Fiction > Harvard Classics > The Song of Roland
  The Song of Roland.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
Part I: The Treason of Ganelon
The Embassy and Crime of Ganelon

Ganelon rides under olives high,
And comes the Saracen envoys nigh.
Blancandrin lingers until they meet,
And in cunning converse each other greet.
The Saracen thus began their parle:        5
“What a man, what a wondrous man is Karl!
Apulia—Calabria—all subdued,
Unto England crossed he the salt sea rude,
Won for Saint Peter his tribute fee;
But what in our marches maketh he?”        10
Ganelon said, “He is great of heart,
Never man shall fill so mighty a part.”

Said Blancandrin, “Your Franks are high of fame,
But your dukes and counts are sore to blame.
Such counsel to their lord they give,        15
Nor he nor others in peace may live.”
Ganelon answered, “I know of none,
Save Roland, who thus to his shame hath done.
Last morn the Emperor sat in the shade,
His nephew came in his mail arrayed,—        20
He had plundered Carcassonne just before,
And a vermeil apple in hand he bore:
‘Sire,’ he said, ‘to your feet I bring
The crown of every earthly king.’
Disaster is sure such pride to blast;        25
He setteth his life on a daily cast.
Were he slain, we all should have peace at last.”

“Ruthless is Roland,” Blancandrin spake,
“Who every race would recreant make,
And on all possessions of men would seize;        30
But in whom doth he trust for feats like these?”
“The Franks! the Franks!” Count Ganelon cried;
“They love him, and never desert his side;
For he lavisheth gifts that seldom fail,
Gold and silver in countless tale,        35
Mules and chargers, and silks and mail,
The king himself may have spoil at call.
From hence to the East he will conquer all.”

Thus Blancandrin and Ganelon rode,
Till each on other his faith bestowed        40
That Roland should be by practice slain,
And so they journeyed by path and plain,
Till in Saragossa they bridle drew,
There alighted beneath a yew.
In a pine-tree’s shadow a throne was set;        45
Alexandrian silk was the coverlet:
There the monarch of Spain they found,
With twenty thousand Saracens round,
Yet from them came nor breath nor sound;
All for the tidings they strained to hear,        50
As they saw Blancandrin and Ganelon near.

Blancandrin stepped before Marsil’s throne,
Ganelon’s hand was in his own.
“Mahound you save,” to the king he said,
“And Apollin, whose holy law we dread!        55
Fairly your errand to Karl! was done;
But other answer made he none,
Save that his hands to Heaven he raised,
Save that a space his God he praised;
He sends a baron of his court,        60
Knight of France, and of high report,
Of him your tidings of peace receive.”
“Let him speak,” said Marsil, “we yield him leave.”

Gan had bethought him, and mused with art;
Well was he skilled to play his part;        65
And he said to Marsil, “May God you save,
The God of glory, whose grace we crave!
Thus saith the noble Carlemaine:
You shall make in Christ confession plain.
And he gives you in fief full half of Spain;        70
The other half shall be Roland’s share
(Right haughty partner, he yields you there);
And should you slight the terms I bear,
He will come and gird Saragossa round,
You shall be taken by force and bound,        75
Led unto Aix, to his royal seat,
There to perish by judgment meet,
Dying a villainous death of shame.”
Over King Marsil a horror came;
He grasped his javelin, plumed with gold,        80
In act to smite, were he not controlled.

King Marsil’s cheek the hue hath left,
And his right hand grasped his weapon’s heft.
When Ganelon saw it, his sword he drew
Finger lengths from the scabbard two.        85
“Sword,” he said, “thou art clear and bright;
I have borne thee long in my fellows’s sight,
Mine emperor never shall say of me,
That I perished afar, in a strange countrie,
Ere thou in the blood of their best wert dyed.”        90
“Dispart the mellay,” the heathens cried.

The noblest Saracens thronged amain,
Seated the king on his throne again,
And the Algalif said, “ ’Twas a sorry prank,
Raising your weapon to slay the Frank.        95
It was yours to hearken in silence there.”
“Sir,” said Gan, “I may meetly bear,
But for all the wealth of your land arrayed,
For all the gold that God hath made,
Would I not live and leave unsaid,        100
What Karl, the mightiest king below,
Sends, through me, to his mortal foe.”
His mantle of fur, that was round him twined,
With silk of Alexandria lined,
Down at Blancandrin’s feet he cast,        105
But still he held by his good sword fast,
Grasping the hilt by its golden ball.
“A noble knight,” say the heathens all.

Ganelon came to the king once more.
“Your anger,” he said, “misserves you sore.        110
As the princely Carlemaine saith, I say,
You shall the Christian law obey.
And half of Spain you shall hold in fee,
The other half shall Count Roland’s be,
(And a haughty partner ’tis yours to see).        115
Reject the treaty I here propose,
Round Saragossa his lines will close;
You shall be bound in fetters strong,
Led to his city of Aix along.
Nor steed nor palfrey shall you bestride,        120
Nor mule nor jennet be yours to ride;
On a sorry sumpter you shall be cast,
And your head by doom stricken off at last.
So is the Emperor’s mandate traced,”—
And the scroll in the heathen’s hand he placed.        125

Discolored with ire was King Marsil’s hue;
The seal he brake and to earth he threw,
Read of the scroll the tenor clear.
“So Karl the Emperor writes me here.
Bids me remember his wrath and pain        130
For sake of Basan and Basil slain,
Whose necks I smote on Haltoia’s hill;
Yet, if my life I would ransom still,
Mine uncle the Algalif must I send,
Or love between us were else at end.”        135
Then outspake Jurfalez, Marsil’s son:
“This is but madness of Ganelon.
For crime so deadly his life shall pay;
Justice be mine on his head this day.”
Ganelon heard him, and waved his blade,        140
While his back against a pine he stayed.

Into his orchard King Marsil stepped.
His nobles round him their station kept:
There was Jurfalez, his son and heir,
Blancandrin of the hoary hair,        145
The Algalif, truest of all his kin.
Said Blancandrin, “Summon the Christian in;
His troth he pledged me upon our side.”
“Go,” said Marsil, “be thou his guide.”
Blancandrin led him, hand-in-hand,        150
Before King Marsil’s face to stand.
Then was the villainous treason planned.

“Fair Sir Ganelon,” spake the king,
“I did a rash and despighteous thing,
Raising against thee mine arm to smite.        155
Richly will I the wrong requite.
See these sables whose worth were told
At full five hundred pounds of gold:
Thine shall they be ere the coming day.”
“I may not,” said Gan, “your grace gainsay.        160
God in His pleasure will you repay.”

“Trust me I love thee, Sir Gan, and fain
Would I hear thee discourse of Carlemaine.
He is old, methinks, exceedingly old;
And full two hundred years hath told;        165
With toil his body spent and worn,
So many blows on his buckler borne,
So many a haughty king laid low,
When will he weary of warring so?”
“Such is not Carlemaine,” Gan replied;        170
“Man never knew him, nor stood beside,
But will say how noble a lord is he,
Princely and valiant in high degree.
Never could words of mine express
His honor, his bounty, his gentleness,        175
’Twas God who graced him with gifts so high.
Ere I leave his vassalage I will die.”

The heathen said, “I marvel sore
Of Carlemaine, so old and hoar,
Who counts I ween two hundred years,        180
Hath borne such strokes of blades and spears,
So many lands hath overrun,
So many mighty kings undone,
When will he tire of war and strife?”
“Not while his nephew breathes in life.        185
Beneath the cope of heaven this day
Such vassal leads not king’s array.
Gallant and sage is Olivier,
And all the twelve, to Karl so dear,
With twenty thousand Franks in van,        190
He feareth not the face of man.”

“Strange,” said Marsil, “seems to me,
Karl, so white with eld is he,
Twice a hundred years, men say,
Since his birth have passed away.        195
All his wars in many lands,
All the strokes of trenchant brands,
All the kings despoiled and slain,—
When will he from war refrain?”
“Not till Roland breathes no more,        200
For from hence to eastern shore,
Where is chief with him may vie?
Olivier his comrades by,
And the peers, of Karl the pride,
Twenty thousand Franks beside,        205
Vanguard of his host, and flower:
Karl may mock at mortal power.”

“I tell thee, Sir Gan, that a power is mine;
Fairer did never in armor shine,
Four hundred thousand cavaliers,        210
With the Franks of Karl to measure spears.”
“Fling such folly,” said Gan, “away;
Sorely your heathen would rue the day.
Proffer the Emperor ample prize,
A sight to dazzle the Frankish eyes;        215
Send him hostages full of score,
So returns he to France once more.
But his rear will tarry behind the host;
There, I trow, will be Roland’s post—
There will Sir Olivier remain.        220
Hearken to me, and the counts lie slain;
The pride of Karl shall be crushed that day,
And his wars be ended with you for aye.”

“Speak, then, and tell me, Sir Ganelon,
How may Roland to death be done?”        225
“Through Cizra’s pass will the Emperor wind,
But his rear will linger in march behind;
Roland and Olivier there shall be,
With twenty thousand in company.
Muster your battle against them then,        230
A hundred thousand heathen men.
Till worn and spent be the Frankish bands,
Though your bravest perish beneath their hands.
For another battle your powers be massed,
Roland will sink, overcome at last.        235
There were a feat of arms indeed,
And your life from peril thenceforth be freed.

“For whoso Roland to death shall bring,
From Karl his good right aim will wring,
The marvellous host will melt away,        240
No more shall be muster a like array,
And the mighty land will in peace repose.”
King Marsil heard him to the close;
Then kissed him on the neck, and bade
His royal treasures be displayed.        245

What said they more? Why tell the rest?
Said Marsil, “Fastest bound is best;
Come, swear me here to Roland’s fall.”
“Your will,” said Gan, “be mine in all.”
He swore on the relics in the hilt        250
Of his sword Murgleis, and crowned his guilt.

A stool was there of ivory wrought.
King Marsil bade a book be brought,
Wherein was all the law contained
Mahound and Termagaunt ordained.        255
The Saracen hath sworn thereby,
If Roland in the rear-guard lie,
With all his men-at-arms to go,
And combat till the count lay low.
Sir Gan repeated, “Be it so.”        260

King Marsil’s foster-father came,
A heathen, Valdabrun by name.
He spake to Gan with laughter clear.
“My sword, that never found its peer,—
A thousand pieces would not buy        265
The riches in the hilt that lie,—
To you I give in guerdon free;
Your aid in Roland’s fall to see,
Let but the rear-guard be his place.”
“I trust,” said Gan, “to do you grace.”        270
Then each kissed other on the face.

Next broke with jocund laughter in,
Another heathen, Climorin.
To Gan he said, “Accept my helm,
The best and trustiest in the realm,        275
Conditioned that your aid we claim
To bring the marchman unto shame.”
“Be it,” said Ganelon, “as you list.”
And then on cheek and mouth they kissed.

Now Bramimonde, King Marsil’s queen,
To Ganelon came with gentle mien.
“I love thee well, Sir Count,” she spake,
“For my lord the king and his nobles’ sake.
See these clasps for a lady’s wrist,
Of gold, and jacinth, and amethyst,        285
That all the jewels of Rome outshine;
Never your Emperor owned so fine;
These by the queen to your spouse are sent.”
The gems within his boot he pent.

Then did the king on his treasurer call,
“My gifts for Karl, are they ready all?”
“Yea, sire, seven hundred camels’ load
Of gold and silver well bestowed,
And twenty hostages thereby,
The noblest underneath the sky.”        295

On Ganelon’s shoulder King Marsil leant.
“Thou art sage,” he said, “and of gallant bent;
But by all thy holiest law deems dear,
Let not they thought from our purpose veer.
Ten mules’ burthen I give to thee        300
Of gold, the finest of Araby;
Nor ever year henceforth shall pass
But it brings thee riches in equal mass
Take the keys of my city gates,
Take the treasure that Karl awaits—        305
Render them all; but oh, decide
That Roland in the rear-guard bide;
So may I find him by pass or height,
As I swear to meet him in mortal fight.”
Cried Gan, “Meseemeth too long we stay,”        310
Sprang on his charger and rode away.

The Emperor homeward hath turned his face,
To Gailne city he marched apace,
(By Roland erst in ruins strown—
Deserted thence it lay and lone,        315
Until a hundred years had flown).
Here waits he, word of Gan to gain
With tribute of the land of Spain;
And here, at earliest break of day,
Came Gan where the encampment lay.        320

The Emperor rose with the day dawn clear,
Failed not Matins and Mass to hear,
Sate at his tent on the fair green sward,
Roland and Olivier nigh their lord,
Duke Naimes and all his peers of fame.        325
Gan the felon, the perjured, came—
False was the treacherous tale he gave,—
And these his words, “May God you save!
I bear you Saragossa’s keys,
Vast the treasure I bring with these,        330
And twenty hostages; guard them well,
The noble Marsil bids me tell—
Not on him shall your anger fall,
If I fetch not the Algalif here withal;
For mine eyes beheld, beneath their ken,        335
Three hundred thousand armèd men,
With sword and casque and coat of mail,
Put forth with him on the sea to sail,
All for hate of the Christian creed,
Which they would neither hold nor heed.        340
They had not floated a league but four,
When a tempest down on their galleys bore.
Drowned they lie to be seen no more.
If the Algalif were but living wight,
He had stood this morn before your sight.        345
Sire, for the Saracen king I say,
Ere ever a month shall pass away,
On into France he will follow free,
Bend to our Christian law the knee,
Homage swear for his Spanish land,        350
And hold the realm at your command.”
“Now praise to God,” the Emperor said,
“And thanks, my Ganelon, well you sped.”
A thousand clarions then resound,
The sumpter-mules are girt on ground,        355
For France, for France the Franks are bound.

Karl the Great hath wasted Spain,
Her cities sacked, her castles ta’en;
But now “My wars are done,” he cried,
“And home to gentle France we ride.”        360
Count Roland plants his standard high
Upon a peak against the sky;
The Franks around encamping lie.
Alas! the heathen host the while,
Through valley deep and dark defile,        365
Are riding on the Christians’ track,
All armed in steel from breast to back;
Their lances poised, their helmets laced,
Their falchions glittering from the waist,
Their bucklers from the shoulder swung,        370
And so they ride the steeps among,
Till, in a forest on the height,
They rest to wait the morning light,
Four hundred thousand crouching there.
O God! the Franks are unaware.        375

The day declined, night darkling crept,
And Karl, the mighty Emperor, slept.
He dreamt a dream: he seemed to stand
In Cizra’s pass, with lance in hand.
Count Ganelon came athwart, and lo,        380
He wrenched the aspen spear him fro,
Brandished and shook it aloft with might,
Till it brake in pieces before his sight;
High towards heaven the splinters flew;
Karl awoke not, he dreamed anew.        385

In his second dream he seemed to dwell
In his palace of Aix, at his own Chapelle.
A bear seized grimly his right arm on,
And bit the flesh to the very bone.
Anon a leopard from Arden wood,        390
Fiercely flew at him where he stood.
When lo! from his hall, with leap and bound,
Sprang to the rescue a gallant hound.
First from the bear the ear he tore,
Then on the leopard his fangs he bore.        395
The Franks exclaim, “’Tis a stirring fray,
But who the victor none may say.”
Karl awoke not—he slept alway.

The night wore by, the day dawn glowed,
Proudly the Emperor rose and rode,        400
Keenly and oft his host he scanned.
“Lords, my barons, survey this land,
See the passes so straight and steep:
To whom shall I trust the rear to keep?”
“To my stepson Roland:” Count Gan replied.        405
“Knight like him have you none beside.”
The Emperor heard him with moody brow.
“A living demon,” he said, “art thou;
Some mortal rage hath thy soul possessed.
To head my vanguard, who then were best?”        410
“Ogier,” he answered, “the gallant Dane,
Braver baron will none remain.”

Roland, when thus the choice he saw,
Spake, full knightly, by knightly law:
“Sir Stepsire, well may I hold thee dear,        415
That thou hast named me to guard the rear;
Karl shall lose not, if I take heed,
Charger, or palfrey, or mule or steed,
Hackney or sumpter that groom may lead;
The reason else our swords shall tell.”        420
“It is sooth,” said Gan, “and I know it well.”

Fiercely once more Count Roland turned
To speak the scorn that in him burned.
“Ha! deem’t thou, dastard, of dastard race,
That I shall drop the glove in place,        425
As in sight of Karl thou didst the mace?”

Then of his uncle he made demand:
“Yield me the bow that you hold in hand;
Never of me shall the tale be told,
As of Ganelon erst, that it failed my hold.”        430
Sadly the Emperor bowed his head,
With working finger his beard he spread,
Tears in his own despite he shed.

But soon Duke Naimes doth by him stand—
No better vassal in all his band.        435
“You have seen and heard it all, O sire,
Count Roland waxeth much in ire.
On him the choice for the rear-guard fell,
And where is baron could speed so well?
Yield him the bow that your arm hath bent,        440
And let good succor to him be lent.”
The Emperor reached it forth, and lo!
He gave, and Roland received, the bow.

“Fair Sir Nephew, I tell thee free.
Half of my host will I leave with thee.”        445
“God be my judge,” was the count’s reply,
“If ever I thus my race belie.
But twenty thousand with me shall rest,
Bravest of all your Franks and best;
The mountain passes in safety tread,        450
While I breathe in life you have nought to dread.”

Count Roland sprang to a hill-top’s height,
And donned his peerless armor bright;
Laced his helm, for a baron made;
Girt Durindana, gold-hilted blade;        455
Around his neck he hung the shield,
With flowers emblazoned was the field;
Nor steed but Veillantif will ride;
And he grasped his lance with its pennon’s pride.
White was the pennon, with rim of gold;        460
Low to the handle the fringes rolled.
Who are his lovers men now may see;
And the Franks exclaim, “We will follow thee.”

Roland hath mounted his charger on;
Sir Olivier to his side hath gone;        465
Gerein and his fellow in arms, Gerier;
Otho the Count, and Berengier,
Samson, and with him Anseis old,
Gerard of Roussillon, the bold.
Thither the Gascon Engelier sped;        470
“I go,” said Turpin, “I pledge my head;”
“And I with thee,” Count Walter said;
“I am Roland’s man, to his service bound.”
So twenty thousand knights were found.

Roland beckoned Count Walter then.
“Take of our Franks a thousand men;
Sweep the heights and the passes clear,
That the Emperor’s host may have nought to fear.”
“I go,” said Walter, “at your behest,”
And a thousand Franks around him pressed.        480
They ranged the heights and passes through,
Nor for evil tidings backward drew,
Until seven hundred swords outflew.
The Lord of Belferna’s land, that day,
King Almaris met him in deadly fray.        485

Through Roncesvalles the march began;
Ogier, the baron, led the van;
For them was neither doubt nor fear,
Since Roland rested to guard the rear,
With twenty thousand in full array:        490
Theirs the battle—be God their stay.
Gan knows all; in his felon heart
Scarce hath he courage to play his part.

High were the peaks, and the valleys deep,
The mountains wondrous dark and steep;        495
Sadly the Franks through the passes wound,
Full fifteen leagues did their tread resound.
To their own great land they are drawing nigh,
And they look on the fields of Gascony.
They think of their homes and their manors there,        500
Their gentle spouses and damsels fair.
Is none but for pity the tear lets fall;
But the anguish of Karl is beyond them all.
His sister’s son at the gates of Spain
Smites on his heart, and he weeps amain.        505

On the Spanish marches the twelve abide,
With twice ten thousand Franks beside.
Fear to die have they none, nor care:
But Karl returns into France the fair;
Beneath his mantle his face he hides.        510
Naimes, the duke, at his bridle rides.
“Say, sire, what grief doth your heart oppress?”
“To ask,” he said, “brings worse distress;
I cannot but weep for heaviness.
By Gan the ruin of France is wrought.        515
In an angel’s vision, last night, methought
He wrested forth from my hand the spear:
’Twas he gave Roland to guard the rear.
God! should I lose him, my nephew dear,
Whom I left on a foreign soil behind,        520
His peer on earth I shall never find!”

Karl the Great cannot choose but weep,
For him hath his host compassion deep;
And for Roland, a marvellous boding dread.
It was Gan, the felon, this treason bred;        525
He hath heathen gifts of silver and gold,
Costly raiment, and silken fold,
Horses and camels, and mules and steeds.—
But lo! King Marsil the mandate speeds,
To his dukes, his counts, and his vassals all,        530
To each almasour and amiral.
And so, before three suns had set,
Four hundred thousand in muster met.
Through Saragossa the tabors sound;
On the loftiest turret they raise Mahound:        535
Before him the Pagans bend and pray,
Then mount and fiercely ride away,
Across Cerdagna, by vale and height,
Till stream the banners of France in sight,
Where the peers of Carlemaine proudly stand,        540
And the shock of battle is hard at hand.

Up to King Marsil his nephew rode,
With a mule for steed, and a staff for goad:
Free and joyous his accents fell,
“Fair Sir King, I have served you well.        545
So let my toils and my perils tell.
I have fought and vanquished for you in field.
One good boon for my service yield,—
Be it mine on Roland to strike the blow;
At point of lance will I lay him low;        550
And so Mohammed to aid me deign,
Free will I sweep the soil of Spain,
From the gorge of Aspra to Dourestan,
Till Karl grows weary such wars to plan.
Then for your life have you won repose.”        555
King Marsil on him his glove bestows.

His nephew, while the glove he pressed,
Proudly once more the king addressed.
“Sire, you have crowned my dearest vow;
Name me eleven of your barons now,        560
In battle against the twelve to bide.”
Falsaron first to the call replied;
Brother to Marsil, the king, was he;
“Fair Sir nephew, I go with thee;
In mortal combat we front, to-day,        565
The rear-guard of the grand array.
Foredoomed to die by our spears are they.”

King Corsablis the next drew nigh,
Miscreant Monarch of Barbary;
Yet he spake like vassal staunch and bold—        570
Blench would he not for all God’s gold.
The third, Malprimis, of Brigal’s breed,
More fleet of foot than the fleetest steed,
Before King Marsil he raised his cry,
“On unto Roncesvalles I:        575
In mine encounter shall Roland die.”

An Emir of Balaguet came in place,
Proud of body, and fair of face;
Since first he sprang on steed to ride,
To wear his harness was all his pride;        580
For feats of prowess great laud he won;
Were he Christian, nobler baron none.
To Marsil came he, and cried aloud,
“Unto Roncesvalles mine arm is vowed;
May I meet with Roland and Olivier,        585
Or the twelve together, their doom is near.
The Franks shall perish in scathe and scorn;
Karl the Great, who is old and worn,
Weary shall grow his hosts to lead,
And the land of Spain be for ever freed.”        590
King Marsil’s thanks were his gracious meed.

A Mauritanian Almasour
(Breathed not in Spain such a felon Moor)
Stepped unto Marsil, with braggart boast:
“Unto Roncesvalles I lead my host,        595
Full twenty thousand, with lance and shield.
Let me meet with Roland upon the field,
Lifelong tears for him Karl shall yield.”

Turgis, Count of Tortosa came.
Lord of the city, he bears its name.        600
Scathe to the Christian to him is best,
And in Marsil’s presence he joined the rest.
To the king he said, “Be fearless found;
Peter of Rome cannot mate Mahound.
If we serve him truly, we win this day;        605
Unto Roncesvalles I ride straightway.
No power shall Roland from slaughter save:
See the length of my peerless glaive,
That with Durindana to cross I go,
And who the victor, ye then shall know.        610
Sorrow and shame old Karl shall share,
Crown on earth never more shall wear.”

Lord of Valtierra was Escremis;
Saracen he, and the region his;
He cried to Marsil, amid the throng,        615
“Unto Roncesvalles I spur along,
The pride of Roland in dust to tread,
Nor shall he carry from thence his head;
Nor Olivier who leads the band.
And of all the twelve is the doom at hand.        620
The Franks shall perish, and France be lorn,
And Karl of his bravest vassals shorn.”

Estorgan next to Marsil hied,
With Estramarin his mate beside.
Hireling traitors and felons they.        625
Aloud cried Marsil, “My lords, away
Unto Roncesvalles, the pass to gain,
Of my people’s captains ye shall be twain.”
“Sire, full welcome to us the call,
On Roland and Olivier we fall.        630
None the twelve from their death shall screen,
The swords we carry are bright and keen;
We will dye them red with the hot blood’s vent,
The Franks shall perish and Karl lament.
We will yield all France as your tribute meet.        635
Come, that the vision your eyes may greet;
The Emperor’s self shall be at your feet.”

With speed came Margaris—lord was he
Of the land of Sibilie to the sea;
Beloved of dames for his beauty’s sake,        640
Was none but joy in his look would take,
The goodliest knight of heathenesse,—
And he cried to the king over all the press,
“Sire, let nothing your heart dismay;
I will Roland in Roncesvalles slay,        645
Nor thence shall Olivier scathless come,
The peers await but their martyrdom.
The Emir of Primis bestowed this blade;
Look on its hilt, with gold inlaid:
It shall crimsoned be with the red blood’s trace:        650
Death to the Franks, and to France disgrace!
Karl the old, with his beard so white,
Shall have pain and sorrow both day and night;
France shall be ours ere a year go by;
At Saint Denys’ bourg shall our leaguer lie.”        655
King Marsil bent him reverently.

Chernubles is there, from the valley black,
His long hair makes on the earth its track;
A load, when it lists him, he bears in play,
Which four mules’ burthen would well outweigh.        660
Men say, in the land where he was born
Nor shineth sun, nor springeth corn,
Nor falleth rain, nor droppeth dew;
The very stones are of sable hue.
’Tis the home of demons, as some assert.        665
And he cried, “My good sword have I girt,
In Roncesvalles to dye it red.
Let Roland but in my pathway tread,
Trust ye to me that I strike him dead,
His Durindana beat down with mine.        670
The Franks shall perish and France decline.”
Thus were mustered King Marsil’s peers,
With a hundred thousand heathen spears.
In haste to press to the battle on,
In a pine-tree forest their arms they don.        675

They don their hauberks of Saracen mould,
Wrought for the most with a triple fold;
In Saragossa their helms were made;
Steel of Vienne was each girded blade;
Valentia lances and targets bright,        680
Pennons of azure and red and white.
They leave their sumpters and mules aside,
Leap on their chargers and serried ride.
Bright was the sunshine and fair the day;
Their arms resplendent gave back the ray.        685
Then sound a thousand clarions clear,
Till the Franks the mighty clangor hear,
“Sir Comrade,” said Olivier, “I trow
There is battle at hand with the Saracen foe.”
“God grant,” said Roland, “it may be so.        690
Here our post for our king we hold;
For his lord the vassal bears heat and cold,
Toil and peril endures for him,
Risks in his service both life and limb.
For mighty blows let our arms be strung,        695
Lest songs of scorn be against us sung.
With the Christian is good, with the heathen ill:
No dastard part shall ye see me fill.”


Shakespeare · Bible · Strunk · Anatomy · Nonfiction · Quotations · Reference · Fiction · Poetry
© 1993–2015 · [Top 150] · Subjects · Titles · Authors · World Lit.