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THE SONG OF ROLAND
Introduction. The earliest and greatest of the French epics, or chansons de geste, is the song of Roland, of which the oldest copy now extant is preserved in the Bodleian Library and dates back to the twelfth century. Whether the Turoldus (Théroulde) mentioned at the end of the poem is poet, copyist, or mere reciter remains a matter of conjecture.

The poem is evidently based on popular songs which no longer exist. It consists of 4002 verses, written in langue d'oil, grouped in stanzas or "laisses" of irregular length, in the heroic pentameter, having the same assonant rhyme, and each ending with "aoi," a word no one has succeeded in translating satisfactorily. It was so popular that it was translated into Latin and German (1173-1177), and our version may be the very song sung by Taillefer at the battle of Hastings in 1066.

It has inspired many poets, and Roland's death has been sung again by Goethe, Schiller, Pulci, Boiardo, Ariosto, Berni, Bornier, etc. History claims that French armies, once in the reign of Dagobert and once in that of Charlemagne, were attacked and slaughtered in the Pyrenees, but not by the Saracens. Besides, Charlemagne's secretary, Eginhart, briefly mentions in his chronicles that in 778, Roland, prefect of the Marches of Brittany, was slain there.[9] Although the remainder of the story has no historical basis, the song of Roland is a poetical asset we would not willingly relinquish.
PART I. A COUNCIL HELD BY KING MARSILE AT SARAGOSSA.—The Song of Roland opens with the statement that, after spending seven years in Spain, Charlemagne is master of all save the city of Saragossa.

  The king, our Emperor Carlemaine,
  Hath been for seven full years in Spain.
  From highland to sea hath he won the land;
  City was none might his arm withstand;
  Keep and castle alike went down—
  Save Saragossa the mountain town.[10]

It is in Saragossa that King Marsile, holding an open-air council, informs his followers he no longer has men to oppose to the French. When he inquires what he shall do, the wisest of his advisers suggests that, when might fails, craft can gain the day. Therefore, he moots sending gifts to Charlemagne, with a promise to follow him to France to do homage and receive baptism. Even should Charlemagne exact hostages, this councillor volunteers to give his own son, arguing it is better a few should fall than Spain be lost forever. This advice is adopted by Marsile, who then despatches bearers of olive branches and gifts to Charlemagne.

Council held by Charlemagne at Cordova. The Saracen emissaries find the French emperor seated on a golden throne in an orchard, his peers around him, watching the martial games of fifty thousand warriors. After receiving Marsile's message, Charlemagne dismisses the ambassadors for the night, promising answer on the morrow. When he bids his courtiers state their opinions, Roland impetuously declares that, as Marsile has tricked them once, it would not become them to believe him now. His step-father, Ganelon, thereupon terms him a hot-headed young fool, and avers he prizes his own glory more than his fellow-men's lives. The wisest among Charlemagne's advisers, however, Duke Naimes, argues that the Saracen's offers of submission should be met half-way, and, as the remainder of the French agree with him, Charlemagne calls for a messenger to bear his acceptance to Marsile. Although Roland, Oliver, and Naimes eagerly sue for this honor, Charlemagne, unwilling to spare his peers, bids them appoint a baron. When Roland suggests his step-father, Ganelon—who deems the expedition hazardous—becomes so angry that he reviles his step-son in the emperor's presence, vowing the youth is maliciously sending him to his death, and muttering he will have revenge. These violent threats elicit Roland's laughter, but Charlemagne checks the resulting quarrel by delivering message and emblems of office to Ganelon. To the dismay of all present, he, however, drops the glove his master hands him, an accident viewed as an omen of ill luck. Then, making speedy preparations and pathetically committing wife and son to the care of his countrymen, Ganelon starts out, fully expecting never to return.

The Embassy and the Crime of Ganelon. On his way to Saragossa, Ganelon converses with the Saracens, who express surprise that Charlemagne—whom they deem two hundred years old—should still long for conquest. In return Ganelon assures them his master will never cease fighting as long as Roland is one of his peers, for this knight is determined to conquer the world. The Saracens, noticing his bitter tone, now propose to rid Ganelon of his step-son, provided he will arrange that Roland command the rear-guard of the French army. Thus riding along, they devise the plot whereby this young hero is to be led into an ambush in the Valley of Roncevaux (Roncesvalles), where, by slaying him, they will deprive Charlemagne of his main strength.

  "For whoso Roland to death shall bring,
   From Karl his good right arm will wring,
   The marvellous host will melt away,
   No more shall he muster a like array."

Arriving in the presence of the Saracen king, Ganelon reports Charlemagne ready to accept his offers, provided he do homage for one half of Spain and abandon the other to Roland. Because Ganelon adds the threat that, should this offer be refused, Charlemagne proposes to seize Saragossa and bear Marsile a prisoner to Aix, the Saracen king angrily orders the execution of the insolent messenger. But the Frenchmen's truculent attitude forbids the guards' approach, and thus gives the ambassadors a chance to inform Marsile that Ganelon has promised to help them to outwit Charlemagne by depriving him of his most efficient general. Hearing this, Marsile's anger is disarmed; and he not only agrees to their plan to surprise Roland while crossing the Pyrenees, but sends Ganelon back laden with gifts.

On rejoining his master at the foot of the mountains, Ganelon delivers the keys of Saragossa, and reports that the caliph has sailed for the East, with one hundred thousand men, none of whom care to dwell in a Christian land. Hearing this, Charlemagne, imagining his task finished, returns thanks to God, and prepares to wend his way back to France, where he expects Marsile to follow him and do homage for Spain.

   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."

The Rear-guard and Roland Condemned to Death. On the eve of his return to "sweet France," Charlemagne's rest is disturbed by horrible dreams, in one of which Ganelon breaks his lance, while in the other wild animals are about to attack him. On awaking from this nightmare, Charlemagne divides his army so as to thread his way safely through the narrow passes of the mountains, arranging that a force shall remain twenty miles in his rear to make sure he shall not be surprised by the foe. When he inquires to whom this important command shall be entrusted, Ganelon eagerly suggests that, as Roland is the most valiant of the peers, the task be allotted to him. Anxious to keep his nephew by him, Charlemagne resents this suggestion, but, when he prepares to award the post to some one else, Roland eagerly claims it, promising France shall lose nothing through him.

  "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,
   While I breathe in life you have nought to dread."

Because it is patent to all that his step-father proposed his name through spite, Roland meaningly remarks that he at least will not drop the insignia of his rank, and in proof thereof proudly clutches the bow Charlemagne hands him, and boastfully declares twelve peers and twenty thousand men will prove equal to any emergency.

Fully armed and mounted on his steed (Veillantif), Roland, from an eminence, watches the vanguard of the French army disappear in the mountain gorges, calling out to the last men that he and his troop will follow them soon! This vanguard is led by Charlemagne and Ganelon, and, as it passes on, the heavy tramp of the mailed steeds causes the ground to shake, while the clash of the soldiers' arms is heard for miles around. They have already travelled thirty miles and are just nearing France, whose sunny fields the soldiers greet with cries of joy, when Duke Naimes perceives tears flowing down the emperor's cheeks, and learns that they are caused by apprehension for Roland.

  High were the peaks, and the valleys deep,
  The mountains wondrous dark and steep;
  Sadly the Franks through the passes wound,
  Fully 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,
  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.

The evident anxiety of Charlemagne fills the hearts of all Frenchmen with nameless fear, and some of them whisper that Ganelon returned from Saragossa with suspiciously rich gifts. Meantime Roland, who has merely been waiting for the vanguard to gain some advance, sets out to cross the mountains too; where, true to his agreement with Ganelon, Marsile has concealed a force of one hundred thousand men, led by twelve Saracen generals, who are considered fully equal to the French peers, and who have vowed to slay Roland in the passes of Roncevaux.
PART II. PRELUDE TO THE GREAT BATTLE. It is only when the Saracen army is beginning to close in upon the French, that the peers become aware of their danger. Oliver, Roland's bosom friend, the first to descry the enemy, calls out that this ambush is the result of Ganelon's treachery, only to be silenced by Roland, who avers none shall accuse his step-father without proof. Then, hearing of the large force approaching, Roland exclaims, "Cursed be he who flees," and admonishes all present to show their mettle and die fighting bravely.

The Pride of Roland. Because the enemies' force so greatly outnumbers theirs, Oliver suggests that Roland sound his horn to summon Charlemagne to his aid; but, unwilling to lose any glory, this hero refuses, declaring he will strike one hundred thousand such doughty blows with his mighty sword (Durendal), that all the pagans will be laid low.

  "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."

In spite of the fact that Oliver thrice implores him to summon aid, Roland thrice refuses; so his friend, perceiving he will not yield, finally declares they must do their best, and adds that, should they not get the better of the foe, they will at least die fighting nobly. Then Archbishop Turpin—one of the peers—assures the soldiers that, since they are about to die as martyrs, they will earn Paradise, and pronounces the absolution, thus inspiring the French with such courage that, on rising from their knees, they rush forward to earn a heavenly crown.

Riding at their head, Roland now admits to Oliver that Ganelon must have betrayed them, grimly adding that the Saracens will have cause to rue their treachery before long. Then he leads his army down the valley to a more open space, where, as soon as the signal is given, both friends plunge into the fray, shouting their war-cry ("Montjoie").

The Medley. In the first ranks of the Saracens is a nephew of Marsile, who loudly boasts Charlemagne is about to lose his right arm; but, before he can repeat this taunt, Roland, spurring forward, runs his lance through his body and hurls it to the ground with a turn of his wrist. Then, calling out to his men that they have scored the first triumph, Roland proceeds to do tremendous execution among the foe. The poem describes many of the duels which take place,—for each of the twelve peers specially distinguishes himself,—while the Saracens, conscious of vastly superior numbers, return again and again to the attack. Even the archbishop fights bravely, and Roland, after dealing fifteen deadly strokes with his lance, resorts to his sword, thus meeting the Saracens at such close quarters that every stroke of his blade hews through armor, rider, and steed.

  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.

In spite of Roland's doughty blows, his good sword suffers no harm, nor does that of Oliver (Hauteclaire), with which he does such good work that Roland assures him he will henceforth consider him a brother. Although the French slay the pagans by thousands, so many of their own warriors fall, that, by the time they have repulsed the first Saracen division, only sixty of Roland's men remain alive.

All nature seems to feel the terrible battle raging in the valley of Roncevaux, for a terrible storm breaks forth, in France, where, hearing the roll of the thunder, seeing the flash of the lightning, and feeling the earth shake beneath their feet, the French fear the end of the world has come. These poor warriors are little aware that all this commotion is due to "nature's grief for the death of Roland."

  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 Besan?on 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.

The Horn. During the brief respite allowed them, Roland informs Oliver that he wishes to notify Charlemagne that France has been widowed of many men. In reply, Oliver rejoins that no Frenchman will leave this spot to bear such a message, seeing all prefer death and honor to safety! Such being the case, Roland proposes to sound his horn, whereupon Oliver bitterly rejoins, had his friend only done so at first, they would have been reinforced by now, and that the emperor can no longer reach them in time. He can, however, avenge them and give them an honorable burial, Roland argues, and he and his friend continue bickering until the archbishop silences them, bidding Roland blow his horn. Placing Olifant to his lips, the hero, after drawing a powerful breath, blows so mighty a blast that it re-echoes thirty miles away.

This sound, striking Charlemagne's ear, warns him that his army is in danger, although Ganelon insists Roland is hunting. While blowing a second blast, Roland makes so mighty an effort that he actually bursts the blood-vessels in his temples, and the Frenchmen, hearing that call, aver with awe that he would never call that way unless in dire peril. Ganelon, however, again insists that his step-son is in no danger and is merely coursing a hare.

  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."

With blood pouring from mouth and ears, Roland sounds his horn a third and last time, producing so long and despairing a note, that Naimes vows the French must be at the last extremity, and that unless they hurry they will not find any alive! Bidding all his horns sound as a signal that he is coming, Charlemagne—after ordering Ganelon bound and left in charge of the baggage train—leads his men back to Spain to Roland's rescue.

As the day is already far advanced, helmets and armors glitter beneath the rays of the setting sun as the Frenchmen spur along, tears coursing down their cheeks, for they apprehend what must have befallen Roland, who was evidently suffering when he blew that third blast!

The Rout. Meanwhile, casting his eyes over the battle-field, now strewn with corpses, Roland mourns his fallen companions, praying God to let their souls rest in Paradise on beds of flowers. Then, turning to Oliver, he proposes that they fight on as long as breath remains in their bodies, before he plunges back into the fray, still uttering his war-cry.

By this time the French are facing a second onslaught of the pagans, and Roland has felled twenty-four of their bravest fighters before Marsile challenges him to a duel. Although weak and weary, Roland accepts, and with his first stroke hews off the Saracen's right hand; but, before he can follow this up with a more decisive blow, Marsile is borne away by his followers. Seeing their master gallop off towards Spain, the remainder of the Saracens, crying that Charlemagne's nephew has triumphed, cease fighting and flee. Thus, fifty thousand men soon vanish in the distance, leaving Roland temporary master of the battle-field, which he knows the emperor will reach only after he has breathed his last.

The Death of Oliver. Although the Saracens have fled, some Moors remain to charge the Frenchmen, whom they wish to annihilate before Charlemagne can arrive. Once more, therefore, Roland urges his followers to do their best, cursing those who dream of yielding. Not daring approach the small handful of doughty Frenchmen, the pagans attack them from a distance with lance, arrow, and spear, tauntingly crying Charlemagne will have no cause to pride himself upon having appointed them to guard his rear! Mortally wounded by one of these spears, Oliver, blindly cutting down the foes nearest him, bids Roland hasten to his rescue, as it won't be long before they part. Seeing the stream of blood which flows from his friend's wounds and catching a glimpse of his livid face, Roland so keenly realizes Oliver's end is near that he swoons in his saddle. The wounded man, no longer able to see, meanwhile ranges wildly around the battle-field, striking madly right and left. In doing so he runs against Roland, and, failing to recognize him, deals him so powerful a blow that he almost kills him. Gently inquiring why his friend thus attacks one he loves, Roland hears Oliver gasp, "I hear you, friend, but do not see you. Forgive me for having struck you,"—a more than ample apology,—ere he dies.

  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.

On seeing that his friend has passed away, the heart-broken Roland again swoons in his saddle, but his intelligent steed stands still until his master recovers his senses. Gazing around him, Roland now ascertains that only two other Frenchmen are still alive, and, seeing one of them severely wounded, he binds up his cuts before plunging back into the fray, where he accounts for twenty-five pagans, while the archbishop and the wounded soldier dispose of eleven more.

Charlemagne Approaches. The last Frenchmen are fighting madly against a thousand Moors on foot and four thousand on horseback, when the spears flung from a distance lay low the wounded man and deal a mortal wound to the archbishop. But, even while dying, Turpin joins Roland in declaring they must continue to fight, so that when the emperor finds their bodies he can see they have piled hundreds of corpses around them. This resolve is carried out, however, only at the cost of dire suffering, for the archbishop is dying and Roland's burst temples cause him intense pain. Nevertheless, he once more puts his horn to his lips, and draws from it this time so pitiful a blast that, when it reaches the ears of Charlemagne, he woefully exclaims: "All is going ill; my nephew Roland will die to-day, for the sound of his horn is very weak!"

Again bidding his sixty thousand trumpets sound, the emperor urges his troops to even greater speed, until the noise of his horns and the tramp of his steeds reaches the pagans' ears and admonishes them to flee. Realizing that, should Roland survive, the war will continue, a few Moors make a final frantic attempt to slay him before fleeing. Seeing them advance for a last onslaught, Roland—who has dismounted for a moment—again bestrides his steed and, accompanied by the staggering archbishop, bravely faces them. They, however, only fling missiles from a distance, until Roland's shield drops useless from his hand and his steed sinks lifeless beneath him! Then, springing to his feet, Roland defies these cowardly foes, who, not daring to linger any longer, turn and flee, crying that Roland has won and Spain is lost unless the emir comes to their rescue!

The Last Blessing of the Archbishop. While the pagans are spurring towards Saragossa, Roland remains on the battle-field, for, having lost his steed and being mortally wounded, he cannot attempt to pursue them. After tenderly removing the archbishop's armor, binding up his wounds, and placing him comfortably on the ground, Roland brings him the twelve peers, so he can bless them for the last time. Although Archbishop Turpin admonishes him to hasten, Roland is so weak, that he slowly and painfully collects the corpses from mountain and valley, laying them one by one at the feet of the archbishop, who, with right hand raised, bestows his blessing. While laying Oliver at Turpin's feet, Roland faints from grief, so the prelate painfully raises himself, and, seizing the hero's horn, tries to get down to the brook to bring him some water. Such is his weakness, however, that he stumbles and falls dead, face to the ground, before he can fulfil his kindly intention.

On recovering consciousness and seeing nothing save corpses around him, Roland exults to think that Charlemagne will find forty dead Saracens for every slain Frenchman! Then, feeling his brain slowly ooze out through his ears, Roland—after reciting a prayer for his dead companions—grasps his sword in one hand and his horn in the other, and begins to climb a neighboring hill. He tries to reach its summit because he has always boasted he would die face toward the enemy, and he longs to look defiance toward Spain until the end.

Painfully reaching the top of this eminence, Roland stumbles and falls across a Saracen, who has been feigning death to escape capture. Seeing the dreaded warrior unconscious, this coward seizes his sword, loudly proclaiming he has triumphed; but, at his first touch, Roland—recovering his senses—deals him so mighty a blow with his horn, that the Saracen falls with crushed helmet and skull. Having thus recovered his beloved Durendal, Roland, to prevent its again falling into the enemy's hands, vainly tries to break it by hewing at the rocks around him, but, although he uses all the strength he has left to deal blows that cut through the stone, the good sword remains undinted. Full of admiration, Roland then recalls the feats Durendal has enabled him to perform, and, lying down on the grass, places beneath him sword and horn, so as to defend them dead as well as alive! Then, having confessed his sins and recited a last prayer, Roland holds out his glove toward heaven, in token that he surrenders his soul to God, and begs that an angel be sent to receive it from his hand. Thus, lying beneath a pine, his face toward Spain, his last thoughts for France and for God, Roland dies in the presence of the angels, who bear his soul off to Paradise.

  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.
PART III. REPRISALS. Roland has barely breathed his last when Charlemagne arrives on the battle-field and, gazing around him, perceives nothing but corpses. Receiving no answer to his repeated call for the twelve peers, Charlemagne groans it was not without cause he felt anxious and mourns that he was not there to take part in the fray. He and his men weep aloud for their fallen companions, and twenty thousand soldiers swoon from grief at the sight of the havoc which has been made!

Still, only a few moments can be devoted to sorrow, for Duke Naimes, descrying a cloud of dust in the distance, eagerly suggests that if they ride on they can yet overtake and punish the foe! Detailing a small detachment to guard the dead, Charlemagne orders the pursuit of the Saracens, and, seeing the sun about to set, prays so fervently that daylight may last, that an angel promises he shall have light as long as he needs it. Thanks to this miracle, Charlemagne overtakes the Saracens just as they are about to cross the Ebro, and, after killing many, drives the rest into the river, where they are drowned.

It is only when the last of the foe has been disposed of that the sun sets, and, perceiving it is too late to return to Roncevaux that night, Charlemagne gives orders to camp on the plain. While his weary men sleep peacefully, the emperor himself spends the night mourning for Roland and for the brave Frenchmen who died to defend his cause, so it is only toward morning that he enjoys a brief nap, during which visions foreshadow the punishment to be inflicted upon Ganelon and all who uphold him.

  In the mead the Emperor made his bed,
  With his mighty spear beside his head,
  Nor will he doff his arms to-night,
  But lies in his broidered hauberk white.
  Laced is his helm, with gold inlaid.
  Girt on Joyeuse, the peerless blade,
  Which changes thirty times a day
  The brightness of its varying ray.

Meanwhile the wounded Marsile has returned to Saragossa, where, while binding up his wounds, his wife comments it is strange no one has been able to get the better of such an old man as Charlemagne, and exclaims the last hope of the Saracens now rests in the emir, who has just landed in Spain.

At dawn the emperor returns to Roncevaux, and there begins his sad search for the bodies of the peers. Sure Roland will be found facing the foe, he seeks for his corpse in the direction of Spain, and, discovering him at last on the little hill, swoons from grief. Then, recovering his senses, Charlemagne prays God to receive his nephew's soul, and, after pointing out to his men how bravely the peers fought, gives orders for the burial of the dead, reserving only the bodies of Roland, Oliver, and the archbishop, for burial in France.

The last respects have barely been paid to the fallen, when a Saracen herald summons Charlemagne to meet the emir. So the French mount to engage in a new battle.

Such is the stimulus of Charlemagne's word's and of his example, that all his men do wonders. The aged emperor himself finally engages in a duel with the emir, in the midst of which he is about to succumb, when an angel bids him strike one more blow, promising he shall triumph. Thus stimulated, Charlemagne slays the emir, and the Saracens, seeing their leader slain, flee, closely pursued by the Frenchmen, who enter Saragossa in their wake. There, after killing all the men, they pillage the town.

On discovering that Marsile has meantime died of his wound, Charlemagne orders his widow to France, where he proposes to convert her through the power of love. The remainder of the pagans are compelled to receive baptism, and, when Charlemagne again wends his way through the Pyrenees, all Spain bows beneath his sceptre.

At Bordeaux, Charlemagne deposits upon the altar of St. Severin, Roland's Olifant, filled with gold pieces, before personally escorting the three august corpses to Blaye, where he sees them interred, ere he hurries on to Aix-la-Chapelle to judge Ganelon.

The Chastisement of Ganelon. On arriving in his palace, Charlemagne is confronted by Alda or Aude, a sister of Oliver, who frantically questions: "Where is Roland who has sworn to take me to wife?" Weeping bitterly, Charlemagne informs her his nephew is no more, adding that she can marry his son, but Aude rejoins that, since her beloved is gone, she no longer wishes to live. These words uttered, she falls lifeless at the emperor's feet.[11]

  From Spain the emperor made retreat,
  To Aix in France, his kingly seat;
  And thither, to his halls, there came,
  Alda, the fair-and gentle dame.
  "Where is my Roland, sire," she cried,
  "Who vowed to take me for his bride?"
  O'er Karl the flood of sorrow swept;
  He tore his beard, and loudly wept.
  "Dear sister, gentle friend," he said,
  "Thou seekest one who lieth dead:
  I plight to thee my son instead,—
  Louis, who lord of my realm shall be."
  "Strange," she said, "seems this to me.
  God and His angels forbid that I
  Should live on earth if Roland die."
  Pale grew her cheek—she sank amain,
  Down at the feet of Carlemaine.
  So died she. God receive her soul!
  The Franks bewail her in grief and dole.

The time having come for the trial, Ganelon appears before his judges, laden with chains and tied to a stake as if he were a wild beast. When accused of depriving Charlemagne of twenty thousand Frenchmen, Ganelon retorts he did so merely to avenge his wrongs, and hotly denies having acted as a traitor. Thirty of his kinsmen sustain him in this assertion, one of them even volunteering to meet the emperor's champion in a judicial duel. As the imperial champion wins, Ganelon and his relatives are adjudged guilty, but, whereas the latter thirty are merely hanged, the traitor himself is bound to wild horses until torn asunder.

Having thus done justice, Charlemagne informs his courtiers they are to attend the baptism of a Saracen lady of high degree, who is about to be received into the bosom of the church.

  The men of Bavaria and Allemaine,
  Norman and Breton return again,
  And with all the Franks aloud they cry,
  That Gan a traitor's death shall die.
  They bade be brought four stallions fleet;
  Bound to them Ganelon, hands and feet:
  Wild and swift was each savage steed,
  And a mare was standing within the mead;
  Four grooms impelled the coursers on,—
  A fearful ending for Ganelon.
  His every nerve was stretched and torn,
  And the limbs of his body apart were borne;
  The bright blood, springing from every vein,
  Left on the herbage green its stain.
  He dies a felon and recreant:
  Never shall traitor his treason vaunt.

End of the Song. Having thus punished the traitor and converted the heathen, Charlemagne, lying in his chamber one night, receives a visit from the angel Gabriel, who bids him go forth and do further battle against the pagans. Weary of warfare and longing for rest, the aged emperor moans, "God, how painful is my life!" for he knows he must obey.

  When the emperor's justice was satisfied,
  His mighty wrath did awhile subside.
  Queen Bramimonde was a Christian made.
  The day passed on into night's dark shade;
  As the king in his vaulted chamber lay,
  Saint Gabriel came from God to say,
  "Karl, thou shalt summon thine empire's host,
  And march in haste to Bira's coast;
  Unto Impha city relief to bring,
  And succor Vivian, the Christian king.
  The heathens in siege have the town essayed,
  And the shattered Christians invoke thine aid."
  Fain would Karl such task decline.
  "God! what a life of toil is mine!"
  He wept; his hoary beard he wrung.

Here ends the Song of Théroulde.


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