Laisses XXVII - LII
Guenes the count goes to his hostelry,
Finds for the road his garments and his gear,
All of the best he takes that may appear:
Spurs of fine gold he fastens on his feet,
And to his side Murgles his sword of steel.
On Tachebrun, his charger, next he leaps,
His uncle holds the stirrup, Guinemere.
Then you had seen so many knights to weep,
Who all exclaim: "Unlucky lord, indeed!
In the King's court these many years you've been,
Noble vassal, they say that have you seen.
He that for you this journey has decreed
King Charlemagne will never hold him dear.
The Count Rollant, he should not so have deemed,
Knowing you were born of very noble breed."
After they say: "Us too, Sire, shall he lead."
Then answers Guenes: "Not so, the Lord be pleased!
Far better one than many knights should bleed.
To France the Douce, my lords, you soon shall speed,
On my behalf my gentle wife you'll greet,
And Pinabel, who is my friend and peer,
And Baldewin, my son, whom you have seen;
His rights accord and help him in his need."
-- Rides down the road, and on his way goes he.
Guenes canters on, and halts beneath a tree;
Where Sarrazins assembled he may see,
With Blancandrins, who abides his company.
Cunning and keen they speak then, each to each,
Says Blancandrins: "Charles, what a man is he,
Who conquered Puille and th'whole of Calabrie;
Into England he crossed the bitter sea,
To th' Holy Pope restored again his fee.
What seeks he now of us in our country?"
Then answers Guene "So great courage hath he;
Never was man against him might succeed."
Says Blancandrins "Gentle the Franks are found;
Yet a great wrong these dukes do and these counts
Unto their lord, being in counsel proud;
Him and themselves they harry and confound."
Guenes replies: "There is none such, without
Only Rollanz, whom shame will yet find out.
Once in the shade the King had sate him down;
His nephew came, in sark of iron brown,
Spoils he had won, beyond by Carcasoune,
Held in his hand an apple red and round.
"Behold, fair Sire," said Rollanz as he bowed,
"Of all earth's kings I bring you here the crowns."
His cruel pride must shortly him confound,
Each day t'wards death he goes a little down,
When he be slain, shall peace once more abound."
Says Blancandrins: "A cruel man, Rollant,
That would bring down to bondage every man,
And challenges the peace of every land.
With what people takes he this task in hand?"
And answers Guene: "The people of the Franks;
They love him so, for men he'll never want.
Silver and gold he show'rs upon his band,
Chargers and mules, garments and silken mats.
The King himself holds all by his command;
From hence to the East he'll conquer sea and land."
Cantered so far then Blancandrins and Guene
Till each by each a covenant had made
And sought a plan, how Rollant might be slain.
Cantered so far by valley and by plain
To Sarraguce beneath a cliff they came.
There a fald-stool stood in a pine-tree's shade,
Enveloped all in Alexandrin veils;
There was the King that held the whole of Espain,
Twenty thousand of Sarrazins his train;
Nor was there one but did his speech contain,
Eager for news, till they might hear the tale.
Haste into sight then Blancandrins and Guene.
Blancandrin comes before Marsiliun,
Holding the hand of county Guenelun;
Says to the King "Lord save you, Sire, Mahum
And Apollin, whose holy laws here run!
Your message we delivered to Charlun,
Both his two hands he raised against the sun,
Praising his God, but answer made he none.
He sends you here his noblest born barun,
Greatest in wealth, that out of France is come;
From him you'll hear if peace shall be, or none."
"Speak," said Marsile: "We'll hear him, every one."
But the count Guenes did deeply meditate;
Cunning and keen began at length, and spake
Even as one that knoweth well the way;
And to the King: "May God preserve you safe,
The All Glorious, to whom we're bound to pray
Proud Charlemagne this message bids me say:
You must receive the holy Christian Faith,
And yield in fee one half the lands of Spain.
If to accord this tribute you disdain,
Taken by force and bound in iron chain
You will be brought before his throne at Aix;
Judged and condemned you'll be, and shortly slain,
Yes, you will die in misery and shame."
King Marsilies was very sore afraid,
Snatching a dart, with golden feathers gay,
He made to strike: they turned aside his aim.
King Marsilies is turn'ed white with rage,
His feathered dart he brandishes and shakes.
Guenes beholds: his sword in hand he takes,
Two fingers' width from scabbard bares the blade;
And says to it: "O clear and fair and brave;
Before this King in court we'll so behave,
That the Emperour of France shall never say
In a strange land I'd thrown my life away
Before these chiefs thy temper had essayed."
"Let us prevent this fight:" the pagans say.
Then Sarrazins implored him so, the chiefs,
On the faldstoel Marsillies took his seat.
"Greatly you harm our cause," says the alcaliph:
"When on this Frank your vengeance you would wreak;
Rather you should listen to hear him speak."
"Sire," Guenes says, "to suffer I am meek.
I will not fail, for all the gold God keeps,
Nay, should this land its treasure pile in heaps,
But I will tell, so long as I be free,
What Charlemagne, that Royal Majesty,
Bids me inform his mortal enemy."
Guenes had on a cloke of sable skin,
And over it a veil Alexandrin;
These he throws down, they're held by Blancandrin;
But not his sword, he'll not leave hold of it,
In his right hand he grasps the golden hilt.
The pagans say. "A noble baron, this."
Before the King's face Guenes drawing near
Says to him "Sire, wherefore this rage and fear?
Seeing you are, by Charles, of Franks the chief,
Bidden to hold the Christians' right belief.
One half of Spain he'll render as your fief
The rest Rollanz, his nephew, shall receive,
Proud parcener in him you'll have indeed.
If you will not to Charles this tribute cede,
To you he'll come, and Sarraguce besiege;
Take you by force, and bind you hands and feet,
Bear you outright ev'n unto Aix his seat.
You will not then on palfrey nor on steed,
Jennet nor mule, come cantering in your speed;
Flung you will be on a vile sumpter-beast;
Tried there and judged, your head you will not keep.
Our Emperour has sent you here this brief."
He's given it into the pagan's nief.
Now Marsilies, is turn'ed white with ire,
He breaks the seal and casts the wax aside,
Looks in the brief, sees what the King did write:
"Charles commands, who holds all France by might,
I bear in mind his bitter grief and ire;
'Tis of Basan and 's brother Basilye,
Whose heads I took on th' hill by Haltilye.
If I would save my body now alive,
I must despatch my uncle the alcalyph,
Charles will not love me ever otherwise."
After, there speaks his son to Marsilye,
Says to the King: "In madness spoke this wight.
So wrong he was, to spare him were not right;
Leave him to me, I will that wrong requite."
When Guenes hears, he draws his sword outright,
Against the trunk he stands, beneath that pine.
The King is gone into that orchard then;
With him he takes the best among his men;
And Blancandrins there shews his snowy hair,
And Jursalet, was the King's son and heir,
And the alcaliph, his uncle and his friend.
Says Blancandrins: "Summon the Frank again,
In our service his faith to me he's pledged."
Then says the King: "So let him now be fetched."
He's taken Guenes by his right finger-ends,
And through the orchard straight to the King they wend.
Of treason there make lawless parliament.
"Fair Master Guenes," says then King Marsilie,
"I did you now a little trickery,
Making to strike, I shewed my great fury.
These sable skins take as amends from me,
Five hundred pounds would not their worth redeem.
To-morrow night the gift shall ready be."
Guene answers him: "I'll not refuse it, me.
May God be pleased to shew you His mercy."
Then says Marsile "Guenes, the truth to ken,
Minded I am to love you very well.
Of Charlemagne I wish to hear you tell,
He's very old, his time is nearly spent,
Two hundred years he's lived now, as 'tis said.
Through many lands his armies he has led,
So many blows his buckled shield has shed,
And so rich kings he's brought to beg their bread;
What time from war will he draw back instead?"
And answers Guenes: "Not so was Charles bred.
There is no man that sees and knows him well
But will proclaim the Emperour's hardihead.
Praise him as best I may, when all is said,
Remain untold, honour and goodness yet.
His great valour how can it be counted?
Him with such grace hath God illumined,
Better to die than leave his banneret."
The pagan says: "You make me marvel sore
At Charlemagne, who is so old and hoar;
Two hundred years, they say, he's lived and more.
So many lands he's led his armies o'er,
So many blows from spears and lances borne,
And so rich kings brought down to beg and sorn,
When will time come that he draws back from war?"
"Never," says Guenes, "so long as lives his nephew;
No such vassal goes neath the dome of heaven;
And proof also is Oliver his henchman;
The dozen peers, whom Charl'es holds so precious,
These are his guards, with other thousands twenty.
Charles is secure, he holds no man in terror."
Says Sarrazin: "My wonder yet is grand
At Charlemagne, who hoary is and blanched.
Two hundred years and more, I understand,
He has gone forth and conquered many a land,
Such blows hath borne from many a trenchant lance,
Vanquished and slain of kings so rich a band,
When will time come that he from war draws back?"
"Never," says Guene, "so long as lives Rollanz,
From hence to the East there is no such vassal;
And proof also, Oliver his comrade;
The dozen peers he cherishes at hand,
These are his guard, with twenty thousand Franks.
Charles is secure, he fears no living man."
"Fair Master Guenes," says Marsilies the King,
"Such men are mine, fairer than tongue can sing,
Of knights I can four hundred thousand bring
So I may fight with Franks and with their King."
Answers him Guenes: "Not on this journeying
Save of pagans a great loss suffering.
Leave you the fools, wise counsel following;
To the Emperour such wealth of treasure give
That every Frank at once is marvelling.
For twenty men that you shall now send in
To France the Douce he will repair, that King;
In the rereward will follow after him
Both his nephew, count Rollant, as I think,
And Oliver, that courteous paladin;
Dead are the counts, believe me if you will.
Charles will behold his great pride perishing,
For battle then he'll have no more the skill.
Fair Master Guene," says then King Marsilie,
"Shew the device, how Rollant slain may be."
Answers him Guenes: "That will I soon make clear
The King will cross by the good pass of Size,
A guard he'll set behind him, in the rear;
His nephew there, count Rollant, that rich peer,
And Oliver, in whom he well believes;
Twenty thousand Franks in their company
Five score thousand pagans upon them lead,
Franks unawares in battle you shall meet,
Bruised and bled white the race of Franks shall be;
I do not say, but yours shall also bleed.
Battle again deliver, and with speed.
So, first or last, from Rollant you'll be freed.
You will have wrought a high chivalrous deed,
Nor all your life know war again, but peace.
"Could one achieve that Rollant's life was lost,
Charle's right arm were from his body torn;
Though there remained his marvellous great host,
He'ld not again assemble in such force;
Terra Major would languish in repose."
Marsile has heard, he's kissed him on the throat;
Next he begins to undo his treasure-store.
Said Marsilie -- but now what more said they? --
"No faith in words by oath unbound I lay;
Swear me the death of Rollant on that day."
Then answered Guene: "So be it, as you say."
On the relics, are in his sword Murgles,
Treason he's sworn, forsworn his faith away.
Was a fald-stool there, made of olifant.
A book thereon Marsilies bade them plant,
In it their laws, Mahum's and Tervagant's.
He's sworn thereby, the Spanish Sarazand,
In the rereward if he shall find Rollant,
Battle to himself and all his band,
And verily he'll slay him if he can.
And answered Guenes: "So be it, as you command!"
In haste there came a pagan Valdabrun,
Warden had been to King Marsiliun,
Smiling and clear, he's said to Guenelun,
"Take now this sword, and better sword has none;
Into the hilt a thousand coins are run.
To you, fair sir, I offer it in love;
Give us your aid from Rollant the barun,
That in rereward against him we may come."
Guenes the count answers: "It shall-be done."
Then, cheek and chin, kissed each the other one.
After there came a pagan, Climorins,
Smiling and clear to Guenelun begins:
"Take now my helm, better is none than this;
But give us aid, on Rollant the marquis,
By what device we may dishonour bring."
"It shall be done." Count Guenes answered him;
On mouth and cheek then each the other kissed.
In haste there came the Queen forth, Bramimound;
"I love you well, sir," said she to the count,
"For prize you dear my lord and all around;
Here for your wife I have two brooches found,
Amethysts and jacynths in golden mount;
More worth are they than all the wealth of Roum;
Your Emperour has none such, I'll be bound."
He's taken them, and in his hosen pouched.
The King now calls Malduiz, that guards his treasure.
"Tribute for Charles, say, is it now made ready?"
He answers him: "Ay, Sire, for here is plenty
Silver and gold on hundred camels seven,
And twenty men, the gentlest under heaven."
Marsilie's arm Guene's shoulder doth enfold;
He's said to him: "You are both wise and bold.
Now, by the law that you most sacred hold,
Let not your heart in our behalf grow cold!
Out of my store I'll give you wealth untold,
Charging ten mules with fine Arabian gold;
I'll do the same for you, new year and old.
Take then the keys of this city so large,
This great tribute present you first to Charles,
Then get me placed Rollanz in the rereward.
If him I find in valley or in pass,
Battle I'll give him that shall be the last."
Answers him Guenes: "My time is nearly past."
His charger mounts, and on his journey starts.