Hero-Myths and Legends of the British Race

Page: 84

The Horn is Blown

Then at last Roland put the carved ivory horn, the magic Olifant, to his lips, and blew so loudly that the sound echoed thirty leagues away. “Hark! our men are in combat!” cried Charlemagne; but Ganelon retorted: “Had any but the king said it, that had been a lie.”

A second time Roland blew his horn, so violently and with such anguish that the veins of his temples burst, and the blood flowed from his brow and from his mouth. Charlemagne, pausing, heard it again, and said: “That is Roland’s horn; he would not sound it were there no battle.” But Ganelon said mockingly: “There is no battle, for Roland is too proud to sound his horn in danger. Besides, who would dare to attack Roland, the strong, the valiant, great and wonderful Roland? No man. He is doubtless hunting, and

“Charlemagne heard it again”

When Roland blew the horn for the third time he had hardly breath to awaken the echoes; but still Charlemagne heard. “How faintly comes the sound! There is death in that feeble blast!” said the emperor; and Duke Naimes interrupted eagerly: “Sire, Roland is in peril; some one has betrayed him—doubtless he who now tries to beguile you! Sire, rouse your host, arm for battle, and ride to save your nephew.”

Ganelon Arrested

Then Charlemagne called aloud: “Hither, my men. Take this traitor Ganelon and keep him safe till my return.” And the kitchen folk seized the felon knight, chained him by the neck, and beat him; then, binding him hand and foot, they flung him on a sorry nag, to be borne with them till Charles should demand him at their hands again.

Charles Returns

With all speed the whole army retraced their steps, turning their faces to Spain, and saying: “Ah, if we could find Roland alive what blows we would strike for him!” Alas! it was too late! Too late!

How lofty are the peaks, how vast and shadowy the mountains! How dim and gloomy the passes, how deep the valleys! How swift the rushing torrents! Yet with headlong speed the Frankish army hastens back, with trumpets sounding in token of approaching help, all praying God to preserve Roland till they come. Alas! they cannot reach him in time! Too late. Too late!

[Pg 147]

Roland Weeps for his Comrades

Now Roland cast his gaze around on hill and valley, and saw his noble vassals and comrades lie dead. As a noble knight he wept for them, saying:

“‘Fair Knights, may God have mercy on your souls!
May He receive you into Paradise
And grant you rest on banks of heavenly flowers!
Ne’er have I known such mighty men as you.
Fair France, that art the best of all dear lands,
How art thou widowed of thy noble sons!
Through me alone, dear comrades, have you died,
And yet through me no help nor safety comes.
God have you in His keeping! Brother, come,
Let us attack the heathen and win death,
Or grief will slay me! Death is duty now.’”