Hero-Myths and Legends of the British Race

Page: 83

Many French Knights Fall

In this second battle the French champions were weary, and before long they began to fall before the valour of the newly arrived Saracen nobles. First died Engelier the Gascon, mortally wounded by the lance of that Saracen who swore brotherhood to Ganelon; next Samson, and the noble Duke Anseis. These three were well avenged by Roland and Oliver and Turpin. Then in quick succession died Gerin and Gerier and other valiant Peers at the hands of Grandoigne, until his death-dealing career was cut short by Durendala. Another desperate single combat was won by Turpin, who slew a heathen emir “as black as molten pitch.”

The Second Army Defeated

Finally this second host of the heathens gave way and fled, begging Marsile to come and succour them; but now of the victorious French there were but sixty valiant champions left alive, including Roland, Oliver, and the fiery prelate Turpin.

[Pg 144]

A Third Appears

Now the third host of the pagans began to roll forward upon the dauntless little band, and in the short breathing-space before the Saracens again attacked them Roland cried aloud to Oliver:

“‘Fair Knight and Comrade, see these heroes,
Valiant warriors, lying lifeless!
I must mourn for our fair country
France, left widowed of her barons.
Charles my King, why art thou absent?
Brother mine, how shall we send him
Mournful tidings of our struggle?’
‘How I know not,’ said his comrade.
‘Better death than vile dishonour.’”

Roland Willing to Blow his Horn

“‘Comrade, I will blow my war-horn:
Charles will hear it in the passes
And return with all his army.’
Oliver quoth: ‘’Twere disgraceful
To your kinsmen all their life-days.
When I urged it, then you would not;
Now, to sound your horn is shameful,
And I never will approve it.’”

Oliver Objects. They Quarrel

“‘See, the battle goes against us:
Comrade, I shall sound my war-horn.’
Oliver replied: ‘O coward!
When I urged it, then you would not.
If fair France again shall greet me
You shall never wed my sister;
By this beard of mine I swear it!’
“‘Why so bitter and so wrathful?’
Oliver returned: ‘’Tis thy fault;
Valour is not kin to madness,
Temperance knows naught of fury.
[Pg 145] You have killed these noble champions,
You have slain the Emperor’s vassals,
You have robbed us of our conquests.
Ah, your valour, Count, is fatal!
Charles must lose his doughty heroes,
And your league with me must finish
With this day in bitter sorrow.’”

Turpin Mediates

Archbishop Turpin heard the dispute, and strove to calm the angry heroes. “Brave knights, be not so enraged. The horn will not save the lives of these gallant dead, but it will be better to sound it, that Charles, our lord and emperor, may return, may avenge our death and weep over our corpses, may bear them to fair France, and bury them in the sanctuary, where the wild beasts shall not devour them.” “That is well said,” quoth Roland and Oliver.