Alfred John Church.

Stories of Charlemagne and the twelve peers of France : from the old romances online

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STORIES OF CHARLEMAGNE




AND THE TWELVE PEERS OF FRANCE




THE LIBRARY

OF

THE UNIVERSITY
OF CALIFORNIA

LOS ANGELES




Ol.lVI-.k AMI FlKKABRAS.



STORIES
OF CHARLEMAGNE

AND THE TWELVE PEERS OF FRANCE
FROM THE OLD ROMANCES



By the

REV. A. J. CHURCH, M.A.

Formerly Professor of Latin in University College, London
Author of " Stories from Homer," etc.



With Illustrations by

GEORGE MORROW



LONDON

SEELEY AND CO. LIMITED

38, GREAT RUSSELL STREET

1902



College
Library



8.1

C47s
1902



PREFACE



I HAVE endeavoured to tell in this volume
the story of Charlemagne, the Charle-
magne, it must be understood, not of history,
but of Romance. The two personages are
curiously different. Each writer of a romance
had naturally a hero of his own. As he had
to exalt this hero, he could hardly help depre-
ciating the king. Charlemagne suffers by
comparison with Roland and Reynaud very
much as, in the Iliad, Agamemmon, the over-
lord of the Greeks, suffers by comparison with
the subordinate King, Achilles. The real
Charlemagne was a very great personality, one
that impressed his age as deeply as any man
has ever done ; in these stories he often appears
petty, capricious, and obstinate. Then the

1178671



iv PREFACE

romance writers were Frenchmen, and they
make the great king a Frenchman, holding his
court in Paris, and surrounded by great French
lords. They began to write when the air was
full of the crusading spirit, and their work is
coloured accordingly. The enemy is always
a Saracen or a follower of Mahomet. There
could not be a more curious instance of this
than is to be found in the story of the death of
Roland. In the romance Charlemagne's rear-
guard is destroyed by an overpowering force of
Saracens. What really happened was that it
was attacked, probably for the sake of plunder-
ing the baggage, by a gathering of mountaineers,
who are called Gascons by the chroniclers, but
were, in fact, Basques. Then, again, we find
the romance writers in sympathy with the great
feudatories, indicating the time before the
French monarchy had become consolidated,
when the king at Paris had all that he could
do to hold his own against his powerful vassals,
the Dukes of Brittany and Burgundy, and the
English king.

The Charlemagne romances, as translated
by Lord Berners and William Caxton, occupy



PREFACE v

twelve volumes in the Extra Series of the Early
English Text Society. Some of these are
variants of the same story. There is a romance
of " Ferumbras," for instance, which gives
substantially the same tale as that which
occupies eleven chapters in this volume.
" Huon of Bordeaux," again, fills four volumes
in the Extra Series. But the original chanson
is contained in one of the four and is complete
in itself. This, too, I have considerably
compressed and shortened. The same process
has had to be applied to all before they could
be made acceptable to the readers of to-day.
I hope that they have not lost their life and
colour and human interest.

The stories of which I have made use are
"The Four Sons of Aymon" (i.-xi.); " Ralph
the Collier" (xii.-xiii.), agenuinely English pro-
duction, it would seem, as no French original
has been found ; " Fierabras," taken from the
" Lyf of Charles the Crete " (xiv.-xxiv.) ;
"The Song of Roland" (xxv. xxxv.), and
" Duke Huon of Bordeaux " (xxxvi.-xl.). This
has been put last in order, as it represents
Charlemagne grown old and weary of power.



vi PREFACE

The death of the great King is only mentioned
as imminent in the romance which I have
followed ; I have added an abridged account
of it from the contemporary biography written
by Eginhard. The story of Huon is peculiarly
interesting to us because it introduces the fairy
King Oberon, who was to become so important
a figure in English literature.

I have to express my obligations to the
Introduction, written by Mr. Sidney Lee to
the first part of " Duke Huon of Bordeaux."

ALFRED J. CHURCH.
OXFORD, July 17, 1902.



CONTENTS



CHAP. PAGE

I. THE SLAYING OF LOTHAIR . . .1

II. HOW THE DUKE BENES CAME BY HIS END. IO

III. HOW IT FARED WITH THE BRETHREN . 1 9

IV. THE COMING OF ROLAND . . . 32
V. OF THE TREACHERY OF KING JOHN . 40

VI. OF THE CRAFT OF MAWGIS . . . 53

VII. MORE DEEDS OF MAWGIS . . -65

VIII. HOW MAWGIS BECAME A HERMIT . . 74

IX. OF WHAT BEFELL AT MONTALBAN . . 8 1

X. HOW PEACE WAS MADE , .-. -94

xi. OF REYNAUD'S END . < . 107

XII. HOW RALPH ENTERTAINED THE KING . 113

XIII. HOW RALPH WENT TO COURT . . I2O

vii



viii CONTENTS

CHAP. PAGE

XIV. HOW FIERABRAS DEFIED KING CHARLES . 127

XV. HOW OLIVER FOUGHT WITH FIERABRAS . 137

XVI. HOW OLIVER AND OTHERS WERE TAKEN

PRISONERS . . -145

XVII. HOW OLIVER AND HIS COMRADES FARED . 152

XVIII. OF THE BRIDGE OF MANTRYBLE . .163

XIX. OF THE DOINGS OF FLORIPAS . .172

XX. OF THE DOINGS OF THE FRENCH KNIGHTS l8o

XXI. OF GUY OF BURGUNDY . . . IQO

XXII. OF RICHARD OF NORMANDY . . 2O2

XXIII. HOW THE BRIDGE MANTRYBLE WAS WON . 215

XXIV. OF THE END OF BALAN THE ADMIRAL . 222

XXV. HOW GANELON WENT ON AN ERRAND TO

KING MARSILAS . . -230

XXVI. THE TREASON OF GANELON . .242

XXVII. OF THE PLOT AGAINST ROLAND . .252

XXVIII. HOW THE HEATHEN AND THE FRENCH PRE-
PARED FOR BATTLE . . .259

XXIX. THE BATTLE . . . .264

XXX. HOW ROLAND SOUNDED HIS HORN. . 275

XXXI. HOW OLIVER WAS SLAIN . . . 280

XXXII. HOW ARCHBISHOP TURPIN DIED . . 285



CONTENTS ix

CHAP. PAGE

XXXIII. THE DEATH OF ROLAND . . . 293

XXXIV. HOW CHARLEMAGNE SOUGHT VENGEANCE . 297
XXXV. OF THE PUNISHMENT OF GANELON . 315

XXXVI. HOW KING CHARLES SENT HUON ON AN

ERRAND . . . -321

XXXVII. HOW HUON MET WITH KING OBERON . 333

XXXVIII. OF THE END OF THE FALSE DUKE MACAIRE 339
XXXIX. HOW HUON, HAVING SLAIN A GIANT, CAME

TO BABYLON , . . . 349
XL. HOW HUON RETURNED, HIS ERRAND FUL-
FILLED . . . . . 362



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS



OLIVER AND FiERABRAS . . . Frontispiece

PAGE

REYNAUD KNEELING TO ROLAND . . . 56

REYNAUD AND BAYARD . . . .92

RALPH IN THE PALACE OF CHARLEMAGNE . .124

BLOWING THE GREAT COAL . . , . .182

THE AMBASSADORS OF KING MARSILAS . . 232

ON THE FIELD OF RONCESVALLES . . . 290

HUON MEETING WITH OBERON . . . 336



STORIES OF CHARLEMAGNE

AND THE TWELVE PEERS OF FRANCE
CHAPTER I

THE SLAYING OF LOTHAIR

KING CHARLES held a great court in
his capital city of Paris at the Feast
of Pentecost. Thither came the Twelve Peers
of France, and many other men of note, besides
strangers from Germany, England, and other
realms. One. of the chief of the Frenchmen
was Aymon, Duke of Ardennes, who brought
with him his four sons, to wit, Reynaud, Alard,
Guichard, and Richard. All these four were
marvellously fair, witty, and valiant ; but the
fairest, wittiest, and most valiant was Reynaud,
the eldest born. There was not in the world
a man of so great strength and stature. It is
of him and his brothers that this tale is told.

King Charles stood up, and said, " Brethren
and friends, you know that by your help I have



2 THE SLAYING OF LOTH AIR

conquered many lands, and brought many
pagans to confess the Christian faith. You
know also that this has not been done without
grievous loss on our part, and verily had not
been done at all but for succour that we looked
not for. But the succour that we looked for,
that we had not, and notably from Duke Benes
of Aygremont. This, then, is my purpose. I
will send to Duke Benes, bidding him attend
me this summer. And if he will not come,
then I will besiege him in his town of Aygre-
mont. And when he shall come into my hands,
I will hang him, and slay his son Mawgis, and
cause that discourteous woman, his wife, to be
burnt with fire."

Duke Naymes said, " Be not so hot, my lord
King. Send a message to the Duke by some
prudent man, and when you shall have received
his answer, then take counsel what you shall
do."

"That is good counsel," said the King. But
when he called for a messenger, no man
answered, for many were of the Duke's kin-
dred. Then he called his eldest son Lothair,
and said to him, " Go to this Duke, and bid
him come to me with his men-at-arms by mid-
summer next, or else I will besiege his city of
Aygremont."



THE SLAYING OF LOTH AIR 3

The next day Lothair departed, having a
hundred knights with him, armed for battle.
As they went they uttered many threatenings
against the Duke, if he should not submit him-
self to the King.

It so chanced that a spy heard them talk in
this fashion, and, making all haste, came to the
Duke and told him. " There come messengers,"
he said, "from King Charles, threatening terrible
things, and the King's own son is with them."
Then the Duke asked his lords what he should
do. One of them, Sir Simon by name, a good
man and a wise, said to him, " Receive the
King's messengers honourably. It is not well
for a man, how great soever he be, to fight
against his sovereign lord. Many of your kins-
men have so dared, yet do not you." Said the
Duke, " I am not fallen so low that I should
follow such counsel. Have I not three
brothers, princes all of them, that will help
me against the King, and four nephews also,
sons of Aymon, that are stout and valiant
men ? " So he would not listen to Sir Simon ;
no, nor yet to his wife the Duchess, though
she was urgent with him to speak peaceably to
the King's messengers.

By this time Lothair and his knights were
come to the town of Aygremont. The Prince



4 THE SLAYIXG OF LOTH AIR

said, " See what a fortress is there ! How
strong are the walls ! See, too, the river
running at their base. There is no stronger
place in Christendom. It cannot be taken by
force, but haply by famishing it may be taken."
One of his knights said to him, " My lord, you
say true. This is a mighty prince, and he has
a strong castle. It would be well if you
could make him to be of good accord with
your father." "You speak well," answered
Lothair, "nevertheless if the Duke shall say
anything that shall displease us, he shall be
sorry therefor." But the knight said softly to
himself, "This is foolishness, and we shall pay
for it with our lives."

So Lothair and his men came to the castle,
and knocked at the gate. " Who are you ? "
said the porter. " We be friends," answered
Lothair, " and we bring a message from the
King." "Wait awhile, "said the porter, "till I tell
the Duke." So the porter went to the Duke and
said, "There are come hither a hundred knights,

o '

with the King's eldest son at their head. Shall
I open the gate ?" " Open it," said the Duke,
" we can hold our own, yea though the King
himself should come with all his men." So
the porter hasted to open the gate. But the
Duke said to his lords, " Here comes the King's



THE SLAYING OF LOTH AIR 5

eldest son ; if he speak wisely to us, wisely
will we answer him ; but if not, he shall not
go free."

Then Lothair and his knights were brought
into the hall, where the Duke sat among his
lords, having the Duchess his wife by him and
before him his son Mawgis. Now Mawgis
was a great wizard.

Lothair said, " God keep King Charles and
confound Duke Benes ! My father says,
' Come to Paris with five hundred knights,
and make good your want of service in the
parts of Lombardy, where, for lack of your
help, many valiant men came by their death.
But if you fail in this thing, you shall surely be
hanged, your wife burned with fire, and all
your house destroyed.' '

Then might any one have seen the Duke
change colour for anger. When he could
speak, he said, " I will not go to the King.
I hold of him neither land nor fortress ; or
rather I will go and waste his land till I come
to Paris itself."

" Dare you so speak ? " cried Prince Lothair,
in a loud voice. " You know well that you are
the King's man. I counsel you to do his bid-
ding. Else you shall be hanged till the winds
of heaven dry your bones."



6 THE SLAYING OF LOTH AIR

When the Duke heard this he stood up on
his feet in a great rage, crying to Lothair that
it was an evil day for him on which he came
to the town of Aygremont. Not a word of
counsel would he take, when some of his
knights would put him in mind of the King's
might, and of how he was in truth the King's
man, holding of him this very town of Aygre-
mont. " Hold your peace ! " he cried. " Never
will I consent to hold aught of this man so
long as I can mount a horse or hold a spear."
And he called upon his lords to lay hold on
Lothair, and they durst not disobey him, but
ran upon Lothair and the rest of King Charles's
men. Then began as sore a battle as was ever
fought in this world. For not only did the
Duke's men that were within the palace assail
the Frenchmen, but the inhabitants of the town,
both merchants and craftsmen, hearing the
uproar, beset the gates. These gates, indeed,
the Frenchmen kept with great courage ; but
they were few in number, and the day went
sorely against them. In the end, after that
Prince Lothair had been slain by the Duke
himself, there remained but ten of the hundred
knights alive. These the Duke spared, on this
condition, that they should carry his message
to the King, and the message was this : " I



THE SLAYING OF LOTH AIR ^

will do no homage for my land, nor pay one
penny of tribute. Rather I will come with
forty thousand men, and waste your land, and
burn your fair city of Paris." After this he
delivered to them the body of Lothair, laying
it in a cart drawn by two horses. And when
the ten knights were quit of the town, and were
come into the fields, they began to weep and
lament, not for Lothair only, but also for them-
selves, for they feared the King. So they went
on their way to Paris.

Meanwhile King Charles at Paris was not
a little troubled. " I fear me much," he said to
his lords, " lest some evil have befallen my son,
for this Duke Benes is a savage man and a
cruel." Then answered the Duke Aymon,
" If the Duke shall do you any wrong, I will
help you with all my heart. Here also are my
four sons who will go with me." " That is well
spoken," said the King. " Bring your sons
hither." So the Duke brought them, and the
King, when he saw them, loved them all, but
Reynaud, who was the eldest, more than the
other three. He said to his steward, " Bring-
hither the arms of King Certes, whom I slew at
Pampeluna, and put them on him." And Ogier
the Dane bound on his spurs, and the King
himself girded him with his sword. This done,



8 THE SLAYING OF LOTH AIR

he dubbed him knight, saying, "God increase
thee in goodness, honour, and worthiness ! "

Reynaud, it should be known, had a very
noble horse, Bayard by name, that had been
given him by his cousin Mawgis. Never was
there such a horse in the world, save only
Bucephalus, that was the horse of Alexander
of Macedon. When he was mounted on him
he seemed such a knight as could scarce be
matched in France or any other land. When
they jousted in the lists, for the King held a
tournament at St. Victor that was near to Paris,
not one did so well as Reynaud.

The tournament being ended, the King
returned to his palace in Paris. The next
morning he said to his lords, Ogier the Dane,
and the Duke Naymes and Turpin the Arch-
bishop, " I am in fear for my son Lothair ; he
tarries long on this journey. I dreamed also
last night that the Duke Benes had slain him."
The Duke Naymes said, " Put no trust in
dreams, for they are naught." The King
answered, " Nevertheless, if the Duke have
done this thing, he shall die."

While they were yet speaking, there came
a messenger upon a horse, faint and weary and
sorely wounded, and the King saw him pass
the window where he stood. Then the King



THE SLAYING OF LOTH AIR 9

ran lightly down to the gate, his lords following
him. When the messenger saw the King he
saluted him in a low voice, and told him all
that had befallen. And when he had ended
his words, he fell to the ground in a swoon
for grief and the pain of his wounds.

Great was the King's sorrow. He wrung
his hands and tore his beard and his hair. His
lords sought to comfort him, and Duke Naymes
said, " Now bury your son with great honour
at St. Germaine's, and when you have done
this, gather together your army, and march
against this Duke Benes."

Then the King and his lords rode forth from
Paris, and when they had gone the space of
two miles, they met the cart wherein was the
body of Prince Lothair. And when the King
saw the cart, he lighted down from his horse,
and lifted the cloth that was upon the dead
man. And when he saw how the head was
severed from the body and the face sore dis-
figured with wounds he cried aloud. And he
said, " Oh, Lothair, my son, you were a fair and
gentle knight. May God of His mercy receive
you into Paradise ! " Then his lords bore him
up on one side and the other, and brought him
to St. Germaine's. There they buried Prince
Lothair with all honour.



CHAPTER II

HOW THE DUKE BENES CAME BY HIS END

DUKE AYMON said to his sons, "We do
ill to tarry here. The King is very
wroth and not without cause, with your uncle
Duke Benes, and will wage war against him,
in which matter he will of a certainty ask your
help. But we cannot fight against our own
kinsfolk. Let us therefore depart to our own
country."

So the Duke and his four sons departed, and
came to the land of Ardennes. The Duchess
was right glad to see them. Nevertheless,
when she was aware of the reason of their
coming she was greatly troubled. To the
Duke Aymon she said, " My lord, you have
done ill to leave the King without license
given, for he is your natural lord, and you
have received much good at his hands. You
have brought away your sons also, whom he
has of his goodness promoted to the order of



knighthood. This was not well." " Lady,"
said the Duke, " we left the King because my
brother Benes had slain the Prince Lothair,
and we are afraid." " For all that," answered
the Duchess, "do you serve the King and
obey him, for to do so becomes a true man."
Then said the Duke, " I would lose my castle
and the half of my land, if only my brother
Benes had not slain the Prince Lothair."

In the meanwhile the King was greatly
troubled, not only by the death of his son,
but also by the departure of Duke Aymon
and his sons. " See," said he, " how these
men whom I promoted to great honour have
betrayed me. Verily, if I lay hands on them
they shall die. But first I must punish this
villain Duke Benes. I will make war on him
this very summer. In the meanwhile they
that desire so to do may go to their own
homes, but let all be here on Midsummer
Day."

Tidings of these things came to the Duke
Benes, and he sent to his brethren, Gerard
and Bron, that they should come to his help.
These came with many men, so that the Duke
had now a very great army. So, having great
confidence in his strength, he set out for Troyes
in the region of Champagne.

Meanwhile, there came to the King at



12 HOW THE DUKE BENES CAME BY HIS END

Paris Duke Richard of Normandy, with thirty
thousand men, and also the Earl Guy of
Heron, and the Duke of Brittany ; also many
other lords and knights from Gascony,
Burgundy, Flanders, and other parts. These
all pitched their tents in the meadows of St.
Germain.

When all things had been prepared, the
King and his army set out, his purpose being
to besiege the town of Aygremont. When
they had marched many days, there came to
Ogier the Dane, who led the van of the army,
a messenger riding in hot haste. He asked,
"Whose is this army?" When they told
him it was the army of King Charles, he said,
" I would fain speak with the King." So they
brought him to the King, and he delivered
his message, which was from Aubrey, lord of
Troyes, and to this effect ; that Duke Benes
and his two brothers had come up against the
town of Troyes with a very great host, and
would most certainly take it unless the King
should come to his help. When the King
heard this he commanded that the army
should leave marching to Aygremont, and
should turn aside to Troyes. And this was
done, and in no long time the King and his
army came to a place from which they could
see the town of Troyes.



HOW THE DUKE BENES CAME BY HIS END 13

When Gerard of Roussillon, that was brother
to Duke Benes, heard that the King was now
near at hand, he said to the Duke, " Let us go
without delay against the King." This saying
pleased the others, and they rode till they saw
the King's army. And Gerard rode forth before
his men, crying, " Roussillon ! Roussillon ! " On
the other hand, Ogier the Dane rode out from
the King's army, his spear in rest, and smote a
knight, Ponson by name, so that he fell dead
upon the earth. Meanwhile Gerard slew one
of Ogier's knights. So the battle waxed fiercer
and fiercer. Duke Benes, charging at his
horse's utmost speed, overthrew the Lord of
St. Quintin. On the other side, Duke Richard
of Normandy did many valiant deeds, slaying,
among others, a certain knight that was Gerard's
nearest friend. " I shall have no peace, 1 ' said
Gerard, "till I have avenged my friend," and
he put his spear in rest and would have charged
at Duke Richard. But his brother Bron said
to him, " Have a care ; here comes King
Charles with all his men ; if we abide his
coming in this place it will go ill with us."
While he was speaking a certain knight in
the company of Duke Richard slew Gerard's
nephew before his face. Then Gerard sent a
message to Duke Benes that he was in a great
strait, and must have help forthwith.



14 HOW THE DUKE BENES CAME BY HIS END

When the Duke Benes heard this, he made
haste to come, bringing a great company with
him, and the battle grew yet more fierce. After
a while Duke Richard of Normandy rode at
Duke Benes, piercing his shield with his spear,
and bruising him sorely on the body. Also
drawing his sword he smote the Duke's horse
so stoutly that it fell dead. But the Duke him-
self sprang lightly from the ground, and fought
right valiantly on foot, slaying sundry of those
who thought to take him alive. And anon his
men brought to him another horse. And still
the battle grew fiercer and fiercer.

Then came King Charles himself, his spear
in rest, and smote Gerard on the shield so
strongly that he overthrew both man and
horse. Then had Gerard perished but for
his two brothers Benes and Bron, who with
no small trouble drew him out of the press.
This indeed they did, but the battle went
against the men of Aygremont. Right glad
were they when the sun set, and this was
about Compline time, 1 for the days were now
long.



1 Compline was the last of the services of the day.
Vespers would correspond to our Evening Service, though
a little earlier, as at 6 p.m. Compline came at some vary-
ing interval after.



HOW THE DUKE BENES CAME BY HIS END 15

When Duke Benes and his brothers came
together after the battle they had much debate
as to what should be done. Gerard counselled
that they should renew the battle on the
morrow, but the others deemed otherwise.
" Nay," said the Duke Bron, " we shall fare
ill if we do this. My counsel is this : let us
choose thirty knights, the most prudent that
we can find. Let them say on our behalf to
King Charles that we beg him to have mercy
upon us, that the Duke Benes shall make such
amends for the slaying of Prince Lothair as
may be agreed by the lords of the two coun-
tries, and that hereafter we will be his true
liegemen." To this counsel the others agreed.
Forthwith they sought out the thirty knights,
the most prudent men that they could find.
These, when it was day, they sent as an
embassage of peace to King Charles. And
Gerard gave them this counsel that before
they sought audience of the King they should
seek out the Duke Naymes, and beseech him
to plead their cause with the King, " for the
Duke," said he, " is a lover of peace."

In due time the thirty knights, bearing des-
patches in their hands, were brought into the
presence of the King, and delivered their
message to him. When King Charles heard



16 HOW THE DUKE BENES CAME BY HIS END

these words he looked at the men frowningly,
and in great wrath. Then he said to him that
was their chief and spokesman, a certain Sir
Stephen, " Surely, Sir Stephen, your Duke had
lost his wits when he slew my dear son Lothair.
And now, when he says that he will be my man,
does he speak the truth ? What say you ? "
" I will answer for him," said Sir Stephen.
Then King Charles went with his lords into
a chamber apart, and took counsel with them
what should be done. Then the Duke Naymes
said, " My advice is that you pardon them.


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