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Chapter 24

CHAPTER XXIV.
OGIER, THE DANE.

OGIER, the Dane, was the son of Geoffroy, who wrested Denmark from
the Pagans, and reigned the first Christian king of that country. When
Ogier was born, and before he was baptized, six ladies of ravishing
beauty appeared all at once in the chamber of the infant. They
encircled him, and she who appeared the eldest took him in her arms,
kissed him, and laid her hand upon his heart. "I give you," said
she, "to be the bravest warrior of your times." She delivered the
infant to her sister, who said, "I give you abundant opportunities
to display your valor." "Sister," said the third lady, "you have given
him a dangerous boon; I give him that he shall never be vanquished."
The fourth sister added, as she laid her hand upon his eyes and his
mouth, "I give you the gift of pleasing." The fifth said, "Lest all
these gifts serve only to betray, I give you sensibility to return the
love you inspire." Then spoke Morgana, the youngest and handsomest
of the group, "Charming creature, I claim you for my own; and I give
you not to die till you shall have come to pay me a visit in my isle
of Avalon." Then she kissed the child and departed with her sisters.
After this the king had the child carried to the font and baptized
with the name of Ogier.
In his education nothing was neglected to elevate him to the
standard of a perfect knight, and render him accomplished in all the
arts necessary to make him a hero.
He had hardly reached the age of sixteen years, when Charlemagne,
whose power was established over all the sovereigns of his time,
recollected that Geoffroy, Ogier's father, had omitted to render the
homage due to him as Emperor, and sovereign lord of Denmark, one of
the grand fiefs of the empire. He accordingly sent an embassy to
demand of the king of Denmark this homage, and on receiving a refusal,
couched in haughty terms, sent an army to enforce the demand.
Geoffroy, after an unsuccessful resistance, was forced to comply,
and as a pledge of his sincerity delivered Ogier, his eldest son, a
hostage to Charles, to be brought up at his court. He was placed in
charge of the Duke Namo of Bavaria, the friend of his father, who
treated him like his own son.
Ogier grew up more and more handsome and amiable every day. He
surpassed in form, strength, and address all the noble youths his
companions; he failed not to be present at all tourneys; he was
attentive to the elder knights, and burned with impatience to
imitate them. Yet his heart rose sometimes in secret against his
condition as a hostage, and as one apparently forgotten by his father.
The king of Denmark, in fact, was at this time occupied with new
loves. Ogier's mother having died, he had married a second wife, and
had a son named Guyon. The new queen had absolute power over her
husband, and fearing that, if he should see Ogier again, he would give
him the preference over Guyon, she had adroitly persuaded him to delay
rendering his homage to Charlemagne, till now four years had passed
away since the last renewal of that ceremony. Charlemagne, irritated
at this delinquency, drew closer the bonds of Ogier's captivity
until he should receive a response from the king of Denmark to a fresh
summons which he caused to be sent to him.
The answer of Geoffroy was insulting and defiant, and the rage of
Charlemagne was roused in the highest degree. He was at first disposed
to wreak his vengeance upon Ogier, his hostage; but at the
entreaties of Duke Namo, who felt towards his pupil like a father,
consented to spare his life, if Ogier would swear fidelity to him as
his liege-lord, and promise not to quit his court without his
permission. Ogier accepted these terms, and was allowed to retain
all the freedom he had before enjoyed.
The Emperor would have immediately taken arms to reduce his
disobedient vassal, if he had not been called off in another direction
by a message from Pope Leo, imploring his assistance. The Saracens had
landed in the neighborhood of Rome, occupied Mount Janiculum, and
prepared to pass the Tiber and carry fire and sword to the capital
of the Christian world. Charlemagne hesitated not to yield to the
entreaties of the Pope. He speedily assembled an army, crossed the
Alps, traversed Italy, and arrived at Spoleto, a strong place to which
the Pope had retired. Leo, at the head of his Cardinals. advanced to
meet him, and rendered him homage, as to the son of Pepin, the
illustrious protector of the Holy See, coming, as his father had done,
to defend it in the hour of need.
Charlemagne stopped but two days at Spoleto, and learning that the
Infidels, having rendered themselves masters of Rome, were besieging
the Capitol, which could not long hold out against them, marched
promptly to attack them.
The advance posts of the army were commanded by Duke Namo, on whom
Ogier waited as his squire. He did not yet bear arms, not having
received the order of knighthood. The Oriflamme, the royal standard,
was borne by a knight named Alory, who showed himself unworthy of
the honor.
Duke Namo, seeing a strong body of the Infidels advancing to
attack him, gave the word to charge them. Ogier remained in the
rear, with the other youths, grieving much that he was not permitted
to fight. Very soon he saw Alory lower the Oriflamme, and turn his
horse in flight. Ogier pointed him out to the young men, and,
seizing a club, rushed upon Alory and struck him from his horse. Then,
with his companions, he disarmed him, clothed himself in his armor,
raised the Oriflamme, and, mounting the horse of the unworthy
knight, flew to the front rank, where he joined Duke Namo, drove
back the Infidels, and carried the Oriflamme quite through their
broken ranks. The Duke, thinking it was Alory, whom he had not held in
high esteem, was astonished at his strength and valor. Ogier's young
companions imitated him, supplying themselves with armor from the
bodies of the slain; they followed Ogier and carried death into the
ranks of the Saracens, who fell back in confusion upon their main
body.
Duke Namo now ordered a retreat, and Ogier obeyed with reluctance,
when they perceived Charlemagne advancing to their assistance. The
combat now became general, and was more terrible than ever.
Charlemagne had overthrown Corsuble, the commander of the Saracens,
and had drawn his famous sword, Joyeuse, to cut off his head, when two
Saracen knights set upon him at once, one of whom slew his horse,
and the other overthrew the Emperor on the sand. Perceiving by the
eagle on his casque who he was, they dismounted in haste to give him
his death-blow. Never was the life of the Emperor in such peril. But
Ogier, who saw him fall, flew to his rescue. Though embarrassed with
the Oriflamme, he pushed his horse against one of the Saracens and
knocked him down; and with his sword dealt the other so vigorous a
blow that he fell stunned to the earth. Then helping the Emperor to
rise, he remounted him on the horse of one of the fallen knights.
"Brave and generous Alory!" Charles exclaimed, "I owe to you my
honor and my life!" Ogier made no answer; but, leaving Charlemagne
surrounded by a great many of the knights who had flown to his succor,
he plunged into the thickest ranks of the enemy, and carried the
Oriflamme, followed by a gallant train of youthful warriors, till
the standard of Mahomet turned in retreat and the Infidels sought
safety in their intrenchments.
Then the good Archbishop Turpin laid aside his helmet and his bloody
sword, (for he always felt that he was clearly in the line of his duty
while slaying infidels,) took his mitre and his crosier, and intoned
Te Deum.
At this moment, Ogier, covered with blood and dust, came to lay
the Oriflamme at the feet of the Emperor. He was followed by a train
of warriors of short stature, who walked ill at ease loaded with armor
too heavy for them. Ogier knelt at the feet of Charlemagne, who
embraced him, calling him Alory, while Turpin, from the height of
the altar, blessed him with all his might. Then young Orlando, son
of the Count Milone and nephew of Charlemagne no longer able to endure
this misapprehension, threw down his helmet, and ran to unlace
Ogier's, while the other young men laid aside theirs. Our author
says he cannot express the surprise, the admiration, and the
tenderness of the Emperor and his peers. Charles folded Ogier in his
arms, and the happy fathers of those brave youths embraced them with
tears of joy. The good Duke Namo stepped forward, and Charlemagne
yielded Ogier to his embrace. "How much do I owe you," he said,
"good and wise friend, for having restrained my anger! My dear
Ogier! I owe you my life! My sword leaps to touch your shoulder,
yours, and those of your brave young friends." At these words he
drew that famous sword, Joyeuse, and, while Ogier and the rest knelt
before him, gave them the accolade conferring on them the order of
knighthood. The young Orlando and his cousin Oliver could not refrain,
even in the presence of the Emperor, from falling upon Ogier's neck,
and pledging with him that brotherhood in arms, so dear and so
sacred to the knights of old time; but Charlot, the Emperor's son,
at the sight of the glory with which Ogier had covered himself,
conceived the blackest jealousy and hate.
The rest of the day and the next were spent in the rejoicings of the
army. Turpin in a solemn service implored the favor of Heaven upon the
youthful knights, and blessed the white armor which was prepared for
them. Duke Namo presented them with golden spurs, Charles himself
girded on their swords. But what was his astonishment when he examined
that intended for Ogier! The loving Fairy, Morgana, had had the art to
change it, and to substitute one of her own procuring, and when
Charles drew it out of the scabbard, these words appeared written on
the steel: "My name is Cortana, of the same steel and temper as
Joyeuse and Durindana." Charles saw that a superior power watched over
the destinies of Ogier; he vowed to love him as a father would, and
Ogier promised him the devotion of a son. Happy had it been for both
if they had always continued mindful of their promises.
The Saracen army had hardly recovered from its dismay when
Carahue, King of Mauritania, who was one of the knights overthrown
by Ogier at the time of the rescue of Charlemagne, determined to
challenge him to single combat. With that view, he assumed the dress
of a herald, resolved to carry his own message. The French knights
admired his air, and said to one another that he seemed more fit to be
a knight than a bearer of messages.
Carahue began by passing the warmest eulogium upon the knight who
bore the Oriflamme on the day of the battle, and concluded by saying
that Carahue, King of Mauritania, respected that knight so much that
he challenged him to the combat.
Ogier had risen to reply, when he was interrupted by Charlot, who
said that the gage of the King of Mauritania could not fitly be
received by a vassal, living in captivity; by which he meant Ogier,
who was at that time serving as hostage for his father. Fire flashed
from the eyes of Ogier, but the presence of the Emperor restrained his
speech, and he was calmed by the kind looks of Charlemagne, who
said, with an angry voice, "Silence, Charlot! By the life of Bertha,
my queen, he who has saved my life is as dear to me as yourself.
Ogier," he continued, "you are no longer a hostage. Herald! report
my answer to your master, that never does knight of my court refuse
a challenge on equal terms. Ogier, the Dane, accepts of his, and I
myself am his security."
Carahue, profoundly bowing, replied, "My lord, I was sure that the
sentiments of so great a sovereign as yourself would be worthy of your
high and brilliant fame; I shall report your answer to my master,
who I know admires you, and unwillingly takes arms against you." Then,
turning to Charlot, whom he did not know as the son of the Emperor, he
continued, "As for you, Sir Knight, if the desire of battle inflames
you, I have it in charge from Sadon, cousin of the King of Mauritania,
to give the like defiance to any French knights who will grant him the
honor of the combat."
Charlot, inflamed with rage and vexation at the public reproof which
he had just received, hesitated not to deliver his gage. Carahue
received it with Ogier's, and it was agreed that the combat should
be on the next day, in a meadow environed by woods and equally distant
from both armies.
The perfidious Charlot meditated the blackest treason. During the
night he collected some knights unworthy of the name, and like himself
in their ferocious manners; he made them swear to avenge his injuries,
armed them in black armor, and sent them to lie in ambush in the wood,
with orders to make a pretended attack upon the whole party, but in
fact to lay heavy hands upon Ogier and the two Saracens.
At the dawn of day Sadon and Carahue, attended only by two pages
to carry their spears, took their way to the appointed meadow; and
Charlot and Ogier repaired thither also, but by different paths. Ogier
advanced with a calm air, saluted courteously the two Saracen knights,
and joined them in arranging the terms of combat.
While this was going on, the perfidious Charlot remained behind
and gave his men the signal to advance. That cowardly troop issued
from the wood and encompassed the three knights. All three were
equally surprised at the attack, but neither of them suspected the
other to have any hand in the treason. Seeing the attack made
equally upon them all, they united their efforts to resist it, and
made the most forward of the assailants bite the dust. Cortana fell on
no one without inflicting a mortal wound, but the sword of Carahue was
not of equal temper and broke in his hands. At the same instant his
horse was slain, and Carahue fell, without a weapon and entangled with
his prostrate horse. Ogier, who saw it, ran to his defence, and,
leaping to the ground, covered the prince with his shield, supplied
him with the sword of one of the fallen ruffians, and would have had
him mount his own horse. At that moment Charlot, inflamed with rage,
pushed his horse upon Ogier, knocked him down, and would have run
him through with his lance if Sadon, who saw the treason, had not
sprung upon him and thrust him back. Carahue leapt lightly upon the
horse which Ogier presented him, and had time only to exclaim,
"Brave Ogier, I am no longer your enemy, I pledge to you an eternal
friendship," when numerous Saracen knights were seen approaching,
having discovered the treachery, and Charlot with his followers took
refuge in the wood.
The troop which advanced was commanded by Dannemont, the exiled king
of Denmark, whom Geoffroy, Ogier's father, had driven from his
throne and compelled to take refuge with the Saracens. Learning who
Ogier was he instantly declared him his prisoner, in spite of the
urgent remonstrances and even threats of Carahue and Sadon, and
carried him, under a strong guard, to the Saracen camp. Here he was at
first subjected to the most rigorous captivity, but Carahue and
Sadon insisted so vehemently on his release, threatening to turn their
arms against their own party if it was not granted, while Dannemont as
eagerly opposed the measure, that Corsuble, the Saracen commander,
consented to a middle course, and allowed Ogier the freedom of his
camp, upon his promise not to leave it without permission.
Carahue was not satisfied with this partial concession. He left
the city next morning, proceeded to the camp of Charlemagne, and
demanded to be led to the Emperor. When he reached his presence he
dismounted from his horse, took off his helmet, drew his sword, and,
holding it by the blade, presented it to Charlemagne as he knelt
before him.
"Illustrious prince," he said, "behold before you the herald who
brought the challenge to your knights from the King of Mauritania. The
cowardly old King Dannemont has made the brave Ogier prisoner, and has
prevailed on our general to refuse to give him up. I come to make
amends for this ungenerous conduct by yielding myself, Carahue, King
of Mauritania, your prisoner."
Charlemagne, with all his peers, admired the magnanimity of Carahue;
he raised him, embraced him, and restored to him his sword.
"Prince," said he, "your presence and the bright example you afford my
knights consoles me for the loss of Ogier. Would to God you might
receive our holy faith, and be wholly united with us." All the lords
of the court, led by Duke Namo, paid their respects to the King of
Mauritania. Charlot only failed to appear, fearing to be recognized as
a traitor; but the heart of Carahue was too noble to pierce that of
Charlemagne by telling him the treachery of his son.
Meanwhile the Saracen army was rent by discord. The troops of
Carahue clamored against the commander-in-chief because their king was
left in captivity. They even threatened to desert the cause, and
turn their arms against their allies. Charlemagne pressed the siege
vigorously, till at length the Saracen leaders found themselves
compelled to abandon the city and betake themselves to their ships.
A truce was made; Ogier was exchanged for Carahue, and the two friends
embraced one another with vows of perpetual brotherhood. The Pope
was reestablished in his dominions, and Italy being tranquil,
Charlemagne returned, with his peers and their followers, to France.

Thomas Bulfinch

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