ORB Online Encyclopedia
The Franco-Italian 'Childhood of Roland' (Ms. Marc. XIII)
Rubric 318: Here we speak of Charles.
Sir barons, of this be certain: that the one who was the best
king of France and Normans, he was the Emperor Charlemagne;
and he was the one who endured the most pain and torment,
from the time he was a small child, (10900) and was chased
from his realm and raised with Turks and Persians. And when
he believed to have joy in everything, then Oliver and Roland
died because Ganelon betrayed them. (10905)
Great was the celebration that the Normans made; and the
Emperor rode in good spirits,  with his knights, big and
small. They pass by the Bachanel, which is the main road; they
don't stop till just before Sutri. (10910) And there [Charles] was
lodged for fifteen more days, for his knights who had endured
great trials from all the coming and going and were not entirely
well. There they rested, and didn't go further forward. And the
great emperor, Charlemagne, had a bann announced through all
of Sutri (10915) that no city- or castle-dweller should be left
who didn't come see the court of Charlemagne, that each will
have enough bread, wine and provisions. Everyone came there
who was interested. (10920) Rolandin,  who was with other
children, heard about [the bann]; when he heard it, he didn't
think anything of it; he moves with more than thirty in his
company. To the court he goes, all happy and rejoicing. But
Rolandin always goes in front, (10925) as if he were their
captain. They do not stop until [they arrive at] the great palace.
Rubric 319: How Roland went up to the palace.
Rolandin was at the palace with the other youths; no one
dared go before Rolandin. Rolandin looks in front and behind;
(10930) he sees knights all around who are sitting at tables
eating. Rolandin looks and sees the Emperor, who had a plate
bigger than the others. When Rolandin sees this, he begins to
covet it; (10935) he doesn't want to wait too long, and begins to
walk toward the King. When those servants went to meet him
and wanted to make him turn back. Then Roland made himself
so strong and firm, (10940) that he made one fall to the ground.
The King saw this, and began to joke about it; and Charlemagne
said to Naimes of Baiver, "Who ever saw such a courtly
youth?" And then he said to the usher servants, (10945) "Let
him come, don't make him stop." And these did as he wished,
when the King asked. And Roland was a real character; he
didn't go at all to any other plates, just to Charles the
Emperor's, (10950) which he saw all full of meat. When
[Roland] was near enough so that he could approach [the plate],
Roland began to eat the meat as never did any hound or dog;
Naimes of Baiver watches him carefully. (10955) Why should I
prolong the story? You couldn't have gone a few yards, when
Roland had cleared that plate. When the King saw him eat so,
he had a chair  brought, (10960) and had the boy sit there.
And when that plate was completely emptied, the King had
another brought. And the barons begin to watch him, and start
to marvel at him. (10965) But Roland didn't worry about that;
nor did he look forwards or backwards, but constantly looked at
When [Rolandin] was well-stuffed, so that he couldn't eat any
more, he began to hide the meat which seemed leftover, (10970)
and put it down his shirt to hold, together with all of the bread
that he could take. Charles saw this, and began to watch him,
and then started to ask him the reason: "Tell me, youth, look,
don't hide it from me, (10975) haven't you had enough to eat
and drink? What do you want to do with what I see you steal,
the meat and bread which I see you hide?" Said Rolandin,
"Don't be surprised; for I take them to bring to my mother,
(10980) and with her to one who is my father." The King heard
this, asked for his chamberlain. He had a white tablecloth
brought; he had it completely filled with meat and bread, and
then he had it wrapped up at the neck. (10985) And he said,
"Good boy, this you must take to your father and to your
mother; and I tell you, and I want to order you, that you come
here tomorrow to eat." Said Rolandin, "Willingly and with
pleasure." (10990) Thus when Rolandin wanted to leave, the
Emperor had two youths called: "Lords," said he, "now go after
him, and find out who his father and his mother are." And
these said, "Willingly and with pleasure." (10995)
Rubric 320: How Rolandin went home.
Rolandin went away, he was never so happy. When he was
down from the palace, he went forward; a running rabbit
couldn't have caught him, [for] he knows all the streets, the big
and small. He hasn't gone on two furlongs, (11000) when [it
seemed] to those who followed him that he disappeared in front
of them; they can't see any trace or semblance of him. They
returned to Charlemagne, and they told him how the youth
disappeared in front of them. Said the King, "Evil bums!
(11005) I almost want to hang you. But tomorrow, if the child
doesn't come to the court, neither great nor small will eat."
And Rolandin goes on, happy and rejoicing; he runs along the
pathways singing; (11010) never in his life was he so happy.
When he saw his mother, who was in front of him, he gave her
the bread and supplies. When she saw it, she was very
mournful, and said, "Good son, who gave you these supplies?"
(11015) "Mother," he replied, "A kind and courtly lord, and he
gave me all I wanted to eat." At this the lady starts to ponder:
"This is my brother, from whom this present comes." And
Rolandin said to her, laughing, (11020) "Eat, Mother, be happy
and rejoice! Tomorrow we'll have as much again. That lord told
me, who gave me the provisions." Meanwhile, here is Milon
walking in; when he saw those things, he was very happy,
(11025) because he was not accustomed to eating such
provisions. "Good son," said Berta, "you will obey my
command. Don't go there anymore for anything in this world."
Said Rolandin, "I will obey your command." He said it with his
mouth, but he didn't mean it. (11030)
And Berta said plainly to Milon: "Milon," she said, "things
are going badly for us. This is my brother from whom Rolandin
comes to us; I recognize it from the appearance of the
tablecloth. It is not without reason when he gives us
provisions; (11035) if he can recognize us, all the gold that ever
was won't save us both from death, you hanged from the gibbet,
and I burned in the flaming fire." Milon, when he heard her,
fell into a bad mood; (11040) both weep, crying tenderly. All
that day Milon stayed, relaxing, [since he] had as much food as
he needed. He didn't worry at all about Rolandin.
But the lady felt otherwise; (11045) she knew the anger and
rage of her brother. The next day she kept the child home; she
wouldn't let him go in or out, and the hour was completely
passed that the court usually sat down to eat. (11050) Rolandin
went sneaking out, so that he disappeared from in front of his
mother. Those at the court all stayed, listening; there was no
one, big or small, who dared eat if the child didn't come.
(11055) When they saw him coming, all became joyous; they
washed and went to sit. And, know truly, it was nearly after
nones, before that child came. His mother could seek him in and
out, (11060) but he is at court to eat as before.
Rubric 321: How Rolandin came to the court.
When Rolandin had come to the court, the great and small
rejoiced, because of the bann which had been made. Rolandin
was constantly before Charlemagne; (11065) there he ate with
force and strength. Naimes called lord Charles the strong,
"Emperor, sire, haven't you noticed, this is a miracle of King
Jesus: because this child is not born of a peasant. (11070) To
the look, he seems of proud strength, and I believe that he is the
child of some poor knight, of a knight who has fallen into
poverty." Again the King asked those two [youths] that at
[Rolandin's] departure, he be followed, (11075) so that the truth
be known about his father and mother. And these said, "Say no
more. We will go behind him, he won't flee at all."
Rubric 322: How Rolandin was before Charles.
Rolandin was before Charles, where he ate like a mastiff.
(11080) The boy didn't look in front or in back of him, only at
the meat and the bread and the wine. Those who were near him
rejoiced greatly; Naimes says to Charles, the son of Pippin,
"This is not the child of a barbarian: (11085) he is surely the
son of a man of high lineage, of some knight, count or paladin.
See how he is handsome? Hunger makes him haggard. I can
tell by the glances he makes. If he lives, before he reaches his
death, (11090) he will make pagan and Saracen countries
mourn. What I say, I don't say as a trick; my heart tells me
from the looks of the boy. Don't you see how he keeps his eyes
hooded? But when he raises his head and you are near him,
(11095) he seems a lion or a marine dragon, or a peregrine
Rubric 323: How Naimes speaks to Charles.
"Good King," said Naimes, "listen to my thoughts; this boy,
who is a small child, does not seem to me to be the son of a
peasant. (11100) He has the glance of a lion; do it right and
you'll have a reward, when you know his birth. If his father is
poor and gives him to us, we'll take him with us to Lyon.
(11105) In your court he'll only receive good; if he will have
enough to eat, he'll be a champion." And the King said, "And
we will indeed be good to him."
And Rolandin ate with King Charles. When he had eaten, he
didn't say yes or no. (11110) The tablecloth was prepared, and
they filled it with bread and meat and big capons, and this good
Duke Naimes had done. He gives [Rolandin] the cloth; away
goes the boy, behind him the two companions. (11115) But this
isn't worth a buttonhole, that they know where he goes or
doesn't. The King had such anger, he almost exploded; "Now
I've truly sworn to God, who suffered the Passion, the court
won't eat if the boy doesn't come!" (11120) "Good King," said
Naimes, "we'll do otherwise. Leave the planning about that
child to me; I and Teris will follow after him, on a horse or a
good nag. He will not be able avoid our following him all the
way to his house for anything in the world." (11125) Said the
King, "God's benediction."
And Rolandin goes on, singing a song; "Don't cry, Mother, I
[have for] you two good capons and white bread, not like what
we usually have (11130) which is black like charcoal." The lady
weeps, but Milon, who willingly eats those provisions, not at
Rubric 324: How Berta speaks to Rolandin.
Berta saw Rolandin, and began to cry; she took him into her
arms, and began to kiss him. (11135) "Good son," she said, "I
want to beg you that you should no longer go to that court."
"Mother," he says, "why will it annoy you? Don't I bring you
enough to eat? (11140) I don't look forward to the time when
they will have to leave; if it weren't for you, I would follow
them. He gives me food willingly and with good spirit; when
one plate is empty, he has another one brought, and of such
things as I could never eat. I pray God, to whom you make me
pray, (11145) that they never have to leave here." "Good son,"
she said, "you must swear to me that you will not go to that
court any more." Said Rolandin, though he was a youth,
"Mother," he said, "it is hard to promise; (11150) it is a thing
which is neither worthwhile to me nor convenient. You make
me spend my time in these woods; and in that palace are many
knights. And you make me suffer hunger. Since it pleases you, I
won't go there any more; (11155) but I won't swear it to you
for anything." Then Berta let him alone, but she stayed near
him all the time, so that he could neither flee nor sneak away,
nor go to the court for anything. (11160) [She stayed so close],
that as nones seemed to near, Rolandin saw the time pass when
he usually went to the court. But his mother didn't know how to
guard him carefully enough that he didn't flee away by a path.
(11165) When he come near the court, everyone cries, "Here's
the youth!" Then the barons sat to eat; and Rolandin didn't
forget it. He ate exactly as he had since the start. (11170) When
he had eaten, and he wanted to leave, the King had a tablecloth
brought and filled entirely with bread and meat. Before he left
the palace, Naimes and Teris mounted their horses without
delay; (11175) when the child goes forward, they follow.
Rubric 325: How Naimes follows Rolandin.
Away goes Rolandin, wandering on his route; Naimes and
Teris follow directly behind him. When they come near the
boy's house, his mother comes out, crying tenderly. (11180)
Now listen to Naimes and Teris together; they see the lady in
front of the house. When Berta saw them, she was horribly
pained; she was trembling all over because of the fear she had.
And she said, "Sirs, what are you looking for? (11185) I'm not
the one you're seeking." And Naimes looked at her, he was
surprised at her reactions. He recognized her from her face and
appearance. He kneeled before her immediately; "Lady," said
he, "don't fear at all; (11190) you will not have any
annoyance." Rolandin, when he saw them, took up a pole; he
would have wounded Naimes with it, right in the head, but his
mother won't allow it at all. Now here is Milon, [returning]
from the woods (11195) with a huge bundle of wood, very
heavy. When he saw those people, he was very afraid; he tossed
it to the ground, with great irritation, and the earth trembled in
front of him and behind. When he had done that, he began to
flee, (11200) but Duke Naimes will not allow it. [Naimes] calls
to him "Don't go any further!" He makes [Milon] return against
his own better judgement.
Rubric 326: How Naimes speaks.
Naimes, who was wise and talented, spoke: "Sir," he said,
"don't be frightened at all; (11205) you will not be punished in
any way. And you, Teris, will go tomorrow immediately into
the city, and have clothing made as it should be for a queen and
privy count; (11210) and for this boy, a quartered outfit." Said
Teris, "Certainly it will be done." He goes into the city; he had
all the tailors whom he found there sew that clothing, (11215)
and he paid them
as they required. When this was done, he returned.
When it was delivered to Naimes, Milon and Berta were
changed and dressed. And Rolandin was not forgotten; (11220)
his clothing was made and put together. To a quarter he was
entitled, and that insignia  he wore throughout his life. When
Rolandin saw himself so dressed, he was greatly delighted.
(11225) All together they gathered; they all went toward the
city. Before they entered the palace, Duke Naimes preceded
them; he presented himself before Charles. (11230)
The King saw him, and asked: "And as for the child, what
have you done?" And [Naimes] replied, "You will know all
about it; you have granted me a gift, according to my wishes
and desires." (11235) The King replied, "That is true." And
Naimes said, "Now you will see him; this is the gift which I ask
you: Milon and Berta, whom you have exiled." Then they were
presented before him. (11240) The King saw them, and was all
upset; in his hand he holds a sharpened knife; this he would
have thrown at their heads, when Rolandin came forward. He
takes Charles by the hand (11245) and gives him a great
handshake so that blood came out through his nails. The King
saw who had [done] this to him; in all the world, east and west,
he couldn't have been happier or more joyous. (11250) To
himself he said and muttered, "This fellow will be the falcon of
Christianity." Then he said to Naimes, "The gift will be given
to you. For the love of this child, anger and desire and bad will
is forgiven them." (11255) Then Milon kneeled, and with him
Berta on the other side. And Rolandin looked around the room,
and saw the tables set.
Rubric 327: How Naimes speaks to Charles.
Before Charles stood Duke Milon, (11260) and Lady Berta of
the clear face. They ask mercy and pardon of the King; the
King hears them, furrows his brows; he replies neither good nor
bad. But God, for their redemption, (11265) gave Rolandin,
who was a young child, great discretion in his heart: "You,
gentle sir, who gave me the capons, if you do anything bad to
my mother or my father, I'll give you such a punch in the chin
(11270) that you'll wish you'd never seen me born into the
world." When Naimes heard those words, he said, laughing, to
Charles, "Watch yourself well around this young man, that you
do only good for his mother." (11275) The King took him in his
lap;  he kissed his face, mouth and forehead; and he said
thus to him: "Good son, I won't hide this from you; I will take
you for my own son as I do Charlon." This was all pleasing
to Duke Milon, and also to Duke Naimes. (11280) "My lord,"
said Naimes, "why should we [avoid discussing this]? Since you
have given your pardon, now do something that all good men
will know about: have Berta take the child, (11285) and hold
him in her arms, so that Milon marries her in front of you in
the sight of knights and footsoldiers." And Charles said, "This
is excellent advice; thus the child never hears anything but
good." (11290) And Naimes said, "You will only do good. You
will have a loyal reward."
Listen, my lords, briefly to a tale that valiant Milon said to
[the King], "Thanks to your mercy, you have given me pardon;
(11295) but I will tell you my thoughts. There is no man, youth
nor aged, who can tell in verses or song the great pain which I
have endured in the world to raise this little boy. (11300) From
a knight, I became a peasant, and I went to the woods and
Rubric 328: How Milon speaks to the King.
"Listen to me, gentle Emperor: since I had to leave France, I
have been surviving in the woods (11305) cutting wood and
bearing bundles, in order to nourish this child and my gentle
wife. And with all of that I do not want to bother you, [but]
with great difficulty I got food. [Through] your mercy, as I
hope, (11310)you will have taken that worry from me. Now I
must think of another profession, combatting and jousting with
pagans." Then Berta goes to pick up her son, to raise Rolandin
in her arms. (11315) To the honor of God, the true justice,
with the two rings which the Emperor gave them, Milon goes to
marry the lady, in the sight of the court and all the lords. There
was a great court from East and West, (11320) and the
Emperor, who had himself greatly praised, didn't want to forget
his part; according to the advice of Naimes of Baiver, he made
Milon, and the others who wanted to carry arms, knights.
(11325) All then could see Rolandin go through the room,
forwards and backwards, dressed in a quartered outfit. Everyone
sees him, and begins to praise him: "This will be the best
knight, (11330) that is ever found in Christianity. The Saracens
and Slavs have seen him born to their misfortune. This is the
one who will be the advocate [of Christianity], he will be the
warrior of all France, against pagans, Turks, and Slavs."
Leslie Zarker Morgan (April 8, 1996)
Copyright (C) 1996, Leslie Zarker Morgan. This file may be
the condition that the entire contents,including the header and this
copyright notice, remain intact.