To Tybalt of Rheims, and Milo the count.
“Guard the battle-field, vale, and mount—
Leave the dead as ye see them lie;
Watch, that nor lion nor beast come nigh,
Nor on them varlet or squire lay hand;
None shall touch them, ’tis my command,
Till with God’s good grace we return again.”
They answered lowly, in loving strain,
“Great lord, fair sire, we will do your hest,”
And a thousand warriors with them rest.
The Emperor bade his
Marched with his host the noble king.
They came at last on the heathens’ trace,
And all together pursued in chase;
But the king of the falling eve was ware:
He alighted down in a meadow fair,
Knelt on the earth unto God to pray
That he make the sun in his course delay,
Retard the night, and prolong the day.
Then his wonted angel who with him spake,
Swiftly to Karl did answer make,
“Ride on! Light shall not thee forego;
God seeth the flower of France laid low;
Thy vengeance wreak on the felon crew.”
The Emperor sprang to his steed anew.
God wrought for Karl
In his place in heaven the sun stood still.
The heathens fled, the Franks pursued,
And in Val Tenebres beside them stood;
Towards Saragossa the rout they drave,
And deadly were the strokes they gave.
They barred against them path and road;
In front the water of Ebro flowed:
Strong was the current, deep and large,
Was neither shallop, nor boat, nor barge.
With a cry to their idol Termagaunt,
The heathens plunge, but with scanty vaunt.
Encumbered with their armor’s weight,
Sank the most to the bottom, straight;
Others floated adown the stream;
And the luckiest drank their fill, I deem:
All were in marvellous anguish drowned.
Cry the Franks, “In Roland your fate ye found.”
As he sees the doom
of the heathen host,
Slain are some and drowned the most,
(Great spoil have won the Christian knights),
The gentle king from his steed alights,
And kneels, his thanks unto God to pour:
The sun had set as he rose once more.
“It is time to rest,” the Emperor cried,
“And to Roncesvalles ’twere late to ride.
Our steeds are weary and spent with pain;
Strip them of saddle and bridle-rein,
Free let them browse on the verdant mead.”
“Sire,” say the Franks, “it were well indeed.”