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"Friend and brother," answered Roland, "say not another word. The king
has left us here, with a rear-guard of twenty thousand men, and he
esteems every one of us a hero. Do thou strike with thy lance and thy
good blade Haultclear. As for me, Durandal shall serve me well. And,
if I die, men shall say, 'This sword belonged to a noble knight.'"

Then the good Archbishop Turpin rode down the ranks, holding a sword in
one hand and a crucifix in the other. "Comrades," cried he, "the king
has left us here. He trusts in us, and for him we shall die. Cry now
your sins to Heaven. Pray God's mercy, and ask His blessing."

In a moment every knight among those twenty thousand horsemen had
dismounted. Humbly and reverently every knee was bent, and every head
was bowed. And the good archbishop blessed the company in God's name.

"If ye die," said he, "ye shall have places in paradise."

Then the warriors arose, light-hearted and hopeful. They rode into the
place which is called Roncevaux, the Vale of Thorns, and there they put
themselves in battle array, and waited the onset of their foes. Roland
sat astride of his good war steed, and proudly faced the Moorish host.
In his hand he held the bared blade Durandal, pointing toward heaven.
Never was seen a more comely knight. Courteously he spoke to the
warriors about him. Then, putting spurs to his steed, he cried, -

"Comrades, ride onward! The day shall be ours!"

"Forget not the war cry of Charlemagne," said Oliver.

At these words the rocks and valleys rang with the cry, "Monjoie!
Monjoie!" And every warrior dashed forward to meet the foe.

Long and fierce was the fight, and terrible was the slaughter. With
heart and strength the French knights struck. The Moors were slain by
hundreds and by thousands. For a time victory seemed to be with the
French. Many and valiant were the deeds achieved by Roland and Oliver
and the archbishop and the peers that were with them. But at length
Marsilius came down upon them with a fresh troop of seven thousand
Moors. They hemmed the French heroes in on every side. Roland saw his
knights falling one by one around him. All were slain save sixty men.

"Oliver, my fair dear comrade," said he, "behold how many brave vassals
have fallen! The battle goes hard with us. If, now, we only knew how
to send news to Charlemagne, he would return and succor us."

"It is too late," answered Oliver. "Better would we die than suffer
shame."

Then said Roland, "I will sound my ivory horn. Mayhap Charlemagne, who
is passing the gates of Spain, will hear it and return."

"Do no such thing," answered Oliver. "Great shame would be upon you
and your kinsmen forever. You would not blow your horn when I advised
it, and now you shall not do so because the day is lost."

Then the archbishop rode up, and said, "The day is indeed lost, and to
blow the horn would now no more avail us. But, should the king hear
it, he will come back through the passes. He will find us dead: his
men will lift us in biers and carry us home to be buried in minsters,
and we shall not be left as food for wolves and dogs."

"Thou sayest well," said Roland. And he placed the horn to his lips.
High were the hills, deep and dark were the gorges, narrow were the
ways among the mountains. Yet the sound of that horn was heard for
thirty leagues. Charlemagne and Duke Namon heard it while yet they
were between the gates.

"Hark!" said the king. "I hear Roland's horn. The felon Moors have
attacked him: he is hard pressed in battle."

"You are foolishly mistaken," said Ganelon. "There is no battle. You
are old, your beard is white, your head is flowery, you are growing
childish. You love your silly nephew, Roland, too well. He is only
hunting among the mountains. He would blow his horn all day for a
single hare, and then he would boast before you of his valor. Ride on.
Your own France is not far ahead."

But the king was not to be deceived. He ordered Ganelon to be seized
and bound and given in charge of his cooks, who were to hold him a
close prisoner. They bound him with a great chain, and laid him across
the back of a sumter horse; they pulled his beard; they struck him with
their fists; they beat him with sticks. Sorry indeed was the traitor's
plight, but his punishment was just. As for Charlemagne, he turned and
with all his host hastened back to the succor of Roland and the valiant
rear-guard. High were the mountain walls, and darkly did they overhang
the way; deep were the mountain gorges; swift and strong were the
torrents; narrow and steep was the road. The trumpets sounded:
anxiously and with haste the king and his horsemen retraced their steps.

Fiercely still the battle raged in the fated Vale of Thorns. One by
one the French knights fell; but for every one that was slain ten
Pagans bit the dust. At length Oliver was wounded unto death; but
still he sat on his horse and struck valiantly about him with his good
Haultclear. His eyes lost their strength: he could not see. He met
Roland, and struck him a blow which split his helmet down to the
nose-piece, but luckily wounded him not.

"Brother," said Roland softly and gently, "thou hast not done this
willingly. I am Roland, he who has loved thee so long and so well."

"Ah, comrade!" said Oliver, "I hear thee; but I cannot see thee. Pray
forgive me if I have harmed thee."

"I am none the worse," answered Roland; "and there is naught to
forgive."

Then the two brothers bent over from their steeds, and embraced each
other; and amid much love and many hasty words of farewell, they parted.

And now all the French were slain, save only Roland and the archbishop.
The hero was wounded in a dozen places: he felt his life-blood oozing
away. Again he drew his ivory horn, and feebly sounded it. He would
fain know whether Charlemagne were coming. The king was in the pass,
not far away, and he heard the failing blast.

"Ah, Roland!" said he, "the battle goes ill with thee." Then he turned
to his host, and said, "Blow loud your trumpets, that the hero may know
that succor comes."

At once sixty thousand bugles were blown so loudly that the valley and
the caves resounded, and the rocks themselves trembled. Roland heard
it and thanked God. The Pagans heard it and knew that it boded no good
to them. They rushed in a body upon Roland and the archbishop.
Roland's horse was slain beneath him; his shield was split in twain;
his hauberk was broken. The archbishop was mortally wounded, and
stretched upon the ground. Again the trumpets of Charlemagne's host
were heard, and the Pagans fled in great haste toward Spain.

Then Roland knelt by the side of the dying archbishop. "Kind friend,
so good and true," said he, "now the end has come. Our comrades whom
we held so dear are all dead. Give me leave to bring them and lay them
in order by thee, that we may all have thy blessing."

"It is well," answered the good Turpin. "Do as thou wilt. The field
is thine and mine."

So Roland, weak and faint, went all alone through that field of blood,
seeking his friends. He found Berenger and Otho and Anseis and Samson,
and proud Gerard of Roussillon; and one by one he brought them and laid
them on the grass before the archbishop. And lastly he brought back
Oliver, pressed gently against his bosom, and placed him on a shield by
the others. The archbishop wept; and he lifted up his feeble hands and
blessed them: "Sad has it been with you, comrades. May God, the
glorious King, receive your souls in His paradise!"

Then Roland, faint with loss of blood, and overcome with grief, swooned
and fell to the ground. The good archbishop felt such distress as he
had never known before. He staggered to his feet; he took the ivory
horn in his hands, and went to fetch water from the brook which flows
through the Vale of Thorns. Slowly and feebly he tottered onward, but
not far: his strength failed and he fell to the ground. Soon Roland
recovered from his swoon and looked about him. On the green grass this
side of the rivulet, he saw the archbishop lying. The good Turpin was
dead.

And now Roland felt that he, too, was nigh death's door. He took the
ivory horn in one hand, and Durandal in the other, and went up a little
hill that lies toward Spain. He sat down beneath a pine tree where
were four great blocks of marble. He looked at the blade Durandal.
"Ha, Durandal," he said, "how bright and white thou art! Thou shinest
and flamest against the sun! Many countries have I conquered with
thee, and now for thee I have great grief. Better would it be to
destroy thee than to have thee fall into the hands of the Pagan folk."

With great effort he raised himself on his feet again. Ten times he
smote with Durandal the great rock before him. But the sword was
bright and whole as ever, while the rock was split in pieces. Then the
hero lay down upon the grass, with his face toward the foe. He put the
sword and the horn under him. He stretched his right glove toward
heaven, and an unseen hand came and took it away. Dead was the
matchless hero.

Not long after this King Charlemagne with his host came to the
death-strewn Vale of Thorns. Great was the grief of the king and of
all the French, when they found that they had come too late to save
even a single life. Roland was found lying on the grass, his face
turned toward Spain. Charlemagne took him up tenderly in his arms, and
wept.

"Friend Roland," said he, "worthiest of men, bravest of warriors,
noblest of all my knights, what shall I, say when they in France shall
ask news of thee? I shall tell them that thou art dead in Spain. With
great sorrow shall I hold my realm from this time on. Every day I
shall weep and bewail thee, and wish that my life, too, were ended."

Then the French buried their dead on the field where they had fallen.
But the king brought Roland and Oliver and the archbishop to Blaye in
France, and laid them in white marble tombs; and there they lie until
this day in the beautiful little chapel of St. Roman's. And he took
the ivory horn to Bordeaux, and filled it with fine gold, and laid it
on the altar of the church in that city; and there it is still seen by
the pious pilgrims who visit that place.


VOCABULARY OF PROPER NAMES

_Ac ar nā' nĭ a_, the most western province of ancient Greece.
_A chĭl' lēs_ (á kĭl' lēz), the ideal hero of the Greeks.
_Ae' gir_ (a' jĭr), in Norse legends, the ruler of the sea.
_Ag a mē' dēs_ (-dēz), one of the architects of the temple at Delphi.
_Ag a mĕm' non_, king of Mycenae and leader of the Greeks.
_Aix_ (āks), a city of France, favorite residence of Charlemagne.
_A' jăx_, a Greek hero second only to Achilles.
_Al ex ăn' drŏs_, a name applied to Paris, prince of Troy.
_Al phē' ŭs_, a hunter transformed into a river of Greece.
_Al thē' a_, queen of Calydon, mother of Meleager.
_A mĭl' ĭ as_, a mythical smith of Burgundy.
_And' vä rï_, a dwarf, the keeper of the Rhine treasure.
_An tĭl' o chus_ (-kus), a Greek prince and friend of Achilles.
_A ŏs' tä_, a town in northern Italy.
_Aph ro dī' tē_, in Greek mythology, the goddess of love.
_A pŏl' lo_, in Greek mythology, the god of music, poetry, and healing.
_Ar cā' dĭ a_, a mountainous country in Greece.
_Ardennes_ (är dĕn'), a forest in northern France.
_Ar e thū' sa_, a nymph loved by Alpheus.
_Ar' go_, the ship that carried Jason and his companions.
_Ar' tē nĭs_, twin sister of Apollo; goddess of the woods.
_Ar' thur_, a heroic legendary king of Britain.
_As' as_ (äs åz), the gods of the North.
_As' gärd_, in Norse mythology, the home of the gods or Asas.
_Ash' ta rŏth_, an evil spirit.
_At a lăn' ta_, an Arcadian princess and swift-footed huntress.
_A the' na_, the goddess of knowledge, arts, and sciences.
_At' ro pŏs_, one of the three Fates.
_Au' lis_, a town on the east coast of Greece.
_Au tŏl' y cus_, a famous Greek chieftain, grandfather of Odysseus.
_Av' a lon_, fairyland (in mediaeval legends).

_Băl' ĭ os_, "Swift," one of the horses given to Peleus.
_Bäl' mŭng_, the sword of Siegfried.
_Bē' a trĭce_, the wife of Eego of Belin.
_Be gō'_ (bā gō'), duke of Belin and feudal chief of Gascony.
_Ber en ger'_ (-än zhā'), a friend of Bego.
_Blaye_ (blā), a seaport of France, 21 miles from Bordeaux.
_Bō' re as_, the North Wind.
_Bor deaux'_ (-dō'), a city on west coast of France.
_Bŭr' gun dy_, a duchy including a part of northeastern France.

_Căl' chas_ (kăl' kăl), a soothsayer of Mycense.
_Căl' y don_, a city in ancient Greece.
_Cas san' dra_, a prophetess, the daughter of Priam.
_Cas tor_, twin brother of Pollux and brother of Helen.
_Cĕn' taur_, one of an ancient race inhabiting the country near
Mount Pelion, said to have the bodies of horses.
_Charlemagne_ (shär' le mān), king of the Franks, 742-814.
_Cheiron_ (kī' ron), a Centaur famed for his wisdom.
_Clē ō pā' tra_, the wife of Meleager.
_Clō' thō_, one of the three Fates.
_Clyt' em nĕs tra_, the wife of Agamemnon.
_Crete (krēt)_, an island southeast of Greece.
_Crĭs' sa_, a gulf in Greece, now called Gulf of Corinth.

_Där' da nus_, ancestor of the people of Troy.
_Dē' lŏs_, a small island east of Greece.
_Dĕl' phī_, a town at the foot of Mount Parnassus, the seat
of the oracle of Apollo.
_Dū răn' dal_, the sword of Roland.

_E' lis_, a country in southern Greece.
_E' rin_, the ancient name for Ireland.
_E' ris_, the goddess of discord.
_Euboea_ (u bē' a), a large island east of Greece.

_Fäf' nïr_, a dragon that guarded the Rhine treasure.
_Fa năn' der_, a cataract referred to in Norse mythology.
_Frō mōnt'_, duke of Bordeaux.

_Gä' ne lon_, a duke of Mayence noted for his treachery.
_Gä rin'_ (-rănh), one of the sons of Bego of Belia.
_Găs' cō ny_, an ancient duchy of France.
_Gerin_ (zhẽ rănh'), a brother of Bego of Belio.

_Hā' dēs_, the land of the shades, or of the dead.
_Hault'_ clear, the sword of Oliver.
_He' bē_, the goddess of youth and spring.
_Hĕc' tor_, a prince of Troy, son of Priam.
_Hĕl' en_, the wife of Menelaus, celebrated for her beauty.
_He lō ïse'_ (hā lō ēz'), the sister of Bego of Belin.
_He' ra_, the wife of Zeus; often called Juno.
_Her' cu lēs_ (-lēz), a mighty hero of the Golden Age of Greece.
_Her' mēs_ (-mēz), the messenger of the gods; same as Mercury.
_Her nau din_ (her nō dănh'), a son of Bego.
_He sī' o nē_, a princess of Troy, sister of Priam.
_Haenir_ (he' nïr), a companion of Odio.
_Hreidmar_ (hrīd' mar), the father of Regin.
_Hū' na land_, a country mentioned in Norse mythology.
_Hy per bō' re ans_, the people who lived beyond the North Wind.

_I ä' sus_, a king of Arcadia, father of Atalanta.
_I' das_, the father of Cleopatra.
_I dŏm' e neūs_, a king of Crete, friend of Menelaus.
_Il' ĭ os_, the same as Troy; Ilium.
_I' lus_, the founder of Ilios or Troy.
_Iph ĭ ge nī' a_, a princess, the daughter of Agamemnon.
_I' ris_, a messenger of the gods, personification of the rainbow.

_Jā' son_, a Greek hero, the leader of the Argonauts.

_Kwä' ser_, in Norse mythology, a being noted for his wisdom.

_Lăc e dae' mon_ (lăs-), an ancient Greek city, same as Sparta.
_Lăch' e sĭs_ (lăk-), one of the three Fates.
_La ŏm' e don_, a king of Troy, father of Priam.
_Lō' kī_, in Norse mythology, the spirit of mischief.
_Lōr rāine'_, a region on the border between France and Germany.

_Ma hŏm' et_, an Arab, the founder of Mohammedanism.
_Măi' a gis_ (-zhē), a dwarf enchanter and magician.
_Mär seilles'_ (-sālz), a city of France on the Mediterranean.

_Mär sïl' ĭ us_, a Moorish king of Spain.
_Mayence_ (mä yŏns'), a city on the Rhine River.
_Mĕl e ā' ger_ (-jēr), a Greek hero, prince of Calydon.
_Mï' mer_, in Norse mythology, the possessor of the well of wisdom.
_Môr' gan le Fāy_, the queen of the fairies.
_My cē' nae_, a city of ancient Greece.

_Nä' mōn_, Charlemagne's most trusted counsellor.
_Nē' rēus_, "the old man of the sea," father of the sea nymphs.
_Nĕs' tor_, king of Pylos, oldest of the Greek heroes at Troy.

_O' dĭn_, in Norse mythology the chief of the gods.
_O dys' seūs_, the wisest of the Greek heroes; same as Ulysses.
_Oenone_ (ē nō' ne), a river nymph, the wife of Paris.
_Ogier_ (ō zhā), a Danish hero under Charlemagne.
_Oi' neūs_, a king of Calydon, father of Meleager.
_Ol' ĭ ver_, one of Charlemagne's paladins, comrade of Roland,
_O lym' pus_, a mountain in Greece, the home of the gods.
_O rĕs' tēs_, the son of Agamemnon.
_Orleans_ (ŏr lā ŏn'), an important city in France.
_Or sĭl' o chus_, a king of the ancient city of Pherae.

_Pal a mē' dēs_, a Greek hero in the war with Troy.
_Păr' is_, a prince of Troy, second son of Priam.
_Pär nas' sus_, a mountain in Greece near Delphi.
_Pē' leūs_, the father of Achilles.
_Pē' lĭ on_, a mountain on the east coast of Greece.
_Pĕp' in_, a king of the Franks, father of Charlemagne.
_Phoe' bus_, another name for Apollo.
_Piēd' mŏnt_, a district in northern Italy.
_Pŏl' lux_, the twin brother of Castor, and brother of Helen.
_Po seī' don_, supreme lord of the sea; same as Neptune.
_Prī' am_, the last king of Troy.
_Pū ĕlle'_, an ancient forest in France.
_Py' los_, an ancient town in the south part of Greece.
_Pyr' e nees_, the mountains between France and Spain.
_Py' thon_, the serpent slain by Apollo.

_Rän_, in Norse mythology, the goddess of the sea.
_Re' gin_ (-jĭn), a dwarf, the instructor of Siegfried.
_Rō' land_, the most famous of Charlemagne's paladins.
_Ronce vaux'_ (-vō), a valley in Navarre, Spain, in the Pyrenees.
_Roussillon_ (roo sē' yôn'), an ancient district of France.

_St. Omer_ (sĕn tō mâr'), a famous city in northern France.
_St. Quentin_ (sâăn kŏn tăn'), a city in northeastern France.
_Săl a mis_, an island of ancient Greece.
_Sar' a cens_, the Arab followers of Mohammed.
_Scae' an_ (skē' an), the principal gate of Troy.
_Sca măn' der_, a river near Troy.
_Seine_ (sān), one of the principal rivers of France.
_Siēg' friēd_, a mythical hero of the Rhine country.
_Sï' gyn_, the wife of Loki.
_Skä de_, in Norse mythology, the goddess of the snow.

_Tĕl' a mon_, a Greek hero, the father of Ajax.
_Thes sā' lĭ an_, belonging to Thessaly in northern Greece.
_Thē' tis_, a sea nymph, the mother of Achilles.
_Tro phō' nĭ us_, one of the architects of the temple at Delphi.
_Tûr' pin_, archbishop of Rheims, and paladin of Charlemagne.

_Valenciennes_ (vä lŏn syĕn'), a city in northeastern France.
_Vŭl' can_, the blacksmith of the gods.

_Xanthos_ (zăn' thus), "Old Gold," one of the horses of Peleus.

_Zeūs_, the king of the gods; same as Jupiter.




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Online LibraryJames BaldwinHero Tales → online text (page 9 of 9)