The Sowdon of Babylon and His Son Ferumbras

Part 3 of 5


















































































































Thai smeten togeder with egre mode,
And nathir of othire dradde;
Thai persed her hauberkes, that were so goode,
Tille both thayr bodyes bladde.
Thay foughten soo longe, that by assente
Thai drewe hem a litil bysyde,
A litil while thaym to avente,
And refresshed hem at that tyde.

"Generis," quod Ferumbras,
"As thou arte here gentil knighte,
Telle me nowe here in this place
Of thy kyn and what thou hight;
Me thenkith by thee now evermore,
Thou shuldist be one of the twelve peris,
That maiste fighte with me so sore,
And arte so stronge, worthy and fiers."

Olyvere answered to hym agayn:
"For fer I leve it not untolde,
My name is Olyvere certayn,
Cousyn to kynge Charles the boolde,
To whome I shalle thee sende
Qwikke or dede this same daye,
By conqueste here in this feelde,
And make thee to renye thy laye."

"O," quod Ferumbras than to Olyver,
"Welcome thou arte in-to this place,
I have desyrede many a yere
To gyfe thee harde grace.
Thou slough myn uncle Sir Persagyne,
The doughty kinge of Italye,
The worthyeste kinge that lyved of men,
By Mahounde, thou shalt abye!"

Tho thai dongen faste to-geder
While the longe day endured,
Nowe hither and nowe thider;
Fro strokes wyth sheeldes here bodies thai covered.
And at the laste Olyver smote him so
Uppon the helme, that was of stele,
That his swerde brake in two.
Tho wepen had he nevere a dele.

Who was woo but Olyvere than?
He saugh noone other remedy.
He saide, "Sir, as thou arte gentile man,
On me nowe here have mercy.
It were grete shame I-wis,
And honur were it noon,
To slee a man wepenles;
That shame wolde never goon."

"Nay traitour, thou getiste noon.
Hade I here an hundred and moo!
Knele down and yelde thee here anoon,
And else here I wol thee sloo."

Olyver saugh it wolde not be,
To truste too moch in his grace.
He ranne to the stede, that stode by the tree,
A swerde he raught in that place,
That was trussed on Ferumbras stede,
Of fyne stele goode and stronge.
He thought he quyte Ferumbras his mede.
Almoost hadde he abyde too longe;
For in turnynge Ferumbras him smote,
That stroke he myghte welle feele,
It come on hym so hevy and hoote,
That down it made hym to kneele.

Tho was Olyver sore ashamede
And saide, "Thou cursed Sarasyne,
Thy proude pride shall be atamed,
By God and by seinte Qwyntyne.
Thou hast stole on me that dynte,
I shall quyte thee thyn hire."
A stroke than Olyver him lente,
That hym thought his eyen wer on fir.

Kinge Charles in his pavilon was
And loked towarde that fyghte
And saugh how fiers Ferumbras
Made Olyvere kneele down right.
Wo was him tho in his herte;
To Jhesu Criste he made his mone;
It was a sight of peynes smerte,
That Olyvere kneeled so sone:
"O Lord, God in Trinitee,
That of myghtis thou arte moost,
By vertue of thy majestee
That alle knoweste and woste,
Lete not this hethen man
Thy servaunte overcome in fyght,
That on the bileve ne kan,
Jhesu, Lorde, for thy myghte,
But graunte thy man the victorye,
And the Paynym skomfited to be,
As thou arte Almyghty God of glorye!
Nowe mekely, Lorde, I pray to thee."

To Charles anoone an Aungel came
And broght him tidingges sone,
That God had herde his praier than
And graunte him his bone.

Tho Charles thanked God above
With herte and thought, worde and dede,
And saide, "Blessed be thou, lorde almyghty,
That helpiste thy servaunte in nede."

These Champions to-gedir thai gone
With strokes grete and eke sure,
Eche of hem donge othir on,
Alle the while thai myghte endur.

Ferumbras brake his swerde
On Olyveris helme on hye.
Tho wexe he ful sore a-ferde;
He ranne for an othir redyly
And saide, "Olyvere, yelde thee to me
And leve thy Cristen laye,
Thou shalte have alle my kingdome free
And alle aftir my daye."

"Fye, Saresyne," quod Olyvere than,
"Trowest thou, that I were wode,
To forsake Him, that made me man
And boght me with his hert blode."

He raught a stroke to Ferumbras,
On his helme it gan down glyde,
It brast his hawberke at that ras
And carfe hym throughe-oute his syde,
His bare guttis men myght see;
The blode faste down ranne.
"Hoo, Olyvere, I yelde me to thee,
And here I become thy man.
I am so hurte I may not stonde,
I put me alle in thy grace.
My goddis ben false by water and londe,
I reneye hem alle here in this place,
Baptised nowe wole I be.
To Jhesu Crist I wole me take,
That Charles the kinge shal sene,
And alle my goddes for-sake.
Take myn hawberke and do it on thee,
Thou shalte have full grete nede.
Ten thousande Saresyns waiten uppon me,
And therfore go take my stede.
Lay me to-fore thee, I thee praye,
And lede me to thy tente.
Hye thee faste forth in thy way,
That the Saresyns thee not hente."

A-noon it was done, as he ordeynede,
And faste forth thai ryden.
The Saresyns anone assembled,
For to have with hem foghten.
Ferumbras saugh the feelde thore
Of Sarsynes fully filled;
Of Olyvere dradde he ful sore,
That Saresyns shulde him have killed.
He praide, that he wolde let him down
"Undir yonde olyve tree,
For if ye cast me down here, with hors shoon
Alle to-treden shalle I be."

He priked forth and layde him thar,
Out of the horses trase,
And with his swerde by-gan him wer,
For amonge hem alle he was.
A Saresyn smote him with a spere,
That it brake on pecis thre;
His hauberke myght he not der,
So stronge and welle I-wroght was he.
He hit that Saresyns with his swerde
Through the helme in-to the brayne.
He made an other as sore aferde,
He smote off his arme with mayne.

But than come Roulande with Durnedale
And made way him a-bowte.
He slowe hem down in the vale,
Of him hade thai grete dowte.
The prees of Saresyns was so stronge
A-boute Roulande that tyde.
Thai sloughen his horsys with thronge,
And dartis throwen on every syde.

Whan Roulande was on his feete,
Than was he woo with-alle.
Many of hem he felte yete
And dede to grounde made hem falle.
At the last his swerde brake,
Than hadde he wepyn noon,
As he smote a Saresyns bake
A-sundre down to the arson.
Tho was he caught, he myght not flee,
His hondes thai bounden faste
And lad him forth to here citee,
And in depe prison they him caste.

Olyver sawe how he was ladde,
A sorye man than was he;
Him hadde lever to have bene dede
Than suffren that myschief to be.
Smertly aftir he pursued tho,
To reskue his dere brother.
The prees was so grete, he myghte not so,
It myghte be no othir,
But he was cawghte by verree force
With sixtee of Ascopartes.
Thai hurte him foule and slough his hors
With gavylokes and wyth dartis.
Yet on foote, ere he were foolde,
He slough of hem fiftene.
He was not slayn, as God woolde,
But taken and bounded with tene.
Tho were taken to Lucafer,
The proude kinge of Baldas,
Both Roulande and Olyver.
Gladde was he of that cas.

Kinge Charles was in herte woo,
When he saughe his neuewes so ledde,
He cried to the Frenshmen tho:
"Rescue we these knyghtes at nede."

The kynge himselfe slough many one,
So dede the Barons bolde.
It wolde not bene, thai were agon,
Maugre who so wolde.
The Saresyns drewe hem to here Citee,
Kinge Charles turned agayne.
He saugh under an holme tree,
Where a knight him semed lay slayn.
Thederward he rode with swerde in honde.
Tho he saugh, he was alyve;
He lay walowynge uppon the sonde
With blody woundes fyve.

"What arte thow?" quod Charlemayne,
"Who hath thee hurte so sore?"
"I am Ferumbras" he saide certayn,
"That am of hethen lore."

"O fals Saresyn," quod the kinge,
"Thou shalte have sorowe astyte;
By thee I have lost my two Cosynes,
Thyn hede shalle I off smyte."

"O gentil kinge" quod Ferumbrase,
"Olyvere my maister me hight
To be Baptised by Goddis grace,
And to dyen a Cristen knighte.
Honur were it noon to thee
A discoumfite man to slo,
That is converted and baptized wolde be
And thy man bycomen also."

The kinge hade pitee of him than;
He toke him to his grace,
And assyned anoon a man
To lede him to his place.
He sende to him his surgyne
To hele his woundes wyde.
He ordeyned to him such medycyn,
That soone myght he go and ryde.

The kinge commaunded bishope Turpyn
To make a fonte redye,
To Baptise Ferumbras therin
In the name of God Almyghtye.
He was Cristened in that welle,
Floreyne the kinge alle him calle,
He forsoke the foule feende of helle
And his fals goddis alle.

Nought for than Ferumbras
Alle his life cleped was he,
And aftirwarde in somme place,
Floreyne of Rome Citee.
God for him many myracles shewed,
So holy a man he by-came,
That witnessith both lerned and lewde,
The fame of him so ranne.

Nowe for to telle of Roulande
And of Olyvere, that worthy was,
How thai were brought to the Sowdan
By the kinge of Boldas.
The Sowdan hem sore affrayned,
What that here names were.
Rouland saide and noght alayned:
"Syr Roulande and Sire Olyvere,
Nevewes to Kinge Charles of Fraunce,
That worthy kinge and Emperoure,
That nowe are takyn by myschaunce
To be prisoneres here in thy toure."

"A, Olyver, arte thou here?
That haste my sone distroyede,
And Rouland that arte his fere,
That so ofte me hath anoyed.
To Mahounde I make a vowe here,
That to-morwe, ere I do ete,
Ye shulle be slayn both qwik in fere,
And lives shalle ye bothe lete."

Tho saide maide Florepas:
"My fader so dereworth and der,
Ye shulle be avysed of this cas,
How and in what manere
My brothir, that is to prison take,
May be delyvered by hem nowe,
By cause of these two knightes sake,
That bene in warde here with you.
Wherefore I counsaile you, my fader dere.
To have mynde of Sir Ferumbras.
Pute hem in youre prison here,
Tille ye have better space.
So that ye have my brother agayn
For hem, that ye have here;
And certeyn elles wole he be slayn,
That is to you so lefe and dere."

"A, Floripp, I-blessed thou bee,
Thy counsaile is goode at nede,
I wolde not leve my sone so free,
So Mahounde moost me spede,
For al the Realme of hethen Spayne,
That is so brode and large.
Soone clepe forth my gaylour Bretomayne,
That he of hem hadde his charge.

"Caste hem in your prison depe,
Mete and drinke gyfe hem none,
Chayne hem faste, that thay not slepe;
For here goode daies bene a-gone."

Tho were thay cast in prison depe;
Every tyde the see came inne,
Thay myght not see, so was it myrke,
The watir wente to her chynne.
The salte watir hem greved sore,
Here woundis sore did smerte.
Hungir and thurste greved heme yet more,
It wente yet more nere here herte.
Who maye live withoute mete?
Six dayes hadde thay right none,
Nor drinke that thay myght gete,
Bute loked uppon the harde stone.

So on a daye, as God it wolde,
Floripas to hir garden wente,
To geder floures in morne colde.
Here maydyns from hir she sente,
For she herde grete lamentacion
In the prison, that was ther nye;
She supposed by ymagynacion,
That it was the prisoners sory.

She wente her nerr to here more,
Thay wailed for defaute of mete.
She rued on hem anoon ful sore,
She thought how she myght hem beste it gete.
She spake to her Maistres Maragounde,
How she wolde the prisoneres feede.
The develle of helle hir confounde!
She wolde not assente to that dede,
But saide, "Damesel, thou arte woode,
Thy Fadir did us alle defende,
Both mete and drinke and othere goode
That no man shulde hem thider sende."

Floripe by-thought hir on a gyle
And cleped Maragounde anoon right,
To the wyndowe to come a while
And see ther a wonder syght:
"Loke oute," she saide, "and see a ferr
The porpais pley as thay were woode."
Maragounde lokede oute, Floripe come ner
And shoved hire oute into the floode.

"Go there," she saide, "The devel thee speede!
My counsail shaltowe never biwry.
Who so wole not helpe a man at neede,
An evel deth mote he dye!"

She tooke with hire maidyns two,
To Britomayne she wente hir waye
And saide to him, she moste go
To viseten the prisoneris that daye,
And saide, "Sir, for alle loves,
Lete me thy prisoneres seen.
I wole thee gife both goolde and gloves,
And counsail shalle it been."

Brytomayne, that jaylor keene,
Answered to hir sone agayne
And saide, "Damesel, so mote I theen,
Than were I worthy to be slayn.
Hath not youre Fader charged me,
To keepe hem from every wyght?
And yet ye wole these traytours see?
I wole goo telle him anoon right."

He gan to turne him anone for to go,
To make a playnte on Floripas.
She sued him as faste as she myghte go,
For to gif him harde grace.
With the keye cloge, that she caught,
With goode wille she maute than,
Such a stroke she hym ther raught,
The brayne sterte oute of his hede than.

To hire Fader forth she goth
And saide, "Sire, I telle you here,
I saugh a sight, that was me loth,
How the fals jailour fedde your prisoner,
And how the covenaunte made was,
Whan thai shulde delyvered be;
Wherefore I slough him with a mace.
Dere Fadir, forgif it me!"

"My doghtir dere, that arte so free,
The warde of hem now gif I thee.
Loke here sorowe be evere newe,
Tille that Ferumbras delyvered be."

She thanked her Fadere fele sithe
And tooke her maydyns, and forth she goth,
To the prisone she hyed hire swyth.
The prison doore up she dothe
And saide, "Sires, what be ye,
That make here this ruly moone?
What you lakkith, tellyth me;
For we be here nowe alle alone."

Tho spake Roulande with hevy chere
To Floripe, that was bothe gente and fre,
And saide, "Lo, we two caytyfes here
For defaute of mete dede moste be.
Six dayes be comyn and goon,
Sith we were loked in prison here,
That mete nor drinke hade we noon
To comforte with oure hevy cher.
But woolde God of myghtes moost,
The Sowdon wolde let us oute goon,
We to fight with alle his ooste,
To be slayn in feelde anoon.
To murthir men for defaute of mete,
It is grete shame tille a kinge;
For every man most nedes ete,
Or ellis may he do no thinge."

Tho saide Floripe with wordes mylde,
"I wolde fayne, ye were now here,
From harme skath I wole you shelde,
And gife you mete with right gode cher."

A rope to hem she lete down goon,
That aboven was teyde faste.
She and hir maydyns drewe ther uppon,
Tille up thay hadde hem at the last.
She led hem into here chambir dere,
That arrayed for hem was right wele,
Both Roulande and Olyvere,
And gafe hem there a right gode mele.
And whan thay hadde eten alle her fille,
A bath for hem was redy there,
Ther-to thay went ful fayre and stille,
And aftyr to bedde with right gode cher.
Now Floripas chamber is here prisone,
Withouten wetinge of the Sowdon;
Thai were ful mery in that Dongeon,
For of hem wiste man never oone.
Now lete we hem be and mery make,
Tille God sende hem gode delyveraunce.

Aftir the time, that thay were take,
What did Charles, the kinge of Fraunce,
Ther-of wole we speke nowe,
How he cleped forth Sir Gy
And saide, "On my message shaltowe,
Therfore make thee faste redy,
To bidde the Sowden sende me my Nevewes both
And the Releqes also of Rome;
Or I shal make him so wroth,
He shall not wete what to done.
And by that God, that hath me wroght,
This bargan shal so dere be bought
In dispite of his god Mahoun."

Duke Neymes of Bauer up stert than
And saide "Sir, hastowe no mynde,
How the cursed Sowdan Laban
Alle messengeris doth he shende?
Ye have lost inowe -- lese no mo --
Onworthily Olyver and Roulande."

"By God, and thou shalt with him go,
For al thy grete brode londe."

Tho Ogere Danoys, that worthy man,
"Sir," he saide, "be not wroth!
For he saith sooth." --

"Go thou than!
By Gode thou shalt, be thou never so loth."

"A sire," quod Bery Lardeneys,
"Thou shalte hem se never more." --

"Go thou forth in this same rees,
Or it shalle thee repente ful sore."

Folk Baliante saide to the kinge,
"Liste ye youre Barons to lese?" --

"Certis, this is a wondir thinge!
Go thou also, thou shalte not chese!"

Aleroyse rose up anone
And to the kinge than gan he speke
And saide, "What thinke ye, sir, to done?" --

"Dresse thee forth with hem eke!"

Miron of Brabane spake an worde
And saide, "Sir, thou maiste do thy wille.
Knowist thou not that cruel lorde,
How he wole thy Barons spille?" --

"Trusse thee forth eke, Sir Dasaberde,
Or I shalle thee sone make!
For of all thinge thou arte aferde,
Yet arte thou neyther hurte nor take."

Bisshope Turpyn kneled adown
And saide, "Lege lorde, mercy!"

The kinge him swore by seynt Symon:
"Thou goist eke, make thee in hast redye!"

Bernarde of Spruwse, that worthy knyght,
Saide, "Sir, avyse you bette,
Set not of youre Barons so light,
Thou maiste have nede to hem yette." --

"Thou shalte goon eke for alle thy boost,
Have done and make thee fast yare!
Of my nede gyfe thou no coost,
Ther-of have thou right no care!"

Bryer of Mountes, that marqwys bolde,
Was not aferde to him to speeke.
To the kinge sharply he tolde,
His witte was not worth a leeke:
"Woltowe for angre thy Barons sende
To that Tiraunte, that alle men sleith?
Or thou doist for that ende,
To bringe thy twelve peres to the deth?"

The kinge was wroth and swore in halle
By Him, that bought him with his blode:
"On my messange shall ye gon alle!
Be ye never so wroth or wode."

Thay toke here lefe and forth thay yede,
It availed not agayne him to sayne.
I pray, God gif hem gode spede!
Ful harde it was to comen agayn.

Nowe let hem passe in Goddis name,
And speke we of the Sowdon,
How he complayned him of his grame,
And what that he myght beste done.
"Sortybraunnce and Bronlande" seyde he,
"Of counsail ye be fulle wyse.
How shal I do to avenge me
Of kinge Charles, and in what wyse?
He brennyth my Toures and my Citees,
And Burges he levethe me never oon.
He stroieth my men, my londe, my fees.
Thus shalle it not longe goon.
And yet me greveth most of alle,
He hath made Ferumbras renay his laye.
Therfore my counselors I calle,
To remedy this, how thay best maye.
For me were lever that he were slayn,
Thane he a Cristen hounde shulde be,
Or with Wolfes be rente and slayn,
By Mahounde myghty of dignyte."

Tho answerde Sortybraunce and Broulande
And saide, "Gode counsaile we shal you gyfen,
If thoue wilte do aftyr covenaunte,
It shal you profit, while you lyven.
Take twelve knightis of worthy dede
And sende hem to Charles on message nowe.
Arraye hem welle in royal wede,
For thy honour and for thy prowe.
Bidde Charles sende thy sone to thee
And voyde thy londe in alle haste,
Or ellis thou shalt him honge on a tree,
As hye, as any shippes maste."

"Nowe by Mahoude," quod Laban,
"This counseil is both trewe and goode;
I shalle him leve for no man
To parforme this, though he wer woode."

He did his lettris write in haste,
The knightes were called to goo therwith,
That thay hye hem to Charles faste
And charge hym uppon life and lithe.

Forth thai ride towarde Mantrible than,
In a medowe was fayre and grene
Thai mette with Charles messageris ten.
Duke Neymes axed hem what thai wolde mene
And saide, "Lordynges, whens come ye
And whider ye are mente, telle us this tyde."

"From the worthy Sowdon," than saide he,
"To Charles on message shalle we ride.
Evel tithyngges we shalle him telle
Fro Laban that is lorde of Spayne.
Farewelle, felowes, we may not dwelle."

"Abyde," quod Gy, "and turne agayne;
We wole speke with you er ye goon,
For we be messengeris of his.
Ye shal aby everichone,
So God brynge me to blis."

smote / eager spirits


get their breath


renounce your reigion

ill grace, evil

pay (for it)


not a one



repay / reward


revenge / reward

moan, complaint

woste = knows

knows not (true} belief




wax (grew) / fearful

leave / religion

reached (struck)







to fight





their city

he had rather

sheer force
With = By






learning (e.e., religion)



defeated / slay





hid nothing



alive together
give up, surrender

precious and dear

guard, arrest

time, opportunity

beloved and dear

as / may give me success

immediately call


mirky, dark

nearer their hearts
meat, food

gather flowers


nearer to hear
lack of food


hir = Maragounde






as I may prosper

ill grace, a hard time
block (attached to the key)
aimed a stroke
reached, gave


see that their

many times

hurried swiftly

rueful moan

sorrowful expression

lack of food dead


host, army

harmful injury / shield

her bedroom



shalt thou (go)



enough, lose


go / also

prepare to go / Sir Worthless





their leave / went

grief, anger

destroys / possessions

renounce his religion

I would rather

as agreed



leave off


asked / intend

intended (to go)

shall = must

pay for it, everyone

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