My Lords of France, be God your stay,
That you be not vanquished in field to-day.”
“Accursed,” say the Franks, “be they who fly
None shall blench from the fear to die.”
“In mighty strength
are the heathen crew,”
Olivier said, “and our Franks are few;
My comrade, Roland, sound on your horn;
Karl will hear and his host return.”
“I were mad,” said Roland, “to do such deed;
Lost in France were my glory’s meed.
My Durindana shall smite full hard,
And her hilt be red to the golden guard.
The heathen felons shall find their fate;
Their death, I swear, in the pass they wait.”
“O Roland, sound
on your ivory horn,
To the ear of Karl shall the blast be borne:
He will bid his legions backward bend,
And all his barons their aid will lend.”
“Now God forbid it, for very shame,
That for me my kindred were stained with blame,
Or that gentle France to such vileness fell:
This good sword that hath served me well,
My Durindana such strokes shall deal,
That with blood encrimsoned shall be the steel.
By their evil star are the felons led;
They shall all be numbered among the dead.”
yet wind one blast!
Karl will hear ere the gorge be passed,
And the Franks return on their path full fast.”
“I will not sound on mine ivory horn:
It shall never be spoken of me in scorn,
That for heathen felons one blast I blew;
I may not dishonor my lineage true.
But I will strike, ere this fight be o’er,
A thousand strokes and seven hundred more,
And my Durindana shall drip with gore.
Our Franks will bear them like vassals brave
The Saracens flock but to find a grave.”
“I deem of neither
reproach nor stain.
I have seen the Saracen host of Spain,
Over plain and valley and mountain spread,
And the regions hidden beneath their tread.
Countless the swarm of the foe, and we
A marvellous little company.”
Roland answered him, “All the more
My spirit within me burns therefore.
God and his angels of heaven defend
That France through me from her glory bend.
Death were better than fame laid low.
Our Emperor loveth a downright blow.”
Roland is daring and
Both of marvellous high emprise;
On their chargers mounted, and girt in mail,
To the death in battle they will not quail.
Brave are the counts, and their words are high,
And the Pagans are fiercely