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The Song of Roland



     So Rollanz turns; through the field, all alone,
2185 Searching the vales and mountains, he is gone;
     He finds Gerin, Gerers his companion,
     Also he finds Berenger and Otton,
     There too he finds Anseis and Sanson,
     And finds Gerard the old, of Rossillon;
2190 By one and one he's taken those barons,
     To the Archbishop with each of them he comes,
     Before his knees arranges every one.
     That Archbishop, he cannot help but sob,
     He lifts his hand, gives benediction;
2195 After he's said: "Unlucky, Lords, your lot!
     But all your souls He'll lay, our Glorious God,
     In Paradise, His holy flowers upon!
     For my own death such anguish now I've got;
     I shall not see him, our rich Emperor."


2200 So Rollant turns, goes through the field in quest;
     His companion Olivier finds at length;
     He has embraced him close against his breast,
     To the Archbishop returns as he can best;
     Upon a shield he's laid him, by the rest;
2205 And the Archbishop has them absolved and blest:
     Whereon his grief and pity grow afresh.
     Then says Rollanz: "Fair comrade Olivier,
     You were the son of the good count Reinier,
     Who held the march by th' Vale of Runier;
2210 To shatter spears, through buckled shields to bear,
     And from hauberks the mail to break and tear,
     Proof men to lead, and prudent counsel share,
     Gluttons in field to frighten and conquer,
     No land has known a better chevalier."


2215 The count Rollanz, when dead he saw his peers,
     And Oliver, he held so very dear,
     Grew tender, and began to shed a tear;
     Out of his face the colour disappeared;
     No longer could he stand, for so much grief,
2220 Will he or nill, he swooned upon the field.
     Said the Archbishop: "Unlucky lord, indeed!"


     When the Archbishop beheld him swoon, Rollant,
     Never before such bitter grief he'd had;
     Stretching his hand, he took that olifant.
2225 Through Rencesvals a little river ran;
     He would go there, fetch water for Rollant.
     Went step by step, to stumble soon began,
     So feeble he is, no further fare he can,
     For too much blood he's lost, and no strength has;
2230 Ere he has crossed an acre of the land,
     His heart grows faint, he falls down forwards and
     Death comes to him with very cruel pangs.


     The count Rollanz wakes from his swoon once more,
     Climbs to his feet; his pains are very sore;
2235 Looks down the vale, looks to the hills above;
     On the green grass, beyond his companions,
     He sees him lie, that noble old baron;
     'Tis the Archbishop, whom in His name wrought God;
     There he proclaims his sins, and looks above;
2240 Joins his two hands, to Heaven holds them forth,
     And Paradise prays God to him to accord.
     Dead is Turpin, the warrior of Charlon.
     In battles great and very rare sermons
     Against pagans ever a champion.
2245 God grant him now His Benediction!


     The count Rollant sees the Archbishop lie dead,
     Sees the bowels out of his body shed,
     And sees the brains that surge from his forehead;
     Between his two arm-pits, upon his breast,
2250 Crossways he folds those hands so white and fair.
     Then mourns aloud, as was the custom there:
     "Thee, gentle sir, chevalier nobly bred,
     To the Glorious Celestial I commend;
     Neer shall man be, that will Him serve so well;
2255 Since the Apostles was never such prophet,
     To hold the laws and draw the hearts of men.
     Now may your soul no pain nor sorrow ken,
     Finding the gates of Paradise open!"


     Then Rollanz feels that death to him draws near,
2260 For all his brain is issued from his ears;
     He prays to God that He will call the peers,
     Bids Gabriel, the angel, t' himself appear.
     Takes the olifant, that no reproach shall hear,
     And Durendal in the other hand he wields;
2265 Further than might a cross-bow's arrow speed
     Goes towards Spain into a fallow-field;
     Climbs on a cliff; where, under two fair trees,
     Four terraces, of marble wrought, he sees.
     There he falls down, and lies upon the green;
2270 He swoons again, for death is very near.


     High are the peaks, the trees are very high.
     Four terraces of polished marble shine;
     On the green grass count Rollant swoons thereby.
     A Sarrazin him all the time espies,
2275 Who feigning death among the others hides;
     Blood hath his face and all his body dyed;
     He gets afoot, running towards him hies;
     Fair was he, strong and of a courage high;
     A mortal hate he's kindled in his pride.
2280 He's seized Rollant, and the arms, were at his side,
     "Charles nephew," he's said, "here conquered lies.
     To Araby I'll bear this sword as prize."
     As he drew it, something the count descried.


     So Rollant felt his sword was taken forth,
2285 Opened his eyes, and this word to him spoke
     "Thou'rt never one of ours, full well I know."
     Took the olifant, that he would not let go,
     Struck him on th' helm, that jewelled was with gold,
     And broke its steel, his skull and all his bones,
2290 Out of his head both the two eyes he drove;
     Dead at his feet he has the pagan thrown:
     After he's said: "Culvert, thou wert too bold,
     Or right or wrong, of my sword seizing hold!
     They'll dub thee fool, to whom the tale is told.
2295 But my great one, my olifant I broke;
     Fallen from it the crystal and the gold."


     Then Rollanz feels that he has lost his sight,
     Climbs to his feet, uses what strength he might;
     In all his face the colour is grown white.
2300 In front of him a great brown boulder lies;
     Whereon ten blows with grief and rage he strikes;
     The steel cries out, but does not break outright;
     And the count says: "Saint Mary, be my guide
     Good Durendal, unlucky is your plight!
2305 I've need of you no more; spent is my pride!
     We in the field have won so many fights,
     Combating through so many regions wide
     That Charles holds, whose beard is hoary white!
     Be you not his that turns from any in flight!
2310 A good vassal has held you this long time;
     Never shall France the Free behold his like."


     Rollant hath struck the sardonyx terrace;
     The steel cries out, but broken is no ways.
     So when he sees he never can it break,
2315 Within himself begins he to complain:
     "Ah!  Durendal, white art thou, clear of stain!
     Beneath the sun reflecting back his rays!
     In Moriane was Charles, in the vale,
     When from heaven God by His angel bade
2320 Him give thee to a count and capitain;
     Girt thee on me that noble King and great.
     I won for him with thee Anjou, Bretaigne,
     And won for him with thee Peitou, the Maine,
     And Normandy the free for him I gained,
2325 Also with thee Provence and Equitaigne,
     And Lumbardie and all the whole Romaigne,
     I won Baivere, all Flanders in the plain,
     Also Burguigne and all the whole Puillane,
     Costentinnople, that homage to him pays;
2330 In Saisonie all is as he ordains;
     With thee I won him Scotland, Ireland, Wales,
     England also, where he his chamber makes;
     Won I with thee so many countries strange
     That Charles holds, whose beard is white with age!
2335 For this sword's sake sorrow upon me weighs,
     Rather I'ld die, than it mid pagans stay.
     Lord God Father, never let France be shamed!"


     Rollant his stroke on a dark stone repeats,
     And more of it breaks off than I can speak.
2340 The sword cries out, yet breaks not in the least,
     Back from the blow into the air it leaps.
     Destroy it can he not; which when he sees,
     Within himself he makes a plaint most sweet.
     "Ah! Durendal, most holy, fair indeed!
2345 Relics enough thy golden hilt conceals:
     Saint Peter's Tooth, the Blood of Saint Basile,
     Some of the Hairs of my Lord, Saint Denise,
     Some of the Robe, was worn by Saint Mary.
     It is not right that pagans should thee seize,
2350 For Christian men your use shall ever be.
     Nor any man's that worketh cowardice!
     Many broad lands with you have I retrieved
     Which Charles holds, who hath the great white beard;
     Wherefore that King so proud and rich is he."


2355 But Rollant felt that death had made a way
     Down from his head till on his heart it lay;
     Beneath a pine running in haste he came,
     On the green grass he lay there on his face;
     His olifant and sword beneath him placed,
2360 Turning his head towards the pagan race,
     Now this he did, in truth, that Charles might say
     (As he desired) and all the Franks his race; --
     'Ah, gentle count; conquering he was slain!' --
     He owned his faults often and every way,
2365 And for his sins his glove to God upraised.


     But Rollant feels he's no more time to seek;
     Looking to Spain, he lies on a sharp peak,
     And with one hand upon his breast he beats:
     "Mea Culpa!  God, by Thy Virtues clean
2370 Me from my sins, the mortal and the mean,
     Which from the hour that I was born have been
     Until this day, when life is ended here!"
     Holds out his glove towards God, as he speaks
     Angels descend from heaven on that scene.


2375 The count Rollanz, beneath a pine he sits,;
     Turning his eyes towards Spain, he begins
     Remembering so many divers things:
     So many lands where he went conquering,
     And France the Douce, the heroes of his kin,
2380 And Charlemagne, his lord who nourished him.
     Nor can he help but weep and sigh at this.
     But his own self, he's not forgotten him,
     He owns his faults, and God's forgiveness bids:
     "Very Father, in Whom no falsehood is,
2385 Saint Lazaron from death Thou didst remit,
     And Daniel save from the lions' pit;
     My soul in me preserve from all perils
     And from the sins I did in life commit!"
     His right-hand glove, to God he offers it
2390 Saint Gabriel from's hand hath taken it.
     Over his arm his head bows down and slips,
     He joins his hands: and so is life finish'd.
     God sent him down His angel cherubin,
     And Saint Michael, we worship in peril;
2395 And by their side Saint Gabriel alit;
     So the count's soul they bare to Paradis.


     Rollant is dead; his soul to heav'n God bare.
     That Emperour to Rencesvals doth fare.
     There was no path nor passage anywhere
2400 Nor of waste ground no ell nor foot to spare
     Without a Frank or pagan lying there.
     Charles cries aloud: "Where are you, nephew fair?
     Where's the Archbishop and that count Oliviers?
     Where is Gerins and his comrade Gerers?
2405 Otes the Duke, and the count Berengiers
     And Ivorie, and Ive, so dear they were?
     What is become of Gascon Engelier,
     Sansun the Duke and Anseis the fierce?
     Where's old Gerard of Russillun; oh, where
2410 The dozen peers I left behind me here?"
     But what avail, since none can answer bear?
     "God!" says the King, "Now well may I despair,
     I was not here the first assault to share!"
     Seeming enraged, his beard the King doth tear.
2415 Weep from their eyes barons and chevaliers,
     A thousand score, they swoon upon the earth;
     Duke Neimes for them was moved with pity rare.


     No chevalier nor baron is there, who
     Pitifully weeps not for grief and dule;
2420 They mourn their sons, their brothers, their nephews,
     And their liege lords, and trusty friends and true;
     Upon the ground a many of them swoon.
     Thereon Duke Neimes doth act with wisdom proof,
     First before all he's said to the Emperour:
2425 "See beforehand, a league from us or two,
     From the highways dust rising in our view;
     Pagans are there, and many them, too.
     Canter therefore!  Vengeance upon them do!"
     "Ah, God!" says Charles, "so far are they re-moved!
2430 Do right by me, my honour still renew!
     They've torn from me the flower of France the Douce."
     The King commands Gebuin and Otun,
     Tedbalt of Reims, also the count Milun:
     "Guard me this field, these hills and valleys too,
2435 Let the dead lie, all as they are, unmoved,
     Let not approach lion, nor any brute,
     Let not approach esquire, nor any groom;
     For I forbid that any come thereto,
     Until God will that we return anew."
2440 These answer him sweetly, their love to prove:
     "Right Emperour, dear Sire, so will we do."
     A thousand knights they keep in retinue.


     That Emperour bids trumpets sound again,
     Then canters forth with his great host so brave.
2445 Of Spanish men, whose backs are turned their way,
     Franks one and all continue in their chase.
     When the King sees the light at even fade,
     On the green grass dismounting as he may,
2450 He kneels aground, to God the Lord doth pray
     That the sun's course He will for him delay,
     Put off the night, and still prolong the day.
     An angel then, with him should reason make,
     Nimbly enough appeared to him and spake:
     "Charles, canter on!  Light needst not thou await.
2455 The flower of France, as God knows well, is slain;
     Thou canst be avenged upon that crimeful race."
     Upon that word mounts the Emperour again.


     For Charlemagne a great marvel God planned:
     Making the sun still in his course to stand.
2460 So pagans fled, and chased them well the Franks
     Through the Valley of Shadows, close in hand;
     Towards Sarraguce by force they chased them back,
     And as they went with killing blows attacked:
     Barred their highways and every path they had.
2465 The River Sebre before them reared its bank,
     'Twas very deep, marvellous current ran;
     No barge thereon nor dromond nor caland.
     A god of theirs invoked they, Tervagant.
     And then leaped in, but there no warrant had.
2470 The armed men more weighty were for that,
     Many of them down to the bottom sank,
     Downstream the rest floated as they might hap;
     So much water the luckiest of them drank,
     That all were drowned, with marvellous keen pangs.
2475 "An evil day," cry Franks, "ye saw Rollant!"


     When Charles sees that pagans all are dead,
     Some of them slain, the greater part drowned;
     (Whereby great spoils his chevaliers collect)
     That gentle King upon his feet descends,
2480 Kneels on the ground, his thanks to God presents.
     When he once more rise, the sun is set.
     Says the Emperour "Time is to pitch our tents;
     To Rencesvals too late to go again.
     Our horses are worn out and foundered:
2485 Unsaddle them, take bridles from their heads,
     And through these meads let them refreshment get."
     Answer the Franks: "Sire, you have spoken well."


     That Emperour hath chosen his bivouac;
     The Franks dismount in those deserted tracts,
3490 Their saddles take from off their horses' backs,
     Bridles of gold from off their heads unstrap,
     Let them go free; there is enough fresh grass --
     No service can they render them, save that.
     Who is most tired sleeps on the ground stretched flat.
3495 Upon this night no sentinels keep watch.


     That Emperour is lying in a mead;
     By's head, so brave, he's placed his mighty spear;
     On such a night unarmed he will not be.
     He's donned his white hauberk, with broidery,
2500 Has laced his helm, jewelled with golden beads,
     Girt on Joiuse, there never was its peer,
     Whereon each day thirty fresh hues appear.
     All of us know that lance, and well may speak
     Whereby Our Lord was wounded on the Tree:
2505 Charles, by God's grace, possessed its point of steel!
     His golden hilt he enshrined it underneath.
     By that honour and by that sanctity
     The name Joiuse was for that sword decreed.
     Barons of France may not forgetful be
2510 Whence comes the ensign "Monjoie," they cry at need;
     Wherefore no race against them can succeed.


     Clear was the night, the moon shone radiant.
     Charles laid him down, but sorrow for Rollant
     And Oliver, most heavy on him he had,
2515 For's dozen peers, for all the Frankish band
     He had left dead in bloody Rencesvals;
     He could not help, but wept and waxed mad,
     And prayed to God to be their souls' Warrant.
     Weary that King, or grief he's very sad;
2520 He falls on sleep, he can no more withstand.
     Through all those meads they slumber then, the Franks;
     Is not a horse can any longer stand,
     Who would eat grass, he takes it lying flat.
     He has learned much, can understand their pangs.


2525 Charles, like a man worn out with labour, slept.
     Saint Gabriel the Lord to him hath sent,
     Whom as a guard o'er the Emperour he set;
     Stood all night long that angel by his head.
     In a vision announced he to him then
2530 A battle, should be fought against him yet,
     Significance of griefs demonstrated.
     Charles looked up towards the sky, and there
     Thunders and winds and blowing gales beheld,
     And hurricanes and marvellous tempests;
2535 Lightnings and flames he saw in readiness,
     That speedily on all his people fell;
     Apple and ash, their spear-shafts all burned,
     Also their shields, e'en the golden bosses,
     Crumbled the shafts of their trenchant lances,
2540 Crushed their hauberks and all their steel helmets.
     His chevaliers he saw in great distress.
     Bears and leopards would feed upon them next;
     Adversaries, dragons, wyverns, serpents,
     Griffins were there, thirty thousand, no less,
2545 Nor was there one but on some Frank it set.
     And the Franks cried: "Ah!  Charlemagne, give help!"
     Wherefore the King much grief and pity felt,
     He'ld go to them but was in duress kept:
     Out of a wood came a great lion then,
2550 'Twas very proud and fierce and terrible;
     His body dear sought out, and on him leapt,
     Each in his arms, wrestling, the other held;
     But he knew not which conquered, nor which fell.
     That Emperour woke not at all, but slept.


2555 And, after that, another vision came:
     Himseemed in France, at Aix, on a terrace,
     And that he held a bruin by two chains;
     Out of Ardenne saw thirty bears that came,
     And each of them words, as a man might, spake
2560 Said to him: "Sire, give him to us again!
     It is not right that he with you remain,
     He's of our kin, and we must lend him aid."
     A harrier fair ran out of his palace,
     Among them all the greatest bear assailed
2565 On the green grass, beyond his friends some way.
     There saw the King marvellous give and take;
     But he knew not which fell, nor which o'ercame.
     The angel of God so much to him made plain.
     Charles slept on till the clear dawn of day.


2570 King Marsilies, fleeing to Sarraguce,
     Dismounted there beneath an olive cool;
     His sword and sark and helm aside he put,
     On the green grass lay down in shame and gloom;
     For his right hand he'd lost, 'twas clean cut through;
2575 Such blood he'd shed, in anguish keen he swooned.
     Before his face his lady Bramimunde
     Bewailed and cried, with very bitter rue;
     Twenty thousand and more around him stood,
     All of them cursed Carlun and France the Douce.
2580 Then Apollin in's grotto they surround,
     And threaten him, and ugly words pronounce:
     "Such shame on us, vile god!, why bringest thou?
     This is our king; wherefore dost him confound?
     Who served thee oft, ill recompense hath found."
2585 Then they take off his sceptre and his crown,
     With their hands hang him from a column down,
     Among their feet trample him on the ground,
     With great cudgels they batter him and trounce.
     From Tervagant his carbuncle they impound,
2590 And Mahumet into a ditch fling out,
     Where swine and dogs defile him and devour.


     Out of his swoon awakens Marsilies,
     And has him borne his vaulted roof beneath;
     Many colours were painted there to see,
2595 And Bramimunde laments for him, the queen,
     Tearing her hair; caitiff herself she clepes;
     Also these words cries very loud and clear:
     "Ah!  Sarraguce, henceforth forlorn thou'lt be
     Of the fair king that had thee in his keep!
2600 All those our gods have wrought great felony,
     Who in battle this morning failed at need.
     That admiral will shew his cowardice,
     Unless he fight against that race hardy,
     Who are so fierce, for life they take no heed.
2605 That Emperour, with his blossoming beard,
     Hath vassalage, and very high folly;
     Battle to fight, he will not ever flee.
     Great grief it is, no man may slay him clean."


     That Emperour, by his great Majesty,
26I0 Full seven years in Spain now has he been,
     And castles there, and many cities seized.
     King Marsilies was therefore sore displeased;
     In the first year he sealed and sent his brief
     To Baligant, into Babilonie:
2615 ('Twas the admiral, old in antiquity,
     That clean outlived Omer and Virgilie,)
     To Sarraguce, with succour bade him speed,
     For, if he failed, Marsile his gods would leave,
     All his idols he worshipped formerly;
2620 He would receive blest Christianity
     And reconciled to Charlemagne would be.
     Long time that one came not, far off was he.
     Through forty realms he did his tribes rally;
     His great dromonds, he made them all ready,
2625 Barges and skiffs and ships and galleries;
     Neath Alexandre, a haven next the sea,
     In readiness he gat his whole navy.
     That was in May, first summer of the year,
     All of his hosts he launched upon the sea.


2630 Great are the hosts of that opposed race;
     With speed they sail, they steer and navigate.
     High on their yards, at their mast-heads they place
     Lanterns enough, and carbuncles so great
     Thence, from above, such light they dissipate
2635 The sea's more clear at midnight than by day.
     And when they come into the land of Spain
     All that country lightens and shines again:
     Of their coming Marsile has heard the tale.


     The pagan race would never rest, but come
2640 Out of the sea, where the sweet waters run;
     They leave Marbris, they leave behind Marbrus,
     Upstream by Sebre doth all their navy turn.
     Lanterns they have, and carbuncles enough,
     That all night long and very clearly burn.
2645 Upon that day they come to Sarragus.


     Clear is that day, and the sun radiant.
     Out of his barge issues their admiral,
     Espaneliz goes forth at his right hand,
     Seventeen kings follow him in a band,
2650 Counts too, and dukes; I cannot tell of that.
     Where in a field, midway, a laurel stands,
     On the green grass they spread a white silk mat,
     Set a fald-stool there, made of olifant;
     Sits him thereon the pagan Baligant,
2655 And all the rest in rows about him stand.
     The lord of them speaks before any man:
     "Listen to me, free knights and valiant!
     Charles the King, the Emperour of the Franks,
     Shall not eat bread, save when that I command.
2660 Throughout all Spain great war with me he's had;
     I will go seek him now, into Douce France,
     I will not cease, while I'm a living man,
     Till be slain, or fall between my hands."
     Upon his knee his right-hand glove he slaps.


2665 He is fast bound by all that he has said.
     He will not fail, for all the gold neath heav'n,
     But go to Aix, where Charles court is held:
     His men applaud, for so they counselled.
     After he called two of his chevaliers,
2670 One Clarifan, and the other Clarien:
     "You are the sons of king Maltraien,
     Freely was, wont my messages to bear.
     You I command to Sarraguce to fare.
     Marsiliun on my part you shall tell
2675 Against the Franks I'm come to give him help,
     Find I their host, great battle shall be there;
     Give him this glove, that's stitched with golden thread,
     On his right hand let it be worn and held;
     This little wand of fine gold take as well,
2680 Bid him come here, his homage to declare.
     To France I'll go, and war with Charles again;
     Save at my feet he kneel, and mercy beg,
     Save all the laws of Christians he forget,
     I'll take away the crown from off his head."
2685 Answer pagans: "Sire, you say very well."


     Said Baligant: "But canter now, barons,
     Take one the wand, and the other one the glove!"
     These answer him: "Dear lord, it shall be done."
     Canter so far, to Sarraguce they come,
2690 Pass through ten gates, across four bridges run,
     Through all the streets, wherein the burghers crowd.
     When they draw nigh the citadel above,
     From the palace they hear a mighty sound;
     About that place are seen pagans enough,
2695 Who weep and cry, with grief are waxen wood,
     And curse their gods, Tervagan and Mahum
     And Apolin, from whom no help is come.
     Says each to each: "Caitiffs!  What shall be done?
     For upon us confusion vile is come,
2700 Now have we lost our king Marsiliun,
     For yesterday his hand count Rollanz cut;
     We'll have no more Fair Jursaleu, his son;
     The whole of Spain henceforward is undone."
     Both messengers on the terrace dismount.


2705 Horses they leave under an olive tree,
     Which by the reins two Sarrazins do lead;
     Those messengers have wrapped them in their weeds,
     To the palace they climb the topmost steep.
     When they're come in, the vaulted roof beneath,
2710 Marsilium with courtesy they greet:
     "May Mahumet, who all of us doth keep,
     And Tervagan, and our lord Apoline
     Preserve the, king and guard from harm the queen!"
     Says Bramimunde "Great foolishness I hear:
2715 Those gods of ours in cowardice are steeped;
     In Rencesvals they wrought an evil deed,
     Our chevaliers they let be slain in heaps;
     My lord they failed in battle, in his need,
     Never again will he his right hand see;
2720 For that rich count, Rollanz, hath made him bleed.
     All our whole Spain shall be for Charles to keep.
     Miserable!  What shall become of me?
     Alas!  That I've no man to slay me clean!"


     Says Clarien: "My lady, say not that!
2725 We're messengers from pagan Baligant;
     To Marsilies, he says, he'll be warrant,
     So sends him here his glove, also this wand.
     Vessels we have, are moored by Sebres bank,
     Barges and skiffs and gallies four thousand,
2730 Dromonds are there -- I cannot speak of that.
     Our admiral is wealthy and puissant.
     And Charlemagne he will go seek through France
     And quittance give him, dead or recreant."
     Says Bramimunde: "Unlucky journey, that!
2735 Far nearer here you'll light upon the Franks;
     For seven years he's stayed now in this land.
     That Emperour is bold and combatant,
     Rather he'ld die than from the field draw back;
     No king neath heav'n above a child he ranks.
2740 Charles hath no fear for any living man.


     Says Marsilies the king: "Now let that be."
     To th'messengers: "Sirs, pray you, speak to me.
     I am held fast by death, as ye may see.
     No son have I nor daughter to succeed;
2745 That one I had, they slew him yester-eve.
     Bid you my lord, he come to see me here.
     Rights over Spain that admiral hath he,
     My claim to him, if he will take't, I yield;
     But from the Franks he then must set her free.
2750 Gainst Charlemagne I'll shew him strategy.
     Within a month from now he'll conquered be.
     Of Sarraguce ye'll carry him the keys,
     He'll go not hence, say, if he trusts in me."
     They answer him: "Sir, 'tis the truth you speak."


2755 Then says Marsile: "The Emperour, Charles the Great
     Hath slain my men and all my land laid waste,
     My cities are broken and violate;
     He lay this night upon the river Sebre;
     I've counted well, 'tis seven leagues away.
2760 Bid the admiral, leading his host this way,
     Do battle here; this word to him convey."
     Gives them the keys of Sarraguce her gates;
     Both messengers their leave of him do take,
     Upon that word bow down, and turn away.


2765 Both messengers did on their horses mount;
     From that city nimbly they issued out.
     Then, sore afraid, their admiral they sought,
     To whom the keys of Sarraguce they brought.
     Says Baligant: "Speak now; what have ye found?
2770 Where's Marsilies, to come to me was bound?"
     Says Clarien : "To death he's stricken down.
     That Emperour was in the pass but now;
     To France the Douce he would be homeward-bound,
     Rereward he set, to save his great honour:
2775 His nephew there installed, Rollanz the count,
     And Oliver; the dozen peers around;
     A thousand score of Franks in armour found.
     Marsile the king fought with them there, so proud;
     He and Rollanz upon that field did joust.
2780 With Durendal he dealt him such a clout
     From his body he cut the right hand down.
     His son is dead, in whom his heart was bound,
     And the barons that service to him vowed;
     Fleeing he came, he could no more hold out.
2785 That Emperour has chased him well enow.
     The king implores, you'll hasten with succour,
     Yields to you Spain, his kingdom and his crown."
     And Baligant begins to think, and frowns;
     Such grief he has, doth nearly him confound.


2790 "Sir admiral," said to him Clariens,
     "In Rencesvals was yesterday battle.
     Dead is Rollanz and that count Oliver,
     The dozen peers whom Charle so cherished,
     And of their Franks are twenty thousand dead.
2795 King Marsilie's of his right hand bereft,
     And the Emperour chased him enow from thence.
     Throughout this land no chevalier is left,
     But he be slain, or drowned in Sebres bed.
     By river side the Franks have pitched their tents,
2800 Into this land so near to us they've crept;
     But, if you will, grief shall go with them hence."
     And Baligant looked on him proudly then,
     In his courage grew joyous and content;
     From the fald-stool upon his feet he leapt,
2805 Then cried aloud:  "Barons, too long ye've slept;
     Forth from your ships issue, mount, canter well!
     If he flee not, that Charlemagne the eld,
     King Marsilies shall somehow be avenged;
     For his right hand I'll pay him back an head."


2810 Pagan Arabs out of their ships issue,
     Then mount upon their horses and their mules,
     And canter forth, (nay, what more might they do?)
     Their admiral, by whom they all were ruled,
     Called up to him Gemalfin, whom he knew:
2815 "I give command of all my hosts to you."
     On a brown horse mounted, as he was used,
     And in his train he took with him four dukes.
     Cantered so far, he came to Sarraguce.
     Dismounted on a floor of marble blue,
2820 Where four counts were, who by his stirrup stood;
     Up by the steps, the palace came into;
     To meet him there came running Bramimunde,
     Who said to him: "Accursed from the womb,
     That in such shame my sovran lord I lose!
2825 Fell at his feet, that admiral her took.
     In grief they came up into Marsile's room.


     King Marsilies, when he sees Baligant,
     Calls to him then two Spanish Sarazands:
     "Take me by the arms, and so lift up my back."
2830 One of his gloves he takes in his left hand;
     Then says Marsile: "Sire, king and admiral,
     Quittance I give you here of all my land,
     With Sarraguce, and the honour thereto hangs.
     Myself I've lost; my army, every man."
2835 He answers him: "Therefore the more I'm sad.
     No long discourse together may we have;
     Full well I know, Charles waits not our attack,
     I take the glove from you, in spite of that."
     He turned away in tears, such grief he had.
2840 Down by the steps, out of the palace ran,
     Mounted his horse, to's people gallopped back.
     Cantered so far, he came before his band;
     From hour to hour then, as he went, he sang:
     "Pagans, come on: already flee the Franks!"


2845 In morning time, when the dawn breaks at last,
     Awakened is that Emperour Charles.
     Saint Gabriel, who on God's part him guards,
     Raises his hand, the Sign upon him marks.
     Rises the King, his arms aside he's cast,
2850 The others then, through all the host, disarm.
     After they mount, by virtue canter fast
     Through those long ways, and through those roads so large;
     They go to see the marvellous damage
     In Rencesvals, there where the battle was.


2855 In Rencesvals is Charles entered,
     Begins to weep for those he finds there dead;
     Says to the Franks:  "My lords, restrain your steps,
     Since I myself alone should go ahead,
     For my nephew, whom I would find again.
2860 At Aix I was, upon the feast Noel,
     Vaunted them there my valiant chevaliers,
     Of battles great and very hot contests;
     With reason thus I heard Rollant speak then:
     He would not die in any foreign realm
2865 Ere he'd surpassed his peers and all his men.
     To the foes' land he would have turned his head,
     Conqueringly his gallant life he'ld end."
     Further than one a little wand could send,
     Before the rest he's on a peak mounted.


2870 When the Emperour went seeking his nephew,
     He found the grass, and every flower that bloomed,
     Turned scarlat, with our barons' blood imbrued;
     Pity he felt, he could but weep for rue.
     Beneath two trees he climbed the hill and looked,
2875 And Rollant's strokes on three terraces knew,
     On the green grass saw lying his nephew;
     `Tis nothing strange that Charles anger grew.
     Dismounted then, and went -- his heart was full,
     In his two hands the count's body he took;
2880 With anguish keen he fell on him and swooned.


     That Emperour is from his swoon revived.
     Naimes the Duke, and the count Aceline,
     Gefrei d'Anjou and his brother Tierry,
     Take up the King, bear him beneath a pine.
2885 There on the ground he sees his nephew lie.
     Most sweetly then begins he to repine:
     "Rollant, my friend, may God to thee be kind!
     Never beheld any man such a knight
     So to engage and so to end a fight.
2890 Now my honour is turned into decline!"
     Charle swoons again, he cannot stand upright.


     Charles the King returned out of his swoon.
     Him in their hands four of his barons took,
     He looked to the earth, saw lying his nephew;
2895 All colourless his lusty body grew,
     He turned his eyes, were very shadowful.
     Charles complained in amity and truth:
     "Rollant, my friend, God lay thee mid the blooms
     Of Paradise, among the glorious!
2900 Thou cam'st to Spain in evil tide, seigneur!
     Day shall not dawn, for thee I've no dolour.
     How perishes my strength and my valour!
     None shall I have now to sustain my honour;
     I think I've not one friend neath heaven's roof,
2905 Kinsmen I have, but none of them's so proof."
     He tore his locks, till both his hands were full.
     Five score thousand Franks had such great dolour
     There was not one but sorely wept for rue.


     "Rollant, my friend, to France I will away;
2910 When at Loum, I'm in my hall again,
     Strange men will come from many far domains,
     Who'll ask me, where's that count, the Capitain;
     I'll say to them that he is dead in Spain.
     In bitter grief henceforward shall I reign,
2915 Day shall not dawn, I weep not nor complain.


     "Rollant, my friend, fair youth that bar'st the bell,
     When I arrive at Aix, in my Chapelle,
     Men coming there will ask what news I tell;
     I'll say to them: `Marvellous news and fell.
2920 My nephew's dead, who won for me such realms!'
     Against me then the Saxon will rebel,
     Hungar, Bulgar, and many hostile men,
     Romain, Puillain, all those are in Palerne,
     And in Affrike, and those in Califerne;
2925 Afresh then will my pain and suffrance swell.
     For who will lead my armies with such strength,
     When he is slain, that all our days us led?
     Ah!  France the Douce, now art thou deserted!
     Such grief I have that I would fain be dead."
2930 All his white beard he hath begun to rend,
     Tore with both hands the hair out of his head.
     Five score thousand Franks swooned on the earth and fell.


     "Rollant, my friend, God shew thee His mercy!
     In Paradise repose the soul of thee!
2935 Who hath thee slain, exile for France decreed.
     I'ld live no more, so bitter is my grief
     For my household, who have been slain for me.
     God grant me this, the Son of Saint Mary,
     Ere I am come to th' master-pass of Size,
2940 From my body my soul at length go free!
     Among their souls let mine in glory be,
     And let my flesh upon their flesh be heaped."
     Still his white beard he tears, and his eyes weep.
     Duke Naimes says: "His wrath is great indeed."


2945 "Sire, Emperour," Gefrei d'Anjou implored,
     "Let not your grief to such excess be wrought;
     Bid that our men through all this field be sought,
     Whom those of Spain have in the battle caught;
     In a charnel command that they be borne."
2950 Answered the King: "Sound then upon your horn."


     Gefreid d'Anjou upon his trumpet sounds;
     As Charles bade them, all the Franks dismount.
     All of their friends, whose bodies they have found
     To a charnel speedily the bring down.
2955 Bishops there are, and abbots there enow,
     Canons and monks, vicars with shaven crowns;
     Absolution in God's name they've pronounced;
     Incense and myrrh with precious gums they've ground,
     And lustily they've swung the censers round;
2960 With honour great they've laid them in the ground.
     They've left them there; what else might they do now?


     That Emperour sets Rollant on one side
     And Oliver, and the Archbishop Turpine;
     Their bodies bids open before his eyes.
2965 And all their hearts in silken veils to wind,
     And set them in coffers of marble white;
     After, they take the bodies of those knights,
     Each of the three is wrapped in a deer's hide;
     They're washen well in allspice and in wine.
2970 The King commands Tedbalt and Gebuin,
     Marquis Otun, Milun the count besides:
     Along the road in three wagons to drive.
     They're covered well with carpets Galazine.


     Now to be off would that Emperour Charles,
2975 When pagans, lo! comes surging the vanguard;
     Two messengers come from their ranks forward,
     From the admiral bring challenge to combat:
     "'Tis not yet time, proud King, that thou de-part.
     Lo, Baligant comes cantering afterward,
2980 Great are the hosts he leads from Arab parts;
     This day we'll see if thou hast vassalage."
     Charles the King his snowy beard has clasped,
     Remembering his sorrow and damage,
     Haughtily then his people all regards,
2985 In a loud voice he cries with all his heart:
     "Barons and Franks, to horse, I say, to arms!"


     First before all was armed that Emperour,
     Nimbly enough his iron sark indued,
     Laced up his helm, girt on his sword Joiuse,
2990 Outshone the sun that dazzling light it threw,
     Hung from his neck a shield, was of Girunde,
     And took his spear, was fashioned at Blandune.
     On his good horse then mounted, Tencendur,
     Which he had won at th'ford below Marsune
2995 When he flung dead Malpalin of Nerbune,
     Let go the reins, spurred him with either foot;
     Five score thousand behind him as he flew,
     Calling on God and the Apostle of Roum.


     Through all the field dismount the Frankish men,
3000 Five-score thousand and more, they arm themselves;
     The gear they have enhances much their strength,
     Their horses swift, their arms are fashioned well;
     Mounted they are, and fight with great science.
     Find they that host, battle they'll render them.
3005 Their gonfalons flutter above their helms.
     When Charles sees the fair aspect of them,
     He calls to him Jozeran of Provence,
     Naimon the Duke, with Antelme of Maience:
     "In such vassals should man have confidence,
3010 Whom not to trust were surely want of sense;
     Unless the Arabs of coming here repent,
     Then Rollant's life, I think, we'll dearly sell."
     Answers Duke Neimes: "God grant us his consent!"


     Charles hath called Rabel and Guineman;
3015 Thus said the King: "My lords, you I command
     To take their place, Olivier and Rollant,
     One bear the sword and the other the olifant;
     So canter forth ahead, before the van,
     And in your train take fifteen thousand Franks,
3020 Young bachelors, that are most valiant.
     As many more shall after them advance,
     Whom Gebuins shall lead, also Lorains."
     Naimes the Duke and the count Jozerans
     Go to adjust these columns in their ranks.
3025 Find they that host, they'll make a grand attack.


     Of Franks the first columns made ready there,
     After those two a third they next prepare;
     In it are set the vassals of Baiviere,
     Some thousand score high-prized chevaliers;
3030 Never was lost the battle, where they were:
     Charles for no race neath heaven hath more care,
     Save those of France, who realms for him conquered.
     The Danish chief, the warrior count Oger,
     Shall lead that troop, for haughty is their air.


3035 Three columns now, he has, the Emperour Charles.
     Naimes the Duke a fourth next sets apart
     Of good barons, endowed with vassalage;
     Germans they are, come from the German March,
     A thousand score, as all said afterward;
3040 They're well equipped with horses and with arms,
     Rather they'll die than from the battle pass;
     They shall be led by Hermans, Duke of Trace,
     Who'll die before he's any way coward.


     Naimes the Duke and the count Jozerans
3045 The fifth column have mustered, of Normans,
     A thousand score, or so say all the Franks;
     Well armed are they, their horses charge and prance;
     Rather they'ld die, than eer be recreant;
     No race neath heav'n can more in th'field compass.
3050 Richard the old, lead them in th'field he shall,
     He'll strike hard there with his good trenchant lance.


     The sixth column is mustered of Bretons;
     Thirty thousand chevaliers therein come;
     These canter in the manner of barons,
3055 Upright their spears, their ensigns fastened on.
     The overlord of them is named Oedon,
     Who doth command the county Nevelon,
     Tedbald of Reims and the marquis Oton:
     "Lead ye my men, by my commission."


3060 That Emperour hath now six columns yare
     Naimes the Duke the seventh next prepares
     Of Peitevins and barons from Alverne;
     Forty thousand chevaliers might be there;
     Their horses good, their arms are all most fair.
3065 They're neath a cliff, in a vale by themselves;
     With his right hand King Charles hath them blessed,
     Them Jozerans shall lead, also Godselmes.


     And the eighth column hath Naimes made ready;
      Tis of Flamengs, and barons out of Frise;
3070 Forty thousand and more good knights are these,
     Nor lost by them has any battle been.
     And the King says: "These shall do my service."
     Between Rembalt and Hamon of Galice
     Shall they be led, for all their chivalry.


3075 Between Naimon and Jozeran the count
     Are prudent men for the ninth column found,
     Of Lotherengs and those out of Borgoune;
     Fifty thousand good knights they are, by count;
     In helmets laced and sarks of iron brown,
3080 Strong are their spears, short are the shafts cut down;
     If the Arrabits demur not, but come out
     And trust themselves to these, they'll strike them down.
     Tierris the Duke shall lead them, of Argoune.


     The tenth column is of barons of France,
     Five score thousand of our best capitans;
3085 Lusty of limb, and proud of countenance,
     Snowy their heads are, and their beards are blanched,
     In doubled sarks, and in hauberks they're clad,
     Girt on their sides Frankish and Spanish brands
3090 And noble shields of divers cognisance.
     Soon as they mount, the battle they demand,
     "Monjoie" they cry.  With them goes Charlemagne.
     Gefreid d'Anjou carries that oriflamme;
     Saint Peter's  twas, and bare the name Roman,
3095 But on that day Monjoie, by change, it gat.


     That Emperour down from his horse descends;
     To the green grass, kneeling, his face he bends.
     Then turns his eyes towards the Orient,
     Calls upon God with heartiest intent:
3100 "Very Father, this day do me defend,
     Who to Jonas succour didst truly send
     Out of the whale's belly, where he was pent;
     And who didst spare the king of Niniven,
     And Daniel from marvellous torment
3105 When he was caged within the lions' den;
     And three children, all in a fire ardent:
     Thy gracious Love to me be here present.
     In Thy Mercy, if it please Thee, consent
     That my nephew Rollant I may avenge.
3110 When he had prayed, upon his feet he stepped,
     With the strong mark of virtue signed his head;
     Upon his swift charger the King mounted
     While Jozerans and Neimes his stirrup held;
     He took his shield, his trenchant spear he kept;
3115 Fine limbs he had, both gallant and well set;
     Clear was his face and filled with good intent.
     Vigorously he cantered onward thence.
     In front, in rear, they sounded their trumpets,
     Above them all boomed the olifant again.
3120 Then all the Franks for pity of Rollant wept.


     That Emperour canters in noble array,
     Over his sark all of his beard displays;
     For love of him, all others do the same,
     Five score thousand Franks are thereby made plain.
3125 They pass those peaks, those rocks and those mountains,
     Those terrible narrows, and those deep vales,
     Then issue from the passes and the wastes
     Till they are come into the March of Spain;
     A halt they've made, in th'middle of a plain.
3130 To Baligant his vanguard comes again
     A Sulian hath told him his message:
     "We have seen Charles, that haughty sovereign;
     Fierce are his men, they have no mind to fail.
     Arm yourself then: Battle you'll have to-day."
3135 Says Baligant: "Mine is great vassalage;
     Let horns this news to my pagans proclaim."


     Through all the host they have their drums sounded,
     And their bugles, and, very clear trumpets.
     Pagans dismount, that they may arm themselves.
3140 Their admiral will stay no longer then;
     Puts on a sark, embroidered in the hems,
     Laces his helm, that is with gold begemmed;
     After, his sword on his left side he's set,
     Out of his pride a name for it he's spelt
3145 Like to Carlun's, as he has heard it said,
     So Preciuse he bad his own be clept;
     Twas their ensign when they to battle went,
     His chevaliers'; he gave that cry to them.
3150 His own broad shield he hangs upon his neck,
     (Round its gold boss a band of crystal went,
     The strap of it was a good silken web;)
     He grasps his spear, the which he calls Maltet; --
     So great its shaft as is a stout cudgel,
     Beneath its steel alone, a mule had bent;
3155 On his charger is Baligant mounted,
     Marcules, from over seas, his stirrup held.
     That warrior, with a great stride he stepped,
     Small were his thighs, his ribs of wide extent,
     Great was his breast, and finely fashioned,
3160 With shoulders broad and very clear aspect;
     Proud was his face, his hair was ringleted,
     White as a flow'r in summer was his head.
     His vassalage had often been proved.
     God! what a knight, were he a Christian yet!
3165 His horse he's spurred, the clear blood issued;
     He's gallopped on, over a ditch he's leapt,
     Full fifty feet a man might mark its breadth.
     Pagans cry out: "Our Marches shall be held;
     There is no Frank, may once with him contest,
3170 Will he or nill, his life he'll soon have spent.
     Charles is mad, that he departs not hence."


     That admiral to a baron's like enough,
     White is his beard as flowers by summer burnt;
     In his own laws, of wisdom hath he much;
3175 And in battle he's proud and arduous.
     His son Malprimes is very chivalrous,
     He's great and strong; -- his ancestors were thus.
     Says to his sire: "To canter then let us!
     I marvel much that soon we'll see Carlun."
3180 Says Baligant: " Yea, for he's very pruff;
     In many tales honour to him is done;
     He hath no more Rollant, his sister's son,
     He'll have no strength to stay in fight with us."


     "Fair son Malprimes," then says t'him Baligant,
3185 "Was slain yestreen the good vassal Rollanz,
     And Oliver, the proof and valiant,
     The dozen peers, whom Charles so cherished, and
     Twenty thousand more Frankish combatants.
     For all the rest I'ld not unglove my hand.
3190 But the Emperour is verily come back,
     -- So tells me now my man, that Sulian --
     Ten great columns he's set them in their ranks;
     He's a proof man who sounds that olifant,
     With a clear call he rallies his comrades;
3195 These at the head come cantering in advance,
     Also with them are fifteen thousand Franks,
     Young bachelors, whom Charles calls Infants;
     As many again come following that band,
     Who will lay on with utmost arrogance."
3200 Then says Malprimes: "The first blow I demand."


     "Fair son Malprimes," says Baligant to him,
     "I grant it you, as you have asked me this;
     Against the Franks go now, and smite them quick.
     And take with you Torleu, the Persian king
3205 And Dapamort, another king Leutish.
     Their arrogance if you can humble it,
     Of my domains a slice to you I'll give
     From Cheriant unto the Vale Marquis."
     "I thank you, Sire!"  Malprimes answers him;
3210 Going before, he takes delivery;
     'Tis of that land, was held by king Flurit.
     After that hour he never looked on it,
     Investiture gat never, nor seizin.


     That admiral canters among his hosts;
3215 After, his son with's great body follows,
     Torleus the king, and the king Dapamort;
     Thirty columns most speedily they form.
     They've chevaliers in marvellous great force;
     Fifty thousand the smallest column holds.
3220 The first is raised of men from Butenrot,
     The next, after, Micenes, whose heads are gross;
     Along their backs, above their spinal bones,
     As they were hogs, great bristles on them grow.
     The third is raised from Nubles and from Blos;
     The fourth is raised from Bruns and Esclavoz;
3225 The fifth is raised from Sorbres and from Sorz;
     The sixth is raised from Ermines and from Mors;
     The seventh is the men of Jericho;
     Negroes are the eighth; the ninth are men of Gros;
3230 The tenth is raised from Balide the stronghold,
     That is a tribe no goodwill ever shews.
     That admiral hath sworn, the way he knows,
     By Mahumet, his virtues and his bones:
     "Charles of France is mad to canter so;
3235 Battle he'll have, unless he take him home;
     No more he'll wear on's head that crown of gold."


     Ten great columns they marshal thereafter;
     Of Canelious, right ugly, is the first,
     Who from Val-Fuit came across country there;
3240 The next's of Turks; of Persians is the third;
     The fourth is raised of desperate Pinceners,
     The fifth is raised from Soltras and Avers;
     The sixth is from Ormaleus and Eugez;
     The seventh is the tribe of Samuel;
3245 The eighth is from Bruise; the ninth from Esclavers;
     The tenth is from Occiant, the desert,
     That is a tribe, do not the Lord God serve,
     Of such felons you never else have heard;
     Hard is their hide, as though it iron were,
3250 Wherefore of helm or hauberk they've no care;
     In the battle they're felon murderers.