Simple almost to bareness in style, without subtlety or high imagination, the Song of Roland is yet not without grandeur; and its patriotic ardor gives it a place as the earliest of the truly national poems of the modern world._
THE TREASON OF GANELON
The king our Emperor
Hath been for seven full years in Spain.
From highland to sea hath he won the land;
City was none might his arm withstand;
Keep and castle alike went down—
Save Saragossa, the mountain town.
The King Marsilius holds the place,
Who loveth not God, nor seeks His grace:
He prays to Apollin, and serves Mahound;
But he saved him not from the fate he found.
In Saragossa King Marsil
His council-seat in the orchard shade,
On a stair of marble of azure hue.
There his courtiers round him drew;
While there stood, the king before,
Twenty thousand men and more.
Thus to his dukes and his counts he said,
“Hear ye, my lords, we are sore bested.
The Emperor Karl of gentle France
Hither hath come for our dire mischance.
Nor host to meet him in battle line,
Nor power to shatter his power, is mine.
Speak, my sages; your counsel lend:
My doom of shame and death forefend.”
But of all the heathens none spake word
Save Blancandrin, Val Fonde’s lord.
Blancandrin was a heathen
Knightly and valiant of enterprise,
Sage in counsel his lord to aid;
And he said to the king, “Be not dismayed:
Proffer to Karl, the haughty and high,
Lowly friendship and fealty;
Ample largess lay at his feet,
Bear and lion and greyhound fleet.
Seven hundred camels his tribute be,
A thousand hawks that have moulted free.
Let full four hundred mules be told,
Laden with silver enow and gold
For fifty waggons to bear away;
So shall his soldiers receive their pay.
Say, too long hath he warred in Spain,—
Let him turn to France—to his Aix—again.
At Saint Michael’s feast you will thither speed,
Bend your heart to the Christian creed,
And his liegeman be in duty and deed.
Hostages he may demand
Ten or twenty at your hand.
We will send him the sons whom our wives have nursed;
Were death to follow, mine own the first.
Better by far that they there should die
Than be driven all from our land to fly,
Flung to dishonor and beggary.”