The Song of Roland
THE SONG OF ROLAND
SONG OF ROLAND
Done into the English, in the original measure
CHARLES SCOTT MONCRIEFF
With an Introduction
G. K. CHESTERTON
and a Note on Technique
Ma io senti’ sonare un alto corno,
Tanto ch’ avrebbe ogni tuon fatto fioco,
Che, contra sè la sua via seguitando,
Dirizzò gli occhi miei tutti ad un loco:
Dopo la dolorosa rotta, quando
Carlo Magno perdè la santa gesta,
Non sonò sì terribilmente Orlando.
Inferno: xxxi., 12–18.
CHAPMAN & HALL, LTD.
Printed in England at
The Westminster Press
411 a Harrow Road
TO THREE MEN
SCHOLARS, POETS, SOLDIERS
WHO CAME TO THEIR RENCESVALS
SEPTEMBER, OCTOBER, AND NOVEMBER
NINETEEN HUNDRED AND EIGHTEEN
I DEDICATE MY PART IN A BOOK
OF WHICH THEIR FRIENDSHIP
QUICKENED THE BEGINNING
THEIR EXAMPLE HAS
JUSTIFIED THE CONTINUING
“Mare fustes, seignurs.
Tutes voz anmes ait Deus li glorius.
En Parèis les metet en seintes flurs.”
To P. G. B.
Philip, here, at the end of a year that, ending,
Spares for mankind a world that has not spared thee;
O’er the sole fathom of earth that may know thee, bending
Dry-eyed, bitterly smiling, I now regard thee.
Friend—nay, friend were a name too common, rather
Mind of my intimate mind, I may claim thee lover:
Thoughts of thy mind blown fresh from the void I gather;
Half of my limbs, head, heart in thy grave I cover:
I who, the soldier first, had at first designed thee
Heir, now health, strength, life itself would I give thee.
More than all that has journeyed hither to find thee,
Half a life from the wreckage saved to survive thee.
Fare thee well then hence; for the scrutinous Devil
Finds no gain in the faults of thy past behaviour,
Seeing good flower everywhere forth from evil:
Christ be at once thy Judge, who is still thy Saviour,
Who too suffered death for thy soul’s possession;
Pardoned then thine offences, nor weighed the merit:
God the Father, hearing His intercession,
Calls thee home to Him. God the Holy Spirit
Grant thee rest therefore: a quiet crossing
From here to the further side, and a safe landing
There, no shore-waves breaking nor breeze tossing,
In the Peace of God, which passeth our understanding.
To W. E. S. O.
When, in the centuries of time to come,
Men shall be happy and rehearse thy fame,
Shall I be spoken of then, or they grow dumb,
Recall these numbers and forget this name?
Part of thy praise, shall my dull verses live
In thee, themselves—as life without thee—vain?
So should I halt, oblivion’s fugitive,
Turn, stand, smile, know myself a man again.
I care not: not the glorious boasts of men
Could wake my pride, were I in Heaven with thee;
Nor any breath of envy touch me, when,
Swept from the embrace of mortal memory
Beyond the stars light, in the eternal day,
Our two contented ghosts together stay.
To I. H. T. M.
Like fire I saw thee
Smiling, running, leaping, glancing and consuming;
Like fire thine ardent body moving;
Scorching and scouring the mind’s waste places
Like fire: like fire extinguished.
Now in my hands
Holding thy book, these ashes of thee;
Still fire I know thee
Gloriously somewhere burning,
Who wast so keen, more keenly;
Who wast so pure, more purely;
Beyond my vision,
Somewhere before God’s Face,