Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Chapter 2

CHAPTER II.
THE PEERS, OR PALADINS.

THE twelve most illustrious knights of Charlemagne were called
Peers, for the equality that reigned among them; while the name of
Paladins, also conferred on them, implies that they were inmates of
the palace and companions of the king. Their names are not always
given alike by the romancers, yet we may enumerate the most
distinguished of them as follows: Orlando or Poland (the former the
Italian, the latter the French form of the name), favorite nephew of
Charlemagne; Rinaldo of Montalban, cousin of Orlando; Namo, Duke of
Bavaria; Salomon, King of Brittany; Turpin, the Archbishop;
Astolpho, of England; Ogier, the Dane; Malagigi, the Enchanter; and
Florismart, the friend of Orlando. There were others who are sometimes
named as paladins, and the number cannot be strictly limited to
twelve. Charlemagne himself must be counted one, and Ganelon, or Gano,
of Mayence, the treacherous enemy of all the rest, was rated high on
the list by his deluded sovereign, who was completely the victim of
his arts.
We shall introduce more particularly to our readers a few of the
principal peers, leaving the others to make their own introduction, as
they appear in the course of our narrative. We begin with Orlando.

ORLANDO.

Milon, or Milone, a knight of great family, and distantly related to
Charlemagne, having secretly married Bertha, the Emperor's sister, was
banished from France, and excommunicated by the Pope. After a long and
miserable wandering on foot as mendicants, Milon and his wife
arrived at Sutri, in Italy, where they took refuge in a cave, and in
that cave Orlando was born. There his mother continued, deriving a
scanty support from the compassion of the neighboring peasants;
while Milon, in quest of honor and fortune, went into foreign lands.
Orlando grew up among the children of the peasantry, surpassing them
all in strength and manly graces. Among his companions in age,
though in station far more elevated, was Oliver, son of the governor
of the town. Between the two boys a feud arose, that led to a fight,
in which Orlando thrashed his rival; but this did not prevent a
friendship springing up between the two which lasted through life.
Orlando was so poor that he was sometimes half naked. As he was a
favorite of the boys, one day four of them brought some cloth to
make him clothes. Two brought white and two red; and from this
circumstance Orlando took his coat-of-arms, or quarterings.
When Charlemagne was on his way to Rome to receive the imperial
crown, he dined in public in Sutri. Orlando and his mother that day
had nothing to eat, and Orlando, coming suddenly upon the royal party,
and seeing abundance of provisions, seized from the attendants as much
as he could carry off, and made good his retreat in spite of their
resistance. The Emperor, being told of this incident, was reminded
of an intimation he had received in a dream, and ordered the boy to be
followed. This was done by three of the knights, whom Orlando would
have encountered with a cudgel on their entering the grotto had not
his mother restrained him. When they heard from her who she was,
they threw themselves at her feet, and promised to obtain her pardon
from the Emperor. This was easily effected. Orlando was received
into favor by the Emperor, returned with him to France and so
distinguished himself that he became the most powerful support of
the throne and of Christianity.*

* It is plain that Shakespeare borrowed from this source the similar
incident in his "As you Like it." The names of characters in the play,
Orlando, Oliver, Rowland, indicate the same thing.

ROLAND AND FERRAUGUS.

Orlando, or Roland, particularly distinguished himself by his combat
with Ferragus. Ferragus was a giant, and moreover, his skin was of
such impenetrable stuff that no sword could make any impression upon
it. The giant's mode of fighting was to seize his adversary in his
arms and carry him off, in spite of all the struggles he could make.
Roland's utmost skill only availed to keep him out of the giant's
clutches, but all his efforts to wound him with the sword were
useless. After long fighting, Ferragus was so weary that he proposed a
truce, and when it was agreed upon, he lay down and immediately fell
asleep. He slept in perfect security, for it was against all the
laws of chivalry to take advantage of an adversary under such
circumstances. But Ferragus lay so uncomfortably for the want of a
pillow, that Orlando took pity upon him, and brought a smooth stone
and placed it under his head. When the giant woke up, after a
refreshing nap, and perceived what Orlando had done, he seemed quite
grateful, became sociable, and talked freely in the usual boastful
style of such characters. Among other things, he told Orlando that
he need not attempt to kill him with a sword, for that every part of
his body was invulnerable, except this; and as he spoke, he put his
hand to the vital part, just in the middle of his breast. Aided by
this information, Orlando succeeded, when the fight was renewed, in
piercing the giant in the very spot he had pointed out, and giving him
a death-wound. Great was the rejoicing in the Christian camp, and many
the praises showered upon the victorious paladin by the Emperor and
all his host.
On another occasion, Orlando encountered a puissant Saracen warrior,
and took from him, as the prize of victory, the sword Durindana.
This famous weapon had once belonged to the illustrious prince
Hector of Troy. It was of the finest workmanship, and of such strength
and temper that no armor in the world could stand against it.

A ROLAND FOR AN OLIVER.

Guerin de Montglave held the lordship of Vienne, subject to
Charlemagne. He had quarrelled with his sovereign, and Charles laid
siege to his city, having ravaged the neighboring country. Guerin
was an aged warrior, but relied for his defence upon his four sons and
two grandsons, who were among the bravest knights of the age. After
the siege had continued two months, Charlemagne received tidings
that Marsilius, king of Spain, had invaded France, and, finding
himself unopposed, was advancing rapidly in the Southern provinces. At
this intelligence, Charles listened to the counsel of his peers, and
consented to put the quarrel with Guerin to the decision of Heaven, by
single combat between two knights, one of each party, selected by lot.
The proposal was acceptable to Guerin and his sons. The names of the
four, together with Guerin's own, who would not be excused, and of the
two grandsons, who claimed their lot, being put into a helmet,
Oliver's was drawn forth, and to him, the youngest of the grandsons,
was assigned the honor and the peril of the combat. He accepted the
award with delight, exulting in being thought worthy to maintain the
cause of his family. On Charlemagne's side Roland was the designated
champion, and neither he nor Oliver knew who his antagonist was to be.
They met on an island in the Rhone, and the warriors of both camps
were ranged on either shore, spectators of the battle. At the first
encounter both lances were shivered, but both riders kept their seats,
immovable. They dismounted, and drew their swords. Then ensued a
combat which seemed so equal, that the spectators could not form an
opinion as to the probable issue. Two hours and more the knights
continued to strike and parry, to thrust and ward, neither showing any
sign of weariness, nor ever being taken at unawares. At length Orlando
struck furiously upon Oliver's shield, burying Durindana in its edge
so deeply that he could not draw it back, and Oliver, almost at the
same moment, thrust so vigorously upon Orlando's breastplate that
his sword snapped off at the handle. Thus were the two warriors left
weaponless. Scarcely pausing a moment, they rushed upon one another,
each striving to throw his adversary to the ground, and failing in
that, each snatched at the other's helmet to tear it away. Both
succeeded, and at the same moment they stood bareheaded face to
face, and Roland recognized Oliver, and Oliver recognized Roland.
For a moment they stood still; and the next, with open arms, rushed
into one another's embrace. "I am conquered," said Orlando. "I yield
me," said Oliver.
The people on the shore knew not what to make of all this. Presently
they saw the two late antagonists standing hand in hand, and it was
evident the battle was at an end. The knights crowded round them,
and with one voice hailed them as equals in glory. If there were any
who felt disposed to murmur that the battle was left undecided, they
were silenced by the voice of Ogier the Dane, who proclaimed aloud
that all had been done that honor required, and declared that he would
maintain that award against all gainsayers.
The quarrel with Guerin and his sons being left undecided, a truce
was made for four days, and in that time, by the efforts of Duke
Namo on the one side, and of Oliver on the other, a reconciliation was
effected. Charlemagne, accompanied by Guerin and his valiant family,
marched to meet Marsilius, who hastened to retreat across the
frontier.

RINALDO.

Rinaldo was one of the four sons of Aymon, who married Aya, the
sister of Charlemagne. Thus Rinaldo was nephew to Charlemagne and
cousin of Orlando.
When Rinaldo had grown old enough to assume arms, Orlando had won
for himself an illustrious name by his exploits against the
Saracens, whom Charlemagne and his brave knights had driven out of
France. Orlando's fame excited a noble emulation in Rinaldo. Eager
to go in pursuit of glory, he wandered in the country near Paris,
and one day saw at the foot of a tree a superb horse, fully equipped
and loaded with a complete suit of armor. Rinaldo clothed himself in
the armor and mounted the horse, but took not the sword. On the day
when, with his brothers, he had received the honor of knighthood
from the Emperor, he had sworn never to bind a sword to his side
till he had wrested one from some famous knight.
Rinaldo took his way to the forest of Arden, celebrated for so
many adventures. Hardly had he entered it, when he met an old man,
bending under the weight of years, and learned from him that the
forest was infested with a wild horse, untamable, that broke and
overturned everything that opposed his career. To attack him, he said,
or even to meet him, was certain death. Rinaldo, far from being
alarmed, showed the most eager desire to combat the animal. This was
the horse Bayard, afterwards so famous. He had formerly belonged to
Amadis of Gaul. After the death of that hero, he had been held under
enchantment by the power of a magician, who predicted that, when the
time came to break the spell, he should be subdued by a knight of
the lineage of Amadis, and not less brave than he.
To win this wonderful horse, it was necessary to conquer him by
force or skill; for from the moment when he should be thrown down,
he would become docile and manageable. His habitual resort was a
cave on the borders of the forest; but woe be to any one who should
approach him, unless gifted with strength and courage more than
mortal. Having told this, the old man departed. He was not, in fact,
an old man, but Malagigi, the enchanter, cousin of Rinaldo, who, to
favor the enterprises of the young knight, had procured for him the
horse and armor which he so opportunely found, and now put him in
the way to acquire a horse unequalled in the world.
Rinaldo plunged into the forest, and spent many days in seeking
Bayard, but found no traces of him. One day he encountered a Saracen
knight, with whom he made acquaintance, as often happened to
knights, by first meeting him in combat. This knight, whose name was
Isolier, was also in quest of Bayard. Rinaldo succeeded in the
encounter, and so severe was the shock that Isolier was a long time
insensible. When he revived, and was about to resume the contest, a
peasant who passed by (it was Malagigi) interrupted them with the news
that the terrible horse was near at hand, advising them to unite their
powers to subdue him, for it would require all their ability.
Rinaldo and Isolier, now become friends, proceeded together to the
attack of the horse. They found Bayard, and stood a long time,
concealed by the wood, admiring his strength and beauty.
A bright bay in color (whence he was called Bayard), with a silver
star in his forehead, and his hind feet white, his body slender, his
head delicate, his ample chest filled out with swelling muscles, his
shoulders broad and full, his legs straight and sinewy, his thick mane
falling over his arching neck,- he came rushing through the forest,
regardless of rocks, bushes, or trees, rending everything that opposed
his way, and neighing defiance.
He first descried Isolier, and rushed upon him. The knight
received him with lance in rest, but the fierce animal broke the
spear, and his course was not delayed by it for an instant. The
Spaniard adroitly stepped aside, and gave way to the rushing
tempest. Bayard checked his career, and turned again upon the
knight, who had already drawn his sword. He drew his sword, for he had
no hope of taming the horse; that, he was satisfied, was impossible.
Bayard rushed upon him, fiercely rearing, now on this side, now on
that. The knight struck him with his sword, where the white star
adorned his forehead, but struck in vain, and felt ashamed, thinking
that he had struck feebly, for he did not know that the skin of that
horse was so tough that the keenest sword could make no impression
upon it.
Whistling fell the sword once more, and struck with greater force,
and the fierce horse felt it, and drooped his head under the blow, but
the next moment turned upon his foe with such a buffet that the
Pagan fell stunned and lifeless to the earth.
Rinaldo, who saw Isolier fall, and thought that his life was reft,
darted towards the horse, and, with his fist, gave him such a blow
on the jaws that the blood tinged his mouth with vermilion. Quicker
than an arrow leaves the bow the horse turned upon him, and tried to
seize his arm with his teeth.
The knight stepped back, and then, repeating his blow, struck him on
the forehead. Bayard turned, and kicked with both his feet with a
force that would have shattered a mountain. Rinaldo was on his
guard, and evaded his attacks, whether made with head or heels. He
kept at his side, avoiding both; but, making a false step, he at
last received a terrible blow from the horse's foot, and at the
shock almost fainted away. A second such blow would have killed him,
but the horse kicked at random, and a second blow did not reach
Rinaldo, who in a moment recovered himself. Thus the contest continued
until by chance Bayard's foot got caught between the branches of an
oak. Rinaldo seized it, and putting forth all his strength and
address, threw him on the ground.
No sooner had Bayard touched the ground, than all his rage subsided.
No longer an object of terror, he became gentle and quiet, yet with
dignity in his mildness.
The paladin patted his neck, stroked his breast, and smoothed his
mane, while the animal neighed and showed delight to be caressed by
his master. Rinaldo, seeing him now completely subdued, took the
saddle and trappings from the other horse, and adorned Bayard with the
spoils.
Rinaldo became one of the most illustrious knights of
Charlemagne's court,- indeed, the most illustrious, if we except
Orlando. Yet he was not always so obedient to the Emperor's commands
as he should have been, and every fault he committed was sure to be
aggravated by the malice of Gan, Duke of Maganza, the treacherous
enemy of Rinaldo and all his house.
At one time Rinaldo had incurred the severe displeasure of
Charlemagne, and been banished from court. Seeing no chance of being
ever restored to favor, he went to Spain, and entered the service of
the Saracen king, Ivo. His brothers, Alardo, Ricardo, and
Ricciardetto, accompanied him, and all four served the king so
faithfully that they rose to high favor with him. The king gave them
land in the mountains on the frontiers of France and Spain, and
subjected all the country round to Rinaldo's authority. There was
plenty of marble in the mountains, the king furnished workmen, and
they built a castle for Rinaldo, surrounded with high walls, so as
to be almost impregnable. Built of white stone, and placed on the brow
of a marble promontory, the castle shone like a star, and Rinaldo gave
it the name of Montalban. Here he assembled his friends, many of
whom were banished men like himself, and the country people
furnished them with provisions in return for the protection the castle
afforded. Yet some of Rinaldo's men were lawless, and sometimes the
supplies were not furnished in sufficient abundance, so that Rinaldo
and his garrison got a bad name for taking by force what they could
not obtain by gift; and we sometimes find Montalban spoken of as a
nest of freebooters, and its defenders called a beggarly garrison.
Charlemagne's displeasure did not last long, and, at the time our
history commences, Rinaldo and his brothers were completely restored
to the favor of the Emperor, and none of his cavaliers served him with
greater zeal and fidelity than they, throughout all his wars with
the Saracens and Pagans.

Thomas Bulfinch

Sorry, no summary available yet.