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The Song of Roland by Anonymous (translated by Robert Harrison).

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Title: The Song of Roland.
Author: Anonymous (translated by Robert Harrison).
Genre: Fiction, literature, poetry, war lit, religion.
Country: France.
Language: French.
Publication Date: ~between 1040 and 1115 (translated in 1970).
Summary: The medieval poem tells the story of the battle of Roncesvalles in 778. At the center of the epic is Roland, the supreme embodiment of the chivalric ideal, who leads his men into combat and fights valiantly to the death against the Muslims in Spain. The poem vividly portrays Ganelon's treason, Roland's last stand, and Charlemagne's campaign of vengeance and final retribution.

My rating: 8/10
My review:


♥ The king Marsilla was in Saragossa.
He went into the shadows of an orchard,
sat down upon a terrace of blue marble
with more than twenty thousand men about him.
He now addresses all his dukes and counts:
"Just hear, my lords, what troubles weigh us down!
The emperor of sweet France, Charlemagne,
has come into this country to destroy us.
I have no army fit to give him battle,
nor have I men who might put his to rout.
Since you're my wise men, give me your advice,
so I may rest secure from death and shame."
No pagan has a single word in answer
save Blancandrin, from the castle of Val-Fonde.

Among the wisest pagans, Blancandrin
was very chivalrous and dutiful
and able in the service of his lord;
and to the king he says: "Now don't despair.
Send word to Charles the proud, the overbearing,
in all good will and faithful deference,
and say you'll send him bears and dogs and lions,
a thousand mewed hawks, seven hundred camels,
four hundred mules weighed down with gold and silver,
and fifty carts to form a wagon-train,
so he may pay his mercenaries well.
He has soldiered in this country long enough;
he really should return to Aix, in France.
So say you'll follow him at Michaelmas,
and there you will receive the Christian law,
and be his man in honor and good faith.
If he should ask for hostages, then send them
to gain his confidence—some ten or twenty.
We'll send the sons of our own wives to him;
though it will mean his death, I'll send my own.
Much better they should lose their heads up there
than we should lose our honor and our hands,
and let ourselves be brought to beggary."

Says Blancandrin: "By this right hand of mine,
and by the beard that waves upon my chest,
you soon will see the Frankish camp decamp.
The Frenchmen will be gone to France, their land,
and when each man is where he est belongs,
then Charles will be at Aix, within his chapel,
and there he'll hold high feast on Michaelmas.
The day will come, the time allotted lapse,
and he will hear no word or news of us.
The king is arrogant, his heart is cruel,
and he will have our hostages beheaded;
but it is better they should lose their heads
than we should lose bright Spain the Beautiful
and undergo such suffering and harm."
The pagans say: "It may be he is right."

♥ Beneath a pine, beside an eglantine,
there stood a throne of finest beaten gold;
here seated is the king who rules sweet France.
His beard is white, his hair is hot with gray,
his body is well formed, his features proud.
No one would need to have him pointed out.
And here the messengers got down on foot,
saluting him with all good will and love.

♥ The emperor lifts up his hands toward God,
then bows his head, begins to speculate.

The emperor still held his head bowed down,
for he was never hasty in his speech;
by habit, he speaks only at his leisure.

♥ ..together with the others cane Count Roland
and valorous, well-born Olivier—
more than a thousand Franks from France were there.
And Ganelon the traitor came there, too.
The council that gave rise to grief now starts.

♥ "Vainglorious advice should not prevail.
Ignoring fools, let's cleave unto the wise!"

♥ "Now you have heard it well,
just now Count Ganelon has answered you;
his words seem wise to me, if understood.
In warfare King Marsilla has been vanquished—
you've taken from him all his fortresses,
your mangonels have smashed his walls to bits,
you've burned his cities, overwhelmed his men:
now when he pleads for you to show him mercy,
to keep on fighting him would be a sin.
With hostages he'll guarantee your safety,
and this great conflict need go on no more."
The Frenchmen say: "The duke has spoken well."

♥ At this Count Ganelon was furious,
and shrugging off his heavy marten furs,
he stands unmoving in his silk bliaut.
His eyes are gray, his features very fierce,
his chest is thick, his body well proportioned;
so handsome was he that his peers all stared.

♥ "You'll never go for me," says Ganelon,
"you're not my vassal, nor am I your lord.
Charles orders me to carry out his mission;
I'll go to Saragossa, to Marsilla:
but first I'll have a little bit of fun
in order that I may assuage my wrath."
When Roland hears this, he begins to laugh.

Now Ganelon, on seeing Roland laugh,
is so outraged, almost convulsed with fury,
he very nearly loses consciousness.
He tells the count: "I've never cared for you;
you've had this unfair judgment passed on me!
Just Emperor, you see me here at hand;
I only wish to carry out your orders.

"I know well I must go to Saragossa:
the man who goes out there cannot return.
Remember most of all: my wife's your sister,
by whom I have a son, there is no finer—
Baudoin, that is—he'll be a valiant man
To him I leave my honors and my fiefs.
Take care of him—I'll see him nevermore."
Charles answers him: "You have too soft a heart.
When I command, it's up to you to go."

Whereon the king says: "Ganelon, come forward,
in order to receive the staff and glove:
you heard it, you've been chosen by the Franks."
Says Ganelon: "Sire, Roland's done all this!
I'll lose no love on him throughout my life,
nor on Olivier, since he's his comrade,
nor the dozen peers, because they love him so—
I here defy them, sire, before your eyes!"
At this the king says: "You are too hot-tempered:
now go, for I have given the command."

♥ They tell him afterward, "Oh sire, take us!"
but Ganelon replies: "Lord God forbid!
It's better I die alone than many knights.
But when you go back to sweet France, my lords,
on my behalf take greetings to my wife,
to Pinabel, my comrade and my peer,
and to my son Baudoin, whom you all know,
and help him and acknowledge him your lord."
He rides out to the road, is on his way.

♥ While Charles sat in the shade the other morning,
his nephew came there, decked out in his byrnie—
he'd been out pillaging near Carcassonne.
He held a bright red apple in his hand.
"Here, fair sire," says Roland to his uncle,
"I offer you the crowns of all the kings."
His arrogance will be the end of him,
for ever single day he teases death.
If someone killed him, we might all have peace."

Says Blancandrin: "A very hard man, Roland,
who wants to make all peoples recreant
and challenge every country in this world."

♥ The color changed in King Marsilla's face;
a tremor shook the handle of his spear.
When Ganelon sees this, he grips his sword,
unsheathing it about two fingers' breadth,
and says to it: "You're very bright and fair!
I've worn you at the royal court for years.
The emperor of France will never say
I died alone here in a foreign land
before their best men paid for you in full."

♥ Now Blancandrin says: "Call the Frenchman here;
he promised me that he would help our cause."
At this the king says: "Go and bring him here."
So by the right hand he took Ganelon
and led him through the orchard to the king.
They there discuss details of lawless treason.

♥ Marsilla then says: "Ganelon, know truly
that in my heart I'm very fond of you.
I'd like to hear you talk of Charlemagne.
He's very old, and has outworn his time;
I know for sure he's lived two hundred years.
His body's knocked about so many lands,
his bossy shield has caught so many blows,
he's pauperized so many wealthy kings—
when will he ever leave off making war?"
"He's not like that at all," says Ganelon.
"No man who ever sees and comes to know him
will fail to say the emperor is great.
I cannot praise or laud him to you so
that he will not have yet more worth and honor.
His mighty courage—who would itemize it?
God made such heroism shine in him
that he would rather die than fail his barons."

The pagan says: "I really am amazed
by Charlemagne, who is old and has gray hair.
He's lived two hundred years and more, I know;
his body, battered in so many lands,
has caught so many blows from spears and lances;
he has pauperized so many wealthy kings—
when will he ever leave off making war?"
"He won't," says Ganelon, "while his nephew lives;
no braver man is under heaven's hood—
his friend Olivier is dauntless, too.
The dozen peers Charles thinks so highly of
head up a van of twenty thousand knights.
Secure as Charles is, no man frightens him."

The Saracen says: "I am much amazed
by Charlemagne, who is grizzled and white-haired.
I know for sure he's better than two hundred.
Through many countries he's gone conquering
and caught so many blows form good, sharp spears,
left many rich kings dead upon the field—
when will he ever tire of making war?"
"He won't," says Ganelon, "while Roland lives;
there's none so brave from here to the Orient.
His friend Olivier is valiant, too.
The dozen peers Charles holds in such esteem
head up the van of twenty-thousand Franks.
So safe is Charles, he fears no man alive."

♥ Marsilla says: "There's one thing more to say,
since counsel has no value without trust—
just pledge me the betrayal of Count Roland."
Then Ganelon replies: "As you desire!"
Upon the relics in his Murgleis
he swore high treason and betrayed himself.

♥ Charlemagne has devastated Spain,
has seized its castles, ravaged its walled towns;
the king now says that his campaign is ended,
and toward sweet France the emperor rides out.
Count Roland has attached his battle pennant
and raised it skyward, high upon a hill;
throughout the countryside the Franks pitch camp.
The pagans ride down through the broader valleys,
their hauberks on and gorgets tightly shut,
their helmets laced, their swords upon their hips,
their shields hung from their necks, their lances pennoned.
They hold in a thicket in the hills;
four hundred thousand wait for break of day.
Oh God! the French know nothing of all this!

♥ "..There Charles, the king of France, shall never lose,
I know for sure, a destrier or palfrey
or horse- or mare-mule that is fit to ride,
nor will he even lose a nag or pack-horse
that has not purchased by the sword."
"I know," says Ganelon, "you've spoken truly."

♥ The emperor informs his nephew Roland:
"My fair lord nephew, know this for the truth:
I'm making you a fight of half my host.
Keep them intact, for that is your salvation."
At this the count says: "I'll do no such thing.
God blast me if I'll shame my family!
I'll keep back twenty thousand good, brave Franks;
you'll make it through the pass in perfect5 safety.
You need fear no one while I'm still alive!"

♥ With a thousand Franks from France, their land, Gautier
rode forth to scout the hilltops and ravines.
However bad the news, he won't come down
till seven hundred swords have been unsheathed.

♥ The hills are high, the valleys deep in shade,
with dull brown cliffs and awe-inspiring gorges.
Today the Frenchmen are to know great pain.
They clamor can he beard for fifteen leagues.
When finally they get to Tere Majur
and look on Gascony, their liege-lord's land,
their thoughts turn to their honors and their fiefs,
and to their sweethearts and their nobles wives:
there's no one there who isn't moved to tears.
But Charles is anguished more than all the rest—
he has left his nephew in the Spanish passes
And seized with grief, he cannot help but cry.

♥ The emperor has gone back into France;
beneath his mantle, he conceals his face.
And when Duke Naimes comes riding up to him
and asks the king: "What's causing you such grief?"
Charles answers: "He who asks me that offends me.
I feel such grief, I cannot help lamenting,
for France will be destroyed by Ganelon.
Last night I had a vision sent by angels
in which he smashed the lance within my hands—
the man who picked my nephew for the guard.
I've left him out there in a hostile land—
Oh God! If he is lost, I can't replace him."

♥ From Balaguer a chieftain has arrived.
Superbly built, with savage, clean-cut features,
whenever he is mounted on his horse,
he bears his weapons with a dauntless air;
and, celebrated for his vassalage,
he'd be a rightful lord, were he a Christian.

♥ Not far off stands a pagan, Esturgant;
Estramariz, a comrade, stands there, too:
these men are evil, treacherous deceivers.

♥ Chernuble of Munigre stands nearby:
his flowing hair sweeps down along the ground.
While playing, he will lift more weight for fun
than four pack-mules can carry, fully loaded.
It's said that in the land from which he comes
no sunlight shines, the wheat cannot mature,
no rain falls, and there's never been a dew;
no rock is there that isn't solid black—
some say it is the devils' habitation.

♥ ..they carry handsome shields, Valencian spears,
and blue and white and crimson battle flags.
They leave behind the mules and all the palfreys
and, mounting destriers, ride out in ranks.
The day was bright, the sunshine beautiful;
no piece of armor failed to catch the light.
A thousand trumpets sing, to add more splendor:
so deafening their noise, the Frenchmen hear it.
"My lord companion," says Olivier,
"I think we'll have some Saracens to fight."
And Roland answers: "Grant us this, oh God!
It's fitting we should stay here for our king;
a man should suffer hardships for his lord,
and persevere in fearful heat and cold;
a man should lose, if need be, hide and hair.
Now each of your be sure to strike hard blows,
so mocking songs may not be sung of us!
The pagan cause is wrong, the Christian right:
I won't be made into a bad example."

♥ "I've seen the pagans," says Olivier,
"no man on earth has ever seen so many—
at least a hundred thousand in the van,
with shields, and helmets laced, and shining hauberks,
and lances raised, their burnished tips aglow.
You'll have a battle such as never was.
Oh, lords of France, may you have strength from God
to hold the field, so we shall not be beaten!"
The French say: "Damn the man who runs away!
Not one of us will fail you, unto death."

♥ Olivier says: "There are many pagans,
and, it seems to me, we Franks are few.
Companion Roland, you should sound your horn,
so Charles will hear and bring the army back."
Count Roland answers: "I would play the fool!
throughout sweet France my glory would be lost.
I'll soon strike mighty blows with Durendal,
until its blade is bloody to the gold.
These pagans err in coming to the pass;
I promise you, they all are marked for death."

"Companion Roland, sound the oliphant,
so Charles will hear and bring his army back;
the king, with all his lords, will rescue us."
But Roland says: "Almighty God forbid
my family should be reproved for me,
or sweet France ever fall into disgrace!
Instead I'll lay on so with Durendal,
the good sword I have strapped upon my hip,
that you shall see its blade all drenched with blood.
The pagans have assembled to their sorrow:
I promise you, they all are marked for death."

"Companion Roland, sound your oliphant,
so Charles, who's going through the pass, will hear:
I promise you, the Franks will soon return."
"May God forbid," flung Roland back at him,
"that it be said by any man alive
I ever blew my horn because pf pagans!
My family shall never be reproved.
When I am in the midst of this great battle
and strike a thousand blows, then seven hundred,
you'll see the blade of Durendal run blood.
The French are good; they'll fight with vassalage;
the men from Spain will not be saved from death."

"I see no fault here," says Olivier,
"for I have seen the Saracens from Spain:
they swarm upon the mountains and the valleys,
along the hillsides, and throughout the plains.
The army of these foreigners is large,
and we have but a little company."
"This makes me still more eager," Roland says,
"Almighty God forbid, and all His angels,
that France should lose her fame because of me!
I'd much prefer to die than come to shame;
for fighting well, the emperor will love us."

Roland is bold, Olivier is wise,
and both of them are marvelously brave.
When they are armed and mounted on their horses,
not even death can make them shy from battle;
these counts are worthy men, their speech is proud.

♥ "Don't talk such nonsense!" Roland answers him.
"The heart that quavers in the breast be damned!
We'll stand our ground right here upon the field;
here we'll provide the carnage and the slaughter."

When Roland sees that there will be a battle,
he is fiercer than a leopard or a lion.
He hails the Franks, then calls Olivier:
"My lord companion, friend, don't talk that way!
The emperor, who left these Franks with us—
some twenty thousand of them he detached—
made sure there was no coward in the lot.
A man should suffer hardships for his lord,
and persevere through dreadful heat and cold;
a man should lose, if need be, flesh and blood.
So ply your lance, as I shall Durendal,
my well-made sword the king once gave to me.
If I should die here, then whoever gets it
can say a noble vassal owned it once."

♥ Count Roland rode into the Spanish pass
on Veillantif, his good, fast-gaited horse:
the armor that he wears becomes him well.
The baron rides forth, brandishing his lance:
its upraised ferrule moves against the sky,
a pure white pennant laced upon its shaft,
whose golden fringes flutter at his hands.
He is well built, his features frank and smiling;
his comrade comes along, not far behind:
the men from France consider him their champion.

♥ —My lords and barons, hold the battlefield!
I beg of you, for God's sake be resolved
to strike, and give as well as you receive!
Let's not forget the battle cry of Charles."
And with this word the Frenchmen raised the cry.
Whoever might have heard them shout "Monjoy!"
would be reminded of their vassalage.
And then they ride!—my God, with such defiance!
They spur to make their horses run all out,
and go to strike—what else are they to do?
The Saracens are not at all afraid.
Now look: the pagans and the Franks engage.

♥ Marsilla's nephew (Aëlroth was his name)
rises well out in advance of all the host,
goes shouting words of insult to our French:
"French villains, you shall fight with us today,
for he who should protect you have betrayed you;
the king who left you in this pass is mad.
This very day sweet France shall lose her fame,
and Charlemagne the right arm from his body."
When Roland hears this, God! is he enraged!
He spurs his horse and lets him run all out
and goes to strike the count with all his force;
he breaks his shield and lays his hauberk open
and pierces through his chest and cracks the bones
and cuts the spine completely from the back
and with his lance casts out his mortal soul,
impales him well, and hoists the body up
and throws him dead a spear's length from his horse.
The neck-bone has been broken into halves,
and still he does not leave, but tells him this:
"You utter coward, Charles is not a fool,
nor has he ever had a love of treason.
His act was brave, to leave us at the pass;
today sweet France is not to lose her fame.
Now lay on, Franks! the first blow has been ours.
We're in the right, these gluttons in the wrong!"

♥ "You turntail pagan, you have told a lie!
King Charles, my lord, will always be our champion;
we Frenchmen have no wish to run away.
We'll give all your companions their quietus;
I've news for you—you're just about to die.
Now lay on, Franks! Remember who you are!
Give thanks to God, the first blow has been ours.
"Monjoy!" he shouts, so they will hold the field.

♥ The pagan topples over in a heap,
and Satan comes and carries off his soul.

♥ He spurs his horse and goes against Chernuble:
he breaks the helmet on which rubies gleam;
he slices downward through the coif and hair
and cuts between the eyes, down through his face,
the shiny hauberk made of fine-linked mail,
entirely through the torso to the groin,
and through the saddle trimmed with beaten gold.
The body of the horse slows down the sword,
which, seeking out no joint, divides the spine:
both fall down dead upon the field's thick grass.

♥ Count Roland gallops through the battlefield
with slicing, cleaving Durendal in hand:
he plays great havoc with the Saracens.
Could you but see him piling corpse on corpse,
while pools of bright blood spread onto the ground!
His hauberk's drenched wit gore, and both his arms,
the withers and the neck of his good horse.
Olivier does not decline to fight,
nor will the twelve peers need to be reproached,
nor all the French who fight and slaughter there.
The pagans die, and many of them faint.
The archbishop says: "A blessing on our barons!"
and shouts "Monjoy!"—the battle cry of Charles.

♥ His lance is smashed and splintered to the grip,
and Roland says: "Companion, what are you doing?
I wouldn't want a stick in such a battle;
here iron and steel are worth a great deal more.
Where is your sword, whose name is Halteclere?
Its hilt is made of gold, its pommel crystal."
Olivier replies: "I couldn't draw it;
I've been so occupied today with fighting."

♥ The fighting, has become more savage.
The Franks and pagans strike prodigious blows;
one side attacks, the other holds its ground.
So many spear-shafts there are split and bloody,
so many battle flags and pennants torn!
So many splendid Franks give up their youth!
They'll never see their mothers nor their wives,
nor the Frenchmen who await them at the pass.
Though Charlemagne may weep and mourn for them,
what difference does it make? They won't be helped.

♥ In France there is a very awesome tempest,
a raging storm of thunder, of high winds,
of rainfall, and of hail beyond all measure.
The thunderbolts crash down repeatedly—
in fact, there is a trembling of the earth.
From Saint Michael of the Peril down to Seinz,
from Besançon to the harbor of Guitsand,
no house remains whose walls have not been cracked.
Around midday a widespread darkness falls,
and light comes only when the skies are torn.
No one can witness this without great fear,
and many say: "It is the final judgment—
the end of all Creation is at hand."
They do not know, nor do they speak the truth:
it is the requiem for Roland's death.

♥ "..We'll have a bitter, hard-fought battle here,
the likes of which no man has ever seen.
I'll strike them down with Durendal, my sword,
and you, companion, strike with Halteclere.
So many places we have carried them!
So many battles they have seen us through!
They won't become the theme of mocking songs."

♥ "My lords and barons, don't think shameful thoughts!
I beg of you, for God's sake do not run,
nor let proud men sing mockingly of you;
it's best by far that we should die in combat.
Quite soon we are to meet our promised end;
we won't remain alive beyond today;
however, I assure you of one thing:
that holy Paradise stands there for you,
and you'll be seated near the Innocents."

♥ He spurs his eager horse into the fray,
They come together; one of them will pay.

♥ "Companion, you're to blame,
for bravery in no sense is bravado,
and prudence is worth more than recklessness."

♥ The king has had Count Ganelon arrested,
and turns him over to his household cooks.
He tells Besgun, the leader of them all:
"Keep watch on him, like any common thug,
for he's betrayed the members of my house."
He turned him over to a hundred comrades,
the best and worst together, from the kitchen.
These men plucked out his beard and his moustache,
and each one hit him four times with his fist;
they whipped him thoroughly with sticks and clubs,
and then they put a chain around his neck
and chained him up exactly like a bear;
in ridicule, they set him on a pack-horse.
They'll guard him this way until Charles returns.

♥ Count Roland scans the mountains and the hills:
he sees so many dead French lying there,
and like a noble knight he weeps for them.
"My lords and barons, God be merciful,
deliver all your souls to Paradise
and let them lie among the blessed flowers!
I've never seen more worthy knights than you—
you all have served me long and faithfully,
and conquered such great lands for Charles's sake!
The emperor has raised you, all for naught.
My land of France, how very sweet you are—
today laid waste by terrible disaster!
French lords, because of me I see you dying—
I can't reprieve you now, nor save your lives.
May God, who never lied, come to your aid!
Olivier, I won't fail you, my brother;
if no one kills me, I shall die of grief.
My lord companion, let's attack once more."

♥ "We'll all be martyred here," Count Roland says,
"I know now we do not have long to live,
but damn the man whose life is not sold dear!
Lay on, my lords, and with your burnished swords
put up a struggle for your life and death,
so we may not humiliate sweet France!
When Charles, my lord, arrives upon this field,
he'll see such punishment of Saracens—
for each of our dead he will find fifteen—
that he will not withhold from us his blessing."

♥ Turpin of Reins, when he sees that he's been downed
by four spears driven deep into his body,
the brave man leaps back quickly to his feet
and looks toward Roland, then runs up to him
and says this word: "By no means am I beaten;
no loyal man gives up while still alive."

♥ Then all at once despair and pain well up,
and Roland says: "Olivier, fair comrade,
you were the son of wealthy Duke Renier,
who ruled the frontier valley of Runers.
To break a lance-shaft or to pierce a shield,
to overcome and terrify the proud,
to counsel and sustain the valorous,
to overcome and terrify the gluttons,
no country ever had a better knight."

♥ He's learned much, who has come to know pain well.

♥ King Charles has ridden into Roncesvals:
he starts to mourn for all the dead he finds.
He tells the Frenchmen: "At a walk, my lords,
for I myself shall have to go ahead,
so I may find the body of my nephew.
Upon a solemn feast day once, at Aix,
my gallant chevaliers were making boasts
about stupendous fights and bold assaults—
I overheard there one thing Roland said:
he'd never die within a foreign realm
until he'd gone beyond his men and peers,
and he would have his head turned toward their land;
the lord would meet his end still conquering."

♥ Gefrey of Anjou has blown his trumpet.
The French dismount, for Charles has ordered it,
and all their friends, whom they have found dead there,
they took directly to a common grave.
Here gathered are a multitude of bishops,
of abbots, canons, monks, and tonsured priests;
they shrove and blessed them in the name of God;
they kindled myrrh and incense at the place,
swung censers all around them zealously,
and then with stately honor they interred them,
and left them there—what else were they to do?

♥ The hosts are large, the battle corps are handsome,
Between them there; no hill nor rise nor valley
nor woods nor brake—no place where one could hide.
They see each other clearly on the plain.

♥ "Look; there's the pride of celebrated France!
The emperor is riding very fiercely;
he's with those bearded soldiers in the rear.
Across their byrnies they've thrown out their beards,
which are as white as snow on top of frost.
These men will fight with lances and with swords;
our battle will be vicious and unyielding,
a trial of arms like no one's ever seen."

♥ He shatters his fleuron-emblazened shield,
and afterward he rips apart his byrnie;
he shoves his pennant deep into the body
and, laugh or cry who will, he drops him dead.

♥ God!—so many shafts are snapped in two
and shields destroyed and byrnies stripped of mail!
Just look at how the ground about is littered!
Upon the battlefield, the soft green grass
[is all vermillioned by the running blood.]
The emir encourages his retinue:
"Lay on, my lords, against this Christian race!"
The battle is extremely fierce and stubborn;
there's been none harder fought before or since.
No truce will be announced until night falls.

♥ The emperor now calls upon his French:
"I hold your dear and trust you, lords and barons;
so many battles you have fought for me
and kingdoms overwhelmed and kings deposed!
I'm well aware I owe you recompense
in personal assistance, lands, and wealth.
Avenge your sons, your brothers, and your heirs
who died at Roncesvals the other evening!
I know you're in the right against the pagans."
The Franks reply: "Sire, what you say is true."
Some twenty thousand men who stand nearby
swear loyalty to him in unison—
on pain of death or torture they won't fail him.
Not one of them neglects to use his lance;
before long they'll be fighting with their swords.
The battle is astonishingly brutal.

♥ Then side by side in love and trust they stand,
together with some twenty thousand Frenchmen:
there is not one who fails to thrust and slash.

♥ If you could only see those mangled shields;
if you could heart those shiny hauberks gride,
those swords come craunching down into those casques;
if you could see those chevaliers unhorsed,
men screaming out, men dying on the ground—
you then might call to mind great suffering!

♥ "Jangleu, come forward," the emir begins.
"You're brave and your intelligence is great;
I've always given credence to your counsel.
How do the French and Arabs look to you?
Are we to have success upon the field?"
And this man answers: "Baligant, you're dead.
Your gods will not protect you in the least.
King Charles is fierce, his men are valiant—
I've never seen an army so aggressive.
However, call the lords of Occian,
the Turks, Enfruns, the Arabs, and the giants:
what is to be will be—just don't delay."

The emir has now put out his flowing beard:
it's just as white as blossoms of the hawthorn.
Whatever happens, he will not take cover.
He sets a clear-voiced trumpet to his mouth
and sounds it clearly, so his pagans, hearing,
will rally his supporters in the field.

♥ Then very boldly he speaks up to Charles:
"Just look at how the pagans kill your men—
may God forbid your head to wear a crown
unless you strike now, to avenge your shame!"
There's no one there who says a word at this;
they ply their spurs and let their horses run
and go to fight the pagans where they find them.

♥ The king now says: "My lords, avenge your griefs
and thus relieve your feelings and your hearts—
I saw your eyes shed tears this very morning."
The Franks reply: "We have to do it, sire."
Each one strikes blows as heavy as he can:
of those there,m very few will get away.

♥ On seeing the disorder of the Arabs
she screams out shrilly: "Give us aid, Muhammad!
Oh noble king, our soldiers have been beaten,
the emir has been brought down so shamefully!"
Marsilla, hearing this, turns toward the wall;
his eyes shed bitter tears, his features sag.
While weighted down by sin, he died of grief
and yielded up his soul to lively devils.

♥ And well above a hundred thousand souls
are baptized proper Christians—save the queen,
for she is to be led captive to sweet France.
The king desires that she recant through love.

♥ Look: Alde, a lovely girl, comes up to him.
She asks the king: "Where is the captain Roland,
who promised he would take me as his wife?"
This causes Charles to feel despair and grief:
his eyes shed tears, he tugs at his white beard.
"Dear sister, friend, you ask me for the dead.
I'll give you a much nobler substitute
in Louis—I don't know what more to say.
He is my son, and thus will rule my marches."
And Alde replies: "These words seem strange to me—
may God, his angels, and his saints forbid
that after Roland I remain alive."
Her color gone, she drops at Charles's feet,
is dead—may God have mercy on her soul!
The lords of France will weep and mourn for her.

♥ Says Pinabel: "Almighty God forbid!
I mean to stand up for my relatives.
I won't recant for any man alive—
I'd much prefer to die than be reproved."
So once again they raise their swords and hack
upon those jewel-studded golden casques,
and blazing sparks fly up into the air.
There's nothing that can make them separate,
nor can this end until a man is dead.

♥ Thierry sees he is wounded in the face—
bright blood is falling on the grassy plain—
hits Pinabel upon his smooth steel casque
and cracks it, splits it open to the nasal,
and bursts his skull, so brains come spilling out,
then wrenches free and lets him fall down dead.
With this one blow the conflict has been won.
The Franks shout: "God has worked a miracle!
It's only just that Ganelon be hanged,
together with his kin who took his side."

♥ A hundred sergeants help him drag him off:
the number of them there they hanged was thirty.
A traitor kills himself as well as others.

♥ The Franks above all others have agreed
that Ganelon should die in awesome pain.
And so they have four destriers led forward,
then tie him to them by his feet and hands.
The horses are high-spirited and fiery,
and at their heads four sergeant urge them on,
down toward a stream that runs across a field.
Now Ganelon has gone to his damnation:
his ligaments are horribly distended,
and every member of his body broken;
bright blood comes spilling down upon green grass.
Thus Ganelon has died a renegade;
a man should never boast that he's a traitor.

♥ The day goes by, and night comes quietly:
the king has lain down in his vaulted chamber.
Saint Gabriel came down from God to say:
"Call up the armies of your empire, Charles,
for you are to invade the land of Bire
and there assist King Vivien at Imphe,
the city which the pagans have besieged;
the Christians there call out and cry for you."
The emperor had no desire to go:
the king cries: "God, how tiring is my life!"
His eyes shed tears, he tugs at his white beard.

The story that Turoldus tells ends here.
Tags: 11th century - fiction, 11th century - poetry, 8th century in fiction, 8th century in poetry, battle of roncevaux pass (fiction), epic poem, fiction, foreign lit, french - fiction, french - poetry, literature, poetry, religion - christianity (fiction), religion - islam (fiction), spanish in fiction, translated, war lit, war poetry
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