Part 7 out of 7
precious of gems, slowly moved down to the strand, while Kriemhild
followed, attended by Siegfried.
As Gunther and his bride stepped from the boat, Kriemhild was first to
greet the Queen. "Welcome to Burgundy, sweet Brunhild. May you dwell
among us so content that regret for Issland will never trouble you,"
she cried. Then taking Brunhild's hand she kissed her with gracious
good will. Queen Uta likewise made known her gladness in receiving the
hard-won bride of Gunther. For days thereafter all the court, with the
knights and ladies gathered from every part of that realm, made merry
continually, and never was a time more memorable for chivalrous deeds
and giving of costly gifts.
On the evening of Gunther's arrival, as the guests were assembling at
a feast, Siegfried recalled to the King the terms of their compact:
"Brunhild is now yours. Have you forgotten that you promised me the
hand of the lady Kriemhild?"
"That have I not, good Siegfried," replied the King, and he at once
sent for his sister.
Then in the presence of all the great company, Gunther, taking
Kriemhild's hand, said: "Fair sister, many days ago I promised you in
marriage to one of the noblest knights that ever served our land of
Burgundy. I ask now that you accept his, love and thus fulfill my
"It is my part to obey you in all things, my brother," replied
Kriemhild, with downcast eyes. "I shall as gladly do your bidding now
as always in the past."
How all the beholders marveled at the gentleness and beauty of the
princess, as with blushes she was led to Siegfried's side. Never had a
brave and loyal friend been rewarded with a greater measure of joy
than was Siegfried's then.
Gunther, however, had won a bride to whom such modest, docile ways
were quite unknown. Brunhild's pride had not been conquered, and her
cheeks would sometimes flush with anger as she recalled that the fame
of her peerless strength was no longer glorious and that she was now
subject to another's will. As the days passed on, these thoughts so
vexed her that she could not bear the shame of her defeat, and she
began to treat the King with scorn.
Thus provoked on one occasion, he would have shown her that he was
master in that realm, when Brunhild, leaping upon him, tied his feet
and hands together with a girdle that she wore about her waist, and
suspended him from a nail projecting from the wall. In vain did
Gunther struggle against her strength. He must hang upon the wall
until, weak and exhausted, he begged her to release him, promising
never again to offend her. However, Gunther could not forget this
daring insult to his kingly authority, and he went moodily about the
palace for the rest of the day.
Noticing his gloom, Siegfried exclaimed: "What troubles you, King
Gunther? Surely your looks ill become this merry season."
"Perhaps if you had a wife who could tie you up and hang you upon the
wall until you promised to do her bidding, you would not be so
cheerful either," grumbled the King in return.
"Aha," laughed Siegfried, "so that is what the fair lady has been up
to, is it? Well, I think that for such waywardness we can try the same
remedy that saved us from her power in Issland. Just call upon me the
next time that trouble arises and we will subdue the proud Brunhild
once for all."
And so it chanced that with the help of the tarnkappe, Siegfried, all
unseen, overcame the Queen in a mighty struggle that had been brought
on by some show of authority on Gunther's part. At this time he
wrested from her the magic ring and girdle that were the source of all
her strength, and ever afterward there was peace in Gunther's
It was not long before Siegfried with his bride returned to his home
in Netherland, and was made king of that realm by his father Siegmund.
No less brave and generous was he as a ruler than as a knight, and the
years sped on in high prosperity for all the kingdom. But envy was at
work, and all too soon was Siegfried's good fortune brought to an end.
In the court of Burgundy Brunhild remained ill content. She could not
understand why it was that if Siegfried was Gunther's subject, as he
had declared himself to be when in Issland, he did not yield the
obedience and service of a subject. As Gunther could not well explain
Siegfried's deception and make known that the Netherlander was not
indeed a vassal, he evaded Brunhild's questions. But the Queen was
persistent, for it vexed her that Siegfried and his lady offered no
homage at the court of Burgundy. At length one day she entreated the
King: "Since you are unwilling to require a vassal's service of the
King of Netherland, at least invite him to pay a visit to our court.
Many years have passed since I have seen your sister Kriemhild, and I
would be most glad to renew my friendship with her."
Thus it came about that Siegfried and Kriemhild were bidden to visit
Burgundy and in the course of a few months journeyed thither. The
merriest of entertainment was provided, and Gunther and his queen were
so lavish of their kindness that never would one have suspected
Brunhild's deeply burning resentment. All at once, however, her ill
feeling flamed into uncontrollable fury and brought about the
sorrowful deed that ever afterward dimmed the fair honor of Burgundy.
Shortly before the vesper service in the cathedral the two queens met
one evening, and Kriemhild, having just witnessed some daring feats
performed by Siegfried in the courtyard of the castle, exclaimed in
admiration: "Oh, surely so bold a knight as my husband is fit to rule
this land of Burgundy!"
"But not while Gunther lives," returned Brunhild in wrath. "No vassal
indeed can presume to fill the place and take upon him the dignity of
his lord and master."
"I am speaking not of a vassal, but of the King of Netherland,"
"Ah, but that same King, as I heard from his own lips when he bore
Gunther company in Issland, is my husband's vassal!" exclaimed
Brunhild flushing scarlet in her anger.
"How little you know," replied Kriemhild, laughing scornfully, "of the
clever trick by which my brother won you! Perhaps you have never heard
of Siegfried's tarnkappe. But you shall learn now that it stood my
husband in good stead when he and my noble brother were near to death
in Issland. Know, O Queen, that it was Siegfried who, all unseen,
performed the mighty feats that gained a bride for Gunther, and that
it was no other than the same great knight who later brought into
subjection the over-proud Queen Brunhild. For proof of this behold the
cord and ring taken from you that day. Let us hear no more of vassals
and their homage. As token of the honor that befits me, now stand
aside and let me enter this cathedral first!"
Slowly the color left Brunhild's cheeks as she stood speechless and
helpless, while Kriemhild and her attendants passed into the church.
Then bursting into violent weeping she sank to the ground, overcome
with shame and anger. Soon the word of the disgraceful quarrel had
spread among the Burgundians and their guests, and many an indignant
speech was heard and many a revengeful plot was planned.
But it was Hagan, the crafty uncle of Gunther, who soothed the grief
of Brunhild with a secret design by which Kriemhild's insult should be
most cruelly paid for. After no little persuasion he won Gunther's
aid. Then the great lords of the land were assembled, and Hagan
addressed them thus: "You know well what dishonor has been done to the
power of Burgundy by these haughty Netherlanders. Shall we brook such
insult? No! let us either suffer death ourselves or bring to
destruction the over-bold King Siegfried."
With such approval did these words meet that the King sat silent,
unable to defend one who had so loyally befriended him. Then it was
planned that messengers should come to the court pretending to bear
threats of war from the king of the Saxons and Danes. Siegfried would
thus be deceived into offering Gunther service, and while away from
the court should be put to death. So well did this plot work that the
brave Netherlander, having proffered his services, was placed at the
head of a great army to march against the foe.
At this time Hagan, assuming to be deeply concerned about Siegfried's
welfare, was besought by Kriemhild to guard well the life of her
husband. "You know," she confessed at length, reluctantly,
"Siegfried's body cannot be pierced by any weapon,--except in one
place between his shoulders where a linden leaf fell on him while he
was bathing in the dragon's blood. Will you not remember that and try
to shield him while in battle?"
"Dear Kriemhild, I will remember," replied the treacherous Hagan, "but
that I may know just where the place is, will you not sew on his
clothing, just above it, a token that will mark the spot?"
"Yes, I will stitch a little cross upon his surcoat," assented
Then it was that the cruel Hagan, having learned his opponent's
secret, had messengers come to the court announcing that the enemy
would not wage war with Burgundy but would remain at peace. So
disappointed was Siegfried that, apparently to please him, a great
hunting party was formed, and all the bold warriors rode away to the
forest. Unwillingly did Kriemhild part with her husband, but so eager
was he for the sport that nothing could stay him.
When the company reached the woods they separated in all directions,
and Siegfried was soon in mad pursuit of a wild boar. When he had
killed this and several other savage beasts, he surpassed all former
deeds of boldness by capturing single-handed and on foot a great bear
and leading it back to the camp. There he mischievously set the animal
free, and as it raced away in wild haste, the servants who were
getting ready the feast became so frightened, that pans and dishes
containing all kinds of food were dropped upon the ground or into the
fire, as cooks and maids fled in terror. The warrior huntsmen sped
after the bear, but it was Siegfried who brought him to the ground.
[Illustration: THE DEATH OF SIEGFRIED]
When at length all had assembled about the table, merry and loud were
the talk and laughter.
"But where is the wine, King Gunther?" cried Siegfried. "Surely it has
not been omitted from the feast."
As the King turned with questioning look to Hagan, the latter said: "I
supposed the feast was to be held elsewhere and ordered the wine sent
to that place. However, there is a clear, cold stream near by that we
may drink from. I have heard how fleet of foot you are, friend
Siegfried. Let us race to the brook and see who shall be the winner."
Pleased with the idea of such sport Siegfried agreed. At once he set
out swiftly, running with Hagan and Gunther, and easily reached the
little creek before the others. However, out of courtesy, he let the
King drink first, then with eager thirst he bent over the cool,
glittering water. Immediately the King and Hagan bore away the weapons
that lay by his side, and as the good knight touched his lips to the
water, Hagan drove the spear full into the spot marked by the little
In vain did Siegfried leap to his feet to recover his weapons, and
combat with those who had given him the base blow. Nothing was left
him but his shield, which he flung with such terrible force as to
overthrow the fleeing Hagan. Before his looks of wrathful reproach the
guilty pair shuddered in strange terror. Then, his anger giving way to
a strange calm, he called to his betrayers: "Yours is the sorrow of
this day! Not even in death can cowardice and treachery triumph over
love and loyalty."
Thus speaking, the good King Siegfried sank upon the flowers of the
meadow, and died as bravely as he had lived.
Carlyle translated parts of the Nibelungenlied. He describes the death
of Siegfried as follows:
"Then, as to drink, Sir Siegfried down kneeling there be found,
He pierced him through the croslet, that sudden from the wound
Forth the life-blood spurted, e'en o'er his murderer's weed.
Nevermore will warrior dare so foul a deed.
"With blood were all bedabbled the flowerets of the field.
Some time with death he struggled as though he scorned to yield
E'en to the foe whose weapon strikes down the loftiest head.
At last prone in the meadow lay mighty Siegfried dead."
By ROBERT SOTUTHEY
How beautiful is night!
A dewy freshness fills the silent air;
No mist obscures, nor cloud, nor speck, nor stain,
Breaks the serene of heaven:
In full-orb'd glory yonder moon divine
Rolls through the dark-blue depths.
Beneath her steady ray
The desert-circle spreads,
Like the round ocean, girdled with the sky.
How beautiful is night!
By SIR WALTER SCOTT
O young Lochinvar is come out of the west,
Through all the wide Border his steed was the best;
And, save his good broadsword, he weapon had none,
He rode all unarmed, and he rode all alone.
So faithful in love, and so dauntless in war,
There never was knight like the young Lochinvar.
He stayed not for brake, and he stopped not for stone,
He swam the Eske River where ford there was none;
But, ere he alighted at Netherby gate,
The bride had consented, the gallant came late;
For a laggard in love, and a dastard in war,
Was to wed the fair Ellen of brave Lochinvar.
So boldly he entered the Netherby Hall,
Among bridesmen, and kinsmen, and brothers, and all.
Then spoke the bride's father, his hand on his sword
(For the poor craven bridegroom said never a word),
"O, come ye in peace here, or come ye in war,
Or to dance at our bridal, young Lord Lochinvar?"
"I long wooed your daughter, my suit you denied;--
Love swells like the Solway, but ebbs like its tide,--
And now I am come, with this lost love of mine,
To lead but one measure, drink one cup of wine.
There are maidens in Scotland more lovely by far,
That would gladly be bride to the young Lochinvar."
The bride kissed the goblet; the knight took it up,
He quaffed off the wine, and threw down the cup.
She looked down to blush, and she looked up to sigh,
With a smile on her lips, and a tear in her eye.
He took her soft hand, ere her mother could bar,--
"Now tread we a measure," said young Lochinvar.
So stately his form, and so lovely her face,
That never a hall such a galliard did grace;
While her mother did fret, and her father did fume,
And the bridegroom stood dangling his bonnet and plume;
And the bridemaidens whispered, "'T were better by far
To have matched our fair cousin with young Lochinvar."
One touch to her hand, and one word in her ear,
When they reached the hall-door, and the charger stood near;
So light to the croupe the fair lady he swung,
So light to the saddle before her he sprung;
"She is won! we are gone; over bank, bush, and scaur;
They'll have fleet steeds that follow," quoth young Lochinvar.
There was mounting 'mong Graemes of the Netherby clan;
Forsters, Fenwicks, and Musgraves, they rode and they ran;
There was racing and chasing on Cannobie Lee,
But the lost bride of Netherby ne'er did they see.
So daring in love, and so dauntless in war,
Have ye e'er heard of gallant like young Lochinvar?
Let us see how many things we can find out about this poem. The first
thing we think of is that it tells a story--just one story, without
any outside, disconnected incidents. Then we notice that the style is
very simple, that the meter is easy and swinging, and that the last
line of every stanza is almost like a refrain. There is one other
thing: the author does not show in the poem at all; that is, the poem
is strictly a story, without comments by the author or any expressed
This poem of Lochinvar belongs to a class of poems called ballads, all
of which possess some, at least, of the characteristics which we have
found in Lochinvar. All ballads do not have refrains, but all ballads
do contain narratives in simple, often rude style. Most ballad stanzas
have only four lines, though Scott uses six for this.
The history of ballad poetry is very interesting. In all nations, it
is believed, it has been the earliest form of poetry, and it is
thought that the great heroic poems, such as the Cid of the Spaniards
and the Nibelungenlied of the Germans, grew out of ballads. These
early ballads were not written down; they were sung, or recited, and
in thus being handed down by word of mouth, they underwent many
changes, so that in time it could very well be said that a popular
ballad had no one author--it belonged to all the people.
As to whether or not there ever was a Robin Hood, there is much
uncertainty. Grave men have written grave books, some proving and some
disproving his existence, but the question has never been settled.
Some believe that he was a real outlaw; some believe that the stories
about him were originally told about some elf of the woods, and that
only gradually did he come to be looked upon as a man. However that
may be, he is a very real character in literature. By no means all the
writings about him are the grave books spoken of above. Stories,
poems, dramas, operas have been written with him as the central
figure; and these are so interesting that we take them for their own
sakes, and trouble ourselves little about the identity of the hero. He
seems real to us, and that is all we need to know.
The mythical Robin Hood was an outlaw, the most gentlemanly and pious
and liberal of outlaws, and he dwelt with his trained yeomen in
Sherwood forest, Nottinghamshire, or in Barnsdale in Yorkshire. Here
they lived a free and active life, subsisting on the King's deer which
they shot in the woods, and on provisions which they took from
travelers. Robin Hood never himself molested or allowed any of his
followers to molest any poor travelers; indeed, if he was thoroughly
convinced that any of those whom he met were really needy, he helped
them gladly and generously. But from the rich knights and clergy he
took without scruple. Chief of his followers were Little John,
Scathlockor Scalock, Will Stutely, Friar Tuck, and Much, the Miller's
The ballads which are given here relate to the first meeting of Robin
Hood with Little John and with Scathlock, and give also two of his
other characteristic adventures. Both the date and the authorship of
the old ballads are unknown.
According to the legends, Robin Hood lived to be over eighty years old
and then met his death in a very treacherous manner. Feeling ill, he
went to a prioress, who was a relative of his, to be bled, and the
prioress, induced by Robin Hood's enemies, allowed him to bleed to
ROBIN HOOD AND LITTLE JOHN
When Robin Hood was about twenty years old,
With a hey down, down, and a down;*
He happen'd to meet with Little John,
A jolly brisk blade, right fit for the trade,
For he was a lusty young man.
*[Footnote: This line means nothing, it is simply a refrain. The old
ballads were usually sung or chanted, and many of those which are now
printed without refrain lines undoubtedly had them originally.]
Tho' he was called Little, his limbs they were large
And his stature was seven foot high;
Wherever he came, they quak'd at his name,
For soon he would make them to fly.
How they came acquainted, I'll tell you in brief,
If you would but listen awhile;
For this very jest, among all the rest,
I think it may cause you to smile.
For Robin Hood said to his jolly bowmen,*
"Pray tarry you here in this grove;
And see that you all observe well my call,
While through the forest I rove.
*[Footnote: You will see that to make the meter right it is necessary
to accent the word bowmen on the last syllable. These changes of
accent often occur in ballads, and help to add to the quaintness and
peculiarity of the old poems.]
"We have had no sport for these fourteen long days,
Therefore now abroad will I go.
Now should I be beat, and cannot retreat,
My horn I will presently blow."
Then did he shake hands with his merry men all,
And bid them at present good bye;
Then, as near the brook his journey he took,
A stranger he chanc'd to espy.
They happen'd to meet on a long narrow bridge,
And neither of them would give way;
Quoth bold Robin Hood, and sturdily stood,
"I'll show you right Nottingham play."
With that from his quiver an arrow he drew,
A broad arrow with a goose-wing.
The stranger replied, "I'll liquor thy hide,
If thou offer to touch the string."
Quoth bold Robin Hood, "Thou dost prate like an ass,
For were I to bend my bow,
I could send a dart quite thro' thy proud heart,
Before thou couldst strike me one blow."
"Thou talk'st like a coward," the stranger reply'd;
"Well arm'd with a long bow you stand,
To shoot at my breast, while I, I protest,
Have nought but a staff in my hand,"
"The name of a coward," quoth Robin, "I scorn,
Therefore my long bow I'll lay by;
And now for thy sake, a staff will I take,
The truth of thy manhood to try."
Then Robin Hood stept to a thicket of trees,
And chose him a staff of brown oak;
Now this being done, away he did run
To the stranger, and merrily spoke:
"Lo! see my staff is lusty and tough,
Now here on this bridge we will play;
Whoever falls in, the other shall win
The battle, and so we'll away."
"With all my whole heart," the stranger reply'd,
"I scorn in the least to give out."
This said, they fell to't without more dispute,
And their staffs they did flourish about.
At first Robin he gave the stranger a bang,
So hard that he made his bones ring;
The stranger he said, "This must be repaid,
I'll give you as good as you bring.
"So long as I am able to handle a staff,
To die in your debt, friend, I scorn."
Then to it each goes, and followed their blows,
As if they'd been threshing of corn.
[Illustration: TUMBLED HIM INTO THE BROOK]
The stranger gave Robin a crack on the crown,
Which caused the blood to appear;
Then Robin, enrag'd, more fiercely engag'd,
And follow'd his blows more severe.
So thick and so fast did he lay it on him,
With a passionate fury and ire;
At every stroke he made him to smoke,
As if he had been all on fire.
O then into fury the stranger he grew,
And gave him a damnable look,
And with it a blow that laid him full low,
And tumbled him into the brook.
"I prithee, good fellow, O where art thou now?"
The stranger, in laughter, he cry'd.
Quoth bold Robin Hood, "Good faith, in the flood
And floating along with the tide.
"I needs must acknowledge thou art a brave soul,
With thee I'll no longer contend;
For needs must I say, thou hast got the day,
Our battle shall be at an end."
Then unto the bank he did presently wade,
And pull'd himself out by a thorn;
Which done, at the last, he blew a loud blast
Straightway on his fine bugle-horn.
The echo of which through the valleys did fly,
At which his stout bowmen appear'd,
All clothed in green, most gay to be seen,
So up to their master they steer'd.
"O, what's the matter?" quoth William Stutely:
"Good master, you are wet to the skin."
"No matter," quoth he, "the lad which you see
In fighting hath tumbled me in."
"He shall not go scot-free," the others reply'd;
So strait they were seizing him there,
To duck him likewise; but Robin Hood cries,
"He is a stout fellow; forbear.
"There's no one shall wrong thee, friend; be not afraid;
These bowmen upon me do wait;
There's threescore and nine; if thou wilt be mine,
Thou shalt have my livery strait,
"And other accoutrements fitting also:
Speak up, jolly blade, never fear.
I'll teach you also the use of the bow,
To shoot at the fat fallow deer."
"O, here is my hand," the stranger reply'd.
"I'll serve you with all my whole heart;
My name is John Little, a man of good mettle;
Ne'er doubt it, for I'll play my part."
"His name shall be alter'd," quoth William Stutely,
"And I will his godfather be;
Prepare then a feast, and none of the least,
For we will be merry," quoth he.
They presently fetch'd him a brace of fat does,
With humming strong liquor likewise;
They lov'd what was good; so, in the green-wood
This pretty sweet babe they baptize.
He was, I must tell you, but seven foot high,
And, may be, an ell in the waist;
A sweet pretty lad; much feasting they had;
Bold Robin the christ'ning grac'd,
With all his bowmen, who stood in a ring,
And were of the Nottingham breed;
Brave Stutely came then, with seven yeomen,
And did in this manner proceed:
"This infant was called John Little," quoth he;
"His name shall be changed anon:
The words we'll transpose; so wherever he goes,
His name shall be call'd Little John."
They all with a shout made the elements ring;
So soon as the office was o'er,
To feasting they went, with true merriment
And tippled strong liquor gillore.
[Footnote: Gillore is an old form of galore.]
Then Robin he took the pretty sweet babe,
And cloth'd him from top to toe,
In garments of green, most gay to be seen,
And gave him a curious long bow.
"Thou shalt be an archer as well as the best,
And range in the green-wood with us;
Where we'll not want gold nor silver, behold,
While bishops have aught in their purse.
"We live here like 'squires, or lords of renown,
Without e'er a foot of free land;
We feast on good cheer, with wine, ale, and beer,
And ev'ry thing at our command."
Then music and dancing did finish the day;
At length, when the sun waxed low,
Then all the whole train the grove did refrain,
And unto their caves did go.
And so ever after, as long as he liv'd,
Altho' he was proper and tall,
Yet, nevertheless, the truth to express,
Still Little John they do him call.
ROBIN HOOD AND THE STRANGER
Come listen awhile, you gentlemen all,
With a hey down, down, a down, down,
That are this bower within,
For a story of gallant bold Robin Hood,
I purpose now to begin.
"What time of day?" quoth Robin Hood then;
Quoth Little John, "Tis in the prime."
"Why then we will to the green-wood gang,
[Footnote: Gang is the Scotch word for go.]
For we have no vittles to dine."
As Robin Hood walkt the forest along,
It was in the mid of the day,
There he was met of a deft* young man,
As ever walkt on the way.
* [Footnote: Deft means neatly dressed, well looking.]
His doublet was of silk, he said,
His stockings like scarlet shone,
And as he walkt on along the way,
To Robin Hood then unknown.
A herd of deer was in the bend,
All feeding before his face;
"Now the best of you Ile have to my dinner,
And that in a little space."
*[Footnote: At the time the old ballads were first written down,
spelling had not become settled. The contraction I'll was often
spelled as it sounds.]
[Illustration: THE STRANGER OVERTHROWS ROBIN HOOD]
Now the stranger he made no mickle* adoe,
But he bends a right good bow,
And the best buck in the herd he slew,
Forty good yards him froe.
[Footnote: Froe means from. Such changes in order as occur in this
line are frequent in the old ballads.]
*[Footnote: Mickle is an old English and Scotch word meaning much, or
"Well shot, well shot," quod Robin Hood then,
"That shot it was shot in time;
And if thou wilt accept of the place,
Thou shalt be a bold yeoman of mine."
"Go play the chiven,"* the stranger said;
"Make haste and quickly go,
Or with my fist, be sure of this,
He give thee buffets sto'."
[Footnote: Buffets sto' means store of buffets.]
*[Footnote: It is uncertain what the word chiven means. The likeliest
explanation is that it means coward.]
"Thou had'st not best buffet me," quod Robin Hood,
"For though I seem forlorn,
Yet I can have those that will take my part,
If I but blow my horn."
"Thou wast not best wind thy horn," the stranger said,
"Beest thou never so much in haste,
For I can draw out a good broad sword,
And quickly cut the blast."
Then Robin Hood bent a very good bow
To shoot, and that he would fain;
The stranger he bent a very good bow,
To shoot at bold Robin again.
"O hold thy hand, hold thy hand," quod Robin Hood,
"To shoot it would be in vain;
For if we should shoot the one at the other,
The one of us may be slain.
"But let's take our swords and our broad bucklers,
And gang under yonder tree."
"As I hope to be sav'd," the stranger said,
"One foot I will not flee."
Then Robin lent the stranger a blow
'Most scar'd him out of his wit:
"Thou never felt blow," the stranger he said,
"Thou shalt be better quit."
The stranger he drew out a good broad sword,
And hit Robin on the crown,
That from every haire of bold Robin's head,
The blood ran trickling down.
"God a mercy, good fellow!" quod Robin Hood then,
"And for this that thou hast done,
Tell me, good fellow, what thou art,
Tell me where thou doest wone."
The stranger then answered bold Robin Hood,
"He tell thee where I did dwell;
In Maxwel town I was bred and born,
My name is young Gamwel.
"For killing of my own father's steward.
I am forc'd to this English wood,
And for to seek an uncle of mine;
Some call him Robin Hood."
"But are thou a cousin* of Robin Hood then?
The sooner we should have done."
"As I hope to be sav'd," the stranger then said,
"I am his own sister's son."
*[Footnote: Cousin had formerly a broader meaning than it has to-day.
Here it means, as the last line of the stanza shows, nephew.]
But lord! what kissing and courting was there,
When these two cousins did greet!
And they went all that summer's day,
And Little John did (not) meet.
But when they met with Little John,
He unto them did say,
"O master, pray where have you been,
You have tarried so long away?"
"I met with a stranger," quod Robin Hood,
"Full sore he hath beaten me."
"Then He have a bout with him," quod Little John,
"And try if he can beat me."
"Oh no, oh no," quoth Robin Hood then,
"Little John, it may not be so;
For he is my own dear sister's son,
And cousins I have no mo'."
[Footnote: Mo is used instead of more, for the sake of rhyme.]
"But he shall be a bold yeoman of mine,
My chief man next to thee;
And I Robin Hood, and thou Little John,
And Scalock he shall be."
[Footnote: Scalock, or Scathlock, means scarlet. The name is given to
the stranger because of his scarlet stockings.]
ROBIN HOOD AND THE WIDOW'S THREE SONS
There are twelve months in all the year,
As I hear many say,
But the merriest month in all the year
Is the merry month of May.
[Illustration: ROBIN HOOD AND THE WIDOW]
Now Robin is to Nottingham gone,
With a link, a down, and a day,
And there he met a silly* old woman,
Was weeping on the way.
*[Footnote: Silly here expresses a combination of simplicity and
"What news? what news? thou silly old woman,
What news hast thou for me?"
Said she, "There's three squires in Nottingham town,
To-day are condemned to die."
"Oh, what have they done?" said Robin Hood,
"I pray thee tell to me."
"It's for slaying of the King's fallow deer,
Bearing their long bows with thee."
"Dost thou not mind, old woman," he said,
"Since thou made me sup and dine?
By the truth of my body," quoth bold Robin Hood,
"You could not tell it in better time."
Now Robin Hood is to Nottingham gone,
With a link, a down, and a day,
And there he met with a silly old palmer,*
Was walking along the highway.
*[Footnote: A palmer was a person who bad made a pilgrimage to the
Holy Land and brought back with him a palm branch. Later on the term
was applied to a monk who had taken a vow of poverty, and who spent
all his time traveling about from shrine to shrine.]
"What news? what news? thou silly old man,
What news, I do thee pray?"
Said he, "Three squires in Nottingham town,
Are condemn'd to die this day."
"Come change thy apparel with me, old man,
Come change thy apparel for mine;
Here is forty shillings in good silver,
Go drink it in beer or wine."
"Oh, thine apparel is good," he said,
"And mine is ragged and torn;
Wherever you go, wherever you ride,
Laugh ne'er an old man to scorn."
"Come change thy apparel with me, old churl,
Come change thy apparel with mine;
Here are twenty pieces of good broad gold,
Go feast thy brethren with wine."
Then he put on the old man's cloak,
Was patch'd black, blew, and red;
He thought it no shame, all the day long,
To wear the bags of bread.
Then he put on the old man's breeks,
Was patch'd from ballup to side;
"By the truth of my body," bold Robin can say,
"This man lov'd little pride."
Then he put on the old man's hose,
Were patch'd from knee to wrist;*
"By the truth of my body," said bold Robin Hood,
"I'd laugh if I had any list."
*[Footnote: The word wrist was formerly sometimes used for ankle.]
Then he put on the old man's shoes,
Were patch'd both beneath and aboon;
Then Robin swore a solemn oath,
"It's good habit that makes a man."
Now Robin is to Nottingham gone,
With a link, a down, and a down,
And there he met with the proud sheriff,
Was riding along the town.
[Illustration: ROBIN HOOD AND THE SHERIFF]
"Oh Christ you save, oh, sheriff," he said,
"Oh Christ you save and see;
And what will you give to a silly old man
To-day will your hangman be?"
"Some suits, some suits," the sheriff he said,
"Some suits I'll give to thee:
Some suits, some suits, and pence thirteen,
To-day's a hangman's fee."
Then Robin he turns him round about,
And jumps from stock to stone:
"By the truth of my body," the sheriff, he said,
"That's well jumpt, thou nimble old man."
"I was ne'er a hangman in all my life,
Nor yet intend to trade;
But curst be he," said bold Robin,
"That first a hangman made.
"I've a bag for meal, and a bag for malt,
And a bag for barley and corn;
A bag for bread, and a bag for beef,
And a bag for my little small horn.
"I have a horn in my pocket,
I got it from Robin Hood,
And still when I set it to my mouth,
For thee it blows little good."
"Oh, wind thy horn, thou proud fellow,
Of thee I have no doubt;
I wish that thou give such a blast,
Till both thy eyes fall out."
The first loud blast that he did blow,
He blew both loud and shrill;
A hundred and fifty of Robin Hood's men
Came riding over the hill.
The next loud blast that he did give,
He blew both loud and amain,
And quickly sixty of Robin Hood's men
Came shining over the plain.
"Oh, who are these," the sheriff he said,
"Come tripping over the lee?"
"They're my attendants," brave Robin did say,
"They'll pay a visit to thee."
They took the gallows from the slack,
They set it in the glen,
They hang'd the proud sheriff on that,
And releas'd their own three men.
ROBIN HOOD AND ALLIN A DALE
Come listen to me, you gallants so free,
All you that love mirth for to hear,
And I will tell you of a bold outlaw,
That lived in Nottinghamshire.
As Robin Hood in the forest stood,
All under the green-wood tree,
There he was aware of a brave young man,
As fine as fine might be.
The youngster was cloathed in scarlet red,
In scarlet fine and gay;
And he did frisk it over the plain,
And chanted a round-de-lay.
As Robin Hood next morning stood
Amongst the leaves so gay,
There he did espy the same young man,
Come drooping along the way.
The scarlet he wore the day before
It was clean cast away;
And at every step he fetcht a sigh,
"Alack and a well a day!"
Then stepped forth brave Little John,
And Midge,* the miller's son,
Which made the young man bend his bow,
When as he see them come.
*[Footnote: The miller's son is usually called Much, probably because
of his size]
"Stand off, stand off," the young man said,
"What is your will with me?"
"You must come before our master straight,
Under yon green-wood tree."
And when he came bold Robin before,
Robin askt him courteously,
"O, hast thou any money to spare
"For my merry men and me?"
[Footnote: Robin Hood used to watch each day for a traveler, and when
he met one, ask for money wherewith to provide a dinner for himself
and his men, the stranger also being invited. If the stranger spoke
the truth as to the amount he had with him, Robin Hood was generous
and just with him; if he swore falsely, the outlaw took all he had.]
"I have no money," the young man said,
"But five shillings and a ring;
And that I have kept these seven long years,
To have it at my wedding.
"Yesterday I should have married a maid,
But she from me was tane,*
And chosen to be an old knight's delight,
Whereby my poor heart is slain."
*[Footnote: Tane is an old elision for taken.]
"What is thy name?" then said Robin Hood,
"Come tell me, without any fail."
"By the faith of my body," then said the young man,
"My name it is Allin a Dale."
[Illustration: ROBIN HOOD PLAYS HARPER]
"What wilt thou give me," said Robin Hood,
"In ready gold or fee,
To help thee to thy true love again,
And deliver her unto thee?"
"I have no money," then quoth the young man,
"No ready gold or fee,
But I will swear upon a book
Thy true servant for to be."
[Illustration: IN THE GREENWOOD]
"How many miles is it to thy true love?
Come tell me without guile,"
"By the faith of my body," then said the young man,
"It is hut five little mile."
Then Robin he hasted over the plain,
He did neither stint nor lin,*
Until he came unto the church,
Where Allin should keep his wedding.
*[Footnote: Stint and lin here mean practically the same; that is,
cease or stop.]
"What hast thou here?" the bishop then said,
"I prithee now tell unto me."
"I am a bold harper," quoth Robin Hood,
"And the best in the north country."
"O welcome, O welcome," the bishop he said,
"That musick best pleaseth me."
"You shall have no musick," quoth Robin Hood,
"Till the bride and the bridegroom I see."
With that came in a wealthy knight,
Which was both grave and old,
And after him a finikin* lass,
Did shine like glistering gold.
*[Footnote: Finikin here means dainty.]
"This is not a fit match," quod bold Robin Hood,
"That you do seem to make here,
For since we are come into the church,
The bride shall chuse her own dear."
Then Robin Hood put his horn to his mouth,
And blew blasts two or three;
When four and twenty bowmen bold
Came leaping over the lee.
And when they came into the church-yard,
Marching all on a row,
The first man was Allin a Dale,
To give bold Robin his bow.
"This is thy true love," Robin he said,
"Young Allin, as I hear say;
And you shall be married at this same time,
Before we depart away."
"That shall not be," the bishop he said,
"For thy word shall not stand;
They shall be three times askt in the church,
As the law is of our land."
Robin Hood pull'd off the bishop's coat,
And put it upon Little John:
"By the faith of my body," then Robin said,
"This cloth doth make thee a man."
When Little John went into the quire,*
The people began to laugh;
He askt them seven times into church,
Lest three times should not be enough.
*[Footnote: Quire is an old spelling of choir. It here means the choir
"Who gives me this maid?" said Little John.
Quoth Robin Hood, "That do I;
And he that takes her from Allin a Dale,
Full dearly he shall her buy."
Thus having ended this merry wedding,
The bride lookt like a queen;
And so they returned to the merry greenwood,
Amongst the leaves so green.
ROLAND AT RONCESVALLES
NOTE,--The greatest legendary hero of France is Roland, one of
Charlmagne's knights. His deeds are told in Chansons De Roland (Songs
of Roland). These songs correspond to the legends of King Arthur in
England and to the stories of the Cid in Spain.
Every nation possesses a few of these great characters whose lives
have furnished incidents without number to enrich the literature of
the land. Roland shines as one of the finest of national heroes.
Charlemagne, old and gray, grown weary with fighting and the conquest
of Europe, sat at ease among his noble councilors in the shade of a
great tree in northern Spain. Around him were camped the mighty hosts
that he had led against the Saracens, and now the leaders were talking
over their plans for the future. Only one strong castle, the great
fortress of Zaragoz, on a steep and rugged mountain top, held out
against him after his seven years of combat against the Mohammedans in
Spain. So heavy were the walls of this stronghold and so difficult the
guarded paths that led up to it that it seemed impossible for man to
take it. One after another, the valorous knights, the twelve great
paladins of Charlemagne gave their opinions, but no conclusion could
Among these hardy warriors was Roland, favorite nephew of the king,
and greatest of all the paladins. Next him sat Oliver, the friend of
his soul, closer knit in bonds of friendship than ever the ties of
blood bound brother to brother. Others there were of valiant men who
had often proved their courage against their pagan enemies. None,
however, matched in massiveness and kingly bearing the great Charles
himself, who sat now on his chair of gold over which twined a
flowering rose vine. In the boughs of the towering pine the birds sang
blithely, unconscious of the tragic events planning below them.
While they sat there in council there appeared among them a herald
bearing the white flag of peace. Behind him came Blancandrin, chief
noble and councilor of Marsilius, the ruler of the fortress about
which King Charles and his paladins had been talking.
"My Lord the king," said Blancandrin, kneeling at the feet of the
stately old monarch, "I come as a messenger of peace from my master,
King Marsilius, who now, after these years, sees in you the great king
whom all men may worship. Rich gifts bear I to your glorious majesty,
--bears, lions and hounds in numbers, falcons trained to hunt and keen
for their prey, and four hundred powerful mules drawing fifty chariots
full of gold, rich tapestries and precious jewels, wealth which even
Charles the Great need not scorn to take.
"For all this richness my master begs only peace from thee, and
privilege to reign over Spain as thy loyal vassal. On the Feast of
Michael will Marsilius go to thy palace at Aachen and render homage
unto thee, and thenceforth shalt thou be his lord, and thy God shall
be his God, only so that thou removest thine armies from out this
The king listened in silence and bowed his head in meditation. For a
quarter of an hour was no word spoken, for gravely Charlemagne
considered every question placed before him, and weighed well his
words; for once he had given pledge no power could make him change.
At last he turned upon the messenger his face clothed in its aureole
of silvery hair, and said, "What assurance have I that Marsilius will
keep his word and be my faithful subject?"
"Most noble king," said Blancandrin, "we have with us twenty boys,
sons of twenty of the greatest nobles of our land. Take them all and
keep them as hostages till my master pays homage to thee at Aachen as
he has promised. Deal gently with these young men of ours, I pray
thee, for they are dear to our hearts and are of the very flower of
That night the king lodged the messengers sumptuously, with due care,
however, that they learned none of the secrets of his camp, for in his
heart he felt that some treachery was planned. When morning came,
Blancandrin was sent on his journey back to Marsilius with word that
messengers from Charlemagne would soon follow. The great king called
together his paladins and all the leaders of his force to consider the
proposal that Blancandrin had brought. Among them were Turpin, the
Archbishop, and Roland with his inseparable companion, Oliver. And in
the group, too, might be seen the lowering brow and sneaking face of
Ganelon, the traitorous friend of Charlemagne.
The king laid before them in full the message of Marsilius and bade
them say what they thought of the strange proposal. With one accord
all shouted, "Beware of treachery from King Marsilius."
Roland, towering above all the other warriors, spoke for himself:
"Trust not the heathen king. Have no parley with him. Remember what
seven years of warfare have cost us in blood and treasure, and without
hesitation go on to finish the work we have begun. Proceed at once to
lay siege to Zaragoz, conquer this last great stronghold and free
Spain utterly from Mohammedan rule. Remember the treachery Marsilius
once before practiced against our good messengers, whom he slew under
the flag of truce. Go and avenge their death."
But the fierce Ganelon slyly crept to the king's side and whispered in
his ear, "Hear no word of any babbling fool. This Roland, though my
stepson, is a babbling idiot. He thinks only of battle and his own
glory. So brave and strong is he that he can protect himself and cares
nothing for kinsmen or friends. Marsilius promises everything we could
demand or secure, and what shall it profit us to sacrifice our noble
soldiers in useless warfare when we can gain everything we seek by
this bloodless surrender?"
To others, also, the specious reasoning of Ganelon appealed, and so
many joined in urging peace that at last Charles said, "Well and good;
but who among you will bear to Marsilius my glove and staff and make
the covenant with him?"
Then Roland said, "If so be it that the king would have a messenger,
But Oliver straightway interfered. "Send Roland on a peaceful mission?
He would only embroil us in further trouble. My hot-blooded friend has
no skill in parleying. Send me, I pray you, my Lord the king."
Others offered their services, and the king stroked his silvery beard
in silent meditation.
"No, neither of you, nor any who have yet offered, not even Archbishop
Turpin, shall go."
Then Roland spoke again. "To me, my stepfather seems the man, for
there is none among us more cunning in speech than he. Send Ganelon,
With all his fierceness Ganelon was an arrant coward, and much he
feared to take the message to Marsilius, for well he remembered the
fate of Basant and Basil. Pale with anger and with coward fear,
Ganelon threw his sable cloak from his shoulders and faced the gallant
Roland. "All the world knows," said Ganelon, "that I am thy
stepfather, and that I bear thee no love, but only hatred and
contempt; but to show your malice toward me thus openly is the work of
a fool and a coward. If I return from this dangerous mission, then
will I avenge myself for your insults."
"I had no thought of malice," said Roland, "as all my companions may
bear me witness. The post is one of honor, and you should feel proud
that it is entrusted to you. As for your anger and malice, I have only
contempt for your words and despise them utterly."
[Illustration: GANELON PICKS UP CHARLEMAGNE'S GLOVE]
"Do not think," replied the wrathy Ganelon, "that I go at your bidding
or that anything you might say will move me from my steady purpose. If
the king chooses me his messenger, I will do him service; but as for
you, you shall repent that you ever spoke my name."
This fierce speech was received by Roland with loud laughter, which
was echoed by Oliver and his companions, for all knew well the mighty
prowess of the great paladin. The act, however, served only to enrage
Ganelon the more, and as he turned his back he muttered fiercely, "I
say, you shall repent of this."
Stepping to the throne of Charlemagne, he knelt and said, "Most noble
emperor, from Marsilius no messenger ever yet returned alive.
Willingly will I go to Zaragoz and make for thee thy covenant. One
favor only do I ask, and that is that if I should not return thou wilt
care for Baldwin, my son, and the son of thy sister to whom I am wed.
Confer on him my honors and possessions and bring him up among the
knights of thy court."
Charlemagne put forth his hand and touched the kneeling Ganelon.
"Since the Franks have chosen thee," he said, "enter upon thy journey
with a brave heart. Put aside all fear and take my glove and baton."
Still trembling, half with rage and half with fear, Ganelon said, "But
for Roland would this service never have fallen upon me; and I hate
him and his friend, the doughty Oliver. As for the rest of the nobles,
who have joined so willingly in the cry, I bid them all defiance."
The king answered, "Truly, Count Ganelon, your words were well
tempered and well chosen, but my knights know your deeds never keep
pace with your words, else might they fear your threatenings.
Perchance, in this one instance, however, your ready tongue will serve
us better than your sword."
Then from his hand the king drew off his glove, and as Ganelon essayed
to take it, it dropped upon the floor. The Frankish warriors trembled
at this ill omen and whispered among themselves that it boded no good
to the messenger; but Ganelon picked the glove up quickly, saying,
"Fear nothing from so slight an accident. You shall hear again from
"Take the letter, signed and sealed with my signet, and go in God's
name," said the king.
With anger still burning in his heart, Ganelon leaped upon his horse
and set forth upon his dangerous mission. So rapidly did he ride that
he soon overtook Blancandrin and his followers, who were resting by
the wayside, and fell into friendly converse with them. The messenger
of Marsilius was a wily man accustomed to read the emotions of men in
their faces, and ere the vengeful Ganelon had spoken many words his
companion had sounded the depths of the warrior's treacherous soul.
Noting well the kind of man to whom he was speaking, Blancandrin
hesitated not to tell the story of the treachery which Marsilius had
planned. The wily king had no thought of going to Aachen to pay
tribute to Charlemagne, but, on the other hand, sought the opportunity
to destroy the garrisons which Charles the king should leave behind
him and to repossess himself of Spain. In the council at which this
was determined, the cruel Moslems, dead to the love that fathers
should bear their children, had determined to sacrifice their twenty
sons, the hostages who had been left with King Charles. What were the
lives of twenty boys compared with the reestablishment of their own
power and wealth! Now when Ganelon heard the dastardly plan which the
Saracens had made, he opened his heart to Blancandrin and told how he
hated Roland and how gladly he would do anything so he would not be
obliged again to be a witness to his stepson's good fortune.
When each had shown his true nature freely to the other they joined
their wits and laid their plans. Thus when they were come to Zaragoz,
Blancandrin took Ganelon by the hand and led him before King
Marsilius, saying, "O king, thy message have I taken to the haughty
Charlemagne, but no answer did he give me. He has, however, sent the
noble Count Ganelon who shall tell you the decision."
According to the plans which had been matured on the journey Ganelon
said, "God protect the good king, Marsilius. King Charles saith that
if thou wilt lay aside thy Moslem faith and do homage to him at Aachen
thou shalt hold in fealty to him one half the lands of Spain, but if
thou failest in any respect, then will he come with sword and fire and
lay waste the land and carry thee to Aachen to thy death."
No sooner were the words spoken than Marsilius seized a javelin and
aimed it at the messenger's head, but Ganelon, standing his ground
manfully, said, "What shall it bring thee to slay the messenger
because the message was evil? I act but as the mouthpiece of my
master. Under penalty of death have I come, or I should not have left
the Christian camp. Behold, here is a letter which the great Charles
has sent for thy perusal."
So saying, he handed King Marsilius a letter signed and sealed with
the signet of the great king. His hands trembling with anger,
Marsilius opened the letter and read, "I, King Charles, remembering
well what thou didst to my servants, Basant and Basil, summon thee to
send to me thy caliph who sitteth next thy throne on the right for me
to do with him as I list."
The anger of Marsilius burned more strongly, and seizing a spear from
one of his attendants he rushed at Ganelon and would have slain him on
the spot had not Blancandrin interfered.
"Stay thy hand, O my master," he said, "for this man, Ganelon, hath
promised to be our spy and work in our behalf."
Pleased with this show of Christian treachery, the Moslem king said,
"Verily, Ganelon, thou wast near Death's door, but I will pardon thee
and reward thee with one hundred pieces of gold. Take them and be
faithful to us."
Ganelon accepted the price of his treason, saying, "That man is a fool
who taketh not the goods which the gods place before him.
"Now truly, the old king, the aged Charles, is indeed weary of war,
has glutted his passion for wealth and would indeed grant thee peace
and withdraw his army from Spain were it not that his captain, Roland,
and Oliver, his friend, both men of war, are continually inciting the
weary monarch to further warfare. They with the other peers of France
do lead the king as they wish, for he is old and feeble. If only these
and their twenty thousand picked men could be slain, then all the
world would be at peace.
"Now listen to my counsel. Give the hostages to Charles as you had
planned, and grant his every request. Then will he take his armies out
of Spain, leaving only the rear guard to follow in his wake. This
guard, the pride and strength of his army, is commanded by the captain
Roland. As they leave Spain they will go through the narrow pass of
Roncesvalles. Surround the valley with thy hosts and lie in wait for
them. When they come fall upon them and slaughter them to the last
man. The fight will be a bitter one, but thou shalt win." Having made
Ganelon swear to the truth of what he had said and that things should
come to pass as he predicted, Marsilius gave the traitor many jewels
and rich garments and despatched him back to King Charles with the
message they had framed.
When Ganelon came again to Charlemagne he told him that Marsilius had
yielded every point and was already on his way to Aachen, where he
would give up his religion and be baptized into the Christian faith.
Then was the great Charles filled with joy at this bloodless end to
his long campaign, and right willingly he went before his warriors and
told them the great news.
At last night fell upon the camp of rejoicing Christians, and Charles
retired to his pavilion to sleep. But it was for him a terrible night
filled with dreams and dark forebodings. He thought he was in a narrow
pass closely pressed by deadly enemies and with no weapon in hand but
an ashen spear. Count Ganelon, riding by, snatched the spear from his
hand and broke it into splinters. Then again he dreamed that he was
back at home in the royal palace, but that a poisonous viper fastened
itself upon his hands and in spite of all his efforts he could not
remove it; and as he struggled unavailingly a leopard leaped upon him
and bore him to the earth and would have killed him but for a favorite
hound who rushed between and seized the leopard by the throat.
Viciously the two struggled, and Charles watched the terrible combat,
but try as he might he could not see which animal was the victor.
When morning came, and the sun shone over the Christian camp,
dispelling the mists of sleep from the brain of Charles, he knew he
had been dreaming, but still he was not able to shake off the dread
forebodings that weighed on his soul. The camps were struck and the
hosts of Charles prepared to march from Spain.
"Whom shall I leave in command of the rear guard?" said the emperor to
"Leave Roland," replied the traitor; "he is the only man worthy of so
important a post."
Roland only too willingly accepted the task, saying to Charles, "Give
to me, I pray thee, the bow that is in thy hand. Trust me, I shall not
let it fall as Ganelon let fall thy glove." The emperor handed the bow
to Roland, and thus was he made captain of the rear guard. Oliver, his
friend, remained behind with him and the twelve peers and Turpin, the
Archbishop, besides twenty thousand picked warriors.
"Roland, my dear nephew," said the emperor, "behold, I leave with thee
one half my army. Keep them safely for me."
"Fear nothing," Roland answered; "a good account shall I render of my
Thus the king parted from Roland and marched away with the bulk of his
army toward his own land. But ever as he passed over the high
mountains and through the deep ravines whose steep sides shut out the
light of the sun and seemed about to topple upon him, his heart grew
heavy with some strange oppression he could not understand. Ever and
anon he turned to his bodyguard and said, "I much fear me that some
terrible danger awaiteth our beloved Roland and the noble rear guard.
I feel that some treachery will be practised against them."
Even when he reached France the heaviness did not depart from his
spirit, and he sat moody and disconsolate, his hoary head bowed upon
his hands, awaiting impatiently news from the rear guard.
No sooner had Marsilius learned that Ganelon was carrying out his plan
and that Roland was to be left behind with only the rear guard, than
he sent swift-riding messengers in every direction to summon his
mighty men to meet him at Roncesvalles to await the coming of Roland.
Before the rear guard reached the pass, a vast army of four hundred
thousand men lay concealed in the rocky and woody fastnesses around
Roncesvalles. Every man pledged to fight Roland and his followers to
Slowly the little army of Roland crossed the plains and toiled up the
rocky pass and the steep mountain sides whence they could look down on
Roncesvalles, where lay the only road they could follow. What was it
they saw in the narrow valley before them? What could it be but the
sunlight gleaming on the spears of armed men, marching through the
valley and placing themselves in favorable positions upon the sides.
There seemed no limit to the multitude. They were like the blades of
grass in a fair meadow, and the noise that arose from the moving
multitude was like the murmur of the sea.
"Look," said Oliver to Roland; "Ganelon has played us false. What
shall we do? This is a greater army than was ever gathered before for
a single purpose, and they certainly mean our destruction."
"God grant it may be so," said Roland, "for sweet it is to battle for
our country and our king. When we have rested a little we will push
forward against the enemy."
"But," said Oliver, "we are a handful only, while they in number are
as the sands of the sea. Before it is too late sound thy great horn, I
pray thee, that possibly Charles may hear and return to our relief."
"The greater the host the greater the glory in defeating it," replied
Roland. "Never shall it be said that Roland shirked his duty and
brought disgrace upon his followers. We will not call the king back,
but I promise you that the murderous Saracens shall repent the attack
upon us. Already I feel them as good as dead."
Thrice did Oliver urge Roland to sound the horn for relief, but every
time the noble paladin refused, saying, "God and his angels are with
us. They fight upon our side. God will perform wonders for us, and
will not let shame rest upon our banners."
Oliver climbed a great tree whence he could see not only the host in
the valley, but multitudes concealed from the general view as far as
the eye could reach. He begged Roland to climb also and see, but
Roland answered sturdily, "Time enough to know the numbers of our
enemies when we count the slain."
Then Archbishop Turpin gathered the warriors about him, and while the
Franks kneeled on the ground he shrived them clean and blessed them in
the name of God, saying, "It is a right good thing to die for king and
faith, but fear not death, though it certainly now faces you. To-night
shall we meet in Paradise wearing the crowns of the martyrs. Arise
from your knees and in penance for your sins scourge ye the pagans."
Upon his great battle horse, Veillantif, Roland rode to and fro
brandishing his good sword, Durendal, putting his warriors in battle
array. Little need had he to urge faith and constancy, for there was
not a man but loved his commander to the utmost, and cheerfully would
follow him even unto death. When Roland looked upon the pagan host his
face grew fierce and terrible, but as he turned it upon his men a mild
and gentle expression stole over it, and he said, "My lords and
barons, good comrades all, let no man spare his life to-day, but see
only that he sells it dear. The lives of twenty pagans is a poor price
for one of yours. I have promised to give a good account of you, and
tonight the battlefield will tell how I have kept my word. God alone
knows the issue of the combat, but I have no fear. Of a certainty,
much praise and honor await us on earth and a martyr's crown in
So saying, he pricked the noble Veillantif with his golden spurs and
set off at the head of the rear guard through the pass and down into
the valley of death called Roncesvalles. Next following came Oliver,
then Archbishop Turpin followed by the Twelve, and behind pushed
forward the rear guard bearing aloft the snow-white banner of their
king and shouting fiercely their battle cry, "Montjoy! Montjoy!"
[Footnote: Montjoy was the name given during the Middle Ages to any
little rise of ground which lay on the line between two territorial
divisions. As such a spot was a common meeting place of hostile
armies, the term Montjoy came to be used as a war cry.]
Savage and bloody was the battle, beyond the words of man to describe.
Roland's ashen spear crashed through the brazen armor, skin, and bone
of fifteen pagans before it shivered in his hands and he was compelled
to draw the fair Durendal from its sheath.
Roland saw Oliver fighting with only the lesser half of his spear, and
riding to him exclaimed, "Draw thy sword, comrade, and slay the
But Oliver replied, "Not so long as a handful of the stump remains.
To-day are weapons precious."
All Twelve and the whole rear guard fought like men possessed, and
before each lay a tale of pagan slain. No man sought to protect
himself except by the slaughter of his enemies.
"Thank God," said Archbishop Turpin, as he rested for a moment, "thank
God that I live to see the rear guard fight to-day."
The sun climbed the heavens, and it was noon, and not a Christian gave
way. Wheresoever he planted his foot there he stayed until he could
advance or until he died. The noble guard hewed down the pagans by the
hundreds until the earth was heaped with the slain. Where Roland stood
wielding Durendal, dripping with blood from point to hilt, lay a
circle of dead Moslems, for from every side the multitude came to
compass the death of Roland.
[Illustration: WHERESOEVER HE PLANTED HIS FOOT, THERE HE STAYED]
Though two hundred thousand of the pagans lay dead, many thousand
Christians mingled with them. Of the Twelve but two remained, when the
hosts of Marsilius began to flee and he looked with dismay upon the
slain. Then would Roland have won his battle in spite of numbers but
that from the mountainside came the sound of trumpets, and down into
the valley came twenty fresh battalions of Saracens, eager for the
fray. Yet Roland and the remainder of his scattered force kept even
these new legions long at bay, laughing in scorn at the Saracen
warriors and calling out grim jests at them as though the deadly
battle were a friendly game. So marvelously did the Christians fight
that the pagans almost yielded, for it seemed to them as though God
and his angels must be fighting for the Christians.
Yet slowly and surely was the rear guard dwindling away. Dead were the
noble Twelve and dead all the brave knights that were the immediate
companions and guard of Roland, the flower of the rear guard.
"Comrade," said Roland to Oliver, "now will I blow my horn, which
perchance Charles may hear and come to us."
"Thou art now too late," said the angry Oliver. "Hadst thou but taken
my advice thou hadst saved much weeping among the women and children
of France. Charles would not have lost his rear guard nor France her
"Blow thy horn," said the Archbishop Turpin, "and talk not of what
might have been. It is now too late for Charles to save our lives, but
he may avenge them."
Then Roland put his horn to his lips and blew a mighty blast that rose
up against the sides of the mountains and was echoed across the
valleys over hill and dale till it reached the king among his
courtiers in his great hall.
"What is that I hear?" he said; "surely our men are fighting to-day."
Said Ganelon, "What you hear is but the sighing of the wind in the
Still more weary grew Roland, and he took the horn again and winded it
with all his strength.
[Illustration: ROLAND FEEBLY WINDED HIS HORN]
So loud, so long and so mighty was the blast that the veins stood out
like whipcords on his brow; and even then he stopped not, but blew
until his temples broke and the blood streamed down his face.
Charles heard the mighty blast in his palace and cried, "That is the
horn of Roland; I know it. He is hard pressed in battle or he would
not sound it."
Then answered the treacherous Ganelon, "If that be the horn of Roland,
he hunteth perchance in the woods. Too brave is he to sound it in
battle. My lord the king groweth old, and his fears are childish. What
a merry jest would it be should the king call his thousands and go to
the succor of Roland only to find him hunting the hare."
In pain and great weariness now, almost spent with loss of blood and
the agony of his bursting temples, Roland again feebly winded his
horn. In his palace Charles heard the feeble echo, and springing from
his seat while the salt tears streamed from his eyes and rushed down
his snowy beard, cried, "Oh Roland, my brave captain, too long have I
delayed. Sorry is thy need, I know, by the wailing of thy horn. Men,
to arms! Straightway will we go to help Roland. Seize that man," he
said pointing to Ganelon; "bind him fast in chains, and keep him till
I return. Then shall we judge whether by his treason he hath duped
Fierce was the cruel throbbing in the brain of Roland as he turned
wearily again to his fight, but his good sword leapt savagely out, and
the redoubtable pagans fell around him in heaps. Those who were left
of the rear guard cut down great masses of the pagans as a reaper cuts
down ripening corn at the harvest time, but one by one the weary
reapers fell ere the harvest could be gathered in. Yet beside each
dead Frank was a sheaf of pagan dead to show how well he had reaped
his little field.
Then a pagan king, seeing where Oliver was fighting, stole up behind
and smote him through the back a deadly wound, but Oliver turned, and
with the fierce strength of a dying man swung his huge sword
Haltclere, and before the pagan could know his triumph struck the
king's helmet and cleft his head from forehead to teeth. Even now,
with the pains of death so fastened upon him that his vision was
blotted out, Oliver struck valiantly on every hand, shouting "Montjoy,
Roland heard the feeble shout and cut his way through to help his
companion from his horse; but Oliver, not knowing him, struck Roland
such a mighty blow that he shattered his helmet on his throbbing head.
In spite of all his pain, Roland lifted Oliver gently down from his
horse, saying, "Dear comrade, I fear a deadly evil has happened to
"Thy voice is that of Roland, but I cannot see thy face."
"It is I, Roland, thy comrade."
"Forgive me that I smote thee," said Oliver; "it is so dark that I
cannot see thy face. Give me thy hand. God bless thee, Roland. God
bless Charlemagne and France."
So saying, he fell upon his face and died. With a heavy heart Roland
turned from his fallen comrade and looked about for his valiant rear
guard. Only two men were left beside himself. Turpin the Archbishop,
Count Gaulter and Roland set themselves back to back while the pagans
ran upon them in a multitude. Twenty men Roland slew, Count Gaulter
six, and Turpin five. Then another charge of a thousand horsemen
throwing spears and javelins bore down upon them. Count Gaulter fell
at the first charge, and the archbishop's horse was killed; and there
upon the ground Turpin lay with four wounds upon his forehead and four
upon his breast.
Yet strange to say in those fearful charges Roland got never a wound,
although in his broken temples his brain was parting asunder, and the
pain was more than he could bear. Once more he winded his feeble horn,
and Charles heard it as he came with his army to the relief of the
rear guard. "Spare not spur nor steed for Roland's sake. I hear the
sighing of his horn and know that he is in a last distress. Sound all
our clarions loud and long."
The mighty mountains tossed the sound from peak to peak and carried it
down into the valley of Roncesvalles where the pagans heard the echoes
and knew that Charles was approaching for revenge.
"There is but one man more to slay," they cried. "Let us slaughter him
Then four hundred of the mounted Moslems charged at Roland, flinging
their long javelins but venturing not to approach within reach of his
sword, for they thought no man born of woman could slay this Roland.
Veillantif dropped down dead, and Roland, his armor pierced with spear
points, fell beneath him with a last great "Montjoy."
Spent with the fall, he lay there in a swoon, though not a single
spear had touched his body. When the pagans looked on him they thought
him dead, and fled through the pass, leaving the gloomy field in
possession of the dead and wounded.
When the spirit of Roland came back from its swoon he looked about him
and saw that the pagans had fled. With great pain he drew himself from
beneath his horse and staggered to his feet, for scarcely could he
stand from the pain beating in his temples. He dragged his bruised and
weary body, searching everywhere among the slain. Round about each
Christian lay a heap of pagan slain, and as Roland's eye wandered o'er
the bloody field he said, "Charles will see that the rear guard has
done its duty." At last he found where Oliver lay, and lifting the
body tenderly in his arms, he said, "Comrade dear, ever wast thou a
friend to me, kind and gentle. No better warrior ever broke a spear or
wielded a sword. Now do I repent the only time that I failed to heed
thy counsel. God rest thy soul. A sweeter friend and truer comrade no
man ever had."
Then Roland heard a feeble voice, and turning, saw the Archbishop
Turpin dying on the ground, a piteous sight, his face all marred with
wounds and his body well-nigh cut in twain. Yet Turpin raised his hand
and blessed the dead about him, saying, "Thank God, dear Roland, the
field is thine and mine. We have fought a good fight."
Then he joined his hands as though in prayer, but his strength failed
him and he fell back fainting. Roland crawled away towards a little
rill where water was flowing, but his own weakness was so great that
when he came feebly to where the Archbishop lay he found him with his
hands still clasped, but now at rest; for neither thirst nor pain
would trouble him again. All alone in that field of death Roland wept
with his slaughtered friends.
When Roland found death was drawing near he took Durendal in one hand
and his good horn in the other and crept away to a green hillock,
where he lay down in his armor. While he lay there in agony a Saracen
appeared plundering the dead and as he stole by Roland he saw the
glitter of Durendal's hilt and put out his hand and snatched the
sword. Roland opened his eyes and saw the thief before him with the
sword in his hands, and turning suddenly he raised his horn and dealt
the fellow so heavy a blow upon the skull that he stretched him dead
upon the ground. Then, recovering Durendal, he clasped it in his hands
and said, "Oh Durendal, keen of edge and bright of blade, God sent
thee by his angels to Charles to be his captain's sword. Charles girt
thee at my side, and many a country hast thou helped to conquer in my
hands. Though it grieveth me sore to part with thee, yet would I
rather break thee asunder than that thou shouldst fall into the hands
of an enemy of France."
So, praying God to give him strength, he struck the sword so mightily
upon a gray stone of granite that the stone was chipped and
splintered, but the good sword broke not nor was its good edge turned
in the least. A second time he struck the stone, and though under the
blow it was cleft in twain, the blade leaped back unharmed. On the
third blow he powdered the stone, but failed to turn the blade of
Then Roland knew that the sword was indeed holy, and holding the cross
upon its hilt before his eyes, he said, "Oh Durendal, I am to blame.
The angels brought thee and they will keep thee safe for Charles and
Now indeed Roland felt the throes of death approach, and turning his
face toward Spain and toward his enemies he placed his sword and horn
beneath him, and lifting his weary hands to heaven he closed his eyes.
Death and silence brooded o'er the valley; the mists of night came up,
and darkness hid the scene.
Charles and his followers had ridden hard and did not draw rein till
they reached the mountain top and looked down into the valley of
Roncesvalles. They blew the clarions loud, but no answering sound was
heard save the echoes from the mountain sides. Then down through the
mists and darkness they rode and saw the awful carnage. Roland and
Oliver dead, Archbishop Turpin and the noble Twelve, and all the
twenty thousand stretched among the heaps of pagan corpses.
Charles fell upon his face and wept, for he had brought up and
nourished Roland from a babe, had taught him war and made him the
bravest of knights and captain in his army. But anger burned in his
bosom and dried his tears, so that when his officers approached and
told him that they had found the tracks of the flying pagans he was
ready to follow fiercely along their track.
Looking up, he saw that the sun was still some hours high, for God had
miraculously stayed its passage that the Christians might be avenged.
They overtook the flying enemy in the valley of Tenebrus, close by the
swift torrent of the Ebro, and there with the swollen river in front
and the fierce Franks on the flanks and rear the pagans were slowly
cut to pieces. Only Marsilius and a little band, who had gone another
way, escaped. Every Saracen in Tenebrus had perished before the Franks
gave up their bloody work. Back to Roncesvalles went King Charles,
where he buried the dead, all excepting Roland and Oliver, whose
bodies he embalmed and carried in his richest chariots on his return
Bitterly mourned the king in spite of the richness of his revenge. "Oh
my Roland," he cried, "little pleasure have I in the land we have
conquered. When I come again to my palace and people ask tidings, what
can I say but that we have conquered cities, provinces and countries
and left Roland dead? Then will there be no rejoicing. Sadness will
fall upon our land, and every one will say the war has been in vain.
Oh Roland, my friend, would God that I had died for thee."
When Charles had returned to Aachen he haled Ganelon before him and
flatly accused the knight of treachery. This Ganelon denied, and the
king set him on trial. By using the price of his treason, Ganelon
secured among the judges thirty of his kinsmen, who by spending riches
lavishly procured judgment for him, all voting him no traitor
excepting a gentle youth, Tierry, who persisted in impeaching Ganelon
as a felon and traitor who had betrayed Roland and the twenty
thousand. Moreover, he accused the judges of treason and false
judgment and offered to prove his charges upon any champion the
accused should bring forth.
Tierry was a slender little lad, slight of limb and feeble in
strength, and the champion selected by the accused was Pinabel, a
giant among the Franks. All pitied Tierry and urged that some more
doughty champion take up the cause, but King Charles said, "God will
show the right."
So the lists were made ready and the combat began. Long and terrible
was the fight, for the little champion seemed endowed with more than
human strength and courage. Yet ever was he beaten back, and ever it
seemed that he must be crushed to death under the terrific blows of
the mighty Pinabel. At last a blow came which cut his helmet in two
and split off his right cheek. Then with vision clouded by the blood
and with fast-failing strength, Tierry aimed a blow with all his force
straight at the head of Pinabel. God gave force to the weakening arm
and directed the stroke so that it cleft the steel helmet and the
skull, and entered the brain of Pinabel, who fell gasping to the earth
and died there in his sins.
Then all the people with one accord shouted, "God hath spoken the
word. Again has the right triumphed in trial by battle. Away with
Ganelon and his fellows."
King Charles from his judgment hall pronounced sentence. "Take the
thirty false judges and hang them. Let not one escape," decreed the
As for Ganelon, ten times worse was his punishment. Ropes were tied to
the wrists and ankles of Ganelon and fastened to four prancing horses.
Whining and begging for his life, the traitor lay extended while the
horses, proud of their part, stood with noble arching necks ready
without whip or spur to drag the coward traitor limb from limb. The
halters were cast off, the horses sprang away, and Ganelon had paid
Then to his lonely chamber retired the king, very old and decrepit,
for years of grief had done more to age Charlemagne than years of war.