History of Charlemagne: the Song of Roland
Llyfr Coch Hergest
And when Garsi had been taken and had been sent to prison in Paris, Marsli took the government of Spain. To him sixteen kings of the faithless paynim people were subject. And when Marsli perceived that he could not withstand Charles, he thought with all his ingenuity how he could be at peace with him. He sent to Charles asking him to send two men of judgment to report to him the terms of the peace he would make with him.
And on this embassy Charles sent to him two noble brothers, Bazin and Bazil, and bade them tell Marsli to renounce Mahomet and all their gods, as they were not worth a single garlic, and to come to him and receive baptism, and accept the Christian faith, and he would give him one-half of Spain free and in peace, and the other half to his nephew Roland, free for ever, to him and his heir, and that Marsli should come and place his hands within Charles' hands in a state of homage for it.
Then the messengers went to Saragossa, where Marsli was, having with him one hundred thousand equipped knights. And having come into the presence of Marsli, they delivered their message as Charles had commanded them. And Marsli, having heard, became eceedingly angry with them, and had them put to death in a most cruel manner. And when the news was reported to Charles that Bazin and Bazil had suffered a most cruel death at the hands of Marsli, he led his hosts to Spain, seeking Marsli.
One day, as Beligant was marching with Marsli, he said to him, "Lord Marsli", said he, "seeing that we cannot withstand Charles and his forces by our power, we must think of some new trick by which to oppose him."
"Tell me, then, thy plan", replied Marsli. As the highest and wisest under Marsli, Beligant said, "My Lord, Charles is old and feeble, as his grey hair testifies. And the older a man is, the more covetous he is naturally of present gains. And if we could by our ornate eloquence promise peace so that he would return to France, he would never more in his lifetime trouble himself to acquire the land of Spain. And therefore, my Lord, as we have precious stones, gold, white lions, and white bears, let us send valuable presents to all the Franks in common. For it is greed that inclined them towards this worthless strip of land which belongs to us. And in addition, let us send them hostages, of the sons of our noblemen, that they may trust in us without any misgiving. For it is incumbent upon us to buy our lives in every way we can find." And then Marsli said, "To thee commit I that message, For thou wilt be able to convey it to the King of France in a most wise and plausible manner." And he gave into his possession the staff of gold which was in his hand. And then Beligant bowed his head and said, "By the help of Mahomet, I will fulfil that message as far as my ingenuity and skill will allow me, so that the land of Spain is set free from the everlasting bondage of the Franks."
Then went Beligant, a man of high degree, as envoy from Marsli to Charles, to say that he would come and receive baptism and submit to his sovereignty. And then Charles asked his council, "Doth it seem right to you to receive Marsli, who promises by Christ and Michael to receive baptism, and henceforth to hold his kingdom under me?"
And when the king had ended his discourse, Roland rose up to reply to him according to his knowledge. "Whosoever deceives once", said he, "will, if he can, deceive a second time. And he who trusts a second time in a deceiver deserves to be deceived. king, great and noble, trust thou not in Marsli, who has proved himself long since to be a deceiver. And has the treachery already escaped thy memory which he did thee when thou first camest to Spain? Many mighty kingdoms didst thou then destroy, and much of Spain didst thou acquire for thyself. And the same message did Marsli send to thee then. Thou didst, at that time, send to him two of thy barons, Bazin and Bazil, to receive an explanation of it from him, and the false king had them put to death. What is more just than that he should not be trusted now, while the massacre of these men is still unavenged? Let us go to Saragossa while our forces are with us, and let us not refrain from spending our life in defence of it. And disgrace should be our portion if we allow his infamy to go unavenged. And it is no easy task to believe that he is a faithful Catholic who is a false paynim."
And when Roland had finished his speech, Charles made no reply, but stroked his grey beard which fell along his breast. And none of the Franks either assented or dissented, save Gwenwld. He got up to oppose the counsel. "The counsel", said Gwenwlyd, "which inclines to haughtiness, and hinders what is good and courteous, is not praiseworthy. And it is not well to reject anyone who desires peace and concord. He holds our blood and our death as worthless who urges the rejection of Marsli from the faith of Christ and our own agreement. And the proposal he makes is without guile, seeing that he promises us hostages. For it is difficult to believe that a father would despise the life of his son, though they be paynims. Why does Roland remind a penitent of his deeds when he is coming to the right? God does not reject a penitent."
And after Gwenwlyd's speech, Neimus rose up before Charles. His grey hair, age, and gravity showed that he was a man of judgment, and his scars and wounds proved that he was brave. "To suggest a course that makes for what is good and courteous", said he, "is worthy of praise and acceptation. Thou thyself, noble king, hast heard Gwenwlyd's counsel, who seems to us to be advising what is good and courteous. Let a man of high degree be sent as messenger to Marsli, one of thine own barons, who is eloquent and clear-headed, to discuss with him and to bind him to his promises by sufficient hostages. If he concedes that, it is right to trust in him and in all of them who wish to come into faithful agreement' with us." And by that advice they abode."
And then the king asked what man of valour and of judgment it would be most becoming to send there as envoy for that business. "I will go on that embassy", said Roland, "and I shall be most pleased if I am not denied to go."
Then Oliver said, "Roland", said he, "thy nature is too impulsive for that embassy, and thy pride could not brook the haughty words of Marsli without causing bloodshed. And, I pray thee, allow me to go on that embassy ", said Oliver, "for my mind is more gentle than that of Roland to bear Marsli's words."
"Let neither of you beg to go on that embassy", said Charles. "None of the twelve peers shall go on that mission."
Archbishop Turpin stood up and asked to go. And he said, "Lord King", said he, "I will go on that errand, and I will carry it out with readiness and intelligence, and let thy barons rest. For they are weary, having been carrying on war in Spain for fourteen years."
"It does not become an archbishop", said Charles, "to undertake such a mission as that. But let him render service in masses and godly counsels. And let not anyone of you interfere with another's office. But choose me a man of doughty deeds and of noble birth whom it best becomes to bear the weight of this mission."
Then Roland recalled to mind that Gwenwlyd had slighted his counsel, and he said that the mission would suit no one better than Gwenwlyd. Roland's idea commended itself to all. And they spake of Gwenwlyd as Roland had spoken.
And Charles then said, "Let him go on this embassy. To fail on a mission commended by all would be a strange thing." "Roland", said Gwenwlyd, "caused me to go on this mission, and he is seeking to destroy me. And from this time forth I shall be his enemy as he shall know, and I will belittle him. And I promise, and will make it good, that this year will not entirely pass before the treachery is avenged on him who conceived this thought."
"Gwenwlyd", said Roland, "thou art too easily provoked to anger. And it is not seemly for a man to be overcome by bad temper. For a man should be superior to his passions. Carry out the mission entrusted to thee for the honour of him who committed it to thee. And while speaking to Charles, pay no attention to anyone save to Charles himself."
"I will be obedient in that thou hast committed to me and biddest me perform", said Gwenwlyd. "And I will go to Marsli. But I have no more hope for my life than Bazin and Bazil whom that paynim put to death. And Roland it was who advised that also, because of his haughtiness and pride. And in the same manner, it is again Roland who is endeavouring to shorten my days also. For he hates me. And wherefore, sire, didst thou comply with his haughtiness to send me, at Roland's advice, to an almost certain death, as Bazin and Bazil, on account of his advice and counsel, were put to death. Thou hast a nephew, a son of thy sister, who is a son of mine, and whose name is Baldwin. And judging from his youth, he is likely to be a valiant man. And him I commend to thee rather than Roland." "Thou art too faint-hearted", said Charles, "and too effeminate. Moreover, it is a shame for a man to use such threatening words as those towards a son."
And thereupon, being full of wrath and fear because he had to go to Marsli, he cast off the mantle he had on and disclosed a scarlet robe, as all could see. And he looked at Roland with contempt for his honour, and poured out the bitterness of his soul in this wise, "Ah, Roland, supreme in haughtiness", said he, "what frenzy and what evil spirit excite thee that thou canst not rest and wilt not let others do so. For full seven years by this hast thou detained all the barons of France in Spain, carrying on constant war, without regular sleep or meat and drink in due season, or doffing our arms either night or day, their lives and their blood thou regardest as worthless. And until thy frenzy is satisfied thou heedest not how many of the nobles of France are destroyed. And though I am thy step-father, a father's love would I have bestowed upon thee. But as thou didst shew thyself just now, thou wert worse than a stepson to me. If God, however, will grant me to return to you, a coming which thou dost not wish, I will requite thee for this journey. And if I am put to death, thou shalt find lifelong enemies."
"The sword, though one is threatened with it, does not kill unless one is smitten with it", said Roland, "and it is vain to threaten him whose mind is never turned by a threat. Go thou", said Roland, "on the mission entrusted to thee. And it grieves me that it was committed to such a coward as thou art, and that I was not allowed to go myself."
And then all the letters were prepared and the mission to Marsli.
Charles then held out' the letters" to Gwenwlyd. And as the king was putting them in his hand, they fell down to the ground, his hand shaking. And when picking them up he sweated in every limb for shame that he was so awkward as that. And all perceived that in him, and foreboded from the fall of the letter a greater fall in the future. And to that Gwenwlyd replied in this wise, "That will be as the journey proves, and I do not think that there is a cause for your anxiety."
"I am ready, sire, to go on this mission, for I do not see how to turn thee from thy purpose. Grant me thy leave, sire." "Take thy leave", said Charles, "and may the God of heaven grant thee a fair and prosperous journey."
And Charlemagne lifted up his hands and signed him with the sign of the cross.
"Speak thou thus", said he, "to Marsli, in addition to what the letter commands, Charles wishes thy future welfare, which thou shalt secure if thou wilt do what thou hast promised — that thou wilt follow him to France to receive baptism and the Catholic faith: and pay him homage, and put thy hands between his hands and receive from him half thy kingdom and hold it under him. The other half of the kingdom, held in Spain, belongs to his nephew Roland." If thou wilt not do that willingly thou shalt do it unwillingly. And he will come and lay siege to thy city Saragossa, and will not depart thence before he takes it. And he will bring thee against thy will, bound, to France with him. And there thou shalt be compelled against thy will to do what he will now accept from thee in accordance with thy will."
And when the king had thus spoken to Gwenwlyd, Gwenwlyd set out on his journey. and one hundred of his own knights escorted him out of the court.
And to his tent he came and equipped himself with majestic and fine adornment. A high horse, graceful in form, was brought him. And the barons who were of his retinue served him and offered to go with him.
"Be it far from me", said Gwenwlyd, "to take anyone to peril of death from the paynims. For to lose one is a lesser loss than to lose a great number with me. And it will be a lighter affliction to hear of my death than to see it. And when you return to France, salute ye my wife and my son Baldwin." And as my love abides in you, after I am dead, I pray you keep company with them, and have masses and psalters sung for my soul, and give clothes to the naked and food to the hungry."
Thus he took leave of his people and went with the ambassadors of the paynims. And the nobles bemoaned and bewailed his departure, fearing for him and sadly lamenting in this wise, — "Return, return to us well, O noble prince. Little loved he thee who sent thee on this mission, even thy step-son Roland, seeing that he selected thee for so dangerous a mission as this. The best that can happen to him is thy return in safety, and that no evil befall thee from the false Marsli. Thou art descended from so great and so noble a people that Charles cannot defend Roland from death, if thou wilt not return from this mission in safety."
From thence, side by side with Gwenwlyd, rode Beligant, and he approached him craftily in this wise, "Great is the unrest of greed. For it knows no limit to its getting. The more possessions increase, the more the possessor covets. See what kingdoms Charles your king has sought and added to himself by might. And yet he will not rest from endeavouring to multiply kingdoms, though he is wallowing in old age. He has acquired Constantinople, Calabria, Poland, Rome, and Spain, and why needs he turn to this worthless side of it which we possess." "Greed", said Gwenwlyd, "does not always prompt to action, but only as long as prosperity lasts. The magnanimity of a vigorous mind will not rest, save in sickness. And Charles has no cause to fight with the paynims save only that he seeks to bring them to a belief in the Christian faith, and to subdue them to his sovereignty. And never has he found anyone who can withstand him. And so also are the twelve compeers, they have never met any who excelled them in inborn magnanimity, in praise, and in fame."
"It is not deemed praiseworthy but reckless bravado to expose oneself to ceaseless toil and dangers ", said the paynim. "Why does Charles, at his age, leave the many barons who are in France, to interfere in these many dangers, when it is time for all of them to rest?"
"One day", said Gwenwlyd, "Charles was sitting under the shade of a tree. And Roland came to him, and in his hand he had a red apple. And he gave it to him with these words: Take this as a pledge that I will subdue all the kingdoms of the earth. And thou hast already subdued many, and many shalt thou yet subdue. And there is hardly any part of the whole of Spain or of many other countries that has not submitted to thee. And the subjection of Babylon is promised to thee."
"It is wonderful", said Beligant, "what confidence Roland has, or what power he has when he promised to subdue those many kings to Charles." "Roland's confidence", said Gwenwlyd, "is in the Franks, men who dare nothing less than they purpose, and can achieve nothing less than they desire, and there is nothing under heaven which they cannot subdue by their might, if they set their heart on it. And so much do all the Franks love Roland that they deny him nothing for which he has any desire. And Roland has not in his possession any goods at any time, either adornments, or money, or horses, or arms, or jewels, but that he shares with every one. And hence he has the good will of all."
And while the conversation between Gwenwlyd and Beligant about Roland lasted, they conceived and planned his betrayal in the form and the wily way by which they could bring it to pass. And more amicably they afterwards rode until they came to Saragossa, into the presence of Marsli. Marsli sat there in a chair of gold, and around him were one hundred thousand paynim knights, in silence, not a word spoken by any of them, wistfully waiting to hear the messenger of Charles.
Into the presence of Marsli they came. And Beligant took Gwenwlyd by the hand and brought him before Marsli, and said, "May Mahomet, Apollo, and the other gods whom we serve, save thee, O Marsli! By whose aid we have accomplished all thy mission to the King of France." Marsli, however, made no reply, save that he uplifted hands and face and thanked his God. "Behold here, this noble baron", said Beligant, "whom Charles has sent to inform thee the terms of peace he will make with thee."
"Let him declare them then", said Marsli.
And then Gwenwlyd said, "May He, O Marsli, who is the salvation of all men save thee. And may thy heart and mind be open to my teaching to move thee to salvation. Charles sends his command to thee to receive baptism and the Christian faith, and to put thy hands between his hands as a sign of homage to him, and to hold under him one half of thy realm. The other half belongs to his nephew Roland. If thou wilt do that willingly, he will accept it from thee. If thou wilt not do so, he will take thee against thy will to France, and imprison thee there until thou die of a shameful death."
Then Marsli was moved to wrath and fury, and would have struck him with the golden staff which was in his hand, had not the chamberlains prevented him. And Gwenwlyd drew his sword half out of its sheath, and addressed it in this wise, "Oh sword, trusted and proven by me in many a dangerous pass, I need thy faithfulness now. For Charles shall never reproach me that I was slain here by mine enemies, without my striking a blow."
And their men intervened between them in their anger.
And his barons reproved Marsli greatly for his evil intention towards an ambassador. And they told him that it was a disgraceful thing to harm an ambassador before it be known fully what he had to say without disputation.
Then Gwenwlyd drew the cord of his mantle over his head and laid his hand on the hilt of his sword.
And be approached Marsli, with evil intent, and spake to him in this wise: "Unless death debars me, be it good or be it evil in thy sight, O Marsli, I will tell thee as Charles commanded me. And in order that thy discomfiture may be the greater, Marsli", said he, "Charles bids thee turn to the Christian faith and renounce false gods, and put thy hands between Charles' hands and come on thy bended knees to bind thyself to pay him homage. And unless thou wilt come of thine own accord, thou shalt be compelled to come. And thou shalt receive one half of thy realm, and his nephew Roland shall receive the other half. And if thou wilt not come willingly, thou shalt come unwillingly. And thou shalt be imprisoned as an evil person ought to be. And, behold, here is Charles' letter to thee, sealed and folded. And in the letter thou shalt see things similar to those I have said, or what may be more shocking and difficult for thee to bear when thou hast seen them."
And he broke the seal and looked at the letter for a long time. And when he had grasped the full import of the letter, he stroked his hair and beard, and wept. And he stood up and told them in this wise the meaning of his tears, "My faithful people, listen to the insolence and haughtiness which Charles sends me in this letter, in addition to what his ambassador said apart from the letter. He still reminds me that Bazin and Bazil, his brother, were killed, and he bids me send my uncle the Caliph to be put to death to-day for their execution at my advice. And he swears that unless that is done, there will be no peace between us, nor will my life be spared. And wherefore let us go and take counsel how we shall reply to him." And then he went under an olive tree, which was close by, and with him were a few men of valour, and of noble birth. And among that number were the Caliph, the king's uncle, and Beligant, the prime mover in this treachery.
"The most befitting thing we can do", said Beligant, "is to call to us the ambassador of the Franks, who plighted his troth to me yesterday to further our advantage in the future." "Let him be called", said the Caliph.'
And then Beligant brought him in by the right hand before Marsli.
"O good sir", said the king, "do not harbour indignant and revengeful thoughts against us for the angry words spoken to thee a little while ago. I express my regret for mine anger. I will make amends to thee with my mantle, which is esteemed more costly than its weight in gold or precious stones." And he placed the mantle round the prince's neck. And he put him to sit in an honourable place, on his right, under the olive tree.
And immediately he further addressed him in this wise, "Gwenwlyd", said he, "do no longer hesitate, as long as I am alive, to bind thyself to me in true fellowship. And I will not henceforth hide my counsel from thee. Let us, then, now speak of old Charles, whose hoariness shows that he is wallowing in old age. And we believe that he has passed two hundred years of his life. And many kingdoms has he wearied by his enterprises, and many realms has he subdued, and many kings has he forced into captivity. It is time that he should rest now, and spend the end of his life in joy and pleasure."
"Charles is not a man of that kind", said Gwenwlyd, "and he is not so old as to be terrified by any suggested enterprise, however prodigious it may be. And because of his youthfulness, might, and energy, there is no one who can withstand Charles. And there are more good qualities in Charles than tongue can express. And no one can conceive how much grace and how many gifts he has received from the Giver of all gifts. I will not, however, say that a great deal of his power could not be blunted, if the pride of Roland, who is Charles' right hand, were brought low. What he conceives in his heart he performs in deed, and he does so with all his might and main. And his haughtiness is acknowledged and manifest. And wherever Charles and his host go, Roland, Oliver, and the twelve peers, with one hundred thousand armed knights, guard the rear from any sudden attack. And no one will dare contest Roland's prowess. For his fame and valour are acknowledged. And he will never allow himself to be beaten, as is known to his great credit everywhere."
"I have", said Marsli, "four hundred thousand paynims, and it is no easy task to find a knightly host finer, better equipped, and more valiant. And thinkest thou that I cannot withstand Charles and his host in battle?"
"It is very much beyond you", replied Gwenwlyd, "You cannot with your paynims withstand the trusty army that is there. And, therefore, try and overcome by craftiness where you cannot overcome by your powers. Give Charles hostages of your sons, and give him abundance of presents whereof the value cannot be estimated, and he will return to France. And as is ever his custom, he will leave in the rear Roland and the twelve peers with him, to protect those in front from treachery. If you will then attack them bravely, they shall not escape from your hands. And then Charles would cease from threatening you, if you could bring down Roland's pride."
And while Gwenwlyd was thus speaking, Marsli was kissing his face. And he then bade his treasure to be opened for him to take as much as he liked of it.
And he addressed him in this wise, "An abundantly discussed counsel is inconclusive unless it ends in a definite decision. And may thy action and thy exertion be, sir, as thy words are", said Marsli, "to see that Roland is left in the rear. And we will fight with him, when we shall meet him, so as to lay low his pride and his arrogance. And what I say in word I will make good in deed, that I will kill him, unless he kills me."
"Let it be as thou sayest", said Gwenwlyd, "I will see that he is in the rear. See ye to it that ye make good your promise."
And then Marsli commanded that the book of the law, which Mahomet left to the paynims, should be brought on a shield of gold to him under the olive tree. And Marsli and his barons, by oath on that book, confirmed their promise concerning the death of Roland.
And then Maldebrum, a man of exalted position, called Gwenwlyd to him and said, "I will give thee a sword whose hilt is of the finest gold. And by that sword, than which a better never was on thigh or side, I bind myself to thee in fellowship. And in return I pray thee, noble sir, see that I be the first to meet Roland; and I swear to thee that I will kill Roland with my right hand, unless I am killed first."
And then Cliborin came to Gwenwlyd to present him with a helmet, and addressed him thus, "Accept, sir, this gift of which thou art worthy, and which befits a peer like thyself. It is the finest helmet that was ever put on a man's head, and the most costly. All its parts have been joined and bound together. On its nasal is a carbuncle stone adorning its front, and casting light, like the day, the way it travels, as the sun reveals as far as its rays extend. And do thou repay me so great a gift as this in this wise, namely, that I may meet Roland to lay low his pride."
"If I can", said Gwenwlyd, "thou shalt have thy desire in that respect."
And after them came Breinunt, Marsli's wife, to Gwenwlyd, and spoke to him in this wise, "There is in thee token of noble birth so that Marsli and his men ought to show thee honour. And I, with this clasp," will honour thy wife, whom I deem worthy to be honoured for thy sake. The gold of this clasp, precious though it be, is as nothing in comparison with the stones that are set in it. And more costly is this clasp than all the jewels of the Christians. And all the wealth of Charles, your king, cannot be compared with this clasp and its virtues. And may this clasp, though it be costly, be the beginning of honour to thy wife. And be thou neither a stranger nor a sojourner, but henceforth well and kindly disposed towards us."
And Gwenwlyd accepted the clasp and thanked the queen greatly. And he promised her, if God would grant him life, that he would repay the honour shown and the gifts bestowed with much interest.
And among them came the king's treasurer, bringing to the king his gifts and the hostages that were to be sent to Charles. And not the least of the shares was that which was brought to Gwenwlyd as a reward of his treachery, namely, ten horses with their ten loads on their backs. And he addressed him in this wise, "Accept this, valiant duke, as the beginning of fellowship with thee. And accept again more when thou returnest here, or when thou sendest for it, if thou canst arrange time and place for us to lay low the pride of Roland."
"It is not necessary", said Gwenwlyd, "to trouble or beseech or entice with words him who is more desirous to do what is commanded than he who commands it."
And again Marsli addressed Gwenwlyd in this manner, "Take heed henceforth to be in agreement with us, and that our friendship never more be severed. And behold, here are the gifts I promised Charles by my ambassadors, and here are the twenty hostages, and here are also the keys of my city, Saragossa. And when thou art giving him these things, remember to weigh them for me against the death of Roland, and see that he is in command of the rearguard. And if such be the case, he shall receive his death blow from my right hand."
"Let it be as thou sayst", said Gwenwlyd, "and every hour will seem to me like a year while Roland's death is delayed." And having spoken those words Gwenwlyd mounted his horse and started on his journey, with the hostages and the gifts, until they came where Charles was.
And that day, as every day, Charles was up at dawn. And when he had heard matins and mass, they pitched his tent in a meadow, in a fine and extensive plain. And with Roland were countless nobles attending the king. And they knew nothing until Gwenwlyd came to them, and with the cunning deceit of a traitor he addressed Charles in this wise, "Oh Charles, thou mighty king, may God Almighty, who is the true salvation of all Christians, save thee. And behold, here are the keys of Saragossa, which Marsli sends thee; and this portion of his treasures, and twenty noble youths as hostages for the confirmation of peace with thee and of concord with him. And he entreats thee not to be offended about his uncle the Caliph whom thou didst command to be sent to thee. Seven thousand men came and took him away before my eyes from Marsli. And they went on ships to sea, and renounced the faith. And they had not sailed more than two miles to sea before they were scattered by the tempest and the raging of the sea. And it is not known whether they were not all drowned. If they had remained in Marsli's domain, he would have sent him here for thee to do thy will, though he might feel it sorely. And as Marsli has promised me well, he will make it good, he will follow thee to France to receive baptism there and to accept the Catholic faith; to pay thee homage, and to put his hands together unarmed. And he seeks not of his domain save only what thou wilt grant him to hold in fief."
"Thoroughly well hast thou carried out thy mission", said Charles, "and as long as thou livest thou shalt ever have glory and advantage, because of this mission."
And thereupon they forthwith gave the signal to start, and the bugles were sounded. And when the host heard the signal they rejoiced greatly. They struck their tents, gathered the army together and their scattered cattle, put their baggage on their horses, and started on their journey towards their wished-for France.
And they had not gone more than two miles beyond the gates of Spain when even came. And they had to pitch their tents on the open plain. And there were four hundred thousand paynim knights fully armed pursuing them, and that night they by in hiding close to the host of France.
That night Charles slept more wearily than other nights. And in his sleep the destruction of his men was made manifest to him. He saw himself in the gates of Spain, with a lance-shaft of ash in his hand. And he saw Gwenwlyd snatching the shaft and crumbling it, until the shaft was in small pieces above his head. And though he was wonderfully impressed by the vision, he did not, however, wake up.
And in the same sleep he saw himself holding a bear bound with two chains. And he saw the bear biting him on his right arm, mangling and gnawing him, and tearing his clothes. And thereupon he saw a leopard coming from Spain and attacking it fiercely. And thereupon there came a greyhound from his own court to defend his master, and it boldly attacked the leopard, and protected him from it. Notwithstanding what he saw, he slept on without ceasing until it was day.
And on the morrow, at day-break, Charles rose up and summoned his barons to consult with them who would remain in the rear to guard the host from pursuit or fear of treachery. "It becomes no one better than Roland", said Gwenwlyd. * * * *
"And no place gives me less concern than to be in battle with Durendard in my hand, smiting mine enemies. And thou shalt see me to-day mowing them down so that they would rather their death than wait for their reaper."
"For the third time", said Oliver, "I would advise thee to sound the olifant to bring the king to us, lest the nobility of France, who have been left with thee here, perish, and lest those accursed people prevail over us, so that I be again reproached."
"God forbid", said Roland, "that I should alarm a host which never could be made to fear. Roland shall never be reproached that he sounded his horn because he was afraid of the paynims. Roland shall never be likened to a hunter as long as he can engage in battle. For a hunter need not sound his horn, save only to call wild beasts out of the forests. And as Roland ever did he will do again, he will deal hard and frequent blows with Durendard, cut horse and rider and the horse's harness all to pieces; break the ranks and smite them down; and tread in heaps the bodies left by Durendard. And do not again suggest so great a dishonour as that."
"I will not suggest it", said Oliver, "but whatever happens, either to us or to our companions, Oliver can never be reproached."
They then approached their enemies. And their impending martyrdom moved them to tears, not because they were afraid of their death, and not because they were weak, but because of the kindly feeling and the attachment which either of them had for the other.
And Oliver addressed them, exhorting and rousing them to fight. "O ye flower of the barons", said he, "had I not in days gone by known by experience your faithfulness and your valour in many a battle, I would have reproached you for your tears, and would have said that they were caused by cowardice. And cease ye now from it. And let either of you forgive the other, if you have done any wrong, and have common friends and common foes. And let not any one of you be afraid to meet his death while fighting for the heavenly country. For you will be leaving a brief life to enter into everlasting life."
And they all gave heed to what Oliver told them, and did fully as they were bidden. They were so elated with the glory and honour of fighting that there was not a single person there who wished not to meet death, provided that before death he might meet one of Christ's enemies.
And then Roland said to Oliver, "Now I know, beloved comrade, that thou art Roland's comrade, and art glorious with the pomp and circumstance of France."
And on a high mountain, facing the Franks, was Marsli, with four hundred thousand equipped knights. And he bade one hundred thousand of them advance against Roland's army. And they, encouraged by Marsli, attacked them valiantly. And those nobles descended the slope of the mountain and came towards the Christians, with the twelve compeers in front in fine array.
And the foremost of them was Marsli's nephew, with his uncle Falsaron by his side. And they divided their army into twelve battalions, and so in proper form they came against Roland.
On the other side, Roland and Oliver put their battalions in battle array. For they were well versed in the severe battles and engagements of the Christian life. And when the paynims saw them so well arranged and so ready, great fear came upon them, thinking that they were more in number than they really were, as the timid are wont to do. And then those who were in the front rank wished through fear that they were in the body of the host. But Roland and his host were unconcerned whether they were in the front rank or in the body of the army. His bravery, his hope, and his assurance only increased, he being no more afraid of the battle than a noble and fierce lion is afraid when he sets his gaze on gentle maidens. And he rushed among his enemies. And he said to Oliver, "Seeing that these nobles stayed behind with the intention of fighting, it is most right for them to fight. And whatsoever they will do, we shall fight and show them how to fight bravely in that we shall not betake ourselves to flight, in spite of any danger which may meet us. Let us show them our arms and fight them, that fear may come upon them and upon all who witness it."
The archbishop Turpin went to the top of a hill close by him, and addressed the army in this wise, "O valiant barons", said he, "remember that you are called Christians from Christ, and that it was for you that He suffered death. And so you ought to suffer death for Him, and thus have fellowship with Christ through your death. And as He prepared a fellowship for you through death, prepare yourselves to receive His fellowship for ever by fighting with His enemies. As many of you as will be killed shall be martyrs and possessors of crowns in heaven. And, behold, we His vicars do absolve you from all your sins. And the only penance imposed on you is that you do not flee, and that you deal many mighty blows." And then the men mounted their horses. And through the boldness of the Archbishop's speech they were inspired with assurance and courage, that they wished for nought but battle.
And Oliver exhorted them in this wise, "Why do we", said he, "wait for them? Let us rather forthwith attack them, and let us deal them the first blow. For he who shows a brave face at the outset of the fray is usually acclaimed victor at the close. Behold, here is the Mount of Joy. Let us ascend to the summit of this hill and call for the ensigns of Charles." And forthwith they did so, and they shouted loudly at the accursed people, and approached them till their lances point was among them. But the paynims retreated not, but waited for them.
The foremost of them was Falsaron, Marsli's nephew, and he addressed the Franks in this wise, "O faithless Franks", said he, "to-day you will joust with us. Ill has he kept you who ought to protect you, and Charles was a fool when he left you here to guard Roland to your own loss."
When Roland heard these words he could not endure it, but turned the point of his lance towards him and went for him as fast as his horse could go. And in his wrath he dealt him a blow with his spear with his full strength, until it pierced through all his armour and through his backbone. And he lifted him off the saddle and held him on his lance as an ensign suspended on high. And he threw him down dead and addressed him thus, "Perish, miscreant, and thine arrogance with thee. And Charles was not a fool, nor I undeserving of the charge of his army. For he shall not to-day lose either his men or his glory. And, ye mighty barons, fall upon the miscreants here. For God has given us the first victory over them. Break their ranks, pierce them, cut them in pieces, stone them."
And then was Marsli grieved when he saw his nephew's death. And he summoned his army and advanced in front of his men with the standard of the paynims. And he said that France would lose its glory that day at the hands of the paynims. When Oliver heard that, he turned his lance towards him and furiously attacked him. And while he was uttering his boastful words, he pierced him right through with his lance, and through all his armour, that he fell down dead. And he addressed him thus, "Take thou this reward of thy vain boasting. And by such blows as these do we sustain the honour of the Franks. Trusty barons", said he, "fear not these miscreants. For they cannot deal death, but only receive it."
And then Corsabrin, a cruel paynim, exhorted the other paynims in this wise, "O barons", said he, "fight bravely with the Franks. For there is not such a host of them but that we can utterly destroy them. Their Charles avails them little to-day."
And when Turpin heard that, he spurred his horse in rage and attacked Corsabrin and pierced him through with his lance, and through all his armour, that he fell down dead. And he addressed him thus, "Thy words are false", said Turpin. "Our Charles is equal to-day to what he ever was at his best. And fall ye upon them, our barons, and smite them down dead. For they are powerless. For the first blows promise you the victory. And in yonder army there is nor might, nor strength, nor heart."
And thereupon Turpin shouted "Monjoie!" as loudly as he could. And the whole array gloried in Turpin's words.
And thereupon Gereint and Gerard attacked Malcabrin and the Caliph, two valiant men of the paynims, as furiously as the feet of their horses could go, and neither armour nor anything availed them the least. They fell under the feet of their horses, and were trodden to death under the feet of the Christians. And in a short time armour was of no more use to the paynims to protect them from the blows of the Christians than linen single fold. And when Oliver saw that, he spake approvingly to his barons in this wise, "Our men are mighty. I know that those who cannot come to blows are eager to do so." And he attacked one of the paynims and snatched him off the saddle and cast him to the ground dead as an accursed thing. And he addressed him thus, "Be thy trust in Mahomet. And thus does Mahomet protect him who trusts in him. He will recompense thee in hell for thy service to him here."
And immediately afterwards he killed Estalmark, and cast him among the dead to render his soul to Pluto, whom he served.
And of the twelve paynim compeers there were only two not slain, namely, Margarit and Cerub, and those were exhorting and encouraging their men. And each of them was a valiant knight.
And one of them attacked Oliver and dealt him a blow on his neck with a lance. But it availed him nought. Despite the blow Oliver was not shaken off his saddle.
Nor did Roland rest from killing his enemies. And he whom he wounded, or whose blood he drew, had no need of a second blow. And as long as his lance lasted, he made use of no other weapon. Fifteen blows he dealt with his lance, and at each blow he smote one dead. And when he snapped his lance, he drew his sword Durendard. And he attacked Cerub and dealt him a blow on his head that he clave asunder both man and horse in full armour down to the ground. And he addressed him thus, "Take that as the recompense of thine iniquity. It is thus that Mahomet is wont to give to him who serves him."
And then Roland, with evil intent, pursued them, and with such dash galloped among them that they were seen falling by his sword as harvest corn falls at the hand of a skilful reaper. And none of the Franks ceased from killing the paynims, following, as best they could, the example of Roland. And the archbishop Turpin was glad at that. And he addressed the men and expressed his approval of them thus, "Worthy are these men of their French origin, men who regard not their life here for the sake of the life everlasting."
And thereupon Oliver pursued his enemies, having in his hand a piece of his lance, and with that he dealt Maustaron a blow on the edge of his helmet that it bent into his head, so that his brains and eyes were out of his head, and he himself fell down dead.
And next he dealt the paynim Torren a blow so that his lance-shaft was all in pieces. And Roland upbraided him for that, and said, " Not by the might of sticks are we to maintain the fight. And where is thy sword, Hauteclere?"
And thereupon Oliver drew his sword, and said to him, "I needed only a stick to pursue the dogs."
And thereupon Oliver attacked them and dealt one of them a blow on the top of his head that the sword cut through him and all his armour and through his horse down to the ground in two parts, one on each side of the sword. And Roland said, "By such a blow as that know I that thou hast become my fellow. And for such a blow art thou beloved of Charles."
And with one accord they cried "Monjoie!" and all their men joined in the cry.
Then Gereint and Engelier attacked Tunot, a paynim. And the one of them pierced his shield and the other his coat of mail, through his heart, that he fell down dead.
And next to that, the archbishop killed Fidorel, their wizard, who by his incantations betrayed them to death. And then they fought on both sides gallantly and fiercely. But the two armies were unlike in this respect, that the one army killed all they met, and the other army allowed themselves to be killed like sheep among wolves.
And then Roland and the twelve compeers of France surrounded the paynims, killing them and smiting them, and compelling them to flight as best they could.
And when the paynims saw that they were vanquished by the Franks, they shewed the Franks their backs and left the field. And the Franks pursued them until they had killed a countless number of them. And the Franks rejoiced in that they had the first victory. But their evil fate disturbed their joy, mingling adverse things with their success. For the press of enemies came suddenly upon them anew, and they were attacked while they were wounded, weary, and dispirited, and their weapons broken. Oh, God! great and irreparable was the loss that came to the Franks in that place, the loss of so many of Charles' nobles who perished there. It was here afterwards that the losses that came through the unfaithfulness of Gwenwlyd were made manifest. Well was he paid for his treachery.
Of the hundred thousand paynims who came out to fight the Franks, not one escaped except Margarit himself, who announced to Marsli the slaughter of his men. He, with his sword unsheathed in his hand, with a mortal wound in his head, and with four cuts in his body, had left the field in a miserable plight, after all the army there had been killed. And he said, "And if thou hast a knightly host ready, sire, now is the time for thee to send them, while the Franks are weary, bruised, and hungry. And if ever they can be conquered, now is the time to do it. And many of their knights have been killed, and their weapons are damaged. And while they are in that condition it is most just to avenge on them the blood of our men."
And thereupon the paynims quickly donned their armour and put themselves in battle array. And Marsli pursued them through a woody valley. And marching in silence they came upon them unawares. "And in this manner shall we attack them", said Marsli. "Let Grandon go with ten battalions on one side of them, and I", said Marsli, "will go on the other side with the ten other battalions. For Roland and his men are valiant, and it would avail us nought to fight on one side of them." And with that counsel they all agreed.
And Grandon, with his ten battalions, went in front, and, at full gallop, they came upon the Franks and sounded more than a thousand horns. And that sound, foreboding their death, disturbed the Franks. And then they knew that Gwenwlyd was a traitor. And the archbishop emboldened them and cheered them. And he promised eternal life to all who would fight, and threatened hell to all who would flee. And all of them were encouraged by the words of the archbishop, and they preferred to suffer death than to flee. And having cried out "Monjoie!" they commingled with the paynims and dealt them blows.
And Clibor, who was the most valiant paynim there, thereupon came out from his fellows and attacked Engelier of Gascony, and his lance found no impediment either in his coat of mail or in his weapons, until it was right through him. And he fell down dead to receive everlasting life.
And then the paynim victor and his fellows cried out, and reviled the Franks, and bade them break their lines of battle.
And then Roland said to Oliver, "Great is our loss in losing the young knight."
"The vengeance possible to me", said Oliver, "I will exact." And he turned his horse's head towards Cliborin. And he lifted up Hauteclere, red with blood, above his head, and dealt him a blow with all his might, on the top of his helmet. And the sword found no impediment, till man and horse were in two parts on either side of it, on the ground. And he ceased not till he had killed seven to avenge one.
And then Maldebrum, the most wicked paynim, who was reported to have betrayed Jerusalem in time past, and who committed murder in the temple — he, riding a fleet horse, attacked Samson and pierced both him and his armour through, so that he fell down dead, and his soul entered the everlasting life.
And the death of Samson gave great grief to Roland. And he attacked his enemy, and, as they reap with a scythe, he dealt him a blow, cutting him, in his saddle, through his waist, following the girdle.
And thereupon Malquidon, a paynim, killed one of the most valiant of the Franks, and his soul went to everlasting life.
And then Turpin made an attack to avenge his man. And he struck off the paynim's head and left him in the saddle.
And thereupon Grandon, the commander of the paynim forces, riding a fleet horse, attacked Gereint, and, with his sword, thrust through both himself and his armour, that lie fell down dead, and his soul went to rest in heaven.
And then he killed Engelier, his companion, that they might be companions in heaven, as they were in this world.
And then the paynims killed on the same side Brengar, and Gwimunt of Saxonia, and with them Astorius. And then the paynims gave a shout triumphing over the Christians. And as with one mind they knew that the paynims were overcoming them.
And thereupon Roland was moved to wrath.
And when Grandon saw him galloping his horse towards him, he took to flight. And Roland lay in ambush for him and dealt him a blow with Durendard, so that man and horse were cut in two parts, one on either side of Durendard. And that blow gave joy to the Christians and grief to the paynims. And when their commander-in-chief was killed, they fled. And Roland and his men pursued them and left them in heaps. For those who were killed there were much greater in number than those who killed them. And thereupon the paynims became so discouraged that they could not hold their weapons in their hands. And then they sounded their horns, and with their horns they fought. And thus the battle was brought to a close. It was by the horns that they were wont to urge their men in battle.
And in this manner were the paynims killed. And the few of them that escaped fled to Marsli. Nor was there less fear of Roland and his host there than in their presence. And as long as Roland could see them he pursued them.
[Chronicle of Turpin Continues]
And when he saw no one near him, he found a black and weary Saracen hiding in a grove, and he caught him. And he twisted four rods and made four withes. And he bound him securely to a tree. And having bound him, he went to the top of a hill near him, and from there he saw many of the Saracens together. And he returned to the Vale of Briars, where all went who wished to pass by the gates of Spain. And he then sounded his horn, and gathered to him there about a hundred Christians. And with these he went back to where the Saracen was bound. And then Roland swore his great oath, that he would cut off the Saracen's head unless he came and shewed him where Marsli was and pointed Marsli out to him. For Roland did not yet know Marsli. And immediately, lest he be killed, the Saracen came and pointed Marsli out to him. And, from afar, he pointed out his ensign, together with a great red horse on which he rode, and the round shield he had. And Roland set his mind on him and attacked his army boldly with what men he had with him undismayed. And Roland perceived among them a man taller than the rest. And Roland attacked him and killed him with one blow. And they betook themselves to flight, here and there, up and down. Roland followed after them, killed them, cast them down, and crushed them. And he perceived Marsli fleeing. And Roland pursued him and killed him.
And not a single man of Roland's men escaped from that engagement. Roland alone escaped, and he, wounded by four lances, bruised with stones, and crushed. And when Beligant, the second king of the paynims, heard Marsli's shout when falling, he betook himself to flight and left the country.
Theoderic and Baldwin and some others of the Christians being terrified, were hiding in groves. And others had followed after Charles to the gates of Spain. And Charles had left the intricate and dangerous parts of the roads and had come to a safe place, without knowing anything of what was happening behind.
And Roland was exhausted by the press of the fight, in dealing heavy blows, and in receiving mortal wounds. And in that state Roland came through brambles and bushes to the lower end of the gates of Spain. And there he dismounted off his horse, under a shady tree in a fair meadow. And near the tree stood erect a huge marble stone. And he drew his sword from its sheath. Its name was Durendard, which is, by interpretation, "give a hard blow". And with words full of tears, he addressed his sword in this wise: —
"O, sword! the fairest and brightest, and the most comely in proportions, both in length and in breadth. Its hilt the whitest and fairest, made of whalebone, and beautified with a cross of gold. And on its hilt is an apple of the fairest beryl, and its centre is of gold most precious. And written on it is the secret name of God, "Alpha et Omega", the most victorious and most renowned point, endued with divine virtue. Who henceforth will handle thee? Who henceforth will be thy possessor? Who possesses thee shall never be vanquished, shall not be dismayed, shall not tremble for fear of anyone. He shall not be terrified by goblins' song or diabolic incantation, but will always, without anxious care, make use of divine power, being environed by power and spiritual aid. With thee shall be killed the Saracens who are not already killed. By thee the glory of God is exalted. O, how oft didst thou avenge the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ by killing paynims and Jews! By thee are truth and justice decided. By thee are cut off the members of those who steal. O, sword, the easiest to trust in! O, the best and the keenest of swords! O, sword, whose equal was never found nor ever shall be! He who made thee made not thine equal, either before or after. No one whose blood was drawn by thee, however slight the blow, escaped alive. If a knight, desperately weak through fear, or a Saracen, or a miscreant should possess thee, great indeed would be my grief."
And having spoken thus, lest the sword should fall into Saracen hands, he struck it thrice on the marble stone, so that the stone was in pieces all over the ground, the sword itself being unharmed.
And then he blew a blast on his horn to see if any of the Christians who were hiding in the groves would come to him, or if any of those who had gone to the gate of Spain would hear, that they might come before his death to receive his horse and sword, and pursue the Saracens. And thereupon he blew Olifant, his horn, so powerfully that he rent his horn in twain and burst two of his own blood vessels. And it is reported that he then broke the muscle of his neck. And an angel carried the sound of the horn to where Charles was, eight miles, according to the measure of that country, from the Vale of Briars, towards Gascony, where Charles was encamped. And Charles wished to return at once to help him. "Not so, sire", said Gwenwlyd. For he was privy to the death of Roland. "For know thou that the horn is sounded for a very little cause, and that he has no need of thy help. He is only chasing wild animals. And that is the reason why he blows the horn."
And at the advice of the traitor, nothing more was then said about Roland. And thereupon Baldwin, his brother, came to the place where Roland was crawling about and craving for water. And his brother could not find any anywhere. And then Roland besought his brother's blessing. And the brother then mounted Roland's horse lest it should fall into the hands of the Saracens. And he went where Charles was. And after Baldwin had gone, Theoderic came to him and heard his confession and instructed him to intercede with God. And Roland had received that day the Body of the Lord and had made full confession to the priests. For that was their custom the day they went to battle — to go to confession and to receive the Communion. And Roland turned his face heavenward and spake thus: "Lord Christ, to maintain Thy law and Thy Christianity left I my country to come to a strange and alien land. And by Thy power and Thy aid, Lord, I have conquered many of the Saracens, and have suffered innumerable blows, buffetings, falls, wounds, jests, mockery, weariness, cold, heat, hunger, thirst, grief, and pain. To Thee, Lord, commend I my soul. And as it was for me and all the Christians of the world that Thou didst deign to be born of the Virgin Mary, to suffer on the cross, to be buried, to die, to rise the third day, and to ascend into heaven, which place Thou never didst leave without the presence of Thy power, so, Lord, vouchsafe to deliver my soul from everlasting death. I confess that I am a sinner, immeasurably more guilty than I can express. And seeing, Lord, that Thou art the most merciful Forgiver of all sins, and that Thou dost shew mercy to all, and that Thou seekest not, Lord, from the penitent, save only to absolve him of all the demerit of his sins in the hour he expresses contrition and returns to Thee, and that Thou didst pardon Thine enemies, and that Thou didst pardon the woman who was unfaithful to her marriage vows, and didst open the gates of Paradise to the thief confessing on the cross, refuse Thou not, Lord, to forgive me my sins. And whatsoever sin I have committed against Thee, forgive it to me, and place me in everlasting rest. For Thou, O Lord, art the Creator of all things, and Thou hast said that the life of a sinner is preferable to his death. I believe in my heart and will confess with my tongue, seeing that it is Thy will to take my soul from this life to the life everlasting. And the sense I now possess is so much better, as the substance is better than the shadow." And taking hold of the skin and flesh about his breast, as Theoderic afterwards narrated, with wailing tears he spake in this wise: " Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Son of the Blessed Virgin Mary, I confess with my whole heart, and I do believe that Thou art my living Redeemer, and that at the last day I shall rise from the earth, and that in this flesh I shall see God, the Saviour of every soul."
And thrice he repeated those words while taking hold of his flesh about his breast. And then he placed his hands on his eyes, and spake in this wise: "With these eyes shall I behold Him." And he opened his eyes and looked up to heaven. And he signed his breast and all his members with the sign of the cross, and said thus: "Henceforth of little worth regard I all things human. For now I behold what eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor hath entered the heart of man, namely, what God hath prepared for him that loves Him."
Then he lifted up his hands in prayer for those of his companions who had fallen in that battle. And he prayed for them as for himself, "For they came into a strange land to fight the Saracens, to maintain Thy name and the Christian law, and to avenge Thy blood. And they are here lying, having been killed by the Saracens, while fighting for Thee. And do Thou, O Lord, blot out the spots of their sins and deliver their souls from the pains of hell. And send Thy holy archangels around them, to defend them from darkness, and to bring them into the kingdom of heaven, there to reign with thy martyrs, as Thou reignest together with the Father and the Holy Ghost, without death, without end. Amen."
And then, as Theoderic was leaving him, in that confession and prayer, Roland's soul departed from his body, and angels carried it to everlasting rest, where for ever and ever he reigns with the martyrs as he deserved. And he was in this wise lamented: "Worshipper of temples. Augmenter of nations. Sure remedy for a country's woes. Hope of scholars. Defence of maidens. Food of the needy. Discreet in mind and disposition. Fountain of judgment. Prudent in counsel. Gentle in mind. Bold in action. Lucid in speech. By him was every man beloved. As a brother to him was every Christian. And to his fame let all that is fair in our knighthood minister."
And when the soul of Roland was departing from his body in the middle of June, a godly archbishop was singing mass for the dead, before Charles, and he fell into a trance. And he heard a choir of angels singing, and he knew not what it might be. And when they had traversed the heights of heaven, lo, there passed behind him an array as of men returning from an invasion, bearing their spoils with them. And the archbishop addressed them and asked them what they were carrying. "We are taking Marsli to hell", said they, "Michael is taking your trumpeter to Paradise,' and a great multitude with him."
And when mass was ended, the archbishop in haste told Charles what had happened. "Be assured", said Charles, "that it is Roland's soul that Michael is taking to heaven, and many other Christians with him. And the devils", said he, "are taking Marsli's soul to hell."
And thereupon, lo, Baldwin, Roland's brother, came to Charles and told him all that had happened to Roland. And he had Roland's horse with him.
And forthwith Charles and all his host returned. And Charles was the first man of the army to find Roland where he was, with face upwards and with his arms in the form of a cross, on his breast. And he made his lamentation for him with sighs and groans. And he wept and pulled his beard and hair by the roots, and with a loud voice he spake thus: "O, the right hand of my body! The finest beard that ever was! The might of all the Franks, their boldness and their defence! The sword of justice! The lance that was never blunted! The unruffled coat of mail! The head-piece of joy! The helmet of warfare! Similar in glory to Judas Maccabeus, in prowess to Samson. Like in death to King Saul and Jonathan! The noblest knight and the mightiest in battle! The wisest among the hosts! The destroyer of the Saracens! The patron of scholars! The defender of Christians! The support of orphans and widows! The food of the needy! The augmenter of churches! Impartial in judgment! The companion of all! The commander of the hosts of the faithful! And in one word, the flower, the confidence, and the valour of all Christendom against its enemies."
"And why did we bring thee to these lands? How can I look at thee dead? Why am not I dead with thee? Ah me, miserable! What shall I do henceforth? Live thou henceforth with the angels and with the martyrs. And mine is the mourning, the longing, the weeping, and the sorrow for thee as David mourned for Saul, Jonathan, and Absalom. Thou hast gone, and I abide here in restless grief."
And with such lamentation did Charles mourn for Roland as long as he lived. And he was thirty-eight years old the day he was killed. And they pitched their tents that night where Roland lay dead. And Roland's body was embalmed with precious ointments, namely, myrrh, aloes, and balsam. And great obsequies were made for him, with songs, lamentations, and prayers, with wax tapers and with fires and lights through woods and groves, through all that night, in honour of Roland.
And on the morrow, when they had put on their arms, they went to the Vale of Briars where the battle was fought. And there they found some of their men lying dead, and others in a hopeless state, wounded unto death. And there lay Oliver, dead, with his face upwards, stretched out at full length bound with four withes fastened to the ground by four stakes. And he had been flayed from his neck to his nails both of his feet and of his hands, and pierced through with all kinds of weapons.
To relate the lamentation and the mourning there is impossible. For they filled the valley with the voice of their weeping and wailing. And then the king swore to the Almighty King that he would not cease from pursuing the paynims until he overtook them. And forthwith they left that place in pursuit of them. And then it was that the sun stood still for the space of three days. And he overtook them on the banks of the Abra, near Saragossa. And he went in among them like a fierce lion that had been long fasting. And after he had killed four thousand of them, he returned to the Vale of Briars, and he had all the bodies he had embalmed brought together and carried to where Roland's body lay. And then Charles enquired if it were true that Gwenwlyd had caused the betrayal of Roland and others of his men. And forthwith two men were put to fight a duel to reveal the truth concerning the matter, namely, Theoderic for Charles, and Pinabel for Gwenwlyd. And forthwith Pinabel was killed.
And then Charles had Gwenwlyd bound to four horses, the strongest in the army, with a horseman on each, to drive them to the four quarters of the world, each of them one against the other, and so Gwenwlyd met his death.
And they then anointed the dead bodies of their famous men all with myrrh and balsam. Others were salted with salt. And they were conveyed from thence. Some were buried there and some were brought to France.
And there were two consecrated churchyards of great dignity, one in Arles and the other in Bordeaux which had been consecrated by seven bishops. And in those were buried most of the dead bodies.
And Roland's body was carried in state to Blaye, and was buried in the church of St. Romain, which he himself had built and to which he had appointed canons. And at his head was placed his sword, and at his feet his horn Olifant, in a high place, to his honour, glory, and fame.
And this having been done, Charles gave twelve thousand ounces of silver and the same quantity of gold byzants; fine vestments; meat and drink without stint to the poor; the land and the territory for seven miles around the Church of St. Romain; the castle and the court and all that appertained to them; and the sea also. All these gave he for love of Roland. And he enacted that the canons of that place should not be subject to any secular service, save only that they should once every year, on the anniversary of his death, clothe and feed thirty poor people, on that night, for the repose of the soul of Roland; and that they should sing thirty psalms and thirty masses in honour of Roland and those who suffered martyrdom with him in Spain, so that they might be partakers of their crowns. And they promised on oath to do so.
And after that Charles came from Blaye to Vienna, and there he rested awhile, applying remedies to his wounds and sores. And thence he came to Paris. And then he held a council at St. Denis of his princes and his bishops, in the Church of St. Denis, to render thanks to God and the saint for the power and might He had given him to subdue the paynims. And he then gave the whole of France in subjection to St. Denis, as the apostle Paul and the pope Clements had given, who in times past commanded the kings and the bishops to obey that Church and to give four pence every year from every house to build the church. And he set at liberty every slave who paid that tax. And he who paid it quite willingly was called the Frank of St. Denis. And it was from this that country was called Frankland, which previously was called Gaul. The meaning of the name Frank is to be free from servitude to any nation. For they ought to be above all.
And thence Charles came to the place called Aix-la-chapelle, towards Liege, And there he had baths made, which were always sufficiently warm, the heat never ceasing and the temperature duly and skilfully apportioned.
And the church, which he had built to the Blessed Virgin Mary, he embellished with gold and silver and all church furniture. And he had all the stories of the Old Law written in it on its walls, in letters and characters of old. And he had all that painted in his own palace, and all of his battles in Spain, and, in addition to that, the seven arts.
The Seven Liberal Arts.
Firstly, grammar was written there. For it is the mother of the arts, and it teaches how many letters there are, and how every word should be written and how many syllables there are in it. And by that art readers in church understand the meaning of the words they read. And he who knows not that art, reads the words and understands them not; like a man who has not the key, knows not what is contained in the vessel while the lock on it conceals it.
Music was painted there which teaches the art of singing. By it the service of the Church is embellished and the singers learn to play the organ. And he who is not versed in that art, bellows like a bull. The tunes and notes he knows not. But like a man drawing lines on parchment with a crooked ruler, so unskilful as that does he utter his voice. By means of that art was conceived all that ever was of songs for harp, violin, guitar and pipes. And yet it has but four lines and eight notes. And by these are signified the four virtues which appertain to the body, and the eight blessings of the soul, and it had its origin in the songs of angels at the beginning.
Dialectics was depicted in the king's palace, which teaches a man to distinguish, and to express, the difference between the true and the false, and to argue about words and to understand them, if there be any ambiguity in them.
Rhetoric was there, and that art teaches a man to express himself fully, readily, and rightly. He who is skilled in that art will speak with eloquence and judgment. Geometry was painted there, the art which teaches the measurement of the earth, the valleys, the mountains, the glens, the seas,—their dimensions and their miles. And he who understands that art fully, when he regards the extent of a region, will know how many miles, or how many furlongs, or how many feet it is in length and breadth. And so of any field, or place, or city, he will know how many feet it contains. And by that art the Senators arranged the miles and the roads from city to city. And by that art the ignorant husbandmen cultivate and measure their lands, vineyards, meadows, fields and groves.
Arithmetic was painted there, which treats of the numbers of all things. And he who knows that art, when he sees a tower, however high it may be, knows how many stones there are in it, or how many drops of water there are in the cup, or how many pence there are in a heap of money, or how many men there are in the army. And it is by that art, however ignorant they be of it, that stone-masons build to completion the highest towers.
Astrology was painted there. that is the science of the stars. By that art are ascertained fortunes and fates, future and present, good and evil, everywhere. He who is versed in that art, when going on a journey or desiring to do something else, will know how it will fare with him. If he sees two men or two armies fighting, he will know which of them will prevail. By that science the Senators of Rome ascertained the condition of their men, in the ends of the world and the furthest regions.
And shortly after that, the death of Charles was made known to Archbishop Turpin. When he was one day before the altar in Vienna, praying and intoning prime, lo, he fell as it were into a trance. And behold, behind his back, an army of knights, countless in number, passed by him. And he perceived that they were going towards Lorraine. And when they had passed by, he saw one like a Moor following the others with slow steps. And Turpin asked him where they were going. "We are going", said he, "to Aix-la-chapelle, to be at the death of Charles to take his soul to hell". "And I command thee", said Turpin, "in the name of the Lord Christ, to return to me, when your journey is ended, and tell me what was the outcome of your journey."
And they made no longer tarrying than would just enable him to finish the psalm, lo, they returned in the same order as they went there. And Turpin then said to him to whom he had previously spoken concerning their commission, "What have you done?" "The headless man of Galice", said he, "brought so much stone and timber that were in his churches and placed them in his balance. And the good weighed more than his sins. And therefore he took his soul from us to heaven."
And thereupon the devil vanished away. And so Turpin understood that Charles had entered his rest by the aid of the apostle James, to whom Charles had erected churches.
For they had promised, the day they separated from Vienna, to send either to other, whatever happened to them. And when Charles was ill, he remembered the promise he had made to Turpin. And when he perceived that he was dying, he asked his own foster-son, a young knight, to send the news to Turpin. And it was not sent for a fortnight after his death. And he was to tell him, also, that he had not been well either day or night since he came from Spain, and that they had hononrably celebrated the obsequies of the martyrs who had suffered martyrdom there every year, while he lived, with gold, and silver, meat, and drink, and clothes, as was previously mentioned above, and also with masses, psalms, and requiem mass.
And on the same day and hour that Turpin saw the vision, Charles died, namely four days before the Kalends of February, the eight hundred and fourteenth year of the birth of Jesus Christ. And he was honourably buried in the round Church of Lady Mary, which he himself built at Aix-la-chapelle, near Liège.
And it is reported that there were signs of his death for three years before he died—that the sun and moon were darkened for the space of seven days; that his name, namely "Charlemagne, the king of the Franks", which was written on the walls of the above-named church, was effaced of itself; that the great porch which was between the church and the palace above mentioned, on Ascension Day, fell down of itself from its foundation; that a wooden bridge which had been then for seven years over the river Rhine, and which had entailed much cost and labour in its building, was burnt to the ground of itself; that one day Charles was going from one place to another, on a dismal and foggy day, lo, he saw a blue flame as of a destroying fire passing quickly before his face from his right to the left, and he was frightened by the fire, and he fell off his horse on the left, and the hawk which was in his hand fell on the other side, and forthwith his men took hold of him and raised him up.
And therefore we are fully persuaded that he is a partaker of the crowns of the martyrs aforementioned who suffered martyrdom, in that he suffered with them.
And therefore he is given as an example, by which we are to understand that he who builds churches prepares for himself the everlasting life. For thus was Charles liberated from the bondage of the devils, and was placed in the kingdom of heaven by the help of the saints to whom he had built churches.
The Death of Turpin.
And after the death of Charles, Turpin did not live but for a short time, languishing, in Vienna, from his wounds, and pains, and bruises. And when he died he was buried there in a church near the city, on the further side of the Rhone. And there ho was for a time. And in those days, bishops, clerks, and priests took the body of Turpin, in a coffin honourably, vested in his episcopal robes, and brought him to a city the other side of the Rhone, and buried him in the church where he is still held in honour. And he is receiving the crown of his kingdom in heaven as he deserved for his very many labours while he was on earth in avenging the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. And his elegy is above his head in fair and becoming glass.
And so ends the history of Charlemagne, and his exploits in Spain and in many other kingdoms where he spent his temporal life for everlasting life, fighting against the paynims and the enemies of our true Lord Jesus Christ, Who prepared a place for him in heaven for his labour in the world. Amen.
"Explicit istoria dñi Sarlim regis francie de actibus in yspania contra paganos et inimicos IHU. Xpi."
THE MIRACLE WHICH GOD WROUGHT FOR ROLAND.
And among other things, it is worthy to recall to memory and to the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ, the miracle which God wrought for Roland, while he was still alive, before he went to Spain. When Count Roland had come to the city of Granopolis, with an innumerable host of Christians, and had been before it for seven years, a swift messenger came to tell him that his uncle Charles was besieged in a castle in the uttermost parts of Germania, and that three kings and their hosts were surrounding him and his host. And he asked Roland to come to his aid and release him from the paynims. And then Roland was perplexed about the situation, and was at a loss what would be the best course to pursue, whether he should leave the city for which he had suffered so much sorrow and travail, and go to deliver his uncle, or abandon his uncle and lay siege to the city. Alas, that a man so praiseworthy in all things, so full of gentleness, should be thus perplexed between two fates. Then Roland and his host devoted themselves, for three days and three nights, to prayer and fasting, neither eating nor drinking, to ask for the help of God, in this wise: "O Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father Most High, Thou who dividedst the Red Sea in two parts and leddest Thy people through the midst of it, and heldest Pharaoh and his host in it, who leddest Thy people through the wilderness, who destroyedst many of their adversaries, who slewest mighty kings, Sehon king of the Amorites, Og the king of Basan, and all the kingdoms of Canaan, and gavest the land of their inheritance to the people of Israel. Thou destroyedst the walls of Jericho, without any human aid or skill, though it had been besieged by armies for seven years without receiving any harm, destroy Thou also, O Lord, the might of this city, and smite its power with Thine own mighty hand and Thine own invincible arm, that the paynim people who trust in their own native ferocity and treat Thee with despite, may acknowledge Thee to be the Living God, the King of all Kings, the Almighty, the Helper and Protector of all Christians, who with the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, livest and reignest, one God, world without end, for ever and ever. Amen."
And three days after they had made their prayer, the walls of the city fell without human aid. And when the paynims had been vanquished and had fled, Count Roland and his host set out with joy to go to Tiester to Charles, and there, by the power of God, he was delivered from the investment of his enemies.
Altumor of Cordova.
Here, also, we will relate what fortune befell Galice, after the death of Charles. when Galice had been for a long time in peace, being prompted, a devil arose, Altumor of Cordova, who said that he would bring into subjection to himself, under the laws of the Saracens, Spain and Galice, which Charles formerly took from his ancestors. And when he had assembled his army together, he devastated the country, here and there, as far as Santiago. And all that he found within it he destroyed. And further, he destroyed the church, and the books, the (silver) tables, the almonries, and the vestments thereof, and took away from it its ornaments. And when the Saracens had come unto the church with their horses, they dared to relieve themselves on the altar. And wherefore some of them by divine vengeance died of diarrhoea, and others lost their eyes. And thus was their commander completely blinded. And, at the advice of one of the priests of the church, he began to call upon the God of the Christians to help him, in these words: "O God of the Christians, the God of James, the God of Mary, the God of Peter, the God of Martin, the Almighty God, I will renounce Mahomet, if I may receive from Thee my former health. And never more will I come to the church of Santiago to its dishonour. O James, thou great man, if thou wilt grant health to my eyes and to my belly, I will restore whatsoever I have taken from thy house."
And then, after a fortnight, when all things had been restored two-fold to the church, Altumor recovered his former health. And he left the coasts of Galice, promising that he would never come to the country to do wrong, and proclaiming that the God of the Christians was a great God, and acknowledging that James was a great man.
And then he went through Spain, devastating all the land, till he came to the town called Ornit, in which was the fine church of Saint Romains embellished with the finest silks and books, with crosses and with other relics of gold and silver. And Altumor went and despoiled that church also and destroyed the town. And when they had encamped in the town, his commander-in-chief went into the church, and he saw the stone column, the finest in the world, supporting the roof of the church, and the capital of which was all of gold and silver. He, being goaded by the prick of covetousness, took an iron hammer and fixed an iron wedge between the base and the column, wishing to demolish it. And when he was thus striking the column, with the intention of demolishing the whole church, he, by the operation of divine judgment, was turned into a stone. And that stone is, to this day, in that church in the form of a man, being of the same colour as the tunic which the Saracen then wore. The pilgrims who go there are also wont to narrate that that stone has a very offensive odour.
And when Altumor saw that, he said to his retinue, "Of a surety" now", said he, "great and glorious is the God of the Christians who has such beloved ones, that, having departed this life, they nevertheless avenge malignity of this kind on the living. James deprived me of my eyes and Romains has made my man a stone. James, however, is more merciful than Romains. For James had pity on me and has restored me my eyes. But Romains will not restore to me my man. And wherefore let us flee from these lands." And thence, in fear and confusion, that paynim and his host took to flight. And none afterwards, for a long time, dared to disturb Santiago or its coasts. Amen.
Here we wish to recount that when the presents and hostages were sent to Charles through Gwenwlyd, that forty horses laden with wine, the clearest and best to drink, were sent to the warriors, and a thousand fair Saracenes for their use. And that was in return for his treacherous promise as you have heard above. The chief men of the Christian warriors, though they made use of the wine, made no use of the women. It was the other warriors who made use of the women.
And wherefore in this place it may be asked, Why did God allow those who had made no use of the women to die then, with those who made use of them?
It may therefore be replied, Because God did not wish those who were in good health to return home again, lest peradventure they should sin there more grievously. For He would give them for their labour the crown of the kingdom of heaven through suffering. Those also who sinned by means of the women He allowed to die. For God would take away their sins through the suffering of the sword. And it is not credible that the most merciful God would not recompense each one of them for their labours, namely, those who, at their end, confessed His name by acknowledging their sins. For though they committed their sins, nevertheless in the end they were slain for the name of Christ.
And wherefore from their engagement in battle is made manifest how wrong and dangerous is the company of women. For certain earthly princes, in times past, namely, the mighty Darius and Antonius, both fell in the company of their wives. Alexander conquered Darius and the Emperor Octavius overcame Antonius. Wherefore it is neither becoming nor expedient that women should be among the hosts in their camps, where incontinence should be eradicated, which is an impediment to soul and body.
Here lies Turpin, the Archbishop of Rheims. In heart, he was like a lion. No mean citizen of the faith was he. He was the flower, the glory, and the finest ornament of his country's affairs. In this Gallic tomb he lies, the honour of womanhood, a fit judge of the world, a very learned one. Death knew not that it took the finest among men. He was the home of counsel, and the pivot of the world. He, being faithful, entered into heaven on the Ides of April.
Madoc ap Selyf. The History of Charlemagne. A Translation of Ystorya de Carolo Magno, With a Historical and Critical Introduction. edited by Robert Williams. Y Cymmrodor vol. 20. London: The Honorable Society Of Cymmrodorion, 1907