Lady Bertha sat in the rocky cleft,
Her bitter woes to weep;
Little Roland played in the free fresh air;
His sorrows were not deep.
“My royal brother, O King Charles,
Why did I fly from thee?
Splendor and rank I left for love;
Now thou art wroth with me.
“O Milon, Milon, husband dear!
Beneath the waves art thou;
For love I have forsaken all,
Yet love forsakes me now.
“O Roland! thou, my dearest boy,
Now fame and love to me;
Come quickly, little Roland, come!
My hope rests all on thee.
“Go to the city, Roland, go!
To beg us meat and bread;
And whoso gives the smallest gift,
Ask blessings on his head.”
Now great King Charles at table sat,
In the golden hall of state;
With dish and cup the servants ran,
On the noble guests to wait.
Flute, harp, and minstrelsy now tune
All hearts to joyful mood;
The cheerful music does not reach
To Bertha’s solitude.
Before the hall in the court-yard sat
Of beggars a motley throng;
The meat and drink was more to them
Than flute, and harp, and song.
The king looked out, through the open door,
Upon the beggar throng;
Through the crowd he saw a noble boy,
Pushing his way along.
Strange was the little fellow’s dress,
Of divers colors all;
But with the beggars he would not stay,—
He looked up at the hall.
Within the hall little Roland treads,
As though it were his own;
He takes a dish from the royal board
In silence, and is gone.
The king he thinks,—”What do I see?
This is a curious way”;
But, as he quietly submits,
The rest do nothing say.
In a little while again he comes,
To the king he marches up,
And little Roland boldly takes
The royal golden cup.
“Halloo! stop there! thou saucy wight!”
King Charles’s voice did ring;
Little Roland kept the golden cup,
And looked up at the king.
The king at first looked angrily;
But very soon he smiled:—
“You tread here in our golden hall,
As in the green woods wild.
“From the royal table you take a dish,
As they take an apple from a tree;
As with the waters of the brook,
With my red wine you make free.”
“The peasant drinks from the running brook,
On apples she may dine;
My mother must have fish and game,
For her is the foaming wine.”
“Is thy mother such a noble dame
As thou, my boy, dost boast,
Then surely has she a castle fair,
And of vassals a stately host.
“Tell me, who may her sewer be?
And who cupbearer, too?”
“My own right hand her sewer is;
My left, cupbearer true.”
“Tell on; who are her faithful guards?”
“My two blue eyes alway.”
“Tell on; who is her minstrel free?”
“My rosy mouth, I say.”
“Brave servants has the dame, indeed;
But does strange livery choose,—
Made up of colors manifold,
Shining with rainbow hues.”
“From each quarter of the city,
With eight boys I have fought;
Four sorts of cloth to the conqueror,
As tribute, they have brought.”
“The best of servants, to my mind,
The dame’s must surely be;
She is, I wot, the beggar’s queen,
Who keeps a table free.
“The noble lady should not far
From my royal palace be;
Arise, three ladies, and three lords,
And bring her in to me.”
Little Roland, holding fast the cup,
From the splendid hall he hies;
To follow him, at the king’s command,
Three lords, three ladies, rise.
And after now a little while,
The king sees, far away,
The noble ladies and the knights
Return without delay.
The king he cries out suddenly,—
“Help, Heaven! see I aright?
‘Tis my own blood, in open hall,
I have treated with cruel slight.
“Help, Heaven! in pilgrim dress I see
My sister Bertha stand;
So pale in my gay palace here,
A beggar’s staff in her hand!”
Lady Bertha sinks down at his feet,
Pale image of despair;
His wrath returns, and he looks on her
With a stern and angry air.
Lady Bertha quick cast down her eyes,
No word to speak she tried;
Little Roland raised his clear blue eyes,—
“My uncle!” loud he cried.
“Rise up, my sister Bertha, rise!”
The king said tenderly;
“For the sake of this dear son of thine,
Thou shalt forgiven be.”
Lady Bertha rose up joyfully:—
“Dear brother! thanks to thee;
Little Roland shall requite the boon
Thou hast bestowed on me.
“He of the glory of his king
Shall be an image fair;
The colors of many a foreign realm
His banner and shield shall bear.
“The cup from many a royal board
He shall seize with his free right hand,
And safety and fresh glory bring
To his sighing mother-land.”