When a traitorous Frank named Ganelon allies with Marsile to get Roland and his rearguard massacred, it's on. Like a lot of medieval bestsellers, the Song of Roland was written by Anonymous. It doesn't help that this poem survives in nine different manuscripts, each with its own set of frustrating variations. We do get a tantalizing authorial hint in the last line of the Oxford manuscript, the oldest C. Not quite. Problem is, "declinet" is one of those slippery, fish-like words with a number of possible meanings. This translation goes with "tells," but it could also mean "transcribes" or "composes.
A scribe copying an earlier, lost manuscript? Or some groupie writing down the lyrics to his favorite song? No one knows. So what do we know about this long, bloody poem about good and evil? In ye olde medieval times, when everything was written in Latin, dudes called jongleurs were some of the few artists composing and performing in the vernacular i. Some stayed year-round at royal courts, others traveled from place to place with harps strung on their backs, but all of them tried to please their high-ranking listeners with juicy, heart-thumping, epic poetry.
We're talking split bones and smashed faces and brave Christian knights triumphing over the wicked forces of Islam. This is the environment that our Song of Roland grew up in, from the factual story that took place in to the 12th-century written-down poem you're reading right now.
It's hard to know exactly how much of the existing poem was collaboratively written by generations of jongleurs and how much was added by later scribes. But at least everyone started with the same basic story. King Charles or Charlemagne was an honest-to-goodness real-life dude who conquered and ruled a lot of Europe way back in the 8th and 9th centuries C. We also know that Roland and Archbishop Turpin were both Frankish noblemen, and the rear-guard really was destroyed in —but by Basque rebels, not Spanish pagans.
The really good stuff—the oliphant and the angels and Roland's unbreakable sword named Durendal—was added on to make the Carolingian history even more rockin'. By the time the Oxford manuscript was written, Roland had been reborn as a legendary hero in the epic tradition. It's a poem.
It's long. It's from the Middle Ages. That's three strikes against Song of Roland before you've even read the first stanza. If you're into old French poetry or Carolingian history, this baby is just naturally interesting. The rest of us might need some a little guidance to point out the good bits. Riddle us this: how is Song of Roland like Gone with the Wind? Both are about beautiful southern belles who survive the American Civil War?
Close but no cigar: they're both super-famous works of historical fiction. In Song of Roland, one of the first works of historical fiction in the Western tradition, many of the characters as well as the basic plotline are taken from Carolingian history. But like the immortal tale of Rhett and Scarlett's love, the tragic tale of Roland's death, Ganelon's treachery, and Charlemagne's bloody revenge is way more legend than history.
The 12th-century poet responsible for the Oxford version of the poem started with a few facts from the 8th century but expanded from there, adding stuff he knew his contemporary audience would like. And unto the King Marsile right through the press he cried : " I too will go to Roncevaux to overthrow their pride. The twelve are doomed to perish. The French shall all be slain. France shall lie waste. Good vassals shall be lost to Charle- magne.
There were no falser traitors nor felons in the land. There shall ye aid my marshals to lead mine army on. Against Olivier and Roland we twain will lift the hand. The peers will have no warrant that death they may withstand. Behold our blades of battle that are so keen and good. Vermilion will we make them with the hot bursts of blood. The French shall perish. Charlemagne m sorrow shall be bent. The Greater Land for a good gift to thee we shall present. Come there, O King, if that the thing thou verily wouldst see. The Emperor we will give o'er for a suppliant to thee.
None ever lived that saw him but brightened at the glance, And, would she not or would she, from smiling could forbear. So chivalrous a gallant was no other Paynim there. He came amid the others and shouted through the press, And he said luito King Marsile : " Have no manner of distress. I will go imto Roncevaux. Count Roland will I slay. Neither shall the Lord Olivier carry his life away. And the twelve peers, moreover, hard death shall have and hold. Look now unto my weapon with the great hilt of gold.
The Admiral of Prime that sword gave for a gift to me. And drenched in the vermilion blood I promise it shall be. And all the French shall perish, and France be shamed in that hour. In the city of Saint Denis at our ease we then may lie. He bore a greater burden for a jest, when he would play Than seven mules could carry.
In the country, so they say, That he came from is no sunshine, nor groweth any grain. Nor is there any dew at all nor any falling rain. And the stones in that country they are all black as well. And men say this, moreover, that there the devils dwell. If I come on that proud Roland in the middle of my way, If I attack not, let no man believe me from that day. There Durendal will I conquer with this good sword of mine There all the French shall perish and France be overthrown!
Of Saracens they led with them an hundred thousand strong, That were eager for the battle and hasted on the way. And underneath a pine-wood they armed them for the fray. The greater number armor of triple thickness had. Good helms of Saragossa they laced upon them then, And they girded swords upon them of the sharp steel of Vienne.
White and blue and vermilion were the gonfalons they bore. Behind they left the palfreys and the sumpter mules to stray. They mounted on the chargers and rode in close array. The sun broke on them splendid, and fair the morning came ; There was no bit of armor but was blazing in a flame ; And to make it yet more glorious a thousand horns blew clear. So mighty was the uproar that the French at last did hear. Said Olivier: ' " My comrades, and my good lords I trow With the Saracens a battle we are like to have one now. Well now should every man of us bestir him for our King. That for his overlord a man should suffer much is meet.
He should risk for him both life and limb and bear both cold and heat. For wrong is with the Paynims, but with the Christians right. Never an ill example will I set you in the fight. And down a grassy valley on the right he cast his eye, And saw the Paynim army how hard on them it hied. Then to his comrade Roland with a loud voice he cried : " There cometh a great press of men out of the land of Spain — A host of the white hauberks.
The helmets flash again. They shall stir up in our Frenchmen a great wrath fierce and Count Ganelon the traitor hath wrought his treason well. I like not that thou speak of him so. Out and across the realm of Spain an eager look he threw. And he beheld the Pajnim host that there together drew. Not even might he number the battalions of the foe. There were so many of them their strength he could not know. Within him was he troubled. He hastened as he might [sight. Under shield an hundred thousand in the van alone do fare That are clad in milk-white hauberks, and well-laced helms that wear.
Straight are the spear-shafts, glittering are the brown spears of war. For fear of death not one of us shall fail thee or betray. But our good Franks meseemeth are 'tew m very deed. And Charlemagne shall hear it and come with the host again. Up to the golden sword-hilt the blood shall stain the steel. Now unto death, I swear it, is given all your power. King Charles the Great will hear it and come with the host again.
And the King shall bear us succor, and with him many a And Roland answered : [knight. Or ever the sweet realm of France should come on bitter shame. Ye shall see the brand within my hand made ruddy with the blood. Fell Paynims in an eyil hour are ye gathered. On my faith The whole of your great battle shall be given unto death. That because of any Paynim the war-hot-n I have blown.
Never upon my parents shall such a smirch be thrown. And when at last I gallop in the gigantic fight, A thousand and seven hundred of the great strokes will I smite. Of Durendal hereafter shall ye see the bloody steel. The Franks, an it be God's pleasure, shall fight like vassals leal. The Paynims bring no warrant against the slaughter here. I have seen their battle clear. And the valley and the mountain and the moorland and the plain With the great host of the stranger are covered up amain. God and the Holy Angels would deem it an ill day.
If France should lose her honor when Roland feared the fray. Better it were to perish than that shame on us should light. King Charles will hold us dearer the stronglier that we smite. The twain of them, moreover, are men of gallant guise. In mighty anger marches the host of heathenry. A blast upon the war-hom thou wouldst not deign to blow. Were the King here among us we were not perilled so. Look up unto the mountain where the Aspre gates appear ; There mayst thou see the sorrow of the army of the rear. He who so wroughtjhe jnaiter in no other fray shall ride.
But let him be accursed who tumeth coward now. Within this place together we shall stand against the foes. Here shall we deal together the buffets and the blows. Then lordlier than a leopard or a lion stark was he. The Emperor who his Frenchmen hath given to our hand. Hath left us twenty thousand that here with us shall stand. That not a man among them is a coward he is sure.
And flesh and blood of his body to lose he must be bold. Smite with the lance. With Durendal the battle will I try, The good blade the King gave me. And if I hap to die. He that shall have it hereafter, shall say about the sword That it was a good vassal's who was faithful to his lord. On a hill he took his stand And unto all the Frenchmen he spoke a message clear. And for our King and Master behoveth us to die. Quit you like men for Christendom, that it may stand thereby.
Ye may be sure and certain that your battle soon will be, For with your eyes each man of you the Saracens may see. Do ye forthwith confess your sins ; for God his mercy pray. To save your souls His healing upon you I will lay. Ye will be holy martyrs, if in the fight ye fall. In the fair land of Paradise ye shall sit one and all.
XCI Up rose thereon the Frenchmen. Upon their feet they got Absolved they were and pardoned of their sins upon the spot. And the Archbishop Turpin hath blessed them by God's power. Upon the battle-chargers they mounted in that hour. They armed them like good champions. They donned their And thereupon Count Roland to Olivier did say : [war-array " Oh, my good lord and comrade, Surely thou saidest well, And I believe, we are betrayed by Ganelon the fell.
And gold and rich possession hath the man purchased thus. The Emperor great vengeance must surely take for us. To march on us, to Marsile hath Ganelon sent word. They shall barter now that treason for the edges of the sword.
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- The Song of Roland.
- From the SparkNotes Blog.
- La Chanson de Roland.
He bore the good spear in his hand with the point unto the height. Upon the summit of the spear was laced a pennant white. About his hands went flashing the fringes of the gold. And hard upon his footsteps came his good company,. He cast upon the Saracen a fierce glance and a proud. But a fair and gentle on the French, and he spake sweet words aloud : " Ride slowly, my lord barons.
To their slaughter do they We shall carry from the Paynim a mighty booty home. No king of France before us such treasure e'er has ta'en. The mighty horn of battle to blow thou hadst no will. Now unto us King Charlemagne no succour can afford ; He knows not of our peril and no blame is to our lord. And the soldiers of the army we may blame them in no way. But ride ye like good cavaliers, as fiercely as ye may. The shout of war of Charlemagne we will remember aye. Well might he think on loyalty Mount joy that tide that heard.
Then they galloped in great glory. At utmost speed they spurred. And full against each other the Franks and Paynims bore. And he who should have saved you has betrayed you to your fate. A fool is the King Charlemagne that left you at the gate. Away from the sweet realm of France her glory shall be ta'en. And, moreover, from his body the right arm of Charlemagne. He pricked the battle charger with the great spurs of gold. The Count rode in to strike him as fiercely as he might.
He brake the shield; through the hauberk a great stroke did he smite. Right through the Paynim's body the weapon good he drave.
The bones he brake in pieces, the chest he cut and clave. And the strong spine he severed in the back of the cavalier; The spirit from the body he harried with the spear. So well he smote that Paynim that he staggered there indeed; With the swift lance did Roland beat the dead man from the steed. And with that stroke he shattered all the knight's neck in twain ; Yet none the less Count Roland spake forth unto the slain : " Get hence, thou slave!
As for the sin of treason he loveth not the thing. And not a whit of glory sweet France shall lose to-day. Strike now, my Franks! Unto us the first stroke doth belong. We have the right of the battle. These villains have the wrong. Marsile's brother Of Dathan and Abiram he held the land in fee. Than he a feller villain was not beneath the skies. Within him did mighty anger stir. He pricked the battle charger with the good golden spur. Therewith the shield he shattered, and the hauberk all to-broke. Through the side the pennant-fringes were driven at the stroke. With the swift lance from the ar9on he smote the Paynim dead.
And looked on the villain where he lay, and a proud word he said: " Knave! Strike Franks into the mellay, and the battle we will gain! And he was come from Barbary and dwelt in the strange land. The army of the Frenchmen but a little host are they And those that stand before us we should hold in little dread. Not one unto King Charlemagne shall carry hence his head.
Now is their time upon them, the hour that they shall die. Was no man under heaven that he did hate so sore. The buckler there he clove, And shivered the hauberk. Through the shield the splendid lance he drove. He struck him that he staggered. He smote him dead in the way With the lance, and then looked downward to where the villain lay. Nor did he cease from bitter speech, but then aloud he cried : " Get hence, thou slavish traitor! Full loudly hast thou lied. My lord King Charles will aid us. Our Franks have no desire To flee, but thy companions, we will teach them till they tire. Another death hereafter must thou suffer yet again.
Strike in, strike in, ye Frenchmen! The first stroke cometh on our side ; to God the praises be. The great shield that he carried availed him not a groat. And the fair crystal buckle in pieces small he brast. The half of the fair buckle down on the ground was cast. Deep, deep into the body he thrust the good lance in.
At the one stroke the heathen upon the ground did roD. And in that hour Satan hath carried off his soul. He broke the shield. The hauberk, he rended it in two. And his good lance, moreover, right through the heart he ran. He smote so well he drove it through the body of the man. Dead to the ground with the swift lance the enemy he bore. Thereon said the Lord Olivier : " Most gallant is our war. The golden-flowered buckler in pieces there he broke. His hauberk then that Saracen stood him in stead not well. Through heart and lungs and liver the sword of Samson fell. And, would ye not or would ye, he smote the fellow dead.
Song of Roland
C And Anseis thereafter let his war-charger go. Turgis of Tortelosa he rode to overthrow. And the great shield he shattered 'neath the buckle of the gold. Of the hauberk fair, moreover, he burst the double fold, [spear He struck him through the body with the sharp head of the So weU that on the other side all of the steel was clear. With the swift lance dead on the field he hurled the heathen Said Roland : " That was the spear-stroke of a hero of renown.
He spurred the charger onwards, he loosed the bridle-rein. Escremis of Valtierra he galloped in to slay. He clove the shield of the Paynim that the cantels fell away. Out of the heathen hauberk the steel rings did he wrest. Between the man's two shoulders he stabbed him through the breast. And dead out of the saddle he hurled him with the spear. Thereon aloud he shouted : " Ye all shall perish here! Upon the forepart of the shield on the leather did he smite, That he cut away the colors, the vermilion and the white.
The steel plates of the hauberk he rended them and tore. Right through the Paynim's body thie cutting spear he bore. Down from the running charger he struck the villain dead. And he spake : " There was no warrant 'gainst death to stand thy stead. So through the heart of the Paynim the mighty spear he sped That amid a thousand Saracens he struck the fellow dead. Of the twelve peers of the Paynims now ten good men are slain. Alive of all that fellowship but two of them remain. And Cornubel and Margaris the Marquis are the twain. Stalwart he was and beautiful and swift of foot and light. He shattered all the target 'neath the buckle of pure gold.
Along the flank of the good Frank he thrust the battle-spear. But by God's aid he hurt not the side of Olivier. For the great lance but grazed him, nor dealt him any wound. And Margaris unhindered went beyond him with a bound. And to summon up his henchmen upon his horn did sound. CV Marvellous is the battle and all men fight the fray. And from it the Count Roland no whit he kept away, [remain.
With the lance he fought while in his hand the spear-shaft did But fifteen strokes have wrenched it and broken it in twain. Then forth he drew great Durendal, the naked goodly glaive. He spurred the steed; to slay him at Cornubel he drave. He shattered all the helmet where the carbuncles shone fair. He clave through the white linen cap and through the mighty hair, And through his eyes and visage, and through the hauberk white With little links, to the forking of the body did he smite. And right through the rich saddle of beaten gold wrought well, And the great steed thereunder, the blade of Roland fell.
It broke the back of the charger. Where was no joint did it pass. There Roland struck dead Cornubel on the thick growing grass. After he said: " Thou coward, an iU-come man wast thou. No succor by Mahomet shall be granted to thee now. And such a very villain shaU win no war to-day. In that hour of those Saracens he made a slaughter sore. And bloody was his hauberk, and his arms were steeped in blood. Red were the neck and shoulders of the charger great and good.
Upon the Paynims Olivier no whit was slow to fall. The twelve peers in that battle deserved no blame at all. And all the French, moreover, came charging on to slay. There many Paynims perished, or in terror swooned away. Said Turpin then : " Our chivalry like men the fight maintain. Split was his lance. He carried but a truncheon of the spear. He rode against a Paynim, and Malsaron he hight. Through the golden-flowered helmet a great stroke did he smite. Both of his eyes from the man's head Lord Olivier did beat. The brains of the smitten Paynim fell down unto his feet.
With Malsaron he overthrew seven hundred of his men. And Turgis and Estorgos the twain he slaughtered then. The lance-haft to his hand-grasp was splintered and to-broke. On Justin of Val-Ferree the Paynim did he smite. And the head of that same Paynim in pieces twain he smote, And clove him through the body and the embroidered coat.
And right through the good saddle set with fair gold and fine Swiftly the stroke went downwards and clove the horse's spine. Before him dead upon the field the man he hath o'erthrown. Said Roland : " Thee hereafter for my brother will I own. Ki ng Charlemagne aye loves us for such buffets with the brand. They slacked the rein together and spurred the horses well And rode out to do battle with the Paynim Timosel.
On the shield smote one. The other his hauberk struck amain. The two spears in his body were broken right in twain. And of myself I know not, nor e'er did hear men say. Which of the two good heroes was swiftest on that day. And thither Count Espreveris the son of Borel drew. Him, Engelier of Bordeaux in the battle overthrew.
And Turpin the Archbishop there slaughtered Siglorel, The enchanter who already had descended into Hell. There Jupiter had brought him by wicked glamourie. Said Turpin the Archbishop : " A strong villain was he. Beautiful are such gallant strokes, my brother Olivier.
The Frenchmen and the Paynims smote many a wondrous stroke. And some came on right fiercely; on their ward the others stood. What store of spears were shattered and drenched in the blood! How many gonfalons and flags were tattered in the fray. How many gallant Frenchmen gave up their youth that day. No more shall they see their mothers. Their wives they will not see.
Nor the French beyond the passes that await them eagerly. King Charlemagne he weeps and moans. Hath his woe any worth? They get thereby no succor. When Ganelon went forth To sell in Saragossa his kindred for his gain, He did most evil service to the men of Charlemagne. But life and limb thereafter of the man went all to wreck. In the court of Aix was he condemned. They hanged him by the neck. And thirty of his kinsmen perished with him thereby That had not any deeming how they were doomed to die.
From the hand of the Archbishop a thousand strokes did fall, Nor any whit were slothful the twelve peers one and all. By hundreds and by thousands the Paynims fell that day. All of their fairest armor the Franks lost in the war. Their fathers and their kinsmen they will never see again, Nor him who waits beyond the gates, the Emperor Charle- magne. In France there was a tempest enough to make one quail. Along the storm-cloud hasted with the thunder and the gale. The rain and hail unmeasured beat fiercely from aloft ; And the thunder in its fury rattled many a time and oft.
And at the height of noon-tide great darkness came on high; There was no light nor clearness but for breaking of the sky. All were in dread and- many said : " It is the day of doom. The term of all our cycle and the end of time is come. It was sorrow for the paladin, and woe for Roland's sake.
Out of an hundred thousand are left but thousiinds two. Said Turpin : " Our good cavaliers are gallant men to do. Through the field they sought their comrades on the left and on the right. And the tears of grief and tenderness out of their eyes did start For love of their good kinsmen that were dear unto the heart. And with a great host Marsile the King before them stands. And the twelve peers and Olivier great worship is their due. The Paynims by their power in the fight they overthrew. Of an hundred thousand homewards never a soldier came Save for a single Paynim.
Margaris was his name. And though he fled, unto him shame or reproach was none. His body bore him witness of the deeds that he had done. Four lances had he in him. He turned back into Spain. The matter of the battle to Marsile he made plain. His spear was broken in pieces, and pierced was his shield, And underneath the buckler but half a foot was left.
And as for his good helmet in pieces it was cleft. And, moreover, of his hauberk all broken was the chain. His good steel blade was ruddy with a vermilion stain, [spears. And pierced was his body with the strokes of four strong Back he came from the battle where the buffets were so fierce. Unto the Paynim Marsile those tidings did he tell.
Swiftly before the King he knelt and to him did he say : " To horse, my lord. The Franks of France are weary from the fray And from striking down our henchmen with the great strokes of war. They have lost the spears and bucklers that in the fight they And half of all their army is slaughtered in the fight. The most are wounded and ruddy with the blood themselves have shed; And they have not any weapons against us to make head.
Lightly mayst thou avenge us. And now my master know The army of King Charlemagne is ripe for overthrow. To-day upon your foreheads the crowns of God shall lie. And Paradise the Holy is your portion now for aye. Among the host of Frenchmen now was grief and sorrow They wept in one another's arms for the friendship that they had.
In charity they kissed. The army he had gathered along with him he led. Blazing were all their helmets with precious stones and gold. Pennants and spears and bucklers and broidered coats had they And seven thousand war-horns were bellowing for the fray. The bruit and the tumult through the land went far and near. Said Roland: " My good comrade and brother Olivier, Count Ganelon, the traitor, hath sworn to work our death.
No longer may be hidden the breaking of his faith. But certainly the Emperor shall well avenge the wrong. And we will have a battle most terrible and strong. There is no man that liveth that ever saw the like. Therein with the blade Durendal the great strokes will I strike. Fall on, my good companion, with Haulteclair the brand. Well, heretofore, the blades we bore in many and many a land. And we have won together of battles such a throng. Let them hereafter never sing of us an evil song.
Often then unto Roland and Olivier they prayed, [aid. And the twelve peers, moreover, that they should stand their And Turpin the Archbishop there made his meaning clear: " Ye gallant knights, I pray you that ye have no coward In God's name I beseech it. Turn not to flee away. Better it is in battle like a brave man to fall. And this day it is certain we shall perish one and all. But for one thing unto you my warrant will I give. With the Saints ye there shall When the Franks heard the Bishop's word it cheered them wondrous well.
There was not any Frenchman of them that stood about But forthwith with a mighty voice Mount joy began to shout. He said unto the Paynims : " Lordings, now hark and hear. This Frank, the Marquis Roland, is a man of might and main. Who will beat him in the battle must suffer grievous pain. And Roland in two battles ye cannot overthrow. But thrice, if it be your pleasure, against him will we go. And ten of my strong columns against the French shall ride.
The other ten, however, shall tarry at my side. The glory of King Charlemagne this day shall ruined be. And France hurled into ruin, moreover, shall ye see. And therewithal was given to Grandoign the whole command. And Grandoign straight departed with all his company. Down he rode through the valley as swiftly as might be. His gonfalon was fastened with three fair nails of gold. He shouted as he galloped: " To horse, ye barons bold! Surely we saw Count Ganelon upon an evil day. And by his wicked treason he has bartered us away. What ho! God will give you crowns and flowers amid the Saints of Heaven.
But there is not any coward that shall enter into rest. We will not fear for death at all. And they shouted all together: " Mount joy for Charlemagne! Ten columns kept he with him and ten rode out to war. A thousand trumpets thundered and a man might hear them Said the Franks: [far. Ye twelve good peers, what deem you shall become of us this day? This day shall ye be crowned with crowns and lovely flowers likewise ; This day ye shall have places in the peace of Paradise. Never to Grod were it pleasing that we should be gainsaid.
With our full strength on the foemen this battle shall be made. Few men we are, but hardy. The half of all the city it was his fief and land. TVas Climborin who was not a good knight of his word. Count Ganelon upon the mouth of friendship kissed he then, And gave to him a carbuncle and therewithal his helm. And he boasted there the Greater Land in shame to overwhelm. From Charlemagne would he take away the royal crown by He sate upon the charger that Barbamuche was hight : [might.
And swifter than a swallow or a falcon was the steed. He loosed the rein. He spurred him to the utmost of his speed. Towards Engelier of Gascony he galloped o'er the field. No whit might save the Frenchmen his hauberk or his shield. He thrust into the body the iron of the spear So well that out behind him all of the point was clear.
With the swift lance upon the field he laid the dead man low. And after cried : " These Frenchmen are good to overthrow. Strike in! We have not in the army a braver man than he. And there of his good courage he rode to smite him well. His stroke hath made the Paynim reel ; down from the steed he And thence away his spirit the adversary bore ; [fell.
Thereafter the Duke Alphaien he slaughtered in the war. The brow of Escababi he clove it in his course, And seven Arabs also he beat them from the horse. Never again those seven men to war will take the path. Said Roland : " My companion is greatly up in wrath. Beside me in the battle much honor now he hath. We are dearer unto Charlemagne for such buffets as he smites. Four hundred ships were his upon the sea. Was no sailor of his thieving but had sore cause to complain. Jerusalem, the city, by treason had he ta'en.
The temple of King Solomon he plundered through and through. The Patriarch, moreover, before the font he slew. And Valdabron with Ganelon himself by oath had bound. And a good sword he gave him and therewith a thousand pound. There he sate in the saddle on Gradamont his horse. Swifter than any falcon was that charger in his course. To fell him at Samson did he ride That was a duke among the French, and a gallant man beside. He shattered all the buckler, through the hauberk did he shear. He thrust into the body the pennant of the spear.
With the swift lance from the saddle he smote the hero dead. Paynims, strike in, and lightly this battle will we gain. He spurred the steed beneath him till its uttermost it ran ; And the sword worth more than the fine gold, even Durendal he bare. Hard as he might he rode to smite against that Paynim there A high stroke over his helmet of gold with the gems a-row. He clove the head and the hauberk and the body with that blow, And the good selle, that jewels and gold work did not lack.
Unto the back of the charger and deep into the back. Whether ye praise or blame him, the twain there smote he dead. He was the son of Malcud ; Malquidant was his name. All of the gold fair beaten was the armour he had on. Brighter than all the others was he flashing in the sun.
And he rode Lost-Leap, the charger with whom no beast could To smite the shield of Anseis he galloped out apace. The red and blue he pierced it, and the hauberk-plates he broke. He thrust both wood and iron through the body with the stroke. With the swift lance Lord Anseis down on the field he bore.
The Count is dead. His season and his time of life are o'er. Said all the Franks, " Good baron, evil hap is on thy name. A priest the like of Turpin sang never Mass before. That wrought with his own body such mighty deeds of war. He said unto the Paynim : " God's curse now fall on thee. Thou hast slaughtered my good comrade and sore it irketh me.
Now the son of Capuel the King of Cappadocia came From the army of the heathen, and Grandoign was his name. He sate upon the charger that Marmorie was hight, A steed that was far fleeter than any bird in flight. He slacked the bridle- He rode to fight with Gerin with all his might and main. He rent the scarlet buckler with a great stroke in the fray ; Thereafter all his hauberk he tore and shore away. He thrust into the body his azure battle-flag. And dead he struck Count Gerin beside a mighty crag. Guy of Saint Anton also, and Berenger he slew. He smote him dead. The Paynims were joyful one and aU.
Said the Franks to one another : " How fast our heroes fall! What lament the Franks did make He hearkened, and he sorrowed till his heart was like to break. He said unto the Paynim: " rod's curse fall on thee here! Thou hast slaughtered my companion. The thing shall cost thee dear. Whosoe'er shall lose the battle the twain are face to face. He came on Roland in his way. He knew him at the sight.
Though never had he seen him, because of his proud glance. By his look and his gentle body, and by his countenance. He could not hide his terror and had fled, but naught availed, For Roland with such fury the infidel assailed That even through the nasal all of the helm was rent. The stroke went down right through the crown. Unto the teeth it went. On the golden selle the pommel of silver it cut through, And deep into the horse's back the good sword sank amain. And horse and man upon the field fell cloven right in twain. There rose among the Saracens a bitter wailing jell.
Then said the Franks : " Our champion acquits him wondrous well. Fiercely the Franks struck into it in their anger and their might. They clove right through the Paynims, through back and side and hand, Through the garments of the living flesh with the keen slashing brand. And over the green grasses the blood went running clear. Quoth the Saracens : " No longer can we bear the battle here. The Franks with the brown-flashing spears hard into it they The sorrow of the people there lightly might you view. So many slain lay in their blood, deep smitten through and through, And outstretched or face downward on all sides were the dead.
Against the Franks the heathen no longer might make head.
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And aU the Franks pursued them in their strength of living might. CXXVa Roland wrought in the battle like a good knight and strong, And the Franks urged their horses most gallantly along. At gallop and hand-gallop fled the Paynims as they could. The Franks came on. Their bodies are stained with crimson blood. Twisted and bent and broken are the war-swords in the hand. They have nought save the war-horns the foemen to withstand.
Then they thought upon the trumpets and the great horns beside, And he who had one by him was filled with strength and pride. With the horns the brows and bodies and the hands and feet Then said full many a Saracen : [they clave. There cometh now upon us the slaughter and the wrack. On us they turned their back. Great buffets with the war-horns the Frenchmen smote alway ; Even before King Marsile the line of dead men lay.
His clarions and trumpets, he caused then to be blown. Then out he rode to battle with his army of the ban. Forth rode before a Saracen. Abysmus was the man. Vile crimes had he committed and filthy felony. And of God, the Son of Mary, he trusted not the grace. And blacker than the melted pitch was that Paynim in the face. And better loved he treason and murder than to hold At his pleasure all the treasure of the Galician gold. Never had man beheld him to jest and laugh aloud. He was a man of courage and furiousness uncowed. Unto the foul King Marsile was he very dear therefore.
To rally men in battle the Dragon aye he bore. And Turpin the Archbishop would never love that wight. When he had looked upon him, he yearned the man to smite. Under his breath the Bishop saith to himself quietly : " A mighty heretic I deem this Saracen to be. Better die than make no effort the villain here to slay.
Cowards to love and cowardice has never been my way.
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