A Book of Myths

Page: 139

How widowed lies our fair France, and how lone!
How will the realms that I have swayed rebel,
Now thou art taken from my weary age!
So deep my woe that fain would I die too
And join my valiant Peers in Paradise,
While men inter my weary limbs with thine!’”

[Pg 287] A terrible vengeance was the one that he took next day, when the Saracen army was utterly exterminated; and when all the noble dead had been buried where they fell, save only Roland, Oliver, and Turpin, the bodies of these three heroes were carried to Blaye and interred with great honour in the great cathedral there.

Charlemagne then returned to Aix, and as he entered his palace, Aude the Fair, sister of Oliver, and the betrothed of Roland, hastened to meet him. Where were the Douzeperes? What was the moaning murmur as of women who wept, that had heralded the arrival in the town of the Emperor and his conquering army? Eagerly she questioned Charlemagne of the safety of Roland, and when the Emperor, in pitying grief, told her:

“Roland, thy hero, like a hero died,” Aude gave a bitter cry and fell to the ground like a white lily slain by a cruel wind. The Emperor thought she had fainted, but when he would have lifted her up, he found that she was dead, and, in infinite pity, he had her taken to Blaye and buried by the side of Roland.

Very tender was Charlemagne to the maiden whom Roland had loved, but when the treachery of Ganelon had been proved, for him there was no mercy. At Aix-la-Chapelle, torn asunder by wild horses, he met a shameful and a horrible death, nor is his name forgotten as that of the blackest of traitors. But the memory of Roland and of the other Douzeperes lives on and is, however fanciful, forever fragrant.

[Pg 288] “... Roland, and Olyvere,
And of the twelve Tussypere,
That dieden in the batayle of Runcyvale;
Jesu lord, heaven king,
To his bliss hem and us both bring,
To liven withouten bale!”

Sir Otuel.

[Pg 289]


“Silent, O Moyle, be the roar of thy water;
Break not, ye breezes, your chain of repose;
While murmuring mournfully, Lîr’s lonely daughter
Tells to the night-star her tale of woes.”


They are the tragedies, not the comedies of the old, old days that are handed down to us, and the literature of the Celts is rich in tragedy. To the romantic and sorrowful imagination of the Celts of the green island of Erin we owe the hauntingly piteous story of the children of Lîr.

In the earliest times of all, when Ireland was ruled by the Dedannans, a people who came from Europe and brought with them from Greece magic and other arts so wonderful that the people of the land believed them to be gods, the Dedannans had so many chiefs that they met one day to decide who was the best man of them all, that they might choose him to be their king. The choice fell upon Bodb the Red, and gladly did every man acclaim him as king, all save Lîr of Shee Finnaha, who left the council in great wrath because he thought that he, and not Bodb, should have been chosen. In high dudgeon he retired to his own place, and in the years that followed he and Bodb the Red waged fierce war against one another. At last a great sorrow came to Lîr, for after an illness of three [Pg 290] days his wife, who was very dear to him, was taken from him by death. Then Bodb saw an opportunity for reconciliation with the chief whose enemy he had no wish to be. And to the grief-stricken husband he sent a message: