Song and Legend From the Middle Ages
The treacherous plot has succeeded. Charles, with the main part of his army, has gone ahead, the Saracens have fallen on the rear-guard, and are destroying it. Oliver begs Roland to sound his wonderful horn and summon aid.
Stanza 87.--- "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 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!"
Stanza 88.--- "Roland, Roland, 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 dishonour my lineage true.
But I will strike, ere this fight be o'er,
A thousand strokes and seven hundred more,
And my Durindana will drip with gore.
Our Franks shall bear them like a vassals brave.
The Saracens shall flock but to find a grave."
Stanza 89.--- "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 the 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."
At last Roland blows his horn, but it is too late. All the Moors are slain or routed, but so are all the Franks save Roland, and he has received his death blow.
Stanza 195.--- That Death was on him he knew full well;
Down from his hand to his heart it fell.
On the grass beneath a pinetree's shade,
With face to earth his form he laid,
Beneath him placed he his horn and sword,
And turned his face to the heathen horde.
Thus hath he done the sooth to show,
That Karl and his warriors all may know,
That the gentle count a conqueror died.
Mea Culpa full oft he cried;
And, for all his sins, unto God above,
In sign of penance, he raised his glove.
Stanza 197.--- Beneath a pine was his resting-place,
To the land of Spain hath he turned his face.
On his memory rose full many a thought---
Of the lands he won and the fields he fought;
Of his gentle France, of kin and line;
Of his nursing father King Karl benign;---
He may not the tear and sob control,
Nor yet forgets he his parting soul.
To God's compassion he makes his cry:
"O Father true, who canst not lie,
Who didst Lazarus raise unto life again,