|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 THE PEERS RETURNED TO FRANCE
 WHEN Charlemagne and his host embarked for France, the
sky was fair and the sea was calm. But soon a storm
arose. The waves ran mountain-high, the ships were at
the mercy of the winds. The king and his peers sat
together in the same vessel; and the heroes who had
faced unflinching the dangers of a hundred fierce
battles, now felt their hearts sinking with fear.
"I know well the art of the tourney and the battle,"
cried Roland, the peerless chief; "but what avails that
art here in this wilderness of waves?"
And Ogier the Dane, said, "I know how to wield the
sword, and how to touch the harp and bring forth sweet
melody; but such knowledge is of little use to quell
the fury of these winds."
Then Oliver, the look of gladness all faded from his
eyes, drew his sword from its scabbard, and, gazing
tenderly at its flashing edge, said, "No fear have I
for myself, but I grieve that Haultclear shall find so
inglorious a grave."
 "If I only knew a way to save myself," said
Ganelon,—but he said it very low,—"little would I reck
what evil fortune befell the rest of you."
The good Archbishop Turpin sighed deeply, and said, "We
are the warriors of Heaven's kingdom. Come thou on the
waves, sweet Saviour, and deign to deliver us from
Said Sir Richard of Normandy, "Wait for me, ye demons!
Long and well have I served you, and soon will I be
"I have given wise counsel to many," gravely remarked
Duke Namon; "but in the salt sea good words of advice
are as rare and as little needed, as sweet water or
Then good father Riol said, "An old warrior am I, and
not much longer can I live in any case. And yet I would
fain finish my course by leaving my old body upon dry
land, rather than by losing it in this watery waste."
And Sir Guy, the courteous chevalier, sought to conceal
his terror by singing,—
"I would I were a little bird!
Quickly to my nest I'd fly."
Then Garin, the lover of good cheer, said, "May Heaven
save us from pain! Pleasanter by far would it be to
drink a single cup of red wine than to treat one's self
to all the water in the sea."
And Sir Lambert, the witty, responded, "Be sure we
 shall not be forgotten! Yet happier would I be to eat
one good fish, however small, than to be devoured by
that same fish."
"For me," said Duke Godfrey, the noble, "I accept my
lot. Happy am I in knowing that I shall fare no worse
than those who are better than I."
All this time King Charlemagne stood at the helm. He
spoke not a word; but he guided the vessel with a
strong hand, until at length the fury of the waves was
exhausted. And, behold! the shores of their own loved
France lay before the sea-tossed warriors, fragrant
with the odor of blossoms and of the ripe summer fruit.
As the king and his knights rode homeward between the
vineyards and the rich fields with which the peaceful
country was now everywhere covered, the people greeted
them with glad shouts and heartfelt blessings. And as
they drew near the city of Paris, the fair home from
which they had been absent so long, a noble company of
knights and ladies came out to welcome them; and
together they entered the city gates. The streets were
strewn with garlands and green leaves and fragrant
roses; from every tower and every housetop, gay
banners floated in the breeze; young maidens walked
before them, singing triumphal songs; and all the
people shouted for joy. At every turn of the street
gorgeous arches had been built, where were displayed
the trophies taken in war, and many an inscription
 to the deeds of the returning heroes. And the
whole city was given up to merry-making. And many a
tourney was held, and many a mask and ball. And, for a
long time thereafter, nothing was heard or talked about
in Paris, save music and mirth, and brave feats of
arms, and the happy restoration and return of Roland.
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