Northern European Texts
The Song of Roland
Verses LXXXVIII - CLXI
1110 When Rollant sees that now must be combat,
More fierce he's found than lion or leopard;
The Franks he calls, and Oliver commands:
"Now say no more, my friends, nor thou, comrade.
That Emperour, who left us Franks on guard,
1115 A thousand score stout men he set apart,
And well he knows, not one will prove coward.
Man for his lord should suffer with good heart,
Of bitter cold and great heat bear the smart,
His blood let drain, and all his flesh be scarred.
1120 Strike with thy lance, and I with Durendal,
With my good sword that was the King's reward.
So, if I die, who has it afterward
Noble vassal's he well may say it was."
From the other part is the Archbishop Turpin,
1125 He pricks his horse and mounts upon a hill;
Calling the Franks, sermon to them begins:
"My lords barons, Charles left us here for this;
He is our King, well may we die for him:
To Christendom good service offering.
1130 Battle you'll have, you all are bound to it,
For with your eyes you see the Sarrazins.
Pray for God's grace, confessing Him your sins!
For your souls' health, I'll absolution give
So, though you die, blest martyrs shall you live,
1135 Thrones you shall win in the great Paradis."
The Franks dismount, upon the ground are lit.
That Archbishop God's Benediction gives,
For their penance, good blows to strike he bids.
The Franks arise, and stand upon their feet,
1140 They're well absolved, and from their sins made clean,
And the Archbishop has signed them with God's seal;
And next they mount upon their chargers keen;
By rule of knights they have put on their gear,
For battle all apparelled as is meet.
1145 The count Rollant calls Oliver, and speaks
"Comrade and friend, now clearly have you seen
That Guenelun hath got us by deceit;
Gold hath he ta'en; much wealth is his to keep;
That Emperour vengeance for us must wreak.
1150 King Marsilies hath bargained for us cheap;
At the sword's point he yet shall pay our meed."
To Spanish pass is Rollanz now going
On Veillantif, his good steed, galloping;
He is well armed, pride is in his bearing,
1155 He goes, so brave, his spear in hand holding,
He goes, its point against the sky turning;
A gonfalon all white thereon he's pinned,
Down to his hand flutters the golden fringe:
Noble his limbs, his face clear and smiling.
1160 His companion goes after, following,
The men of France their warrant find in him.
Proudly he looks towards the Sarrazins,
And to the Franks sweetly, himself humbling;
And courteously has said to them this thing:
1165 "My lords barons, go now your pace holding!
Pagans are come great martyrdom seeking;
Noble and fair reward this day shall bring,
Was never won by any Frankish King."
Upon these words the hosts are come touching.
1170 Speaks Oliver: "No more now will I say.
Your olifant, to sound it do not deign,
Since from Carlun you'll never more have aid.
He has not heard; no fault of his, so brave.
Those with him there are never to be blamed.
1175 So canter on, with what prowess you may!
Lords and barons, firmly your ground maintain!
Be minded well, I pray you in God's Name,
Stout blows to strike, to give as you shall take.
Forget the cry of Charles we never may."
1180 Upon this word the Franks cry out amain.
Who then had heard them all "Monjoie!" acclaim
Of vassalage might well recall the tale.
They canter forth, God! with what proud parade,
Pricking their spurs, the better speed to gain;
1185 They go to strike,-- what other thing could they? --
But Sarrazins are not at all afraid.
Pagans and Franks, you'ld see them now engaged.
Marsile's nephew, his name is Aelroth,
First of them all canters before the host,
1190 Says of our Franks these ill words as he goes:
"Felons of France, so here on us you close!
Betrayed you has he that to guard you ought;
Mad is the King who left you in this post.
So shall the fame of France the Douce be lost,
1195 And the right arm from Charles body torn."
When Rollant hears, what rage he has, by God!
His steed he spurs, gallops with great effort;
He goes, that count, to strike with all his force,
The shield he breaks, the hauberk's seam unsews,
1200 Slices the heart, and shatters up the bones,
All of the spine he severs with that blow,
And with his spear the soul from body throws
So well he's pinned, he shakes in the air that corse,
On his spear's hilt he's flung it from the horse:
1205 So in two halves Aeroth's neck he broke,
Nor left him yet, they say, but rather spoke:
"Avaunt, culvert! A madman Charles is not,
No treachery was ever in his thought.
Proudly he did, who left us in this post;
1210 The fame of France the Douce shall not be lost.
Strike on, the Franks! Ours are the foremost blows.
For we are right, but these gluttons are wrong."
A duke there was, his name was Falfarun,
Brother was he to King Marsiliun,
1215 He held their land, Dathan's and Abirun's;
Beneath the sky no more encrimed felun;
Between his eyes so broad was he in front
A great half-foot you'ld measure there in full.
His nephew dead he's seen with grief enough,
1220 Comes through the press and wildly forth he runs,
Aloud he shouts their cry the pagans use;
And to the Franks is right contrarious:
"Honour of France the Douce shall fall to us!"
Hears Oliver, he's very furious,
1225 His horse he pricks with both his golden spurs,
And goes to strike, ev'n as a baron doth;
The shield he breaks and through the hauberk cuts,
His ensign's fringe into the carcass thrusts,
On his spear's hilt he's flung it dead in dust.
1230 Looks on the ground, sees glutton lying thus,
And says to him, with reason proud enough:
"From threatening, culvert, your mouth I've shut.
Strike on, the Franks! Right well we'll overcome."
"Monjoie," he shouts, 'twas the ensign of Carlun.
1235 A king there was, his name was Corsablix,
Barbarian, and of a strange country,
He's called aloud to the other Sarrazins:
"Well may we join battle upon this field,
For of the Franks but very few are here;
1240 And those are here, we should account them cheap,
From Charles not one has any warranty.
This is the day when they their death shall meet."
Has heard him well that Archbishop Turpin,
No man he'ld hate so much the sky beneath;
1245 Spurs of fine gold he pricks into his steed,
To strike that king by virtue great goes he,
The hauberk all unfastens, breaks the shield,
Thrusts his great spear in through the carcass clean,
Pins it so well he shakes it in its seat,
1250 Dead in the road he's flung it from his spear.
Looks on the ground, that glutton lying sees,
Nor leaves him yet, they say, but rather speaks:
"Culvert pagan, you lied now in your teeth,
Charles my lord our warrant is indeed;
1255 None of our Franks hath any mind to flee.
Your companions all on this spot we'll keep,
I tell you news; death shall ye suffer here.
Strike on, the Franks! Fail none of you at need!
Ours the first blow, to God the glory be!"
1260 "Monjoie!" he cries, for all the camp to hear.
And Gerins strikes Malprimis of Brigal
So his good shield is nothing worth at all,
Shatters the boss, was fashioned of crystal,
One half of it downward to earth flies off;
1265 Right to the flesh has through his hauberk torn,
On his good spear he has the carcass caught.
And with one blow that pagan downward falls;
The soul of him Satan away hath borne.
And his comrade Gerers strikes the admiral,
1270 The shield he breaks, the hauberk unmetals,
And his good spear drives into his vitals,
So well he's pinned him, clean through the carcass,
Dead on the field he's flung him from his hand.
Says Oliver: "Now is our battle grand."
1275 Sansun the Duke goes strike that almacour,
The shield he breaks, with golden flowers tooled,
That good hauberk for him is nothing proof,
He's sliced the heart, the lungs and liver through,
And flung him dead, as well or ill may prove.
1280 Says the Archbishop: "A baron's stroke, in truth."
And Anseis has let his charger run;
He goes to strike Turgis of Turtelus,
The shield he breaks, its golden boss above,
The hauberk too, its doubled mail undoes,
1285 His good spear's point into the carcass runs,
So well he's thrust, clean through the whole steel comes,
And from the hilt he's thrown him dead in dust.
Then says Rollant: "Great prowess in that thrust."
And Engelers the Gascoin of Burdele
1290 Spurs on his horse, lets fall the reins as well,
He goes to strike Escremiz of Valtrene,
The shield he breaks and shatters on his neck,
The hauberk too, he has its chinguard rent,
Between the arm-pits has pierced him through the breast,
1295 On his spear's hilt from saddle throws him dead;
After he says "So are you turned to hell."
And Otes strikes a pagan Estorgant
Upon the shield, before its leathern band,
Slices it through, the white with the scarlat;
1300 The hauberk too, has torn its folds apart,
And his good spear thrusts clean through the carcass,
And flings it dead, ev'n as the horse goes past;
He says: "You have no warrant afterward."
And Berenger, he strikes Estramariz,
1305 The shield he breaks, the hauberk tears and splits,
Thrusts his stout spear through's middle, and him flings
Down dead among a thousand Sarrazins.
Of their dozen peers ten have now been killed,
No more than two remain alive and quick,
1310 Being Chernuble, and the count Margariz.
Margariz is a very gallant knight,
Both fair and strong, and swift he is and light;
He spurs his horse, goes Oliver to strike,
And breaks his shield, by th'golden buckle bright;
1315 Along his ribs the pagan's spear doth glide;
God's his warrant, his body has respite,
The shaft breaks off, Oliver stays upright;
That other goes, naught stays him in his flight,
His trumpet sounds, rallies his tribe to fight.
1320 Common the fight is now and marvellous.
The count Rollanz no way himself secures,
Strikes with his spear, long as the shaft endures,
By fifteen blows it is clean broken through
Then Durendal he bares, his sabre good
1325 Spurs on his horse, is gone to strike Chemuble,
The helmet breaks, where bright carbuncles grew,
Slices the cap and shears the locks in two,
Slices also the eyes and the features,
The hauberk white, whose mail was close of woof,
1330 Down to the groin cuts all his body through
To the saddle; with beaten gold 'twas tooled.
Upon the horse that sword a moment stood,
Then sliced its spine, no join there any knew,
Dead in the field among thick grass them threw.
1335 After he said "Culvert, false step you moved,
From Mahumet your help will not come soon.
No victory for gluttons such as you."
The count Rollanz, he canters through the field,
Holds Durendal, he well can thrust and wield,
1340 Right great damage he's done the Sarrazines
You'd seen them, one on other, dead in heaps,
Through all that place their blood was flowing clear!
In blood his arms were and his hauberk steeped,
And bloodied o'er, shoulders and neck, his steed.
1345 And Oliver goes on to strike with speed;
No blame that way deserve the dozen peers,
For all the Franks they strike and slay with heat,
Pagans are slain, some swoon there in their seats,
Says the Archbishop: "Good baronage indeed!"
1350 "Monjoie" he cries, the call of Charles repeats.
And Oliver has cantered through the crush;
Broken his spear, the truncheon still he thrusts;
Going to strike a pagan Malsarun;
Flowers and gold, are on the shield, he cuts,
1355 Out of the head both the two eyes have burst,
And all the brains are fallen in the dust;
He flings him dead, sev'n hundred else amongst.
Then has he slain Turgin and Esturgus;
Right to the hilt, his spear in flinders flew.
1360 Then says Rollant: "Companion, what do you?
In such a fight, there's little strength in wood,
Iron and steel should here their valour prove.
Where is your sword, that Halteclere I knew?
Golden its hilt, whereon a crystal grew."
1365 Says Oliver: "I had not, if I drew,
Time left to strike enough good blows and true."
Then Oliver has drawn his mighty sword
As his comrade had bidden and implored,
In knightly wise the blade to him has shewed;
1370 Justin he strikes, that Iron Valley's lord,
All of his head has down the middle shorn,
The carcass sliced, the broidered sark has torn,
The good saddle that was with old adorned,
And through the spine has sliced that pagan's horse;
1375 Dead in the field before his feet they fall.
Says Rollant: "Now my brother I you call;
He'll love us for such blows, our Emperor."
On every side "Monjoie" you'ld hear them roar.
That count Gerins sate on his horse Sorel,
1380 On Passe-Cerf was Gerers there, his friend;
They've loosed their reins, together spurred and sped,
And go to strike a pagan Timozel;
One on the shield, on hauberk the other fell;
And their two spears went through the carcass well,
1385 A fallow field amidst they've thrown him dead.
I do not know, I never heard it said
Which of the two was nimbler as they went.
Esperveris was there, son of Borel,
And him there slew Engelers of Burdel.
1390 And the Archbishop, he slew them Siglorel,
The enchanter, who before had been in hell,
Where Jupiter bore him by a magic spell.
Then Turpin says "To us he's forfeited."
Answers Rollanz: "The culvert is bested.
1395 Such blows, brother Olivier, I like well."
The battle grows more hard and harder yet,
Franks and pagans, with marvellous onset,
Each other strike and each himself defends.
So many shafts bloodstained and shattered,
1400 So many flags and ensigns tattered;
So many Franks lose their young lustihead,
Who'll see no more their mothers nor their friends,
Nor hosts of France, that in the pass attend.
Charles the Great weeps therefor with regret.
1405 What profits that? No succour shall they get.
Evil service, that day, Guenes rendered them,
To Sarraguce going, his own to sell.
After he lost his members and his head,
In court, at Aix, to gallows-tree condemned;
1410 And thirty more with him, of his kindred,
Were hanged, a thing they never did expect.
Now marvellous and weighty the combat,
Right well they strike, Olivier and Rollant,
A thousand blows come from the Archbishop's hand,
1415 The dozen peers are nothing short of that,
With one accord join battle all the Franks.
Pagans are slain by hundred, by thousand,
Who flies not then, from death has no warrant,
Will he or nill, foregoes the allotted span.
1420 The Franks have lost the foremost of their band,
They'll see no more their fathers nor their clans,
Nor Charlemagne, where in the pass he stands.
Torment arose, right marvellous, in France,
Tempest there was, of wind and thunder black,
1425 With rain and hail, so much could not be spanned;
Fell thunderbolts often on every hand,
And verily the earth quaked in answer back
From Saint Michael of Peril unto Sanz,
From Besencun to the harbour of Guitsand;
1430 No house stood there but straight its walls must crack:
In full mid-day the darkness was so grand,
Save the sky split, no light was in the land.
Beheld these things with terror every man,
And many said: "We in the Judgement stand;
1435 The end of time is presently at hand."
They spake no truth; they did not understand;
'Twas the great day of mourning for Rollant.
The Franks strike on; their hearts are good and stout.
Pagans are slain, a thousandfold, in crowds,
1440 Left of five score are not two thousands now.
Says the Archbishop: "Our men are very proud,
No man on earth has more nor better found.
In Chronicles of Franks is written down,
What vassalage he had, our Emperour."
1445 Then through the field they go, their friends seek out,
And their eyes weep with grief and pain profound
For kinsmen dear, by hearty friendship bound.
King Marsilies and his great host draw round.
King Marsilies along a valley led
1450 The mighty host that he had gathered.
Twenty columns that king had numbered.
With gleaminag gold their helms were jewelled.
Shone too their shields and sarks embroidered.
Sounded the charge seven thousand trumpets,
1455 Great was the noise through all that country went.
Then said Rollanz: "Olivier, brother, friend,
That felon Guenes hath sworn to achieve our death;
For his treason no longer is secret.
Right great vengeance our Emperour will get.
1460 Battle we'll have, both long and keenly set,
Never has man beheld such armies met.
With Durendal my sword I'll strike again,
And, comrade, you shall strike with Halteclere.
These swords in lands so many have we held,
1465 Battles with them so many brought to end,
No evil song shall e'er be sung or said."
When the Franks see so many there, pagans,
On every side covering all the land,
Often they call Olivier and Rollant,
1470 The dozen peers, to be their safe warrant.
And the Archbishop speaks to them, as he can:
"My lords barons, go thinking nothing bad!
For God I pray you fly not hence but stand,
Lest evil songs of our valour men chant!
1475 Far better t'were to perish in the van.
Certain it is, our end is near at hand,
Beyond this day shall no more live one man;
But of one thing I give you good warrant:
Blest Paradise to you now open stands,
1480 By the Innocents your thrones you there shall have."
Upon these words grow bold again the Franks;
There is not one but he "Monjoie" demands.
A Sarrazin was there, of Sarraguce,
Of that city one half was his by use,
1485 'Twas Climborins, a man was nothing proof;
By Guenelun the count an oath he took,
And kissed his mouth in amity and truth,
Gave him his sword and his carbuncle too.
Terra Major, he said, to shame he'ld put,
1490 From the Emperour his crown he would remove.
He sate his horse, which he called Barbamusche,
Never so swift sparrow nor swallow flew,
He spurred him well, and down the reins he threw,
Going to strike Engelier of Gascune;
1495 Nor shield nor sark him any warrant proved,
The pagan spear's point did his body wound,
He pinned him well, and all the steel sent through,
From the hilt flung him dead beneath his foot.
After he said: "Good are they to confuse.
1500 Pagans, strike on, and so this press set loose!"
"God!" say the Franks, "Grief, such a man to lose!"
The count Rollanz called upon Oliver:
"Sir companion, dead now is Engeler;
Than whom we'd no more valiant chevalier."
1505 Answered that count: "God, let me him avenge!"
Spurs of fine gold into his horse drove then,
Held Halteclere, with blood its steel was red,
By virtue great to strike that pagan went,
Brandished his blade, the Sarrazin upset;
1510 The Adversaries of God his soul bare thence.
Next he has slain the duke Alphaien,
And sliced away Escababi his head,
And has unhorsed some seven Arabs else;
No good for those to go to war again.
1515 Then said Rollanz: "My comrade shews anger,
So in my sight he makes me prize him well;
More dear by Charles for such blows are we held."
Aloud he's cried: "Strike on, the chevaliers!"
From the other part a pagan Valdabron.
1520 Warden he'd been to king Marsilion,
And lord, by sea, of four hundred dromonds;
No sailor was but called his name upon;
Jerusalem he'd taken by treason,
Violated the Temple of Salomon,
1525 The Partiarch had slain before the fonts.
He'd pledged his oath by county Guenelon,
Gave him his sword, a thousand coins thereon.
He sate his horse, which he called Gramimond,
Never so swift flew in the air falcon;
1530 He's pricked him well, with sharp spurs he had on,
Going to strike e'en that rich Duke, Sanson;
His shield has split, his hauberk has undone,
The ensign's folds have through his body gone,
Dead from the hilt out of his seat he's dropt:
1535 "Pagans, strike on, for well we'll overcome!"
"God!" say the Franks, "Grief for a brave baron!"
The count Rollanz, when Sansun dead he saw,
You may believe, great grief he had therefor.
His horse he spurs, gallops with great effort,
1540 Wields Durendal, was worth fine gold and more,
Goes as he may to strike that baron bold
Above the helm, that was embossed with gold,
Slices the head, the sark, and all the corse,
The good saddle, that was embossed with gold,
1545 And cuts deep through the backbone of his horse;
He's slain them both, blame him for that or laud.
The pagans say: "'Twas hard on us, that blow."
Answers Rollanz: "Nay, love you I can not,
For on your side is arrogance and wrong."
1550 Out of Affrike an Affrican was come,
'Twas Malquiant, the son of king Malcud;
With beaten gold was all his armour done,
Fore all men's else it shone beneath the sun.
He sate his horse, which he called Salt-Perdut,
1555 Never so swift was any beast could run.
And Anseis upon the shield he struck,
The scarlat with the blue he sliced it up,
Of his hauberk he's torn the folds and cut,
The steel and stock has through his body thrust.
1560 Dead is that count, he's no more time to run.
Then say the Franks: "Baron, an evil luck!"
Swift through the field Turpin the Archbishop passed;
Such shaven-crown has never else sung Mass
Who with his limbs such prowess might compass;
1565 To th'pagan said "God send thee all that's bad!
One thou hast slain for whom my heart is sad."
So his good horse forth at his bidding ran,
He's struck him then on his shield Toledan,
Until he flings him dead on the green grass.
1570 From the other part was a pagan Grandones,
Son of Capuel, the king of Capadoce.
He sate his horse, the which he called Marmore,
Never so swift was any bird in course;
He's loosed the reins, and spurring on that horse
1575 He's gone to strike Gerin with all his force;
The scarlat shield from's neck he's broken off,
And all his sark thereafter has he torn,
The ensign blue clean through his body's gone,
Until he flings him dead, on a high rock;
1580 His companion Gerer he's slain also,
And Berenger, and Guiun of Santone;
Next a rich duke he's gone to strike, Austore,
That held Valence and the Honour of the Rhone;
He's flung him dead; great joy the pagans shew.
1585 Then say the Franks: "Of ours how many fall."
The count Rollanz, his sword with blood is stained,
Well has he heard what way the Franks complained;
Such grief he has, his heart would split in twain:
To the pagan says: "God send thee every shame!
1590 One hast thou slain that dearly thou'lt repay."
He spurs his horse, that on with speed doth strain;
Which should forfeit, they both together came.
Grandonie was both proof and valiant,
And virtuous, a vassal combatant.
1595 Upon the way there, he has met Rollant;
He'd never seen, yet knew him at a glance,
By the proud face and those fine limbs he had,
By his regard, and by his contenance;
He could not help but he grew faint thereat,
1600 He would escape, nothing avail he can.
Struck him the count, with so great virtue, that
To the nose-plate he's all the helmet cracked,
Sliced through the nose and mouth and teeth he has,
Hauberk close-mailed, and all the whole carcass,
1605 Saddle of gold, with plates of silver flanked,
And of his horse has deeply scarred the back;
He's slain them both, they'll make no more attack:
The Spanish men in sorrow cry, "Alack!"
Then say the Franks: "He strikes well, our warrant."
1610 Marvellous is the battle in its speed,
The Franks there strike with vigour and with heat,
Cutting through wrists and ribs and chines in-deed,
Through garments to the lively flesh beneath;
On the green grass the clear blood runs in streams.
1615 The pagans say: "No more we'll suffer, we.
Terra Major, Mahummet's curse on thee!
Beyond all men thy people are hardy!"
There was not one but cried then: "Marsilie,
Canter, O king, thy succour now we need!"
1620 Marvellous is the battle now and grand,
The Franks there strike, their good brown spears in hand.
Then had you seen such sorrowing of clans,
So many a slain, shattered and bleeding man!
Biting the earth, or piled there on their backs!
1625 The Sarrazins cannot such loss withstand.
Will they or nill, from off the field draw back;
By lively force chase them away the Franks.
Their martyrdom, his men's, Marsile has seen,
So he bids sound his horns and his buccines;
1630 Then canters forth with all his great army.
Canters before a Sarrazin, Abisme,
More felon none was in that company;
Cankered with guile and every felony,
He fears not God, the Son of Saint Mary;
1635 Black is that man as molten pitch that seethes;
Better he loves murder and treachery
Than to have all the gold of Galicie;
Never has man beheld him sport for glee;
Yet vassalage he's shown, and great folly,
1640 So is he dear to th' felon king Marsile;
Dragon he bears, to which his tribe rally.
That Archbishop could never love him, he;
Seeing him there, to strike he's very keen,
Within himself he says all quietly:
1645 "This Sarrazin great heretick meseems,
Rather I'ld die, than not slay him clean,
Neer did I love coward nor cowardice."
That Archbishop begins the fight again,
Sitting the horse which he took from Grossaille
1650 -- That was a king he had in Denmark slain; --
That charger is swift and of noble race;
Fine are his hooves, his legs are smooth and straight,
Short are his thighs, broad crupper he displays,
Long are his ribs, aloft his spine is raised,
1655 White is his tail and yellow is his mane,
Little his ears, and tawny all his face;
No beast is there, can match him in a race.
That Archbishop spurs on by vassalage,
He will not pause ere Abisme he assail;
1660 So strikes that shield, is wonderfully arrayed,
Whereon are stones, amethyst and topaze,
Esterminals and carbuncles that blaze;
A devil's gift it was, in Val Metase,
Who handed it to the admiral Galafes;
1665 So Turpin strikes, spares him not anyway;
After that blow, he's worth no penny wage;
The carcass he's sliced, rib from rib away,
So flings him down dead in an empty place.
Then say the Franks: "He has great vassalage,
1670 With the Archbishop, surely the Cross is safe."
The count Rollanz calls upon Oliver:
"Sir companion, witness you'll freely bear,
The Archbishop is a right good chevalier,
None better is neath Heaven anywhere;
1675 Well can he strike with lance and well with spear."
Answers that count: "Support to him we'll bear!"
Upon that word the Franks again make yare;
Hard are the blows, slaughter and suffering there,
For Christians too, most bitter grief and care.
1680 Who could had seen Rollanz and Oliver
With their good swords to strike and to slaughter!
And the Archbishop lays on there with his spear.
Those that are dead, men well may hold them dear.
In charters and in briefs is written clear,
1685 Four thousand fell, and more, the tales declare.
Gainst four assaults easily did they fare,
But then the fifth brought heavy griefs to bear.
They all are slain, those Frankish chevaliers;
Only three-score, whom God was pleased to spare,
1690 Before these die, they'll sell them very dear.
The count Rollant great loss of his men sees,
His companion Olivier calls, and speaks:
"Sir and comrade, in God's Name, That you keeps,
Such good vassals you see lie here in heaps;
1695 For France the Douce, fair country, may we weep,
Of such barons long desolate she'll be.
Ah! King and friend, wherefore are you not here?
How, Oliver, brother, can we achieve?
And by what means our news to him repeat?"
1700 Says Oliver: "I know not how to seek;
Rather I'ld die than shame come of this feat."
Then says Rollanz: "I'll wind this olifant,
If Charles hear, where in the pass he stands,
I pledge you now they will return, the Franks."
1705 Says Oliver: "Great shame would come of that
And a reproach on every one, your clan,
That shall endure while each lives in the land,
When I implored, you would not do this act;
Doing it now, no raise from me you'll have:
1710 So wind your horn but not by courage rash,
Seeing that both your arms with blood are splashed."
Answers that count: "Fine blows I've struck them back."
Then says Rollant: "Strong it is now, our battle;
I'll wind my horn, so the King hears it, Charles."
1715 Says Oliver: "That act were not a vassal's.
When I implored you, comrade, you were wrathful.
Were the King here, we had not borne such damage.
Nor should we blame those with him there, his army."
Says Oliver: "Now by my beard, hereafter
1720 If I may see my gentle sister Alde,
She in her arms, I swear, shall never clasp you."
Then says Rollanz: "Wherefore so wroth with me?"
He answers him: "Comrade, it was your deed:
Vassalage comes by sense, and not folly;
1725 Prudence more worth is than stupidity.
Here are Franks dead, all for your trickery;
No more service to Carlun may we yield.
My lord were here now, had you trusted me,
And fought and won this battle then had we,
1730 Taken or slain were the king Marsilie.
In your prowess, Rollanz, no good we've seen!
Charles the great in vain your aid will seek --
None such as he till God His Judgement speak; --
Here must you die, and France in shame be steeped;
1735 Here perishes our loyal company,
Before this night great severance and grief."
That Archbishop has heard them, how they spoke,
His horse he pricks with his fine spurs of gold,
Coming to them he takes up his reproach:
1740 "Sir Oliver, and you, Sir Rollant, both,
For God I pray, do not each other scold!
No help it were to us, the horn to blow,
But, none the less, it may be better so;
The King will come, with vengeance that he owes;
1745 These Spanish men never away shall go.
Our Franks here, each descending from his horse,
Will find us dead, and limb from body torn;
They'll take us hence, on biers and litters borne;
With pity and with grief for us they'll mourn;
1750 They'll bury each in some old minster-close;
No wolf nor swine nor dog shall gnaw our bones."
Answers Rollant: "Sir, very well you spoke."
Rollant hath set the olifant to his mouth,
He grasps it well, and with great virtue sounds.
1755 High are those peaks, afar it rings and loud,
Thirty great leagues they hear its echoes mount.
So Charles heard, and all his comrades round;
Then said that King: "Battle they do, our counts!"
And Guenelun answered, contrarious:
1760 "That were a lie, in any other mouth."
The Count Rollanz, with sorrow and with pangs,
And with great pain sounded his olifant:
Out of his mouth the clear blood leaped and ran,
About his brain the very temples cracked.
1765 Loud is its voice, that horn he holds in hand;
Charles hath heard, where in the pass he stands,
And Neimes hears, and listen all the Franks.
Then says the King: "I hear his horn, Rollant's;
He'ld never sound, but he were in combat."
1770 Answers him Guenes "It is no battle, that.
Now are you old, blossoming white and blanched,
Yet by such words you still appear infant.
You know full well the great pride of Rollant
Marvel it is, God stays so tolerant.
1775 Noples he took, not waiting your command;
Thence issued forth the Sarrazins, a band
With vassalage had fought against Rollant;
1777A He slew them first, with Durendal his brand,
Then washed their blood with water from the land;
So what he'd done might not be seen of man.
1780 He for a hare goes all day, horn in hand;
Before his peers in foolish jest he brags.
No race neath heav'n in field him dare attack.
So canter on! Nay, wherefore hold we back?
Terra Major is far away, our land."
1785 The count Rollanz, though blood his mouth doth stain,
And burst are both the temples of his brain,
His olifant he sounds with grief and pain;
Charles hath heard, listen the Franks again.
"That horn," the King says, "hath a mighty strain!"
1790 Answers Duke Neimes: "A baron blows with pain!
Battle is there, indeed I see it plain,
He is betrayed, by one that still doth feign.
Equip you, sir, cry out your old refrain,
That noble band, go succour them amain!
1795 Enough you've heard how Rollant doth complain."
That Emperour hath bid them sound their horns.
The Franks dismount, and dress themselves for war,
Put hauberks on, helmets and golden swords;
Fine shields they have, and spears of length and force
1800 Scarlat and blue and white their ensigns float.
His charger mounts each baron of the host;
They spur with haste as through the pass they go.
Nor was there one but thus to 's neighbour spoke:
"Now, ere he die, may we see Rollant, so
1805 Ranged by his side we'll give some goodly blows."
But what avail? They've stayed too long below.
That even-tide is light as was the day;
Their armour shines beneath the sun's clear ray,
Hauberks and helms throw off a dazzling flame,
1810 And blazoned shields, flowered in bright array,
Also their spears, with golden ensigns gay.
That Emperour, he canters on with rage,
And all the Franks with wonder and dismay;
There is not one can bitter tears restrain,
1815 And for Rollant they're very sore afraid.
The King has bid them seize that county Guene,
And charged with him the scullions of his train;
The master-cook he's called, Besgun by name:
"Guard me him well, his felony is plain,
1820 Who in my house vile treachery has made."
He holds him, and a hundred others takes
From the kitchen, both good and evil knaves;
Then Guenes beard and both his cheeks they shaved,
And four blows each with their closed fists they gave,
1825 They trounced him well with cudgels and with staves,
And on his neck they clasped an iron chain;
So like a bear enchained they held him safe,
On a pack-mule they set him in his shame:
Kept him till Charles should call for him again.
1830 High were the peaks and shadowy and grand,
The valleys deep, the rivers swiftly ran.
Trumpets they blew in rear and in the van,
Till all again answered that olifant.
That Emperour canters with fury mad,
1835 And all the Franks dismay and wonder have;
There is not one but weeps and waxes sad
And all pray God that He will guard Rollant
Till in the field together they may stand;
There by his side they'll strike as well they can.
1840 But what avail? No good there is in that;
They're not in time; too long have they held back.
In his great rage on canters Charlemagne;
Over his sark his beard is flowing plain.
Barons of France, in haste they spur and strain;
1845 There is not one that can his wrath contain
That they are not with Rollant the Captain,
Whereas he fights the Sarrazins of Spain.
If he be struck, will not one soul remain.
-- God! Sixty men are all now in his train!
1850 Never a king had better Capitains.
Rollant regards the barren mountain-sides;
Dead men of France, he sees so many lie,
And weeps for them as fits a gentle knight:
"Lords and barons, may God to you be kind!
1855 And all your souls redeem for Paradise!
And let you there mid holy flowers lie!
Better vassals than you saw never I.
Ever you've served me, and so long a time,
By you Carlon hath conquered kingdoms wide;
1860 That Emperour reared you for evil plight!
Douce land of France, o very precious clime,
Laid desolate by such a sour exile!
Barons of France, for me I've seen you die,
And no support, no warrant could I find;
1865 God be your aid, Who never yet hath lied!
I must not fail now, brother, by your side;
Save I be slain, for sorrow shall I die.
Sir companion, let us again go strike!"
The count Rollanz, back to the field then hieing
1870 Holds Durendal, and like a vassal striking
Faldrun of Pui has through the middle sliced,
With twenty-four of all they rated highest;
Was never man, for vengeance shewed such liking.
Even as a stag before the hounds goes flying,
1875 Before Rollanz the pagans scatter, frightened.
Says the Archbishop: "You deal now very wisely!
Such valour should he shew that is bred knightly,
And beareth arms, and a good charger rideth;
In battle should be strong and proud and sprightly;
1880 Or otherwise he is not worth a shilling,
Should be a monk in one of those old minsters,
Where, day, by day, he'ld pray for us poor sinners."
Answers Rollant: "Strike on; no quarter give them!"
Upon these words Franks are again beginning;
1885 Very great loss they suffer then, the Christians.
The man who knows, for him there's no prison,
In such a fight with keen defence lays on;
Wherefore the Franks are fiercer than lions.
Marsile you'd seen go as a brave baron,
1890 Sitting his horse, the which he calls Gaignon;
He spurs it well, going to strike Bevon,
That was the lord of Beaune and of Dijon,
His shield he breaks, his hauberk has undone,
So flings him dead, without condition;
1895 Next he hath slain Yvoerie and Ivon,
Also with them Gerard of Russillon.
The count Rollanz, being not far him from,
To th'pagan says: "Confound thee our Lord God!
So wrongfully you've slain my companions,
1900 A blow you'll take, ere we apart be gone,
And of my sword the name I'll bid you con."
He goes to strike him, as a brave baron,
And his right hand the count clean slices off;
Then takes the head of Jursaleu the blond;
1905 That was the son of king Marsilion.
Pagans cry out "Assist us now, Mahom!
God of our race, avenge us on Carlon!
Into this land he's sent us such felons
That will not leave the fight before they drop."
1910 Says each to each: "Nay let us fly!" Upon
That word, they're fled, an hundred thousand gone;
Call them who may, they'll never more come on.
But what avail? Though fled be Marsilies,
He's left behind his uncle, the alcaliph
1915 Who holds Alferne, Kartagene, Garmalie,
And Ethiope, a cursed land indeed;
The blackamoors from there are in his keep,
Broad in the nose they are and flat in the ear,
Fifty thousand and more in company.
1920 These canter forth with arrogance and heat,
Then they cry out the pagans' rallying-cheer;
And Rollant says: "Martyrdom we'll receive;
Not long to live, I know it well, have we;
Felon he's named that sells his body cheap!
1925 Strike on, my lords, with burnished swords and keen;
Contest each inch your life and death between,
That neer by us Douce France in shame be steeped.
When Charles my lord shall come into this field,
Such discipline of Sarrazins he'll see,
1930 For one of ours he'll find them dead fifteen;
He will not fail, but bless us all in peace."
When Rollant sees those misbegotten men,
Who are more black than ink is on the pen
With no part white, only their teeth except,
1935 Then says that count: "I know now very well
That here to die we're bound, as I can tell.
Strike on, the Franks! For so I recommend."
Says Oliver: "Who holds back, is condemned!"
Upon those words, the Franks to strike again.
1940 Franks are but few; which, when the pagans know,
Among themselves comfort and pride they shew;
Says each to each: "Wrong was that Emperor."
Their alcaliph upon a sorrel rode,
And pricked it well with both his spurs of gold;
1945 Struck Oliver, behind, on the back-bone,
His hauberk white into his body broke,
Clean through his breast the thrusting spear he drove;
After he said: "You've borne a mighty blow.
Charles the great should not have left you so;
1950 He's done us wrong, small thanks to him we owe;
I've well avenged all ours on you alone."
Oliver feels that he to die is bound,
Holds Halteclere, whose steel is rough and brown,
Strikes the alcaliph on his helm's golden mount;
1955 Flowers and stones fall clattering to the ground,
Slices his head, to th'small teeth in his mouth;
So brandishes his blade and flings him down;
After he says: "Pagan, accurst be thou!
Thou'lt never say that Charles forsakes me now;
1960 Nor to thy wife, nor any dame thou'st found,
Thou'lt never boast, in lands where thou wast crowned,
One pennyworth from me thou'st taken out,
Nor damage wrought on me nor any around."
After, for aid, "Rollant!" he cries aloud.
1965 Oliver feels that death is drawing nigh;
To avenge himself he hath no longer time;
Through the great press most gallantly he strikes,
He breaks their spears, their buckled shields doth slice,
Their feet, their fists, their shoulders and their sides,
1970 Dismembers them: whoso had seen that sigh,
Dead in the field one on another piled,
Remember well a vassal brave he might.
Charles ensign he'll not forget it quite;
Aloud and clear "Monjoie" again he cries.
1975 To call Rollanz, his friend and peer, he tries:
"My companion, come hither to my side.
With bitter grief we must us now divide."
Then Rollant looked upon Olivier's face;
Which was all wan and colourless and pale,
1980 While the clear blood, out of his body sprayed,
Upon the ground gushed forth and ran away.
"God!" said that count, "What shall I do or say?
My companion, gallant for such ill fate!
Neer shall man be, against thee could prevail.
1985 Ah! France the Douce, henceforth art thou made waste
Of vassals brave, confounded and disgraced!
Our Emperour shall suffer damage great."
And with these words upon his horse he faints.
You'd seen Rollant aswoon there in his seat,
1990 And Oliver, who unto death doth bleed,
So much he's bled, his eyes are dim and weak;
Nor clear enough his vision, far or near,
To recognise whatever man he sees;
His companion, when each the other meets,
1995 Above the helm jewelled with gold he beats,
Slicing it down from there to the nose-piece,
But not his head; he's touched not brow nor cheek.
At such a blow Rollant regards him keen,
And asks of him, in gentle tones and sweet:
2000 "To do this thing, my comrade, did you mean?
This is Rollanz, who ever held you dear;
And no mistrust was ever us between."
Says Oliver: "Now can I hear you speak;
I see you not: may the Lord God you keep!
2005 I struck you now: and for your pardon plead."
Answers Rollanz: "I am not hurt, indeed;
I pardon you, before God's Throne and here."
Upon these words, each to the other leans;
And in such love you had their parting seen.
2010 Oliver feels death's anguish on him now;
And in his head his two eyes swimming round;
Nothing he sees; he hears not any sound;
Dismounting then, he kneels upon the ground,
Proclaims his sins both firmly and aloud,
2015 Clasps his two hands, heavenwards holds them out,
Prays God himself in Paradise to allow;
Blessings on Charles, and on Douce France he vows,
And his comrade, Rollanz, to whom he's bound.
Then his heart fails; his helmet nods and bows;
2020 Upon the earth he lays his whole length out:
And he is dead, may stay no more, that count.
Rollanz the brave mourns him with grief profound;
Nowhere on earth so sad a man you'd found.
So Rollant's friend is dead whom when he sees
2025 Face to the ground, and biting it with's teeth,
Begins to mourn in language very sweet:
"Unlucky, friend, your courage was indeed!
Together we have spent such days and years;
No harmful thing twixt thee and me has been.
2030 Now thou art dead, and all my life a grief."
And with these words again he swoons, that chief,
Upon his horse, which he calls Veillantif;
Stirrups of gold support him underneath;
He cannot fall, whichever way he lean.
2035 Soon as Rollant his senses won and knew,
Recovering and turning from that swoon.
Bitter great loss appeared there in his view:
Dead are the Franks; he'd all of them to lose,
Save the Archbishop, and save Gualter del Hum;
2040 He is come down out of the mountains, who
Gainst Spanish men made there a great ado;
Dead are his men, for those the pagans slew;
Will he or nill, along the vales he flew,
And called Rollant, to bring him succour soon:
2045 "Ah! Gentle count, brave soldier, where are you?
For By thy side no fear I ever knew.
Gualter it is, who conquered Maelgut,
And nephew was to hoary old Drouin;
My vassalage thou ever thoughtest good.
2050 Broken my spear, and split my shield in two;
Gone is the mail that on my hauberk grew;
This body of mine eight lances have gone through;
I'm dying. Yet full price for life I took."
Rollant has heard these words and understood,
2055 Has spurred his horse, and on towards him drew.
Grief gives Rollanz intolerance and pride;
Through the great press he goes again to strike;
To slay a score of Spaniards he contrives,
Gualter has six, the Archbishop other five.
2060 The pagans say: "Men, these, of felon kind!
Lordings, take care they go not hence alive!
Felon he's named that does not break their line,
Recreant, who lets them any safety find!"
And so once more begin the hue and cry,
2065 From every part they come to break the line.
Count Rollant is a noble and brave soldier,
Gualter del Hum's a right good chevalier,
That Archbishop hath shewn good prowess there;
None of them falls behind the other pair;
2070 Through the great press, pagans they strike again.
Come on afoot a thousand Sarrazens,
And on horseback some forty thousand men.
But well I know, to approach they never dare;
Lances and spears they poise to hurl at them,
2075 Arrows, barbs, darts and javelins in the air.
With the first flight they've slain our Gualtier;
Turpin of Reims has all his shield broken,
And cracked his helm; he's wounded in the head,
From his hauberk the woven mail they tear,
2080 In his body four spear-wounds doth he bear;
Beneath him too his charger's fallen dead.
Great grief it was, when that Archbishop fell.
Turpin of Reims hath felt himself undone,
Since that four spears have through his body come;
2085 Nimble and bold upon his feet he jumps;
Looks for Rollant, and then towards him runs,
Saying this word: "I am not overcome.
While life remains, no good vassal gives up."
He's drawn Almace, whose steel was brown and rough,
2090 Through the great press a thousand blows he's struck:
As Charles said, quarter he gave to none;
He found him there, four hundred else among,
Wounded the most, speared through the middle some,
Also there were from whom the heads he'd cut:
2095 So tells the tale, he that was there says thus,
The brave Saint Giles, whom God made marvellous,
Who charters wrote for th' Minster at Loum;
Nothing he's heard that does not know this much.
The count Rollanz has nobly fought and well,
2100 But he is hot, and all his body sweats;
Great pain he has, and trouble in his head,
His temples burst when he the horn sounded;
But he would know if Charles will come to them,
Takes the olifant, and feebly sounds again.
2105 That Emperour stood still and listened then:
"My lords," said he, "Right evilly we fare!
This day Rollanz, my nephew shall be dead:
I hear his horn, with scarcely any breath.
Nimbly canter, whoever would be there!
2110 Your trumpets sound, as many as ye bear!"
Sixty thousand so loud together blare,
The mountains ring, the valleys answer them.
The pagans hear, they think it not a jest;
Says each to each: "Carlum doth us bestead."
2115 The pagans say: "That Emperour's at hand,
We hear their sound, the trumpets of the Franks;
If Charles come, great loss we then shall stand,
And wars renewed, unless we slay Rollant;
All Spain we'll lose, our own clear father-land."
2120 Four hundred men of them in helmets stand;
The best of them that might be in their ranks
Make on Rollanz a grim and fierce attack;
Gainst these the count had well enough in hand.
The count Rollanz, when their approach he sees
2125 Is grown so bold and manifest and fierce
So long as he's alive he will not yield.
He sits his horse, which men call Veillantif,
Pricking him well with golden spurs beneath,
Through the great press he goes, their line to meet,
2130 And by his side is the Archbishop Turpin.
"Now, friend, begone!" say pagans, each to each;
"These Frankish men, their horns we plainly hear
Charle is at hand, that King in Majesty."
The count Rollanz has never loved cowards,
2135 Nor arrogant, nor men of evil heart,
Nor chevalier that was not good vassal.
That Archbishop, Turpins, he calls apart:
"Sir, you're afoot, and I my charger have;
For love of you, here will I take my stand,
2140 Together we'll endure things good and bad;
I'll leave you not, for no incarnate man:
We'll give again these pagans their attack;
The better blows are those from Durendal."
Says the Archbishop: "Shame on him that holds back!
2145 Charle is at hand, full vengeance he'll exact."
The pagans say: "Unlucky were we born!
An evil day for us did this day dawn!
For we have lost our peers and all our lords.
Charles his great host once more upon us draws,
2150 Of Frankish men we plainly hear the horns,
"Monjoie " they cry, and great is their uproar.
The count Rollant is of such pride and force
He'll never yield to man of woman born;
Let's aim at him, then leave him on the spot!"
2155 And aim they did: with arrows long and short,
Lances and spears and feathered javelots;
Count Rollant's shield they've broken through and bored,
The woven mail have from his hauberk torn,
But not himself, they've never touched his corse;
2160 Veillantif is in thirty places gored,
Beneath the count he's fallen dead, that horse.
Pagans are fled, and leave him on the spot;
The count Rollant stands on his feet once more.
Pagans are fled, enangered and enraged,
2165 Home into Spain with speed they make their way;
The count Rollanz, he has not given chase,
For Veillantif, his charger, they have slain;
Will he or nill, on foot he must remain.
To the Archbishop, Turpins, he goes with aid;
2I70 He's from his head the golden helm unlaced,
Taken from him his white hauberk away,
And cut the gown in strips, was round his waist;
On his great wounds the pieces of it placed,
Then to his heart has caught him and embraced;
2175 On the green grass he has him softly laid,
Most sweetly then to him has Rollant prayed:
"Ah! Gentle sir, give me your leave, I say;
Our companions, whom we so dear appraised,
Are now all dead; we cannot let them stay;
2180 I will go seek and bring them to this place,
Arrange them here in ranks, before your face."
Said the Archbishop: "Go, and return again.
This field is yours and mine now; God be praised!"