Hero-Myths and Legends of the British Race

Page: 74

The aged Duke Naimes, the Nestor of the army, spoke next, supporting Ganelon: “Sire, the advice of Count Ganelon is wise, if wisely followed. Marsile lies at your mercy; he has lost all, and only begs for pity. It would be a sin to press this cruel war, since he offers full guarantee by his hostages. You need [Pg 127] only send one of your barons to arrange the terms of peace.”

This advice pleased the whole assembly, and a murmur was heard: “The Duke has spoken well.”

“Who Shall Go to Saragossa?”

“‘My lords and peers, whom shall we send
To Saragossa to Marsile?’
‘Sire, let me go,’ replied Duke Naimes;
‘Give me your glove and warlike staff.’
‘No!’ cried the king, ‘my counsellor,
Thou shalt not leave me unadvised—
Sit down again; I bid thee stay.’
“‘My lords and peers, whom shall we send
To Saragossa to Marsile?’
‘Sire, I can go,’ quoth Roland bold.
‘That canst thou not,’ said Oliver;
‘Thy heart is far too hot and fierce—
I fear for thee. But I will go,
If that will please my lord the King.’
‘No!’ cried the king, ‘ye shall not go.
I swear by this white flowing beard
No peer shall undertake the task.’
“‘My lords and peers, whom shall we send?’
Archbishop Turpin rose and spoke:
‘Fair sire, let me be messenger.
Your nobles all have played their part;
Give me your glove and warlike staff,
And I will show this heathen king
In frank speech how a true knight feels.’
But wrathfully the king replied:
‘By this white beard, thou shalt not go!
Sit down, and raise thy voice no more.’”

Roland Suggests Ganelon

“Knights of France,” quoth Charlemagne, “choose me now one of your number to do my errand to Marsile, and to defend my honour valiantly, if need be.”

[Pg 128] “Ah,” said Roland, “then it must be Ganelon, my stepfather; for whether he goes or stays, you have none better than he!”

This suggestion satisfied all the assembly, and they cried: “Ganelon will acquit himself right manfully. If it please the King, he is the right man to go.”

Charlemagne thought for a moment, and then, raising his head, beckoned to Ganelon. “Come hither, Ganelon,” he said, “and receive this glove and staff, which the voice of all the Franks gives to thee.”

Ganelon is Angry

“No,” replied Ganelon, wrathfully. “This is the work of Roland, and I will never forgive him, nor his friends, Oliver and the other Peers. Here, in your presence, I bid them defiance!”

“Your anger is too great,” said Charlemagne; “you will go, since it is my will also.”