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Charlemagne and his vassals, weary of the long war, receive Marsile's messengers and try to choose an envoy to negotiate at Marsile's court on Charlemagne's behalf. Roland, a courageous knight and Charlemagne's nephew, nominates his stepfather, Ganelon. Ganelon is enraged, thinking that Roland has nominated him for this dangerous mission in an attempt to be rid of him for good. Ganelon has long been jealous of Roland, and on his diplomatic mission he plots with the Saracens, telling them that they could ambush Charlemagne's rear guard as Charlemagne leaves Spain. Roland will undoubtedly lead the rearguard, and Ganelon promises that with Roland dead, Charlemagne will lose the will to fight.

After Ganelon returns with assurances of Marsile's good faith, Roland, as predicted, ends up leading the rearguard. The twelve peers, later known as the Paladins, Charlemagne's greatest and most beloved vassals, go with him. Among them is Oliver, a wise and prudent man and Roland's best friend. Also in the rearguard is the fiery Archbishop Turpin, a clergyman who also is a great warrior. At the pass of Roncevaux, the twenty thousand Christians of the rearguard are ambushed by a vastly superior force, numbering four hundred thousand. Oliver counsels Roland to blow his olifant horn, to call back Charlemagne's main force, but Roland refuses.

The Franks fight valiantly, but in the end they are killed to the man. Roland gives three long mighty blasts on his oliphant so that Charlemagne will return and avenge them. His temples burst from the force required, and he presently expires. He positions himself so as to face toward the enemy's land before dying, and his soul is escorted to heaven by Saint Gabriel, Saint Michael and assorted cherubim.

All rights reserved. George Saintsbury was a journalist, reviewer, critic, editor, and Professor of Literature at the University of Edinburgh. All men know well that I am thy goodfather; Thou hast decreed, to Marsiliun I travel. Spanish anguish: angustia, miedo, angustiar. Translated by Moncrief 17 Then if God grant that I return hereafter, I'll follow thee with such a force of passion That will endure so long as life may last thee.

Thou'rt not my man, nor am I lord of thee. Charles commnds that I do his decree, To Sarraguce going to Marsilie; There I will work a little trickery, This mighty wrath of mine I'll thus let free. Your sister's hand in marriage have I ta'en; And I've a son, there is no prettier swain: Baldwin, men say he shews the knightly strain.


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To him I leave my honours and domain. Care well for him; he'll look for me in vain. When I command, time is to start amain. Translated by Moncrief 19 For you have heard, you're chosen by the Franks," "Sire," answers Guenes, " all this is from Rollanz; I'll not love him, so long as I'm a man, Nor Oliver, who goes at his right hand; The dozen peers, for they are of his band, All I defy, as in your sight I stand.

Murmur the Franks: "God!

What may that mean now? By this message great loss shall come about. On Tachebrun, his charger, next he leaps, His uncle holds the stirrup, Guinemere. Then you had seen so many knights to weep, Who all exclaim: "Unlucky lord, indeed! In the King's court these many years you've been, Noble vassal, they say that have you seen. He that for you this journey has decreed King Charlemagne will never hold him dear. The Count Rollant, he should not so have deemed, Knowing you were born of very noble breed. Far better one than many knights should bleed.

To France the Douce, my lords, you soon shall speed, Spanish absolved: absuelto. Translated by Moncrief 21 On my behalf my gentle wife you'll greet, And Pinabel, who is my friend and peer, And Baldewin, my son, whom you have seen; His rights accord and help him in his need.


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  • Cunning and keen they speak then, each to each, Says Blancandrins: "Charles, what a man is he, Who conquered Puille and th'whole of Calabrie; Into England he crossed the bitter sea, To th' Holy Pope restored again his fee. What seeks he now of us in our country?

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    XXIX Spanish abides: espera, tolera, aguanta, mora. With what people takes he this task in hand? Spanish apple: manzana, la manzana. Translated by Moncrief 23 Silver and gold he show'rs upon his band, Chargers and mules, garments and silken mats. Cantered so far by valley and by plain To Sarraguce beneath a cliff they came. There a fald-stool stood in a pine-tree's shade, Enveloped all in Alexandrin veils; There was the King that held the whole of Espain, Twenty thousand of Sarrazins his train; Nor was there one but did his speech contain, Eager for news, till they might hear the tale.

    Haste into sight then Blancandrins and Guene. Your message we delivered to Charlun, Both his two hands he raised against the sun, Praising his God, but answer made he none. Translated by Moncrief 25 Judged and condemned you'll be, and shortly slain, Yes, you will die in misery and shame. Guenes beholds: his sword in hand he takes, Two fingers' width from scabbard bares the blade; And says to it: "O clear and fair and brave; Before this King in court we'll so behave, That the Emperour of France shall never say In a strange land I'd thrown my life away Before these chiefs thy temper had essayed.

    Spanish bares: descubre. The pagans say.

    Publisher Series: Everyman Classics

    Seeing you are, by Charles, of Franks the chief, Bidden to hold the Christians' right belief. One half of Spain he'll render as your fief The rest Rollanz, his nephew, shall receive, Spanish belief: creencia, credo, fe. Translated by Moncrief 27 Proud parcener in him you'll have indeed. You will not then on palfrey nor on steed, Jennet nor mule, come cantering in your speed; Flung you will be on a vile sumpter-beast; Tried there and judged, your head you will not keep.

    Our Emperour has sent you here this brief.

    If I would save my body now alive, I must despatch my uncle the alcalyph, Charles will not love me ever otherwise. Spanish alive: vivo, viviente. Says Blancandrins: "Summon the Frank again, In our service his faith to me he's pledged. Of treason there make lawless parliament. Translated by Moncrief 29 Making to strike, I shewed my great fury.

    The Song of Roland

    To-morrow night the gift shall ready be. May God be pleased to shew you His mercy. Of Charlemagne I wish to hear you tell, He's very old, his time is nearly spent, Two hundred years he's lived now, as 'tis said. Through many lands his armies he has led, So many blows his buckled shield has shed, And so rich kings he's brought to beg their bread; What time from war will he draw back instead?

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    There is no man that sees and knows him well But will proclaim the Emperour's hardihead. Praise him as best I may, when all is said, Remain untold, honour and goodness yet. His great valour how can it be counted? Charles is secure, he holds no man in terror. Translated by Moncrief 31 Two hundred years and more, I understand, He has gone forth and conquered many a land, Such blows hath borne from many a trenchant lance, Vanquished and slain of kings so rich a band, When will time come that he from war draws back? Leave you the fools, wise counsel following; To the Emperour such wealth of treasure give That every Frank at once is marvelling.

    For twenty men that you shall now send in Spanish blows: golpes. Battle again deliver, and with speed. So, first or last, from Rollant you'll be freed. Spanish battle: batalla, pelea. Translated by Moncrief 33 You will have wrought a high chivalrous deed, Nor all your life know war again, but peace. XLV "Could one achieve that Rollant's life was lost, Charle's right arm were from his body torn; Though there remained his marvellous great host, He'ld not again assemble in such force; Terra Major would languish in repose.

    He's sworn thereby, the Spanish Sarazand, In the rereward if he shall find Rollant, Battle to himself and all his band, And verily he'll slay him if he can. And answered Guenes: "So be it, as you command! To you, fair sir, I offer it in love; Give us your aid from Rollant the barun, That in rereward against him we may come.

    Spanish aid: ayuda, ayudar, asistente, ayudante, la curita, auxilio, socorro. L In haste there came the Queen forth, Bramimound; "I love you well, sir," said she to the count, "For prize you dear my lord and all around; Here for your wife I have two brooches found, Amethysts and jacynths in golden mount; More worth are they than all the wealth of Roum; Your Emperour has none such, I'll be bound.

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    Now, by the law that you most sacred hold, Let not your heart in our behalf grow cold! Out of my store I'll give you wealth untold, Charging ten mules with fine Arabian gold; I'll do the same for you, new year and old. Take then the keys of this city so large, This great tribute present you first to Charles, Then get me placed Rollanz in the rereward. If him I find in valley or in pass, Battle I'll give him that shall be the last.

    Translated by Moncrief 37 His charger mounts, and on his journey starts.