Laisses CCXIV - CCXXXVI
Now to be off would that Emperour Charles,
When pagans, lo! comes surging the vanguard;
Two messengers come from their ranks forward,
From the admiral bring challenge to combat:
"'Tis not yet time, proud King, that thou de-part.
Lo, Baligant comes cantering afterward,
Great are the hosts he leads from Arab parts;
This day we'll see if thou hast vassalage."
Charles the King his snowy beard has clasped,
Remembering his sorrow and damage,
Haughtily then his people all regards,
In a loud voice he cries with all his heart:
"Barons and Franks, to horse, I say, to arms!"
First before all was armed that Emperour,
Nimbly enough his iron sark indued,
Laced up his helm, girt on his sword Joiuse,
Outshone the sun that dazzling light it threw,
Hung from his neck a shield, was of Girunde,
And took his spear, was fashioned at Blandune.
On his good horse then mounted, Tencendur,
Which he had won at th'ford below Marsune
When he flung dead Malpalin of Nerbune,
Let go the reins, spurred him with either foot;
Five score thousand behind him as he flew,
Calling on God and the Apostle of Roum.
Through all the field dismount the Frankish men,
Five-score thousand and more, they arm themselves;
The gear they have enhances much their strength,
Their horses swift, their arms are fashioned well;
Mounted they are, and fight with great science.
Find they that host, battle they'll render them.
Their gonfalons flutter above their helms.
When Charles sees the fair aspect of them,
He calls to him Jozeran of Provence,
Naimon the Duke, with Antelme of Maience:
"In such vassals should man have confidence,
Whom not to trust were surely want of sense;
Unless the Arabs of coming here repent,
Then Rollant's life, I think, we'll dearly sell."
Answers Duke Neimes: "God grant us his consent!"
Charles hath called Rabel and Guineman;
Thus said the King: "My lords, you I command
To take their place, Olivier and Rollant,
One bear the sword and the other the olifant;
So canter forth ahead, before the van,
And in your train take fifteen thousand Franks,
Young bachelors, that are most valiant.
As many more shall after them advance,
Whom Gebuins shall lead, also Lorains."
Naimes the Duke and the count Jozerans
Go to adjust these columns in their ranks.
Find they that host, they'll make a grand attack.
Of Franks the first columns made ready there,
After those two a third they next prepare;
In it are set the vassals of Baiviere,
Some thousand score high-prized chevaliers;
Never was lost the battle, where they were:
Charles for no race neath heaven hath more care,
Save those of France, who realms for him conquered.
The Danish chief, the warrior count Oger,
Shall lead that troop, for haughty is their air.
Three columns now, he has, the Emperour Charles.
Naimes the Duke a fourth next sets apart
Of good barons, endowed with vassalage;
Germans they are, come from the German March,
A thousand score, as all said afterward;
They're well equipped with horses and with arms,
Rather they'll die than from the battle pass;
They shall be led by Hermans, Duke of Trace,
Who'll die before he's any way coward.
Naimes the Duke and the count Jozerans
The fifth column have mustered, of Normans,
A thousand score, or so say all the Franks;
Well armed are they, their horses charge and prance;
Rather they'ld die, than eer be recreant;
No race neath heav'n can more in th'field compass.
Richard the old, lead them in th'field he shall,
He'll strike hard there with his good trenchant lance.
The sixth column is mustered of Bretons;
Thirty thousand chevaliers therein come;
These canter in the manner of barons,
Upright their spears, their ensigns fastened on.
The overlord of them is named Oedon,
Who doth command the county Nevelon,
Tedbald of Reims and the marquis Oton:
"Lead ye my men, by my commission."
That Emperour hath now six columns yare
Naimes the Duke the seventh next prepares
Of Peitevins and barons from Alverne;
Forty thousand chevaliers might be there;
Their horses good, their arms are all most fair.
They're neath a cliff, in a vale by themselves;
With his right hand King Charles hath them blessed,
Them Jozerans shall lead, also Godselmes.
And the eighth column hath Naimes made ready;
Tis of Flamengs, and barons out of Frise;
Forty thousand and more good knights are these,
Nor lost by them has any battle been.
And the King says: "These shall do my service."
Between Rembalt and Hamon of Galice
Shall they be led, for all their chivalry.
Between Naimon and Jozeran the count
Are prudent men for the ninth column found,
Of Lotherengs and those out of Borgoune;
Fifty thousand good knights they are, by count;
In helmets laced and sarks of iron brown,
Strong are their spears, short are the shafts cut down;
If the Arrabits demur not, but come out
And trust themselves to these, they'll strike them down.
Tierris the Duke shall lead them, of Argoune.
The tenth column is of barons of France,
Five score thousand of our best capitans;
Lusty of limb, and proud of countenance,
Snowy their heads are, and their beards are blanched,
In doubled sarks, and in hauberks they're clad,
Girt on their sides Frankish and Spanish brands
And noble shields of divers cognisance.
Soon as they mount, the battle they demand,
"Monjoie" they cry. With them goes Charlemagne.
Gefreid d'Anjou carries that oriflamme;
Saint Peter's twas, and bare the name Roman,
But on that day Monjoie, by change, it gat.
That Emperour down from his horse descends;
To the green grass, kneeling, his face he bends.
Then turns his eyes towards the Orient,
Calls upon God with heartiest intent:
"Very Father, this day do me defend,
Who to Jonas succour didst truly send
Out of the whale's belly, where he was pent;
And who didst spare the king of Niniven,
And Daniel from marvellous torment
When he was caged within the lions' den;
And three children, all in a fire ardent:
Thy gracious Love to me be here present.
In Thy Mercy, if it please Thee, consent
That my nephew Rollant I may avenge.
When he had prayed, upon his feet he stepped,
With the strong mark of virtue signed his head;
Upon his swift charger the King mounted
While Jozerans and Neimes his stirrup held;
He took his shield, his trenchant spear he kept;
Fine limbs he had, both gallant and well set;
Clear was his face and filled with good intent.
Vigorously he cantered onward thence.
In front, in rear, they sounded their trumpets,
Above them all boomed the olifant again.
Then all the Franks for pity of Rollant wept.
That Emperour canters in noble array,
Over his sark all of his beard displays;
For love of him, all others do the same,
Five score thousand Franks are thereby made plain.
They pass those peaks, those rocks and those mountains,
Those terrible narrows, and those deep vales,
Then issue from the passes and the wastes
Till they are come into the March of Spain;
A halt they've made, in th'middle of a plain.
To Baligant his vanguard comes again
A Sulian hath told him his message:
"We have seen Charles, that haughty sovereign;
Fierce are his men, they have no mind to fail.
Arm yourself then: Battle you'll have to-day."
Says Baligant: "Mine is great vassalage;
Let horns this news to my pagans proclaim."
Through all the host they have their drums sounded,
And their bugles, and, very clear trumpets.
Pagans dismount, that they may arm themselves.
Their admiral will stay no longer then;
Puts on a sark, embroidered in the hems,
Laces his helm, that is with gold begemmed;
After, his sword on his left side he's set,
Out of his pride a name for it he's spelt
Like to Carlun's, as he has heard it said,
So Preciuse he bad his own be clept;
Twas their ensign when they to battle went,
His chevaliers'; he gave that cry to them.
His own broad shield he hangs upon his neck,
(Round its gold boss a band of crystal went,
The strap of it was a good silken web;)
He grasps his spear, the which he calls Maltet; --
So great its shaft as is a stout cudgel,
Beneath its steel alone, a mule had bent;
On his charger is Baligant mounted,
Marcules, from over seas, his stirrup held.
That warrior, with a great stride he stepped,
Small were his thighs, his ribs of wide extent,
Great was his breast, and finely fashioned,
With shoulders broad and very clear aspect;
Proud was his face, his hair was ringleted,
White as a flow'r in summer was his head.
His vassalage had often been proved.
God! what a knight, were he a Christian yet!
His horse he's spurred, the clear blood issued;
He's gallopped on, over a ditch he's leapt,
Full fifty feet a man might mark its breadth.
Pagans cry out: "Our Marches shall be held;
There is no Frank, may once with him contest,
Will he or nill, his life he'll soon have spent.
Charles is mad, that he departs not hence."
That admiral to a baron's like enough,
White is his beard as flowers by summer burnt;
In his own laws, of wisdom hath he much;
And in battle he's proud and arduous.
His son Malprimes is very chivalrous,
He's great and strong; -- his ancestors were thus.
Says to his sire: "To canter then let us!
I marvel much that soon we'll see Carlun."
Says Baligant: " Yea, for he's very pruff;
In many tales honour to him is done;
He hath no more Rollant, his sister's son,
He'll have no strength to stay in fight with us."
"Fair son Malprimes," then says t'him Baligant,
"Was slain yestreen the good vassal Rollanz,
And Oliver, the proof and valiant,
The dozen peers, whom Charles so cherished, and
Twenty thousand more Frankish combatants.
For all the rest I'ld not unglove my hand.
But the Emperour is verily come back,
-- So tells me now my man, that Sulian --
Ten great columns he's set them in their ranks;
He's a proof man who sounds that olifant,
With a clear call he rallies his comrades;
These at the head come cantering in advance,
Also with them are fifteen thousand Franks,
Young bachelors, whom Charles calls Infants;
As many again come following that band,
Who will lay on with utmost arrogance."
Then says Malprimes: "The first blow I demand."
"Fair son Malprimes," says Baligant to him,
"I grant it you, as you have asked me this;
Against the Franks go now, and smite them quick.
And take with you Torleu, the Persian king
And Dapamort, another king Leutish.
Their arrogance if you can humble it,
Of my domains a slice to you I'll give
From Cheriant unto the Vale Marquis."
"I thank you, Sire!" Malprimes answers him;
Going before, he takes delivery;
'Tis of that land, was held by king Flurit.
After that hour he never looked on it,
Investiture gat never, nor seizin.
That admiral canters among his hosts;
After, his son with's great body follows,
Torleus the king, and the king Dapamort;
Thirty columns most speedily they form.
They've chevaliers in marvellous great force;
Fifty thousand the smallest column holds.
The first is raised of men from Butenrot,
The next, after, Micenes, whose heads are gross;
Along their backs, above their spinal bones,
As they were hogs, great bristles on them grow.
The third is raised from Nubles and from Blos;
The fourth is raised from Bruns and Esclavoz;
The fifth is raised from Sorbres and from Sorz;
The sixth is raised from Ermines and from Mors;
The seventh is the men of Jericho;
Negroes are the eighth; the ninth are men of Gros;
The tenth is raised from Balide the stronghold,
That is a tribe no goodwill ever shews.
That admiral hath sworn, the way he knows,
By Mahumet, his virtues and his bones:
"Charles of France is mad to canter so;
Battle he'll have, unless he take him home;
No more he'll wear on's head that crown of gold."
Ten great columns they marshal thereafter;
Of Canelious, right ugly, is the first,
Who from Val-Fuit came across country there;
The next's of Turks; of Persians is the third;
The fourth is raised of desperate Pinceners,
The fifth is raised from Soltras and Avers;
The sixth is from Ormaleus and Eugez;
The seventh is the tribe of Samuel;
The eighth is from Bruise; the ninth from Esclavers;
The tenth is from Occiant, the desert,
That is a tribe, do not the Lord God serve,
Of such felons you never else have heard;
Hard is their hide, as though it iron were,
Wherefore of helm or hauberk they've no care;
In the battle they're felon murderers.
That admiral ten columns more reviews;
The first is raised of Giants from Malpruse;
The next of Huns; the third a Hungar crew;
And from Baldise the Long the fourth have trooped;
The fifth is raised of men from Val-Penuse;
The sixth is raised of tribesmen from Maruse;
The seventh is from Leus and Astrimunes;
The eighth from Argoilles; the ninth is from Clarbune;
The tenth is raised of beardsmen from Val-Frunde,
That is a tribe, no love of God e'er knew.
Gesta Francor' these thirty columns prove.
Great are the hosts, their horns come sounding through.
Pagans canter as men of valour should.
That admiral hath great possessions;
He makes them bear before him his dragon,
And their standard, Tervagan's and Mahom's,
And his image, Apollin the felon.
Ten Canelious canter in the environs,
And very loud the cry out this sermon:
"Let who would from our gods have garrison,
Serve them and pray with great affliction."
Pagans awhile their heads and faces on
Their breasts abase, their polished helmets doff.
And the Franks say: "Now shall you die, gluttons;
This day shall bring you vile confusion!
Give warranty, our God, unto Carlon!
And in his name this victory be won!"
That admiral hath wisdom great indeed;
His son to him and those two kings calls he:
My lords barons, beforehand canter ye,
All my columns together shall you lead;
But of the best I'll keep beside me three:
One is of Turks; the next of Ormaleis;
And the third is the Giants of Malpreis.
And Occiant's, they'll also stay with me,
Until with Charles and with the Franks they meet.
That Emperour, if he combat with me,
Must lose his head, cut from his shoulders clean;
He may be sure naught else for him's decreed.