Gateway to the Classics: The Story of Roland by James Baldwin
The Story of Roland by  James Baldwin

Back Matter


Note 1. Page 8.

"Then they saw Karl himself, the Iron King, crested with an iron helmet, his arms protected with iron bracelets, an iron hauberk sheltering his iron chest and his huge shoulders, in his left hand a lance of iron lifted upright, for his right hand was always stretched toward his unconquered sword. His knees even, which are generally left bare of mail, were covered with plates of iron. What shall I say of his leggings, which, with the whole army, were wont to be of iron? In his shield there was naught but iron; and even his horse, in color and spirit, was of iron. All those who went before him, all who marched by his side, all who followed him, imitated his costume as far as possible. Iron filled the fields and the streets; the sun's rays fell upon naught but iron: so that the people of Pavia, more glacé  by terror than by the iron itself, fell down before the glacé  iron. 'O iron! Alas, iron!' such was the confused clamor which filled the city. Otker saw all these wonders at a glance, and said to Desier, 'Behold that which thou hast so much wished to see!' And he fell down almost lifeless."—From Des Gestes de Charlemagne, written by a monk of St. Gall, about the end of the ninth century. Quoted by J. J. Ampère, in his Historie Littéraire de la France avant le xiiime Siècle.

Note 2. Page 30.

The legend of Milon and the Princess Bertha and of the boyhood of Roland is probably of Italian origin. It is related in a very old collection of romances, entitled Reali di Francia, and in a little poem of the sixteenth century, called Innamoramento di Milone d Anglante. It is the subject, also, of two Spanish romances of the sixteenth century. Another story of Roland's parentage and boyhood, very different in all its essentials, is given in an old French metrical romance of Charlemagne, written by Girard d'Amiens. The scene between Roland and Charlemagne at the banquet table, as related in this chapter, is adapted from a poem by Uhland, In Karl Simrock's Kerlingisches Heldenbuch.

Note 3. Page 32.

The story of Charlemagne's entry into Rome is probably authentic. It is given here nearly as related by Eginhard, in his Vita Caroli Magni.—See  Guizot's History of France, i. 222, and James's History of Charlemagne, 150.

Note 4. Page 41.

Charlemagne's wars with the Saxons are subjects of history rather than of legend. I have given this brief account of one of his campaigns across the Rhine, in order to acquaint you with one of the most romantic episodes in the real history of the great emperor. "We cannot be surprised." says Ludlow, "that French legend should have fastened upon the personage of Charlemagne. It is difficult to read without wonder the bare enumeration of his achievements,—how by him or by his lieutenants, the Frankish sway was carried to the Weser, the Elbe, and the Oder, the Danube. the Adige, the Po, and the Ebro; how the Irminsul was throws down in German forests; how the Pope crowned him, and the Emirs of Spain became his vassals, and the distant Khalifs assured him of their friendship."

The idol Irminsul was probably a statue, raised, originally in honor of Arminius, near the spot where he defeated the Roman legions under Germanicus, in A.D. 15. It was long regarded by the Germans with religious veneration. "The Temple of Irminsul was spacious, elaborate, and magnificent. The image was raised upon a marble column. . . . Its right hand held a banner, in which a red rose was conspicuous: its left presented a balance. The crest of its helmet was a cock. On its breast was engraven a bear; and the shield depending from its shoulders exhibited a lion in a field full of flowers."—Sharon Turner's History of the Anglo-Saxons, i. 224.

Note 5. Page 46.

The story of the Knight of the Swan was a very popular legend, and was related with many variations of incident, time, and place. Its hero is designated variously as Lohengrin, Elias Grail, Gerard Swan, Helias, and Salvius Brabo. Of all these versions, that of Lohengrin is by far the most beautiful.—See  Baring-Gould's Curious Myths of the Middle Ages.

Note 6. Page 57.

It is worthy of note, that the children of Charlemagne mentioned in the legends are quite different in name and character from those known in history. In the legends we read of Charlot, Louis, Lothaire, Gobart, Belissent, and Emma: in history we have recorded the names of Pepin, Charles, Rotruda, Adelais, Bertha Carloman, Louis, Gisla, Hildegarde, Theoderada, Hiltruda, and Rothaida. Only one, Louis, belongs to both legend and history.

The names of the twelve peers vary constantly in the different romances. In the Chanson de Roland, they are Roland, Oliver, Gerin, Gerer, Josse, Berenger, Jastor, Anseis, Gerard, Gaifer, and Turpin. In Fierabras, they are Roland, Oliver, Thierry, Geoffrey or Godfrey, Namon, Ogier, Richard, Berard, Gillimer, Aubri, Basin, and Guy of Bourgogne.

Note 7. Page 80.

Ogier the Dane was probably a real historical personage, yet we know almost nothing of the true story of his life and exploits. He is mentioned by the Monk of St. Gall under the name of Otker; and the author of the so called Chronicle of Turpin, after alluding to his heroism in the wars of Charlemagne, says, "Even unto this day, men sing of the warrior who accomplished so many wonders." There are but few of the French romances in which the name of Ogier does not occur. His earlier life is the subject of a very old poem, entitled Les Enfances d'Ogier, the date of whose composition is unknown. The story of his exploits in Italy, and of his later difficulties with Charlemagne, as related in the present volume, has been derived mainly from a long poem written by one Raimbert, a minstrel of the twelfth century.—See  Gaston Paris, Histoire Poétique de Charlemagne, p. 307. The later poets, in dealing with romances of Ogier, have added many fanciful and extravagant details not found in the earlier versions.

Note 8. Page 103.

I have introduced this episode in order to acquaint you with another French epic, The Song of the Lorrainers (Le Roman des Loherains). The story of Bego, a part of which is given here, forms the third and Brest division of the great poem, and was written by Jehan de Flagy, a minstrel of the twelfth century. "Les Loherains  is in spirit rather a Teutonic than a French epic It was written, doubtless, by Germans who had adopted the French nationality, and who could not forget that their ancestors had conquered the country which was their home. . . . It is an epic of feudal society, and as such deserves particular attention, as illustrating in a remarkable manner the institutions and customs of feudalism."—Henri Van Laun, History of French Literature, i. 149.

Note 9. Page 132.

This story is mainly derived from a poem, entitled Girart de Viane, written by Bertrand de Bar-sur-Aube in the thirteenth century. In the original version, the reconciliation of Roland and Oliver is effected by a cloud settling down between them, and an angel bidding them cease their fighting. Victor Hugo has given a modern and most beautiful version of this story in his Légende des Siècles.

Note 10. Page 146.

The tradition relating the flight of the four brothers on the back of Bayard is the origin of "the famous signboard, which may be met with half over Europe, but is especially common in France, of the four sons of Aymon astride on a long-backed charger."—Ludlow, Popular Epics of the Middle Ages.

Note 11. Page 174.

Next to the romantic legends of Roland and Ogier the Dane, none are more popular, or more widely known, than those of Reinold. In France there have been several versions of these legends; the best being contained in a long poem, entitled Les Quatre Fils d'Aymon, a modern edition of which was published at Reims, in 1861. In Germany the story of Reinold and his brothers is related in a manuscript romance of the thirteenth century, and appears in a modernized form in Die Haimonskinder, a poem published at Leipzig in 1830. In Spain these legends were embodied, in the sixteenth century, in a romance called Espejo de Caballerias (The Mirror of Chivalry). From this last-named version, Lope de Vega derived the materials for his play of Pobreza de Reynaldos. In Don Quixote  there is a humorous reference to our hero as "Reinaldos de Montalvan." "There is every reason to believe," says Ludlow, "that to this world-renowned legend we owe the scenery of one of Shakspeare's most charming masterpieces; and that Jaques nor Touchstone would ever have moralized in Arden, had not the story of the Sons of Aymon trade of its forest another 'Broceliande' of legendary lore."

Note 12. Page 191.

For the story of Roland's adventures in connection with the Princess of Cathay, and of his exploits in the Far East and in Fairyland, we are indebted chiefly to the works of the Italian poets of the fifteenth century, and more especially to the Orlando Innamorato  of Boiardo. In order to harmonize the different parts of my story, and to adapt it to my audience, I have found it necessary, in this chapter and those which follow, to deviate frequently from the original versions, while endeavoring to preserve the essential parts of the narrative unchanged.

Note 13. Page 235.

The name "Fata Morgana" is applied to an optical illusion, or mirage, frequently seen in the Strait of Messina. "Objects on the Sicilian shore are refracted and reflected upon the water in mid-channel, presenting enlarged and duplicated images. Gigantic figures of men and horses move over the picture, as similar images in miniature are seen flitting across the white sheet of the camera-obscura. The wonderful exhibition is of short duration." The most prominent figures in ancient and modern Italian legends are the Fate, fairy beings ruled by Demogorgon, and whose home is in the Himalaya Mountains. One of these, called Fata Morgana, is the personification of Fortune. In the romances of King Arthur she is called Morgan le Fay.

Note 14. Page 254.

The narrative of Roland's adventure with the orc is given in Ariosto's Orlando Furioso. It is, of course, an imitation of the old story of Perseus and Andromeda; and it illustrates the manner in which the great Italian poets mingled classical and Gothic fictions, and formed from them "a magnificent and fanciful arabesque," in which the natural and the beautiful are found side by side with the grotesque and the extravagant.

Note 15. Page 318.

The adventures of Roland with Sir Ferumbras, Sir Otuel, and the Giant Ferragus, are related in certain English poems of the fourteenth century, an analysis of which is given in Ellis's Early English Metrical Romances. These romances were doubtless all derived originally from older French versions. They are not very interesting reading; and I have not thought it necessary to do more than merely mention the exploits which they relate.

Note 16. Page 348.

The description of the land of Prester John is found in a curious letter claiming to have been written by Prester John himself to Manuel Commenus, Emperor of Constantinople about the year 1165. Similar letters were sent to other European monarchs, and were turned into rhyme and sung all over Europe by minstrels and trouvères.—See  Baring-Gould's Curious Myths of the Middle Ages.

Note 17. Page 363.

In this chapter I have ventured to give a somewhat literal rendering of one of Uhland's beautiful and characteristic poems. See Simrock's Kerlingisches Heldenbuch. "This poem," says Gaston Paris, "is admirable for its naïveté of expression, and for its vivid rendering of the ancient poetical ideas concerning Charlemagne."

Note 18. Page 376.

"The origin of this tale seems to lie in a legend of the siege of Aquileia by Attila, quoted by M. Amédée Thierry, in his Histoire d Attila, according to which the inhabitants of that town covered their escape to the lagoons by leaving their walls manned with statues in full armor in guise of sentinels."—See  Ludlow's Popular Epics of the Middle Ages.

Note 19. Page 394.

The Karlamagnus Saga  relates, that, upon the occasion of the birth of his son Louis, Charlemagne made a vow to visit the holy sepulchre at Jerusalem. He afterward performed the pilgrimage and returned by way of Constantinople, where he assisted the king of the Greeks is defending his country against the Saracens. The Greek monarch, in the excess of his gratitude, offered to become the vassal of Charlemagne; but the great king would accept only of a few relics by way of recompense for his services. Among these relics was the point of the spear which had pierced the side of the Saviour; and this he had made into a sword-blade, which he called Joyeuse. Hence, from that day, the battle cry of those who followed his standard was, "Monjoie! Monjoie!"

Note 20. Page 400.

The description of the battle of Roncevaux, which composes a part of the Chanson de Roland, is, without doubt, the finest of all the legends which cluster around the name of Charlemagme. The original poem—doubtless the song which Taillefer sang at the battle of Hastings—is said to have been written, probably in the tenth century, by a minstrel named Turold. The story of this battle is also related, with many changes of incident, in the so-called Chronicle of Turpin. Eginhard, the only historian of that period whose account can be considered authentic, says, that, in the year 778, the rearguard of the French army was attacked by the Basques while in the upper passes of the Pyrenees. "There took place a fight, in which the French were killed to a man. . . . And Roland, prefect of the marches of Brittany, fell in this engagement." Says M. Guizot, "The disaster of Roncevaux, and the heroism of the warriors who perished there, became, in France, the object of popular sympathy, and the favorite topic for the exercise of the popular fancy. The Song of Roland, a real Homeric poem in its great beauty, and yet rude and simple as became its national character, bears witness to the prolonged importance attained in Europe by this incident in the history of Charlemagne."

Note 21. Page 402.

Translation, by Sir Edmund Head, of a poem in the Libro di Romances, a collection of Spanish ballads first published in 1550.

"In Paris, Lady Alda sits, Sir Roland's destined bride,

With her three hundred maidens to tend her at her side:

Alike their robes and sandals all, and the braid that binds their hair;

And alike the meal in their lady's hall the whole three hundred share.

Around her, in her chair of state, they all their places hold:

A hundred weave the web of silk, and a hundred spin the gold;

And a hundred touch their gentle lutes to soothe that lady's pain:

And she thinks on him that's far away, with the host of Charlemagne.

Lulled by the sound, she sleeps; but soon she wakens with a scream;

And, as her maidens gather round, she thus recounts her dream:

'I sat upon a desert shore, and from the mountains nigh,

Right toward me, I seemed to see a gentle falcon fly;

But close behind an eagle swooped, and struck that falcon down,

And with talons and beak he rent the bird as he cowered beneath my gown.

The chief of her maidens smiled, and said, 'To me it doth not seem

That the lady Alda reads aright the boding of her dream.

Thou art the falcon, and thy knight is the eagle in his pride

As he comes in triumph from the war, and claims thee as his bride.'

The maidens smiled; but Alda sighed, and gravely shook her head.

'Full rich,' quoth she, 'shall thy guerdon be, if thou the truth hast said.

'Tis morn! her letters, stained with blood, the truth too plainly tell—

How, in the chase of Roncevaux, Sir Roland fought and fell."

 Table of Contents  |  Index  |  Home  |  Next: Roland and Oliver
Copyright (c) 2005 - 2023   Yesterday's Classics, LLC. All Rights Reserved.