The Blowing of the Horn

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The Blowing of the Horn
written by John Masefield
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From "The Song of Roland."

Roland gripped his horn with might and main,
Put it to his mouth and blew a great strain.
The hills were high and the sound was very plain.
Thirty leagues thence they heard the strain,
Charles heard it, and all his train.
"Our men are fighting," said Charlemain.
And the Count Guenes answered him again,
"If another said that, we should think him insane."

Roland was broken by pain and outworn,
In great anguish he blew his horn;
Out of his mouth the bright blood did fall,
The temples of his brain were now all torn:
He blew a great noise as he held the horn.
Charles heard it in the pass forlorn,
Naimes heard it, the Franks listened all.
Then the King said, "I hear Roland’s horn;
He would never blow it if he were not overborne."
Guenes answered, "You are old and outworn.
Such words are worthy of a child new-born,
There is no battle at all, neither won nor lorn.

"Moreover, you know of Roland’s great pride,
It is a marvel that God lets him bide.
Without your command and knowing you would chide,
He took Noples, and killed the men inside,
With his sword Durendal he smote them hip and side,
Then with water washed the fields where the blood had dried,
So that his killings might never be spied.
All day long he will horn a hare and ride,
Gabbing before his peers, showing his pride,
No man would dare attack him in all the world wide.
Press on your horse now. Why do you abide?
France is still far from us over the divide."

Count Roland’s mouth bled from a vein,
Broken were the temples that held his brain,
He blew his horn in grief and in pain,
The Franks heard it and Charlemain.
The King said, "That horn blows a long strain."
Duke Naimes answered, "Roland is in pain.
There is a battle, by my hope of gain,
He here has betrayed him who did so feign;
Put on your war-gear, cry your war-cry again,
Go and succour your noble train,
You hear clearly how Roland does complain."

The Emperor made his trumpets blow clear,
The Franks dismounted to put on their gear.
Hawberks and helmets and swords with gold gear,
Men had shields and many a strong spear,
And banners scarlet, white and blue in the air to rear.
On his war-horse mounted each peer,
And spurred right through the pass among the rocks sheer:
Each man said to his comrade dear,
"If we reach Roland ere he be dead on bier,
We will strike good blows with him and make the pagans fear."
But they had stayed too long, and they were nowhere near.

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