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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882). Complete Poetical Works. 1893.


From the French. Death of Archbishop Turpin

From the Chanson de Roland

THE ARCHBISHOP, whom God loved in high degree,

Beheld his wounds all bleeding fresh and free;

And then his cheek more ghastly grew and wan,

And a faint shudder through his members ran.

Upon the battle-field his knee was bent;

Brave Roland saw, and to his succor went,

Straightway his helmet from his brow unlaced,

And tore the shining hauberk from his breast.

Then raising in his arms the man of God,

Gently he laid him on the verdant sod.

“Rest, Sire,” he cried,—“for rest thy suffering needs.”

The priest replied, “Think but of warlike deeds!

The field is ours; well may we boast this strife!

But death steals on,—there is no hope of life;

In paradise, where Almoners live again,

There are our couches spread, there shall we rest from pain.”

Sore Roland grieved; nor marvel I, alas!

That thrice he swooned upon the thick green grass.

When he revived, with a loud voice cried he,

“O Heavenly Father! Holy Saint Marie!

Why lingers death to lay me in my grave!

Beloved France! how have the good and brave

Been torn from thee, and left thee weak and poor!”

Then thoughts of Aude, his lady-love, came o’er

His spirit, and he whispered soft and slow,

“My gentle friend!—what parting full of woe!

Never so true a liegeman shalt thou see;—

Whate’er my fate, Christ’s benison on thee!

Christ, who did save from realms of woe beneath,

The Hebrew Prophets from the second death.”

Then to the Paladins, whom well he knew,

He went, and one by one unaided drew

To Turpin’s side, well skilled in ghostly lore;—

No heart had he to smile, but, weeping sore,

He blessed them in God’s name, with faith that he

Would soon vouchsafe to them a glad eternity.

The Archbishop, then, on whom God’s benison rest,

Exhausted, bowed his head upon his breast;—

His mouth was full of dust and clotted gore,

And many a wound his swollen visage bore.

Slow beats his heart, his panting bosom heaves,

Death comes apace,—no hope of cure relieves.

Towards heaven he raised his dying hands and prayed

That God, who for our sins was mortal made,

Born of the Virgin, scorned and crucified,

In paradise would place him by his side.

Then Turpin died in service of Charlon,

In battle great and eke great orison;—

’Gainst Pagan host alway strong champion;

God grant to him his holy benison.