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Roland and Vernagu


ABBREVIATIONS: DR: Duke Roland and Sir Otuel of Spain; MED: Middle English Dictionary; OK: Otuel a Knight; OR: Otuel and Roland; Otinel: Anglo-Norman Otinel; Pseudo-Turpin: The Chronicle of Pseudo-Turpin, ed. and trans. Poole; RV: Roland and Vernagu; Whiting: Whiting, Proverbs, Sentences, and Proverbial Phrases.

1 For he it seighe with sight. Approximately forty-four opening lines are missing because of damage to fol. 263 of the Auchinleck manuscript. See the discussion in the RV Introduction, pp. 27–28. The damaged leaf may by viewed in either of the facsimiles (listed on p. 31).

10 Withouten ani lesing. “without any lying.” The RV poet uses this line frequently as a tag and metrical filler; he also tends to favor phrases that assert his honesty and the tale’s veracity. His source, Pseudo-Turpin, purports to be an eyewitness account; see the discussion in the RV Introduction, pp. 27–28.

11–12 Lorein and Lombardye, / Gascoun, Bayoun, and Pikardye. Except for Lombardy, these are all regions in France that were strong principalities during the Middle Ages. Lombardy, a region in north Italy, figures prominently in many of the Otuel-cycle romances. Medieval Lombardy bordered on France. In The Siege of Milan, the central conflict between Saracens and Christians is over the city of Milan and the surrounding Lombard region. In OK, OR, DR, and Otinel, the Saracen Emperor Garcy has conquered many key Christian cities and made Lombardy his command center.

19 Constansious. Constantius VI (771–c. 805), a Byzantine emperor.

110–24 the holy croun . . . . Withouten ani lesing. The list of relics presented by Emperor Constantius to Charlemagne is most impressive. It includes the Crown of Thorns (“the holy croun”), the arm of St. Simon (on whom, see the note to line 111 below), a portion of the Cross set in crystal, a scrap of Jesus’ robe, all (or a portion) of Mary’s smock, the rod of Aaron, the spear of Longinus, and a nail driven through Jesus’ feet at the Crucifixion. The relics, which give off a sweet odor, are largely (but not all) clustered around devotion to Christ’s Passion. The presentation of the Crown of Thorns to Charlemagne helps to codify his role as divine ruler — follower and worldly successor to Christ.

111 arme of Seyn Simoun. The owner of this arm could be either Simon the Apostle or Simon of Cyrene. The former was one of the original twelve disciples of Jesus, Simon the Cananean (Matthew 10:4), also called Simon Zelotes (Acts 1:13), reputed to have been martyred by being sawn in half, longwise through his torso and head. It is not clear that his arm held any special significance, but arm-and-hand-shaped reliquaries, fashioned of gold or silver, were not uncommon. See, for example, Klein, “Arm Reliquary of the Apostles” (c. 1190, Lower Saxony), Cleveland Museum of Art, viewable at http://projects.mcah. This identification would complement the appearance of James because Simon is another original apostle. However, it seems also possible, amid the other relics of the Crucifixion, that “Seyn Simoun” refers to Simon of Cyrene, never canonized but famous for being named as the one who “took up the Cross” and bore it for Jesus (Matthew 27:32; Mark 15:21, echoing Christ’s command at Mark 8:34). Simon of Cyrene’s service to Jesus is integral to the Stations of the Cross. A relic of his Cross-bearing arm would be extremely meaningful, representing the missionary zeal of the crusaders themselves, who figuratively took up the Cross to fight infidels.

117 Araon. Despite the unusual spelling, it is clear that the poet means Aaron, the brother of Moses, whose staff was transformed into a serpent in Egypt. The tale comes from Exodus 7:8–10.

120 Longys. According to legend, Longinus was the unnamed Roman soldier who pierced Jesus’ side with a spear during the Crucifixion. The spear came to be regarded as a precious relic because of its association with Jesus’ heart blood. In RV, Constantius possesses the Spear of Longinus and presents it to Charlemagne.

129 Yif the relikes verray were. On the treatment of relics in the literature of late medieval England, see Malo, Relics and Writing.

139 Aise in Gascoyn. Auch, a city in southwestern France, was the capital of the province of Gascony on the Spanish border. The Via Tolosona, one of the four traditional routes for pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, passed through Auch. The scribe’s spelling may reflect the influence of Aix-la-Chapelle (Aachen) in Germany, where Charlemagne had an imperial residence and where he was buried in 814, or of Aix-en-Provence, a major center in Roman and late medieval France that Charles Martel (Charlemagne’s grandfather) captured from Saracen occupiers in 737.

140 siker aplight. “in faith, truly.” This is another phrase the poet uses frequently as both a metrical filler and a claim that the events being told are true.

144 Galis. Galicia is a region in northwestern Spain. Santiago de Compostela is located in Galicia and originated as a cathedral where Saint James’ remains were buried. It was a popular pilgrims’ destination during the Middle Ages, and remains so today.

152–56 James the apostel . . . . lete me sle. The speaker in Charlemagne’s dream is St. James of Compostela, one of Jesus’ twelve apostles, who was killed by Herod (the only martyrdom of a disciple cited in the Bible; see Acts 12:2). James was thus venerated as the first martyred disciple. As the poet says, James’ brother was the apostle St. John the Evangelist (Matthew 10:3). James is the patron saint of Spain, his remains enshrined (according to legend) in Santiago de Compostela in Galicia. In RV, his appearance before Charlemagne in a dream further verifies that the king’s campaign into Muslim Spain has divine sanction.

185 Pampiloun. Pamplona is a city located near the border of Spain and France. According to historical accounts of Charlemagne’s failed campaign in Spain, Pamplona was the first city he conquered.

206–08 And thurth the miracle . . . . that ich night. Mass conversion of Muslims is shown to occur first through prayer, then crushing warfare, and then “miracle.” The poet does not reflect upon the compulsory nature of such conversion, and instead seems buoyed by the fact that this method works so well for the conqueror Charlemagne. Mass conversion of this kind, of ordinary citizenry, seems to be desirable, as opposed to the obdurate nature that sets the Saracen giant Vernagu, later in the poem, outside the scheme of salvation (see note to line 813 below). On the convertibility of desirable versus undesirable Muslims, see the discussion in the RV Introduction, pp. 28–30.

221–56 Visim, Lameche . . . . Agabie and Sisens. This long list of cities in Spain conquered by Charlemagne may combine names of real cities with fictional place-names that fit the meter and rhyme. It is impossible to identify every place as being a real locale that is still in existence, but enough do match up to suggest that the RV poet attempts to detail a sweeping swath of true geography. The list’s extreme length also magnifies the success of Charlemagne’s Spanish campaign. Discussing the use of journeys and unfamiliar locations in romances, Robert Rouse argues that romance authors may have included names and descriptions of places that the audience will never visit but would have heard of in other narratives (“Walking (Between) the Lines,” pp. 137–39). The Latin, Old French, and Middle English versions of Pseudo-Turpin (the source for RV) all include similar lists of cities in Spain. See especially the long, helpful list in the translation of the Latin version (Pseudo-Turpin, pp. 10–13); and the abbreviated list in the edition of the Middle English Turpine’s Story (ed. Shepherd, pp. 8–9, 44–46).

259–68 That hat Seyn Torquas . . . . se Godes face. This passage refers to a medieval legend of St. Torquatus of Acci, patron saint of Guadix, Spain. It would appear that pilgrims to his shrine, upon his feast day (May 15), could enjoy the miraculous fruit of his special, sanctified olive tree, and thereby be promised a vision of God’s beatific face at the Last Judgment. St. Torquatus was a first-century missionary who evangelized the town of Acci (present-day Guadix).

280 dussepers. “Twelve peers.” According to legend, Charlemagne recognized twelve knights — his dussepers — as his greatest, noblest warriors. Their likeness to the twelve apostles is noticeable, and perhaps even more so in the plot of RV, which is based upon a military campaign made in St. James the Apostle’s honor.

286 ginne. “strategy, device, tactic, ingenious trick.” See MED ginne (n.), senses 2a and 2b. It is unusual to apply this term to a prayer, which would normally be considered a miraculous intervention rather than a war strategy. The word ginne is also commonly used as a military term for a machine designed to besiege a city (MED ginne (n.), sense 4a). Its use here may thus carry an ironic reference to that meaning, because Charlemagne is able to enter the city through a different kind of device.

309–16 In Marche moneth . . . . to the warldes ende. The site for this legend of a city’s naming as “Paners” after the French word for “basket” is unknown. It was apparently a medieval origin story with strong local resonance, reaching even an English poet, but the exact place cannot be known. A historic district within Marseille, France, is called “Le Paniers,” but its origin is post-medieval, and it is also too remotely located for it to have any bearing on the geography of RV.

317–19 Clodonius the first . . . . and Pipin. Clovis, Clotaire, Dagobert, and Pepin were kings who preceded Charlemagne in ruling the Franks. The first three names denote the Merovingian dynasty. Pepin refers to either Charlemagne’s father or grandfather.

323 maumetes. “idols.” Muslims, as Saracens, are inaccurately depicted as worshiping idols.

325 Turpin. Archbishop Turpin is an important military and ecclesiastical character in the Song of Roland and the Middle English Charlemagne romances. In Otinel, RV, and the three Otuel romances, Turpin’s role is limited to episcopal duties: performing Mass and baptizing converts. In the fifth Otuel-cycle romance, The Siege of Milan, Turpin plays a central role.

328 the Latin. The phrase most likely refers to Pseudo-Turpin. See also line 429.

343 Jubiter and Mahoun. Middle English romances often misrepresent Muslims as polytheists who worship idols, naming three or four gods as central to their fictionalized faith: Mahoun, Jubiter, Apollin, and Termagaunt. See the discussion in the General Introduction, p. 16.

357 Seynt Ysador the confessour. Saint Isidore of Seville, famous as the last of the Church Fathers, was Archbishop of Seville from c. 600 until his death in 636. In c. 1063, his remains were translated from Seville, in what was then Islamic southern Spain, to the newly rededicated Basilica of San Isidoro in León, an important city in northwest Spain. Like the other locations mentioned in lines 353–64, León lies on a pilgrimage route to Compostela.

359 in Aise a chapel. On this location in Gascony, see the explanatory note to line 139 above.

363 Anevaus. This city has not been identified. The reading agrees with all prior editors. The minims of n, v, u invite other readings, but no possibility provides a viable clue. The city of Avignon is not situated in the right geographical area.

368–424 Ther fel a miracle . . . . binimeth the pore. Here the poet departs from the main narrative to offer a pious exemplum taken from a separate chapter in Pseudo-Turpin (pp. 17–18; and Turpines Story, ed. Shepherd, pp. 10–11). While Charlemagne and his host are sojourning in Bayonne, one of his knights, Sir Romain, is condemned to die. The condemned man asks a friend to prepare for his funeral, showing him the clothes he wants to be buried in and asking that his horse be sold and the profits donated to poor clerks so that they will sing psalms on his behalf. The friend, however, keeps the profit for himself. After thirty nights, the executed man appears to his friend in a dream and explains that, although he is now in heaven, he suffered excruciating pain for the past thirty days because his intended charity to the clerks was withheld. The man tells his dishonest friend that now he will suffer for his duplicity. The friend recounts his dream to the court, and then a strong wind fills the hall. Foul demons fly in, lift up the thief, and carry him away. Charlemagne’s soldiers search for four days without finding him. Later when Charlemagne’s host passes through Naverne, they find the dead executor’s body where it was dropped by the demons. The poet closes the exemplum with a warning to other executors: anyone who withholds charity from the needy will experience the same punishment. Subsequent versions of this tale continue its association with the Charlemagne legend. In Etienne de Besancon’s eleventh-century Alphabetum narrationum and its Middle English translation, the Alphabet of Tales #314, it is explicitly linked to Charlemagne. (For a modern edition, see An Alphabet of Tales, ed. Banks, 1:216–17, where tale 314 is titled “A Tale from Turpin.”) The Database of Middle English Romances attributes the English romance to either Pseudo-Turpin or the Estoire de Charlemagne, so it seems likely that Etienne collected this anecdote and its connection to Charlemagne from one of these sources. A few centuries later, the exemplum appears in John Mirk’s late-fourteenth-century Festial (see John Mirk’s Festial, ed. Powell, 2:243). We are grateful to Thomas Hahn for pointing out some of the analogues of this exemplum.

380 on heigheing. “at once, hurriedly.” The phrase is common in this romance.

425–60 Now late . . . . cité of Pampiloun. These lines are also found (with slight variations in wording) in OR, lines 1981–2016. The overlap contributed to the now-discarded “Charlemagne and Roland” theory of a lost romance. See the discussion in the General Introduction, pp. 7–8.

426–36 And speke of Charles . . . . a douhti knight. On Charlemagne’s portrait, borrowed in part from Einhard’s Life of Charlemagne, see the General Introduction, p. 9, and the note to lines 474–83 below.

429 As the Latin ous sede. See the note to line 328 above.

439–42 The holy croun . . . . God was born. There are no records of medieval kings wearing a crown of thorns in procession. A bas-relief reliquary shrine in Aachen Cathedral (dated to c. 1215) depicts Emperor Constantius presenting Charlemagne with the Crown of Thorns (compare note to lines 110–24 above). A pictorial window in Chartres Cathedral (c. 1225) shows Charlemagne offering relics he received from Constantius to his chapel in Aix-la-Chapelle (Aachen). See Pastan, “Charlemagne as Saint?,” pp. 105–08, especially Figures 6.6 and 6.7.

440 Wissontide. Whitsuntide is the feast of Pentecost, which occurs fifty days after Easter.

474–83 And fourti fet . . . . swart as piche. Vernagu the giant is seen as remarkable for both his gargantuan size and his racialized Otherness (having dark not light skin, unlike the French, and unlike the English audience). His appearance contrasts with that of Charlemagne at lines 425–36 — a description borrowing from that found in Einhard’s Life of Charlemagne (ed. and trans. Ganz, p. 34). See the discussion in the General Introduction, p. 9. Both portraits follow a pattern, however, in how they stress size, strength, and facial coloring (red face with black hair, in Charlemagne’s case).

560 Durindale. Durendal is the name of Roland’s famous sword. In Rocamadour, France, one may see a chapel with a sword embedded in its outside wall. By local legend, this sword is Durendal. De Veyrières notes the claim (found in l’abbé Cheval’s 1862 guidebook, Guide du Pèlerin à Roc- Amadour) that the real Durendal was stolen in 1183 when Henry II pillaged the chapel, and he includes a drawing of the current sword (“L’Épée de Roland,” pp. 139–41).

578–86 Douk Rouland sone . . . . his wil ydight. As Roland fights Vernagu, he finds that the impenetrability of Vernagu’s skin from his navel upward makes it impossible for him to kill the giant with a sword. When they take a break from dueling, Roland requests a staff with which to fight Vernagu, hoping to have more success with this weapon. See also lines 660–61.

581 the neve. “the evening.” See MED even (n.). The initial n comes from a false sense of elision after the. A common phrase was on eve, “in the evening,” sometimes spelled or pronounced o neve.

660–61 No man is harder than Y / Fram the navel upward. On Vernagu’s monstrous impenetrability, see the note to lines 578–86 above.

663–64 King Charlis . . . . hore bard. The reference here is to Charlemagne’s iconic white beardedness. In Otinel, lines 36–37, Charlemagne has a “fluri gernun” (white moustache) and “grant barbe” (great beard). See, too, OR, line 71 (“hore berde”); and DR, line 80 (“white berde large and lange”).

668 Seynt Austin. The St. Augustine sworn by here is probably the great Church Father, Augustine of Hippo (354–430). A more distant possibility is Augustine of Canterbury (d. 604), a Benedictine monk who became the first Archbishop of Canterbury. As a missionary to the pagan Anglo-Saxons, arriving in 597, he is considered England’s “First Apostle.” If Roland is swearing here by the English saint as he avows to his birth in France, then the English poet has inserted an odd bit of incongruity, consciously or not.

685 As sonne passeth thurth the glas. Roland is expounding the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, wherein Jesus was conceived via Gabriel’s annunciation of God’s Word to the Virgin Mary (compare Luke 1:26–38). In medieval artistic depictions, the Word shines as light upon Mary, entering through her ear, without changing her state as a virgin. A very common verbal formulation of this event is repeated here: “as the sun passes through the glass,” that is, just as light passes though glass without breaking it. The simile appears in a Harley lyric (contemporary with the Auchinleck manuscript): “Thourh hyre side he shon / Ase sonne doth thourh the glas” (The Poet’s Repentance, lines 21–22). See The Complete Harley 2253 Manuscript, ed. and trans. Fein, 2:142–43.

695–712 And sitt in Trinité . . . . to fulfille. Roland expounds here the basic tenets of Christianity, as recited in the Athanasian Creed, which priests were enjoined to teach regularly to the laity, following the edicts of the Fourth Lateran Council (1215). Jesus died on the Cross, where he suffered five wounds; then he rose from death to life on the third day (the Resurrection, on Easter Day). During his time on the Cross, he harrowed hell (the Harrowing of Hell) and fetched out the virtuous souls of the patriarchs (from Adam and Eve, to John the Baptist). Jesus Christ now sits in heaven (the Ascension), as one of the Three Persons of the Trinity (God, Son, and Holy Ghost). God is indivisibly, mysteriously, and miraculously Three in One and One in Three.

756–60 His bodi slepe . . . . bond Satanas. Christ’s Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Harrowing of Hell. By doctrine, Jesus died in the flesh, but his godhead merely slept. In his apparent passivity on the Cross, he actually descended with great triumphal energy to hell, bearing the Cross and breaking open the gates of hell, in order to vanquish and bind the Devil and release the virtuous biblical patriarchs from hell, where they had to dwell before his coming. The Harrowing of Hell was an extremely popular motif in medieval Christian culture, disseminated widely through the apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus and appearing ubiquitously in art and literature. A copy of the Middle English verse Harrowing of Hell appears in the manuscript of RV, the Auchinleck manuscript, fols. 35vb–37ra. It also survives in two forms in MS Harley 2253 (c. 1340): an Anglo-Norman version of the Gospel of Nicodemus and the same Middle English poem found in Auchinleck; see The Complete Harley 2253 Manuscript, ed. and trans. Fein, 1:342–59 and 2:66–79.

795 fothot. “quickly, suddenly, in haste.” See MED, fot-hot (adv.). The idiom survives into present day slang.

813 wald him schrive. “would administer penance to him.” See MED shriven (v.), sense 2a, and shrift (n.). The sacrament of confession before a priest — an action known as “shrift” — was expected at least annually of every Christian. It was seen as necessary for cleansing the soul of sin and then receiving God’s forgiveness. The doctrine is that God’s mercy is available to all Christians who earnestly repent and orally confess. The angel speaks in hyperbole here, saying that even if every living priest were to shrive Vernagu, his soul would never by cleansed; he can never be “good.” He is, therefore, outside the sphere of God’s mercy. The angel verifies that the giant Vernagu can be killed by Roland without regret, for he is more devil than human. For a modern reader, this level of cold, divine judgment against a character who has been given affective, sympathetic attributes of reason, feeling, and emotion is troubling and disconcerting.

818 bi sex and seven. Proverbial. See MED six (num.), sense 2d: “bix six or seven” means “in large quantities in great numbers.” See also Whiting S359.

861 No is worth the brust of a swin. Proverbial. See Whiting B552.

874 Salve. The song being sung triumphantly here is probably the popular liturgical hymn Salve Regina (Hail Holy Queen), because Roland has just thanked Mary for his victory over Vernagu (see lines 866–67). This hymn was sung during processionals for Marian feasts, and often chanted in the evening by monks and university students as they headed off to their sleeping quarters.

878–80 To Otuel . . . . this word sprong. These final lines of RV establish a chronological transition to the events narrated in OK, the next romance copied in the Auchinleck manuscript. RV is copied by Scribe 1 in Quire 37, and OK by Scribe 6 in a new gathering (Quire 38). It has been recently proposed that these two seemingly different scribes are in fact the same scribe; see Hanna, “Auchinleck ‘Scribe 6.’” Scribe 1 (the Auchinleck compiler) wrote the catchphrase found in the right bottom of fol. 267v — the opening line of OK — which shows that he intended OK to follow RV. To view the catchphrase, see The Auchinleck Manuscript, ed. Burnley and Wiggins, fol. 267v.




ABBREVIATIONS: BW: The Auchinleck Manuscript, ed. Burnley and Wiggins; H: Rouland and Vernagu, ed. Herrtage, in The English Charlemagne Romances. Part VI, pp. 37–61; MS: Edinburgh, National Library of Scotland MS Advocates 19.2.1 (the Auchinleck MS), fols. 263ra–267vb.

1 Romance begins incomplete. See RV Introduction, pp. 27–28, for estimated number of lost lines and their narrative content.

17 was an emperour. So BW, H. MS: he is written between time and was, omitted with three dots below the word.

28 douhti. So MS, BW. H: douȝti.

65 of. MS: of inserted above the line between sent and hem.

123 thurth. So MS, BW. H: þurch.

162 nought. MS: nouȝt written in superscript over comest.

172 wil. So MS, BW. H: will.

175 schalt. So MS, BW. H: shalt.

179 Jamis. So BW. H: Iames. MS: Scribe initially wrote James, then cancels e and inserts i above the word.

206 thurth. So MS, BW. H: þurch.

213 everichon. So MS, BW. H: eurichon.

214 thurth. So MS, BW. H: þurch.

242 grene. MS: final e in grene is superscripted.

261 Biside. So MS, BW. H: Beside.

262 thurth. So MS, BW. H: þurch.

264 frout. So MS, BW. H: front.

282 him. So BW, H. MS: hm.

326 thurth. So MS, BW. H: þurch.

327 thurth1,2. So MS, BW. H: þurch1,2.

338 susten. So H, BW. MS: suiten.

370 Thurth. So MS, BW. H: þurch.

417 thurth. So MS, BW. H: þurch.

425 Now. So BW, H. MS: No.

609 Thurth. So MS, BW. H: þurch.

646 Ellipses have been added because the rhyme scheme indicates that a line is missing. There is no break in the MS.

653 tho. So MS, H. BW: þou.

685 thurth. So MS, BW. H: þurch.

742 day. So MS, BW. H: daye.

756 opon. So MS. BW, H: vpon.

814 he. So MS, BW. H: be.

822 Thurth. So MS, BW. H: þurch.

832 thurth. So MS, BW. H: þurch.

855 be. So BW. MS, H: me.

858 seyd. MS, BW, H: syd.
sikerly. So MS, BW. H: fikerly.

880 Lower right margin of fol. 267vb: catchphrase herkneþ boþe ȝing & old (the first line of Otuel a Knight, the next poem in the Auchinleck MS).







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         For he it seighe with sight.
Now bigin ichil of him,
Of Charls that was stout and grim,
         And tel you al that right.

An hundred winter it was and thre
Sethen God dyed opon the tre,
         That Charls the king
Hadde al Fraunce in his hond —
Danmark and Inglond,
         Withouten ani lesing,
Lorein and Lombardye,
Gascoun, Bayoun, and Pikardye
         Was til his bidding.
And emperour he was of Rome,
And lord of al Cristendome.
         Than was he an heighe lording.

* * *

In that time was an emperour
In Costentin, of gret honour,
         Constansious he hight.
God he loved and alle His,
And hated hem that dede amis
         With al his might.
In Speyn tho, ther was a king —
A stern man, withouten lesing —
         That werred ogain the right.
Ebrahim was his name,
Wide sprong his riche fame;
         He was a douhti knight.

Alle that leved in Godes lawe,
He lete hem bothe hong and drawe,
         Tho that he might oftake.
And the patriark of Jerusalem
Out of lond he dede him flem,
         Al for Godes sake.
The patriarke was ful wiis,
And to th’emperour he went, ywis,
         His mone for to make:
Hou the King Ebrahim
Out of lond exiled him,
         With michel wer and wrake.

King Costance th’emperour
Made swithe gret dolour
         For this tidinges.
Jhesu Crist bisought he,
Almighti God in Trinité,
         King of al kinges,
He sende him grace him to slo
That had ywrought so michel wo
         And slawe Godes ginges.
And sone so he had the bon ybede,
An angel light doun in that stede
         And this bode him bringes.

The angel seyd to th’emperour,
“Wele thee greteth thi Saveour,
         Jhesu ful of might,
And bit thee sende with michel anour
After Charls the conquerour;
         He is a douhti knight.
He schal thee help in batayl
And sle the Sarrazin, withouten fail,
         That doth ogain the right.”
Th’emperour was glad and blithe
And thonked God fele sithe;
         His hert nas never so light.

Four the best, he sent of hem,
That on hight David of Jerusalem,
         And Samuel also,
Jon of Naples was another,
Ysac hight the ferth brother.
         Thider he gan go,
He went to the palais of Rome
And bifor Sir Charls come
         And told him of her wo.
Thai toke him the letter and kist his hand,
Swiche was the lawe of the land
         And schal ben evermo.

Charls wepe for that dede
When he herd the letter rede,
         And hete an heigheing:
Al that might armes bere,
Kniif or scheld, swerd or spere,
         Men schuld bifor him bring.
Thai busked hem and made hem yare
To Costentin for to fare,
         Withouten ani lesing.
Th’emperour was glad, ywis,
And underfenge with miche blis
         Sir Charls the king.

Riche juels withouten lesing,
Sir Costance the king
         Bifor Sir Charls he brought.
Savage bestes for the nones,
Gold and silver and riche stones,
         Ac therof nold he nought.
He bisought him of more honour
Of Jhesu Our Saveour
         That al this warld hath wrought:
That He on suffred passioun —
Of the croice and of the croun,
         Therof he him bisought.

Th’emperour his wil dede,
And ladde him to the holy stede
         There the relikes ware.
Ther com swiche a swete odour
That never yete so swete savour
         No feld thai never are.
Of the smal that was so swote,
Thre hundred sike hadde her bote
         And cast were out of care.
Than brought thai forth the holy croun
And the arme of Seyn Simoun
         Biforn hem alle thare.

And a parti of the holy crosse
That in a cristal was don in clos,
         And Godes clotheing,
Our Levedi smok that hye had on,
And the yerd of Araon,
         Forth thai gun bring.
And a spere long and smert
That Longys put to Godes hert
         He yaf Charls the king,
And a nail, long and gret,
That was ydrive thurth Godes fet,
         Withouten ani lesing.

When Charls had reseived that thing,
He bisought Jhesu, heven King,
         To sende him might and space
For to wite the sothe there,
Yif the relikes verray were,
         Er he thennes pase.
Than decended a lightnesse
Dounrightes fram the heven blis
         In that ich place,
That thai wenden alle, ywis,
Thai hadde ben in paradys,
         So ful it was of grace.

Thai tok leve at th’emperour
And thonked him of gret honour,
         And to Aise in Gascoyn went,
Ther he duelled, siker aplight.
So he biheld opon a night
         Up to the firmament;
A way of sterres he seighe, ywis,
Out of Spaine into Galis,
         As red as brond that brent.
He bisought God in Trinité
To sende him grace wite wat it be
         With wel gode entent.

And in the thought that he was in,
Ther com a voice and spac to him
         With a milde steven,
“James the apostel, bi Crist,
Jones brother th’Ewangelist,
         Godes deciple of heven,
That God bad prechy on the se,
Forthi Herodes lete me sle,
         Therof Y thee neven.
Mi body lith in Galis,
Biyond Speyne, forsothe ywis,
         Jurnays mo than seven.

Forthi me wondreth, withouten fail,
That thou comest nought to do batayl
         That lond for to winne,
And yif thou winnes that lond, ywis,
Y schal thee bring into that blis
         Ther ich woni inne.
Al that me seketh, more and lesse,
Schal have forgevenes
         Of her dedeli sinne.
Now wende and do as Y thee sede,
And in batayl thou schalt spede
         When thou it wil biginne.

The way of sterres bitokneth, ywis,
That of Spaine and of Galis
         Thou schalt be conquerer.
Lorain and Lombardye,
Gascoyne, Bayoun, and Pikardye
         Schal be in thi pouwer.”
Thus com the apostel Jamis
Thries to Charls and seyd this,
         That was so stoute and fer.
Now wendeth Charls with his ost
Into Speyne, with michel bost,
         As ye may forward here.

The first cité was Pampiloun,
That was a swithe noble toun,
         That Charls gan asayl.
And sex monethes he it bilay, aplight,
That no thing winne he it no might
         For alle his batayle.
For the walles so strong were
He no might have non entré there,
         Withouten ani fayl.
Ther were mani strong gines,
And fele thousand of Sarazines,
         Swithe heyghe of parail.

Than praid Charls to God of heven.
“Lord,” he seyd, “Here mi steven!
         As Tow art ful of might,
Sende me grace this cité to winne
And sle the Sarrazins herinne,
         That don ogain the right.”
Tho felle the walles of the cité;
Charls entred with his meyné
         Als a douhti knight.
And thurth the miracle that was there,
Ten thousand Sarrazins cristned were
         In that ich night.

And tho that nold nought cristned be,
He lete hem hong opon a tre
         Er he thennes pase.
Thus Charls thurth Spayn gan gon,
And wan the cités, everichon,
         Al thurth Godes grace.
Where he com in ani erd,
Ich man was of him aferd
         That loked on his face.
The names of everi cité
That he wan, Y schal tel ye
         Er ich hennes pase.

Visim, Lameche, and Sumy,
Colomuber, Luche, and Urry,
         Brakare and Vimaraile,
Conpostel, a cité grete,
Aurilian and Tullet,
         That strong is to asayl,
Golddelfagar and Salamencha,
Uline, Canayls, Madris alswa,
         Calatorie and Lestoyl,
Medinacel, an heighe cité,
Segovus the grete and Salamenche,
         Gramie and Sturgel,

Godian and Emerite,
Bourg in Spaine that nis nought lite,
         A swithe noble toun,
Nasers and Mathed,
Carion and Urpaled,
         And Oche of gret renoun,
Burbagalle, a castel also,
Costant, Petros, and other mo,
         Bayet and Pampiloun,
Ventos in the grene vale,
Caparre, Eustorge, and Entale,
         Gascoine and Bayoun,

Toutor, a strong castel,
Landulif and Portingal,
         Burnam and Saragouns,
Granad and Satyne,
Costaunce and Deine,
         Teragon and Valouns,
Leride, Acoun, and Sivile,
Charls wan in a while,
         Agabie and Urens,
Quara, Melide, Gibalderie,
Barbaster, Vice, and Almarie,
         Agabie and Sisens.

Acoun, that Y spak of ere,
Seyn James deciple lith there
         That hat Seyn Torquas.
A swithe fair oliif tre
Biside his toumbe men may se,
         That springeth thurth Godes grace.
Opon his fest in mid May,
Theron is frout of gret noblay,
         Bothe more and lasse;
And who that seketh hem, verrament,
At the Day of Juggement
         Schal se Godes face.

* * *

Alle the londes that were in Spayne,
With dint of swerd, wan Charlmain.
         Portingale and Lavers,
Landuluf and Chastel,
Bigairs, Bastles, and londes fele,
         Moys and Navers —
Alle the londes he wan yern,
Til he com to Lucern.
         So stout he was and fers,
And tuelmoneth he it bilay, aplight,
And no thing win he it might,
         For al his dussepers.

Tho preyd Charls to God a bone
That he him sent grace sone
         The cité forto winne;
Tho fel the walles adounrightes,
King Charls entred with his knightes
         Thurth that ich ginne.
Charls acurssed that cité,
And Ventos and Caparre and Deneye,
         For her dedeli sinne.
Deserd thai were after than,
That never sethen no Cristen man
         No durst com therinne.

For Charls curssed tho Lucern,
Also tite the toun Ganbern,
         And schal don ever mo,
And of the smoc of that toun,
Mani taketh therof pusesoun
         And dyeth in michel wo.
And ther the other thre cités stode,
Beth waters red of helle flode
         And fisches therin al blo.
And who that wil nought leve me,
In Spaine men may the sothe yse,
         Who that wil thider go.

And while Charls was in that stede,
A fair miracle God for him dede
         Er he gan thennes wende:
Braunches of vines Charls sett
In Marche moneth, withouten lett,
         As was the right kende;
And amorwe grapes thai bere,
Red and ripe to kerve there;
         For paners thai gun sende.
And for “paners!” thai crid tho,
Yete men clepeth the cité so
         And schal to the warldes ende.

Clodonius the first Cristen king,
And Clotayrs, withouten lesing,
         King Dagabers, and Pipin
Won mani tounes in Spaine,
Ac the gode Charlmain
         Wan it al with gin.
Alle the maumetes in Spaine were,
That were the Sarrazins leve and dere,
         King Charls and Turpin
Thai destroyd thurth Godes might —
Sum thurth miracle and sum thurth fight,
         So seyt the Latin.

And an image of gret pousté
Stode on a roche bi the se
         In the gilden lond.
His name was Salanicodus,
As a man yschapen he wes,
         And held a glaive an hond.
Mahoun maked him with gin
And dede mani fendes therin,
         As ich understond,
For to susten the ymage
And sett him on heighe stage —
         For no man nold he wond.

The face of him was turned southeright.
In her lay the Sarrazins founde, aplight,
         Of Jubiter and Mahoun,
That when yborn were the king
That schuld Spaine to Cristen bring,
         The ymage schuld falle adoun.
Charls dede that ymage falle
And wan in Spaine the cités alle,
         Bothe tour and toun;
And with the tresour that he wan there,
Mani a chirche he lete arere
         That was of gret renoun.

The first chirche, forsoth ywis,
Was Seyn James in Galis
         That he lete arere,
With an hundred chanouns and her priour,
Of Seynt Ysador the confessour
         For to servi there.
And in Aise a chapel
Of lim and ston, ywrought ful wel,
         Of werk riche and dere;
And Seyn James at Burdewes,
And on at Tolous, another at Anevaus,
         And mo as ye may here.

* * *

Charls duelled, siker aplight,
Thre mones and fourten night
         In Bayoun with his ost.
Ther fel a miracle of a knight
Wiche that was to deth ydight,
         Thurth the Holy Gost.
Sir Romain, forsothe, he hight;
Er he dyd he hadde his right,
         Withouten ani bost.
On of his frendes he cleped him to,
“Y schal dye, it is so,
         Ful wele thou it wost.

Mine clothes that ichave,
Therwith that Y be brought in grave,
         With mete and drink and light;
And sel min hors on heigheing,
Pover clerkes sauters to sing;
         Therto that it be dight.”
And when he hadde yseyd thus stille,
Al so it was Godes wille,
         Than died the knight.
The hors was seld, withouten duelinges,
For to hundred schillinges,
         And put it up, aplight.

And at the nende of thritti night,
To his seketour com the ded knight,
         And seyd in this maner:
“Mi soule is in heven blis
For the love of min almis
         That Y sett here;
And for thou hast athold min,
Thritti days ich ave ben in pin
         That wel strong were.
Paradis is graunted me,
And in that pain, thou schalt be
         That ich was in ere.”

The ded thus in his way went.
And he awaked, verrament,
         And wonder hadde, aplight.
And amorwe his sweven he told
To erls and to barouns bold,
         To squiers and to knight.
And amonges hem alle
As thai stoden in the halle,
         Ther com a windes flight
And fele fendes that were swift,
And beren him up into the lift,
         And held him there four night.

Serjaunce the bodi sought,
Ac thai no might it finde nought,
         Four dayes, no more.
Fro Bayoun he went with his ost,
And thurth Navern with miche bost;
         The bodi than founde thore
Ther the fendes had let him felle,
And bere his soule into helle,
         To hard paines sore.
So schal everi sekatour
The dedes gode abigge wel sour
         That hye binimeth the pore.

* * *

Now late we be of this thing,
And speke of Charles the king
         That michel was of might.
Of his lengthe and his brede,
As the Latin ous sede,
         Ichil you rede aright.
Tuenti fete he was o lengthe,
And also of gret strengthe,
         And of a stern sight.
Blac of here and rede of face,
Whare he com in ani place
         He was a douhti knight.

Four times in the yere
On his heued he bere
         The holy croun of thorn:
At Ester, at Wissontide,
And at Seyn James Day with pride,
         And in Yole as God was born;
And atte the mete in the halle,
Among his knightes alle
         A drawe swerd him biforn.
This was the maner ay
And schal be til Domesday
         Of emperour ycorn.

And whare he slepe anight,
Wel wise he was and wight
         And douted of tresoun;
An hundred knightes him kept
That non of hem no slept,
         That were of gret renoun.
And everi dughti knight
Held a torche light
         And a naked fauchoun.
Thus King Charls lay
With his ost, mani a dai
         In the cité of Pampiloun.

And on a day com tiding
Unto Charls the king
         Al of a douhti knight
Was comen to Nasers.
Stout he was and fers,
         Vernagu he hight.
Of Babiloun the soudan
Thider him sende gan
         With King Charls to fight.
So hard he was to fond
That no dint of brond
         No greved him, aplight.

He hadde tuenti men strengthe,
And fourti fet of lengthe
         Thilke panim hede,
And four fet in the face
Ymeten in the place,
         And fiften in brede.
His nose was a fot and more,
His browe as brestles wore,
         He that it seighe it sede.
He loked lotheliche
And was swart as piche —
         Of him men might adrede!

* * *

Charls com to Nasers
With his dussepers
         To se that painim.
He asked, withouten fayl,
Of King Charls batayl
         To fight ogaines him.
Charls wonderd tho
When he seighe him go,
         He biheld him ich a lim.
For seththen he was ybore,
He no hadde ysen bifore
         Non that was so grim.

Sir Oger the Danais,
A knight ful curtays,
         To him first was ysent.
And at his coming,
Vernagu an heygheing
         Under his arm him hent.
Yarmed as he was,
He toke him in the plas
         And to the castel he went.
Sir Oger schamed sore,
Him o thought that com thore
         And held him foule yschent.

Reynald de Aubethpine
Was sent to that Sarrazin.
         He served him al so,
And seyd to Charlmain,
“Sir, tho thou won Spain,
         Hadestow non better tho?
So Mahoun me give rest,
Ogain ten swiche the best
         To fight ich wold go!”
Sir Costentin of Rome
And th’erl of Nauntes come
         To fight with bothe to.

And Vernagu bar bothe —
No were thai never so wrothe —
         To Nassers castel.
Under aither arm on,
As stille as ani ston,
         Might thai nought with him mele.
Tho Charls sent ten;
Al so he served his men;
         Might no man with him dele!
Charls bithought tho,
Yif he sent mo,
         It were him wrotherhele.

* * *

Roland the gode knight
Tho bad leve to fight
         Ogain that painim.
King Charls seyd, “Nay!
Thou no schalt nought, bi this day!
         He is to stout and grim.”
So long he him bad
That leve of him he hadde.
         Rouland armed him
And com anonright
Into the feld to fight
         Ogain that Sarrazin.

And at his coming thare
Sir Vernagu was ware,
         And tok him under his hond.
Out of his sadel he gan him bere,
And on his hors swere
         He set Roulond.
And Rouland smot him so
That Vernagu tho
         Unto the grounde wond.
And when the Cristen seighe this,
That Vernau fallen is,
         Thai thonked Godes sond.

Thai lopen opon her stede
And swerdes out thai brede
         And fight thai gun tho.
Rouland, with Durindale,
Brewe him miche bale,
         And carf his hors ato.
When Vernagu was o fot,
He no couthe no better bot,
         To Rouland he gan go.
In the heued he smot his stede,
That ded to grounde he yede.
         O fot than were thai bo.

A fot thai tok the fight,
And Vernagu anonright
         His swerd he had ylore.
Rouland, with al his might,
He stired him as a knight
         And yaf him dintes sore
Til it was ogain the none;
Thus thai layd opon
         Ay til thai weri wore.
Douk Rouland sone he fond
That with no dint of brond
         He slough him nevermore.

When it com to the neve,
Vernagu bad leve
         To resten of that fight.
Rouland him trewthe yaf
So he most bring a staf
         After his wil ydight.
Vernagu graunted wel,
And went to her hostel
         When that was night.
Amorwe, withouten fail,
Thai com to the batayl,
         Aither as douhti knight.

Sir Rouland brought a staf
That King Charls him yaf,
         That was long and newe —
The bodi of a yong oke
To yif therwith a stroke.
         He was tough and trewe,
And with that gode staf
Wel mani dintes he yaf
         Vernagu the schrewe.
And at the non, aplight,
Thai gun another fight
         And stones togider threwe.

Gode rappes for the nones
Thai gaven with the stones,
         That sete swithe sore
That helme and heye targe
Thurth her strokes large
         Therwith thai broken wore.
And Vernagu at that cas
So sore asleped was
         He no might fight no more.
At Rouland leve he toke
That time, so seyt the boke,
         For to slepe thore.

Roland yaf leve him
For to slepe wele afin,
         And rest him in that stounde,
And seyd that he nold
For the cité ful of gold
         Be therwith yfounde
Slepeand to slen a knight,
Thei that he had in fight
         Yif him dethes wounde.
Tho Vernagu lay adoun,
To slepe he was boun
         There opon the grounde.

And Vernagu rout thore
As a wild bore
         Tho he on slepe was.
To him Rouland gan gon
And tok the gretest ston
         That lay in that place;
He leyd under his heued, ywis,
For him thought it lay amis,
         To lowe at that cas.
And Vernagu up stode,
He stard as he were wode
         When he awaked was.

Vernagu asked anon,
“Who leyd this gret ston
         Under min heued so?
It no might never be,
Bot yif he were a knight fre;
Wist ich who it were.
He schuld be me leve and dere,
         Thei that he were mi fo.”
Quath Rouland sikerly,
“Certes, it was Y,
         For that thou rot so.

And when tho me lovest miche,
Now tel me, sikerliche,
         Whi thou art so hard
That no thing may thee dere,
Knif, no ax, no spere,
         No no dint of sward?”
Quath Vernagu sikerly,
“No man is harder than Y
         Fram the navel upward.
Forthi Y com hider, ywis,
To fight with King Charlis
         With the hore bard.”

Vernagu to Rouland sede,
“Al so thi God thee spede,
         Whare were thou yborn?”
“In Fraunce, bi Seynt Austin,
King Charls cosyn,
         Our kinde lord ycorn.
We leveth opon Jhesu
That is ful of vertu,
         That bare the croun of thorn.
And ye leveth in the fende,
Forthi withouten ende
         Ye schul be forlorn.”

And when that Vernagu
Yherd speke of Jhesu,
         He asked wat man he was.
Sir Rouland seyd, “He is
The King of paradys
         And Lord ful of gras;
In a maiden He was bore
To bigge that was forlore
         As sonne passeth thurth the glas,
And dyed opon the rode
For our alder gode
         And nought for His gilt it nas.

And suffred woundes five
And ros fram ded to live
         Than thridde day,
And fet out Adam and Eve,
And mo that were Him leve,
         Fram helle, forsothe to say,
And sitt in Trinité,
O God in Persones Thre,
         Swiche is our lay.”
Vernagu seyd tho,
“It no might never be so!
         Therof Y sigge nay!

Hou might it ever be
That he were on and thre?
         Tel me now thee skille.”
Rouland than sede,
“Al so God me spede,
         Yis, with a gode wille.
As the harp has thre thinges,
Wode and soun and strenges,
         And mirthe is thertille,
So is God Persones Thre
And holeliche on in unité,
         Al thing to fulfille.

And as the sonne hath thinges thre,
Hete and white on to se,
         And is ful of light,
So is God in Trinité,
Unité and magesté
         And Lord ful of might.”
Quath Vernagu, “Now Y se
Hou He is God in Persones Thre.
         Now ich wot that right,
Ac hou that He bicom man —
The Lord that this world wan —
         Therof no have Y no sight.”

Quath Rouland, “He that ous bought
And al thing maked of nought,
         Wele might He be so hende
That He wald sende His Sone
In a maiden for to wone,
         Withouten mannes hende.”
Quath Vernagu, “Saun fayl,
Therof ichave gret mervail.
         Hou might he fram hir wende?
Hou might he of hir be bore,
That was a maiden bifore?
         Y no may nought have in mende.”

Rouland seyd to Vernagu,
“Mi Lordes Fader Jhesu
         Is so michel of might
That He made sonne and se
And fisches in the flod to be,
         Bothe day and night.
Wele may He than, as Y thee er seyd,
Ben ybore of a maide
         Withouten wem, aplight.”
Quath Vernagu, “It may wele be.
Ac hou He dyed, Y no can nought se.
         Tel me now that right,

For I nist never no man
That aros after than
         When that he ded was.
And yif He Godes Sone were,
He no might nought dye there.
         Tel me now that cas.”
Quath Rouland, “Y schal tel thee:
His bodi slepe opon the tre,
         And the thridde day aras.
His Godhed waked ever and ay
And to helle tok the way,
         And bond Satanas.

So schul we al arise
And of the dome agrise
         Atte Day of Juggement,
And answerey for our dede,
The gode and the quede,
         Hou we our liif have spent.”
Quath Vernagu, “Now ichot wel
Hou He aros ichadel,
         And have in min entent.
Ac hou He steyghe to heven,
Y no can nought neven
         No wite, verrament.”

Than seyd Rouland,
“O Vernagu, understand,
         Herken now to me.
That ich Lord that with His might
In a maiden alight,
         Yborn for to be,
As the sonne aros in the est
And decended in the west,
         As tow might now se,
Right so dede God Almight:
Mounted into heven light
         And sit in Trinité.”

Quath Vernagu, “Now ich wot
Your Cristen lawe, everi grot.
         Now we wil fight!
Whether lawe better be
Sone we schul yse,
         Long ar it be night.”
Rouland a dint him yaf
With his gode staf
         That he kneled, aplight,
And Vernagu to him smot
And carf his staf fothot,
         Even ato aright.

Tho Rouland kneld adoun
And maked an orisoun
         To God in heven light,
And seyd, “Lord, understond
Y no fight for no lond,
         Bot for to save Thi right.
Sende me now might and grace
Here in this ich place
         To sle that foule wight.”
An angel com ful sone,
And seyd, “Herd is thi bone;
         Arise, Rouland, and fight!

And sched the schrewes blod,
For he nas never gode
         Bi lond no bi se.
Thei alle prechours alive
To Cristen wald him schrive,
         Gode nold he never be.”
When Rouland herd that steven,
He stirt him up ful even
         And faught with hert fre.
Strokes bi sex and seven
Togider this knightes yeven
         That mani man might yse.

Rouland, withouten dueling,
Thurth might of heven King,
         Vernagu he smot,
That the left arm and the scheld
Fel forth into the feld
         Fram that painim fothot.
His arm tho he had lore,
Swithe wo him was therfore,
         And fast he faught, Y wot.
He smot Rouland on the croun
A strok with his fauchoun
         That thurth the helme it bot.

No hadde ben the bacinet
That the strok withsett,
         Rouland hadde ben aqueld.
The Sarrazin sayd aswithe,
“Smite ich eft on sithe,
         Thi liif is bought and seld.”
Rouland answerd, “Nay!
Mine worth thee rather pay,
         Bi God that al thing weld.”
With a strok ful large
He clef the Sarrazins targe
         That half fel in the feld.

And at another venou
Roland smot Vernagu
         That he fel doun to grounde;
And Rouland with Durindale
Yaf him strokes fal
         And his dethes wounde.
The paynem crid, “Help, Mahoun!
And Jubiter, of gret renoun,
         That beth so michel of mounde.
As ye beth mightful, helpeth me,
That ich might yvenged be
         Of this Cristen hounde.”

Rouland lough for that cri,
And seyd, “Mahoun, sikerly,
         No may thee help nought,
No Jubiter, no Apolin,
No is worth the brust of a swin,
         In hert no in thought.”
His ventail he gan unlace
And smot off his heued in the place,
         And to Charls it brought.
Tho thonked he God in heven,
And Mari, with milde steven,
         That he so hadde ywrought.

And al the folk of the lond
For onour of Roulond
         Thonked God, old and yong,
And yede a procesioun
With croice and goinfaynoun,
         And “Salve” miri song.
Bothe widowe and wiif in place
Thus thonked Godes grace,
         Alle tho that speke with tong.
To Otuel, al so yern,
That was a Sarrazin stern,
         Ful sone this word sprong.

saw; (see note); (t-note)
I will
Charles (Charlemagne)


under his control

lying; (see note)
Lorraine; Lombardy
Gascony, Bayonne; Picardy; (see note)
Were at

Constantius; was called; (see note)

them; sinned



valiant; (t-note)

had them
Those; capture

put him [the patriarch] in exile


much war and destruction

such; lamenting

[That] He would; slay
[He] who had caused
slain; people
As soon as; prayed the prayer
alit; place

Your Savior greets you favorably

bids; honor

Who acts against
many times
had never been

them; (t-note)
one was called

To that place they
They; palace

brought; kissed
forever more

wept at that news

ordered at once

Knife; shield

prepared themselves; ready
Constantinople; go



Wild animals for the occasion

But he [Charles] would have none of them
He asked of him [Constantine] a greater honor
The things by which he had suffered the Passion
cross; crown
He asked him for those


Never had they sensed before
smell; sweet
sick people were healed

(see note)


Lady’s (Virgin Mary’s) smock; she
staff; (see note)
Longinus; (see note)
gave to

driven; (t-note)
lying; (see note)

learn; truth
authentic; (see note)
Before he left from there
ray of light
So that; believed

departed from

Auch; Gascony; (see note)
very truly; (see note)
the heavens
A path of stars
Galicia; (see note)
flame; burned

to know what it meant

gentle tone
[I am]
John the Evangelist’s brother

Whom; preach
Because; ordered me slain; (see note)
call upon you

More than a seven-day journey

Because of this I am puzzled

That I dwell in
of both high and low rank

go; told you
have success


came; (t-note)
Three times
valiant; fierce

Pamplona; (see note)

began to attack
besieged, truly
But he could win nothing of

any entry

engines of war
Of such high nobility

As Thou

act against


same; (see note)

those; would not


go further

Coimbra; Lucena


Font de la Figuera; Salamanca
Madrid also
Calahorra; Estella


Burgos; little

Carrión de los Condes

Ventosa; (t-note)
Cáparra, Astorga

Villena [formerly Ad Turres]
Bornos; Zaragoza
Terragona; Valencia
Lerida, Guadix [formerly Acci]; Seville

A Guarda, Melide, Gibralter
Barbastro, San Vicente; Almería
(see note)

mentioned before
A disciple of Saint James is buried there
Who is called Saint Torquatus

fruit; goodness; (t-note)

those who seek [the olives], truly

(see note)



twelve months; besieged

Despite; twelve peers; (see note)



By means of; that very device; (see note)

Deserted; after that
Ever dared

because of the smoke

Are waters as red as hell’s river
whoever does not believe
One may see the truth

Before he left that place
Grape vine branches; set out
month of March; delay
proper custom
in the morning they bore grapes
Still; call
end of the world; (see note)

Dagobert; Pepin; (see note)

great skill
idols; (see note)
dear and beloved to the Saracens
(see note)
through; (t-note)
says; (see note)

idol; power
rock by the sea

lance in his hand
put many demons inside
support; idol; (t-note)

he held back

their teachings; indeed
According to; (see note)
the king was born
christianize Spain


treasure; won

canons; their
Isidore [of Seville]; (see note)
(see note)
limestone, made
one; Toulouse; (see note)


befell; to
Who was prepared to die
was named
Before; died; last rites

One; called to him

you know it

I have
With them [may] I be

sell; at once; (see note)
[So that] poor clerks may sing psalms
[See] that it be arranged
Just as

sold; delay
[the friend] kept it

end of thirty nights

charitable gifts
because; withheld [my gifts]
been in pains
terribly strong


dead one
[the executor]

dream vision

gust of wind
many demons
[they] bore him up into the sky


From; they; their
Navarre; (t-note)
[They] found there
Where; fall
bore his soul to hell
harsh, sorrowful pains
Thus shall every executor
Bitterly pay for the dead man’s wealth
That he steals from the poor; (see note)

set aside; (t-note)

tells us; (see note)

of height

imposing appearance
hair; red
(see note)

per year
head; bore

Easter; Whitsuntide; (see note)
[25 July]
Christmas; (see note)

drawn sword

divinely chosen

was anxious about
[about him]

lighted torch
drawn falchion

(see note)

came news

Entirely about
Large; ferocious
was called
From; sultan

blow of a sword

twenty men’s strength
forty feet tall
This pagan had

fifteen feet across
longer than a foot
brows were like bristles
Anyone who saw it said
swarthy as pitch; (see note)
be afraid


For a battle with

saw him move
in every limb
ever since he was born

Anyone so terrifying

Ogier the Dane
exceedingly courteous
sent to [Vernagu] first
when he attacked
picked him up
Even though he was fully armed

was sorely ashamed
recalled what had happened there
felt himself foully disgraced

He treated him the same way

given that you
Have you no better knights then
As may Mahoun grant me peace

To fight with [him] together

Never were they so angry

One under each arm
silent as any stone


It would be his misfortune

Then asked permission to fight

too large and fierce
[Roland]; pleaded
got his permission

took him in his hand
bore him

fell to the ground
Christians saw


leapt; their steeds

then they began to fight
(see note)
Caused him much harm
cut [Vernagu’s] horse in half


struck Roland’s steed on the head
fell down dead
both on foot

On foot


sprang into action
gave; blows
nearly noon
continued fighting
became weary
quickly realized
sword stroke
Might he ever slay [Vernagu]

evening; (see note)
requested permission
cease fighting
gave him his promise
So long as he might bring
Prepared as he wishes; (see note)
their lodgings


had given him

trunk of a young oak tree

many strokes he gave
[To]; wicked

threw stones at each other

Strong strokes for the occasion

struck so hard
helmet; shield
great buffets; (t-note)
were broken
could no longer fight
Of Roland he asked permission

To sleep there

gave him leave
sleep soundly at last
for a time
said that he would not
a city full of gold
Be ever caught
Having slain a sleeping knight
Even if
ready to sleep

While; asleep

Too low in that state

stared in amazement

It could never be
Unless it were a noble knight
I’d like to know who
close and dear to me
Even if he were my foe

Truly; I
Because you snored so much

now that you love me; (t-note)

Why you are so hard

Nor no

(see note)
This is why; to this place

white beard; (see note)

May your God help you

Augustine; (see note)

believe in

believe in the devil
For which reason

Heard mention

From a virgin; born
redeem those who were lost
As the sun passes through glass; (see note)(t-note)
died upon the cross
the good of us all
not for His own guilt

death to life
on the third day
fetched out
more souls that were dear to Him

sits in Trinity

Such is our belief
cannot be so
I deny it

how it works


wood and sound and strings
inheres in it

wholly one in unity
(see note)

heat; brightness

understand that well
But how
I do not understand this

saved us
made all from nothing

To dwell in a virgin
without fail
come from her
be born of her
cannot understand

My Lord Jesus’ Father
so powerful
sun and sea




have never known
After he had died
God’s Son
could not die

died; cross; (t-note)
Divinity awoke
traveled to hell
bound Satan; (see note)

tremble with fear of the doom
Upon the Day of Judgment
answer for our deeds
I understand
in every way

Listen to me now
same; who

Just as sun arose in the east
As you can see
Just so did
[He] arose

every part

Whichever; is better
We shall soon see
gave him a stroke
good staff
was forced to his knees

broke his staff suddenly; (see note)
Evenly in two

knelt down
uttered a prayer

I do not fight for land
preserve Your law

came quickly
Your request was heard

shed the scoundrel’s blood

Even if all preachers alive
administer penance to him as a Christian; (see note)
He would never be good; (t-note)
started up straight
continuously; (see note)
these; gave

any hesitation

So that
Fell severed on the ground
at once
when; lost
Such woe he felt
he fought hard, I say

through the helmet it bit; (t-note)

Had not the helmet
Withstood that stroke
would have been slain
If I could strike one more time
Your life is bought and sold

I’d rather that you pay
By God who wields all things

split; shield
So that half fell

by; attack

fatal wound

great on earth

avenged; (t-note)
On this Christian dog

laughed at that plea
Cannot help you
Nor Jupiter, nor Apollo
Neither; a swine’s bristle; (see note)
In heart or in thought
neck-covering chain mail
cut off his head



held a procession
cross and banner
sweetly sang; (see note)

just as eager

Soon word of this arrived; (see note)(t-note)



Go to Introduction to Otuel A Knight