The Journey of Charlemagne to Jerusalem,
and His Adventure with Hu Gadarn
I.—WHEN Charles was on the eve of Whitsunday at Saint Denis, wearing the crown of the realm on his head, and wearing the sword of the kingdom on his side over the costly apparel; and the royal person and regal state embellished and rendered lovely the adornment in an especial manner. And thereupon the noble king said to his wife, who, he believed, earnestly wished and desired that he should be before all in that state. My dearest, quoth he, hast thou seen, or hast thou heard of any one, raised to the government of a kingdom, whose sword on his side is so becoming as mine, whose head is so nobly surrounded with a crown as mine? And she also, looking around her, answered too soon, after the manner of women. I have not seen, Lord, quoth she. I have however heard that there is one, whom if thou sawest him in royal adornment, all thy boasting would rest, in regard to the loveliness of his person. His nobility also wonld confess that they excel thine. And that indiscreet answer stirred up the king to indignation and wrathfulness, and most chiefly, because as many good men as were about her heard the speech. It is needful for thee, quoth he, to declare to me the king, whose excellency and nobility are as great as thou hast said. And we also will go towards him, so that thou mayest judge, and my good men also, when ye see us side by side, who is the most becoming of us. And it will not be without pain to thee for saying so, but by the speediest death along with thy lie thou shalt be dispatched. The queen became afraid, when she saw the king stirred up to wrath, and she endeavoured when too late to apologize for her foolish answer. It is not becoming, quoth she, that a light heedless thing, and unworthy of annoyance, should excite a grave noble man, and most chiefly when that did not proceed from ill will, or seriousness, but from the joking of love and of play. The one also, to whom I alluded, quoth she, I did not praise him, of his being more valiant than thou, but that he was more wealthy, and his hosts also more numerous than thine, as I understood. And after those words, the queen fell down on her knees before the king to implore his mercy. And she offered her oath, according to whatever law he pleased, that it was from play and jesting that she had said so much as she had said, and not from shame and disgrace. Whoever spareth not himself, quoth the king, but through falsehood will destroy his life, that one is not worthy to obtain mercy. It is needful for thee, quoth he, to declare to me the king thou mentionedst. In what manner, quoth she, can one declare a king, whose like cannot be found? And then the king swore by the crown of the realm, being enraged in an excessive degree, that unless she named the king to whom she had alluded, her head would be immediately cut off with a sword. And when the queen heard the oath of the king, she knew that it was indispensable for her to name the king, to whom she had alluded, and she would have been better pleased if she had been silent about him. O hononrable king, quoth she, give me protection, and leave to say. Hu the Strong, who rules over the empire of Constantinople, is the one I meant, whose power and wealth I have heard are so great, that no one can ascertain or compute them, beside God himself, who knoweth the number of the stars, and the sand of the ocean. Whose good men I hear are so numerous, and so gallant, that the men of no king, save thine, can be compared to them. Whom I hear to be of such beauty, that it is a comfort and a pleasure to those that look at him, to withdraw their sight from him. If thou hast said the truth, quoth the king, thou shalt have forgiveness for thy speech. If false however, as a deceiver deserves, thou shalt be immediately stoned. And while the reward of thy shame shall not be delayed to thee, I also shall not delay to become acquainted with that Hu.
II.—After the joy of the feast, and wearing the crown of the realm at Saint Denis, and the return of the king to Paris, he sat in the royal hall, with his good men about him; the most noble nearest to him, and those whose nobility was inferior farther from him. There were present the twelve compeers, namely archbishop Turpin; Roland the king’s nephew ; Oliver his companion; Walter of Orange; Naim the strong and valiant; Oger of Denmark; Gereint; Gerard; Brengar; Bertram of the strong hand; earl Bernard; Evrard Dygirwyd, and many good men, and other knights, whose nobility and parents sprang from France, in an army of such extent and nobility as that was. The king was placed in the centre, and all ready to listen with good silence, the king said to them: O my faithful ones, whose gallantry and praise I have experienced so many times, a compact expedition is inviting you along with me at the present time, no otherwise than the pilgrimage to the land of Jerusalem, the place where we were redeemed with the blood of our Lord: and after the pilgrimage I shall be pleased to make myself acquainted with king Hu, whom the queen reminds to be superior to me. And after the royal speech, and the ending of the Council, the good men prepared themselves for their expedition along with the king, and those, whose powers were great enough of their own, royal munificence made their power greater. He gave to them breastplates, and swords, and helmets, and all such arms as were necessary for the service of horsemen. And neither delay nor labour is necessary to recommend the gifts, when the gifts can appear plainly from the munificence of the giver. Gold and silver were added to those aforesaid gifts. And whoever wishes to ascertain the greatness of those, he may himself know that they were abundant, when he only considers, and looks at the magnificence of their giver. And after taking the sign of the cross on their shoulders, the king and his good men took their journey towards the land of Jerusalem. The queen however by the common counsel of the good men was left in Paris, being pained with care and grief and sorrow.
III.—And after they had proceeded outside of the city, they came to an extensive and ample plain, and that plain arose in dust and powder from the abundance of the horses ; and in their tumult the dust arose above their heads in clouds, and in darkness, so as to hide between them and the air, and the rays of the sun, and at midday being like to the threatening of the night behind them incontinently. The abundance and number of that host we shall leave as a thing innumerable, when there wore eighty thousand leaders, who besides Almighty God could count the number, and those that followed them also? And then the king retired a little from his good men, and called to him earl Bertram, and said to him thus: It is delightful to me, quoth he, to seo the abundance of this noble host, not more for race than for deeds, and what kingdom can be compared to the kingdom of France? Or who of the kings can be judged more mighty than he, who is lord over these mighty ones? Look at the multitude, and how many thousands lead the van in the first army, and the density of the armies behind them. And after those words, the noble king returned to his troops, and exhorted them to march, that they might complete their labour; and to adjust the day's journeys and their travels, so that they might accomplish their expedition. They left France, and Burgundy, and Germany, and Greece, and Hungary. In that there were none that dared or were able to hinder them. And so that the account may not be longer, or more tedious, than the journey was to them, they came to the holy city, and after making due offoring, and the service of God first, according to the command of the Gospel, according to due service and dignity, thence they took their lodgings, and their feasts, and their courses, and their liquors, to each of thom according to their honour.
IV.—When the morrow morning was come, the king and his good men went to the Mount of Olivet, and then they came to the church, in which it is believed that the Lord and his twelve apostles first said the Lord’s prayer: and there it is said that the twelve chairs were the seats of the twelve apostles, when the Lord said the prayer, and the thirteenth seat in the centre of those is the one believed to be the seat of the Lord. To the holy chairs the noble king came near with joy, and rested a little, sitting in the most central chair, and the twelve compeers of France sat in the other chairs around their king. And thereupon, lo a Jew, who had come from afar after them, came to the church, and when he saw the king and the pnnces around him, ho was seized with excessive fear, and became rigid, and retreated from the church. And he sought the presence of the patriarch, and entreated him to baptize him immediately ; and he said that he had seen the Lord, aml his twelve apostles sitting around him in the church, which was mentioned above. And after baptizing the Jew, and calling the congregation of the city to go in procession towards the church mentioned, they proceeded in that direction, singing hymns and songs. And when Charles saw that army coming to the church, and the patriarch, according to his dignity, after the two parties, whom the patriarchal habit shewed that he was the patriarch, he and his good men arose to meet him, and bared their heads, and humbly submissive implored his blessing, and received from him the gospel of peace. And the patriarch wondered at the magnificence of the man, and asked him who he was, and whence he came, and to what part he was going with that host. I am Charles, quoth he. In France was I born I also am the ruler of that country; and after that I have visited the sepulchre of the Lord, it is my intention to go to the presence of Hu, king of Constantinople, of whose superiority and excelling renown above others I have heard, whom, if not a Christian, I will subdue to the Christian faith, as I have understood, and have subdued hitherto twelve infidel kings. And the patriarch recognised in his presence the honour of the king, with whom he was acquainted before, from hearing of his renown, and he said to him thus: A blessed king art thou, and grand thy deeds, and grand thy purpose, in that way will it be reigned, in that way wilt thou come to the kingdom that will never fail. And doubtless it is worthy of such a king as thee to sit in that lordly chair, and man has never sat in it besides thee, but worshipped it from afar. And in consequence thy name shall now be increased, for thou hast merited it by the grandeur of thy deeds ; and now thou shalt be called Charlemagne from this time forth. And he took that additional name with pleasure, and thanked the patriarch for it, and bowed his head, and entreated him for a little portion of the relics of Jerusalem. Not a little, quoth the patriarch, shalt thou have, but an ample portion, so that thou mayest honour France, the country we know to be worthy of being honoured. And then he gave him the arm of Saint Simeon, and head of Saint Lazarus, and some of the blood of the martyr Stephen, and the beard of the apostle Peter, and the shroud of Jesus Christ, and his knife, and his cup, and one of the nails that were driven into him on the cross; and the crown of thorns ; and some of the milk of the breasts of Mary, and her shift; and a shoe of her’s; and Charlemagne thanked the patriarch greatly, so that it is tedious to recount them, so magnificent was the gift. And immediately the virtue of the relics shewed itself, inasmuch as a cripple came to them, suffering from palsy, who had not walked for seven years previously, and immediately he recovered his walking. And there were brought there the most skilful craftsmen, that could be had, to make splendid and noble vessels of gold and silver, to carry those relics honourably in them. And after enclosing them securely, the king commanded the keeping of them to the archbishop Turpin. And there the king continued for four months, and began to make a church at his own cost, and left a sufficient sum to finish it. And when he set out from thence, the blessing of the patriarch and his leave he took, with the grace of God, and promised to him, if he came to his country, when he had an opportunity, that he would go to Spain to fight with the Pagans. And that vow Charlemagne fulfilled nobly, when Roland and the twelve compeers took eternal life at Roncessvalles for temporal life.
V.—And then Charlemagne made known to his army, that their expedition was towards Hu, to Constantinople. And all of them rejoiced at that expedition, and they set out. And the patriarch went with them that day, and remained with them that night; and the morrow morning the patriarch parted with him, leaving him his blessing, and the gospel of peace. The king and his army hastened their journey, and came near to Constantinople, so that they saw the fortresses, and the castles, and the walls, and the halls, and the courts, and the excellent lofty churches, and the noble dykes between them and the city. They saw, and deployed on a meadow of immense extent, and it was a delight to look at the various flowers on it, and plants and shady trees, planted in it grandly, and trees nurturing quietness, and health through perfumes, to those that smelt them; being made beautiful and fair all around; there was planted a noble luxuriance through skilful invention. There were there of noblemen among them to the number of three thousand, so handsome in magnificent apparel, as if each of them was a king, or sovereign prince. Some of them were playing chequers; others chess. Others carrying hawks and falcons on their hands. Others conversing with young noble maidens, the daughters of kings, and a very great number of them there. At the greatness of that nobility Charlemagne greatly wondered, and he called to him one of the good men, and asked him, where he could have the opportunity of conversing with the king who was lord over that noble host. Go ye on forwards, quoth he, until ye see a veil of silk, drawn on four pillars of gold, and under that veil the king, whom thou askest for, is ploughing, and the veil defends him from the heat of the Sun.
VI.—And the king hastened to the place, which the knight had declared to him, and there he found king Hu labouring at ploughing nobly. Wonderful was the plough; of gold were the share and coulter; precious stones of value were the yoke; and not on his feet did the king follow the oxen, but sitting in a chair of gold, and two strong mules drawing it on each side securely without falling. And on the chair beneath was a bench of silver supporting the feet of the king; handsome gloves on his hands; and a golden frontlet on his head to defend him from the excessive heat of the sun. A veil of silk was drawn above his head on four pillars of gold, that were on the four tops of the chair. In his hand, instead of a goad, to compel the oxen to plough, was a rod of gold; so rapidly did he draw the furrows, and so fair as lines are drawn with a just ruler. And not because the king was obliged to plough, but he bore in mind his descent from the heir of the man, to whom it was said, when he was driven from Paradise : In the sweat and labour of thy body, and pain of heart be thy sustenance. Adam was that one. And as Charlemagne came suddenly on the king, they saluted one another, and Hu asked him who he was, and whence he came, and what was the cause of his coming, and to what part was he drawing that great host. I am Charlemagne, quoth he, and from France am I come, and I am the king of that place; and this is Roland my nephew, the most renowned youth. I thank God, quoth Hu, that I see in person the king, of the renown and praise of whose deeds I hear mnch, since he conies from France. And I beseech you to remain along with me a year, that we may in that interval become mutual friends and acquaintances, and bind ourselves in friendship. And when ye go from me, I will open my treasuries for you, to carry with you to your country as much gold as ye can set out with. And now for your sake, I will loosen the oxen, and end the work before its time.
VII.—And then Hu loosened the oxen, and mounted a handsome high mule, which was easy, fair; evenly proud, well grown, and royal trappings on it, and its excellence was suitable to every king. And with an ample pace he proceeded with his guests to the court; and king Hu sent before to warn the queen, and to put in order the royal hall with the fairest adornments, and the proudest that could be. And then they came in, they and their retinue, and dismounted within the courtyard; and the pavement was all of marble; aud the steps also were of the same material. And then they descended to the royal hall, in which was a countless multitude of good men, playing chequers and chess, and various other games. And a great number came to meet Charlemagne and his family, to salute him honourably, and to cause their horses to be taken, and to be stabled. Excellent and marvellous was the state of the hall in the opinion of the king of France, and of his good men. In the floor were carved the images of all the wild and tame animals, in the porch. In the lower end below the porch was the image of tbe sea, written with every sort of fish, that is bred in the sea. In the sides of the ball was the image of the sky, and of every bird that flew therein, as if it were air. The top of the hall was in the form and aspect of the firmament, and the sun, and the moon, and the stars, and the signs, placed in the firmament, so that it shone in the top of the hail, according to the various seasons. There was a circle in the hall, and a column of very great size like a pillar in the centre, and a covering of strong gold without scant about it, and artistic carving beautifying it with a vast design. A hundred pillars of beautiful fair marble surrounded it, so far in measure from the central pillar, that the great circle bore the sides from them also. And by every pillar was the image of a man of brass, cast with skilful design, and a horn in the hand of each of them, being held near to theft mouths, so that every one who saw them would suppose that they were ready to blow their horns.
VIII.—And then first the king called to mind the words of the queen, and in his thought she was to he forgiven for what she had said, in comparing him with Hu the Strong. And while Charlemagne and his retinue were wondering at the workmanship of the hall, lo, from the sea that was carved at the lower end of the hall, there came a sudden wind upon the base of a mill wheel, and turned the hall rapidly on the one pillar, as the wheel of a mill turns upon its axle. And then the images, that were upon the pillars, began to sound their horns, exactly the same as if a living spirit was in them; compelling them to sound. And Charlemagne was terrified at that sudden event, and without the power of standing in that tumult, but sit on the pavement against his will he did in that whirling commotion; and those of his good men, who endeavoured to hold themselves up standing, fell on the floor of the hall, so that they were glad to hide their heads, and their eyes, from the terror of looking at the rapidity of that turning. And Hu was emboldening them, and telling them that it would not be long before that tumult would rest. And when the vesper hour came, the wind ceased, and the horns became silent, and the commotion of the hall stopped. Then Charlemagne and his retinue rose up, and when every thing was ready, the tables were covered with their cloths, and after washing themselves, the king of France went to one side of the hall, and his retinue on each side of him, as their honour selected. On the other side of the hall was Hu and his retinue also ; and the queen nearest to him, and next to her also her daughter, who could not he compared to any one in comeliness and beauty of her age. Oliver set his look on her, and immediately became inflamed with love of her, and desired in his mind and thought that she should be with him in France, that he might have his desire and will of her. It was not easy for any one to describe or relate the number of courses that were there, or how many varieties of enjoyment of meat and liquor according to ease, or ear to hear, or tongue to relate, or eye to see the like, and no one would believe it, save those that saw them. The plays of the players; the songs of the minstrels with unheard of measures of harmony; and the various arts of the organs; so that they appeared as if they had themselves invented the force of the art.
IX.—When eating was over, and the tables were bared of their cloths, and the grooms had risen up, and dressed their horses, and baited them with abundant plenty, the squires took their lodgings. And when the kings arose, and the good men, from the tables, Hu the Strong conducted Charlemagne and his twelve compeers to a secure chamber. It would be long and tedious to describe the workmanship of the chamber, and its elaboration, save with brevity. Human genius made not its like. There never had been in it a want of light. Within it was a golden column, and for light a carbuncle stone in its end, making it always day, when the day was gone. In it there were the twelve beds, drawn out of latten of sufficient beauty, of sendal, and silk, and purple ; and the thirteenth bed was in the centre of them, with no other metal in it besides gold, and precious stones; and on it were the other clothes, suitable to such material as was beneath. The king of France went into the centre bed, and the twelve compeers went into the other beds, and the servants were serving wine to them on their beds. At the door on the outside was a great stone, with a lid in it, and in that Hu the Strong commanded one of his servants to hide himself, and listen to the conversation of the French that night. And the French conversed among themselves with jesting voluptuous words, as is wont to be in a state of drunkenness.
X.—And then Roland said: We will relate to-night the excellent sports that we will perform to-morrow before Hu the Strong. I will play first, quoth Charlemagne. Let Hu the Strong to-morrow cause the arms of two men to be worn by the strongest of his men, and the chief of young ones, and let the strongest and best horseman, wearing the double arms, mount a horse. I will strike with a sword the man, on the top of the armour of his head, with one blow through the man and the horse to the grouud, so that the sword will be the length of a spear in the ground froth the force of the blow. Doubtless, quoth the listener, it was evil in Hu the Strong to lodge such a man as this. And I also will to-morrow, when it is day, cause leave to be given to you to depart; and that the listener said in his own mind, so that no one should hear. Play thou also, dear nephew, quoth the king to Roland. Let Hu the Strong lend to me Fagittot his horn, and I also will give a blast on it outside the city, so that the crash will be so great and so prodigious, that there will not be a door on a gateway, or on a house in the city, though every one of them be of steel, that they will not all be burst open, and so that that crash will come about the head of Hu the Strong himself, and his beard be uprooted, and he will be bared of his clothes, and all his flesh be bruised. Doubtless, quoth the listener, this is a senseless jesting, and unmeet about a king, and Hu did wrong in lodging such a guest as this. Oliver, quoth Roland, play thou also now. With the leave of Charlemange I will play And let our archbishop play, quoth Charlemagne. I will play Lord, quoth he also. Let Hu the Strong tomorrow cause three stallions to run together, and I will come against them on their side, and will mount on the third over the two, and I will play with four apples, and I will throw them one after the other in the air, and will receive them; and if one of them fails to the ground from my hand, either from the commotion of the horses, or their swiftness, there is no pain that I will not endure. Doubtless, quoth the listener, this play is not unbecoming and there is no room for complaining of it. I also will play now, quoth William of Orange, with the leave of Charlemagne. The iron ball which ye saw just now in front of the hall, that twenty oxen could not draw from its place, I will throw it against the fortress, so that twenty cubits of the wall will be down to the ground from the blow. Doubtless, quoth the listener, that strength does not belong to man to be able to do that, and it does not spring from human power; and it will be needful for thee to-morrow to prove that, and thou wilt know that thine is a vain boast.
XI.—To Oger of Denmark the play now comes. With pleasure Lord, quoth the prince. The great pillar ye saw a little while ago supporting the hall, I will lay hold of it, and draw it from its place, so that the hall will fall down, and overlay what is beneath it. Doubtless, quoth the listener, this is a foolish man, and there is no room here to dwell with these. Naim the prince owns the play now, quoth Charlemagne. With pleasure Lord, quoth he. Let Hu lend me to-morrow the heaviest breastplate that he has, and with that upon me I will jump until I am on one side of Hu, and there I will shake myself so that the rings of the breastplate will be loosened, as if their material was parched reeds. Doubtless, quoth the listener, old bones are thine, and thou hast the toughest sinews, if true what thou purposest. Brengar owns the play now, quoth Chartemagne. I am ready for that, Lord. Let Hu the Strong to-morrow cause swords to be given to horsemen standing up, with their points upwards, under his highest tower, and I will loose myself from the top of the tower in one fall, so that I shall be on the point of the swords, and the points shall be broken without harm to me. Doubtless, quoth the listener, it is not a man, that is speaking now, and not a human body is his, but iron or adamant, if he speaks the truth. Bernard owns the play now. With pleasure, quoth he. The river ye saw a little while ago outside the city, I will turn it from its channel, so that the streets and houses shall be full, and no place in the city without water in it; and then Hu will see his people drowning, and others swimming, and with difficulty will Hu himself escape to the summit of the highest tower, owing to the greatness of the inundation. Doubtless, quoth the listener, the man is not in his senses that speaks like this, and I will cause him to-morrow morning to be cast out of the city, in requital of his lie.
XII.—To Evrard Dy Gyrwyd the play comes now. I will play with pleasure, quoth he also. Let Hu the Strong to-morrow cause a boiler to be filled with hot lead, and I also will sit in it, until it be congealed about me, and then I will shake myself until all the lead goes from me. Doubtless, quoth the listener, iron or steel is that flesh, if he accomplishes his purpose. Naymer, play thou also now. I will Lord, quoth he also. I have a sun cap of the skin of some fish, and to-morrow with that on my head, I will stand before Hu, when he is dining, and I will eat along with him, and will drink without being noticed, and I will take Hu by his feet, and will place him standing on his head on the top of the table; and then there will be great tumult, and fighting in the hall, and all contending with one another. Doubtless, quoth the listener, this one has lost his senses, and the man was not of sharp wit, that lodged such people as these. Let Bertram play now. I am ready, quoth he. I will take two shields to-morrow, one on each side of me, like two wings, and I will ascend flying to the top of the highest mountains ye saw yesterday, and I will raise myself into the air through the sky, shaking the shields on both sides of me, after the manner of a light bird, so that I shall be sean above all the birds. And I will drive to flight, for eight miles outside of the city, all the wild beasts out of the woods, and the husbandmen that till the lands, from fear of the wings. Not pleasant, quoth the listener, is this play, but knavery, and loss it will cause to gentlemen that take pleasure in hunting. Gereint, quoth Charlemagne, play thou also now. I will, Lord. There is a high tower near Hu, and a pillar on top of the tower. Let two pennies be placed, belly to belly on top of the pillar, and I also, at the distance of two miles from them, will throw at them with a naked sword so evenly and so skilfully that I will throw the uppermost without disturbing the lower, and without stirring it from its place, and I will overtake the sword, before it falls on the ground. This here, quoth the listener, is the choicest play of them in my opinion, for it is more skilful, and has less of shame in it to Hu, than any one of the others.
XIII.—And after they had ended those plays, they went to sleep. And the listener came to Hu, and told him every word that the French had said, adding calumny to them, as a man hostilely disposed would do to his lord, so that Hu was filled with rage. And then Hu said in his rage, that it was more proper for Charlemagne, when he was drunk, to sleep, than to mock or to make fun of them; and have we deserved to be made a jest of, from a failure of honour, and service in the lodging? or could he get better in his own country? And the jesting and mocking that they made and said, I will to-morrow that they shall fulfil them ; and if they cannot, we will punish them for their boasting, with the strength of our arms, and our swords. And when the next day came, Hu caused a hundred knights to put on armour, and clothes over them to hide it. And the knights did as Hu commanded them, and came to the hall to sit around the king.
XIV.—The king of France however, as was customary with him, heard matins, and mass, and the hours of the day; and after that he came to the hall, and when he came, Hu began to upbraid him bitterly. Why Charlemagne, quoth he, didst thou make fun of me and my good men, when it was fitter for thee to rest, and sleep after thy drunkenness? Is it such honour as that, that thou payedst to Hu the Strong for his lodging, and his honour? Is such your custom to pay their honour to those that honour you? And it will be needful for you to-day to accomplish your deeds, and if ye do not accomplish them, in payment of your vain boasting, ye shall know what is the edge of our swords. Charlemagne was terrified at those words, and first considered a little, and in reply to him said: O holy noble king, quoth be, why for a fruitless empty thing wilt thou be enraged, and thy gravity and wisdom be disturbed, for the saying of folly and wantonness, by those whom thou thyself hadst made drunken with thy good liquors? And we know not that any one was in the chamber beside ourselves; and the custom of our country has been after drink to compose playful words, which would cause laughter. To fulfil however the words thou sayest, I will converse with my good men, and from mutual counsel thou shalt have an answer. Go thou then to take counsel, and there is no occasion to sonsult together for what ought not to be; and know thou, when thou escapest from me, that thou wilt never make fun of another king.
XV.—And then Charlemagne went to a secret place, he and his good men to take the counsel. O good men, quoth he, did not the feasting last night deceive us without thought of words, that became not conjurers to express, or buffoons? And see for us how we shall escape from the threat of Hu the Strong. Let our hope, quoth Turpin, he in the God of Heaven: and let us implore of him godly counsel from the devotion of our mind. And then they fell down in their prayer before the holy relics, and God hearkened to their prayer, and sent an angel to cheer them, and to strengthen their mind, looking at their exile; and he commanded Charlemagne to arise, and declared to him that God had hearkened to his prayer, who is strength without failing to all the weak, and that he would accomplish by the strength of God, whichever Hu would choose of all the plays; and he commanded Charlemagne not to make known to any one that heavenly message.
XVI.—Charlemagne arose joyfully and cheerfully from his prayer, and cheered his men, and came to the place where Hu was. Lord king, quoth he, with thy leave I will discourse with thee. Last night we were resting in thy chamber, feeling secure from any deceit or treachery either from thee, or by thee ; so we conversed together, as is our custom in our country of relating plays. But thou art determined that those plays should be fulfilled by deeds. Choose the play that thou wishest first. I will choose, quoth Hu. Oliver said an unseemly thing, and if he fails at all of his promise, neither he nor one of the French shall escape
XVII.—And when the next day arose, Hu came to the door of the chamber, and asked if lie had fulfilled his promise. Yes, truly, Lord, quoth he, and more. The king then in his rage said that he supposed it was through enchantments he had done that, and said : I also did wrong in lodging jugglers. And he went to Charlemagne, to the place where he was sitting in the hall, and his good men around him, and said to him thus: Charlemagne, quoth he, the first play shows that thou art a juggler, and I will yet choose another. With pleasure, quoth Charlemagne. Choose whichever thou pleasest. Let William of Orange throw the ball of iron, as he promised; and if there he any failure of his promise, my sword from my right hand will not fail to kill you. William of Orange immediately threw off his mantle from him, and lifted up the iron ball, as he promised, and with his full force struck a blow on the fortress, so that a hundred cubits of the wall through it were on the ground. Hu was greatly enraged at that, beyond measure, and said to his good men: The play in my opinion, good men, quoth he, is only like to enchantments; and their deeds shew, according to my supposition, that they will seize my kingdom by their enchantments. Let Hu the Strong again choose the play he wishes, quoth Charlemagne, if his mind is pleased with our sports. If Bernard, quoth Hu, is able to bring the river that is outside the city within, let him bring it. Then Bernard said : Pray, Lord king, strongly, that God may accomplish what we cannot accomplish. Go thou without anxiety, quoth Charlemagne ; and be thy hope in God, to whom nothing is unknown, and what thou canst not accomplish, he will accomplish. And then Bernard, trusting in God, went towards the river, and after making the sign of the cross on the water, the water obeyed the commander, and left its channel, and followed the prince, that was before, until it came within the city. Then Hu the Strong saw his people drowning, and swimming in the waves ; and he also fled to his highest tower, and he did not feel secure there. And under that tower was a high hill, and there Charlemagne and his companions were looking on Bernard’s new deluge, and listening to Hu, making a vow to God from the summit of the tower, that the inundation might cease; and saying that he would give his homage to the king of France, and that he would submit both himself and power to his sovereignty.
XVIII.—And when Charlemagne heard those words, he was stirred up to mercy, and prayed to God that that water should cease, and return again ; and immediately the water went to its place as before. And thou Hu descended from the tower, and came to where Charlemagne was, and placed his hands together between the hands of Charlemagne, and abdicated his empire, and received it from his hand, to hold under him, and by his counsel. And then Charlemagne asked Hu whether ho wished the plays to be completed. No, quoth Hu, those plays will cause to me more sorrow than joy. Let us then, quoth Charlemagne, take this day for honourable joy, since God has brought us to be peacemakers, with love between us, and he has accomplished what we were not able to accomplish. And let us make a procession about the bishop’s house, and that the honour of the day may be greater, let us wear our crowns, and let us walk side by side to show ourselves among our good men. They agreed, and walked side by side, and all looking upon them intently, because they saw them in their royal apparel. And Charlemagne was taller than Hu by the mark of a foot, and what was proportionate to that in the breadth of his shoulders. And then it was evident to all the good men of France, that the queen had judged wrongly in regard to Hu, and that Charlemagne had the superiority. And after that procession, Turpin sung mass for them honourably, and after the mass they received from him archiepiscopal blessing, and to the court they came, and to the tables they went ; and it was not easy for the owner of a tongue to describe how many and various were the different courses that were expended there, and enjoyment, and ease. And when the feast was ended, Hu caused his treasure and gold houses to be shewn to Charlemagne, to give him what he pleased to carry with him to France. That shall not be, quoth Charlemagne; not for the taking of gifts was the king of France made, but to give them abundantly, and it is not needful to take treasure to France, lest their mind be corrupted, and their high mindedness; but there were good warriors there, and a sufficiency of good arms to maintain them.
XIX.—And then the daughter of Hu the Strong came to Oliver, to entreat him to take her along with him to France; and Oliver promised her that, if Ru the Strong permitted. And Hu would not permit his daughter so far from him as that. And then Charlemagne signified to all his men that their journey was towards France. And then they mounted their horses, having separated lovingly, and having embraced with pleasant joy. And then the men of France went to their country, and Charlemagne was well pleased then, because Hu had submitted to him without fighting, or striking, or losing one body. And they came to France, as they had done at first, and they were welcomed there, and thanked God that their pilgrimage and their journey forward were free for them. And they rested, and threw from them their weariness. And then Charlemagne went, as was his wont before then, to the church of Saint Denis to pray before the altar, and to thank God that his journey forward, and his pilgrimage were free; and after offering on the altar a worthy offering, he shared the relics, that he had brought with him, among the churches of France, and gave amity to the queen, and forgave her his vexation and his shame.
XX.—Thus far the History treats, which Reinallt, king of the Isles, his good lord, caused to be translated of the Gests of Charlemagne from Romance to Latin, and the contention of the queen, as has all been described above; and Turpin did not meddle with that, for he was a churchman; and lest a vain thing should be driven upon him, that belonged not to cleanliness. Henceforth Turpin will treat of the Gests of Charlemagne in Spain, and of the name of God and the apostle James ; how that country was subjected to the faith of Christ. And how those events happened, Turpin caused them to be written in Latin, and so that all might understand them, who saw them, of foreign nations, and all that in the name of Charlemagne to his praise and honour, and emperor of Rome, and Constantinople; the men that were together, and were contemporaries in those engagements. And receiving wounds and pain in them from their commencement to their end successively in sections as they happened, so that all who read, or hear them, may know that he did nothing vainly, but the centre of truth, being understood of spiritual counsels, that pertain to the praise of Christ, and the joy of the angels of heaven, and advantage to the souls of Christians that hearken to them.
Selections from the Hengwrt Mss. Preserved in the Peniarth Library. Williams, Robert, ed. & trans. London: Thomas Richards, 1892.
The manuscript (or scripts) used by Williams is not identified in his translation, nor in the Welsh edition in his book. However, I know that the text is in the Red Book of Hergest, in copy which closely follows the Rhydderch edition. Thus, I felt it only useful to put up this version, as I know of no other translation of this text.