| Stories of Roland Told to the Children|
|by H. E. Marshall|
|Ten illustrated stories from the song of Roland, simply but effectively told, relating how Roland and Oliver died, of Charlemagne's vengeance on Marsil the Saracen and of the punishment of the traitor Ganelon. The treatment is romantic, the style picturesque. Ages 8-10 |
THE COMING OF THE EMIR OF BABYLON
 King Marsil fled from the battlefield, and thus fleeing, at
last he reached Saragossa. There in the shadow of an olive
tree by his palace gateway, he lighted down. His servants
crowded round him in sad astonishment to see their master
return in such sorry plight. His broken sword, his shattered
helmet and hauberk he gave to them. Then he flung himself
down upon the grass, hiding his face.
When the Queen Bramimonde heard that her lord had returned,
she hurried to him. Then as she listened to his woful tale,
and saw his shattered wrist, from which the right hand was
gone, she wept aloud and made great moan. With terrible
 cursed Charlemagne and France, she cursed her own
heathen gods and idols. Then she threw the image of Apollin
down, taking from him his crown and sceptre and trampling
him under foot. "Oh, wicked god," she cried, "why hast thou
brought such shame upon us? Why hast thou allowed our king
to be defeated? Thou rewardest but ill those who serve
The images of Tervagan and Mahomet too she caused to be
beaten and broken in pieces, and flung to the pigs and dogs.
Never were idols treated with such scorn.
Then Queen Bramimonde beat upon her breast; she tore her
hair and cried aloud to all the four corners of the earth.
As for King Marsil, he went into his great vaulted room and
lay upon his couch and would utter no word to any man, such
was his grief.
But even as Queen Bramimonde cried aloud and King Marsil lay
silent upon his couch, a mighty fleet came sailing up the
 Seven years before, when Charlemagne had first come to
Spain, King Marsil had sent a message to the old Emir of
Babylon, begging him for aid. But Babylon is far, and the
Emir Baligant had to gather his knights and barons from
forty kingdoms, so the years passed and no help came. But
now at last, after long delay, he had reached the land of
Spain, and was even now sailing up the Ebro with all his
mighty men of war. By day the river for miles was gay with
gilded prows and many-coloured pennons. By night thousands
of lanterns glittered from the masts, and swung and
flickered in the summer breeze, so that the country all
around was lighted up with starry flame.
At length the Emir landed. A white silk carpet was thrown
upon the ground, in the shade of a laurel tree an ivory
chair was set and there the Emir took his seat. Around him
stood seventeen kings together with knights and barons in
such numbers that no man might count them.
"Listen, valiant warriors," cried Baligant.
 "I mean to bring
this Charlemagne, of whom we hear such wondrous tales, so
low that he shall not even dare to eat unless I give him
leave. Too long hath he been making war in Spain, and I will
carry battle and the sword into his fair France. I shall
never cease from warring until I see him at my feet, or
dead." And thus insolently boasting, Baligant struck his
knee with his glove.
Then the Emir called two of his knights. "Go to Saragossa," he said, "and tell King Marsil that I have come to help him.
And what battle there will be when I meet Charlemagne! Give
Marsil this glove embroidered with gold; put it on his right
hand. Give him, too, this golden mace, and say to him that
so soon as he hath come to do me homage I will march against
Charlemagne. And if the Emperor will not kneel at my feet
asking mercy, if he will not deny the Christian faith, I
will tear his crown from his head!"
" 'Tis well said!" cried the heathen.
 "And now to horse, barons! to horse," cried Baligant. "One
of ye shall carry the glove, the other the mace. Haste ye!"
"Thy will shall be done," answered the barons and, leaping
upon their horses, they sped towards Saragossa.
But as they came near to the city they heard a great noise.
It was the heathen folk who wept, and cried and made great
moan, cursing their gods Tervagan and Apollin and Mahomet,
who had done nought for them. "Miserable beings that we
are," they cried, "what will become of us? Shame and
misfortune have fallen upon us. We have lost our king, for
Roland hath cut off his right hand. His fair son too is
dead. All Spain is in the hands of the Franks."
In great astonishment the messengers of Baligant drew rein
and lighted down at the steps of the palace. Then mounting
the stairs, they entered the great vaulted room where the
King lay silent and the Queen wept and mourned.
"May Apollin, and Tervagan and
Maho-  met our master save the
King and guard the Queen," they said in greeting, bowing
"What folly do ye speak!" cried Bramimonde, "our gods are
only cowards. At Roncesvalles they have done vile deeds.
They have left all our warriors to die. They have forsaken
mine own lord, the King Marsil, his right hand hath been cut
from his arm, and soon all Spain will be in the power of
Charlemagne. Oh, misery! Oh, sorrow! What will become of me.
Oh, woe! woe! is there none to slay me?"
"Hush, lady, cease thy weeping and thy moan," said one of
the messengers. "We have come from the Emir Baligant, and he
will be the deliverer of Marsil. Here is the glove and mace
which he hath sent. There on the Ebro we have four thousand
vessels, barques and rapid galleys, and who shall count our
ships of war? The Emir is rich, he is powerful. He will
follow and attack Charlemagne even to the borders of France.
He will do battle until the proud
 Emperor kneels at his feet
craving mercy, or until he die."
But the Queen shook her head. "The task is not thus light as
ye deem it," she said. "Charlemagne will die rather than
flee or beg for mercy. All the kings of the earth are as
children to him. He fears no living man."
"Cease thy wailing," said King Marsil to the Queen. Then
turning to the messengers, "It is I who shall speak," he
said. "You see me now in deepest grief. I have neither son
nor daughter to inherit the kingdom. Yesterday I had an only
son, but Roland hath slain him. Say to your lord that he
shall come to me, and that I will yield to him the whole of
Spain, and lay my hand in his, and be his vassal, so that he
fight Charlemagne and conquer him."
"It is well," said the messengers.
Then King Marsil told them all that had befallen, from the
time in which Blancandrin had set forth until the moment in
which he spoke to them. "Now,"
he ended, "the
 Emperor is not
seven leagues from here. Say to the Emir that he would do
well to prepare at once for battle. The Franks are even now
upon their homeward way, but they will not refuse to fight."
Then taking their farewell and bowing low, the messengers
departed. Quickly they mounted upon their horses, and full
of wonder at all that they had heard, they sped back to the
"Ah, well," said he, when he saw them return alone, "where
is Marsil, whom I bade ye bring unto me?"
"He is wounded unto death," they replied. Then they told
Baligant all the tale that they had heard. "And if thou help
the King now," they ended, "he swears to give thee the whole
of Spain, and he will put his hand within thy hands and be
The Emir bent his head in thought. Then rising from his
ivory chair he looked proudly round upon his barons. Joy was
in his heart and a smile of insolent pride upon his lips.
"Make no tarrying, my lords," he cried.
 "Leave your ships,
mount your horses and ride forward. This old Charlemagne
shall not escape us. From to-day is Marsil avenged. For that
he hath lost, I will give unto him the Emperor's good right
Then Baligant called one of his greatest barons. "I give
thee command of all the army," he said, "until I return." And mounting upon his horse, with but four dukes beside him,
he set out for Saragossa. There he lighted down at the
marble steps of the palace and climbed to the chamber where
When Bramimonde saw the Emir come she ran to meet him. "Oh,
miserable, miserable one that I am!" she cried, and fell
weeping at his feet.
The Emir raised her, and together they went to Marsil.
"Raise me up," said the King to two slaves, when he saw the
Emir come. Then taking his glove in his left hand he gave it
to the Emir. "My lord Baligant," he said, "with this I give
you all my lands. I am
hence-  forth thy vassal. I am lost! All
my people are lost!"
"Thy grief is great," said Baligant, "and I cannot speak
long with thee, for Charlemagne expects me not, and I must
hasten to take him unawares. But I accept thy glove since
thou givest it to me."
Then, glad at the thought of possessing all Spain, Baligant
seized the glove. Quickly he ran down the steps, sprang upon
his horse, and was soon spurring back to his army. "Forward,
forward," he cried, "the Franks cannot now escape us."
And thus it was that as Charlemagne had made an end of
burying the dead heroes, and was ready to depart homeward, a
great noise of trumpets and of shouting, of clang and
clatter of armour and neighing of horses came to his ear.
Soon over the hills appeared the glitter of helmets, and two
messengers from the heathen army came spurring towards the
Emperor. "Proud King, thou canst no longer escape," they
cried. "Baligant the Emir is here, and with him is
 a mighty
army. To-day we will see if thou art truly valorous."
Charlemagne tore his beard, looking darkly at the
messengers. Then drawing himself up, he threw a proud look
over his army. In a loud and strong voice he cried, "To
horse, my barons, to horse and to arms."
Such was Charlemagne's answer to the prideful message of the
Emir. The Emperor himself was the first to arm, and when the
Franks saw him ride before them with his glittering helmet
and shield, and his sword Joyeuse girt about him, they cried
aloud, "Such a man was made indeed to wear a crown."
Then calling to him two of his best knights, Charlemagne
gave to them, one the sword of Roland, the other his ivory
horn. "Ye shall carry them," he said, "at the head of all
the army." And when the trumpets sounded to battle, louder
and sweeter than them all sounded the horn of Roland.
The day was bright, the sun shone dazzlingly upon both
armies, glittering with
 gold, and gems and many colours. In
the ranks of the heathen were many men fierce and terrible
to look upon, Moors and Turks, Negroes black as ink, giants
and monsters were there. But the hearts of the Franks were
stout and strong, and they feared none of them.
Soon the battle waxed fierce and terrible. "Montjoie,
Montjoie," the Emperor's war-cry, sounded once again to all
the winds of Spain. "Precieuse, Precieuse," the cry of the
Emir, answered it. The heathen, like the Christian cry, was
taken from the name of their leader's sword. The Emir had
heard of the fame of Charlemagne's sword, and he called his
Precieuse, or precious, in imitation. And in imitation too
of the Christian knights the heathen used this name as a
The fight was fierce and long, and marvellous deeds of skill
and valour were done, until at length the field was once
more strewn with dead and dying, with dinted shields and
splintered spears, helmets and
 swords, and trodden,
blood-stained banners and pennons.
In the thickest of the fight the Emperor and the Emir met.
"Precieuse," cried the Emir. "Montjoie," replied the
Emperor. Then a fearful fight took place. Blow upon blow
fell, sparks flew. Again and again the two knights charged,
and wheeled and charged anew. Such were the shocks, that at
last their saddle-girths broke and both were thrown to the
Quickly the Emperor and the Emir sprang up again, and
renewed the fight on foot. "Think, Charlemagne," cried the
Emir, as they fought, "ask pardon of me and promise to be my
vassal, and I will give thee all Spain and the East."
"I owe neither peace nor love to a heathen," replied
Charlemagne. "Become a Christian, and I will love thee
"I will rather die," answered the Emir.
So they fought on. With a mighty blow the Emir broke
Charlemagne's helmet and wounded him sorely on the head. The
 Emperor staggered and almost fell, and it seemed as if his
strength went from him. But his guardian angel whispered to
him, "Great King, what doest thou?"
And when Charlemagne heard the angel whisper, his strength
came to him anew, and with one great blow he laid the Emir
dead at his feet. Then the Emperor remembered his dream, and
knew that the victory was to him, and that the Emir was the
lion who attacked him in his dream. "Montjoie," he cried,
and leapt upon his horse.
As to the heathen, when they saw their leader fall, they
Terrible was the slaughter and the chase. Through the heat
and dust of the day, the Franks pursued the fleeing heathen,
even to the walls of Saragossa.
There in a high tower sat Queen Bramimonde, praying with her
heathen priests for the victory of the Emir. But when she
looked forth from her tower and saw the heathen ride in dire
confusion, chased by the
 victorious Franks, she broke out
again into loud wailing. Running to King Marsil she cried,
"Oh, noble King, our men are beaten. We are undone."
Then Marsil, in utter grief, turned his face to the wall and
Now to the very gates of the palace the noise of battle
came. The streets of the town were full of armed men,
pursuing and pursued. And before night fell all the city was
in the hands of Charlemagne.
The Franks entered every heathen temple and broke the images
Then all the heathen were baptized, and those who would not
become Christian were put to death. Such was the way in
those fierce old times.
Leaving a garrison to guard the town, Charlemagne set forth
for France once more, leading with him captive Queen
At Blaye, upon the shores of the Gironde, the three heroes,
Roland, Oliver, and Archbishop Turpin were buried with great
 and ceremony, and after long journeying the Emperor
arrived at last at his great city of Aix. Then from all the
corners of his kingdom he gathered his wise men to judge the
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