time, empress of all the Franks.
As warlike sons, with mighty deeds, Exalt the power of Rome; And Arthur deathless glory adds Unto his island home; As France will ever nobler seem Because of Charlemagne— So dost thou, ever-conquering Cid, Immortalize thy Spain!
Paraphrase of Latin epitaph, D. W. K.
THE CID RODRIGO DIAZ DE BIVAR
(1035-1099 A. D.)
In the eleventh century there lived in Castile a Spanish noble of high degree, called Diego Laynez. His family estates of Bivar lay near the city of Burgos, and in his castle there, Don Diego, when not in attendance upon the king, dwelt in the state befitting his rank and wealth. A stern and proud man was Don Diego, and justly renowned for his great valor in battle.
This knight had long desired an heir to his ancient name, and was happy beyond measure when his wish was gratified by the coming of a little son. The child was named Rodrigo, and soon grew to be a wonderfully strong and fearless youth. Doubtless Diego hoped that his son would become a valiant warrior, for fighting was then the chief business of life, and peaceful occupations were held in little esteem. In those days, a man was obliged to fight to defend life and property, and a brave knight, with only the help of his good sword, could win fame and fortune. But even the fond parents of Rodrigo could never have dreamed of the glory that awaited their son, who was to become the greatest warrior in all Spain, the delight and admiration and envy of every true Spanish knight.
It was a stormy age,—that in which the little Rodrigo lived. For three hundred years there had been almost constant warfare in Spain. Sometimes the Christians battled against the Moors, sometimes Christians against Christians, and Moors against Moors; but always there was conflict and struggle. And well was the son of Diego Laynez fitted for that rough age, as you shall see.
While still very young, Rodrigo showed a most independent spirit. Once he asked his godfather, the priest Don Pedro, to give him a colt, and the kind old man took him to the paddock and told him to choose one as the colts were driven slowly by. After all the finest had passed, a very ugly and mangy colt came ambling along, and Rodrigo called out,—
"This is the one for me!" His godfather, angry at a choice that seemed so foolish, exclaimed,—
"Booby, [Babieca] thou hast chosen ill!" but the boy, not at all abashed, laughed as he replied confidently,—
"This will be a good horse, and Booby shall be his name."
Time proved the boy to have shown excellent judgment, and Babieca became almost as famous as his master.
Not only self-reliance, but a fierce and warlike temper, was shown in the first youthful exploit of Rodrigo. His father Diego, when too old to bear arms, was grossly insulted by an enemy, the Count of Gormaz. Diego wept and raged at the insult put upon him and his inability to resent it. Moved deeply by his father's grief, Rodrigo determined to avenge the insult to the honor of his family.
Donning the discarded armor of Diego, the youth next took down from the wall an ancient sword. This treasured weapon had once belonged to a celebrated warrior, Mudarra, and with it that knight had avenged the death of his seven brothers. Buckling on the good blade, Rodrigo said,—
"O valiant sword! bethink thee that mine is Mudarra's arm! Thou hast now as great a wrong as his to right. Thou lackest thy great master's hand; yet never shalt thou see me turn my back on a foe. Thou shalt find me true as thy tempered steel, for thy second master, like thy first, was not born to yield. Should the foe overmaster me, not long will I endure the shame, but plunge thee straightway in my breast!"
Then Rodrigo sallied forth secretly from Bivar, and seeking the haughty count, challenged him to battle. Gormaz laughed him to scorn.
"Fight thee? Thou art mad, thou silly boy. Get thee hence, or thy skin shall suffer for thine insolence."
"Thou art no true knight," cried Rodrigo, "but a craven who dost insult old men! If thou fight me not, all Castile shall hear of thy shameful deed!" Many more deadly insults he added, until the enraged count consented to fight him, expecting an easy victory over the youth. But Rodrigo was strong as a man, and his deadly hate of the count added vigor to his arm. Though soon wounded and bleeding, he yet parried with skill the blows aimed at his heart, and finally, with one desperate effort, drove the sword of Mudarra through and through the body of Gormaz. The head of his fallen enemy Rodrigo carried home in triumph to the proud Diego. Thus did the youthful Ruy Diaz de Bivar avenge the wrongs of his father.
Soon after this combat with Gormaz, Rodrigo, while riding with some companions, unexpectedly met a band of Moors. These men were returning to Aragon from a thieving expedition into Castile, driving their captives and stolen cattle before them. Rodrigo and his friends fell upon this band with great fury and soon defeated the infidels; but the prisoners taken were generously set free by their youthful captor. Later, when Rodrigo went to the Saracen court of Saragossa, these Moors, in return for his kindness, gave him the title of Sidy, or Said,—an Arabic word, meaning lord, or my lord. In Spanish this became Cid; and as the Cid, Rodrigo is best known, though he has still another title, won in the following manner. In those days any knight who had suffered wrong at the hands of another, could, with the king's consent, challenge his enemy. Then, in the presence of the king and court, the two knights would fight on horseback until one was killed or acknowledged himself vanquished. The victor was deemed to have right on his side, and judgment was given accordingly. Sometimes either party to the quarrel was allowed to choose a substitute to fight for him. It was also the custom when hostile armies met, for the boldest warrior to challenge one of the enemy to come out and fight in single combat. Often, wars were decided by such a contest between two or more knights chosen from each army. By his wonderful success in many combats of this kind, Rodrigo won the title of Campeador, or Champion, and came to be called the Cid Campeador.
On his way to engage in one of these contests as a champion of the King of Castile, Rodrigo met with a marvelous adventure. He and his knights came upon a leper fallen into a ditch by the wayside, and calling upon the passers-by for help. Now, none would heed his call for fear of the terrible disease, with which the poor wayfarer was afflicted. But Rodrigo dismounted, pulled the leper out of the ditch, and placing him on Babieca, brought him to the inn where they were to lodge. Not another knight would come near the outcast, so Rodrigo, out of pure kindness, ate from the same dish with him, and afterwards had a bed prepared, in which they two slept together.
In the middle of the night, a cold blast seemed to strike through Rodrigo, and he waked and put out his hand to touch his bedfellow; but the leper was gone. The Cid called aloud; none answered. While Rodrigo was considering this strange thing, a man in white, shining garments appeared, and asked softly,—
"Sleepest thou, Rodrigo?"
"Nay, I am awake; but who art thou who bearest about thee so bright a light and so sweet a smell?"
"I am Saint Lazarus," answered the vision, "and would have thee know that I am that leper to whom thou didst show such kindness for the love of God. And for that deed, God bestows on thee this great boon,—that when the blast thou didst feel but now shall come upon thee, thou mayest undertake that on which thy heart is fixed, whether it be fighting or other matters, and it shall go well with thee. For never shalt thou be conquered, but ever victorious; for God grants thee His blessing. So rest thee well and do ever the right." And so Rodrigo prayed until morning, and then went on his way rejoicing.
Meanwhile the day came, on which the combat was to be fought between the Cid and a knight of Aragon, to decide whether the city of Calahorra should belong to the King of Castile or the King of Aragon. The two kings, with a splendid company of nobles, had taken places to watch the combat, the lists were all prepared, and the heralds stood ready to give the signal; but the Cid did not appear. Very uneasy was King Fernando at the absence of his champion. A cousin of the tardy knight offered to take his place, and was about to mount and enter the lists, when the Cid came spurring up in hot haste. Leaping from his tired horse, he sprang upon the steed that stood ready, and, wasting no time in words, lowered his lance and charged fiercely on his waiting adversary. The two met with a shock that shivered the lances. Both knights were badly wounded, but they drew their swords and prepared to fight on. The knight of Aragon now thought to frighten the Cid, and exclaimed boastfully,—
"Right sorely shalt thou rue that thou hast come into this place with me, for never shalt thou return alive to Castile!"
But Rodrigo was not at all troubled by the threat.
"Don Martin Gonzales," he replied coolly, "thou art a good knight, but such words befit not this place. We must fight with our hands, and not with empty words." And grasping his sword, he suddenly brought it down on the helmet of his foe with such tremendous force that it wellnigh drove the head of Gonzales down to the neck of his steed. The knight of Aragon, however, was a stout fighter, and rallying from the shock, he dealt a blow that cut through the edge of the Cid's shield. So firmly fixed was the sword that, when drawn back, it brought the shield with it. Enraged at this loss, the Cid cut his adversary fiercely across the face; but Gonzales, though bleeding copiously, still fought on bravely. Only after a long, fierce fight did the Champion unhorse and slay this valiant knight. Then the umpires announced that the Cid had conquered, and so won the good city of Calahorra for his king.
After this Rodrigo did such valiant service to King Fernando at the siege of Coimbra, a city of Portugal, that he was there formally dubbed a knight. The ceremony took place in the principal mosque of the captured city. In order to do the hero signal honor, the king kissed him, the queen girt on his sword, and the Princess Urraca buckled on his golden spurs.
In many battles against the Moors the Cid fought valiantly with King Fernando, whose ambition it was to win back all Spain from the infidels.
When Fernando died, he unwisely left his territory to be divided among his five children. This led to much jealousy, and Sancho, the eldest son, was greatly aggrieved, because he thought the entire kingdom should have been his. So it was not long after Fernando's death before war broke out between Sancho, King of Castile, and his brothers.
Sancho soon defeated the youngest brother, Garcia, and seized his Kingdom of Galicia. This conquest was due mainly to the wonderful valor of Rodrigo, who now "waxed great and became a mighty man of war, and Campeador at the court of King Don Sancho."
Sancho now demanded that Alfonso give up the Kingdom of Leon. The brothers finally agreed that a battle should be fought between their respective armies, the crown of Leon to belong to the king whose army should be victorious. When this combat took place, Alfonso conquered Sancho, and drove the Castilian army from the field. Supposing the matter settled, the triumphant Alfonso did not pursue the fugitives, but returned to his camp rejoicing.
King Sancho, fleeing from the field, saw with joy the green banner of the Cid in the distance. When the two met, Rodrigo persuaded the king to renew the fight at dawn, assuring him that he could then take the enemy by surprise.
"The Galicians and Leonese," said the cunning Cid, "are given to much talking, and at this moment they are with the King Don Alfonso their lord, boasting of what they have done, for they love big words. If it be God's will, their joy of to-day shall be turned to grief, and if it please Him, sir, you shall regain honor." Now it befell as the Cid had hoped. In the early morning, while the troops of Alfonso were stupid from their night of feasting and drinking, the Cid attacked and routed them completely. During the battle, King Sancho was captured, and was being carried off by thirteen knights, when the Cid rushed to his help with no weapon but a broken lance. He offered to exchange Alfonso, captured by his men, for Sancho, and upon refusal, the Champion cried wrathfully, "Give me but one of your lances, and I alone, against the thirteen of you, will quit my lord of you!"
The Leonese knights laughed him to scorn, and in sport threw him a lance. Thereupon he fell upon them suddenly, slew eleven, put the others to flight, and rode back in triumph with his rescued king.
Elated by this victory, King Sancho now determined that his sister Urraca should yield him her strong city of Zamora; but thinking to gain it without force, he asked the Cid to go as his messenger and urge her to peaceably surrender the city. This he did because he knew his sister had long loved the Cid. The Cid, who held the princess dear for her friendship to him, though he loved her not, replied to the king's request,—
"Sir, it is not for me to carry such a message, seeing that I was reared with Dona Urraca, in the same house of Arias Gonzalo, and would not willingly do her a wrong."
However, when the king pointed out that the Cid might thus prevent a bloody conflict, he consented to undertake the unpleasant mission. With fifteen knights he passed into the city, and was gladly received by Urraca at the entrance of the palace. Together they went into the splendid hall of audience, and the princess right graciously bade the Cid be seated with her. Then she asked,—
"I pray thee, Don Rodrigo, tell me wherefore is this great army encamped outside my walls? Is my brother Sancho going to make war upon Moors or Christians, and of what state?"
"Dona Urraca," replied the Cid, gravely, "thou knowest that as a herald I am come hither, and whether my message please thee or not, yet ought I to suffer no insult nor wrong."
"Yea," answered Urraca, quickly; "and thou knowest well, Don Rodrigo, that I wish thee no harm, so speak out boldly. Perhaps my loving brother only needs some aid of mine to go against the Moors. Gladly will I lend him fifteen lances fully equipped, even though it be for ten years."
Now the Cid flushed red at the mocking tones of the princess and spoke with difficulty, though still calmly,—
"I am but a messenger, princess. The king, thy brother, bids me speak thus: he needs this city Zamora for a defence against his enemies. Nor should so great a stronghold be in the hands of a woman. He will give thee for it money or lands or another city. But if thou dost refuse, he will, without delay, take Zamora from thee by force of arms." Then tears of indignation and rage came into the eyes of the princess.
"I call on God," she cried, "and all these noble knights here present to bear witness that Sancho again seeks to make naught our father's will! He hath taken away their inheritance from Garcia and Alfonso, and now he would rob me of the city my father gave me. Well hath Sancho merited our father's curse upon the son who should disobey his will! Let him beware lest he die by violence, or by treachery like his own!" The counsellors of the princess, troubled at this rash speech, besought her to be calm, and at last persuaded her to call together the townsmen and hold council with them.
When assembled, all the chief men of Zamora loyally promised to aid the princess in defending the city, and swore not to forsake her until death. Then the proud Urraca, turning to the Cid, cried impetuously,—
"Does it not shame thee, O Cid, that all these are willing to die for me, while thou who wast my playfellow in youth hast come hither to take away mine inheritance?" The Cid answered not, but his face turned yet more ruddy, and he raised not his eyes from the floor.
"Truly a noble thing for the great Cid Ruy Diaz,—to make war against a woman!" went on the angry princess; then with a burst of noble frankness, "And well thou knowest that the woman once loved thee, Rodrigo! Ay, thou mayest boast that the Princess Urraca once gave thee her heart; but the Cid whom Urraca loved drew not his sword against a woman. Begone, Don Rodrigo de Bivar; I would not look longer upon thy face! Tell thy robber king that never will I yield to a false traitor the city my father gave me! Sooner will I die with these true men than give up Zamora!"
Silent and ashamed, the Cid withdrew. Fain would the knight have served the fair princess, the friend of his youth, but fealty to his king forbade.
When King Sancho received Urraca's defiance, he flew into a terrific rage, and accused the Cid of having counselled the resistance of the princess because of love for her. Not a word of explanation would he hear, but straightway banished the Cid from the kingdom. Rodrigo was highly enraged at the injustice of the king whom he had served so faithfully, even to the sacrifice of Urraca's cherished friendship. But in silence, though pale and defiant, he heard his sentence. Then crying,—
"Never, ungrateful king, shalt thou find a vassal like Rodrigo, and humbly, Don Sancho, shalt thou beg him to return!" the Champion strode from the kingly presence and rode away from Castile. So true was the Cid's proud boast, that only a short time elapsed before King Sancho, realizing the value of the banished warrior, entreated him to return to Castile. The insulted Champion, after receiving an humble apology from the king and the position of governor of the royal household, consented to return.
Now, in spite of his friendship for Urraca, the Cid continued the siege of Zamora with great vigor and zeal, for loyalty to his king compelled hostility to the princess, and the memory of her bitter scorn rankled in his heart.
But long the city held out, though the people were suffering greatly with famine and disease. At last a pretended traitor, Bellido Dolfos, offered to deliver the city into the hands of Sancho. While riding along with the king, under pretence of pointing out the gate whereby the troops might enter Zamora, this lying wretch stabbed the unsuspecting Sancho through and through with his own royal golden spear, given by the king to the knave to carry. Bellido then fled fast to the city. On the way he was seen by the Cid, who called to the flying horseman to stop, though knowing nothing of his crime. The villain only rode the faster, hotly pursued by Rodrigo, who now suspected something wrong. Just as the Cid was about to overtake the fugitive, he darted through the gate of Zamora and escaped. Rodrigo, riding back, discovered the dead body of his king, and was sorely grieved that he had not captured the murderer.
By the death of King Sancho, his brother Alfonso, driven into exile after his defeat, and then living among the Moors at Saragossa, fell heir to the throne. But many great nobles of the kingdom believed that Alfonso and Urraca had planned the murder of Sancho, and so they were unwilling to acknowledge a murderer as their king.
When these nobles were called upon to do homage to Alfonso, the Cid—for none other dared to be so bold—said to the king,—
"Sir, all here do suspect that you did contrive the murder of your brother, King Don Sancho. Therefore, I declare to you that until you clear yourself by oath, never will I or these nobles kiss your hand or receive you as lord."
The king flushed with anger, but he replied meekly,—
"I swear to God and Saint Mary that I did not kill Sancho or counsel his death, though he had stolen my kingdom. Advise me, therefore, how I may clear myself of this matter."
Then the nobles decided that the king and twelve of his knights who had been with him in exile at Toledo should in public swear solemnly to his innocence. So on the day appointed, the king appeared before the high altar of the church at Burgos; and the Cid, in presence of the nobles of the kingdom, placed the book of the Gospels on the altar and said,—
"King Don Alfonso, you are come hither to swear that you had no part in the death of the King Don Sancho; and if you swear falsely, may God slay you by the hand of your own vassal, even as Don Sancho was slain."
"Amen!" said Alfonso, though he turned very pale. Again the Cid spoke,—
"King Don Alfonso, you are here to swear that neither did you order the King Don Sancho to be slain; and if you swear falsely, may a traitor slay you even as the traitor Bellido slew Don Sancho."
Again Alfonso replied, "Amen!" but he grew yet paler with rage and shame at this second oath required of him. When the twelve knights had taken a similar oath, the nobles were satisfied of Alfonso's innocence; and all swore fealty to him as king. But when the Cid took the oath of loyalty and stooped to kiss the hand of Alfonso, the humiliated and resentful king drew away his hand, and would not permit the act of homage.
Small wonder that after being forced to undergo this mortification, the king "hated the Cid, in spite of his valor." Yet either from fear or through policy, Alfonso treated Rodrigo with great honor. On one occasion, the Champion came to court, and was invited by King Alfonso to sit with him. When Rodrigo modestly refused the proffered honor, the king said,—
"Since you will not sit with me, sit on your ivory seat, for you won it like a good man. From this day I order that none save king or prelate sit with you; for you have conquered so many high-born men and so many kings that for this reason there is none worthy to sit with you, or none who is your peer. Sit, therefore, like a king and lord on your ivory seat."
The honor in which Rodrigo was held is shown by the fact that he married a cousin of the king, Ximena,—daughter of the Count of Oviedo, a powerful noble. Doubtless it was his love for the beautiful Ximena that rendered the Cid so indifferent to the affection of Princess Urraca. Most dearly and tenderly he loved Ximena, and after his marriage to her, gave up warfare for many years, and lived in peace and tranquil happiness near Burgos. During this quiet period, the Cid fought only a few single combats as champion of the king. By these he gained even greater glory, for, as promised by good Saint Lazarus, he was never overcome, but ever victorious. Because of this good fortune, the old ballads sing of Rodrigo as, "He who was born in happy hour."
But the king loved not the Cid, and finally, accusing him falsely of treachery, banished the Champion from the kingdom. The Cid, who was poor at this time, devised a trick to get money for the journey. He made ready two great chests covered with crimson leather and studded with gilt nails, and filled them with sand. Then, sending for two Jews, money-lenders, he offered to pawn the chests, saying they were full of refined gold taken from the Moors; but that he feared to dispose of them openly, because Alfonso, who had accused him of having taken tribute-money belonging to the crown, would certainly seize the treasure. He made the condition that the chests be not opened for a year, but if not redeemed at the end of that time, should become the property of the Jews. They fell into the trap, and giving the Cid six hundred marks, carried off the chests, rejoicing at the great treasure that would surely become theirs, for they believed that the owner would be in exile many years. When, at the end of the twelve months, they discovered the fraud that had been practised upon them, great was their wrath.
But on the return of the Cid from exile, he repaid the Jews in full. An old chest preserved in the cathedral of Burgos is said to be one of these coffers of the Cid.
Twice was Rodrigo recalled from exile by the king, who needed him sadly in the fierce war for the possession of Spain, that had now broken out afresh between the Christians and Mohammedans.
Finally the Cid, when banished once more, renounced his allegiance to Alfonso, and made war upon his former lord, carrying fire and sword into Castile. Thus the Champion became a free lance, making war for gain upon whom he pleased, and serving any prince, Christian or Mohammedan, who made it worth his while. This conduct cannot be admired, but we must not judge the Cid as we would a hero of our own times. In his day the standard of conduct was very different, and even the best men frequently committed deeds that shock us unspeakably. It was an age of violence and fraud. To make war upon your neighbor, with or without good cause, was thought to be worthy of all praise, especially if you conquered him. Might made right; and as the Cid was always victorious, he received little or no blame for acts that we should consider cruel or treacherous, but won great admiration and renown by his courage, boldness, and marvelous skill in warfare.
The poets of that day delight in relating the various exploits of the Cid. In a celebrated battle with Count Berenger, Rodrigo captured a vast store of treasure, and many swords made in olden days. Among these was the wonderful blade, Colada, worth a thousand marks in silver. With this weapon, he afterwards slew many score of enemies in battle.
But the crowning glory of the Cid's adventurous life was the capture of Valencia. This splendid city, on the east coast of Spain, was besieged by him for many months. At length, the city fell into such straits that, in the words of the old chronicler, "the inhabitants counted themselves as dead men, and walked through the streets as though they were drunken. They understood not the words of one another, and lost all of their memory, even as a man who falls into the waves of the sea. Then came the Christians up to the walls, and called aloud in words of thunder, making mockery of them, and threatening them, and saying: 'False traitors and renegades, give up your city to the Cid, Ruy Diaz, for ye cannot save it!' And the Moors remained silent, so great was their grief and despair."
A famous poem, the "Dirge of Valencia," composed by one of its Arab inhabitants during the siege, gives us a picture of the wretched state of the once beautiful city.
"Valencia! Valencia! many troubles are come upon thee, and in such peril art thou set that, if thou escape, the wonder will be great among all that behold thee.
"Thy lofty towers and beautiful, which gleamed from afar and comforted the hearts of the people, are falling piece by piece.
"Thy white bulwarks which shewed so fair in the distance have lost the beauty whereby they shone so brightly in the beams of the sun.
"Thy famous and delightful gardens that are round about thee, the ravening wolf has torn up their roots and they give no fruits."