|The Story of Roland|
|by James Baldwin|
|Here are related the daring feats and great exploits of Roland, worthiest of the barons of France in the time of Charlemagne, and those of Oliver and Reinold and Ogier the Dane, all heroes who were his companions in arms and who rivalled him in the number and greatness of their exploits. The story is culled from the works of song-writers and poets of five centuries and in as many languages. Ages 11-14 |
HOW OGIER REFUSED A KINGDOM
 LONG had been Roland's fruitless quest for the arms of
Trojan Hector; and many were his adventures, as, wiser
but no richer, he fared homeward again. Time would fail
me to tell of the strange lands that he traversed, of
the seas that he crossed, of the monsters that he slew,
and of his many knightly feats of arms. And, when it
was known that he had come back to France without the
prize for which he had been seeking, many unkind words
were whispered among the peers.
"A true knight," said old Ganelon, "never gives up an
undertaking once begun. Any but a coward would rather
die than say, 'I have failed.' "
Others whispered, that it was not the arms of Hector at
all, that Roland had been in quest of, but rather the
love of Angelica, the Princess of Cathay.
since she has slighted him, and cast him off," said
some, "he comes back again to lord it over his betters,
as of yore. Yet it is said that he did many valiant
deeds in the Far East."
"So much valor," said others, "would have been better
spent in the service of the king."
 Charlemagne had been beset with enemies on every side.
The Moors of Spain had broken over the mountain wall of
the Pyrenees, and had again overrun Gascony, and
carried fire and sword into the fairest portions of
Southern France. The Saxons, ever restless and ill at
ease, had again taken up arms against the empire. The
wild Hungarians had been making inroads into the
eastern provinces; and the Lombards were ready at any
time to rise in rebellion. Very gladly, therefore, did
the king welcome his valiant nephew back to France, for
he needed the help of his strong arm.
One day early in spring there came to Charlemagne's
court a number of Danish knights bearing a message from
their king, the false-hearted Godfrey of Denmark. They
brought from Godfrey a great store of rich presents for
Charlemagne, and treasure more than enough to make
amends for the tribute which had so long been neglected
and left unpaid. And the Danish king prayed Charlemagne
that he would pardon his former misconduct, and receive
him once more into humble and faithful vassalage; for
pirates and strange sea-kings from the Far North had
come down upon the coast of Denmark, and were robbing
and burning, and carrying terror into the very heart of
the country, and Godfrey hoped that Charlemagne would
aid him in driving out the invaders. Charlemagne,
although not always quick to forgive, was quite ready
at this trying time to make friends with the Dane. And
he kindly entertained the messengers, and sent them
back on the morrow, with
 assurances that he would
pardon the offences of King Godfrey, and send him the
wished-for aid. Then he called Ogier the Dane into his
"Ogier," said he, "your father, the king of Denmark, is
sorely pressed by his enemies, and needs our help. No
one knows better than yourself how he has neglected and
cast you off among strangers. And yet it is our wish
that you lead a company of warriors to his aid."
"It is well," answered Ogier. "Naught save death can
ever excuse a son from helping his father."
A thousand knights, the bravest in all France, at once
enlisted under Ogier's banner; and without a day's
delay they began their march toward Denmark. With
Ogier, and next to him in command, was Roland; and the
very presence of the two heroes inspired the whole of
the little army with high-hearted enthusiasm and
courage. Their march was rapid, and not long were they
in reaching the land of the Danes. But the foe whom
they sought had fled; for, when the rude sea-kings
heard of the coming of the steel-clad warriors of the
South, they hastily embarked in their ships again, and
sailed across the sea to other shores. They lived by
pillage and robbery, and they were fearful of risking a
battle with an enemy so renowned and powerful.
Ogier with his little army now rode on toward his
father's castle. But, as they drew near, they saw the
towers draped in black, and heard the bells tolling a
solemn knell. A black banner, on which the arms of
Godfrey were rudely painted, floated above the gate.
And a company of knights, all clad in mourning, came
out to meet and welcome the heroes.
"What mean all these signs of sorrow?" asked Ogier. "We
have come to you expecting to be greeted with cheers
and songs and glad thanksgiving, and we find naught but
weeping and doleful signs of death. Has any thing
happened amiss to my father the king?"
"Alas!" said the sorrowing knights, "he is dead."
Then Ogier, unable to answer by reason of his great
grief, covered up his face, and wept. And Roland and
the Danish knights led him into the castle and into the
chapel, where the body of King Godfrey lay. The hero
knelt beside his father's bier, and bathed the face of
the dead with his tears. Touching indeed was it to
behold this warrior melted with sorrow in the presence
of death. For although he had been maltreated and
despised, and cast out among strangers, he had never
forgotten that a son's first duty is to honor his
father. Long he knelt on the floor of the little
chapel, while the monks who watched beside the corpse
chanted their prayers, and told their beads; and the
tapers on the altar burned low; and the daylight gave
place to darkness. Then he arose, and was about to
leave the room, when the priest who had been his
father's confessor touched him on the shoulder.
"Ogier," said he, "allow me to be the first to greet
you as king of Denmark. The last words of your father
were, 'Let Ogier be king.' "
 Ogier stood for a moment in silent thought. He
hesitated as to what his duty might be. Ought he, by
taking that which was clearly his own, to deprive his
younger brother of the crown which he had been taught
to expect? Suddenly a heavenly light burst upon him and
filled the room with its soft radiance; and a voice
like that of an angel said,—
"Ogier, take not this
crown. Leave it to Guyon thy young brother. It is
enough for thee to bear the title of 'The Dane.' Fame
waits for thee elsewhere, and greater kingdoms than
that of Denmark may be thine."
It was the voice of Morgan the Fay, the fairy guardian
of his life. But Ogier thought that it was an angel
from heaven who had spoken; and he humbly crossed
himself, and bowed in submission to the command. He
sought without delay the step-mother who had so cruelly
"Mother," said he, "all that which thou hast so long
desired has come to pass."
And he embraced his young brother Guyon, and hailed him
king. And he said, "I am a peer of France, a knight of
the household of Charlemagne. I seek no higher honors."
And heralds were sent into every city and burgh
proclaiming Guyon as the lawful king of all Denmark.
And Guyon solemnly promised to hold his kingdom in fief
and vassalage from Charlemagne.
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