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'Comrade, you are to blame; for courage without sense is madness -better is moderation than foolhardiness. The Franks are dead men through your flightiness, and never will Karl now get service from us.'
While they contend thus the Archbishop Turpin approaches, and exhorts them to be of one mind, and Roland puts his horn to his mouth. High were the mountains, strong was his blast, and the echoes carried it for thirty great leagues, and Karl heard it and all his nobles. The King said, Our men are doing battle,' but Ganelon, wishing to deceive him, said, 'Had another said that I should have thought it a lie.' But Roland blew and blew with pain and agony, for he was already wounded; as he blew the bright blood started from his lips, and the veins of his temple burst. Karl heard him, Naimes the Duke heard him, the Franks heard him, and the Emperor said, 'I hear the horn of Roland; never had he sounded it unless he was at battle,' and in spite of Ganelon, whom he now believes to have betrayed Roland, and whom he now places in arrest, he directs his host back again to support the rear-guard.
But no hope was left by this time; the Franks fell one by one around Roland and Oliver, Gaulter del Hum, and the Archbishop Turpin; of these last Oliver dies first; he was already pale and discoloured with loss of blood, and has for some time been striking at random, so that he even struck Roland, his dear comrade, by mistake, when he feels the pangs of death coming upon him. He first lost his sight, then his hearing, when, feeling his end arrive, he alights and lays him on the ground, and lifting his hands joined together he confesses his sins, and prays God may grant him Paradise, and help Karl and sweet France, and his comrade Roland above all men; then he faints, his helm sinks down, and all his body is extended to earth. Roland, briefly but tenderly lamenting his loss, keeps still the Paynim at bay with Gaulter and Turpin, all three desperately wounded. Once more Roland winds his horn, but this time it gave forth a feeble sound; yet Karl had drawn so nigh that he heard it. 'Roland must be at the death,' he thinks, to blow like that;' 'Seignurs,' he says, 'very badly are we faring! Roland, my nephew, will this day be taken from us; I hear by his horn he is barely in life. Who will be with him, let him ride fast! Sound your trumpets, all of them in the host.' Sixty thousand at once blew such blasts on their trumpets that the mountains resounded and the valleys re-echoed, and the Paynim heard it and cried, Now is Karl coming down upon us.'
The Paynims are terrified at the thought, and make a last effort to destroy the surviving peers; Gaulter they slay, wound
Turpin mortally, and kill Roland's horse; then they are seized with a panic, and with a final shower of javelins and arrows on Roland and his mortally wounded companion, they flee.
Roland goes and looks over the slain, strains the dead Oliver to his breast, and makes a pathetic speech over his dead peers. Turpin bestows his benediction upon them, and then dies likewise. Roland, now alone alive, crosses the archbishop's white hands on his breast, and makes a lament over him. Never was such an apostle or prophet,' he cries; may he find the gate of Paradise open!' Then he goes, with his horn in one hand and his sword in the other, and mounts a little height, and there lays him down under the trees. A wounded Paynim seeing him lie there, thinking him dead, and to get his famous sword Durendal, and to carry it off to Arabia, creeps up to him, but Roland feels himself pulled somewhat
En cel tirer le quens s'aperçut alques-'
He opens his eyes, and smites the fellow on the helm with his horn and crushes his skull. Then Roland begins to feel regret for Durendal, lest it fall into bad hands; ten blows he strikes with it on a dark stone, but the steel only creaks and does not break. Then Roland pathetically addressed Durendal, and remembers its past service, and smites on a rock of sardonyx, but still the steel only creaks and does not break. Again, Roland calls to mind the service of his dear and white Durendal, which glitters and blazes in the sun; 'better that it should come to an end than fall among the heathen. Lord God, Father! never let shame be brought on France with it!' So Roland strikes again upon a grey stone, but Durendal will not break, only creaks and springs out of his hand. 'Oh! Durendal, how beautiful and very saintly thou art,' cries Roland with another lamentation. But death is coming fast on Roland, so he fetched Durendal, and putting that and his horn under his head, he couches himself on the green grass under a pine; he turns his face towards the flying foemen, to let Karl and his host know that he never turned back to the Paynim; then confessing his sins, he claims absolution, and extends his right gauntlet to heaven; and then, with his face still turned towards Spain, he remembers in his last moments many things-his many victories in many lands, his sweet France, and the men of his kith and kin, and Charlemagne, his seignor, who had been his stay in life-Ki l'nurret. Again he addresses his God, again extends his right gauntlet to the skies, and God sends down Saint Michael and Saint Gabriel, who carry his soul up to heaven.
loses much of its interest after the death of Roland.
Very nearly a half of the Chanson (about 1700 lines) still remains occupied with the defeat of the Saracens by Karl, who slays Balegant the Sultan of Babylon with his own hand; and with the execution of Ganelon and his kindred who have undertaken his cause. The most striking passage of all the remainder of the Chanson is the pathetic death of Alde, who was affianced to Roland.
Karl had returned from Spain, and came to Aix-his` brave royal seat-he mounts to the palace and enters the hall, when Alde comes before him, the fair damisele. She said to the king: 'Where is Roland the brave, who swore to take me to wife?' Karl felt sorrow and heaviness, he wept from his eyes and tore his white beard. Sister, dear friend, you ask me news about a dead man, but I will give you a good exchange; there is Louis, I know not how to speak fairer, he is my son, he shall govern my marches.' Alde replies, "This speech seems strange to me: let it not please God and his saints and his angels that I remain alive after Roland.' She changes colour, and falls at the feet of Charlemagne, quite dead-God have mercy on her soul! The Frank princes, as they stood by, wept and lamented. Alde, the fair, thus came to an end; but the Emperor thought she had only fainted; he felt pity and wept; he takes her by the hand, he lifts her up, and lays her head on his shoulder. And when Karl saw she was really dead he sends for four countesses, and he had her brought to a nunnery, where they watched by her all night till day-break. Then they buried her fairly by the side of an altar, and the king bestowed much honour on the place.
Of the poems descriptive of the wars of Karl with his vassals, 'Renaud de Montauban' is one of the most interesting, and was indeed the best known of all the poems of the cycle of Charlemagne and has retained its popularity the longest, since a prose version of the story still forms part of the littérature de colportage of France. The savage manners of the great vassals are here portrayed with barbarous fidelity, and the strength of the spirit of feudalism which Louis XI. at length succeeded in breaking is exhibited in colossal proportions.
'Seignor, ores chanson de grant nobilité;
Toute est de vraie estore sans point de fauseté;
'Barons, listen to a song of great nobility; all is true history without falsehood; never will you hear so good in all your life.' It was at Pentecost that Charles held his court, in Paris his city (so the chronicler will have it)-all his knights and barons
Babylon, it should be remembered, is Cairo in the old romances.
attended-twenty archbishops, and two hundred abbots. Gerard de Roussillon was there, Aymon de Dudon, who had four sons, de grant nobilité.' But Doon de Nauteuil of the grizzled beard, qui ot le poil mesle,' recently vanquished and punished by Karl, was not there, nor Beuve the Duke d'Aigremont, his brother. The Emperor remarks their absence, and when the barons are playing chess in the hall and making a great clamour, he mounts his throne, and causes the noise to be stilled. 'Barons, says Karlemaine, now hear of what I am thinking. Full many a city have I conquered, and broken down many a fortress and many a castle, and laid in ruins many a town. The earth have I conquered far and near, and slain full many a chevalier with my own steel brand: from here to the passes of Spain have I annexed all; every prince, every duke, and every count do me service; bishops and archbishops show me goodwill, and through all the land, far and near, they come to battle at my summons, in full array, without thought of deceit. Only Beuve of Aigremont with the grizzled beard, who by God's will has taken me in such hatred, he will not brook to do me service -so is it in truth.' 'Barons, says Karlemaine, by my iron-grey beard, I will tell you what I purpose. I will call out at once all my liegemen; nor will I stint to summon Poitevin and Norman ; Flemings and Brabençon shall spur forth in array, Angevin and Breton, the men of Berri, the Frenchman and the Lombard of the rich country, shall come together; and I will besiege Aigremont, the mighty and strong city. I will raze the castle and its shining tower, since the duke recks not of my summonses; and by that apostle whom penitents seek as pilgrims, if I get him in my power, on high shall he be hung, without delay.'
To this threat of hanging Beuve d'Aigremont on a gallows, Aymon his brother replies that the achievement will be somewhat difficult, that Beuve has a very strong castle, and is moreover a well-known 'chevaliers hardis et combatant,' and that he has many good friends who will assist him. When his majesty heard this, he so much did not like it—si en a mal talant-that he changed colour, and turned red as a flaming coal, and he spoke so loud that seven hundred people heard him at once. He swore again by that holy apostle to whom men go in pilgrimage'— St. James of Compostella
'Par icel saint apostre que kierent peneant,'
that if anybody present assisted the duke as much as a bezant's worth-la monte d'un besent-that he should be strung up at once without delay, and told Aymon to be gone instantly-sens nul
atargement-and threatened to seize his fief and his lands of chase,
'Je saiserai vo terre et votre chassement.'
The duke replied 'he would go with a malison,'' Dont ira malement,' and departed from court with four thousand and seven hundred knights. When the emperor beheld this he was vexed at heart-s'en ot le cuer delant—and he called the Duke Naimes to him and said, 'Sire, give me counsel for the love of God,' and Naimes replied 'It is quite at your service-Tot à vostre talant.'
'Sire, dist li duc Naymes, un petit m'entendes.'
'Sire, listen a little. I will give you good counsel if you will but take it; you see how Aymon the Hardy, Gerard de Rousillon, and your other barons are going off to their lands, and deserting you for the love of their brother, whom you are so angry with. I foresee much trouble from this, and much blame to yourself; now I advise you to choose an ambassador of high
"Or prenes un message de grans nobilités,"
and to send to the duke your charters and sealed letters, and demand that he come and render service to you at the Nativity, and that he bring with him an hundred knights, well armed and equipped as his father did before him; and if he refuses, then send and gather all the men you can, with hauberks and helms, and caparisoned steeds, and take the duke captive and put him to shame; lay waste his dukedom far and near, slaughter and hang all his people, destroy his city, raze his castle, and don't leave a wall of a town standing. So shall it be, lord king! if you are advised by me,-Tot ensi sera fait, dans rois, se me crees.'When Karl heard this he felt reinvigorated, si ert resvigorés,' said it was good counsel, and that all should be done as he advised. 'Naymes, dist l'empererer, bon conseil me dones.
Tot ensi sera fait com vos le devises.'
But who shall be the messenger on this peculiar mission? By the advice of the Duke Naimes, Enguerrand d'Espilice, vasal adure, was summoned to Karl's presence
Vasaus, ce dist li rois, car entendes à moi.'
Karl tells Enguerrand that he shall take Dreves and Hermenfroi, and ten knights altogether, and go and deliver gently without fear-belement sens esfroi-the message which the Duke Naimes advised him to send. Enguerrand replies, no thought of death will prevent him discharging himself entirely of his embassy.