Directory:EPIC & SAGA




OLIVIER〖[The stanzas of the translation not found in the Oxford MS., but taken from the stanzas inserted from other versions by M. Gautier, are, as regards Part II. the following: Stanzas 113, 114, 115, 118, 119, 120, 122, 123, 126, 127, 139, 143, 144, 145, 146, 163.]〗 clomb to a mountain height,

Glanced through the valley that stretched to right;

He saw advancing the Saracen men,

And thus to Roland he spake agen:

“What sights and sounds from the Spanish side,

White gleaming hauberks and helms in pride?

In deadliest wrath our Franks shall be!

Ganelon wrought this perfidy;

It was he who doomed us to hold the rear.”

“Hush,” said Roland; “O Olivier,

No word be said of my stepsire here.”


Sir Olivier to the peak hath clomb,

Looks far on the realm of Spain therefrom;

He sees the Saracen power arrayed,—

Helmets gleaming with gold inlaid,

Shields and hauberks in serried row,

Spears with pennons that from them flow.

He may not reckon the mighty mass,

So far their numbers his thought surpass.

All in bewilderment and dismay,

Down from the mountain he takes his way,

Comes to the Franks the tale to say.


“I have seen the paynim,” said Olivier.

“Never on earth did such host appear:

A hundred thousand with targets bright,

With helmets laced and hauberks white,

Erect and shining their lances tall;

Such battle as waits you did ne'er befall.

My Lords of France, be God your stay,

That you be not vanquished in field to-day.”

“Accursed,” say the Franks, “be they who fly

None shall blench from the fear to die.”



“In mighty strength are the heathen crew,”

Olivier said, “and our Franks are few;

My comrade, Roland, sound on your horn;

Karl will hear and his host return.”

“I were mad,” said Roland, “to do such deed;

Lost in France were my glory's meed.

My Durindana shall smite full hard,

And her hilt be red to the golden guard.

The heathen felons shall find their fate;

Their death, I swear, in the pass they wait.”


“O Roland, sound on your ivory horn,

To the ear of Karl shall the blast be borne:

He will bid his legions backward bend,

And all his barons their aid will lend.”

“Now God forbid it, for very shame,

That for me my kindred were stained with blame,

Or that gentle France to such vileness fell:

This good sword that hath served me well,

My Durindana such strokes shall deal,

That with blood encrimsoned shall be the steel.

By their evil star are the felons led;

They shall all be numbered among the dead.”


“Roland, Roland, yet wind one blast!

Karl will hear ere the gorge be passed,

And the Franks return on their path full fast.”

“I will not sound on mine ivory horn:

It shall never be spoken of me in scorn,

That for heathen felons one blast I blew;

I may not dishonor my lineage true.

But I will strike, ere this fight be o'er,

A thousand strokes and seven hundred more,

And my Durindana shall drip with gore.

Our Franks will bear them like vassals brave

The Saracens flock but to find a grave.”


“I deem of neither reproach nor stain.

I have seen the Saracen host of Spain,

Over plain and valley and mountain spread,

And the regions hidden beneath their tread.

Countless the swarm of the foe, and we

A marvellous little company.”

Roland answered him, “All the more

My spirit within me burns therefore.

God and his angles of heaven defend

That France through me from her glory bend.

Death were better than fame laid low.

Our Emperor loveth a downright blow.”


Roland is daring and Olivier wise,

Both of marvellous high emprise;

On their chargers mounted, and girt in mail,

To the death in battle they will not quail.

Brave are the counts, and their words are high,

And the Pagans are fiercely riding nigh.

“See, Roland, see them, how close they are,

The Saracen foemen, and Karl how far!

Thou didst disdain on thy horn to blow.

Were the king but here we were spared this woe.

Look up through Aspra's dread defile,

Where standeth our doomed rear-guard the while;

They will do their last brave feat this day,

No more to mingle in mortal fray.”

“Hush!” said Roland, “the craven tale—

Foul fall who carries a heart so pale;

Foot to foot shall we hold the place,

And rain our buffets and blows apace.”


When Roland felt that the battle came,

Lion or leopard to him were tame;

He shouted aloud to his Franks, and then

Called to his gentle compeer agen.

“My friend, my comrade, my Olivier,

The Emperor left us his bravest here;

Twice ten thousand he set apart,

And he knew among them no dastard heart.

For his lord the vassal must bear the stress

Of the winter's cold and the sun's excess—

Peril his flesh and his blood thereby:

Strike thou with thy good lance-point and I,

With Durindana, the matchless glaive

Which the king himself to my keeping gave,

That he who wears it when I lie cold

May say 'twas the sword of a vassal bold.”


Archbishop Turpin, above the rest,

Spurred his steed to a jutting crest.

His sermon thus to the Franks he spake:—

“Lords, we are here for our monarch's sake;

Hold we for him, though our death should come;

Fight for the succor of Christendom.

The battle approaches—ye know it well,

For ye see the ranks of the infidel.

Cry mea culpa, and lowly kneel;

I will assoil you, your souls to heal.

In death ye are holy martyrs crowned.”

The Franks alighted, and knelt on ground;

In God's high name the host he blessed,

And for penance gave them—to smite their best.


The Franks arose from bended knee,

Assoiled, and from their sins set free;

The archbishop blessed them fervently:

Then each one sprang on his bounding barb,

Armed and laced in knightly garb,

Apparelled all for the battle line.

At last said Roland, “Companion mine,

Too well the treason is now displayed,

How Ganelon hath our band betrayed.

To him the gifts and the treasures fell;

But our Emperor will avenge us well.

King Marsil deemeth us bought and sold;

The price shall be with our good swords told.”


Roland rideth the passes through,

On Veillantif, his charger true;

Girt in his harness that shone full fair,

And baron-like his lance he bare.

The steel erect in the sunshine gleamed,

With the snow-white pennon that from it streamed;

The golden fringes beat on his hand.

Joyous of visage was he, and bland,

Exceeding beautiful of frame;

And his warriors hailed him with glad acclaim.

Proudly he looked on the heathen ranks,

Humbly and sweetly upon his Franks.

Courteously spake he, in words of grace—

“Ride, my barons, at gentle pace.

The Saracens here to their slaughter toil:

Reap we, to-day, a glorious spoil,

Never fell to Monarch of France the like.”

At his words, the hosts are in act to strike.


Said Olivier, “Idle is speech, I trow;

Thou didst disdain on thy horn to blow.

Succor of Karl is far apart;

Our strait he knows not, the noble heart:

Not to him nor his host be blame;

Therefore, barons, in God's good name,

Press ye onward, and strike your best,

Make your stand on this field to rest;

Think but of blows, both to give and take,

Never the watchword of Karl forsake.”

Then from the Franks resounded high—

“Montjoie!” Whoever had heard that cry

Would hold remembrance of chivalry.

Then ride they—how proudly, O God, they ride!—

With rowels dashed in their coursers' side.

Fearless, too, are their paynim foes.

Frank and Saracen, thus they close.



King Marsil's nephew, Aelroth his name,

Vaunting in front of the battle came,

Words of scorn on our Franks he cast:

“Felon Franks, ye are met at last,

By your chosen guardian betrayed and sold,

By your king left madly the pass to hold.

This day shall France of her fame be shorn,

And from Karl the mighty his right arm torn.”

Roland heard him in wrath and pain!—

He spurred his steed, he slacked the rein,

Drave at the heathen with might and main,

Shattered his shield and his hauberk broke,

Right to the breast-bone went the stroke;

Pierced him, spine and marrow through,

And the felon's soul from his body flew.

A moment reeled he upon his horse,

Then all heavily dropped the corse;

Wrenched was his neck as on earth he fell,

Yet would Roland scorn with scorn repel.

“Thou dastard! never hath Karl been mad,

Nor love for treason or traitors had.

To guard the passes he left us here,

Like a noble king and chevalier.

Nor shall France this day her fame forego.

Strike in, my barons; the foremost blow

Dealt in the fight doth to us belong:

We have the right and these dogs the wrong.”


A duke was there, named Falsaron,

Of the land of Dathan and Abiron;

Brother to Marsil, the king, was he;

More miscreant felon ye might not see.

Huge of forehead, his eyes between,

A span of a full half-foot, I ween.

Bitter sorrow was his, to mark

His nephew before him lie slain and stark.

Hastily came he from forth the press,

Raising the war-cry of heathenesse.

Braggart words from his lips were tost:

“This day the honour of France is lost.”

Hotly Sir Olivier's anger stirs;

He pricked his steed with golden spurs,

Fairly dealt him a baron's blow,

And hurled him dead from the saddle-bow.

Buckler and mail were reft and rent,

And the pennon's flaps to his heart's blood went.

He saw the miscreant stretched on earth:

“Caitiff, thy threats are of little worth.

On, Franks! the felons before us fall;

Montjoie!” 'Tis the Emperor's battle-call.


A king was there of a strange countrie,

King Corsablis of Barbary;

Before the Saracen van he cried,

“Right well may we in this battle bide;

Puny the host of the Franks I deem,

And those that front us, of vile esteem.

Not one by succor of Karl shall fly;

The day hath dawned that shall see them die.”

Archbishop Turpin hath heard him well;

No mortal hates he with hate so fell:

He pricked with spurs of the fine gold wrought,

And in deadly passage the heathen sought;

Shield and corselet were pierced and riven,

And the lance's point through his body driven;

To and fro, at the mighty thrust,

He reeled, and then fell stark in dust.

Turpin looked on him, stretched on ground.

“Loud thou liest, thou heathen hound!

King Karl is ever our pride and stay;

Nor one of the Franks shall blench this day,

But your comrades here on the field shall lie;

I bring you tidings: ye all shall die.

Strike, Franks! remember your chivalry;

First blows are ours, high God be praised!”

Once more the cry, “Montjoie!” he raised.


Gerein to Malprimis of Brigal sped,

Whose good shield stood him no whit in stead;

Its knob of crystal was cleft in twain,

And one half fell on the battle plain.

Right through the hauberk, and through the skin,

He drave the lance to the flesh within;

Prone and sudden the heathen fell,

And Satan carried his soul to hell.


Anon, his comrade in arms, Gerier,

Spurred at the Emir with levelled spear,

Severed his shield and his mail apart,—

The lance went through them, to pierce his heart.

Dead on the field at the blow he lay.

Olivier said, “'Tis a stirring fray.”


At the Almasour's shield Duke Samson rode—

With blazon of flowers and gold it glowed;

But nor shield nor cuirass availed to save,

When through heart and lungs the lance he drave.

Dead lies he, weep him who list or no.

The Archbishop said, “'Tis a baron's blow.”


Anseis cast his bridle free;

At Turgis, Tortosa's lord, rode he:

Above the centre his shield he smote,

Brake his mail with its double coat,

Speeding the lance with a stroke so true,

That the iron traversed his body through.

So lay he lifeless, at point of spear.

Said Roland, “Struck like a cavalier.”


Engelier, Gascon of Bordeaux,

On his courser's mane let the bridle flow;

Smote Escremis, from Valtierra sprung,

Shattered the shield from his neck that swung;

On through his hauberk's vental pressed,

And betwixt his shoulders pierced his breast.

Forth from the saddle he cast him dead.

“So shall ye perish all,” he said.


The heathen Estorgan was Otho's aim:

Right in front of his shield he came;

Rent its colors of red and white,

Pierced the joints of his harness bright,

Flung him dead from his bridle rein.

Said Otho, “Thus shall ye all be slain.”


Berengier smote Estramarin,

Planting his lance his heart within,

Through shivered shield and hauberk torn.

The Saracen to earth was borne

Amid a thousand of his train.

Thus ten of the heathen twelve are slain;

But two are left alive I wis—

Chernubles and Count Margaris.


Count Margaris was a valiant knight,

Stalwart of body, and lithe and light:

He spurred his steed unto Olivier,

Brake his shield at the golden sphere,

Pushed the lance till it touched his side;

God of his grace made it harmless glide.

Margaris rideth unhurt withal,

Sounding his trumpet, his men to call.


Mingled and marvellous grows the fray,

And in Roland's heart is no dismay.

He fought with lance while his good lance stood;

Fifteen encounters have strained its wood.

At the last it brake; then he grasped in hand

His Durindana, his naked brand.

He smote Chernubles' helm upon,

Where, in the centre, carbuncles shone:

Down through his coif and his fell of hair,

Betwixt his eyes came the falchion bare,

Down through his plated harness fine,

Down through the Saracen's chest and chine,

Down through the saddle with gold inlaid,

Till sank in the living horse the blade,

Severed the spine where no joint was found,

And horse and rider lay dead on ground.

“Caitiff, thou camest in evil hour;

To save thee passeth Mohammed's power.

Never to miscreants like to thee

Shall come the guerdon of victory.”


Count Roland rideth the battle through,

With Durindana, to cleave and hew;

Havoc fell of the foe he made,

Saracen corse upon corse was laid,

The field all flowed with the bright blood shed;

Roland, to corselet and arm, was red—

Red his steed to the neck and flank.

Nor is Olivier niggard of blows as frank;

Nor to one of the peers be blame this day,

For the Franks are fiery to smite and slay.

“Well fought,” said Turpin, “our barons true!”

And he raised the war-cry, “Montjoie!” anew.


Through the storm of battle rides Olivier,

His weapon, the butt of his broken spear,

Down upon Malseron's shield he beat,

Where flowers and gold emblazoned meet,

Dashing his eyes from forth his head:

Low at his feet were the brains bespread,

And the heathen lies with seven hundred dead!

Estorgus and Turgin next he slew,

Till the shaft he wielded in splinters flew.

“Comrade!” said Roland, “what makest thou?

Is it time to fight with a truncheon now?

Steel and iron such strife may claim;

Where is thy sword, Hauteclere by name,

With its crystal pommel and golden guard?”

“Of time to draw it I stood debarred,

Such stress was on me of smiting hard.”


Then drew Sir Olivier forth his blade,

As had his comrade Roland prayed.

He proved it in knightly wise straightway,

On the heathen Justin of Val Ferrée.

At a stroke he severed his head in two,

Cleft him body and harness through;

Down through the gold-incrusted selle,

To the horse's chine, the falchion fell:

Dead on the sward lay man and steed.

Said Roland, “My brother, henceforth, indeed

The Emperor loves us for such brave blows!”

Around them the cry of “Montjoie!” arose.


Gerein his Sorel rides; Gerier

Is mounted on his own Pass-deer:

The reins they slacken, and prick full well

Against the Saracen Timozel.

One smites his cuirass, and one his shield,

Break in his body the spears they wield;

They cast him dead on the fallow mould.

I know not, nor yet to mine ear was told,

Which of the twain was more swift and bold.

Then Espreveris, Borel's son,

By Engelier unto death was done.

Archbishop Turpin slew Siglorel,

The wizard, who erst had been in hell,

By Jupiter thither in magic led.

“Well have we 'caped,” the archbishop said:

“Crushed is the caitiff,” Count Roland replies,

“Olivier, brother, such strokes I prize!”


Furious waxeth the fight, and strange;

Frank and heathen their blows exchange;

While these defend, and those assail,

And their lances broken and bloody fail.

Ensign and pennon are rent and cleft,

And the Franks of their fairest youth bereft,

Who will look on mother or spouse no more,

Or the host that waiteth the gorge before.

Karl the Mighty may weep and wail;

What skilleth sorrow, if succour fail?

An evil service was Gan's that day,

When to Saragossa he bent his way,

His faith and kindred to betray.

But a doom thereafter awaited him—

Amerced in Aix, of life and limb,

With thirty of his kin beside,

To whom was hope of grace denied.


King Almaris with his band, the while,

Wound through a marvellous strait defile,

Where doth Count Walter the heights maintain

And the passes that lie at the gates of Spain.

“Gan, the traitor, hath made of us,”

Said Walter, “a bargain full dolorous.”


King Almaris to the mount hath clomb,

With sixty thousand of heathendom.

In deadly wrath on the Franks they fall,

And with furious onset smite them all:

Routed, scattered or slain they lie.

Then rose the wrath of Count Walter high;

His sword he drew, his helm he laced,

Slowly in front of the line he paced,

And with evil greeting his foeman faced.


Right on his foemen doth Walter ride,

And the heathen assail him on every side;

Broken down was his shield of might,

Bruised and pierced was his hauberk white;

Four lances at once did his body wound:

No longer bore he—four times he swooned;

He turned perforce from the field aside,

Slowly adown the mount he hied,

And aloud to Roland for succour cried.


Wild and fierce is the battle still:

Roland and Olivier fight their fill;

The Archbishop dealeth a thousand blows

Nor knoweth one of the peers repose;

The Franks are fighting commingled all,

And the foe in hundreds and thousands fall;

Choice have they none but to flee or die,

Leaving their lives despighteously.

Yet the Franks are reft of their chivalry,

Who will see nor parent nor kindred fond,

Nor Karl who waits them the pass beyond.


Now a wondrous storm o'er France hath passed,

With thunder-stroke and whirlwind's blast;

Rain unmeasured, and hail, there came,

Sharp and sudden the lightning's flame;

And an earthquake ran—the sooth I say,

From Besançon city to Wissant Bay;

From Saint Michael's Mount to thy shrine, Cologne,

House unrifted was there none.

And a darkness spread in the noontide high—

No light, save gleams from the cloven sky.

On all who saw came a mighty fear.

They said, “The end of the world is near.”

Alas, they spake but with idle breath,—

'Tis the great lament for Roland's death.


Dread are the omens and fierce the storm,

Over France the signs and wonders swarm:

From noonday on to the vesper hour,

Night and darkness alone have power;

Nor sun nor moon one ray doth shed,

Who sees it ranks him among the dead.

Well may they suffer such pain and woe,

When Roland, captain of all, lies low.

Never on earth hath his fellow been,

To slay the heathen or realms to win.


Stern and stubborn is the fight;

Staunch are the Franks with the sword to smite;

Nor is there one but whose blade is red,

“Montjoie!” is ever their war-cry dread.

Through the land they ride in hot pursuit,

And the heathens feel 'tis a fierce dispute.


In wrath and anguish, the heathen race

Turn in flight from the field their face;

The Franks as hotly behind them strain.

Then might ye look on a cumbered plain:

Saracens stretched on the green grass bare,

Helms and hauberks that shone full fair,

Standards riven and arms undone:

So by the Franks was the battle won.

The foremost battle that then befell—

O God, what sorrow remains to tell!


With heart and prowess the Franks have stood;

Slain was the heathen multitude;

Of a hundred thousand survive not two:

The archbishop crieth, “O staunch and true!

Written it is in the Frankish geste,

That our Emperor's vassals shall bear them best.”

To seek their dead through the field they press,

And their eyes drop tears of tenderness:

Their hearts are turned to their kindred dear.

Marsil the while with his host is near.


Distraught was Roland with wrath and pain;

Distraught were the twelve of Carlemaine—

With deadly strokes the Franks have striven,

And the Saracen horde to the slaughter given;

Of a hundred thousand escaped but one—

King Margaris fled from the field alone;

But no disgrace in his flight he bore—

Wounded was he by lances four.

To the side of Spain did he take his way,

To tell King Marsil what chanced that day.


Alone King Margaris left the field,

With broken spear and piercèd shield,

Scarce half a foot from the knob remained,

And his brand of steel with blood was stained;

On his body were four lance wounds to see:

Were he Christian, what a baron he!

He sped to Marsil his tale to tell;

Swift at the feet of the king he fell:

“Ride, sire, on to the field forthright,

You will find the Franks in an evil plight;

Full half and more of their host lies slain,

And sore enfeebled who yet remain;

Nor arms have they in their utmost need:

To crush them now were an easy deed,”

Marsil listened with heart aflame.

Onward in search of the Franks he came.


King Marsil on through the valley sped,

With the mighty host he has marshallèd.

Twice ten battalions the king arrayed:

Helmets shone, with their gems displayed.

Bucklers and braided hauberks bound,

Seven thousand trumpets the onset sound;

Dread was the clangor afar to hear.

Said Roland, “My brother, my Olivier,

Gan the traitor our death hath sworn,

Nor may his treason be now forborne.

To our Emperor vengeance may well belong,—

To us the battle fierce and strong;

Never hath mortal beheld the like.

With my Durindana I trust to strike;

And thou, my comrade, with thy Hauteclere:

We have borne them gallantly otherwhere.

So many fields 'twas ours to gain,

They shall sing against us no scornful strain.”


As the Franks the heathen power descried,

Filling the champaign from side to side,

Loud unto Roland they made their call,

And to Olivier and their captains all,

Spake the archbishop as him became:

“O barons, think not one thought of shame;

Fly not, for sake of our God I pray.

That on you be chaunted no evil lay.

Better by far on the field to die;

For in sooth I deem that our end is nigh.

But in holy Paradise ye shall meet,

And with the innocents be your seat.”

The Franks exult his words to hear,

And the cry “Montjoie;” resoundeth clear.


King Marsil on the hill-top bides,

While Grandonie with his legion rides.

He nails his flag with three nails of gold:

“Ride ye onwards, my barons bold.”

Then loud a thousand clarions rang.

And the Franks exclaimed as they heard the clang—

“O God, our Father, what cometh on!

Woe that we ever saw Ganelon:

Foully, by treason, he us betrayed.”

Gallantly then the archbishop said,

“Soldiers and lieges of God are ye,

And in Paradise shall your guerdon be.

To lie on its holy flowerets fair,

Dastard never shall enter there.”

Say the Franks, “We will win it every one.”

The archbishop bestoweth his benison.

Proudly mounted they at his word,

And, like lions chafed, at the heathen spurred.


Thus doth King Marsil divide his men:

He keeps around him battalions ten.

As the Franks the other ten descry,

“What dark disaster,” they said, “is nigh?

What doom shall now our peers betide?”

Archbishop Turpin full well replied.

“My cavaliers, of God the friends,

Your crown of glory to-day He sends,

To rest on the flowers of Paradise,

That never were won by cowardice.”

The Franks made answer, “No cravens we,

Nor shall we gainsay God's decree;

Against the enemy yet we hold,—

Few may we be, but staunch and bold.”

Their spurs against the foe they set,

Frank and paynim—once more they met.


A heathen of Saragossa came.

Full half the city was his to claim.

It was Climorin: hollow of heart was he,

He had plighted with Gan in perfidy,

What time each other on mouth they kissed,

And he gave him his helm and amethyst.

He would bring fair France from her glory down

And from the Emperor wrest his crown.

He sate upon Barbamouche, his steed,

Than hawk or swallow more swift in speed.

Pricked with the spur, and the rein let flow,

To strike at the Gascon of Bordeaux,

Whom shield nor cuirass availed to save.

Within his harness the point he drave,

The sharp steel on through his body passed,

Dead on the field was the Gascon cast.

Said Climorin, “Easy to lay them low:

Strike in, my pagans, give blow for blow.”

For their champion slain, the Franks cry woe.


Sir Roland called unto Olivier,

“Sir Comrade, dead lieth Engelier;

Braver knight had we none than he.”

“God grant,” he answered, “revenge to me.”

His spurs of gold to his horse he laid,

Grasping Hauteclere with his bloody blade.

Climorin smote he, with stroke so fell,

Slain at the blow was the infidel.

Whose soul the Enemy bore away.

Then turned he, Alphaien, the duke, to slay;

From Escababi the head he shore,

And Arabs seven to the earth he bore.

Saith Roland, “My comrade is much in wrath;

Won great laud by my side he hath;

Us such prowess to Karl endears.

Fight on, fight ever, my cavaliers.”


Then came the Saracen Valdabrun,

Of whom King Marsil was foster-son.

Four hundred galleys he owned at sea,

And of all the mariners lord was he.

Jerusalem erst he had falsely won,

Profaned the temple of Solomon,

Slaying the patriarch at the fount.

'Twas he who in plight unto Gan the count,

His sword with a thousand coins bestowed.

Gramimond named he the steed he rode,

Swifter than ever was falcon's flight;

Well did he prick with the sharp spurs bright,

To strike Duke Samson, the fearless knight.

Buckler and cuirass at once he rent,

And his pennon's flaps through his body sent;

Dead he cast him, with levelled spear.

“Strike, ye heathens; their doom is near.”

The Franks cry woe for their cavalier.


When Roland was ware of Samson slain,

Well may you weet of his bitter pain.

With bloody spur he his steed impelled,

While Durindana aloft he held,

The sword more costly than purest gold;

And he smote, with passion uncontrolled,

On the heathen's helm, with its jewelled crown,—

Through head, and cuirass, and body down,

And the saddle embossed with gold, till sank

The griding steel in the charger's flank;

Blame or praise him, the twain he slew.

“A fearful stroke!” said the heathen crew.

“I shall never love you,” Count Roland cried.

“With you are falsehood and evil pride.”


From Afric's shore, of Afric's brood,

Malquiant, son of King Malcus stood;

Wrought of the beaten gold, his vest

Flamed to the sun over all the rest.

Saut-perdu hath he named his horse,

Fleeter than ever was steed in course;

He smote Anseis upon the shield,

Cleft its vermeil and azure field,

Severed the joints of his hauberk good,

In his body planted both steel and wood.

Dead he lieth, his day is o'er,

And the Franks the loss of their peer deplore.


Turpin rideth the press among;

Never such priest the Mass had sung,

Nor who hath such feats of his body done.

“God send thee,” he said, “His malison!

For the knight thou slewest my heart is sore.”

He sets the spur to his steed once more,

Smites the shield in Toledo made,

And the heathen low on the sward is laid.


Forth came the Saracen Grandonie,

Bestriding his charger Marmorie;

He was son unto Cappadocia's king,

And his steed was fleeter than bird on wing.

He let the rein on his neck decline,

And spurred him hard against Count Gerein,

Shattered the vermeil shield he bore,

And his armor of proof all open tore;

In went the pennon, so fierce the shock,

And he cast him, dead, on a lofty rock;

Then he slew his comrade in arms, Gerier,

Guy of Saint Anton and Berengier.

Next lay the great Duke Astor prone.

The Lord of Valence upon the Rhone.

Among the heathen great joy he cast.

Say the Franks, lamenting, “We perish fast.”


Count Roland graspeth his bloody sword:

Well hath he heard how the Franks deplored;

His heart is burning within his breast.

“God's malediction upon thee rest!

Right dearly shalt thou this blood repay.”

His war-horse springs to the spur straightway,

And they come together—go down who may.


A gallant captain was Grandonie,

Great in arms and in chivalry.

Never, till then, had he Roland seen,

But well he knew him by form and mien,

By the stately bearing and glance of pride,

And a fear was on him he might not hide.

Fain would he fly, but it skills not here;

Roland smote him with stroke so sheer,

That it cleft the nasal his helm beneath,

Slitting nostril and mouth and teeth,

Cleft his body and mail of plate,

And the gilded saddle whereon he sate,

Deep the back of the charger through:

Beyond all succor the twain he slew.

From the Spanish ranks a wail arose,

And the Franks exult in their champion's blows.


The battle is wondrous yet, and dire,

And the Franks are cleaving in deadly ire;

Wrists and ribs and chines afresh,

And vestures, in to the living flesh;

On the green grass streaming the bright blood ran,

“O mighty country, Mahound thee ban!

For thy sons are strong over might of man.”

And one and all unto Marsil cried,

“Hither, O king, to our succor ride.”


Marvellous yet is the fight around,

The Franks are thrusting with spears embrowned;

And great the carnage there to ken,

Slain and wounded and bleeding men,

Flung, each by other, on back or face.

Hold no more can the heathen race.

They turn and fly from the field apace;

The Franks as hotly pursue in chase.


Knightly the deeds by Roland done,

Respite or rest for his Franks is none;

Hard they ride on the heathen rear,

At trot or gallop in full career.

With crimson blood are their bodies stained,

And their brands of steel are snapped or strained;

And when the weapons their hands forsake,

Then unto trumpet and horn they take.

Serried they charge, in power and pride;

And the Saracens cry—“May ill betide

The hour we came on this fatal track!”

So on our host do they turn the back,

The Christians cleaving them as they fled,

Till to Marsil stretcheth the line of dead.


King Marsil looks on his legions strown,

He bids the clarion blast be blown,

With all his host he onward speeds:

Abîme the heathen his vanguard leads.

No felon worse in the host than he,

Black of hue as a shrivelled pea;

He believes not in Holy Mary's Son;

Full many an evil deed hath done.

Treason and murder he prizeth more

Than all the gold of Galicia's shore;

Men never knew him to laugh nor jest,

But brave and daring among the best—

Endeared to the felon king therefor;

And the dragon flag of his race he bore.

The archbishop loathed him—full well he might,—

And as he saw him he yearned to smite,

To himself he speaketh, low and quick,

“This heathen seems much a heretic;

I go to slay him, or else to die,

For I love not dastards or dastardy.”


The archbishop began the fight once more;

He rode the steed he had won of yore,

When in Denmark Grossaille the king he slew.

Fleet the charger, and fair to view:

His feet were small and fashioned fine,

Long the flank, and high the chine,

Chest and croup full amply spread,

With taper ear and tawny head,

And snow-white tail and yellow mane:

To seek his peer on earth were vain.

The archbishop spurred him in fiery haste,

And, on the moment Abîme he faced,

Came down on the wondrous shield the blow,

The shield with amethysts all aglow,

Carbuncle and topaz, each priceless stone;

'Twas once the Emir Galafir's own;

A demon gave it in Metas vale;

But when Turpin smote it might nought avail—

From side to side did his weapon trace,

And he flung him dead in an open space.

Say the Franks, “Such deeds beseem the brave.

Well the archbishop his cross can save.”


Count Roland Olivier bespake:

“Sir comrade, dost thou my thought partake?

A braver breathes not this day on earth

Than our archbishop in knightly worth.

How nobly smites he with lance and blade!”

Saith Olivier, “Yea, let us yield him aid;”

And the Franks once more the fight essayed.

Stern and deadly resound the blows.

For the Christians, alas, 'tis a tale of woes!


The Franks of France of their arms are reft,

Three hundred blades alone are left.

The glittering helms they smite and shred,

And cleave asunder full many a head;

Through riven helm and hauberk rent,

Maim head and foot and lineament.

“Disfigured are we,” the heathens cry.

“Who guards him not hath but choice to die.”

Right unto Marsil their way they take.

“Help, O king, for your people's sake!”

King Marsil heard their cry at hand,

“Mahound destroy thee, O mighty land;

Thy race came hither to crush mine own.

What cities wasted and overthrown,

Doth Karl of the hoary head possess!

Rome and Apulia his power confess,

Constantinople and Saxony;

Yet better die by the Franks than flee.

On, Saracens! recreant heart be none;

If Roland live, we are all foredone.”


Then with the lance did the heathens smite

On shield and gleaming helmet bright;

Of steel and iron arose the clang,

Towards heaven the flames and sparkles sprang;

Brains and blood on the champaign flowed;

But on Roland's heart is a dreary load,

To see his vassals lie cold in death;

His gentle France he remembereth,

And his uncle, the good King Carlemaine;

And the spirit within him groans for pain.


Count Roland entered within the prease,

And smote full deadly without surcease;

While Durindana aloft he held,

Hauberk and helm he pierced and quelled,

Intrenching body and hand and head.

The Saracens lie by the hundred dead,

And the heathen host is discomfited.


Valiantly Olivier, otherwhere,

Brandished on high his sword Hauteclere—

Save Durindana, of swords the best.

To the battle proudly he him addressed.

His arms with the crimson blood were dyed.

“God, what a vassal!” Count Roland cried.

“O gentle baron, so true and leal,

This day shall set on our love the seal!

The Emperor cometh to find us dead,

For ever parted and severèd.

France never looked on such woful day;

Nor breaths a Frank but for us will pray,—

From the cloister cells shall the orisons rise,

And our souls find rest in Paradise.”

Olivier heard him, amid the throng,

Spurred his steed to his side along.

Saith each to other, “Be near me still;

We will die together, if God so will.”


Roland and Olivier then are seen

To lash and hew with their falchions keen;

With his lance the archbishop thrusts and slays,

And the numbers slain we may well appraise;

In charter and writ is the tale expressed—

Beyond four thousand, saith the geste.

In four encounters they sped them well:

Dire and grievous the fifth befell.

The cavaliers of the Franks are slain

All but sixty, who yet remain;

God preserved them, that ere they die,

They may sell their lives full hardily.



As Roland gazed on his slaughtered men,

He bespake his gentle compeer agen:

“Ah, dear companion, may God thee shield!

Behold, our bravest lie dead on field!

Well may we weep for France the fair,

Of her noble barons despoiled and bare.

Had he been with us, our king and friend!

Speak, my brother, thy counsel lend,—

How unto Karl shall we tidings send?”

Olivier answered, “I wist not how.

Liefer death than be recreant now.”


“I will sound,” said Roland, “upon my horn,

Karl, as he passeth the gorge, to warn.

The Franks, I know, will return apace.”

Said Olivier, “Nay, it were foul disgrace

On your noble kindred to wreak such wrong;

They would bear the stain their lifetime long.

Erewhile I sought it, and sued in vain;

But to sound thy horn thou wouldst not deign.

Not now shall mine assent be won,

Nor shall I say it is knightly done.

Lo! both your arms are streaming red.”

“In sooth,” said Roland, “good strokes I sped.”


Said Roland, “Our battle goes hard, I fear;

I will sound my horn that Karl may hear.”

“'Twere a deed unknightly,” said Olivier;

“Thou didst disdain when I sought and prayed:

Saved had we been with cur Karl to aid;

Unto him and his host no blame shall be:

By this my beard, might I hope to see

My gentle sister Alda's face,

Thou shouldst never hold her in thine embrace.”


“Ah, why on me doth thine anger fall?”

“Roland, 'tis thou who hast wrought it all.

Valor and madness are scarce allied,—

Better discretion than daring pride.

All of thy folly our Franks lie slain,

Nor shall render service to Karl again,

As I implored thee, if thou hadst done,

The king had come and the field were won;

Marsil captive, or slain, I trow.

Thy daring, Roland, hath wrought our woe.

No service more unto Karl we pay,

That first of men till the judgment day;

Thou shalt die, and France dishonored be

Ended our loyal company—

A woful parting this eve shall see.”


Archbishop Turpin their strife hath heard,

His steed with the spurs of gold he spurred,

And thus rebuked them, riding near:

“Sir Roland, and thou, Sir Olivier,

Contend not, in God's great name, I crave.

Not now availeth the horn to save;

And yet behoves you to wind its call,—

Karl will come to avenge our fall,

Nor hence the foemen in joyance wend.

The Franks will all from their steeds descend;

When they find us slain and martyred here,

They will raise our bodies on mule and bier,

And, while in pity aloud they weep,

Lay us in hallowed earth they weep,

Nor wolf nor boar on our limbs shall feed.”

Said Roland, “Yea, 'tis a goodly rede.”


Then to his lips the horn he drew,

And full and lustily he blew.

The mountain peaks soared high around;

Thirty leagues was borne the sound.

Karl hath heard it, and all his band.

“Our men have battle,” he said, “on hand.”

Ganelon rose in front and cried,

“If another spake, I would say he lied.”


With deadly travail, in stress and pain,

Count Roland sounded the mighty strain.

Forth from his mouth the bright blood sprang,

And his temples burst for the very pang.

On and onward was borne the blast,

Till Karl hath heard as the gorge he passed,

And Naimes and all his men of war.

“It is Roland's horn,” said the Emperor,

“And, save in battle, he had not blown.”

“Battle,” said Ganelon, “is there none.

Old are you grown—all white and hoar;

Such words bespeak you a child once more.

Have you, then, forgotten Roland's pride,

Which I marvel God should so long abide,

How he captured Noples without your hest?

Forth from the city the heathen pressed,

To your vassal Roland they battle gave,—

He slew them all with the trenchant glaive,

Then turned the waters upon the plain,

That trace of blood might none remain.

He would sound all day for a single hare:

'Tis a jest with him and his fellows there;

For who would battle against him dare?

Ride onward—wherefore this chill delay?

Your mighty land is yet far away.”


On Roland's mouth is the bloody stain,

Burst asunder his temple's vein;

His horn he soundeth in anguish drear;

King Karl and the Franks around him hear.

Said Karl, “That horn is long of breath.”

Said Naimes, “'Tis Roland who travaileth.

There is battle yonder by mine avow.

He who betrayed him deceives you now.

Arm, sire; ring forth your rallying cry,

And stand your noble household by;

For you hear your Roland in jeopardy.”


The king commands to sound the alarm.

To the trumpet the Franks alight and arm;

With casque and corselet and gilded brand,

Buckler and stalwart lance in hand,

Pennons of crimson and white and blue,

The barons leap on their steeds anew,

And onward spur the passes through;

Nor is there one but to other saith,

“Could we reach but Roland before his death,

Blows would we strike for him grim and great.”

Ah! what availeth!—'tis all too late.


The evening passed into brightening dawn.

Against the sun their harness shone;

From helm and hauberk glanced the rays,

And their painted bucklers seemed all ablaze.

The Emperor rode in wrath apart.

The Franks were moody and sad of heart;

Was none but dropped the bitter tear,

For they thought of Roland with deadly fear.—

Then bade the Emperor take and bind

Count Gan, and had him in scorn consigned

To Besgun, chief of his kitchen train.

“Hold me this felon,” he said, “in chain.”

Then full a hundred round him pressed,

Of the kitchen varlets the worst and best;

His beard upon lip and chin they tore,

Cuffs of the fist each dealt him four,

Roundly they beat him with rods and staves;

Then around his neck those kitchen knaves

Flung a fetterlock fast and strong,

As ye lead a bear in a chain along;

On a beast of burthen the count they cast,

Till they yield him back to Karl at last.


Dark, vast, and high the summits soar,

The waters down through the valleys pour,

The trumpets sound in front and rear,

And to Roland's horn make answer clear.

The Emperor rideth in wrathful mood,

The Franks in grievous solicitude;

Nor one among them can stint to weep,

Beseeching God that He Roland keep,

Till they stand beside him upon the field,

To the death together their arms to wield.

Ah, timeless succor, and all in vain!

Too long they tarried, too late they strain.


Onward King Karl in his anger goes;

Down on his harness his white beard flows.

The barons of France spur hard behind;

But on all there presseth one grief of mind—

That they stand not beside Count Roland then,

As he fronts the power of the Saracen.

Were he hurt in fight, who would then survive?

Yet three score barons around him strive.

And what a sixty! Nor chief nor king

Had ever such gallant following.


Roland looketh to hill and plain,

He sees the lines of his warriors slain,

And he weeps like a noble cavalier,

“Barons of France, God hold you dear,

And take you to Paradise's bowers,

Where your souls may lie on the holy flowers;

Braver vassals on earth were none,

So many kingdoms for Karl ye won;

Years a-many your ranks I led,

And for end like this were ye nurturèd.

Land of France, thou art soothly fair;

To-day thou liest bereaved and bare;

It was all for me your lives you gave,

And I was helpless to shield or save.

May the great God save you who cannot lie.

Olivier, brother, I stand thee by;

I die of grief, if I 'scape unslain:

In, brother, in to the fight again.”


Once more pressed Roland within the fight,

His Durindana he grasped with might;

Faldron of Pui did he cleave in two,

And twenty-four of their bravest slew.

Never was man on such vengeance bound;

And, as flee the roe-deer before the hound,

So in face of Roland the heathen flee.

Saith Turpin, “Right well this liketh me.

Such prowess a cavalier befits,

Who harness wears, and on charger sits;

In battle shall he be strong and great,

Or I prize him not at four deniers' rate;

Let him else be monk in a cloister cell,

His daily prayers for our souls to tell.”

Cries Roland, “Smite them, and do not spare.”

Down once more on the foe they bear,

But the Christian ranks grow thinned and rare.


Who knoweth ransom is none for him,

Maketh in battle resistance grim;

The Franks like wrathful lions strike,

But King Marsil beareth him baron-like;

He bestrideth his charger, Gaignon hight,

And he pricketh him hard, Sir Beuve to smite,

The Lord of Beaune and of Dijon town,

Through shield and cuirass, he struck him down:

Dead past succor of man he lay.

Ivon and Ivor did Marsil slay;

Gerard of Roussillon beside.

Not far was Roland, and loud he cried,

“Be thou forever in God's disgrace,

Who hast slain my fellows before my face,

Before we part thou shalt blows essay,

And learn the name of my sword to-day.

Down, at the word, came the trenchant brand,

And from Marsil severed his good right hand:

With another stroke, the head he won

Of the fair-haired Jurfalez, Marsil's son.

“Help us, Mahound!” say the heathen train,

“May our gods avenge us on Carlemaine!

Such daring felons he hither sent,

Who will hold the field till their lives be spent.”

“Let us flee and save us,” cry one and all,

Unto flight a hundred thousand fall,

Nor can aught the fugitives recall.


But what availeth? though Marsil fly,

His uncle, the Algalif, still is nigh;

Lord of Carthagena is he,

Of Alferna's shore and Garmalie,

And of Ethiopia, accursed land:

The black battalions at his command,

With nostrils huge and flattened ears,

Outnumber fifty thousand spears;

And on they ride in haste and ire,

Shouting their heathen war-cry dire.

“At last,” said Roland, “the hour is come,

Here receive we our martyrdom;

Yet strike with your burnished brands—accursed

Who sells not his life right dearly first;

In life or death be your thought the same,

That gentle France be not brought to shame.

When the Emperor hither his steps hath bent,

And he sees the Saracens's chastisement,

Fifteen of their dead against our one,

He will breathe on our souls his bension.”



WHEN Roland saw the abhorrèd race,

Than blackest ink more black in face,

Who have nothing white but the teeth alone,

“Now,” he said, “it is truly shown,

That the hour of our death is close at hand.

Fight, my Franks, 'tis my last command.”

Said Olivier, “Shame is the laggard's due.”

And at his word they engage anew.


When the heathen saw that the Franks were few,

Heart and strength from the sight they drew;

They said, “The Emperor hath the worse.”

The Algalif sat on a sorrel horse;

He pricked with spurs of the gold refined,

Smote Olivier in the back behind.

On through his harness the lance he pressed,

Till the steel came out at the baron's breast.

“Thou hast it!” the Algalif, vaunting, cried,

“Ye were sent by Karl in an evil tide.

Of his wrongs against us he shall not boast;

In thee alone I avenge our host.”


Olivier felt the deadly wound,

Yet he grasped Hauteclere, with its steel embrowned;

He smote on the Algalif's crest of gold,—

Gem and flowers to the earth were rolled;

Clave his head to the teeth below,

And struck him dead with the single blow.

“All evil, caitiff, thy soul pursue.

Full well our Emperor's loss I knew;

But for thee—thou goest not hence to boast

To wife or dame on thy natal coast,

Of one denier from the Emperor won,

Or of scathe to me or to others done.”

Then Roland's aid he called upon.


Olivier knoweth him hurt to death;

The more to vengeance he hasteneth;

Knightly as ever his arms he bore,

Staves of lances and shields he shore;

Sides and shoulders and hands and feet,—

Whose eyes soever the sight would greet,

How the Saracens all disfigured lie,

Corpse upon corpse, each other by,

Would think upon gallant deeds; nor yet

Doth he the war-cry of Karl forget—

“Montjoie!” he shouted, shrill and clear;

Then called he Roland, his friend and peer,

“Sir, my comrade, anear me ride;

This day of dolor shall us divide.”


Roland looked Olivier in the face,—

Ghastly paleness was there to trace;

Forth from his wound did the bright blood flow,

And rain in showers to the earth below.

“O God!” said Roland, “is this the end

Of all thy prowess, my gentle friend?

Nor know I whither to bear me now:

On earth shall never be such as thou.

Ah, gentle France, thou art overthrown,

Reft of thy bravest, despoiled and lone;

The Emperor's loss is full indeed!”

At the word he fainted upon his steed.


See Roland there on his charger swooned,

Olivier smitten with his death wound.

His eyes from bleeding are dimmed and dark,

Nor mortal, near or far, can mark;

And when his comrade beside him pressed,

Fiercely he smote on his golden crest;

Down to the nasal the helm he shred,

But passed no further, nor pierced his head.

Roland marvelled at such a blow,

And thus bespake him soft and low:

“Hast thou done it, my comrade, wittingly?

Roland who loves thee so dear, am I,

Thou hast no quarrel with me to seek?”

Olivier answered, “I hear thee speak,

But I see thee not. God seeth thee.

Have I struck thee, brother? Forgive it me.”

“I am not hurt, O Olivier;

And in sight of God, I forgive thee here.”

Then each to other his head has laid,

And in love like this was their parting made.


Olivier feeleth his throe begin;

His eyes are turning his head within,

Sight and hearing alike are gone.

He alights and couches the earth upon;

His Mea Culpa aloud he cries,

And his hands in prayer unto God arise,

That he grant him Paradise to share,

That he bless King Karl and France the fair,

His brother Roland o'er all mankind;

Then sank his heart, and his head declined,

Stretched at length on the earth he lay,—

So passed Sir Olivier away.

Roland was left to weep alone:

Man so woful hath ne'er been known.


When Roland saw that life had fled,

And with face to earth his comrade dead,

He thus bewept him, soft and still:

“Ah, friend, thy prowess wrought thee ill!

So many days and years gone by

We lived together, thou and I:

And thou hast never done me wrong,

Nor I to thee, our lifetime long.

Since thou art dead, to live is pain.”

He swooned on Veillantif again,

Yet may not unto earth be cast,

His golden stirrups held him fast.


When passed away had Roland's swoon,

With sense restored, he saw full soon

What ruin lay beneath his view.

His Franks have perished all save two—

The archbishop and Walter of Hum alone.

From the mountain-side hath Walter flown,

Where he met in battle the bands of Spain,

And the heathen won and his men were slain

In his own despite to the vale he came;

Called unto Roland, his aid to claim.

“Ah, count! brave gentleman, gallant peer!

Where art thou? With thee I know not fear.

I am Walter, who vanquished Maelgut of yore,

Nephew to Drouin, the old and hoar.

For knightly deeds I was once thy friend.

I fought the Saracen to the end;

My lance is shivered, my shield is cleft,

Of my broken mail are but fragments left.

I bear in my body eight thrusts of spear;

I die, but I sold my life right dear.”

Count Roland heard as he spake the word,

Pricked his steed, and anear him spurred.


“Walter,” said Roland, “thou hadst affray

With the Saracen foe on the heights to-day.

Thou wert wont a valorous knight to be:

A thousand horsemen gave I thee;

Render them back, for my need is sore.”

“Alas, thou seest them never more!

Stretched they lie on the dolorous ground,

Where myriad Saracen swarms we found,—

Armenians, Turks, and the giant brood

Of Balisa, famous for hardihood,

Bestriding their Arab coursers fleet,

Such host in battle 'twas ours to meet;

Nor vaunting thence shall the heathen go,—

Full sixty thousand on earth lie low.

With our brands of steel we avenged us well,

But every Frank by the foeman fell.

My hauberk plates are riven wide,

And I bear such wounds in flank and side,

That from every part the bright blood flows,

And feebler ever my body grows.

I am dying fast, I am well aware:

The liegeman I, and claim thy care.

If I fled perforce, thou wilt forgive,

And yield me succor while thou dost live.”

Roland sweated with wrath and pain,

Tore the skirts of his vest in twain,

Bound Walter's every bleeding vein.


In Roland's sorrow his wrath arose,

Hotly the struck at the heathen foes,

Nor left he one of a score alive;

Walter slew six, the archbishop five.

The heathens cry, “What a felon three!

Look to it, lords, that they shall not flee.

Dastard is he who confronts them not;

Craven, who lets them depart this spot.”

Their cries and shoutings begin once more,

And from every side on the Franks they pour.


Count Roland in sooth is a noble peer;

Count Walter, a valorous cavalier;

The archbishop, in battle proved and tried,

Each struck as if knight there were none beside.

From their steeds a thousand Saracens leap,

Yet forty steeds a thousand Saracens leap,

I trow they dare not approach them near,

But they hurl against them lance and spear,

Pike and javelin, shaft and dart.

Walter is slain as the missiles part;

The archbishop's shield in pieces shred,

Riven his helm, and pierced his head;

His corselet of steel they rent and tore,

Wounded his body with lances four;

His steed beneath him dropped withal:

What woe to see the archbishop fall!


When Turpin felt him flung to ground,

And four lance wounds within him found,

He swiftly rose, the dauntless man,

To Roland looked, and nigh him ran.

Spake but, “I am not overthrown—

Brave warrior yields with life alone.”

He drew Almace's burnished steel,

A thousand ruthless blows to deal.

In after time, the Emperor said

He found four hundred round him spread,—

Some wounded, others cleft in twain;

Some lying headless on the plain.

So Giles the saint, who saw it, tells,

For whom High God wrought miracles.

In Laon cell the scroll he wrote;

He little weets who knows it not.


Count Roland combateth nobly yet,

His body burning and bathed in sweat;

In his brow a mighty pain, since first,

When his horn he sounded, his temple burst;

But he yearns of Karl's approach to know,

And lifts his horn once more—but oh,

How faint and feeble a note to blow!

The Emperor listened, and stood full still.

“My lords,” he said, “we are faring ill.

This day is Roland my nephew's last;

Like dying man he winds that blast.

On! Who would aid, for life must press.

Sound every trump our ranks possess.”

Peal sixty thousand clarions high,

The hills re-echo, the vales reply.

It is now no jest for the heathen band.

“Karl!” they cry, “it is Karl at hand!”


They said, “'Tis the Emperor's advance,

We hear the trumpets resound of France.

If he assail us, hope in vain;

If Roland live, 'tis war again,

And we lose for aye the land of Spain.”

Four hundred in arms together drew,

The bravest of the heathen crew;

With serried power they on him press,

And dire in sooth is the count's distress.


When Roland saw his coming foes,

All proud and stern his spirit rose;

Alive he shall never be brought to yield:

Veillantif spurred he across the field,

With golden spurs he pricked him well,

To break the ranks of the infidel;

Archbishop Turpin by his side.

“Let us flee, and save us,” the heathen cried;

“These are the trumpets of France we hear—

It is Karl, the mighty Emperor, near.”


Count Roland never hath loved the base,

Nor the proud of heart, nor the dastard race,—

Nor knight, but if he were vassal good,—

And he spake to Turpin, as there he stood;

“On foot are you, on horseback I;

For your love I halt, and stand you by.

Together for good and ill we hold;

I will not leave you for man of mould.

We will pay the heathen their onset back,

Nor shall Durindana of blows be slack.”

“Base,” said Turpin, “who spares to smite:

When the Emperor comes, he will all requite.”


The heathens said, “We were born to shame.

This day for our disaster came:

Our lords and leaders in battle lost,

And Karl at hand with his marshalled host;

We hear the trumpets of France ring out,

And the cry ‘Montjoie!’ their rallying shout.

Roland's pride is of such a height,

Not to be vanquished by mortal wight;

Hurl we our missiles, and hold aloof.”

And the word they spake, they put in proof,—

They flung, with all their strength and craft,

Javelin, barb, and plumèd shaft.

Roland's buckler was torn and frayed,

His cuirass broken and disarrayed,

Yet entrance none to his flesh they made.

From thirty wounds Veillantif bled,

Beneath his rider they cast him, dead;

Then from the field have the heathen flown:

Roland remaineth, on foot, alone.



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,

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;

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,

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.

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,

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;

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

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,

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,

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,—

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,

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,—

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,

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,

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,

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.

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,

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,

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.

Nor pain or torment thy soul await,

But of Paradise the open gate.”



ROLAND feeleth his death is near,

His brain is oozing by either ear.

For his peers he prayed—God keep them well;

Invoked the angel Gabriel.

That none reproach him, his horn he clasped;

His other hand Durindana grasped;

Then, far as quarrel from crossbow sent,

Across the march of Spain he went,

Where, on a mound, two trees between,

Four flights of marble steps were seen;

Backward he fell, on the field to lie;

And he swooned anon, for the end was nigh.


High were the mountains and high the trees,

Bright shone the marble terraces;

On the green grass Roland hath swooned away.

A Saracen spied him where he lay:

Stretched with the rest he had feigned him dead,

His face and body with blood bespread.

To his feet he sprang, and in haste he hied,—

He was fair and strong and of courage tried,

In pride and wrath he was overbold,—

And on Roland, body and arms, laid hold.

“The nephew of Karl is overthrown!

To Araby bear I this sword, mine own.”

He stooped to grasp it, but as he drew,

Roland returned to his sense anew.


He saw the Saracen seize his sword;

His eyes he oped, and he spake one word—

“Thou art not one of our band, I trow,”

And he clutched the horn he would ne'er forego;

On the golden crest he smote him full,

Shattering steel and bone and skull,

Forth from his head his eyes he beat,

And cast him lifeless before his feet.

“Miscreant, makest thou then so free,

As, right or wrong, to lay hold on me?

Who hears it will deem thee a madman born;

Behold the mouth of mine ivory horn

Broken for thee, and the gems and gold

Around its rim to earth are rolled.”


Roland feeleth his eyesight reft,

Yet he stands erect with what strength is left;

From his bloodless cheek is the hue dispelled,

But his Durindana all bare he held.

In front a dark brown rock arose—

He smote upon it ten grievous blows.

Grated the steel as it struck the flint,

Yet it brake not, nor bore its edge one dint.

“Mary, Mother, be thou mine aid!

Ah, Durindana, my ill-starred blade,

I may no longer thy guardian be!

What fields of battle I won with thee!

What realms and regions 'twas ours to gain,

Now the lordship of Carlemaine!

Never shalt thou possessor know

Who would turn from face of mortal foe;

A gallant vassal so long thee bore,

Such as France the free shall know no more.”


He smote anew on the marble stair.

It grated, but breach nor notch was there.

When Roland found that it would not break,

Thus began he his plaint to make.

“Ah, Durindana, how fair and bright

Thou sparklest, flaming against the light!

When Karl in Maurienne valley lay,

God sent his angel from heaven to say—

‘This sword shall a valorous captain's be,’

And he girt it, the gentle king, on me.

With it I vanquished Poitou and Maine,

Provence I conquered and Aquitaine;

I conquered Normandy the free,

Anjou, and the marches of Brittany;

Romagna I won, and Lombardy,

Bavaria, Flanders from side to side,

And Burgundy, and Poland wide;

Constantinople affiance vowed,

And the Saxon soil to his bidding bowed;

Scotia, and Wales, and Ireland's plain,

Of England made he his own domain.

What mighty regions I won of old,

For the hoary-headed Karl to hold!

But there presses on me a grievous pain,

Lest thou in heathen hands remain.

O God our Father, keep France from stain!”


His strokes once more on the brown rock fell,

And the steel was bent past words to tell;

Yet it brake not, nor was notched the grain,

Erect it leaped to the sky again.

When he failed at the last to break his blade,

His lamentation he inly made.

“Oh, fair and holy, my peerless sword,

What relics lie in thy pommel stored!

Tooth of Saint Peter, Saint Basil's blood,

Hair of Saint Denis beside them strewed,

Fragment of holy Mary's vest.

'Twere shame that thou with the heathen rest;

Thee should the hand of a Christian serve

One who would never in battle swerve.

What regions won I with thee of yore,

The empire now of Karl the hoar!

Rich and mighty is he therefore.”


That death was on him he knew full well;

Down from his head to his heart it fell.

On the grass beneath a pine-tree's shade,

With face to earth, his form he laid,

Beneath him placed he his horn and sword,

And turned his face to the heathen horde.

Thus hath he done the sooth to show,

That Karl and his warriors all may know,

That the gentle count a conqueror died.

Mea Culpa full oft he cried;

And, for all his sins, unto God above,

In sign of penance, he raised his glove.


Roland feeleth his hour at hand;

On a knoll he lies towards the Spanish land.

With one hand beats he upon his breast:

“In thy sight, O God, be my sins confessed.

From my hour of birth, both the great and small,

Down to this day, I repent of all.”

As his glove he raises to God on high,

Angels of heaven descend him nigh.


Beneath a pine was his resting-place,

To the land of Spain hath he turned his face,

On his memory rose full many a thought—

Of the lands he won and the fields he fought;

Of his gentle France, of his kin and line;

Of his nursing father, King Karl benign;—

He may not the tear and sob control,

Nor yet forgets he his parting soul.

To God's compassion he makes his cry:

“O Father true, who canst not lie,

Who didst Lazarus raise unto life agen,

And Daniel shield in the lions' den;

Shield my soul from its peril, due

For the sins I sinned my lifetime through.”

He did his right-hand glove uplift—

Saint Gabriel took from his hand the gift;

Then drooped his head upon his breast,

And with claspèd hands he went to rest.

God from on high sent down to him

One of his angel Cherubim—

Saint Michael of Peril of the sea,

Saint Gabriel in company—

From heaven they came for that soul of price,

And they bore it with them to Paradise.

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