Part 1 out of 3
The Song of Roland
Translated by C. K. [Charles Kenneth] Moncreiff
Anonymous Old French epic, dating perhaps as early as the middle
This electronic edition was produced, edited, and prepared by
Douglas B. Killings (DeTroyes@AOL.COM), August 1995.
Proofreading by R.J. Maley and Douglas B. Killings. Document
scanning provided by R.J. Maley.
Charles the King, our Lord and Sovereign,
Full seven years hath sojourned in Spain,
Conquered the land, and won the western main,
Now no fortress against him doth remain,
No city walls are left for him to gain,
Save Sarraguce, that sits on high mountain.
Marsile its King, who feareth not God's name,
Mahumet's man, he invokes Apollin's aid,
Nor wards off ills that shall to him attain.
King Marsilies he lay at Sarraguce,
Went he his way into an orchard cool;
There on a throne he sate, of marble blue,
Round him his men, full twenty thousand, stood.
Called he forth then his counts, also his dukes:
"My Lords, give ear to our impending doom:
That Emperour, Charles of France the Douce,
Into this land is come, us to confuse.
I have no host in battle him to prove,
Nor have I strength his forces to undo.
Counsel me then, ye that are wise and true;
Can ye ward off this present death and dule?"
What word to say no pagan of them knew,
Save Blancandrin, of th' Castle of Val Funde.
Blancandrins was a pagan very wise,
In vassalage he was a gallant knight,
First in prowess, he stood his lord beside.
And thus he spoke: "Do not yourself affright!
Yield to Carlun, that is so big with pride,
Faithful service, his friend and his ally;
Lions and bears and hounds for him provide,
Thousand mewed hawks, sev'n hundred camelry;
Silver and gold, four hundred mules load high;
Fifty wagons his wrights will need supply,
Till with that wealth he pays his soldiery.
War hath he waged in Spain too long a time,
To Aix, in France, homeward he will him hie.
Follow him there before Saint Michael's tide,
You shall receive and hold the Christian rite;
Stand honour bound, and do him fealty.
Send hostages, should he demand surety,
Ten or a score, our loyal oath to bind;
Send him our sons, the first-born of our wives; --
An he be slain, I'll surely furnish mine.
Better by far they go, though doomed to die,
Than that we lose honour and dignity,
And be ourselves brought down to beggary."
Says Blancandrins: "By my right hand, I say,
And by this beard, that in the wind doth sway,
The Frankish host you'll see them all away;
Franks will retire to France their own terrain.
When they are gone, to each his fair domain,
In his Chapelle at Aix will Charles stay,
High festival will hold for Saint Michael.
Time will go by, and pass the appointed day;
Tidings of us no Frank will hear or say.
Proud is that King, and cruel his courage;
From th' hostage he'll slice their heads away.
Better by far their heads be shorn away,
Than that ourselves lose this clear land of Spain,
Than that ourselves do suffer grief and pain."
"That is well said. So be it." the pagans say.
The council ends, and that King Marsilie
Calleth aside Clarun of Balaguee,
Estramarin and Eudropin his peer,
And Priamun and Guarlan of the beard,
And Machiner and his uncle Mahee,
With Jouner, Malbien from over sea,
And Blancandrin, good reason to decree:
Ten hath he called, were first in felony.
"Gentle Barons, to Charlemagne go ye;
He is in siege of Cordres the city.
In your right hands bear olive-branches green
Which signify Peace and Humility.
If you by craft contrive to set me free,
Silver and gold, you'll have your fill of me,
Manors and fiefs, I'll give you all your need."
"We have enough," the pagans straight agree.
King Marsilies, his council finishing,
Says to his men : "Go now, my lords, to him,
Olive-branches in your right hands bearing;
Bid ye for me that Charlemagne, the King,
In his God's name to shew me his mercy;
Ere this new moon wanes, I shall be with him;
One thousand men shall be my following;
I will receive the rite of christening,
Will be his man, my love and faith swearing;
Hostages too, he'll have, if so he will."
Says Blancandrins: "Much good will come of this."
Ten snow-white mules then ordered Marsilie,
Gifts of a King, the King of Suatilie.
Bridled with gold, saddled in silver clear;
Mounted them those that should the message speak,
In their right hands were olive-branches green.
Came they to Charle, that holds all France in fee,
Yet cannot guard himself from treachery.
Merry and bold is now that Emperour,
Cordres he holds, the walls are tumbled down,
His catapults have battered town and tow'r.
Great good treasure his knights have placed in pound,
Silver and gold and many a jewelled gown.
In that city there is no pagan now
But he been slain, or takes the Christian vow.
The Emperour is in a great orchard ground
Where Oliver and Rollant stand around,
Sansun the Duke and Anseis the proud,
Gefreid d'Anjou, that bears his gonfaloun;
There too Gerin and Geriers are found.
Where they are found, is seen a mighty crowd,
Fifteen thousand, come out of France the Douce.
On white carpets those knights have sate them down,
At the game-boards to pass an idle hour; --
Chequers the old, for wisdom most renowned,
While fence the young and lusty bachelours.
Beneath a pine, in eglantine embow'red,
l Stands a fald-stool, fashioned of gold throughout;
There sits the King, that holds Douce France in pow'r;
White is his beard, and blossoming-white his crown,
Shapely his limbs, his countenance is proud.
Should any seek, no need to point him out.
The messengers, on foot they get them down,
And in salute full courteously they lout.
The foremost word of all Blancandrin spake,
And to the King: "May God preserve you safe,
The All Glorious, to Whom ye're bound to pray!
Proud Marsilies this message bids me say:
Much hath he sought to find salvation's way;
Out of his wealth meet presents would he make,
Lions and bears, and greyhounds leashed on chain,
Thousand mewed hawks, sev'n hundred dromedrays,
Four hundred mules his silver shall convey,
Fifty wagons you'll need to bear away
Golden besants, such store of proved assay,
Wherewith full tale your soldiers you can pay.
Now in this land you've been too long a day
Hie you to France, return again to Aix;
Thus saith my Lord, he'll follow too that way."
That Emperour t'wards God his arms he raised
Lowered his head, began to meditate.
That Emperour inclined his head full low;
Hasty in speech he never was, but slow:
His custom was, at his leisure he spoke.
When he looks up, his face is very bold,
He says to them: "Good tidings have you told.
King Marsilies hath ever been my foe.
These very words you have before me told,
In what measure of faith am I to hold?"
That Sarrazin says, "Hostages he'll show;
Ten shall you take, or fifteen or a score.
Though he be slain, a son of mine shall go,
Any there be you'll have more nobly born.
To your palace seigneurial when you go,
At Michael's Feast, called in periculo;
My Lord hath said, thither will he follow
Ev'n to your baths, that God for you hath wrought;
There is he fain the Christian faith to know."
Answers him Charles: "Still may he heal his soul."
Clear shone the sun in a fair even-tide;
Those ten men's mules in stall he bade them tie.
Also a tent in the orchard raise on high,
Those messengers had lodging for the night;
Dozen serjeants served after them aright.
Darkling they lie till comes the clear daylight.
That Emperour does with the morning rise;
Matins and Mass are said then in his sight.
Forth goes that King, and stays beneath a pine;
Barons he calls, good counsel to define,
For with his Franks he's ever of a mind.
That Emperour, beneath a pine he sits,
Calls his barons, his council to begin:
Oger the Duke, that Archbishop Turpin,
Richard the old, and his nephew Henry,
From Gascony the proof Count Acolin,
Tedbald of Reims and Milun his cousin:
With him there were Gerers, also Gerin,
And among them the Count Rollant came in,
And Oliver, so proof and so gentil.
Franks out of France, a thousand chivalry;
Guenes came there, that wrought the treachery.
The Council then began, which ended ill.
"My Lords Barons," says the Emperour then, Charles,
"King Marsilies hath sent me his messages;
Out of his wealth he'll give me weighty masses.
Greyhounds on leash and bears and lions also,
Thousand mewed hawks and seven hundred camels,
Four hundred mules with gold Arabian charged,
Fifty wagons, yea more than fifty drawing.
But into France demands he my departure;
He'll follow me to Aix, where is my Castle;
There he'll receive the law of our Salvation:
Christian he'll be, and hold from me his marches.
But I know not what purpose in his heart is."
Then say the Franks: "Beseems us act with caution!"
That Emperour hath ended now his speech.
The Count Rollanz, he never will agree,
Quick to reply, he springs upon his feet;
And to the King, "Believe not Marsilie.
Seven years since, when into Spain came we,
I conquer'd you Noples also Commibles,
And took Valterne, and all the land of Pine,
And Balaguet, and Tuele, and Sezilie.
Traitor in all his ways was Marsilies;
Of his pagans he sent you then fifteen,
Bearing in hand their olive-branches green:
Who, ev'n as now, these very words did speak.
You of your Franks a Council did decree,
Praised they your words that foolish were in deed.
Two of your Counts did to the pagan speed,
Basan was one, and the other Basilie:
Their heads he took on th' hill by Haltilie.
War have you waged, so on to war proceed,
To Sarraguce lead forth your great army.
All your life long, if need be, lie in siege,
Vengeance for those the felon slew to wreak."
That Emperour he sits with lowering front,
He clasps his chin, his beard his fingers tug,
Good word nor bad, his nephew not one.
Franks hold their peace, but only Guenelun
Springs to his feet, and comes before Carlun;
Right haughtily his reason he's begun,
And to the King: "Believe not any one,
My word nor theirs, save whence your good shall come.
Since he sends word, that King Marsiliun,
Homage he'll do, by finger and by thumb;
Throughout all Spain your writ alone shall run
Next he'll receive our rule of Christendom
Who shall advise, this bidding be not done,
Deserves not death, since all to death must come.
Counsel of pride is wrong: we've fought enough.
Leave we the fools, and with the wise be one."
And after him came Neimes out, the third,
Better vassal there was not in the world;
And to the King: "Now rightly have you heard
Guenes the Count, what answer he returned.
Wisdom was there, but let it well be heard.
King Marsilies in war is overturned,
His castles all in ruin have you hurled,
With catapults his ramparts have you burst,
Vanquished his men, and all his cities burned;
Him who entreats your pity do not spurn,
Sinners were they that would to war return;
With hostages his faith he would secure;
Let this great war no longer now endure."
"Well said the Duke." Franks utter in their turn.
"My lords barons, say whom shall we send up
To Sarraguce, to King Marsiliun?"
Answers Duke Neimes: "I'll go there for your love;
Give me therefore the wand, also the glove."
Answers the King: "Old man of wisdom pruff;
By this white beard, and as these cheeks are rough,
You'll not this year so far from me remove;
Go sit you down, for none hath called you up."
"My lords barons, say whom now can we send
To th' Sarrazin that Sarraguce defends?"
Answers Rollanz: "I might go very well."
"Certes, you'll not," says Oliver his friend,
"For your courage is fierce unto the end,
I am afraid you would misapprehend.
If the King wills it I might go there well."
Answers the King: "Be silent both on bench;
Your feet nor his, I say, shall that way wend.
Nay, by this beard, that you have seen grow blench,
The dozen peers by that would stand condemned.
Franks hold their peace; you'd seen them all silent.
Turpins of Reins is risen from his rank,
Says to the King: "In peace now leave your Franks.
For seven years you've lingered in this land
They have endured much pain and sufferance.
Give, Sire, to me the clove, also the wand,
I will seek out the Spanish Sarazand,
For I believe his thoughts I understand."
That Emperour answers intolerant:
"Go, sit you down on yonder silken mat;
And speak no more, until that I command."
"Franks, chevaliers," says the Emperour then, Charles,
"Choose ye me out a baron from my marches,
To Marsilie shall carry back my answer."
Then says Rollanz: "There's Guenes, my goodfather."
Answer the Franks: "For he can wisely manage;
So let him go, there's none you should send rather."
And that count Guenes is very full of anguish;
Off from his neck he flings the pelts of marten,
And on his feet stands clear in silken garment.
Proud face he had, his eyes with colour, sparkled;
Fine limbs he had, his ribs were broadly arched
So fair he seemed that all the court regarded.
Says to Rollant: "Fool, wherefore art so wrathful?
All men know well that I am thy goodfather;
Thou hast decreed, to Marsiliun I travel.
Then if God grant that I return hereafter,
I'll follow thee with such a force of passion
That will endure so long as life may last thee."
Answers Rollanz: "Thou'rt full of pride and madness.
All men know well, I take no thought for slander;
But some wise man, surely, should bear the answer;
If the King will, I'm ready to go rather."
Answers him Guene: "Thou shalt not go for me.
Thou'rt not my man, nor am I lord of thee.
Charles commnds that I do his decree,
To Sarraguce going to Marsilie;
There I will work a little trickery,
This mighty wrath of mine I'll thus let free."
When Rollanz heard, began to laugh for glee.
When Guenes sees that Rollant laughs at it,
Such grief he has, for rage he's like to split,
A little more, and he has lost his wit:
Says to that count: "I love you not a bit;
A false judgement you bore me when you chid.
Right Emperour, you see me where you sit,
I will your word accomplish, as you bid.
"To Sarraguce I must repair, 'tis plain;
Whence who goes there returns no more again.
Your sister's hand in marriage have I ta'en;
And I've a son, there is no prettier swain:
Baldwin, men say he shews the knightly strain.
To him I leave my honours and domain.
Care well for him; he'll look for me in vain."
Answers him Charles: "Your heart is too humane.
When I command, time is to start amain."
Then says the King: "Guenes, before me stand;
And take from me the glove, also the wand.
For you have heard, you're chosen by the Franks,"
"Sire," answers Guenes, " all this is from Rollanz;
I'll not love him, so long as I'm a man,
Nor Oliver, who goes at his right hand;
The dozen peers, for they are of his band,
All I defy, as in your sight I stand."
Then says the King: "Over intolerant.
Now certainly you go when I command."
"And go I can; yet have I no warrant
Basile had none nor his brother Basant."
His right hand glove that Emperour holds out;
But the count Guenes elsewhere would fain be found ;
When he should take, it falls upon the ground.
Murmur the Franks: "God! What may that mean now?
By this message great loss shall come about."
"Lordings," says Guene, "You'll soon have news enow."
"Now," Guenes said, "give me your orders, Sire;
Since I must go, why need I linger, I?"
Then said the King "In Jesu's Name and mine!"
With his right hand he has absolved and signed,
Then to his care the wand and brief confides.
Guenes the count goes to his hostelry,
Finds for the road his garments and his gear,
All of the best he takes that may appear:
Spurs of fine gold he fastens on his feet,
And to his side Murgles his sword of steel.
On Tachebrun, his charger, next he leaps,
His uncle holds the stirrup, Guinemere.
Then you had seen so many knights to weep,
Who all exclaim: "Unlucky lord, indeed!
In the King's court these many years you've been,
Noble vassal, they say that have you seen.
He that for you this journey has decreed
King Charlemagne will never hold him dear.
The Count Rollant, he should not so have deemed,
Knowing you were born of very noble breed."
After they say: "Us too, Sire, shall he lead."
Then answers Guenes: "Not so, the Lord be pleased!
Far better one than many knights should bleed.
To France the Douce, my lords, you soon shall speed,
On my behalf my gentle wife you'll greet,
And Pinabel, who is my friend and peer,
And Baldewin, my son, whom you have seen;
His rights accord and help him in his need."
-- Rides down the road, and on his way goes he.
Guenes canters on, and halts beneath a tree;
Where Sarrazins assembled he may see,
With Blancandrins, who abides his company.
Cunning and keen they speak then, each to each,
Says Blancandrins: "Charles, what a man is he,
Who conquered Puille and th'whole of Calabrie;
Into England he crossed the bitter sea,
To th' Holy Pope restored again his fee.
What seeks he now of us in our country?"
Then answers Guene "So great courage hath he;
Never was man against him might succeed."
Says Blancandrins "Gentle the Franks are found;
Yet a great wrong these dukes do and these counts
Unto their lord, being in counsel proud;
Him and themselves they harry and confound."
Guenes replies: "There is none such, without
Only Rollanz, whom shame will yet find out.
Once in the shade the King had sate him down;
His nephew came, in sark of iron brown,
Spoils he had won, beyond by Carcasoune,
Held in his hand an apple red and round.
"Behold, fair Sire," said Rollanz as he bowed,
"Of all earth's kings I bring you here the crowns."
His cruel pride must shortly him confound,
Each day t'wards death he goes a little down,
When he be slain, shall peace once more abound."
Says Blancandrins: "A cruel man, Rollant,
That would bring down to bondage every man,
And challenges the peace of every land.
With what people takes he this task in hand?"
And answers Guene: "The people of the Franks;
They love him so, for men he'll never want.
Silver and gold he show'rs upon his band,
Chargers and mules, garments and silken mats.
The King himself holds all by his command;
From hence to the East he'll conquer sea and land."
Cantered so far then Blancandrins and Guene
Till each by each a covenant had made
And sought a plan, how Rollant might be slain.
Cantered so far by valley and by plain
To Sarraguce beneath a cliff they came.
There a fald-stool stood in a pine-tree's shade,
Enveloped all in Alexandrin veils;
There was the King that held the whole of Espain,
Twenty thousand of Sarrazins his train;
Nor was there one but did his speech contain,
Eager for news, till they might hear the tale.
Haste into sight then Blancandrins and Guene.
Blancandrin comes before Marsiliun,
Holding the hand of county Guenelun;
Says to the King "Lord save you, Sire, Mahum
And Apollin, whose holy laws here run!
Your message we delivered to Charlun,
Both his two hands he raised against the sun,
Praising his God, but answer made he none.
He sends you here his noblest born barun,
Greatest in wealth, that out of France is come;
From him you'll hear if peace shall be, or none."
"Speak," said Marsile: "We'll hear him, every one."
But the count Guenes did deeply meditate;
Cunning and keen began at length, and spake
Even as one that knoweth well the way;
And to the King: "May God preserve you safe,
The All Glorious, to whom we're bound to pray
Proud Charlemagne this message bids me say:
You must receive the holy Christian Faith,
And yield in fee one half the lands of Spain.
If to accord this tribute you disdain,
Taken by force and bound in iron chain
You will be brought before his throne at Aix;
Judged and condemned you'll be, and shortly slain,
Yes, you will die in misery and shame."
King Marsilies was very sore afraid,
Snatching a dart, with golden feathers gay,
He made to strike: they turned aside his aim.
King Marsilies is turn'ed white with rage,
His feathered dart he brandishes and shakes.
Guenes beholds: his sword in hand he takes,
Two fingers' width from scabbard bares the blade;
And says to it: "O clear and fair and brave;
Before this King in court we'll so behave,
That the Emperour of France shall never say
In a strange land I'd thrown my life away
Before these chiefs thy temper had essayed."
"Let us prevent this fight:" the pagans say.
Then Sarrazins implored him so, the chiefs,
On the faldstoel Marsillies took his seat.
"Greatly you harm our cause," says the alcaliph:
"When on this Frank your vengeance you would wreak;
Rather you should listen to hear him speak."
"Sire," Guenes says, "to suffer I am meek.
I will not fail, for all the gold God keeps,
Nay, should this land its treasure pile in heaps,
But I will tell, so long as I be free,
What Charlemagne, that Royal Majesty,
Bids me inform his mortal enemy."
Guenes had on a cloke of sable skin,
And over it a veil Alexandrin;
These he throws down, they're held by Blancandrin;
But not his sword, he'll not leave hold of it,
In his right hand he grasps the golden hilt.
The pagans say. "A noble baron, this."
Before the King's face Guenes drawing near
Says to him "Sire, wherefore this rage and fear?
Seeing you are, by Charles, of Franks the chief,
Bidden to hold the Christians' right belief.
One half of Spain he'll render as your fief
The rest Rollanz, his nephew, shall receive,
Proud parcener in him you'll have indeed.
If you will not to Charles this tribute cede,
To you he'll come, and Sarraguce besiege;
Take you by force, and bind you hands and feet,
Bear you outright ev'n unto Aix his seat.
You will not then on palfrey nor on steed,
Jennet nor mule, come cantering in your speed;
Flung you will be on a vile sumpter-beast;
Tried there and judged, your head you will not keep.
Our Emperour has sent you here this brief."
He's given it into the pagan's nief.
Now Marsilies, is turn'ed white with ire,
He breaks the seal and casts the wax aside,
Looks in the brief, sees what the King did write:
"Charles commands, who holds all France by might,
I bear in mind his bitter grief and ire;
'Tis of Basan and 's brother Basilye,
Whose heads I took on th' hill by Haltilye.
If I would save my body now alive,
I must despatch my uncle the alcalyph,
Charles will not love me ever otherwise."
After, there speaks his son to Marsilye,
Says to the King: "In madness spoke this wight.
So wrong he was, to spare him were not right;
Leave him to me, I will that wrong requite."
When Guenes hears, he draws his sword outright,
Against the trunk he stands, beneath that pine.
The King is gone into that orchard then;
With him he takes the best among his men;
And Blancandrins there shews his snowy hair,
And Jursalet, was the King's son and heir,
And the alcaliph, his uncle and his friend.
Says Blancandrins: "Summon the Frank again,
In our service his faith to me he's pledged."
Then says the King: "So let him now be fetched."
He's taken Guenes by his right finger-ends,
And through the orchard straight to the King they wend.
Of treason there make lawless parliament.
"Fair Master Guenes," says then King Marsilie,
"I did you now a little trickery,
Making to strike, I shewed my great fury.
These sable skins take as amends from me,
Five hundred pounds would not their worth redeem.
To-morrow night the gift shall ready be."
Guene answers him: "I'll not refuse it, me.
May God be pleased to shew you His mercy."
Then says Marsile "Guenes, the truth to ken,
Minded I am to love you very well.
Of Charlemagne I wish to hear you tell,
He's very old, his time is nearly spent,
Two hundred years he's lived now, as 'tis said.
Through many lands his armies he has led,
So many blows his buckled shield has shed,
And so rich kings he's brought to beg their bread;
What time from war will he draw back instead?"
And answers Guenes: "Not so was Charles bred.
There is no man that sees and knows him well
But will proclaim the Emperour's hardihead.
Praise him as best I may, when all is said,
Remain untold, honour and goodness yet.
His great valour how can it be counted?
Him with such grace hath God illumined,
Better to die than leave his banneret."
The pagan says: "You make me marvel sore
At Charlemagne, who is so old and hoar;
Two hundred years, they say, he's lived and more.
So many lands he's led his armies o'er,
So many blows from spears and lances borne,
And so rich kings brought down to beg and sorn,
When will time come that he draws back from war?"
"Never," says Guenes, "so long as lives his nephew;
No such vassal goes neath the dome of heaven;
And proof also is Oliver his henchman;
The dozen peers, whom Charl'es holds so precious,
These are his guards, with other thousands twenty.
Charles is secure, he holds no man in terror."
Says Sarrazin: "My wonder yet is grand
At Charlemagne, who hoary is and blanched.
Two hundred years and more, I understand,
He has gone forth and conquered many a land,
Such blows hath borne from many a trenchant lance,
Vanquished and slain of kings so rich a band,
When will time come that he from war draws back?"
"Never," says Guene, "so long as lives Rollanz,
From hence to the East there is no such vassal;
And proof also, Oliver his comrade;
The dozen peers he cherishes at hand,
These are his guard, with twenty thousand Franks.
Charles is secure, he fears no living man."
"Fair Master Guenes," says Marsilies the King,
"Such men are mine, fairer than tongue can sing,
Of knights I can four hundred thousand bring
So I may fight with Franks and with their King."
Answers him Guenes: "Not on this journeying
Save of pagans a great loss suffering.
Leave you the fools, wise counsel following;
To the Emperour such wealth of treasure give
That every Frank at once is marvelling.
For twenty men that you shall now send in
To France the Douce he will repair, that King;
In the rereward will follow after him
Both his nephew, count Rollant, as I think,
And Oliver, that courteous paladin;
Dead are the counts, believe me if you will.
Charles will behold his great pride perishing,
For battle then he'll have no more the skill.
Fair Master Guene," says then King Marsilie,
"Shew the device, how Rollant slain may be."
Answers him Guenes: "That will I soon make clear
The King will cross by the good pass of Size,
A guard he'll set behind him, in the rear;
His nephew there, count Rollant, that rich peer,
And Oliver, in whom he well believes;
Twenty thousand Franks in their company
Five score thousand pagans upon them lead,
Franks unawares in battle you shall meet,
Bruised and bled white the race of Franks shall be;
I do not say, but yours shall also bleed.
Battle again deliver, and with speed.
So, first or last, from Rollant you'll be freed.
You will have wrought a high chivalrous deed,
Nor all your life know war again, but peace.
"Could one achieve that Rollant's life was lost,
Charle's right arm were from his body torn;
Though there remained his marvellous great host,
He'ld not again assemble in such force;
Terra Major would languish in repose."
Marsile has heard, he's kissed him on the throat;
Next he begins to undo his treasure-store.
Said Marsilie -- but now what more said they? --
"No faith in words by oath unbound I lay;
Swear me the death of Rollant on that day."
Then answered Guene: "So be it, as you say."
On the relics, are in his sword Murgles,
Treason he's sworn, forsworn his faith away.
Was a fald-stool there, made of olifant.
A book thereon Marsilies bade them plant,
In it their laws, Mahum's and Tervagant's.
He's sworn thereby, the Spanish Sarazand,
In the rereward if he shall find Rollant,
Battle to himself and all his band,
And verily he'll slay him if he can.
And answered Guenes: "So be it, as you command!"
In haste there came a pagan Valdabrun,
Warden had been to King Marsiliun,
Smiling and clear, he's said to Guenelun,
"Take now this sword, and better sword has none;
Into the hilt a thousand coins are run.
To you, fair sir, I offer it in love;
Give us your aid from Rollant the barun,
That in rereward against him we may come."
Guenes the count answers: "It shall-be done."
Then, cheek and chin, kissed each the other one.
After there came a pagan, Climorins,
Smiling and clear to Guenelun begins:
"Take now my helm, better is none than this;
But give us aid, on Rollant the marquis,
By what device we may dishonour bring."
"It shall be done." Count Guenes answered him;
On mouth and cheek then each the other kissed.
In haste there came the Queen forth, Bramimound;
"I love you well, sir," said she to the count,
"For prize you dear my lord and all around;
Here for your wife I have two brooches found,
Amethysts and jacynths in golden mount;
More worth are they than all the wealth of Roum;
Your Emperour has none such, I'll be bound."
He's taken them, and in his hosen pouched.
The King now calls Malduiz, that guards his treasure.
"Tribute for Charles, say, is it now made ready?"
He answers him: "Ay, Sire, for here is plenty
Silver and gold on hundred camels seven,
And twenty men, the gentlest under heaven."
Marsilie's arm Guene's shoulder doth enfold;
He's said to him: "You are both wise and bold.
Now, by the law that you most sacred hold,
Let not your heart in our behalf grow cold!
Out of my store I'll give you wealth untold,
Charging ten mules with fine Arabian gold;
I'll do the same for you, new year and old.
Take then the keys of this city so large,
This great tribute present you first to Charles,
Then get me placed Rollanz in the rereward.
If him I find in valley or in pass,
Battle I'll give him that shall be the last."
Answers him Guenes: "My time is nearly past."
His charger mounts, and on his journey starts.
That Emperour draws near to his domain,
He is come down unto the city Gailne.
The Count Rollanz had broken it and ta'en,
An hundred years its ruins shall remain.
Of Guenelun the King for news is fain,
And for tribute from the great land of Spain.
At dawn of day, just as the light grows plain,
Into their camp is come the county Guene.
In morning time is risen the Emperere,
Mattins and Mass he's heard, and made his prayer;
On the green grass before the tent his chair,
Where Rollant stood and that bold Oliver,
Neimes the Duke, and many others there.
Guenes arrived, the felon perjurer,
Begins to speak, with very cunning air,
Says to the King: "God keep you, Sire, I swear!
Of Sarraguce the keys to you I bear,
Tribute I bring you, very great and rare,
And twenty men; look after them with care.
Proud Marsilies bade me this word declare
That alcaliph, his uncle, you must spare.
My own eyes saw four hundred thousand there,
In hauberks dressed, closed helms that gleamed in the air,
And golden hilts upon their swords they bare.
They followed him, right to the sea they'll fare;
Marsile they left, that would their faith forswear,
For Christendom they've neither wish nor care.
But the fourth league they had not compassed, ere
Brake from the North tempest and storm in the air;
Then were they drowned, they will no more appear.
Were he alive, I should have brought him here.
The pagan king, in truth, Sire, bids you hear,
Ere you have seen one month pass of this year
He'll follow you to France, to your Empire,
He will accept the laws you hold and fear;
Joining his hands, will do you homage there,
Kingdom of Spain will hold as you declare."
Then says the King: "Now God be praised, I swear!
Well have you wrought, and rich reward shall wear."
Bids through the host a thousand trumpets blare.
Franks leave their lines; the sumpter-beasts are yare
T'wards France the Douce all on their way repair.
Charles the Great that land of Spain had wasted,
Her castles ta'en, her cities violated.
Then said the King, his war was now abated.
Towards Douce France that Emperour has hasted.
Upon a lance Rollant his ensign raised,
High on a cliff against the sky 'twas placed;
The Franks in camp through all that country baited.
Cantered pagans, through those wide valleys raced,
Hauberks they wore and sarks with iron plated,
Swords to their sides were girt, their helms were laced,
Lances made sharp, escutcheons newly painted:
There in the mists beyond the peaks remained
The day of doom four hundred thousand waited.
God! what a grief. Franks know not what is fated.
Passes the day, the darkness is grown deep.
That Emperour, rich Charles, lies asleep;
Dreams that he stands in the great pass of Size,
In his two hands his ashen spear he sees;
Guenes the count that spear from him doth seize,
Brandishes it and twists it with such ease,
That flown into the sky the flinders seem.
Charles sleeps on nor wakens from his dream.
And after this another vision saw,
In France, at Aix, in his Chapelle once more,
That his right arm an evil bear did gnaw;
Out of Ardennes he saw a leopard stalk,
His body dear did savagely assault;
But then there dashed a harrier from the hall,
Leaping in the air he sped to Charles call,
First the right ear of that grim bear he caught,
And furiously the leopard next he fought.
Of battle great the Franks then seemed to talk,
Yet which might win they knew not, in his thought.
Charles sleeps on, nor wakens he for aught.
Passes the night and opens the clear day;
That Emperour canters in brave array,
Looks through the host often and everyway;
"My lords barons," at length doth Charles say,
"Ye see the pass along these valleys strait,
Judge for me now, who shall in rereward wait."
"There's my good-son, Rollanz," then answers Guenes,
"You've no baron whose valour is as great."
When the King hears, he looks upon him straight,
And says to him: "You devil incarnate;
Into your heart is come a mortal hate.
And who shall go before me in the gate?"
"Oger is here, of Denmark;" answers Guenes,
"You've no baron were better in that place."
The count Rollanz hath heard himself decreed;
Speaks then to Guenes by rule of courtesy:
"Good-father, Sir, I ought to hold you dear,
Since the rereward you have for me decreed.
Charles the King will never lose by me,
As I know well, nor charger nor palfrey,
Jennet nor mule that canter can with speed,
Nor sumpter-horse will lose, nor any steed;
But my sword's point shall first exact their meed."
Answers him Guenes: "I know; 'tis true in-deed."
When Rollant heard that he should be rerewarden
Furiously he spoke to his good-father:
"Aha! culvert; begotten of a bastard.
Thinkest the glove will slip from me hereafter,
As then from thee the wand fell before Charles?"
"Right Emperour," says the baron Rollanz,
"Give me the bow you carry in your hand;
Neer in reproach, I know, will any man
Say that it fell and lay upon the land,
As Guenes let fall, when he received the wand."
That Emperour with lowered front doth stand,
He tugs his beard, his chin is in his hand
Tears fill his eyes, he cannot them command.
And after that is come duke Neimes furth,
(Better vassal there was not upon earth)
Says to the King: "Right well now have you heard
The count Rollanz to bitter wrath is stirred,
For that on him the rereward is conferred;
No baron else have you, would do that work.
Give him the bow your hands have bent, at first;
Then find him men, his company are worth."
Gives it, the King, and Rollant bears it furth.
That Emperour, Rollanz then calleth he:
"Fair nephew mine, know this in verity;
Half of my host I leave you presently;
Retain you them; your safeguard this shall be."
Then says the count: "I will not have them, me I
Confound me God, if I fail in the deed!
Good valiant Franks, a thousand score I'll keep.
Go through the pass in all security,
While I'm alive there's no man you need fear."
The count Rollanz has mounted his charger.
Beside him came his comrade Oliver,
Also Gerins and the proud count Geriers,
And Otes came, and also Berengiers,
Old Anseis, and Sansun too came there;
Gerart also of Rossillon the fierce,
And there is come the Gascon Engeliers.
"Now by my head I'll go!" the Archbishop swears.
"And I'm with you," says then the count Gualtiers,
"I'm Rollant's man, I may not leave him there."
A thousand score they choose of chevaliers.
Gualter del Hum he calls, that Count Rollanz;
"A thousand Franks take, out of France our land;
Dispose them so, among ravines and crags,
That the Emperour lose not a single man."
Gualter replies: "I'll do as you command."
A thousand Franks, come out of France their land,
At Gualter's word they scour ravines and crags;
They'll not come down, howe'er the news be bad,
Ere from their sheaths swords seven hundred flash.
King Almaris, Belserne for kingdom had,
On the evil day he met them in combat.
High are the peaks, the valleys shadowful,
Swarthy the rocks, the narrows wonderful.
Franks passed that day all very sorrowful,
Fifteen leagues round the rumour of them grew.
When they were come, and Terra Major knew,
Saw Gascony their land and their seigneur's,
Remembering their fiefs and their honours,
Their little maids, their gentle wives and true;
There was not one that shed not tears for rue.
Beyond the rest Charles was of anguish full,
In Spanish Pass he'd left his dear nephew;
Pity him seized; he could but weep for rue.
The dozen peers are left behind in Spain,
Franks in their band a thousand score remain,
No fear have these, death hold they in disdain.
That Emperour goes into France apace;
Under his cloke he fain would hide his face.
Up to his side comes cantering Duke Neimes,
Says to the King: "What grief upon you weighs?"
Charles answers him: "He's wrong that question makes.
So great my grief I cannot but complain.
France is destroyed, by the device of Guene:
This night I saw, by an angel's vision plain,
Between my hands he brake my spear in twain;
Great fear I have, since Rollant must remain:
I've left him there, upon a border strange.
God! If he's lost, I'll not outlive that shame."
Charles the great, he cannot but deplore.
And with him Franks an hundred thousand mourn,
Who for Rollanz have marvellous remorse.
The felon Guenes had treacherously wrought;
From pagan kin has had his rich reward,
Silver and gold, and veils and silken cloths,
Camels, lions, with many a mule and horse.
Barons from Spain King Marsilies hath called,
Counts and viscounts and dukes and almacours,
And the admirals, and cadets nobly born;
Within three days come hundreds thousands four.
In Sarraguce they sound the drums of war;
Mahum they raise upon their highest tow'r,
Pagan is none, that does not him adore.
They canter then with great contention
Through Certeine land, valleys and mountains, on,
Till of the Franks they see the gonfalons,
Being in rereward those dozen companions;
They will not fail battle to do anon.
Marsile's nephew is come before the band,
Riding a mule, he goads it with a wand,
Smiling and clear, his uncle's ear demands:
"Fair Lord and King, since, in your service, glad,
I have endured sorrow and sufferance,
Have fought in field, and victories have had.
Give me a fee: the right to smite Rollanz!
I'll slay him clean with my good trenchant lance,
If Mahumet will be my sure warrant;
Spain I'll set free, deliver all her land
From Pass of Aspre even unto Durestant.
Charles will grow faint, and recreant the Franks;
There'll be no war while you're a living man."
Marsilie gives the glove into his hand.
Marsile's nephew, holding in hand the glove,
His uncle calls, with reason proud enough:
"Fair Lord and King, great gift from you I've won.
Choose now for me eleven more baruns,
So I may fight those dozen companions."
First before all there answers Falfarun;
-- Brother he was to King Marsiliun --
"Fair sir nephew, go you and I at once
Then verily this battle shall be done;
The rereward of the great host of Carlun,
It is decreed we deal them now their doom."
King Corsablis is come from the other part,
Barbarian, and steeped in evil art.
He's spoken then as fits a good vassal,
For all God's gold he would not seem coward.
Hastes into view Malprimis of Brigal,
Faster than a horse, upon his feet can dart,
Before Marsile he cries with all his heart:
"My body I will shew at Rencesvals;
Find I Rollanz, I'll slay him without fault."
An admiral is there of Balaguet;
Clear face and proud, and body nobly bred;
Since first he was upon his horse mounted,
His arms to bear has shewn great lustihead;
In vassalage he is well famoused;
Christian were he, he'd shewn good baronhead.
Before Marsile aloud has he shouted:
"To Rencesvals my body shall be led;
Find I Rollanz, then is he surely dead,
And Oliver, and all the other twelve;
Franks shall be slain in grief and wretchedness.
Charles the great is old now and doted,
Weary will be and make no war again;
Spain shall be ours, in peace and quietness."
King Marsilies has heard and thanks him well.
An almacour is there of Moriane,
More felon none in all the land of Spain.
Before Marsile his vaunting boast hath made:
"To Rencesvals my company I'll take,
A thousand score, with shields and lances brave.
Find I Rollanz, with death I'll him acquaint;
Day shall not dawn but Charles will make his plaint."
From the other part, Turgis of Turtelose,
He was a count, that city was his own;
Christians he would them massacre, every one.
Before Marsile among the rest is gone,
Says to the King: "Let not dismay be shewn!
Mahum's more worth than Saint Peter of Rome;
Serve we him well, then fame in field we'll own.
To Rencesvals, to meet Rollanz I'll go,
From death he'll find his warranty in none.
See here my sword, that is both good and long
With Durendal I'll lay it well across;
Ye'll hear betimes to which the prize is gone.
Franks shall be slain, whom we descend upon,
Charles the old will suffer grief and wrong,
No more on earth his crown will he put on."
From the other part, Escremiz of Valtrenne,
A Sarrazin, that land was his as well.
Before Marsile he cries amid the press:
"To Rencesvals I go, pride to make less;
Find I Rollanz, he'll not bear thence his head,
Nor Oliver that hath the others led,
The dozen peers condemned are to death;
Franks shall be slain, and France lie deserted.
Of good vassals will Charles be richly bled."
From the other part, a pagan Esturganz;
Estramariz also, was his comrade;
Felons were these, and traitors miscreant.
Then said Marsile: "My Lords, before me stand!
Into the pass ye'll go to Rencesvals,
Give me your aid, and thither lead my band."
They answer him: "Sire, even as you command.
We will assault Olivier and Rollant,
The dozen peers from death have no warrant,
For these our swords are trusty and trenchant,
In scalding blood we'll dye their blades scarlat.
Franks shall be slain, and Chares be right sad.
Terra Major we'll give into your hand;
Come there, Sir King, truly you'll see all that
Yea, the Emperour we'll give into your hand."
Running there came Margariz of Sibile,
Who holds the land by Cadiz, to the sea.
For his beauty the ladies hold him dear;
Who looks on him, with him her heart is pleased,
When she beholds, she can but smile for glee.
Was no pagan of such high chivalry.
Comes through the press, above them all cries he,
"Be not at all dismayed, King Marsilie!
To Rencesvals I go, and Rollanz, he
Nor Oliver may scape alive from me;
The dozen peers are doomed to martyry.
See here the sword, whose hilt is gold indeed,
I got in gift from the admiral of Primes;
In scarlat blood I pledge it shall be steeped.
Franks shall be slain, and France abased be.
To Charles the old, with his great blossoming beard,
Day shall not dawn but brings him rage and grief,
Ere a year pass, all France we shall have seized,
Till we can lie in th' burgh of Saint Denise."
The pagan king has bowed his head down deep.
From the other part, Chemubles of Muneigre.
Right to the ground his hair swept either way;
He for a jest would bear a heavier weight
Than four yoked mules, beneath their load that strain.
That land he had, God's curse on it was plain.
No sun shone there, nor grew there any grain,
No dew fell there, nor any shower of rain,
The very stones were black upon that plain;
And many say that devils there remain.
Says Chemubles "My sword is in its place,
At Rencesvals scarlat I will it stain;
Find I Rollanz the proud upon my way,
I'll fall on him, or trust me not again,
And Durendal I'll conquer with this blade,
Franks shall be slain, and France a desert made."
The dozen peers are, at this word, away,
Five score thousand of Sarrazins they take;
Who keenly press, and on to battle haste;
In a fir-wood their gear they ready make.
Ready they make hauberks Sarrazinese,
That folded are, the greater part, in three;
And they lace on good helms Sarragucese;
Gird on their swords of tried steel Viennese;
Fine shields they have, and spears Valentinese,
And white, blue, red, their ensigns take the breeze,
They've left their mules behind, and their palfreys,
Their chargers mount, and canter knee by knee.
Fair shines the sun, the day is bright and clear,
Light bums again from all their polished gear.
A thousand horns they sound, more proud to seem;
Great is the noise, the Franks its echo hear.
Says Oliver: "Companion, I believe,
Sarrazins now in battle must we meet."
Answers Rollanz :"God grant us then the fee!
For our King's sake well must we quit us here;
Man for his lord should suffer great disease,
Most bitter cold endure, and burning heat,
His hair and skin should offer up at need.
Now must we each lay on most hardily,
So evil songs neer sung of us shall be.
Pagans are wrong: Christians are right indeed.
Evil example will never come of me."
Oliver mounts upon a lofty peak,
Looks to his right along the valley green,
The pagan tribes approaching there appear;
He calls Rollanz, his companion, to see:
"What sound is this, come out of Spain, we hear,
What hauberks bright, what helmets these that gleam?
They'll smite our Franks with fury past belief,
He knew it, Guenes, the traitor and the thief,
Who chose us out before the King our chief."
Answers the count Rollanz: "Olivier, cease.
That man is my good-father; hold thy peace."
Upon a peak is Oliver mounted,
Kingdom of Spain he sees before him spread,
And Sarrazins, so many gathered.
Their helmets gleam, with gold are jewelled,
Also their shields, their hauberks orfreyed,
Also their swords, ensigns on spears fixed.
Rank beyond rank could not be numbered,
So many there, no measure could he set.
In his own heart he's sore astonished,
Fast as he could, down from the peak hath sped
Comes to the Franks, to them his tale hath said.
Says Oliver: "Pagans from there I saw;
Never on earth did any man see more.
Gainst us their shields an hundred thousand bore,
That laced helms and shining hauberks wore;
And, bolt upright, their bright brown spearheads shone.
Battle we'll have as never was before.
Lords of the Franks, God keep you in valour!
So hold your ground, we be not overborne!"
Then say the Franks "Shame take him that goes off:
If we must die, then perish one and all."
Says Oliver: "Pagans in force abound,
While of us Franks but very few I count;
Comrade Rollanz, your horn I pray you sound!
If Charles hear, he'll turn his armies round."
Answers Rollanz: "A fool I should be found;
In France the Douce would perish my renown.
With Durendal I'll lay on thick and stout,
In blood the blade, to its golden hilt, I'll drown.
Felon pagans to th' pass shall not come down;
I pledge you now, to death they all are bound.
"Comrade Rollanz, sound the olifant, I pray;
If Charles hear, the host he'll turn again;
Will succour us our King and baronage."
Answers Rollanz: "Never, by God, I say,
For my misdeed shall kinsmen hear the blame,
Nor France the Douce fall into evil fame!
Rather stout blows with Durendal I'll lay,
With my good sword that by my side doth sway;
Till bloodied o'er you shall behold the blade.
Felon pagans are gathered to their shame;
I pledge you now, to death they're doomed to-day."
"Comrade Rollanz, once sound your olifant!
If Charles hear, where in the pass he stands,
I pledge you now, they'll turn again, the Franks."
"Never, by God," then answers him Rollanz,
"Shall it be said by any living man,
That for pagans I took my horn in hand!
Never by me shall men reproach my clan.
When I am come into the battle grand,
And blows lay on, by hundred, by thousand,
Of Durendal bloodied you'll see the brand.
Franks are good men; like vassals brave they'll stand;
Nay, Spanish men from death have no warrant."
Says Oliver: "In this I see no blame;
I have beheld the Sarrazins of Spain;
Covered with them, the mountains and the vales,
The wastes I saw, and all the farthest plains.
A muster great they've made, this people strange;
We have of men a very little tale."
Answers Rollanz: "My anger is inflamed.
Never, please God His Angels and His Saints,
Never by me shall Frankish valour fail!
Rather I'll die than shame shall me attain.
Therefore strike on, the Emperour's love to gain."
Pride hath Rollanz, wisdom Olivier hath;
And both of them shew marvellous courage;
Once they are horsed, once they have donned their arms,
Rather they'd die than from the battle pass.
Good are the counts, and lofty their language.
Felon pagans come cantering in their wrath.
Says Oliver: "Behold and see, Rollanz,
These are right near, but Charles is very far.
On the olifant deign now to sound a blast;
Were the King here, we should not fear damage.
Only look up towards the Pass of Aspre,
In sorrow there you'll see the whole rereward.
Who does this deed, does no more afterward."
Answers Rollanz: "Utter not such outrage!
Evil his heart that is in thought coward!
We shall remain firm in our place installed;
From us the blows shall come, from us the assault."
When Rollant sees that now must be combat,
More fierce he's found than lion or leopard;
The Franks he calls, and Oliver commands:
"Now say no more, my friends, nor thou, comrade.
That Emperour, who left us Franks on guard,
A thousand score stout men he set apart,
And well he knows, not one will prove coward.
Man for his lord should suffer with good heart,
Of bitter cold and great heat bear the smart,
His blood let drain, and all his flesh be scarred.
Strike with thy lance, and I with Durendal,
With my good sword that was the King's reward.
So, if I die, who has it afterward
Noble vassal's he well may say it was."
From the other part is the Archbishop Turpin,
He pricks his horse and mounts upon a hill;
Calling the Franks, sermon to them begins:
"My lords barons, Charles left us here for this;
He is our King, well may we die for him:
To Christendom good service offering.
Battle you'll have, you all are bound to it,
For with your eyes you see the Sarrazins.
Pray for God's grace, confessing Him your sins!
For your souls' health, I'll absolution give
So, though you die, blest martyrs shall you live,
Thrones you shall win in the great Paradis."
The Franks dismount, upon the ground are lit.
That Archbishop God's Benediction gives,
For their penance, good blows to strike he bids.
The Franks arise, and stand upon their feet,
They're well absolved, and from their sins made clean,
And the Archbishop has signed them with God's seal;
And next they mount upon their chargers keen;
By rule of knights they have put on their gear,
For battle all apparelled as is meet.
The count Rollant calls Oliver, and speaks
"Comrade and friend, now clearly have you seen
That Guenelun hath got us by deceit;
Gold hath he ta'en; much wealth is his to keep;
That Emperour vengeance for us must wreak.
King Marsilies hath bargained for us cheap;
At the sword's point he yet shall pay our meed."
To Spanish pass is Rollanz now going
On Veillantif, his good steed, galloping;
He is well armed, pride is in his bearing,
He goes, so brave, his spear in hand holding,
He goes, its point against the sky turning;
A gonfalon all white thereon he's pinned,
Down to his hand flutters the golden fringe:
Noble his limbs, his face clear and smiling.
His companion goes after, following,
The men of France their warrant find in him.
Proudly he looks towards the Sarrazins,
And to the Franks sweetly, himself humbling;
And courteously has said to them this thing:
"My lords barons, go now your pace holding!
Pagans are come great martyrdom seeking;
Noble and fair reward this day shall bring,
Was never won by any Frankish King."
Upon these words the hosts are come touching.
Speaks Oliver: "No more now will I say.
Your olifant, to sound it do not deign,
Since from Carlun you'll never more have aid.
He has not heard; no fault of his, so brave.
Those with him there are never to be blamed.
So canter on, with what prowess you may!
Lords and barons, firmly your ground maintain!
Be minded well, I pray you in God's Name,
Stout blows to strike, to give as you shall take.
Forget the cry of Charles we never may."
Upon this word the Franks cry out amain.
Who then had heard them all "Monjoie!" acclaim
Of vassalage might well recall the tale.
They canter forth, God! with what proud parade,
Pricking their spurs, the better speed to gain;
They go to strike,-- what other thing could they? --
But Sarrazins are not at all afraid.
Pagans and Franks, you'ld see them now engaged.
Marsile's nephew, his name is Aelroth,
First of them all canters before the host,
Says of our Franks these ill words as he goes:
"Felons of France, so here on us you close!
Betrayed you has he that to guard you ought;
Mad is the King who left you in this post.
So shall the fame of France the Douce be lost,
And the right arm from Charles body torn."
When Rollant hears, what rage he has, by God!
His steed he spurs, gallops with great effort;
He goes, that count, to strike with all his force,
The shield he breaks, the hauberk's seam unsews,
Slices the heart, and shatters up the bones,
All of the spine he severs with that blow,
And with his spear the soul from body throws
So well he's pinned, he shakes in the air that corse,
On his spear's hilt he's flung it from the horse:
So in two halves Aeroth's neck he broke,
Nor left him yet, they say, but rather spoke:
"Avaunt, culvert! A madman Charles is not,
No treachery was ever in his thought.
Proudly he did, who left us in this post;
The fame of France the Douce shall not be lost.
Strike on, the Franks! Ours are the foremost blows.
For we are right, but these gluttons are wrong."
A duke there was, his name was Falfarun,
Brother was he to King Marsiliun,
He held their land, Dathan's and Abirun's;
Beneath the sky no more encrimed felun;
Between his eyes so broad was he in front
A great half-foot you'ld measure there in full.
His nephew dead he's seen with grief enough,
Comes through the press and wildly forth he runs,
Aloud he shouts their cry the pagans use;
And to the Franks is right contrarious:
"Honour of France the Douce shall fall to us!"
Hears Oliver, he's very furious,
His horse he pricks with both his golden spurs,
And goes to strike, ev'n as a baron doth;
The shield he breaks and through the hauberk cuts,
His ensign's fringe into the carcass thrusts,
On his spear's hilt he's flung it dead in dust.
Looks on the ground, sees glutton lying thus,
And says to him, with reason proud enough:
"From threatening, culvert, your mouth I've shut.
Strike on, the Franks! Right well we'll overcome."
"Monjoie," he shouts, 'twas the ensign of Carlun.
A king there was, his name was Corsablix,
Barbarian, and of a strange country,
He's called aloud to the other Sarrazins:
"Well may we join battle upon this field,
For of the Franks but very few are here;
And those are here, we should account them cheap,
From Charles not one has any warranty.
This is the day when they their death shall meet."
Has heard him well that Archbishop Turpin,
No man he'ld hate so much the sky beneath;
Spurs of fine gold he pricks into his steed,
To strike that king by virtue great goes he,
The hauberk all unfastens, breaks the shield,
Thrusts his great spear in through the carcass clean,
Pins it so well he shakes it in its seat,
Dead in the road he's flung it from his spear.
Looks on the ground, that glutton lying sees,
Nor leaves him yet, they say, but rather speaks:
"Culvert pagan, you lied now in your teeth,
Charles my lord our warrant is indeed;
None of our Franks hath any mind to flee.
Your companions all on this spot we'll keep,
I tell you news; death shall ye suffer here.
Strike on, the Franks! Fail none of you at need!
Ours the first blow, to God the glory be!"
"Monjoie!" he cries, for all the camp to hear.
And Gerins strikes Malprimis of Brigal
So his good shield is nothing worth at all,
Shatters the boss, was fashioned of crystal,
One half of it downward to earth flies off;
Right to the flesh has through his hauberk torn,
On his good spear he has the carcass caught.
And with one blow that pagan downward falls;
The soul of him Satan away hath borne.
And his comrade Gerers strikes the admiral,
The shield he breaks, the hauberk unmetals,
And his good spear drives into his vitals,
So well he's pinned him, clean through the carcass,
Dead on the field he's flung him from his hand.
Says Oliver: "Now is our battle grand."
Sansun the Duke goes strike that almacour,
The shield he breaks, with golden flowers tooled,
That good hauberk for him is nothing proof,
He's sliced the heart, the lungs and liver through,
And flung him dead, as well or ill may prove.
Says the Archbishop: "A baron's stroke, in truth."
And Anseis has let his charger run;
He goes to strike Turgis of Turtelus,
The shield he breaks, its golden boss above,
The hauberk too, its doubled mail undoes,
His good spear's point into the carcass runs,
So well he's thrust, clean through the whole steel comes,
And from the hilt he's thrown him dead in dust.
Then says Rollant: "Great prowess in that thrust."
And Engelers the Gascoin of Burdele
Spurs on his horse, lets fall the reins as well,
He goes to strike Escremiz of Valtrene,
The shield he breaks and shatters on his neck,
The hauberk too, he has its chinguard rent,
Between the arm-pits has pierced him through the breast,
On his spear's hilt from saddle throws him dead;
After he says "So are you turned to hell."
And Otes strikes a pagan Estorgant
Upon the shield, before its leathern band,
Slices it through, the white with the scarlat;
The hauberk too, has torn its folds apart,
And his good spear thrusts clean through the carcass,
And flings it dead, ev'n as the horse goes past;
He says: "You have no warrant afterward."
And Berenger, he strikes Estramariz,
The shield he breaks, the hauberk tears and splits,
Thrusts his stout spear through's middle, and him flings
Down dead among a thousand Sarrazins.
Of their dozen peers ten have now been killed,
No more than two remain alive and quick,
Being Chernuble, and the count Margariz.
Margariz is a very gallant knight,
Both fair and strong, and swift he is and light;
He spurs his horse, goes Oliver to strike,
And breaks his shield, by th'golden buckle bright;
Along his ribs the pagan's spear doth glide;
God's his warrant, his body has respite,
The shaft breaks off, Oliver stays upright;
That other goes, naught stays him in his flight,
His trumpet sounds, rallies his tribe to fight.
Common the fight is now and marvellous.
The count Rollanz no way himself secures,
Strikes with his spear, long as the shaft endures,
By fifteen blows it is clean broken through
Then Durendal he bares, his sabre good
Spurs on his horse, is gone to strike Chemuble,
The helmet breaks, where bright carbuncles grew,
Slices the cap and shears the locks in two,
Slices also the eyes and the features,
The hauberk white, whose mail was close of woof,
Down to the groin cuts all his body through
To the saddle; with beaten gold 'twas tooled.
Upon the horse that sword a moment stood,
Then sliced its spine, no join there any knew,
Dead in the field among thick grass them threw.
After he said "Culvert, false step you moved,
From Mahumet your help will not come soon.
No victory for gluttons such as you."
The count Rollanz, he canters through the field,
Holds Durendal, he well can thrust and wield,
Right great damage he's done the Sarrazines
You'd seen them, one on other, dead in heaps,
Through all that place their blood was flowing clear!
In blood his arms were and his hauberk steeped,
And bloodied o'er, shoulders and neck, his steed.
And Oliver goes on to strike with speed;
No blame that way deserve the dozen peers,
For all the Franks they strike and slay with heat,
Pagans are slain, some swoon there in their seats,
Says the Archbishop: "Good baronage indeed!"
"Monjoie" he cries, the call of Charles repeats.
And Oliver has cantered through the crush;
Broken his spear, the truncheon still he thrusts;
Going to strike a pagan Malsarun;
Flowers and gold, are on the shield, he cuts,
Out of the head both the two eyes have burst,
And all the brains are fallen in the dust;
He flings him dead, sev'n hundred else amongst.
Then has he slain Turgin and Esturgus;
Right to the hilt, his spear in flinders flew.
Then says Rollant: "Companion, what do you?
In such a fight, there's little strength in wood,
Iron and steel should here their valour prove.
Where is your sword, that Halteclere I knew?
Golden its hilt, whereon a crystal grew."
Says Oliver: "I had not, if I drew,
Time left to strike enough good blows and true."
Then Oliver has drawn his mighty sword
As his comrade had bidden and implored,
In knightly wise the blade to him has shewed;
Justin he strikes, that Iron Valley's lord,
All of his head has down the middle shorn,
The carcass sliced, the broidered sark has torn,
The good saddle that was with old adorned,
And through the spine has sliced that pagan's horse;
Dead in the field before his feet they fall.
Says Rollant: "Now my brother I you call;
He'll love us for such blows, our Emperor."
On every side "Monjoie" you'ld hear them roar.
That count Gerins sate on his horse Sorel,
On Passe-Cerf was Gerers there, his friend;
They've loosed their reins, together spurred and sped,
And go to strike a pagan Timozel;
One on the shield, on hauberk the other fell;
And their two spears went through the carcass well,
A fallow field amidst they've thrown him dead.
I do not know, I never heard it said
Which of the two was nimbler as they went.
Esperveris was there, son of Borel,
And him there slew Engelers of Burdel.
And the Archbishop, he slew them Siglorel,
The enchanter, who before had been in hell,
Where Jupiter bore him by a magic spell.
Then Turpin says "To us he's forfeited."
Answers Rollanz: "The culvert is bested.
Such blows, brother Olivier, I like well."
The battle grows more hard and harder yet,
Franks and pagans, with marvellous onset,
Each other strike and each himself defends.
So many shafts bloodstained and shattered,
So many flags and ensigns tattered;
So many Franks lose their young lustihead,
Who'll see no more their mothers nor their friends,
Nor hosts of France, that in the pass attend.
Charles the Great weeps therefor with regret.
What profits that? No succour shall they get.
Evil service, that day, Guenes rendered them,
To Sarraguce going, his own to sell.
After he lost his members and his head,
In court, at Aix, to gallows-tree condemned;
And thirty more with him, of his kindred,
Were hanged, a thing they never did expect.
Now marvellous and weighty the combat,
Right well they strike, Olivier and Rollant,
A thousand blows come from the Archbishop's hand,
The dozen peers are nothing short of that,
With one accord join battle all the Franks.
Pagans are slain by hundred, by thousand,
Who flies not then, from death has no warrant,
Will he or nill, foregoes the allotted span.
The Franks have lost the foremost of their band,
They'll see no more their fathers nor their clans,
Nor Charlemagne, where in the pass he stands.
Torment arose, right marvellous, in France,
Tempest there was, of wind and thunder black,
With rain and hail, so much could not be spanned;
Fell thunderbolts often on every hand,
And verily the earth quaked in answer back
From Saint Michael of Peril unto Sanz,
From Besencun to the harbour of Guitsand;
No house stood there but straight its walls must crack:
In full mid-day the darkness was so grand,
Save the sky split, no light was in the land.
Beheld these things with terror every man,
And many said: "We in the Judgement stand;
The end of time is presently at hand."
They spake no truth; they did not understand;
'Twas the great day of mourning for Rollant.
The Franks strike on; their hearts are good and stout.
Pagans are slain, a thousandfold, in crowds,
Left of five score are not two thousands now.
Says the Archbishop: "Our men are very proud,
No man on earth has more nor better found.
In Chronicles of Franks is written down,
What vassalage he had, our Emperour."
Then through the field they go, their friends seek out,
And their eyes weep with grief and pain profound
For kinsmen dear, by hearty friendship bound.
King Marsilies and his great host draw round.
King Marsilies along a valley led
The mighty host that he had gathered.
Twenty columns that king had numbered.
With gleaminag gold their helms were jewelled.
Shone too their shields and sarks embroidered.
Sounded the charge seven thousand trumpets,
Great was the noise through all that country went.
Then said Rollanz: "Olivier, brother, friend,
That felon Guenes hath sworn to achieve our death;
For his treason no longer is secret.
Right great vengeance our Emperour will get.
Battle we'll have, both long and keenly set,
Never has man beheld such armies met.
With Durendal my sword I'll strike again,
And, comrade, you shall strike with Halteclere.
These swords in lands so many have we held,
Battles with them so many brought to end,
No evil song shall e'er be sung or said."
When the Franks see so many there, pagans,
On every side covering all the land,
Often they call Olivier and Rollant,
The dozen peers, to be their safe warrant.
And the Archbishop speaks to them, as he can:
"My lords barons, go thinking nothing bad!
For God I pray you fly not hence but stand,
Lest evil songs of our valour men chant!
Far better t'were to perish in the van.
Certain it is, our end is near at hand,
Beyond this day shall no more live one man;
But of one thing I give you good warrant:
Blest Paradise to you now open stands,
By the Innocents your thrones you there shall have."
Upon these words grow bold again the Franks;
There is not one but he "Monjoie" demands.
A Sarrazin was there, of Sarraguce,
Of that city one half was his by use,
'Twas Climborins, a man was nothing proof;
By Guenelun the count an oath he took,
And kissed his mouth in amity and truth,
Gave him his sword and his carbuncle too.
Terra Major, he said, to shame he'ld put,
From the Emperour his crown he would remove.
He sate his horse, which he called Barbamusche,
Never so swift sparrow nor swallow flew,
He spurred him well, and down the reins he threw,
Going to strike Engelier of Gascune;
Nor shield nor sark him any warrant proved,
The pagan spear's point did his body wound,
He pinned him well, and all the steel sent through,
From the hilt flung him dead beneath his foot.
After he said: "Good are they to confuse.
Pagans, strike on, and so this press set loose!"
"God!" say the Franks, "Grief, such a man to lose!"
The count Rollanz called upon Oliver:
"Sir companion, dead now is Engeler;
Than whom we'd no more valiant chevalier."
Answered that count: "God, let me him avenge!"
Spurs of fine gold into his horse drove then,
Held Halteclere, with blood its steel was red,
By virtue great to strike that pagan went,
Brandished his blade, the Sarrazin upset;
The Adversaries of God his soul bare thence.
Next he has slain the duke Alphaien,
And sliced away Escababi his head,
And has unhorsed some seven Arabs else;
No good for those to go to war again.
Then said Rollanz: "My comrade shews anger,
So in my sight he makes me prize him well;
More dear by Charles for such blows are we held."
Aloud he's cried: "Strike on, the chevaliers!"
From the other part a pagan Valdabron.
Warden he'd been to king Marsilion,
And lord, by sea, of four hundred dromonds;
No sailor was but called his name upon;
Jerusalem he'd taken by treason,
Violated the Temple of Salomon,
The Partiarch had slain before the fonts.
He'd pledged his oath by county Guenelon,
Gave him his sword, a thousand coins thereon.
He sate his horse, which he called Gramimond,
Never so swift flew in the air falcon;
He's pricked him well, with sharp spurs he had on,
Going to strike e'en that rich Duke, Sanson;
His shield has split, his hauberk has undone,
The ensign's folds have through his body gone,
Dead from the hilt out of his seat he's dropt:
"Pagans, strike on, for well we'll overcome!"
"God!" say the Franks, "Grief for a brave baron!"
The count Rollanz, when Sansun dead he saw,
You may believe, great grief he had therefor.
His horse he spurs, gallops with great effort,
Wields Durendal, was worth fine gold and more,
Goes as he may to strike that baron bold
Above the helm, that was embossed with gold,
Slices the head, the sark, and all the corse,
The good saddle, that was embossed with gold,
And cuts deep through the backbone of his horse;
He's slain them both, blame him for that or laud.
The pagans say: "'Twas hard on us, that blow."
Answers Rollanz: "Nay, love you I can not,
For on your side is arrogance and wrong."