Fiction > Harvard Classics > The Song of Roland
  The Song of Roland.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
Part II: The Prelude of the Great Battle
The Last Benediction of the Archbishop

THE HEATHENS fly in rage and dread;
To the land of Spain have their footsteps sped;
Nor can Count Roland make pursuit—
Slain in his steed, and he rests afoot;
To succor Turpin he turned in haste,        5
The golden helm from his head unlaced,
Ungirt the corselet from his breast,
In stripes divided his silken vest;
The archbishop’s wounds hath he staunched and bound,
His arms around him softly wound;        10
On the green sward gently his body laid,
And, with tender greeting, thus him prayed:
“For a little space, let me take farewell;
Our dear companions, who round us fell,
I go to seek; if I haply find,        15
I will place them at thy feet reclined.”
“Go,” said Turpin; “the field is thine—
To God the glory, ’tis thine and mine.”

Alone seeks Roland the field of fight,
He searcheth vale, the searcheth height.        20
Ivon and Ivor he found, laid low,
And the Gascon Engelier of Bordeaux,
Gerein and his fellow in arms, Gerier;
Otho he found, and Berengier;
Samson the duke, and Anseis bold,        25
Gerard of Roussillon, the old.
Their bodies, one after one, he bore,
And laid them Turpin’s feet before.
The archbishop saw them stretched arow,
Nor can he hinder the tears that flow;        30
In benediction his hands he spread:
“Alas! for your doom, my lords,” he said,
“That God in mercy your souls may give,
On the flowers of Paradise to live;
Mine own death comes, with anguish sore        35
That I see mine Emperor never more.”

Once more to the field doth Roland wend,
Till he findeth Olivier his friend;
The lifeless form to his heart he strained,
Bore him back with what strength remained,        40
On a buckler laid him, beside the rest,
The archbishop assoiled them all, and blessed.
Their dole and pity anew find vent,
And Roland maketh his fond lament:
“My Olivier, my chosen one,        45
Thou wert the noble Duke Renier’s son,
Lord of the March unto Rivier vale.
To shiver lance and shatter mail,
The brave in council to guide and cheer,
To smite the miscreant foe with fear,—        50
Was never on earth such cavalier.”

Dead around him his peers to see,
And the man he loved so tenderly,
Fast the tears of Count Roland ran,
His visage discolored became, and wan,        55
He swooned for sorrow beyond control.
“Alas,” said Turpin, “how great thy dole!”

To look on Roland swooning there,
Surpassed all sorrow he ever bare;
He stretched his hand, the horn he took,—        60
Through Roncesvalles there flowed a brook,—
A draught to Roland he thought to bring;
But his steps were feeble and tottering,
Spent his strength, from waste of blood,—
He struggled on for scarce a rood,        65
When sank his heart, and drooped his frame,
And his mortal anguish on him came.

Roland revived from his swoon again;
On his feet he rose, but in deadly pain;
He looked on high, and he looked below,        70
Till, a space his other companions fro,
He beheld the baron, stretched on sward,
The archbishop, vicar of God our Lord.
Mea Culpa was Turpin’s cry,
While he raised his hands to heaven on high,        75
Imploring Paradise to gain.
So died the soldier of Carlemaine,—
With word or weapon, to preach or fight,
A champion over of Christian right,
And a deadly foe of the infidel.        80
God’s benediction within him dwell!

When Roland saw him stark on earth
(His very vitals were bursting forth,
And his brain was oozing from out his head),
He took the fair white hands outspread,        85
Crossed and clasped them upon his breast,
And thus his plaint to the dead addressed,—
So did his country’s law ordain:—
“Ah, gentleman of noble strain,
I trust thee unto God the True,        90
Whose service never man shall do
With more devoted heart and mind:
To guard the faith, to win mankind,
From the apostles’ days till now,
Such prophet never rose as thou.        95
Nor pain or torment thy soul await,
But of Paradise the open gate.”


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