|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 |
THE KNIGHT OF THE SWAN
 ONE day Roland stood at the window of a castle
overlooking the Rhine, while Charlemagne and Duke Namon
sat on the balcony outside, enjoying the pleasant
breeze that was wafted to them from the not far-distant
sea. All at once the clear-ringing sound of a bell
reached their ears. At first it seemed far away; but it
came slowly nearer and nearer, until the whole air
seemed filled with the sweet, simple music. By this
time all eyes in the castle were turned in the
direction whence the sounds seemed to come. The windows
and doors, the battlements and the towers, were crowded
with knights and ladies, squires, pages, and menials,
all charmed by the sweet tones, and all anxious to know
by what strange power they were produced.
"What seest thou down the river?" asked the king of the
watchman on the tower.
"My lord," answered the watchman, "I see nothing save
the waving of the reeds in the wind, and the long
ripple of the waves on the shelving banks."
Still louder and clearer rang the bell; still nearer
 nearer it seemed to come. All Nature appeared to be
"Watchman," cried the king again, "seest thou yet any
"I see," answered the watchman, "a mist, like a little
silver cloud, resting upon the water, and coming slowly
toward us. But I cannot distinguish aught else."
Sweeter and sweeter grew the sounds, like the music of
angel voices in the air. The hearts of the listeners
stood still; they held their breath; they feared to
break the wondrous spell.
"Watchman," cried the king, "what seest thou now?"
"My lord," answered now the watchman, "I see a white
swan floating on the water; and on its neck there is a
crown of gold; and behind it is a silver boat made like
the shell of a scallop, which it draws by a silken
cord; and in the scallop sits a knight in full armor.
But the device on his shield is a strange one, and I
cannot tell from what land he comes. In the bow of the
boat hangs a little bell; but I know not whether the
sound which so ravishes our ears is made by its
ringing, or whether it is the song of the swan."
And now the swan and the strange little boat were
plainly seen by all the inmates of the castle. Slowly
they drew nearer and nearer to the quay. At last the
boat came alongside of the landing place, and stopped.
The music, too, ceased as soon as the swan left off
rowing. Then certain of the king's men stepped down to
 the water-side; and one whose name was Nibelung, and
who had come from the unknown Northland, gave the
stranger his hand, and helped him from the scallop. And
the swan turned about, and swam away in the direction
whence he had come, drawing the empty shell-boat behind
him. And the strange, sweet music, which began again as
soon as the swan commenced rowing, grew fainter and
still more faint, until at last it died away in the far
distance, and was never heard again.
The strange knight, who was ever afterward known as the
Knight of the Swan, was led into the presence of the
king. But he spoke not a word to any one; and although
he seemed right nobly bred, and courteous, it was soon
plain to all that he was quite dumb. Before the king
there stood warriors from every land,—Frenchmen,
Italians, Greeks, Persians, Goths, Saxons, and Danes;
and he commanded each of these to speak in his own
tongue to the stranger. But the Knight of the Swan
answered not a word, nor seemed to understand what they
said to him. Then Roland saw that a blue ribbon was
tied around the stranger's neck, and that to it was
fastened a small roll of parchment.
"My lord," said he to the king, "perhaps this roll will
tell who he is, and why he comes in this strange manner
"Take the parchment," said the king, "and see if any
thing is written thereon."
And Roland unloosed the ribbon from the stranger's neck
and opened the roll, and read these words: "MY
 NAME IS GERARD SWAN, OF THE RACE OF LOHENGRIN. I SEEK A HOME
WITH YOU, AND A WIFE, AND A FIEF OF LANDS."
"Right welcome are you, Sir Gerard of the Swan!" said
the king, taking his hand. "You shall have all for
which you have come, and much more."
Then Nibelung, by the king's command, unarmed the
knight, and carried his sword and shield and rich armor
to the guard room. And the clothing which the stranger
wore beneath his armor was of the most princely kind,—of
purple velvet embroidered with gold. And he had
upon his hand a ring of curious workmanship, in which
was set a cross that glittered like the rays of the
sun. And the king took off his own mantle of crimson
silk and rich ermine, and threw it over the knight's
And a banquet was held that day in token of rejoicing
for the victories so lately won; and the Knight of the
Swan sat at the right hand of the king.
"Why does my uncle show so great honor to a stranger?"
asked Roland afterward.
"He is a godsend," said Duke Namon. "Wherever he is,
there will Heaven's favor be; and whatever cause he may
espouse, it will prosper."
"He looks, indeed, like a strong-hearted knight,"
Not many days after this, Charlemagne and his warriors
returned to Aix. And the Knight of the Swan proved
himself to be in all things upright and
trust-  worthy. He soon learned to talk; and, next to Duke Namon, he was
long looked up to as the ablest of the king's advisers.
And so highly did Charlemagne esteem him, that he gave
him to his sister, the Princess Adalis, in marriage,
and made him the Duke of Ardennes. But no man durst
ever ask him whence he came, or to what race he
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics