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  The Song of Roland.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
 
Part II: The Prelude of the Great Battle
 
The Mellay
 
 
XCVI

King Marsil’s nephew, Aelroth his name,
Vaunting in front of the battle came,
Words of scorn on our Franks he cast:
“Felon Franks, ye are met at last,
By your chosen guardian betrayed and sold,        5
By your king left madly the pass to hold.
This day shall France of her fame be shorn,
And from Karl the mighty his right arm torn.”
Roland heard him in wrath and pain!—
He spurred his steed, he slacked the rein,        10
Drave at the heathen with might and main,
Shattered his shield and his hauberk broke,
Right to the breast-bone went the stroke;
Pierced him, spine and marrow through,
And the felon’s soul from his body flew.        15
A moment reeled he upon his horse,
Then all heavily dropped the corse;
Wrenched was his neck as on earth he fell,
Yet would Roland scorn with scorn repel.
“Thou dastard! never hath Karl been mad,        20
Nor love for treason or traitors had.
To guard the passes he left us here,
Like a noble king and chevalier.
Nor shall France this day her fame forego.
Strike in, my barons; the foremost blow        25
Dealt in the fight doth to us belong:
We have the right and these dogs the wrong.”
 
XCVII

A duke was there, named Falsaron,
Of the land of Dathan and Abiron;
Brother to Marsil, the king, was he;        30
More miscreant felon ye might not see.
Huge of forehead, his eyes between,
A span of a full half-foot, I ween.
Bitter sorrow was his, to mark
His nephew before him lie slain and stark.        35
Hastily came he from forth the press,
Raising the war-cry of heathenesse.
Braggart words from his lips were tost:
“This day the honour of France is lost.”
Hotly Sir Olivier’s anger stirs;        40
He pricked his steed with golden spurs,
Fairly dealt him a baron’s blow,
And hurled him dead from the saddle-bow.
Buckler and mail were reft and rent,
And the pennon’s flaps to his heart’s blood went.        45
He saw the miscreant stretched on earth:
“Caitiff, thy threats are of little worth.
On, Franks! the felons before us fall;
Montjoie!” ’Tis the Emperor’s battle-call.
 
XCVIII

A king was there of a strange countrie,
        50
King Corsablis of Barbary;
Before the Saracen van he cried,
“Right well may we in this battle bide;
Puny the host of the Franks I deem,
And those that front us, of vile esteem.        55
Not one by succor of Karl shall fly;
The day hath dawned that shall see them die.”
Archbishop Turpin hath heard him well;
No mortal hates he with hate so fell:
He pricked with spurs of the fine gold wrought,        60
And in deadly passage the heathen sought;
Shield and corselet were pierced and riven,
And the lance’s point through his body driven;
To and fro, at the mighty thrust,
He reeled, and then fell stark in dust.        65
Turpin looked on him, stretched on ground.
“Loud thou liest, thou heathen hound!
King Karl is ever our pride and stay;
Nor one of the Franks shall blench this day,
But your comrades here on the field shall lie;        70
I bring you tidings: ye all shall die.
Strike, Franks! remember your chivalry;
First blows are ours, high God be praised!”
Once more the cry, “Montjoie!” he raised.
 
XCIX

Gerein to Malprimis of Brigal sped,
        75
Whose good shield stood him no whit in stead;
Its knob of crystal was cleft in twain,
And one half fell on the battle plain.
Right through the hauberk, and through the skin,
He drave the lance to the flesh within;        80
Prone and sudden the heathen fell,
And Satan carried his soul to hell.
 
C

Anon, his comrade in arms, Gerier,
Spurred at the Emir with levelled spear,
Severed his shield and his mail apart,—        85
The lance went through them, to pierce his heart.
Dead on the field at the blow he lay.
Olivier said, “’Tis a stirring fray.”
 
CI

At the Almasour’s shield Duke Samson rode—
With blazon of flowers and gold it glowed;        90
But nor shield nor cuirass availed to save,
When through heart and lungs the lance he drave.
Dead lies he, weep him who list or no.
The Archbishop said, “’Tis a baron’s blow.”
 
CII

Anseis cast his bridle free;
        95
At Turgis, Tortosa’s lord, rode he:
Above the centre his shield he smote,
Brake his mail with its double coat,
Speeding the lance with a stroke so true,
That the iron traversed his body through.        100
So lay he lifeless, at point of spear.
Said Roland, “Struck like a cavalier.”
 
CIII

Engelier, Gascon of Bordeaux,
On his courser’s mane let the bridle flow;
Smote Escremis, from Valtierra sprung,        105
Shattered the shield from his neck that swung;
On through his hauberk’s vental pressed,
And betwixt his shoulders pierced his breast.
Forth from the saddle he cast him dead.
“So shall ye perish all,” he said.        110
 
CIV

The heathen Estorgan was Otho’s aim:
Right in front of his shield he came;
Rent its colors of red and white,
Pierced the joints of his harness bright,
Flung him dead from his bridle rein.        115
Said Otho, “Thus shall ye all be slain.”
 
CV

Berengier smote Estramarin,
Planting his lance his heart within,
Through shivered shield and hauberk torn.
The Saracen to earth was borne        120
Amid a thousand of his train.
Thus ten of the heathen twelve are slain;
But two are left alive I wis—
Chernubles and Count Margaris.
 
CVI

Count Margaris was a valiant knight,
        125
Stalwart of body, and lithe and light:
He spurred his steed unto Olivier,
Brake his shield at the golden sphere,
Pushed the lance till it touched his side;
God of his grace made it harmless glide.        130
Margaris rideth unhurt withal,
Sounding his trumpet, his men to call.
 
CVII

Mingled and marvellous grows the fray,
And in Roland’s heart is no dismay.
He fought with lance while his good lance stood;        135
Fifteen encounters have strained its wood.
At the last it brake; then he grasped in hand
His Durindana, his naked brand.
He smote Chernubles’ helm upon,
Where, in the centre, carbuncles shone:        140
Down through his coif and his fell of hair,
Betwixt his eyes came the falchion bare,
Down through his plated harness fine,
Down through the Saracen’s chest and chine,
Down through the saddle with gold inlaid,        145
Till sank in the living horse the blade,
Severed the spine where no joint was found,
And horse and rider lay dead on ground.
“Caitiff, thou camest in evil hour;
To save thee passeth Mohammed’s power.        150
Never to miscreants like to thee
Shall come the guerdon of victory.”
 
CVIII

Count Roland rideth the battle through,
With Durindana, to cleave and hew;
Havoc fell of the foe he made,        155
Saracen corse upon corse was laid,
The field all flowed with the bright blood shed;
Roland, to corselet and arm, was red—
Red his steed to the neck and flank.
Nor is Olivier niggard of blows as frank;        160
Nor to one of the peers be blame this day,
For the Franks are fiery to smite and slay.
“Well fought,” said Turpin, “our barons true!”
And he raised the war-cry, “Montjoie!” anew.
 
CIX

Through the storm of battle rides Olivier,
        165
His weapon, the butt of his broken spear,
Down upon Malseron’s shield he beat,
Where flowers and gold emblazoned meet,
Dashing his eyes from forth his head:
Low at his feet were the brains bespread,        170
And the heathen lies with seven hundred dead!
Estorgus and Turgin next he slew,
Till the shaft he wielded in splinters flew.
“Comrade!” said Roland, “what makest thou?
Is it time to fight with a truncheon now?        175
Steel and iron such strife may claim;
Where is thy sword, Hauteclere by name,
With its crystal pommel and golden guard?”
“Of time to draw it I stood debarred,
Such stress was on me of smiting hard.”        180
 
CX

Then drew Sir Olivier forth his blade,
As had his comrade Roland prayed.
He proved it in knightly wise straightway,
On the heathen Justin of Val Ferrée.
At a stroke he severed his head in two,        185
Cleft him body and harness through;
Down through the gold-incrusted selle,
To the horse’s chine, the falchion fell:
Dead on the sward lay man and steed.
Said Roland, “My brother, henceforth, indeed        190
The Emperor loves us for such brave blows!”
Around them the cry of “Montjoie!” arose.
 
CXI

Gerein his Sorel rides; Gerier
Is mounted on his own Pass-deer:
The reins they slacken, and prick full well        195
Against the Saracen Timozel.
One smites his cuirass, and one his shield,
Break in his body the spears they wield;
They cast him dead on the fallow mould.
I know not, nor yet to mine ear was told,        200
Which of the twain was more swift and bold.
Then Espreveris, Borel’s son,
By Engelier unto death was done.
Archbishop Turpin slew Siglorel,
The wizard, who erst had been in hell,        205
By Jupiter thither in magic led.
“Well have we ’caped,” the archbishop said:
“Crushed is the caitiff,” Count Roland replies,
“Olivier, brother, such strokes I prize!”
 
CXII

Furious waxeth the fight, and strange;
        210
Frank and heathen their blows exchange;
While these defend, and those assail,
And their lances broken and bloody fail.
Ensign and pennon are rent and cleft,
And the Franks of their fairest youth bereft,        215
Who will look on mother or spouse no more,
Or the host that waiteth the gorge before.
Karl the Mighty may weep and wail;
What skilleth sorrow, if succour fail?
An evil service was Gan’s that day,        220
When to Saragossa he bent his way,
His faith and kindred to betray.
But a doom thereafter awaited him—
Amerced in Aix, of life and limb,
With thirty of his kin beside,        225
To whom was hope of grace denied.
 
CXIII

King Almaris with his band, the while,
Wound through a marvellous strait defile,
Where doth Count Walter the heights maintain
And the passes that lie at the gates of Spain.        230
“Gan, the traitor, hath made of us,”
Said Walter, “a bargain full dolorous.”
 
CXIV

King Almaris to the mount hath clomb,
With sixty thousand of heathendom.
In deadly wrath on the Franks they fall,        235
And with furious onset smite them all:
Routed, scattered or slain they lie.
Then rose the wrath of Count Walter high;
His sword he drew, his helm he laced,
Slowly in front of the line he paced,        240
And with evil greeting his foeman faced.
 
CXV

Right on his foemen doth Walter ride,
And the heathen assail him on every side;
Broken down was his shield of might,
Bruised and pierced was his hauberk white;        245
Four lances at once did his body wound:
No longer bore he—four times he swooned;
He turned perforce from the field aside,
Slowly adown the mount he hied,
And aloud to Roland for succour cried.        250
 
CXVI

Wild and fierce is the battle still:
Roland and Olivier fight their fill;
The Archbishop dealeth a thousand blows
Nor knoweth one of the peers repose;
The Franks are fighting commingled all,        255
And the foe in hundreds and thousands fall;
Choice have they none but to flee or die,
Leaving their lives despighteously.
Yet the Franks are reft of their chivalry,
Who will see nor parent nor kindred fond,        260
Nor Karl who waits them the pass beyond.
 
CXVII

Now a wondrous storm o’er France hath passed,
With thunder-stroke and whirlwind’s blast;
Rain unmeasured, and hail, there came,
Sharp and sudden the lightning’s flame;        265
And an earthquake ran—the sooth I say,
From Besançon city to Wissant Bay;
From Saint Michael’s Mount to thy shrine, Cologne,
House unrifted was there none.
And a darkness spread in the noontide high—        270
No light, save gleams from the cloven sky.
On all who saw came a mighty fear.
They said, “The end of the world is near.”
Alas, they spake but with idle breath,—
’Tis the great lament for Roland’s death.        275
 
CXVIII

Dread are the omens and fierce the storm,
Over France the signs and wonders swarm:
From noonday on to the vesper hour,
Night and darkness alone have power;
Nor sun nor moon one ray doth shed,        280
Who sees it ranks him among the dead.
Well may they suffer such pain and woe,
When Roland, captain of all, lies low.
Never on earth hath his fellow been,
To slay the heathen or realms to win.        285
 
CXIX

Stern and stubborn is the fight;
Staunch are the Franks with the sword to smite;
Nor is there one but whose blade is red,
“Montjoie!” is ever their war-cry dread.
Through the land they ride in hot pursuit,        290
And the heathens feel ’tis a fierce dispute.
 
CXX

In wrath and anguish, the heathen race
Turn in flight from the field their face;
The Franks as hotly behind them strain.
Then might ye look on a cumbered plain:        295
Saracens stretched on the green grass bare,
Helms and hauberks that shone full fair,
Standards riven and arms undone:
So by the Franks was the battle won.
The foremost battle that then befell—        300
O God, what sorrow remains to tell!
 
CXXI

With heart and prowess the Franks have stood;
Slain was the heathen multitude;
Of a hundred thousand survive not two:
The archbishop crieth, “O staunch and true!        305
Written it is in the Frankish geste,
That our Emperor’s vassals shall bear them best.”
To seek their dead through the field they press,
And their eyes drop tears of tenderness:
Their hearts are turned to their kindred dear.        310
Marsil the while with his host is near.
 
CXXII

Distraught was Roland with wrath and pain;
Distraught were the twelve of Carlemaine—
With deadly strokes the Franks have striven,
And the Saracen horde to the slaughter given;        315
Of a hundred thousand escaped but one—
King Margaris fled from the field alone;
But no disgrace in his flight he bore—
Wounded was he by lances four.
To the side of Spain did he take his way,        320
To tell King Marsil what chanced that day.
 
CXXIII

Alone King Margaris left the field,
With broken spear and piercèd shield,
Scarce half a foot from the knob remained,
And his brand of steel with blood was stained;        325
On his body were four lance wounds to see:
Were he Christian, what a baron he!
He sped to Marsil his tale to tell;
Swift at the feet of the king he fell:
“Ride, sire, on to the field forthright,        330
You will find the Franks in an evil plight;
Full half and more of their host lies slain,
And sore enfeebled who yet remain;
Nor arms have they in their utmost need:
To crush them now were an easy deed,”        335
Marsil listened with heart aflame.
Onward in search of the Franks he came.
 
CXXIV

King Marsil on through the valley sped,
With the mighty host he has marshallèd.
Twice ten battalions the king arrayed:        340
Helmets shone, with their gems displayed.
Bucklers and braided hauberks bound,
Seven thousand trumpets the onset sound;
Dread was the clangor afar to hear.
Said Roland, “My brother, my Olivier,        345
Gan the traitor our death hath sworn,
Nor may his treason be now forborne.
To our Emperor vengeance may well belong,—
To us the battle fierce and strong;
Never hath mortal beheld the like.        350
With my Durindana I trust to strike;
And thou, my comrade, with thy Hauteclere:
We have borne them gallantly otherwhere.
So many fields ’twas ours to gain,
They shall sing against us no scornful strain.”        355
 
CXXV

As the Franks the heathen power descried,
Filling the champaign from side to side,
Loud unto Roland they made their call,
And to Olivier and their captains all,
Spake the archbishop as him became:        360
“O barons, think not one thought of shame;
Fly not, for sake of our God I pray.
That on you be chaunted no evil lay.
Better by far on the field to die;
For in sooth I deem that our end is nigh.        365
But in holy Paradise ye shall meet,
And with the innocents be your seat.”
The Franks exult his words to hear,
And the cry “Montjoie;” resoundeth clear.
 
CXXVI

King Marsil on the hill-top bides,
        370
While Grandonie with his legion rides.
He nails his flag with three nails of gold:
“Ride ye onwards, my barons bold.”
Then loud a thousand clarions rang.
And the Franks exclaimed as they heard the clang—        375
“O God, our Father, what cometh on!
Woe that we ever saw Ganelon:
Foully, by treason, he us betrayed.”
Gallantly then the archbishop said,
“Soldiers and lieges of God are ye,        380
And in Paradise shall your guerdon be.
To lie on its holy flowerets fair,
Dastard never shall enter there.”
Say the Franks, “We will win it every one.”
The archbishop bestoweth his benison.        385
Proudly mounted they at his word,
And, like lions chafed, at the heathen spurred.
 
CXXVII

Thus doth King Marsil divide his men:
He keeps around him battalions ten.
As the Franks the other ten descry,        390
“What dark disaster,” they said, “is nigh?
What doom shall now our peers betide?”
Archbishop Turpin full well replied.
“My cavaliers, of God the friends,
Your crown of glory to-day He sends,        395
To rest on the flowers of Paradise,
That never were won by cowardice.”
The Franks made answer, “No cravens we,
Nor shall we gainsay God’s decree;
Against the enemy yet we hold,—        400
Few may we be, but staunch and bold.”
Their spurs against the foe they set,
Frank and paynim—once more they met.
 
CXXVIII

A heathen of Saragossa came.
Full half the city was his to claim.        405
It was Climorin: hollow of heart was he,
He had plighted with Gan in perfidy,
What time each other on mouth they kissed,
And he gave him his helm and amethyst.
He would bring fair France from her glory down        410
And from the Emperor wrest his crown.
He sate upon Barbamouche, his steed,
Than hawk or swallow more swift in speed.
Pricked with the spur, and the rein let flow,
To strike at the Gascon of Bordeaux,        415
Whom shield nor cuirass availed to save.
Within his harness the point he drave,
The sharp steel on through his body passed,
Dead on the field was the Gascon cast.
Said Climorin, “Easy to lay them low:        420
Strike in, my pagans, give blow for blow.”
For their champion slain, the Franks cry woe.
 
CXXIX

Sir Roland called unto Olivier,
“Sir Comrade, dead lieth Engelier;
Braver knight had we none than he.”        425
“God grant,” he answered, “revenge to me.”
His spurs of gold to his horse he laid,
Grasping Hauteclere with his bloody blade.
Climorin smote he, with stroke so fell,
Slain at the blow was the infidel.        430
Whose soul the Enemy bore away.
Then turned he, Alphaien, the duke, to slay;
From Escababi the head he shore,
And Arabs seven to the earth he bore.
Saith Roland, “My comrade is much in wrath;        435
Won great laud by my side he hath;
Us such prowess to Karl endears.
Fight on, fight ever, my cavaliers.”
 
CXXX

Then came the Saracen Valdabrun,
Of whom King Marsil was foster-son.        440
Four hundred galleys he owned at sea,
And of all the mariners lord was he.
Jerusalem erst he had falsely won,
Profaned the temple of Solomon,
Slaying the patriarch at the fount.        445
’Twas he who in plight unto Gan the count,
His sword with a thousand coins bestowed.
Gramimond named he the steed he rode,
Swifter than ever was falcon’s flight;
Well did he prick with the sharp spurs bright,        450
To strike Duke Samson, the fearless knight.
Buckler and cuirass at once he rent,
And his pennon’s flaps through his body sent;
Dead he cast him, with levelled spear.
“Strike, ye heathens; their doom is near.”        455
The Franks cry woe for their cavalier.
 
CXXXI

When Roland was ware of Samson slain,
Well may you weet of his bitter pain.
With bloody spur he his steed impelled,
While Durindana aloft he held,        460
The sword more costly than purest gold;
And he smote, with passion uncontrolled,
On the heathen’s helm, with its jewelled crown,—
Through head, and cuirass, and body down,
And the saddle embossed with gold, till sank        465
The griding steel in the charger’s flank;
Blame or praise him, the twain he slew.
“A fearful stroke!” said the heathen crew.
“I shall never love you,” Count Roland cried.
“With you are falsehood and evil pride.”        470
 
CXXXII

From Afric’s shore, of Afric’s brood,
Malquiant, son of King Malcus stood;
Wrought of the beaten gold, his vest
Flamed to the sun over all the rest.
Saut-perdu hath he named his horse,        475
Fleeter than ever was steed in course;
He smote Anseis upon the shield,
Cleft its vermeil and azure field,
Severed the joints of his hauberk good,
In his body planted both steel and wood.        480
Dead he lieth, his day is o’er,
And the Franks the loss of their peer deplore.
 
CXXXIII

Turpin rideth the press among;
Never such priest the Mass had sung,
Nor who hath such feats of his body done.        485
“God send thee,” he said, “His malison!
For the knight thou slewest my heart is sore.”
He sets the spur to his steed once more,
Smites the shield in Toledo made,
And the heathen low on the sward is laid.        490
 
CXXXIV

Forth came the Saracen Grandonie,
Bestriding his charger Marmorie;
He was son unto Cappadocia’s king,
And his steed was fleeter than bird on wing.
He let the rein on his neck decline,        495
And spurred him hard against Count Gerein,
Shattered the vermeil shield he bore,
And his armor of proof all open tore;
In went the pennon, so fierce the shock,
And he cast him, dead, on a lofty rock;        500
Then he slew his comrade in arms, Gerier,
Guy of Saint Anton and Berengier.
Next lay the great Duke Astor prone.
The Lord of Valence upon the Rhone.
Among the heathen great joy he cast.        505
Say the Franks, lamenting, “We perish fast.”
 
CXXXV

Count Roland graspeth his bloody sword:
Well hath he heard how the Franks deplored;
His heart is burning within his breast.
“God’s malediction upon thee rest!        510
Right dearly shalt thou this blood repay.”
His war-horse springs to the spur straightway,
And they come together—go down who may.
 
CXXXVI

A gallant captain was Grandonie,
Great in arms and in chivalry.        515
Never, till then, had he Roland seen,
But well he knew him by form and mien,
By the stately bearing and glance of pride,
And a fear was on him he might not hide.
Fain would he fly, but it skills not here;        520
Roland smote him with stroke so sheer,
That it cleft the nasal his helm beneath,
Slitting nostril and mouth and teeth,
Cleft his body and mail of plate,
And the gilded saddle whereon he sate,        525
Deep the back of the charger through:
Beyond all succor the twain he slew.
From the Spanish ranks a wail arose,
And the Franks exult in their champion’s blows.
 
CXXXVII

The battle is wondrous yet, and dire,
        530
And the Franks are cleaving in deadly ire;
Wrists and ribs and chines afresh,
And vestures, in to the living flesh;
On the green grass streaming the bright blood ran,
“O mighty country, Mahound thee ban!        535
For thy sons are strong over might of man.”
And one and all unto Marsil cried,
“Hither, O king, to our succor ride.”
 
CXXXVIII

Marvellous yet is the fight around,
The Franks are thrusting with spears embrowned;        540
And great the carnage there to ken,
Slain and wounded and bleeding men,
Flung, each by other, on back or face.
Hold no more can the heathen race.
They turn and fly from the field apace;        545
The Franks as hotly pursue in chase.
 
CXXXIX

Knightly the deeds by Roland done,
Respite or rest for his Franks is none;
Hard they ride on the heathen rear,
At trot or gallop in full career.        550
With crimson blood are their bodies stained,
And their brands of steel are snapped or strained;
And when the weapons their hands forsake,
Then unto trumpet and horn they take.
Serried they charge, in power and pride;        555
And the Saracens cry—“May ill betide
The hour we came on this fatal track!”
So on our host do they turn the back,
The Christians cleaving them as they fled,
Till to Marsil stretcheth the line of dead.        560
 
CXL

King Marsil looks on his legions strown,
He bids the clarion blast be blown,
With all his host he onward speeds:
Abîme the heathen his vanguard leads.
No felon worse in the host than he,        565
Black of hue as a shrivelled pea;
He believes not in Holy Mary’s Son;
Full many an evil deed hath done.
Treason and murder he prizeth more
Than all the gold of Galicia’s shore;        570
Men never knew him to laugh nor jest,
But brave and daring among the best—
Endeared to the felon king therefor;
And the dragon flag of his race he bore.
The archbishop loathed him—full well he might,—        575
And as he saw him he yearned to smite,
To himself he speaketh, low and quick,
“This heathen seems much a heretic;
I go to slay him, or else to die,
For I love not dastards or dastardy.”        580
 
CXLI

The archbishop began the fight once more;
He rode the steed he had won of yore,
When in Denmark Grossaille the king he slew.
Fleet the charger, and fair to view:
His feet were small and fashioned fine,        585
Long the flank, and high the chine,
Chest and croup full amply spread,
With taper ear and tawny head,
And snow-white tail and yellow mane:
To seek his peer on earth were vain.        590
The archbishop spurred him in fiery haste,
And, on the moment Abîme he faced,
Came down on the wondrous shield the blow,
The shield with amethysts all aglow,
Carbuncle and topaz, each priceless stone;        595
’Twas once the Emir Galafir’s own;
A demon gave it in Metas vale;
But when Turpin smote it might nought avail—
From side to side did his weapon trace,
And he flung him dead in an open space.        600
Say the Franks, “Such deeds beseem the brave.
Well the archbishop his cross can save.”
 
CXLII

Count Roland Olivier bespake:
“Sir comrade, dost thou my thought partake?
A braver breathes not this day on earth        605
Than our archbishop in knightly worth.
How nobly smites he with lance and blade!”
Saith Olivier, “Yea, let us yield him aid;”
And the Franks once more the fight essayed.
Stern and deadly resound the blows.        610
For the Christians, alas, ’tis a tale of woes!
 
CXLIII

The Franks of France of their arms are reft,
Three hundred blades alone are left.
The glittering helms they smite and shred,
And cleave asunder full many a head;        615
Through riven helm and hauberk rent,
Maim head and foot and lineament.
“Disfigured are we,” the heathens cry.
“Who guards him not hath but choice to die.”
Right unto Marsil their way they take.        620
“Help, O king, for your people’s sake!”
King Marsil heard their cry at hand,
“Mahound destroy thee, O mighty land;
Thy race came hither to crush mine own.
What cities wasted and overthrown,        625
Doth Karl of the hoary head possess!
Rome and Apulia his power confess,
Constantinople and Saxony;
Yet better die by the Franks than flee.
On, Saracens! recreant heart be none;        630
If Roland live, we are all foredone.”
 
CXLIV

Then with the lance did the heathens smite
On shield and gleaming helmet bright;
Of steel and iron arose the clang,
Towards heaven the flames and sparkles sprang;        635
Brains and blood on the champaign flowed;
But on Roland’s heart is a dreary load,
To see his vassals lie cold in death;
His gentle France he remembereth,
And his uncle, the good King Carlemaine;        640
And the spirit within him groans for pain.
 
CXLV

Count Roland entered within the prease,
And smote full deadly without surcease;
While Durindana aloft he held,
Hauberk and helm he pierced and quelled,        645
Intrenching body and hand and head.
The Saracens lie by the hundred dead,
And the heathen host is discomfited.
 
CXLVI

Valiantly Olivier, otherwhere,
Brandished on high his sword Hauteclere—        650
Save Durindana, of swords the best.
To the battle proudly he him addressed.
His arms with the crimson blood were dyed.
“God, what a vassal!” Count Roland cried.
“O gentle baron, so true and leal,        655
This day shall set on our love the seal!
The Emperor cometh to find us dead,
For ever parted and severèd.
France never looked on such woful day;
Nor breaths a Frank but for us will pray,—        660
From the cloister cells shall the orisons rise,
And our souls find rest in Paradise.”
Olivier heard him, amid the throng,
Spurred his steed to his side along.
Saith each to other, “Be near me still;        665
We will die together, if God so will.”
 
CXLVII

Roland and Olivier then are seen
To lash and hew with their falchions keen;
With his lance the archbishop thrusts and slays,
And the numbers slain we may well appraise;        670
In charter and writ is the tale expressed—
Beyond four thousand, saith the geste.
In four encounters they sped them well:
Dire and grievous the fifth befell.
The cavaliers of the Franks are slain        675
All but sixty, who yet remain;
God preserved them, that ere they die,
They may sell their lives full hardily.
 

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