thick forests with which they abound. After the greater part of the army had passed, the mountaineers suddenly rushed down the steeps, fell

upon the rear-guard, and the divisions intrusted with the charge of the baggage. The Franks were surprised but not disheartened ; they made a desperate resistance, and vainly tried to cut their way to the main body; but the assailants had the advantage of a light equipment and a favorable position ; the whole of the rear-guard was cut off, and the baggage plundered before Charlemagne knew that they were endangered, and the mountaineers disappeared so rapidly with their booty that all pursuit was unavailing. Such was the battle of Roncesvalles, which has been strangely exaggerated and misrepresented by writers of romance.

But though the legendary account of Roncesvalles contains a very small portion of truth, it is not devoid of historical importance, because there never was a history which possessed wider influence than this romantic tale. It was by singing the song of Roland that the Normans were encouraged at the battle of Hastings, and the French inspired to their most glorious deeds. We must therefore give an abstract of the ancient tradition.

According to the legend, Charlemagne, in a war which lasted more than seven years, had nearly.completed the conquest of Spain. The Moorish monarch, whom the romancers are pleased to designate Marsiles, in dread of total ruin held a council of his principal emirs and nobles, who unanimously recommended him to conciliate Charles by immediate submission. A Saracen ambassador, with the usual inconsistency of romance, is said to have been pitched close to the Spanish marches, and he addressed the monarch in the following words : protect you! Behold here are presents which my master sends ; and he engages if you withdraw from Spain to come and do you homage at Aix-la-Chapelle.”

Charlemagne summoned his twelve paladins to council, to deliberate on this offer. Roland strenuously opposed entering into any terms with an infidel, and declared that it was their duty to rescue Spain from the dominion of the crescent, and place it under the banner of the cross. Two of the paladins, however, Ganelon and the duke Naimes, maintained that it was contrary to the rules of chivalry to refuse grace to a conquered enemy. Charlemagne, who in the romances is represented as a perfect model of knightly courtesy, yielded to the arguments of the friends of peace, and inquired which of his peers would undertake to return with the ambassador, and bear back a suitable reply to the king Marsiles. Ganelon proffered his services, but Roland contemptuously declared him unfit for such a duty, and offered himself in his stead.

A warm debate arose in the council; Ganelon, irritated by the scorn with which Roland treated his pretensions, and indignant at some imputations on his fidelity and courage, said angrily to his rival,

- Take care that some mischief does not overtake you.” Roland, among whose virtuous qualities moderation can not be enumerated, replied, “ Go to, you speak like a fool! We want men of sense to carry our messages ; if the emperor pleases, I will go in your place.” In great irritation Ganelon replied, “ Charles is commander here; I submit myself to his will.” At these words Roland burst into an immoderate fit of laughter

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but this act of discourtesy so offended the rest of the paladins, that with one voice they recommended Ganelon as the most suitable ambas. sador to be sent to Marsiles.

The Saracenic ambassador had received private information of the angry discussion which had taken place in the imperial council. As he returned to his court, he took every opportunity of reminding Ganelon of the insult he had received, and though he did not immediately succeed, he certainly weakened the paladin's loyalty, and led him secretly to deliberate on the possibility of obtaining revenge by means of treason. At his first interview with Marsiles, he maintained the pride and dignity of a French chevalier. “ Charles is now old," said the Moorish monarch," he must be close upon a hundred years of age; does he not think of taking some repose ?" Ganelon firmly replied, “No! no! Charles is ever powerful ; so long as he has round him the twelve peers of France, but particularly Oliver and Roland, Charles need not fear a living man.” Subsequent conversations, however, enabled the Moorish monarch to work upon Ganelon's cupidity, and his jealousy of Roland, so effectually, that he agreed to supply him with such information as would enable him to cut off the rear of the Christian army, when it returned to Roncesvalles, according to the terms of the treaty.

Ganelon returned to the Christian camp, and informed the emperor that Marsiles had consented to become his vassal, and pay him tribute. Charles immediately gave orders that the army should return to France; he took the command of the van in person; the rear-guard intrusted with the care of the baggage and plunder, followed at a little distance through the passes of Roncesvalles.

In the meantime Marsiles had collected an immense army, consisting not merely of his own subjects, but of numerous auxiliaries from Barbary, Morocco, and the wild tribes in the interior of Africa. According to the instructions of Ganelon, he sent large detachments of his men to occupy the woods and mountains which overhung “ the gloomy Roncesvalles' strait."

When the Christians were involved in the pass, they were suddenly attacked, at the same moment, in front, flank, and rear. Oliver clambered up a tree in order to discover the number of the enemy. Perceiving that their hosts were vastly superior to the French, he called out to Roland, “ Brother in arms! the pagans are very numerous, and we Christians are few; if you sounded your horn the emperor Charles would bring us succor. Roland replied, “ God forbid that my lineage should be dishonored by such a deed! I will strike with my good sword Durandel; and the pagans falling beneath my blows, will discover that they have been led hither by their evil fate.”

“ Sound your horn, companion in arms !” reiterated Oliver; “ the enemies hem us in on

“No!” repeated Roland, our Franks are gallant warriors; they will strike heavy blows, and cut through the host of the foul paynim.” He then prepared his troops for action. Archbishop Turpin, perceiving that the fight would be desperate and bloody, commanded all The soldiers to kneel, and join in a general confession of faith, after which he bestowed upon them absolution, and his episcopal benediction.

The Christians made a gallant defence; but numbers finally trie

every side."


um, ned over valor. “ Down went many a noble crest; cloven was malig a plumed helmet. The lances were shivered in the grasp of Christendom's knights, and the swords dropped from their wearied arms." Turpin, Oliver, and Roland, still survived, and faintly maintained the fight. At length, Roland turning to Oliver, exclaimed, " I will sound my horn, Charles will hear us, and we may yet hope again to see our beloved France.” « Oh! shame and disgrace," answered Oliver, “ why did you not sound when first I asked you? The best warriors of France have been sacrificed to your temerity : we must die with them!” Turpin, however, insisted that the horn should be blown as a signal to the emperor; and Roland blew such a blast, that the blood spurted from his mouth, and his wounds, opened afresh, poured forth torrents. Charles, though thirty leagues distant, heard the sound, and said, “Our men are engaged at disadvantage ; we must haste to their assistance." “ I do not believe it,” replied the traitor Garelon, and dissuaded the emperor. Roland once more, with his dying breath, rung a wailing blast from the horn. Charles knew the character of the

“Evil has come upon us,” he exclaimed ; "those are the dying notes of my nephew Roland !” He hastily returned to Roncesvalles; but Roland, and all his companions, lay dead upon the plain, and the emperor could only honor their corpses with Christian burial.

Such are the salient points in the old romance, on which the song of Roland is founded. So late as the close of the fifteenth century the narrative was received as an historical fact; and when John, king of France, a little before the fatal battle of Poictiers, reproached his nobles that there were no Rolands to be found in his army, an aged knight replied, “ Sire, Rolands would not be wanting, if we could find a Charlemagne."

The devastations of the Saxons, which recalled Charlemagne from Spain, exceeded anything which Europe had witnessed since the days of Attila. Witikind, prince of Westphalia, was the leader of this dangerous revolt ; he had united his countrymen into one great national confederacy, and long maintained a desperate struggle against the whole strength of the French monarchy. He was at length irretrievably routed, and submitting to the conqueror, became a Christian. Several minor revolts in his extensive dominions troubled the reign of Charlemagne, but he quelled them all, and secured the tranquillity of Germany, both by subduing the Saxons, and destroying the last remnant of the barbarous Avars who had settled in Hungary. The brief intervals of tranquillity were spent by this wise monarch in extending the blessings of civilization to his subjects, by establishing schools, and patronising science and literature. In these labors he was assisted by Alcuin, an English monk, the most accomplished scholar of his age. Such was the fame of the French monarchy at this time, that · embassies came to the court from the most distant contemporary sovereigns. The most remarkable was that sent from the renowned Haruner-Rashíd, khaliph of Bagdad; among the presents they brought were some beautiful pieces of clock-work, which were regarded as something almost miraculous in western Europe, where the mechanical arts were still in their infancy.

But in the midst of these gloring Charlemagne was alarmed by the

appearance of a new enemy on the coasts of France, whose incursions, though repelled, filled the monarch's prescient mind with sad bodings of future danger. These were the Northmen, or Normans, pirates, from the distant shores of Scandinavia, whose thirst of plunder was stimulated by the desire of revenging the wrongs that their idolatrous brethren, the Saxons, had endured. At their first landing in France, they had scarcely time to commit any ravages, for they fled on the news of the dreaded king's approach. Charlemagne saw their departing ships without exultation; he burst into tears,* and predicted that these " sea-kings" would soon prove a dreadful scourge to southern Europe.

Probably about the same time that Charles was excited by the appearance of these pirates, whose ferocity and courage he had learned to dread during his expeditions into the north of Germany, three ships of a similar character to those described, entered one of the harbors on the southeastern coast of Britain, about a century and a half after the Anglo-Saxons had established their dominion over the southern part of the island, and given it the name of Angle-Land, or England.

Here the sight of the strange ships produced the same doubts as in France. The Saxon graf, or magistrate of the district, proceeded to the shore to inquire who these strangers were, and what they wanted. The foreigners, who had just disembarked, attacked him and his escort without provocation, slew them on the spot, pillaged the neighboring houses, and then returned to their vessels. Some time elapsed before it was discovered that these pirates were the Danes, or Normans, names with which the ears of Anglo-Saxons were destined soon to form a terrible familiarity.

Soon after the retreat of the Normans, Charlemagne was induced to visit Italy, both to quell the rebellion of the duke of Beneventum, and to rescue Pope Leo from his insurgent subjects. He succeeded in both enterprises, and the grateful pontiff solemnly crowned his benefactor EMPEROR OF THE WEST.

A project was soon after formed for re-establishing the ancient Roman empire, by uniting Charlemagne to the Byzantine empress, Irene, but this was prevented by the factions of Constantinople; the degraded Greeks dreaded nothing so much as the vigorous administration of such a sovereign as the restorer of the Western Empire.

Charlemagne intended to divide his dominions equally between his three sons; but two of them died while the arrangements were ir progress,

and Louis, the weakest in mind and body, became sole heir to the empire. His claims were solemnly recognised in a national assembly of the Frank nobility, at Aix-la-Chapelle; soon after which, the emperor died, in the seventy-second year of his age, universally lamented throughout his extensive dominions.

* The monk of St. Gall tells us, that when Charlemagne was asked the cause of these tears, he replied, “ My faithful friends, do you inquire why I weep thus bitterly? Assuredly it is not that I dread any annoyance to myself from the pi. racy of those wretches; but I am deeply affected to find that they have dared to visit these coasts even in my lifetime; and violent grief overwhelms me, whep I look forward to the evils they will inflict on my subjects."

SECTION II.--Decline and Fall of the Carlovingian Dynasty.

The Western Empire, established by Charlemagne, extended from the Ebro in the west to the Elbe and Raab in the east, and from the dutchy of Beneventum and the Adriatic sea to the river Eyder, which separated the Germanic tribes from the Scandinavian hordes, or, as they began about this time to be called, the Danes and Normans. It consequently included all ancient Gaul, a great portion of Spain and Italy, several islands in the Mediterranean, especially Corsica, Sardinia, and the Baleares, western and northern Germany, with a considerable part of Pannonia, or Hungary. No other European power could compete with that of the Franks; the monarchies of Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Poland, and Russia, were not yet founded ; England was still divided by the Heptarchy; the Saracenic empire in Spain was distracted by civil commotions, and the Christian kingdom of the Asturias was barely struggling into existence; finally, the By zantine empire was sunk into hopeless lethargy, and owed its continued existence only to the decay of the spirit of enterprise among the Arabs, after the seat of the Khaliphate was removed to Bagdad. But the continuation of an empire including so many nations essentially different in interests, habits, and feelings, required a superior genius in the sovereign. Louis the Debonnaire, the son and successor of Charlemagne, was deficient in every quality that a ruler should possess; foolish, weak, and superstitious, he could not make himself beloved, and he failed to inspire fear. Yielding to the suggestions of his queen, Hermengaide, Louis sanctioned the murder of his nephew Bernard, and forced the three natural sons of Charlemagne to assume the clerical tonsure, by which they were for ever prevented from taking a share in temporal affairs. These crimes had scarcely been committed when Louis became the victim of remorse. Unable to stifle the reproaches of conscience, he appeared before the general assembly of his subjects, and publicly confessed that he had been deeply criminal in consenting to the murder of Bernard, and in forcing his brothers to enter religious orders; he humbly besought pardon from all present, solicited the aid of their prayers, and undertook a solemn penance. This strange scene rendered Louis contemptible in the eyes of his subjects; some doubted his sincerity, others questioned his motives, but all believed this public confession a needless sacrifice of the royal dignity. Louis chose for his second wife, Judith, the daughter of a Bavarian

His three sons were indignant at a marriage which threatened to produce new sharers in their inheritance, but nearly four years elapsed without any appearance of such an event. At length the empress gave birth to a child, afterward known as Charles the Bald, who was popularly said to be the son of her unworthy favorite, Bernard, count of Barcelona. The three former sons of Louis not only refused to acknowledge their new brother, but took up arms to force their father to dismiss his ministers and divorce his wife. After a desultory war Louis prevailed over his rebellious children, but the fatigues of campaigning broke down his feeble constitution, and put an end to his inglorious life. The seeds of discord were thickly sown during his life,


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