Northern European Texts
The Song of Roland
Verses I - LXXXVII
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,
5 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.
10 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:
15 "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.
20 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,
25 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;
30 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.
35 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.
40 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,
45 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;
50 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;
55 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,
60 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,
65 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.
70 "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,
75 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,
80 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;
85 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,
90 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,
95 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,
100 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,
105 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.
110 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,
l15 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.
120 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!
125 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,
130 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
135 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;
140 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.
145 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,
150 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;
155 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,
160 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.
165 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:
170 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,
175 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.
180 "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,
185 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:
190 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,
195 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,
200 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.
205 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.
210 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,
215 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,
220 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
225 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."
230 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.
235 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,
240 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
245 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,
250 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."
255 "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;
260 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,
265 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,
270 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,
275 "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."
280 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
285 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,
290 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;
295 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;
300 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,
305 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.
310 "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.
315 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;
320 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;
325 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
330 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?
335 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!"
340 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:
345 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,
350 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.
355 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.
360 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."
365 -- 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,
370 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?"
375 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;
380 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,
385 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,
390 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.
395 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.
400 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.
405 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,
410 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,
415 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,
420 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."
425 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
430 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
435 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,
440 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;
445 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."
450 "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;
455 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,
460 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;
465 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?
470 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.
475 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,
480 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.
485 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;
490 '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."
495 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,
500 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,
505 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,
510 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.
515 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."
520 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.
525 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.
530 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?
535 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.
540 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;
545 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."
550 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,
555 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;
560 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,
565 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;
570 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
575 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.
580 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;
585 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,
590 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,
595 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;
600 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;
605 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.
610 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,
615 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,
620 "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."
625 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;
630 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;
635 "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;
640 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
645 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,
650 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,
655 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."
660 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.
665 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,
670 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,
675 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.
680 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.
685 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;
690 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,
695 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."
700 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.
705 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.
710 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
715 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,
720 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.
725 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;
730 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,
735 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;
740 "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."
745 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,
750 "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.
755 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."
760 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,
765 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,
770 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,
775 (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.
780 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;
785 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.
790 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,
795 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.
800 "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;
805 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;
810 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,
815 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,
820 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;
825 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;
830 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.
835 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.
840 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;
845 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;
850 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.
855 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.
860 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,
865 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
870 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,
875 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;
880 -- 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."
885 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,
890 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;
895 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.
900 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.
905 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,
910 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;
915 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,
920 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.
925 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,
930 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;
935 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."
940 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,
945 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,
950 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."
955 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.
960 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;
965 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.
970 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.
975 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.
980 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,
985 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."
990 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,
995 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,
1000 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;
1005 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;
1010 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.
1015 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;
1020 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,
1025 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,
1030 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,
1035 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;
1040 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.
1045 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,
1050 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.
1055 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;
1060 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!
1065 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."
1070 "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,
1075 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.
1080 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,
1085 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,
1090 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;
1095 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,
1100 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.
1105 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."