Part 13 out of 19
father not to go without his counsel, for his life will last only
until the time of my espousals. Whatever is to be, must be. But I
will give thee advice, if thou wilt take it. Go, ask me of my
father, and that which he shall require of thee, grant it, and
thou wilt obtain me; but if thou deny him anything, thou wilt not
obtain me, and it will be well for thee if thou escape with thy
life." "I promise all this, if occasion offer," said he.
She returned to her chamber, and they all rose up, and followed
her to the castle. And they slew the nine porters, that were at
the nine gates, in silence. And they slew the nine watch-dogs
without one of them barking. And they went forward to the hall.
"The greeting of Heaven and of man be unto thee, Yspadaden
Penkawr," said they. "And you, wherefore come you?" "We come to
ask thy daughter Olwen for Kilwich, the son of Kilydd, the son of
Prince Kelyddon." "Where are my pages and my servants? Raise up
the forks beneath my two eyebrows, which have fallen over my eyes,
that I may see the fashion of my son-in-law." And they did so.
"Come hither to-morrow, and you shall have an answer."
They rose to go forth, and Yspadaden Penkawr seized one of the
three poisoned darts that lay beside him, and threw it after them.
And Bedwyr caught it, and flung it, and pierced Yspadaden Penkawr
grievously with it through the knee. Then he said, "A cursed
ungentle son-in-law, truly! I shall ever walk the worse for his
rudeness, and shall ever be without a cure. This poisoned iron
pains me like the bite of a gad-fly. Cursed be the smith who
forged it, and the anvil on which it was wrought! So sharp is it!"
That night also they took up their abode in the house of the
herdsman. The next day, with the dawn, they arrayed themselves and
proceeded to the castle, and entered the hall; and they said,
"Yspadaden Penkawr, give us thy daughter in consideration of her
dower and her maiden fee, which we will pay to thee, and to her
two kinswomen likewise." Then he said, "Her four great-
grandmothers and her four great-grandsires are yet alive; it is
needful that I take counsel of them." "Be it so," they answered,
"we will go to meat." As they rose up he took the second dart that
was beside him, and cast it after them. And Meneu, the son of
Gawedd, caught it, and flung it back at him, and wounded him in
the centre of the breast. "A cursed ungentle son-in-law, truly!"
said he; "the hard iron pains me like the bite of a horse-leech.
Cursed be the hearth whereon it was heated, and the smith who
formed it! So sharp is it! Henceforth, whenever I go up hill, I
shall have a scant in my breath, and a pain in my chest, and I
shall often loathe my food." And they went to meat.
And the third day they returned to the palace. And Yspadaden
Penkawr said to them, "Shoot not at me again unless you desire
death. Where are my attendants? Lift up the forks of my eyebrows,
which have fallen over my eyeballs, that I may see the fashion of
my son-in-law." Then they arose, and, as they did so, Yspadaden
Penkawr took the third poisoned dart and cast it at them. And
Kilwich caught it, and threw it vigorously, and wounded him
through the eyeball. "A cursed ungentle son-in-law, truly! As long
as I remain alive, my eyesight will be the worse. Whenever I go
against the wind, my eyes will water; and peradventure my head
will burn, and I shall have a giddiness every new moon. Like the
bite of a mad dog is the stroke of this poisoned iron. Cursed be
the fire in which it was forged!" And they went to meat.
And the next day they came again to the palace, and they said,
"Shoot not at us any more, unless thou desirest such hurt and harm
and torture as thou now hast, and even more." Said Kilwich, "Give
me thy daughter; and if thou wilt not give her, thou shalt receive
thy death because of her." "Where is he that seeks my daughter?
Come hither where I may see thee." And they placed him a chair
face to face with him.
Said Yspadaden Penkawr, "Is it thou that seekest my daughter?"
"It is I," answered Kilwich.
"I must have thy pledge that thou wilt not do toward me otherwise
than is just; and when I have gotten that which I shall name, my
daughter thou shalt have."
"I promise thee that willingly," said Kilwich; "name what thou
"I will do so," said he. "Seest thou yonder red tilled ground?"
"I see it."
"When first I met the mother of this maiden, nine bushels of flax
were sown therein, and none has yet sprung up, white nor black. I
require to have the flax to sow in the new land yonder, that when
it grows up it may make a white wimple for my daughter's head on
the day of thy wedding."
"It will be easy for me to compass this, although thou mayest
think it will not be easy."
"Though thou get this, there is yet that which thou wilt not get--
the harp of Teirtu, to play to us that night. When a man desires
that it should play, it does so of itself; and when he desires
that it should cease, it ceases. And this he will not give of his
own free will, and thou wilt not be able to compel him."
"It will be easy for me to compass this, although thou mayest
think it will not be easy."
"Though thou get this, there is yet that which thou wilt not get.
I require thee to get me for my huntsman Mabon, the son of Modron.
He was taken from his mother when three nights old, and it is not
known where he now is, nor whether he is living or dead."
"It will be easy for me to compass this, although thou mayest
think it will not be easy."
"Though thou get this, there is yet that which thou wilt not get--
the two cubs of the wolf Gast Rhymhi; no leash in the world will
hold them, but a leash made from the beard of Dillus Varwawc, the
robber. And the leash will be of no avail unless it be plucked
from his beard while he is alive. While he lives he will not
suffer this to be done to him, and the leash will be of no use
should he be dead, because it will be brittle."
"It will be easy for me to compass this, although thou mayest
think it will not be easy."
"Though thou get this, there is yet that which thou wilt not get--
the sword of Gwernach the Giant; of his own free will he will not
give it, and thou wilt never be able to compel him."
"It will be easy for me to compass this, although thou mayest
think it will not be easy."
"Though thou get this, there is yet that which thou wilt not get.
Difficulties shalt thou meet with, and nights without sleep, in
seeking this, and if thou obtain it not, neither shalt thou obtain
"Horses shall I have, and chivalry; and my lord and kinsman,
Arthur, will obtain for me all these things. And I shall gain thy
daughter, and thou shalt lose thy life."
"Go forward. And thou shalt not be chargeable for food or raiment
for my daughter while thou art seeking these things; and when thou
hast compassed all these marvels, thou shalt have my daughter for
KILWICH AND OLWEN (Continued)
All that day they journeyed until the evening, and then they
beheld a vast castle, which was the largest in the world. And lo!
a black man, larger than three of the men of this world, came out
from the castle. And they spoke unto him, and said, "O man, whose
castle is that?" "Stupid are ye, truly, O men! There is no one in
the world that does not know that this is the castle of Gwernach
the Giant." "What treatment is there for guests and strangers that
alight in that castle?" "O chieftain, Heaven protect thee! No
guests ever returned thence alive, and no one may enter therein
unless he brings with him his craft."
Then they proceeded towards the gate. Said Gurhyr Gwalstat, "Is
there a porter?" "There is; wherefore dost thou call?" "Open the
gate." "I will not open it." "Wherefore wilt thou not?" "The knife
is in the meat, and the drink is in the horn, and there is revelry
in the hall of Gwernach the Giant; and except for a craftsman who
brings his craft, the gate will not be opened to-night." "Verily,
porter," then said Kay, "my craft bring I with me." "What is thy
craft?" "The best burnisher of swords am I in the world." "I will
go and tell this unto Gwernach the Giant, and I will bring thee an
So the porter went in, and Gwernach said to him, "Hast thou news
from the gate?" "I have. There is a party at the door of the gate
who desire to come in." "Didst thou inquire of them if they
possessed any art?" "I did inquire," said he, "and one told me
that he was well skilled in the burnishing of swords." "We have
need of him then. For some time have I sought for some one to
polish my sword, and could find no one. Let this man enter, since
he brings with him his craft."
The porter thereupon returned and opened the gate. And Kay went in
by himself, and he saluted Gwernach the Giant. And a chair was
placed for him opposite to Gwernach. And Gwernach said to him, "O
man, is it true that is reported of thee, that thou knowest how to
burnish swords?" "I know full well how to do so," answered Kay.
Then was the sword of Gwernach brought to him. And Kay took a blue
whetstone from under his arm, and asked whether he would have it
burnished white or blue. "Do with it as it seems good to thee, or
as thou wouldst if it were thine own." Then Kay polished one half
of the blade, and put it in his hand. "Will this please thee?"
asked he. "I would rather than all that is in my dominions that
the whole of it were like this. It is a marvel to me that such a
man as thou should be without a companion." "O noble sir, I have a
companion, albeit he is not skilled in this art." "Who may he be?"
"Let the porter go forth, and I will tell him whereby he may know
him. The head of his lance will leave its shaft, and draw blood
from the wind, and will descend upon its shaft again." Then the
gate was opened, and Bedwyr entered. And Kay said, "Bedwyr is very
skilful, though he knows not this art."
And there was much discourse among those who were without, because
that Kay and Bedwyr had gone in. And a young man who was with
them, the only son of the herdsman, got in also; and he contrived
to admit all the rest, but they kept themselves concealed.
The sword was now polished, and Kay gave it unto the hand of
Gwernach the Giant, to see if he were pleased with his work. And
the giant said, "The work is good; I am content therewith." Said
Kay, "It is thy scabbard that hath rusted thy sword; give it to
me, that I may take out the wooden sides of it, and put in new
ones." And he took the scabbard from him, and the sword in the
other hand. And he came and stood over against the giant, as if he
would have put the sword into the scabbard; and with it he struck
at the head of the giant, and cut off his head at one blow. Then
they despoiled the castle, and took from it what goods and jewels
they would. And they returned to Arthur's court, bearing with them
the sword of Gwernach the Giant.
And when they told Arthur how they had sped, Arthur said, "It is a
good beginning." Then they took counsel, and said, "Which of these
marvels will it be best for us to seek next?" "It will be best,"
said one, "to seek Mabon, the son of Modron; and he will not be
found unless we first find Eidoel, the son of Aer, his kinsman."
Then Arthur rose up, and the warriors of the island of Britain
with him, to seek for Eidoel; and they proceeded until they came
to the castle of Glivi, where Eidoel was imprisoned. Glivi stood
on the summit of his castle, and he said, "Arthur, what requirest
thou of me, since nothing remains to me in this fortress, and I
have neither joy nor pleasure in it, neither wheat nor oats? Seek
not, therefore, to do me harm." Said Arthur, "Not to injure thee
came I hither, but to seek for the prisoner that is with thee." "I
will give thee my prisoner, though I had not thought to give him
up to any one, and therewith shalt thou have my support and my
His followers said unto Arthur, "Lord, go thou home, thou canst
not proceed with thy host in quest of such small adventures as
these." Then said Arthur, "It were well for thee, Gurhyr Gwalstat,
to go upon this quest, for thou knowest all languages, and art
familiar with those of the birds and the beasts. Thou, Eidoel,
oughtest likewise to go with thy men in search of thy cousin. And
as for you, Kay and Bedwyr, I have hope of whatever adventure ye
are in quest of, that ye will achieve it. Achieve ye this
adventure for me."
They went forward until they came to the Ousel of Cilgwri. And
Gurhyr adjured her, saying, "Tell me if thou knowest aught of
Mabon, the son of Modron, who was taken when three nights old from
between his mother and the wall?" And the Ousel answered, "When I
first came here, there was a smith's anvil in this place, and I
was then a young bird; and from that time no work has been done
upon it, save the pecking of my beak every evening; and now there
is not so much as the size of a nut remaining thereof; yet during
all that time I have never heard of the man for whom you inquire.
Nevertheless, I will do that which it is fitting that I should for
an embassy from Arthur. There is a race of animals who were formed
before me, and I will be your guide to them."
So they proceeded to the place where was the Stag of Redynvre.
"Stag of Redynvre, behold, we are come to thee, an embassy from
Arthur, for we have not heard of any animal older than thou. Say,
knowest thou aught of Mabon, the son of Modron, who was taken from
his mother when three nights old?" The Stag said, "When first I
came hither there was a plain all around me, without any trees
save one oak sapling, which grew up to be an oak with an hundred
branches; and that oak has since perished, so that now nothing
remains of it but the withered stump; and from that day to this I
have been here, yet have I never heard of the man for whom you
inquire. Nevertheless, being an embassy from Arthur, I will be
your guide to the place where there is an animal which was formed
before I was, and the oldest animal in the world, and the one that
has travelled most, the Eagle of Gwern Abwy."
Gurhyr said, "Eagle of Gwern Abwy, we have come to thee, an
embassy from Arthur, to ask thee if thou knowest aught of Mabon,
the son of Modron, who was taken from his mother when he was three
nights old?" The Eagle said, "I have been here for a great space
of time, and when I first came hither, there was a rock here from
the top of which I pecked at the stars every evening; and it has
crumbled away, and now it is not so much as a span high. All that
time I have been here, and I have never heard of the man for whom
you inquire, except once when I went in search of food as far as
Llyn Llyw. And when I came there, I struck my talons into a
salmon, thinking he would serve me as food for a long time. But he
drew me into the water, and I was scarcely able to escape from
him. After that I made peace with him. And I drew fifty fish-
spears out of his back, and relieved him. Unless he know something
of him whom you seek, I cannot tell who may. However, I will guide
you to the place where he is."
So they went thither; and the Eagle said, "Salmon of Llyn Llyw, I
have come to thee with an embassy from Arthur, to ask thee if thou
knowest aught of Mabon, the son of Modron, who was taken away at
three nights old from his mother." "As much as I know I will tell
thee. With every tide I go along the river upward, until I come
near to the walls of Gloucester, and there have I found such wrong
as I never found elsewhere; and to the end that ye may give
credence thereto, let one of you go thither upon each of my two
shoulders." So Kay and Gurhyr Gwalstat went upon the two shoulders
of the Salmon, and they proceeded until they came unto the wall of
the prison; and they heard a great wailing and lamenting from the
dungeon. Said Gurhyr, "Who is it that laments in this house of
stone?" "Alas! it is Mabon, the son of Modron, who is here
imprisoned; and no imprisonment was ever so grievous as mine."
"Hast thou hope of being released for gold or for silver, or for
any gifts of wealth, or through battle and fighting?" "By fighting
will what ever I may gain be obtained."
Then they went thence, and returned to Arthur, and they told him
where Mabon, the son of Modron, was imprisoned. And Arthur
summoned the warriors of the island, and they journeyed as far as
Gloucester, to the place where Mabon was in prison. Kay and Bedwyr
went upon the shoulders of the fish, whilst the warriors of Arthur
attacked the castle. And Kay broke through the wall into the
dungeon, and brought away the prisoner upon his back, whilst the
fight was going on between the warriors. And Arthur returned home,
and Mabon with him at liberty.
On a certain day as Gurhyr Gwalstat was walking over a mountain,
he heard a wailing and a grievous cry. And when he heard it, he
sprang forward and went towards it. And when he came there, he saw
a fire burning among the turf, and an ant-hill nearly surrounded
with the fire. And he drew his sword, and smote off the ant-hill
close to the earth, so that it escaped being burned in the fire.
And the ants said to him, "Receive from us the blessing of Heaven,
and that which no man can give, we give thee." Then they fetched
the nine bushels of flax-seed which Yspadaden Penkawr had required
of Kilwich, and they brought the full measure, without lacking
any, except one flax-seed, and that the lame pismire brought in
Then said Arthur, "Which of the marvels will it be best for us to
seek next?" "It will be best to seek for the two cubs of the wolf
"Is it known," said Arthur, "where she is?" "She is in Aber
Cleddyf," said one. Then Arthur went to the house of Tringad, in
Aber Cleddyf, and he inquired of him whether he had heard of her
there. "She has often slain my herds, and she is there below in a
cave in Aber Cleddyf."
Ther Arthur went in his ship Prydwen by sea, and the others went
by land to hunt her. And they surrounded her and her two cubs, and
took them and carried them away.
As Kay and Bedwyr sat on a beacon-cairn on the summit of
Plinlimmon, in the highest wind that ever was, they looked around
them and saw a great smoke, afar off. Then said Kay, "By the hand
of my friend, yonder is the fire of a robber." Then they hastened
towards the smoke, and they came so near to it that they could see
Dillus Varwawc scorching a wild boar. "Behold, yonder is the
greatest robber that ever fled from Arthur," said Bedwyr to Kay.
"Dost thou know him?" "I do know him," answered Kay; "he is Dillus
Varwarc, and no leash in the world will be able to hold the cubs
of Gast Rhymi, save a leash made from the beard of him thou seest
yonder. And even that will be useless unless his beard be plucked
out alive, with wooden tweezers; for if dead it will be brittle."
"What thinkest thou that we should do concerning this?" said
Bedwyr. "Let us suffer him." said Kay, "to eat as much as he will
of the meat, and after that he will fall asleep." And during that
time they employed themselves in making the wooden tweezers. And
when Kay knew certainly that he was asleep, he made a pit under
his feet, and he struck him a violent blow, and squeezed him into
the pit. And there they twitched out his beard completely with the
wooden tweezers, and after that they slew him altogether. And from
thence they went, and took the leash made of Dillus Varwawc's
beard, and they gave it into Arthur's hand.
Thus they got all the marvels that Yspadaden Penkawr had required
of Kilwich; and they set forward, and took the marvels to his
court. And Kilwich said to Yspadaden Penkawr, "Is thy daughter
mine now?" "She is thine," said he, "but therefore needest thou
not thank me, but Arthur, who hath accomplished this for thee."
Then Goreu, the son of Custennin, the herdsman, whose brothers
Yspadaden Penkawr had slain, seized him by the hair of his head,
and dragged him after him to the keep, and cut off his head, and
placed it on a stake on the citadel. Then they took possession of
his castle, and of his treasures. And that night Olwen became
Kilwich's bride, and she continued to be his wife as long as she
Gwyddno Garanhir was sovereign of Gwaelod, a territory bordering
on the sea. And he possessed a weir upon the strand between Dyvi
and Aberystwyth, near to his own castle, and the value of an
hundred pounds was taken in that weir every May eve. And Gwyddno
had an only son named Elphin, the most hapless of youths, and the
most needy. And it grieved his father sore, for he thought that he
was born in an evil hour. By the advice of his council, his father
had granted him the drawing of the weir that year, to see if good
luck would ever befall him, and to give him something wherewith to
begin the world. And this was on the twenty-ninth of April.
The next day, when Elphin went to look, there was nothing in the
weir but a leathern bag upon a pole of the weir. Then said the
weir-ward unto Elphin, "All thy ill-luck aforetime was nothing to
this; and now thou hast destroyed the virtues of the weir, which
always yielded the value of an hundred pounds every May eve; and
to-night there is nothing but this leathern skin within it." "How
now," said Elphin, "there may be therein the value of a hundred
pounds." Well! they took up the leathern bag, and he who opened it
saw the forehead of an infant, the fairest that ever was seen; and
he said, "Behold a radiant brow?" (In the Welsh language,
taliesin.) "Taliesin be he called," said Elphin. And he lifted the
bag in his arms, and, lamenting his bad luck, placed the boy
sorrowfully behind him. And he made his horse amble gently, that
before had been trotting, and he carried him as softly as if he
had been sitting in the easiest chair in the world. And presently
the boy made a Consolation, and praise to Elphin; and the
Consolation was as you may here see:
"Fair Elphin, cease to lament!
Never in Gwyddno's weir
Was there such good luck as this night.
Being sad will not avail;
Better to trust in God than to forbode ill;
Weak and small as I am,
On the foaming beach of the ocean,
In the day of trouble I shall be
Of more service to thee than three hundred salmon."
This was the first poem that Taliesin ever sung, being to console
Elphin in his grief for that the produce of the weir was lost, and
what was worse, that all the world would consider that it was
through his fault and ill-luck. Then Elphin asked him what he
was, whether man or spirit. And he sung thus:
"I have been formed a comely person;
Although I am but little, I am highly gifted;
Into a dark leathern bag I was thrown,
And on a boundless sea I was sent adrift.
From seas and from mountains
God brings wealth to the fortunate man."
Then came Elphin to the house of Gwyddno, his father, and Taliesin
with him. Gwyddno asked him if he had had a good haul at the weir,
and he told him that he had got that which was better than fish.
"What was that?" said Gwyddno. "A bard," said Elphin. Then said
Gwyddno, "Alas! what will he profit thee?" And Taliesin himself
replied and said, "He will profit him more than the weir ever
profited thee." Asked Gwyddno, "Art thou able to speak, and thou
so little?" And Taliesin answered him, "I am better able to speak
than thou to question me." "Let me hear what thou canst say,"
quoth Gwyddno. Then Taliesin sang:
"Three times have I been born, I know by meditation;
All the sciences of the world are collected in my breast,
For I know what has been, and what hereafter will occur."
Elphin gave his haul to his wife, and she nursed him tenderly and
lovingly. Thenceforward Elphin increased in riches more and more,
day after day, and in love and favor with the king; and there
abode Taliesin until he was thirteen years old, when Elphin, son
of Gwyddno, went by a Christmas invitation to his uncle, Maelgan
Gwynedd, who held open court at Christmas-tide in the castle of
Dyganwy, for all the number of his lords of both degrees, both
spiritual and temporal, with a vast and thronged host of knights
and squires. And one arose and said, "Is there in the whole world
a king so great as Maelgan, or one on whom Heaven has bestowed so
many gifts as upon him;--form, and beauty, and meekness, and
strength, besides all the powers of the soul?" And together with
these they said that Heaven had given one gift that exceeded all
the others, which was the beauty, and grace, and wisdom, and
modesty of his queen, whose virtues surpassed those of all the
ladies and noble maidens throughout the whole kingdom. And with
this they put questions one to another, Who had braver men? Who
had fairer or swifter horses or greyhounds? Who had more skilful
or wiser bards than Maelgan?
When they had all made an end of their praising the king and his
gifts, it befell that Elphin spoke on this wise. "Of a truth, none
but a king may vie with a king; but were he not a king, I would
say that my wife was as virtuous as any lady in the kingdom, and
also that I have a bard who is more skilful than all the king's
bards." In a short space some of his fellows told the king all the
boastings of Elphin; and the king ordered him to be thrown into a
strong prison, until he might show the truth as to the virtues of
his wife, and the wisdom of his bard.
Now when Elphin had been put in a tower of the castle, with a
thick chain about his feet (it is said that it was a silver chain,
because he was of royal blood), the king, as the story relates,
sent his son Rhun to inquire into the demeanor of Elphin's wife.
Now Rhun was the most graceless man in the world, and there was
neither wife nor maiden with whom he held converse but was evil
spoken of. While Rhun went in haste towards Elphin's dwelling,
being fully minded to bring disgrace upon his wife, Taliesin told
his mistress how that the king had placed his master in durance in
prison, and how that Rhun was coming in haste to strive to bring
disgrace upon her. Wherefore he caused his mistress to array one
of the maids of her kitchen in her apparel; which the noble lady
gladly did, and she loaded her hands with the best rings that she
and her husband possessed.
In this guise Taliesin caused his mistress to put the maiden to
sit at the board in her room at supper; and he made her to seem as
her mistress, and the mistress to seem as the maid. And when they
were in due time seated at their supper, in the manner that has
been said, Rhun suddenly arrived at Elphin's dwelling, and was
received with joy, for the servants knew him; and they brought him
to the room of their mistress, in the semblance of whom the maid
rose up from supper and welcomed him gladly. And afterwards she
sat down to supper again, and Rhun with her. Then Rhun began
jesting with the maid, who still kept the semblance of her
mistress. And verily this story shows that the maiden became so
intoxicated that she fell asleep; and the story relates that it
was a powder that Rhun put into the drink, that made her sleep so
soundly that she never felt it when he cut off from her hand her
little finger, whereon was the signet ring of Elphin, which he had
sent to his wife as a token a short time before. And Rhun returned
to the king with the finger and the ring as a proof, to show that
he had cut it off from her hand without her awaking from her sleep
The king rejoiced greatly at these tidings, and he sent for his
councillors, to whom he told the whole story from the beginning.
And he caused Elphin to be brought out of prison, and he chided
him because of his boast. And he spake on this wise: "Elphin, be
it known to thee beyond a doubt, that it is but folly for a man to
trust in the virtues of his wife further than he can see her; and
that thou mayest be certain of thy wife's vileness, behold her
finger, with thy signet ring upon it, which was cut from her hand
last night, while she slept the sleep of intoxication." Then thus
spake Elphin: "With thy leave, mighty king, I cannot deny my ring,
for it is known of many; but verily I assert that the finger
around which it is was never attached to the hand of my wife; for
in truth and certainty there are three notable things pertaining
to it, none of which ever belonged to any of my wife's fingers.
The first of the three is, that it is certainly known to me that
this ring would never remain upon her thumb, whereas you can
plainly see that it is hard to draw it over the joint of the
little finger of the hand whence this was cut. The second thing
is, that my wife has never let pass one Saturday since I have
known her, without paring her nails before going to bed, and you
can see fully that the nail of this little finger has not been
pared for a month. The third is, truly, that the hand whence this
finger came was kneading rye dough within three days before the
finger was cut therefrom, and I can assure your highness that my
wife has never kneaded rye dough since my wife she has been."
The king was mightily wroth with Elphin for so stoutly
withstanding him, respecting the goodness of his wife; wherefore
he ordered him to his prison a second time, saying that he should
not be loosed thence until he had proved the truth of his boast,
as well concerning the wisdom of his bard as the virtues of his
In the meantime his wife and Taliesin remained joyful at Elphin's
dwelling. And Taliesin showed his mistress how that Elphin was in
prison because of them; but he bade her be glad, for that he would
go to Maelgan's court to free his master. So he took leave of his
mistress, and came to the court of Maelgan, who was going to sit
in his hall, and dine in his royal state, as it was the custom in
those days for kings and princes to do at every chief feast. As
soon as Taliesin entered the hall he placed himself in a quiet
corner, near the place where the bards and the minstrels were wont
to come, in doing their service and duty to the king, as is the
custom at the high festivals, when the bounty is proclaimed. So,
when the bards and the heralds came to cry largess, and to
proclaim the power of the king, and his strength, at the moment
when they passed by the corner wherein he was crouching, Taliesin
pouted out his lips after them, and played "Blerwm, blerwm!" with
his finger upon his lips. Neither took they much notice of him as
they went by but proceeded forward till they came before the king,
unto whom they made their obeisance with their bodies, as they
were wont, without speaking a single word, but pouting out their
lips, and making mouths at the king, playing, "Blerwm, blerwm!"
upon their lips with their fingers, as they had seen the boy do.
This sight caused the king to wonder, and to deem within himself
that they were drunk with many liquors. Wherefore he commanded one
of his lords, who served at the board, to go to them and desire
them to collect their wits, and to consider where they stood, and
what it was fitting for them to do. And this lord did so gladly.
But they ceased not from their folly any more than before.
Whereupon he sent to them a second time, and a third, desiring
them to go forth from the hall. At the last the king ordered one
of his squires to give a blow to the chief of them, named Heinin
Vardd; and the squire took a broom and struck him on the head, so
that he fell back in his seat. Then he arose, and went on his
knees, and besought leave of the king's grace to show that this
their fault was not through want of knowledge, neither through
drunkenness, but by the influence of some spirit that was in the
hall. And he spoke on this wise: "O honorable king, be it known to
your grace that not from the strength of drink, or of too much
liquor, are we dumb, but through the influence of a spirit that
sits in the corner yonder, in the form of a child." Forthwith the
king commanded the squire to fetch him; and he went to the nook
where Taliesin sat, and brought him before the king, who asked him
what he was, and whence he came. And he answered the king in
"Primary chief bard am I to Elphin,
And my native country is the region of the summer stars;
I have been in Asia with Noah in the ark,
I have seen the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah,
I was in India when Rome was built,
I have now come here to the remnant of Troia."
When the king and his nobles had heard the song, they wondered
much, for they had never heard the like from a boy so young as he.
And when the king knew that he was the bard of Elphin he bade
Heinin, his first and wisest bard, to answer Taliesin, and to
strive with him. But when he came he could do no other than play
"Blerwm!" on his lips; and when he sent for the others of the four
and twenty bards, they all did likewise, and could do no other.
And Maelgan asked the boy Taliesin what was his errand, and he
answered him in song:
"Elphin, the son of Gwyddno,
Is in the land of Artro,
Secured by thirteen locks,
For praising his instructor.
Therefore I, Taliesin,
Chief of the bards of the west,
Will loosen Elphin
Out of a golden fetter."
Then he sang to them a riddle:
"Discover thou what is
The strong creature from before the flood,
Without flesh, without bone,
Without vein, without blood,
Without head, without feet;
It will neither be older nor younger
Than at the beginning.
Behold how the sea whitens
When first it comes,
When it comes from the south,
When it strikes on coasts
It is in the field, it is in the wood,
But the eye cannot perceive it.
One Being has prepared it,
By a tremendous blast,
To wreak vengeance
On Maelgan Gwynedd."
While he was thus singing his verse, there arose a mighty storm of
wind, so that the king and all his nobles thought that the castle
would fall upon their heads. And the king caused them to fetch
Elphin in haste from his dungeon, and placed him before Taliesin.
And it is said that immediately he sung a verse, so that the
chains opened from about his feet.
After that Taliesin brought Elphin's wife before them, and showed
that she had not one finger wanting. And in this manner did he set
his master free from prison, and protect the innocence of his
mistress, and silence the bards so that not one of them dared to
say a word. Right glad was Elphin, right glad was Taliesin.
HERO MYTHS OF THE BRITISH RACE
Notable among the names of heroes of the British race is that of
Beowulf, which appeals to all English-speaking people in a very
special way, since he is the one hero in whose story we may see
the ideals of our English forefathers before they left their
Continental home to cross to the islands of Britain.
Although this hero had distinguished himself by numerous feats of
strength during his boyhood and early youth, it was as the
deliverer of Hrothgar, king of Denmark, from the monster Grendel
that he first gained wide renown. Grendel was half monster and
half man, and had his abode in the fen-fastnesses in the vicinity
of Hrothgar's residence. Night after night he would steal into the
king's great palace called Heorot and slay sometimes as many as
thirty at one time of the knights sleeping there.
Beowulf put himself at the head of a selected band of warriors,
went against the monster, and after a terrible fight slew it. The
following night Grendel's mother, a fiend scarcely less terrible
than her son, carried off one of Hrothgar's boldest thanes. Once
more Beowulf went to the help of the Danish king, followed the
she-monster to her lair at the bottom of a muddy lake in the midst
of the swamp, and with his good sword Hrunting and his own
muscular arms broke the sea-woman's neck.
Upon his return to his own country of the Geats, loaded with
honors bestowed upon him by Hrothgar, Beowulf served the king of
Geatland as the latter's most trusted counsellor and champion.
When, after many years, the king fell before an enemy, the Geats
unanimously chose Beowulf for their new king. His fame as a
warrior kept his country free from invasion, and his wisdom as a
statesman increased its prosperity and happiness.
In the fiftieth year of Beowulf's reign, however, a great terror
fell upon the land in the way of a monstrous fire-dragon, which
flew forth by night from its den in the rocks, lighting up the
blackness with its blazing breath, and burning houses and
homesteads, men and cattle, with the flames from its mouth. When
the news came to Beowulf that his people were suffering and dying,
and that no warrior dared to risk his life in an effort to deliver
the country from this deadly devastation, the aged king took up
his shield and sword and went forth to his last fight. At the
entrance of the dragon's cave Beowulf raised his voice and shouted
a furious defiance to the awesome guardian of the den. Roaring
hideously and napping his glowing wings together, the dragon
rushed forth and half flew, half sprang, on Beowulf. Then began a
fearful combat, which ended in Beowulf's piercing the dragon's
scaly armor and inflicting a mortal wound, but alas! in himself
being given a gash in the neck by his opponent's poisoned fangs
which resulted in his death. As he lay stretched on the ground,
his head supported by Wiglaf, an honored warrior who had helped in
the fight with the dragon, Beowulf roused himself to say, as he
grasped Wiglaf's hand:
"Thou must now look to the needs of the nation;
Here dwell I no longer, for Destiny calleth me!
Bid thou my warriors after my funeral pyre
Build me a burial-cairn high on the sea-cliff's head;
So that the seafarers Beowulf's Barrow
Henceforth shall name it, they who drive far and wide
Over the mighty flood their foamy keels.
Thou art the last of all the kindred of Wagmund!
Wyrd has swept all my kin, all the brave chiefs away!
Now must I follow them!"
These last words spoken, the king of the Geats, brave to seek
danger and brave to look on death and Fate undaunted, fell back
dead. According to his last desires, his followers gathered wood
and piled it on the cliff-head. Upon this funeral pyre was laid
Beowulf's body and consumed to ashes. Then, upon the same cliff of
Hronesness, was erected a huge burial cairn, wide-spread and
lofty, to be known thereafter as Beowulf's Barrow.
CUCHULAIN, CHAMPION OF IRELAND
Among all the early literatures of Europe, there are two which, at
exactly opposite corners of the continent, display most strikingly
similar characteristics. These are the Greek and the Irish, and
the legend of the Irish champion Cuchulain, which well illustrates
the similarity of the literatures, bears so close a resemblance to
the story of Achilles as to win for this hero the title of "the
Irish Achilles." Certainly in reckless courage, power of inspiring
dread, sense of personal merit, and frankness of speech the Irish
hero is fully equal to the mighty Greek.
Cuchulain was the nephew of King Conor of Ulster, son of his
sister Dechtire, and it is said that his father was no mortal man,
but the great god Lugh of the Long Hand. Cuchulain was brought up
by King Conor himself, and even while he was still a boy his fame
spread all over Ireland. His warlike deeds were those of a proved
warrior, not of a child of nursery age; and by the time Cuchulain
was seventeen he was without peer among the champions of Ulster.
Upon Cuchulain's marriage to Emer, daughter of Forgall the Wily, a
Druid of great power, the couple took up their residence at
Armagh, the capital of Ulster, under the protection of King Conor.
Here there was one chief, Bricriu of the Bitter Tongue, who, like
Thersites among the Grecian leaders, delighted in making mischief.
Soon he had on foot plans for stirring up strife among the heroes
of Ulster, leaders among whom were the mighty Laegaire, Conall
Cearnach, cousin of Cuchulain, and Cuchulain himself. Inviting the
members of King Conor's court to dinner, Bricriu arranged that a
contest should arise over who should have the "champion's
portion," and so successful was he that, to avoid a bloody fight,
the three heroes mentioned decided to submit their claims to the
championship of Ireland to King Ailill of Connaught.
Ailill put the heroes to an unexpected test. Their dinner was
served them in a separate room, into which three magic beasts, in
the shape of monstrous cats, were sent by the king. When they saw
them Laegire and Conall rose from their meal, climbed among the
rafters, and stayed there all night. Cuchulain waited until one
cat attacked him, and then, drawing his sword, struck the monster.
It showed no further sign of fight, and at daybreak the magic
As Laegire and Conall claimed that this test was an unfair one,
Ailill sent the three rivals to Curoi of Kerry, a just and wise
man, who set out to discover by wizardry and enchantments the best
among the heroes. In turn they stood watch outside Curoi's castle,
where Laegire and Conall were overcome by a huge giant, who hurled
spears of mighty oak trees, and ended by throwing them over the
wall into the courtyard. Cuchulain alone withstood the giant,
whereupon he was attacked by other magic foes. Among these was a
dragon, which flew on horrible wings from a neighboring lake, and
seemed ready to devour everything in its way. Cuchulain sprang up,
giving his wonderful hero-leap, thrust his arm into the dragon's
mouth and down its throat, and tore out its heart. After the
monster fell dead, he cut off its scaly head.
As even yet Cuchulain's opponents would not admit his
championship, they were all three directed to return to Armagh, to
await Curoi's judgment. Here it happened that all the Ulster
heroes were in the great hall one night, except Cuchulain and his
cousin Conall. As they sat in order of rank, a terrible stranger,
gigantic in stature, hideous of aspect, with ravening yellow eyes,
entered. In his hand he bore an enormous axe, with keen and
shining edge. Upon King Conor's inquiring his business there, the
"Behold my axe! The man who will grasp it to-day may cut my head
off with it, provided that I may, in like manner, cut off his head
to-morrow. If you have no champion who dare face me, I will say
that Ulster has lost her courage and is dishonored."
At once Laegire accepted the challenge. The giant laid his head on
a block, and at a blow the hero severed it from the body.
Thereupon the giant arose, took the head and the axe, and thus,
headless, strode from the hall. But the following night, when he
returned, sound as ever, to claim the fulfilment of Laegire's
promise, the latter's heart failed him and he did not come
forward. The stranger then jeered at the men of Ulster because
their great champion durst not keep his agreement, nor face the
blow he should receive in return for the one he gave.
The men of Ulster were utterly ashamed, but Conall Cearnach, who
was present that night, made a new agreement with the stranger. He
gave a blow which beheaded the giant, but again, when the latter
returned whole and sound on the following evening, the champion
was not to be found.
Now it was the turn of Cuchulain, who, as the others had done, cut
off the giant's head at one stroke. The next day the members of
Conor's court watched Cuchulain to see what he would do. They
would not have been surprised if he had failed like the others,
who now were present. The champion, however, showed no signs of
failing or retreat. He sat sorrowfully in his place, and with a
sigh said to King Conor as they waited: "Do not leave this place
till all is over. Death is coming to me very surely, but I must
fulfil my agreement, for I would rather die than break my word."
Towards the close of day the stranger strode into the hall
"Where is Cuchulain?" he cried.
"Here I am," was the reply.
"Ah, poor boy! your speech is sad to-night, and the fear of death
lies heavy on you; but at least you have redeemed your word and
have not failed me."
The youth rose from his seat and went towards him, as he stood
with the great axe ready, and knelt to receive the blow.
The hero of Ulster laid his head on the block; but the giant was
not satisfied. "Stretch out your neck better," said he.
"You are playing with me, to torment me," said Cuchulain. "Slay me
now speedily, for I did not keep you waiting last night."
However, he stretched out his neck as ordered, and the stranger
raised his axe till it crashed upwards through the rafters of the
hall, like the crash of trees falling in a storm. When the axe
came down with a terrific sound all men looked fearfully at
Cuchulain. The descending axe had not even touched him; it had
come down with the blunt side on the ground, and the youth knelt
there unharmed. Smiling at him, and leaning on his axe, stood no
terrible and hideous stranger, but Curoi of Kerry, come to give
his decision at last.
"Rise up, Cuchulain," said Curoi. "There is none among all the
heroes of Ulster to equal you in courage and loyalty and truth.
The Championship of the Heroes of Ireland is yours from this day
forth, and the Champion's Portion at all feasts; and to your wife
I adjudge the first place among all the women of Ulster. Woe to
him who dares to dispute this decision!" Thereupon Curoi vanished,
and the warriors gathered around Cuchulain, and all with one voice
acclaimed him the Champion of the Heroes of all Ireland--a title
which has clung to him until this day.
This is one of many stories told of the Irish champion, whose
deeds of bravery would fill many pages. Cuchulain finally came to
his end on the field of battle, after a fight in which he
displayed all his usual gallantry but in which unfair means were
used to overcome him.
For Wales and for England during centuries Arthur has been the
representative "very gentle perfect knight." In a similar way, in
England's sister isle, Cuchulain stands ever for the highest
ideals of the Irish Gaels.
HEREWARD THE WAKE
In Hereward the Wake (or "Watchful") is found one of those heroes
whose date can be ascertained with a fair amount of exactness and
yet in whose story occur mythological elements which seem to
belong to all ages. The folklore of primitive races is a great
storehouse whence a people can choose tales and heroic deeds to
glorify its own national hero, careless that the same tales and
deeds have done duty for other peoples and other heroes. Hence it
happens that Hereward the Saxon, a patriot hero as real and actual
as Nelson or George Washington, whose deeds were recorded in prose
and verse within forty years of his death, was even then
surrounded by a cloud of romance and mystery, which hid in
vagueness his family, his marriage, and even his death.
Briefly it may be stated that Hereward was a native of
Lincolnshire, and was in his prime about 1070. In that year he
joined a party of Danes who appeared in England, attacked
Peterborough and sacked the abbey there, and afterward took refuge
in the Isle of Ely. Here he was besieged by William the Conqueror,
and was finally forced to yield to the Norman. He thus came to
stand for the defeated Saxon race, and his name has been passed
down as that of the darling hero of the Saxons. For his splendid
defence of Ely they forgave his final surrender to Duke William;
they attributed to him all the virtues supposed to be inherent in
the free-born, and all the glorious valor on which the English
prided themselves; and, lastly, they surrounded his death with a
halo of desperate fighting, and made his last conflict as
wonderful as that of Roland at Roncesvalles. If Roland is the
ideal of Norman feudal chivalry, Hereward is equally the ideal of
Anglo-Saxon sturdy manliness and knighthood.
An account of one of Hereward's adventures as a youth will serve
as illustration of the stories told of his prowess. On an enforced
visit to Cornwall, he found that King Alef, a petty British chief,
had betrothed his fair daughter to a terrible Pictish giant,
breaking off, in order to do it, her troth-plight with Prince
Sigtryg of Waterford, son of a Danish king in Ireland. Hereward,
ever chivalrous, picked a quarrel with the giant and killed him in
fair fight, whereupon the king threw him into prison. In the
following night, however, the released princess arranged that the
gallant Saxon should be freed and sent hot-foot for her lover,
Prince Sigtryg. After many adventures Hereward reached the prince,
who hastened to return to Cornwall with the young hero. But to the
grief of both, they learned upon their arrival that the princess
had just been betrothed to a wild Cornish hero, Haco, and the
wedding feast was to be held that very day. Sigtryg at once sent a
troop of forty Danes to King Alef demanding the fulfilment of the
troth-plight between himself and his daughter, and threatening
vengeance if it were broken. To this threat the king returned no
answer, and no Dane came back to tell of their reception.
Sigtryg would have waited till morning, trusting in the honor of
the king, but Hereward disguised himself as a minstrel and
obtained admission to the bridal feast, where he soon won applause
by his beautiful singing. The bridegroom, Haco, in a rapture
offered him any boon he liked to ask, but he demanded only a cup
of wine from the hands of the bride. When she brought it to him he
flung into the empty cup the betrothal ring, the token she had
sent to Sigtryg, and said: "I thank thee, lady, and would reward
thee for thy gentleness to a wandering minstrel; I give back the
cup, richer than before by the kind thoughts of which it bears the
token." The princess looked at him, gazed into the goblet, and saw
her ring; then, looking again, she recognized her deliverer and
knew that rescue was at hand.
While men feasted Hereward listened and talked, and found out that
the forty Danes were prisoners, to be released on the morrow when
Haco was sure of his bride, but released useless and miserable,
since they would be turned adrift blinded. Haco was taking his
lovely bride back to his own land, and Hereward saw that any
rescue, to be successful, must be attempted on the march.
Returning to Sigtryg, the young Saxon told all that he had
learned, and the Danes planned an ambush in the ravine where Haco
had decided to blind and set free his captives. The whole was
carried out exactly as Hereward arranged it. The Cornishmen, with
the Danish captives, passed first without attack; next came Haco,
riding grim and ferocious beside his silent bride, he exulting in
his success, she looking eagerly for any signs of rescue. As they
passed Hereward sprang from his shelter, crying, "Upon them,
Danes, and set your brethren free!" and himself struck down Haco
and smote off his head. There was a short struggle, but soon the
rescued Danes were able to aid their deliverers, and the Cornish
guards were all slain; the men of King Alef, never very zealous
for the cause of Haco, fled, and the Danes were left masters of
Sigtryg had in the meantime seen to the safety of the princess,
and now, placing her between himself and Hereward, he escorted her
to the ship, which soon brought them to Waterford and a happy
bridal. The Prince and Princess of Waterford always recognized in
Hereward their deliverer and best friend, and in their gratitude
wished him to dwell with them always; but the hero's roving and
daring temper forbade his settling down, but rather urged him on
to deeds of arms in other lands, where he quickly won a renown
second to none.
Among the earliest heirlooms of the Anglo-Saxon tongue are the
songs and legends of Robin Hood and his merry outlaws, which have
charmed readers young and old for more than six hundred years.
These entertaining stories date back to the time when Chaucer
wrote his "Canterbury Tales," when the minstrel and scribe stood
in the place of the more prim and precise modern printed book.
The question of whether or not Robin Hood was a real person has
been asked for many years, just as a similar question has been
asked about William Tell and others whom everyone would much
rather accept on faith. It cannot be answered by a brief "yes" or
"no," even though learned men have pored over ancient records and
have written books on the subject. According to the general belief
Robin was an outlaw in the reign of Richard I, when in the depths
of Sherwood Forest he entertained one hundred tall men, all good
archers, with the spoil he took; but "he suffered no woman to be
oppressed or otherwise molested; poore men's goods he spared,
abundantlie relieving them with that which by theft he got from
abbeys and houses of rich carles." Consequently Robin was an
immense favorite with the common people.
This popularity extended from the leader to all the members of his
hardy band. "God save Robin Hood and all his good yeomanry" is the
ending of many old ballads. The clever archer who could outshoot
his fellows, the brave yeoman inured to blows, and the man who
could be true to his friends through thick and thin were favorites
for all time; and they have been idealized in the persons of Robin
Hood and his merry outlaws.
One of the best-known stories of this picturesque figure of early
English times is that given by Sir Walter Scott in "Ivanhoe,"
concerning the archery contest during the rule or misrule of
Prince John, in the absence of Richard from the kingdom. Robin
Hood, under the assumed name of Locksley, boldly presents himself
at a royal tournament at Ashby, as competitor for the prize in
shooting with the long-bow. From the eight or ten archers who
enter the contest, the number finally narrows down to two,--
Hubert, a forester in the service of one of the king's nobles, and
Locksley or Robin Hood. Hubert takes the first shot in the final
trial of skill, and lands his arrow within the inner ring of the
target, but not exactly in the centre.
"'You have not allowed for the wind, Hubert,' said Locksley, 'or
that had been a better shot.'
"So saying, and without showing the least anxiety to pause upon
his aim, Locksley stepped to the appointed station, and shot his
arrow as carelessly in appearance as if he had not even looked at
the mark. He was speaking almost at the instant that the shaft
left the bow-string, yet it alighted in the target two inches
nearer to the white spot which marked the centre than that of
"'By the light of Heaven!' said Prince John to Hubert, 'an thou
suffer that runagate knave to overcome thee, thou art worthy of
"Hubert had but one set speech for all occasions. 'An your
highness were to hang me,' he said, 'a man can but do his best.
Nevertheless, my grandsire drew a good bow--'
"'The foul fiend on thy grandsire and all his generation!'
interrupted John; 'shoot, knave, and shoot thy best, or it shall
be worse for thee!'
"Thus exhorted, Hubert resumed his place, and not neglecting the
caution which he had received from his adversary, he made the
necessary allowance for a very light air of wind, which had just
risen, and shot so successfully that his arrow alighted in the
very centre of the target.
"'A Hubert! a Hubert!' shouted the populace, more interested in a
known person than in a stranger. 'In the clout!--in the clout!--a
"'Thou canst not mend that shot, Locksley,' said the Prince, with
an insulting smile.
"'I will notch his shaft for him, however,' replied Locksley.
"And letting fly his arrow with a little more precaution than
before, it lighted right upon that of his competitor, which it
split to shivers. The people who stood around were so astonished
at his wonderful dexterity, that they could not even give vent to
their surprise in their usual clamor. 'This must be the devil, and
no man of flesh and blood,' whispered the yeomen to each other;
'such archery was never seen since a bow was first bent in
"'And now,' said Locksley, 'I will crave your Grace's permission
to plant such a mark as is used in the North Country; and welcome
every brave yeoman who shall try a shot at it to win a smile from
the bonny lass he loves best.'"
Locksley thereupon sets up a willow wand, six feet long and as
thick as a man's thumb. Hubert is forced to decline the honor of
taking part in such a trial of archery skill, but his rival easily
splits the wand at a distance of three hundred feet and carries
off the prize.
"Even Prince John, in admiration of Locksley's skill, lost for an
instant his dislike to his person. 'These twenty nobles,' he said,
'which, with the bugle, thou hast fairly won, are thine own; we
will make them fifty, if thou wilt take livery and service with us
as a yeoman of our bodyguard, and be near to our person. For never
did so strong a hand bend a bow, or so true an eye direct a
shaft.'" [Footnote: Ivanhoe, Vol. 1, chap. XIII.]
Locksley, however, declares that it is impossible for him to enter
the Prince's service, generously shares his prize with the worthy
Hubert, and retires once more to his beloved haunts among the
lights and shadows of the good greenwood.
LEGENDS OF CHARLEMAGNE
Those who have investigated the origin of the romantic fables
relating to Charlemagne and his peers are of opinion that the
deeds of Charles Martel, and perhaps of other Charleses, have been
blended in popular tradition with those properly belonging to
Charlemagne. It was indeed a most momentous era; and if our
readers will have patience, before entering on the perusal of the
fabulous annals which we are about to lay before them, to take a
rapid survey of the real history of the times, they will find it
hardly less romantic than the tales of the poets.
In the century beginning from the year 600, the countries
bordering upon the native land of our Saviour, to the east and
south, had not yet received his religion. Arabia was the seat of
an idolatrous religion resembling that of the ancient Persians,
who worshipped the sun, moon, and stars. In Mecca, in the year
571, Mahomet was born, and here, at the age of forty, he
proclaimed himself the prophet of God, in dignity as superior to
Christ as Christ had been to Moses. Having obtained by slow
degrees a considerable number of disciples, he resorted to arms to
diffuse his religion. The energy and zeal of his followers, aided
by the weakness of the neighboring nations, enabled him and his
successors to spread the sway of Arabia and the religion of
Mahomet over the countries to the east as far as the Indus,
northward over Persia and Asia Minor, westward over Egypt and the
southern shores of the Mediterranean, and thence over the
principal portion of Spain. All this was done within one hundred
years from the Hegira, or flight of Mahomet from Mecca to Medina,
which happened in the year 622, and is the era from which
Mahometans reckon time, as we do from the birth of Christ.
From Spain the way was open for the Saracens (so the followers of
Mahomet were called) into France, the conquest of which, if
achieved, would have been followed very probably by that of all
the rest of Europe, and would have resulted in the banishment of
Christianity from the earth. For Christianity was not at that day
universally professed, even by those nations which we now regard
as foremost in civilization. Great part of Germany, Britain,
Denmark, and Russia were still pagan or barbarous.
At that time there ruled in France, though without the title of
king, the first of those illustrious Charleses of whom we have
spoken, Charles Martel, the grandfather of Charlemagne. The
Saracens of Spain had made incursions into France in 712 and 718,
and had retired, carrying with them a vast booty. In 725, Anbessa,
who was then the Saracen governor of Spain, crossed the Pyrenees
with a numerous army, and took by storm the strong town of
Carcassone. So great was the terror excited by this invasion, that
the country for a wide extent submitted to the conqueror, and a
Mahometan governor for the province was appointed and installed at
Narbonne. Anbessa, however, received a fatal wound in one of his
engagements, and the Saracens, being thus checked from further
advance, retired to Narbonne.
In 732 the Saracens again invaded France under Abdalrahman,
advanced rapidly to the banks of the Garonne, and laid siege to
Bordeaux. The city was taken by assault and delivered up to the
soldiery. The invaders still pressed forward, and spread over the
territories of Orleans, Auxerre and Sens. Their advanced parties
were suddenly called in by their chief, who had received
information of the rich abbey of St. Martin of Tours, and resolved
to plunder and destroy it.
Charles during all this time had done nothing to oppose the
Saracens, for the reason that the portion of France over which
their incursions had been made was not at that time under his
dominion, but constituted an independent kingdom, under the name
of Aquitaine, of which Eude was king. But now Charles became
convinced of the danger, and prepared to encounter it. Abdalrahman
was advancing toward Tours, when intelligence of the approach of
Charles, at the head of an army of Franks, compelled him to fall
back upon Poitiers, in order to seize an advantageous field of
Charles Martel had called together his warriors from every part of
his dominions, and, at the head of such an army as had hardly ever
been seen in France, crossed the Loire, probably at Orleans, and,
being joined by the remains of the army of Aquitaine, came in
sight of the Arabs in the month of October, 732. The Saracens seem
to have been aware of the terrible enemy they were now to
encounter, and for the first time these formidable conquerors
hesitated. The two armies remained in presence during seven days
before either ventured to begin the attack; but at length the
signal for battle was given by Abdalrahman, and the immense mass
of the Saracen army rushed with fury on the Franks. But the heavy
line of the Northern warriors remained like a rock, and the
Saracens, during nearly the whole day, expended their strength in
vain attempts to make any impression upon them. At length, about
four o'clock in the afternoon, when Abdalrahman was preparing for
a new and desperate attempt to break the line of the Franks, a
terrible clamor was heard in the rear of the Saracens. It was King
Eude, who, with his Aquitanians, had attacked their camp, and a
great part of the Saracen army rushed tumultuously from the field
to protect their plunder. In this moment of confusion the line of
the Franks advanced, and, sweeping the field before it, carried
fearful slaughter amongst the enemy. Abdalrahman made desperate
efforts to rally his troops, but when he himself, with the bravest
of his officers, fell beneath the swords of the Christians, all
order disappeared, and the remains of his army sought refuge in
their immense camp, from which Eude and his Aquitanians had been
repulsed. It was now late, and Charles, unwilling to risk an
attack on the camp in the dark, withdrew his army, and passed the
night in the plain, expecting to renew the battle in the morning.
Accordingly, when daylight came, the Franks drew up in order of
battle, but no enemy appeared; and when at last they ventured to
approach the Saracen camp they found it empty. The invaders had
taken advantage of the night to begin their retreat, and were
already on their way back to Spain, leaving their immense plunder
behind to fall into the hands of the Franks.
This was the celebrated battle of Tours, in which vast numbers of
the Saracens were slain, and only fifteen hundred of the Franks.
Charles received the surname of Martel (the Hammer) in consequence
of this victory.
The Saracens, notwithstanding this severe blow, continued to hold
their ground in the south of France; but Pepin, the son of Charles
Martel, who succeeded to his father's power, and assumed the title
of king, successively took from them the strong places they held;
and in 759, by the capture of Narbonne, their capital,
extinguished the remains of their power in France.
Charlemagne, or Charles the Great, succeeded his father, Pepin, on
the throne in the year 768. This prince, though the hero of
numerous romantic legends, appears greater in history than in
fiction. Whether we regard him as a warrior or as a legislator, as
a patron of learning or as the civilizer of a barbarous nation, he
is entitled to our warmest admiration. Such he is in history; but
the romancers represent him as often weak and passionate, the
victim of treacherous counsellors, and at the mercy of turbulent
barons, on whose prowess he depends for the maintenance of his
throne. The historical representation is doubtless the true one,
for it is handed down in trustworthy records, and is confirmed by
the events of the age. At the height of his power, the French
empire extended over what we now call France, Germany,
Switzerland, Holland, Belgium, and great part of Italy.
In the year 800 Charlemagne, being in Rome, whither he had gone
with a numerous army to protect the Pope, was crowned by the
Pontiff Emperor of the West. On Christmas day Charles entered the
Church of St. Peter, as if merely to take his part in the
celebration of the mass with the rest of the congregation. When he
approached the altar and stooped in the act of prayer the Pope
stepped forward and placed a crown of gold upon his head; and
immediately the Roman people shouted, "Life and victory to Charles
the August, crowned by God the great and pacific Emperor of the
Romans." The Pope then prostrated himself before him, and paid him
reverence, according to the custom established in the times of the
ancient Emperors, and concluded the ceremony by anointing him with
Charlemagne's wars were chiefly against the pagan and barbarous
people, who, under the name of Saxons, inhabited the countries now
called Hanover and Holland. He also led expeditions against the
Saracens of Spain; but his wars with the Saracens were not carried
on, as the romances assert, in France, but on the soil of Spain.
He entered Spain by the Eastern Pyrenees, and made an easy
conquest of Barcelona and Pampeluna. But Saragossa refused to open
her gates to him, and Charles ended by negotiating and accepting a
vast sum of gold as the price of his return over the Pyrenees.
On his way back, he marched with his whole army through the gorges
of the mountains by way of the valleys of Engui, Eno, and
Roncesvalles. The chief of this region had waited upon
Charlemagne, on his advance, as a faithful vassal of the monarchy;
but now, on the return of the Franks, he had called together all
the wild mountaineers who acknowledged him as their chief, and
they occupied the heights of the mountains under which the army
had to pass. The main body of the troops met with no obstruction,
and received no intimation of danger; but the rear-guard, which
was considerably behind, and encumbered with its plunder, was
overwhelmed by the mountaineers in the pass of Roncesvalles, and
slain to a man. Some of the bravest of the Prankish chiefs
perished on this occasion, among whom is mentioned Roland or
Orlando, governor of the marches or frontier of Brittany. His name
became famous in after times, and the disaster of Roncesvalles and
death of Roland became eventually the most celebrated episode in
the vast cycle of romance.
Though after this there were hostile encounters between the armies
of Charlemagne and the Saracens, they were of small account, and
generally on the soil of Spain. Thus the historical foundation for
the stories of the romancers is but scanty, unless we suppose the
events of an earlier and of a later age to be incorporated with
those of Charlemagne's own time.
There is, however, a pretended history, which for a long time was
admitted as authentic, and attributed to Turpin, Archbishop of
Rheims, a real personage of the time of Charlemagne. Its title is
"History of Charles the Great and Orlando." It is now
unhesitatingly considered as a collection of popular traditions,
produced by some credulous and unscrupulous monk, who thought to
give dignity to his romance by ascribing its authorship to a well-
known and eminent individual. It introduces its pretended author,
Bishop Turpin, in this manner:
"Turpin, Archbishop of Rheims, the friend and secretary of Charles
the Great, excellently skilled in sacred and profane literature,
of a genius equally adapted to prose and verse, the advocate of
the poor, beloved of God in his life and conversation, who often
fought the Saracens, hand to hand, by the Emperor's side, he
relates the acts of Charles the Great in one book, and flourished
under Charles and his son Louis, to the year of our Lord eight
hundred and thirty."
The titles of some of Archbishop Turpin's chapters will show the
nature of his history. They are these: "Of the Walls of Pampeluna,
that fell of themselves." "Of the War of the holy Facundus, where
the Spears grew." (Certain of the Christians fixed their spears in
the evening, erect in the ground, before the castle; and found
them, in the morning, covered with bark and branches.) "How the
Sun stood still for Three Days, and of the Slaughter of Four
Turpin's history has perhaps been the source of the marvellous
adventures which succeeding poets and romancers have accumulated
around the names of Charlemagne and his Paladins, or Peers. But
Ariosto and the other Italian poets have drawn from different
sources, and doubtless often from their own invention, numberless
other stories which they attribute to the same heroes, not
hesitating to quote as their authority "the good Turpin," though
his history contains no trace of them; and the more outrageous the
improbability, or rather the impossibility, of their narrations,
the more attentive are they to cite "the Archbishop," generally
adding their testimonial to his unquestionable veracity.
The principal Italian poets who have sung the adventures of the
peers of Charlemagne are Pulci, Boiardo, and Ariosto. The
characters of Orlando, Rinaldo, Astolpho, Gano, and others, are
the same in all, though the adventures attributed to them are
different. Boiardo tells us of the loves of Orlando, Ariosto of
his disappointment and consequent madness, Pulci of his death.
Ogier, the Dane, is a real personage. History agrees with romance
in representing him as a powerful lord who, originally from
Denmark and a Pagan, embraced Christianity, and took service under
Charlemagne. He revolted from the Emperor, and was driven into
exile. He afterwards led one of those bands of piratical Northmen
which ravaged France under the reigns of Charlemagne's degenerate
successors. The description which an ancient chronicler gives of
Charlemagne, as described by Ogier, is so picturesque, that we are
tempted to transcribe it. Charlemagne was advancing to the siege
of Pavia. Didier, King of the Lombards, was in the city with
Ogier, to whom he had given refuge. When they learned that the
king was approaching they mounted a high tower, whence they could
see far and wide over the country. "They first saw advancing the
engines of war, fit for the armies of Darius or Julius Caesar.
'There is Charlemagne,' said Didier. 'No,' said Ogier. The Lombard
next saw a vast body of soldiers, who filled all the plain.
'Certainly Charles advanced with that host,' said the king. 'Not
yet,' replied Ogier. 'What hope for us,' resumed the king, 'if he
brings with him a greater host than that?' At last Charles
appeared, his head covered with an iron helmet, his hands with
iron gloves, his breast and shoulders with a cuirass of iron, his
left hand holding an iron lance, while his right hand grasped his
sword. Those who went before the monarch, those who marched at his
side, and those who followed him, all had similar arms. Iron
covered the fields and the roads; iron points reflected the rays
of the sun. This iron, so hard, was borne by a people whose hearts
were harder still. The blaze of the weapons flashed terror into
the streets of the city."
This picture of Charlemagne in his military aspect would be
incomplete without a corresponding one of his "mood of peace." One
of the greatest of modern historians, M. Guizot, has compared the
glory of Charlemagne to a brilliant meteor, rising suddenly out of
the darkness of barbarism to disappear no less suddenly in the
darkness of feudalism. But the light of this meteor was not
extinguished, and reviving civilization owed much that was
permanently beneficial to the great Emperor of the Franks. His
ruling hand is seen in the legislation of his time, as well as in
the administration of the laws. He encouraged learning; he upheld
the clergy, who were the only peaceful and intellectual class,
against the encroaching and turbulent barons; he was an
affectionate father, and watched carefully over the education of
his children, both sons and daughters. Of his encouragement of
learning we will give some particulars.
He caused learned men to be brought from Italy and from other
foreign countries to revive the public schools of France, which
had been prostrated by the disorders of preceding times. He
recompensed these learned men liberally, and kept some of them
near himself, honoring them with his friendship. Of these the most
celebrated is Alcuin, an Englishman, whose writings still remain,
and prove him to have been both a learned and a wise man. With the
assistance of Alcuin, and others like him, he founded an academy
or royal school, which should have the direction of the studies of
all the schools of the kingdom. Charlemagne himself was a member
of this academy on equal terms with the rest. He attended its
meetings, and fulfilled all the duties of an academician. Each
member took the name of some famous man of antiquity. Alcuin
called himself Horace, another took the name of Augustin, a third
of Pindar. Charlemagne, who knew the Psalms by heart, and who had
an ambition to be, according to his conception, A KING AFTER GOD'S
OWN HEART, received from his brother academicians the name of
Of the respect entertained for him by foreign nations an
interesting proof is afforded in the embassy sent to him by the
Caliph of the Arabians, the celebrated Haroun al Raschid, a prince
in character and conduct not unlike to Charlemagne. The
ambassadors brought with them, besides other rich presents, a
clock, the first that was seen in Europe, which excited universal
admiration. It had the form of a twelve-sided edifice with twelve
doors. These doors formed niches, in each of which was a little
statue representing one of the hours. At the striking of the hour
the doors, one for each stroke, was seen to open, and from the
doors to issue as many of the little statues, which, following one
another, marched gravely round the tower. The motion of the clock
was caused by water, and the striking was effected by balls of
brass equal to the number of the hours, which fell upon a cymbal
of the same metal, the number falling being determined by the
discharge of the water, which, as it sunk in the vessel, allowed
Charlemagne was succeeded by his son Louis, a well-intentioned but
feeble prince, in whose reign the fabric reared by Charles began
rapidly to crumble. Louis was followed successively by two
Charleses, incapable princes, whose weak and often tyrannical
conduct is no doubt the source of incidents of that character
ascribed in the romances to Charlemagne.
The lawless and disobedient deportment of Charles's paladins,
instances of which are so frequent in the romantic legends, was
also a trait of the declining empire, but not of that of
THE PEERS, OR PALADINS
The twelve most illustrious knights of Charlemagne were called
Peers, for the equality that reigned among them; while the name of
Paladins, also conferred on them, implies that they were inmates
of the palace and companions of the king. Their names are always
given alike by the romancers, yet we may enumerate the most
distinguished of them as follows: Orlando or Roland (the former
the Italian, the latter the French form of the name), favorite
nephew of Charlemagne; Rinaldo of Montalban, cousin of Orlando;
Namo, Duke of Bavaria; Salomon, king of Brittany; Turpin, the
Archbishop; Astolpho, of England; Ogier, the Dane; Malagigi, the
Enchanter; and Florismart, the friend of Orlando. There were
others who are sometimes named as paladins, and the number cannot
be strictly limited to twelve. Charlemagne himself must be counted
one, and Ganelon, or Gano, of Mayence, the treacherous enemy of
all the rest, was rated high on the list by his deluded sovereign,
who was completely the victim of his arts.
We shall introduce more particularly to our readers a few of the
principal peers, leaving the others to make their own introduction
as they appear in the course of our narrative. We begin with
Milon, or Milone, a knight of great family, and distantly related
to Charlemagne, having secretly married Bertha, the Emperor's
sister, was banished from France, and excommunicated by the Pope.
After a long and miserable wandering on foot as mendicants Milon
and his wife arrived at Sutri, in Italy, where they took refuge in
a cave, and in that cave Orlando was born. There his mother
continued, deriving a scanty support from the compassion of the
neighboring peasants; while Milon, in quest of honor and fortune,
went into foreign lands. Orlando grew up among the children of the
peasantry, surpassing them all in strength and manly graces. Among
his companions in age, though in station far more elevated, was
Oliver, son of the governor of the town. Between the two boys a
feud arose that led to a fight, in which Orlando thrashed his
rival; but this did not prevent a friendship springing up between
the two, which lasted through life.
Orlando was so poor that he was sometimes half naked. As he was a
favorite of the boys, one day four of them brought some cloth to
make him clothes. Two brought white and two red; and from this
circumstance Orlando took his coat-of-arms, or quarterings.
When Charlemagne was on his way to Rome to receive the imperial
crown he dined in public in Sutri. Orlando and his mother that day
had nothing to eat, and Orlando coming suddenly upon the royal
party, and seeing abundance of provisions, seized from the
attendants as much as he could carry off, and made good his
retreat in spite of their resistance. The Emperor, being told of
this incident, was reminded of an intimation he had received in a
dream, and ordered the boy to be followed. This was done by three
of the knights, whom Orlando would have encountered with a cudgel
on their entering the grotto, had not his mother restrained him.
When they heard from her who she was they threw themselves at her
feet, and promised to obtain her pardon from the Emperor. This was
easily effected. Orlando was received into favor by the Emperor,
returned with him to France, and so distinguished himself that he
became the most powerful support of the throne and of
Christianity. [Footnote: It is plain that Shakspeare borrowed from
this source the similar incident in his "As you Like it." The
names of characters in the play, Orlando, Oliver, Rowland indicate
the same thing.]
ROLAND AND FERRAGUS
Orlando, or Roland, particularly distinguished himself by his
combat with Ferragus. Ferragus was a giant, and moreover his skin
was of such impenetrable stuff that no sword could make any
impression upon it. The giant's mode of fighting was to seize his
adversary in his arms and carry him off, in spite of all the
struggles he could make. Roland's utmost skill only availed to
keep him out of the giant's clutches, but all his efforts to wound
him with the sword were useless. After long fighting Ferragus was
so weary that he proposed a truce, and when it was agreed upon he
lay down and immediately fell asleep. He slept in perfect
security, for it was against all the laws of chivalry to take
advantage of an adversary under such circumstances. But Ferragus
lay so uncomfortably for the want of a pillow that Orlando took
pity upon him, and brought a smooth stone and placed it under his
head. When the giant woke up, after a refreshing nap, and
perceived what Orlando had done, he seemed quite grateful, became
sociable, and talked freely in the usual boastful style of such
characters. Among other things he told Orlando that he need not
attempt to kill him with a sword, for that every part of his body
was invulnerable, except this; and as he spoke, he put his hand to
the vital part, just in the middle of his breast. Aided by this
information Orlando succeeded, when the fight was renewed, in
piercing the giant in the very spot he had pointed out, and giving
him a death-wound. Great was the rejoicing in the Christian camp,
and many the praises showered upon the victorious paladin by the
Emperor and all his host.
On another occasion Orlando encountered a puissant Saracen
warrior, and took from him, as the prize of victory, the sword
Durindana. This famous weapon had once belonged to the illustrious
prince Hector of Troy. It was of the finest workmanship, and of
such strength and temper that no armor in the world could stand
A ROLAND FOR AN OLIVER
Guerin de Montglave held the lordship of Vienne, subject to
Charlemagne. He had quarrelled with his sovereign, and Charles
laid siege to his city, having ravaged the neighboring country.
Guerin was an aged warrior, but relied for his defence upon his
four sons and two grandsons, who were among the bravest knights of
the age. After the siege had continued two months Charlemagne
received tidings that Marsilius, king of Spain, had invaded
France, and, finding himself unopposed, was advancing rapidly in
the Southern provinces. At this intelligence Charles listened to
the counsel of his peers, and consented to put the quarrel with
Guerin to the decision of Heaven, by single combat between two
knights, one of each party, selected by lot. The proposal was
acceptable to Guerin and his sons. The names of the four, together
with Guerin's own, who would not be excused, and of the two
grandsons, who claimed their lot, being put into a helmet,
Oliver's was drawn forth, and to him, the youngest of the
grandsons, was assigned the honor and the peril of the combat. He
accepted the award with delight, exulting in being thought worthy
to maintain the cause of his family. On Charlemagne's side Roland
was the designated champion, and neither he nor Oliver knew who
his antagonist was to be.
They met on an island in the Rhone, and the warriors of both camps
were ranged on either shore, spectators of the battle. At the
first encounter both lances were shivered, but both riders kept
their seats, immovable. They dismounted, and drew their swords.
Then ensued a combat which seemed so equal, that the spectators
could not form an opinion as to the probable issue. Two hours and
more the knights continued to strike and parry, to thrust and
ward, neither showing any sign of weariness, nor ever being taken
at unawares. At length Orlando struck furiously upon Oliver's
shield, burying Durindana in its edge so deeply that he could not
draw it back, and Oliver, almost at the same moment, thrust so
vigorously upon Orlando's breastplate that his sword snapped off
at the handle. Thus were the two warriors left weaponless.
Scarcely pausing a moment, they rushed upon one another, each
striving to throw his adversary to the ground, and failing in
that, each snatched at the other's helmet to tear it away. Both
succeeded, and at the same moment they stood bare-headed face to
face, and Roland recognized Oliver, and Oliver Roland. For a
moment they stood still; and the next, with open arms, rushed into
one another's embrace. "I am conquered," said Orlando. "I yield
me." said Oliver.
The people on the shore knew not what to make of all this.
Presently they saw the two late antagonists standing hand in hand,
and it was evident the battle was at an end. The knights crowded
round them, and with one voice hailed them as equals in glory. If
there were any who felt disposed to murmur that the battle was
left undecided they were silenced by the voice of Ogier the Dane,
who proclaimed aloud that all had been done that honor required,
and declared that he would maintain that award against all
The quarrel with Guerin and his sons being left undecided, a truce
was made for four days, and in that time, by the efforts of Duke
Namo on the one side, and of Oliver on the other, a reconciliation
was effected. Charlemagne, accompanied by Guerin and his valiant
family, marched to meet Marsilius, who hastened to retreat across
Rinaldo was one of the four sons of Aymon, who married Aya, the
sister of Charlemagne. Thus Rinaldo was nephew to Charlemagne and
cousin of Orlando.
When Rinaldo had grown old enough to assume arms Orlando had won
for himself an illustrious name by his exploits against the
Saracens, whom Charlemagne and his brave knights had driven out of
France. Orlando's fame excited a noble emulation in Rinaldo. Eager
to go in pursuit of glory, he wandered in the country near Paris,
and one day saw at the foot of a tree a superb horse, fully
equipped and loaded with a complete suit of armor. Rinaldo clothed
himself in the armor and mounted the horse, but took not the
sword. On the day when, with his brothers, he had received the
honor of knighthood from the Emperor he had sworn never to bind a
sword to his side till he had wrested one from some famous knight.
Rinaldo took his way to the forest of Arden, celebrated for so
many adventures. Hardly had he entered it when he met an old man,
bending under the weight of years, and learned from him that the
forest was infested with a wild horse, untamable, that broke and
overturned everything that opposed his career. To attack him, he
said, or even to meet him, was certain death. Rinaldo, far from
being alarmed, showed the most eager desire to combat the animal.
This was the horse Bayard, afterward so famous. He had formerly
belonged to Amadis of Gaul. After the death of that hero he had
been held under enchantment by the power of a magician, who
predicted that, when the time came to break the spell, he should
be subdued by a knight of the lineage of Amadis, and not less
brave than he.
To win this wonderful horse it was necessary to conquer him by
force or skill; for from the moment when he should be thrown down
he would become docile and manageable. His habitual resort was a
cave on the borders of the forest; but woe be to any one who
should approach him, unless gifted with strength and courage more
than mortal. Having told this, the old man departed. He was not,
in fact, an old man, but Malagigi, the enchanter, cousin of
Rinaldo, who, to favor the enterprises of the young knight, had
procured for him the horse and armor which he so opportunely
found, and now put him in the way to acquire a horse unequalled in
Rinaldo plunged into the forest, and spent many days in seeking
Bayard, but found no traces of him. One day he encountered a
Saracen knight, with whom he made acquaintance, as often happened
to knights, by first meeting him in combat. This knight, whose
name was Isolier, was also in quest of Bayard. Rinaldo succeeded
in the encounter, and so severe was the shock that Isolier was a
long time insensible. When he revived, and was about to resume the
contest, a peasant who passed by (it was Malagigi) interrupted
them with the news that the terrible horse was near at hand,
advising them to unite their powers to subdue him, for it would
require all their ability.
Rinaldo and Isolier, now become friends, proceeded together to the
attack of the horse. They found Bayard, and stood a long time,
concealed by the wood, admiring his strength and beauty.
A bright bay in color (whence he was called Bayard), with a silver
star in his forehead, and his hind feet white, his body slender,
his head delicate, his ample chest filled out with swelling
muscles, his shoulders broad and full, his legs straight and
sinewy, his thick mane falling over his arching neck,--he came
rushing through the forest, regardless of rocks, bushes, or trees,
rending everything that opposed his way, and neighing defiance.
He first descried Isolier, and rushed upon him. The knight
received him with lance in rest, but the fierce animal broke the
spear, and his course was not delayed by it for an instant. The
Spaniard adroitly stepped aside, and gave way to the rushing
tempest. Bayard checked his career, and turned again upon the
knight, who had already drawn his sword. He drew his sword, for he
had no hope of taming the horse; that, he was satisfied, was
Bayard rushed upon him; fiercely rearing, now on this side, now on
that. The knight struck him with his sword, where the white star
adorned his forehead, but struck in vain, and felt ashamed,
thinking that he had struck feebly, for he did not know that the
skin of that horse was so tough that the keenest sword could make
no impression upon it.
Whistling fell the sword once more, and struck with greater force,
and the fierce horse felt it, and drooped his head under the blow,
but the next moment turned upon his foe with such a buffet that
the Pagan fell stunned and lifeless to the earth.
Rinaldo, who saw Isolier fall, and thought that his life was reft,
darted towards the horse, and, with his fist gave him such a blow
on the jaws that the blood tinged his mouth with vermilion.
Quicker than an arrow leaves the bow the horse turned upon him,
and tried to seize his arm with his teeth.
The knight stepped back, and then, repeating his blow, struck him
on the forehead. Bayard turned, and kicked with both his feet with
a force that would have shattered a mountain. Rinaldo was on his
guard, and evaded his attacks, whether made with head or heels. He
kept at his side avoiding both; but, making a false step, he at
last received a terrible blow from the horse's foot, and at the
shock almost fainted away. A second such blow would have killed
him, but the horse kicked at random, and a second blow did not
reach Rinaldo, who in a moment recovered himself. Thus the contest
continued until by chance Bayard's foot got caught between the
branches of an oak. Rinaldo seized it and putting forth all his
strength and address, threw him on the ground.
No sooner had Bayard touched the ground than all his rage
subsided. No longer an object of terror, he became gentle and
quiet, yet with dignity in his mildness.
The paladin patted his neck, stroked his breast, and smoothed his
mane, while the animal neighed and showed delight to be caressed
by his master. Rinaldo, seeing him now completely subdued, took
the saddle and trappings from the other horse, and adorned Bayard
with the spoils.
Rinaldo became one of the most illustrious knights of
Charlemagne's court,--indeed, the most illustrious, if we except
Orlando. Yet he was not always so obedient to the Emperor's
commands as he should have been, and every fault he committed was
sure to be aggravated by the malice of Gan, Duke of Maganza, the
treacherous enemy of Rinaldo and all his house.
At one time Rinaldo had incurred the severe displeasure of
Charlemagne, and been banished from court. Seeing no chance of
being ever restored to favor, he went to Spain, and entered into
the service of the Saracen king, Ivo. His brothers, Alardo,
Ricardo, and Ricciardetto, accompanied him, and all four served
the king so faithfully that they rose to high favor with him. The
king gave them land in the mountains on the frontiers of France
and Spain, and subjected all the country round to Rinaldo's
authority. There was plenty of marble in the mountains, the king
furnished workmen, and they built a castle for Rinaldo, surrounded
with high walls, so as to be almost impregnable. Built of white
stone, and placed on the brow of a marble promontory, the castle
shone like a star, and Rinaldo gave it the name of Montalban. Here
he assembled his friends, many of whom were banished men like
himself, and the country people furnished them with provisions in
return for the protection the castle afforded. Yet some of
Rinaldo's men were lawless, and sometimes the supplies were not
furnished in sufficient abundance, so that Rinaldo and his
garrison got a bad name for taking by force what they could not
obtain by gift; and we sometimes find Montalban spoken of as a
nest of freebooters, and its defenders called a beggarly garrison.
Charlemagne's displeasure did not last long, and, at the time our
history commences, Rinaldo and his brothers were completely
restored to the favor of the Emperor, and none of his cavaliers
served him with greater zeal and fidelity than they, throughout
all his wars with the Saracens and Pagans.
It was the month of May, and the feast of Pentecost. Charlemagne
had ordered magnificent festivities, and summoned to them, besides
his paladins and vassals of the crown, all strangers, Christian or
Saracen, then sojourning at Paris. Among the guests were King
Grandonio, from Spain; and Ferrau, the Saracen, with eyes like an
eagle; Orlando and Rinaldo, the Emperor's nephews; Duke Namo;
Astolpho, of England, the handsomest man living; Malagigi, the
Enchanter; and Gano, of Maganza, that wily traitor, who had the
art to make the Emperor think he loved him, while he plotted
High sat Charlemagne at the head of his vassals and his paladins,
rejoicing in the thought of their number and their might, while
all were sitting and hearing music, and feasting, when suddenly
there came into the hall four enormous giants, having between them
a lady of incomparable beauty, attended by a single knight. There
were many ladies present who had seemed beautiful till she made
her appearance, but after that they all seemed nothing. Every
Christian knight turned his eyes to her, and every Pagan crowded
round her, while she, with a sweetness that might have touched a
heart of stone, thus addressed the Emperor:
"High-minded lord, the renown of your worthiness, and of the valor
of these your knights, which echoes from sea to sea, encourages me
to hope that two pilgrims, who have come from the ends of the
world to behold you, will not have encountered their fatigue in
vain. And, before I show the motive which has brought us hither,
learn that this knight is my brother Uberto, and that I am his
sister Angelica. Fame has told us of the jousting this day
appointed, and so the prince my brother has come to prove his
valor, and to say that, if any of the knights here assembled
choose to meet him in the joust, he will encounter them, one by
one, at the stair of Merlin, by the Fountain of the Pine. And his
conditions are these: No knight who chances to be thrown shall be
allowed to renew the combat, but shall remain prisoner to my
brother; but if my brother be overthrown he shall depart out of
the country, leaving me as the prize of the conqueror."
Now it must be stated that this Angelica and her brother, who
called himself Uberto, but whose real name was Argalia, were the
children of Galafron, king of Cathay, who had sent them to be the
destruction of the Christian host; for Argalia was armed with an
enchanted lance, which unfailingly overthrew everything it
touched, and he was mounted on a horse, a creature of magic, whose
swiftness outstripped the wind. Angelica possessed also a ring
which was a defence against all enchantments, and when put into
the mouth rendered the bearer invisible. Thus Argalia was expected
to subdue and take prisoners whatever knights should dare to
encounter him; and the charms of Angelica were relied on to entice
the paladins to make the fatal venture, while her ring would
afford her easy means of escape.
When Angelica ceased sneaking she knelt before the king and
awaited his answer, and everybody gazed on her with admiration.
Orlando especially felt irresistibly drawn towards her, so that he
trembled and changed countenance. Every knight in the hall was
infected with the same feeling, not excepting old white-headed
Duke Namo and Charlemagne himself.
All stood for a while in silence, lost in the delight of looking
at her. The fiery youth Ferrau could hardly restrain himself from
seizing her from the giants and carrying her away; Rinaldo turned
as red as fire, while Malagigi, who had discovered by his art that
the stranger was not speaking truth, muttered softly, as he looked
at her, "Exquisite false creature! I will play thee such a trick
for this, as will leave thee no cause to boast of thy visit."
Charlemagne, to detain her as long as possible before him, delayed
his assent till he had asked her a number of questions, all which
she answered discreetly, and then the challenge was accepted.
As soon as she was gone Malagigi consulted his book, and found out
the whole plot of the vile, infidel king, Galafron, as we have
explained it, so he determined to seek the damsel and frustrate
her designs. He hastened to the appointed spot, and there found
the prince and his sister in a beautiful pavilion, where they lay
asleep, while the four giants kept watch. Malagigi took his book
and cast a spell out of it, and immediately the four giants fell
into a deep sleep. Drawing his sword (for he was a belted knight),
he softly approached the young lady, intending to despatch her at
once; but, seeing her look so lovely, he paused for a moment,
thinking there was no need of hurry, as he believed his spell was
upon her, and she could not wake. But the ring which she wore
secured her from the effect of the spell, and some slight noise,
or whatever else it was, caused her at that moment to awake. She
uttered a great cry, and flew to her brother, and waked him. By
the help of her knowledge of enchantment, they took and bound fast
the magician, and, seizing his book, turned his arts against
himself. Then they summoned a crowd of demons, and bade them seize
their prisoner and bear him to King Galafron, at his great city of
Albracca, which they did, and, on his arrival, he was locked up in
a rock under the sea.
While these things were going on all was uproar at Paris, since
Orlando insisted upon being the first to try the adventure at the
stair of Merlin. This was resented by the other pretenders to
Angelica, and all contested his right to the precedence. The
tumult was stilled by the usual expedient of drawing lots, and the
first prize was drawn by Astolpho. Ferrau, the Saracen, had the
second, and Grandonio the third. Next came Berlinghieri, and Otho;
then Charles himself, and, as his ill-fortune would have it, after
thirty more, the indignant Orlando.
Astolpho, who drew the first lot, was handsome, brave, and rich.
But, whether from heedlessness or want of skill, he was an unlucky
jouster, and very apt to be thrown, an accident which he bore with
perfect good-humor, always ready to mount again and try to mend
his fortune, generally with no better success.
Astolpho went forth upon his adventure with great gayety of dress
and manner, encountered Argalia, and was immediately tilted out of
the saddle. He railed at fortune, to whom he laid all the fault;
but his painful feelings were somewhat relieved by the kindness of
Angelica, who, touched by his youth and good looks, granted him
the liberty of the pavilion, and caused him to be treated with all
kindness and respect.
The violent Ferrau had the next chance in the encounter, and was
thrown no less speedily than Astolpho; but he did not so easily
put up with his mischance. Crying out, "What are the emperor's
engagements to me?" he rushed with his sword against Argalia, who,
being forced to defend himself, dismounted and drew his sword, but
got so much the worse of the fight that he made a signal of
surrender, and, after some words, listened to a proposal of
marriage from Ferrau to his sister. The beauty, however, feeling
no inclination to match with such a rough and savage-looking
person, was so dismayed at the offer, that, hastily bidding her
brother to meet her in the forest of Arden, she vanished from the
sight of both by means of the enchanted ring. Argalia, seeing
this, took to his horse of swiftness, and dashed away in the same
direction. Ferrau pursued him, and Astolpho, thus left to himself,
took possession of the enchanted lance in place of his own, which
was broken, not knowing the treasure he possessed in it, and
returned to the tournament. Charlemagne, finding the lady and her
brother gone, ordered the jousting to proceed as at first
intended, in which Astolpho, by aid of the enchanted lance,
unhorsed all comers against him, equally to their astonishment and
The paladin Rinaldo, on learning the issue of the combat of Ferrau
and the stranger, galloped after the fair fugitive in an agony of
love and impatience. Orlando, perceiving his disappearance, pushed
forth in like manner; and, at length, all three are in the forest
of Arden, hunting about for her who is invisible.
Now in this forest there were two fountains, the one constructed
by the sage Merlin, who designed it for Tristram and the fair
Isoude; [Footnote: See their story in "King Arthur and His
Knights."] for such was the virtue of this fountain, that a
draught of its waters produced on oblivion of the love which the
drinker might feel, and even produced aversion for the object
formerly beloved. The other fountain was endowed with exactly
opposite qualities, and a draught of it inspired love for the
first living object that was seen after tasting it. Rinaldo
happened to come to the first mentioned fountain, and, being
flushed with heat, dismounted, and quenched in one draught both
his thirst and his passion. So far from loving Angelica as before
he hated her from the bottom of his heart, became disgusted with
the search he was upon, and, feeling fatigued with his ride,
finding a sheltered and flowery nook, laid himself down and fell
Shortly after came Angelica, but, approaching in a different
direction, she espied the other fountain, and there quenched her
thirst. Then resuming her way, she came upon the sleeping Rinaldo.
Love instantly seized her, and she stood rooted to the spot.
The meadow round was all full of lilies of the valley and wild
roses. Angelica, not knowing what to do, at length plucked a
handful of these, and dropped them, one by one, on the face of the
sleeper. He woke up, and, seeing who it was, received her
salutations with averted countenance, remounted his horse, and
galloped away. In vain the beautiful creature followed and called
after him, in vain asked him what she had done to be so despised.
Rinaldo disappeared, leaving her in despair, and she returned in
tears to the spot where she had found him sleeping. There, in her
turn, she herself lay down, pressing the spot of earth on which he
had lain, and, out of fatigue and sorrow, fell asleep.
As Angelica thus lay, fortune conducted Orlando to the same place.
The attitude in which she was sleeping was so lovely that it is
not to be conceived, much less expressed. Orlando stood gazing
like a man who had been transported to another sphere. "Am I on
earth," he exclaimed, "or am I in Paradise? Surely it is I that
sleep, and this is my dream."
But his dream was proved to be none in a manner which he little
desired. Ferrau, who had slain Argalia, came up, raging with
jealousy, and a combat ensued which awoke the sleeper.
Terrified at what she beheld, she rushed to her palfrey, and,
while the fighters were occupied with one another, fled away
through the forest. The champions continued their fight till they
were interrupted by a messenger, who brought word to Ferrau that
king Marsilius, his sovereign, was in pressing need of his
assistance, and conjured him to return to Spain. Ferrau, upon
this, proposed to suspend the combat, to which Orlando, eager to
pursue Angelica, agreed. Ferrau, on the other hand, departed with
the messenger to Spain.
Orlando's quest for the fair fugitive was all in vain. Aided by
the powers of magic, she made a speedy return to her own country.
But the thought of Rinaldo could not be banished from her mind,
and she determined to set Malagigi at liberty, and to employ him
to win Rinaldo, if possible, to make her a return of affection.
She accordingly freed him from his dungeon, unlocking his fetters
with her own hands, and restored him his book, promising him ample
honors and rewards on condition of his bringing Rinaldo to her
Malagigi accordingly, with the aid of his book, called up a demon,
mounted him, and departed. Arrived at his destination, he
inveigled Rinaldo into an enchanted bark, which conveyed him,
without any visible pilot, to an island where stood an edifice
called Joyous Castle. The whole island was a garden. On the
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