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Old French Online

Lesson 2

Brigitte L.M. Bauer and Jonathan Slocum

When Charlemagne's army reaches France and the troops prepare themselves mentally to see their loved ones again, the rearguard under the command of Roland is attacked at Roncevaux. Despite the wise and urgent advice of his friend Oliver, Roland in his vanity refuses at first to blow the horn for military support. Only when Roland sees that many of his troops have died does he decide to call for Charlemagne's help. The physical effort of blowing the horn inflicts a fatal injury, and as a result Roland dies.

The Chanson describes in detail the last moments of Roland's life and his passing. When Charlemagne hears the signal, he returns to Spain to find that most of his men there have been killed, including Oliver and Roland. He prepares his revenge, which leads to the eventual victory of Christianity: the traitor is brought to justice, and Sarragossa eventually is taken.

Reading and Textual Analysis

The fragments below describe the most dramatic moments of the Chanson de Roland: Roland's blowing the horn, his injury, and his death. They also describe Charlemagne's arrival at the scene of the battle, and his emotions at seeing the disastrous effects of the attack (lines 1753-1758, 1785-1795, 2355-2365, 2396-2402, and 2412-2416).

The reader will notice that the fragments tend to be repetitive, which may be explained by the oral tradition that the Chanson de Geste was part of. The repetitive nature of the text also underscores the strong emotions that the events trigger in the characters. From a linguistic perspective, the reader will also notice that in many instances the case markers are not used, or are used incorrectly, illustrating the gradual disappearance of the case system.

Rollant ad mis l'olifan a sa buche,
Empeint le ben, par grant vertut le sunet.

  • Rollant -- proper name; nominative singular <Rollant> Roland -- Roland
  • ad -- verb; third person singular present <avoir, aveir> have, be -- has
  • mis -- verb; perfective participle oblique singular masculine <metre, mectre, mettre> put -- put
  • l'olifan -- definite article; oblique singular masculine <li> the + noun; oblique singular <olifant> ivory horn -- the horn
  • a -- preposition; <a, ad> to, up to, against, in, on -- at
  • sa -- possessive; third person singular oblique singular feminine <son> his -- his
  • buche -- noun; oblique singular <bouche, buche> mouth -- mouth
  • empeint -- verb; third person singular present <empeindre> blow, protrude -- he places
  • le -- personal pronoun; third person singular direct object masculine <il> he -- it
  • ben -- adverb; <bien> well, many, much, really -- solidly
  • par -- preposition; <par> through, by, by reason of -- with
  • grant -- adjective; oblique singular feminine <grant> great, large, tall -- great
  • vertut -- noun; oblique singular <vertu> might, power, strength -- force
  • le -- personal pronoun; third person singular direct object masculine <il> he -- it
  • sunet -- verb; third person singular present <suner, soner> sound, utter -- he blows

Halt sunt li pui e la voiz est mult lunge,
Granz .XXX. liwes l'o´rent il respundre.

  • halt -- adjective; nominative plural masculine <alt, aut, halt> high, strong, important -- high
  • sunt -- verb; third person plural present <estre, iestre, aistre> be -- are
  • li -- definite article; nominative plural masculine <li> the -- the
  • pui -- noun; nominative plural <pui> mountain, hill -- mountains
  • e -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- and
  • la -- definite article; nominative singular feminine <li> the -- the
  • voiz -- noun; nominative singular <vois, voiz> noise, word, voice -- sound
  • est -- verb; third person singular present <estre, iestre, aistre> be -- carries
  • mult -- adverb, adjective; <molt, mult, mout> many, much, very -- very
  • lunge -- adjective; nominative singular feminine <lonc, long, loing> long, far -- far
  • granz -- adjective; oblique plural feminine <grant> great, large, tall -- long
  • .XXX. -- number; <.XXX.> thirty -- thirty # in Old French, numbers were preceded and followed by a dot
  • liwes -- noun; oblique plural <liue, live> mile -- miles away
  • l'o´rent -- personal pronoun; third person singular direct object masculine <il> he + verb; third person plural preterite <oir, odir> hear -- they heard...
  • il -- personal pronoun; third person singular nominative masculine <il> he -- it
  • respundre -- verb; infinitive <respondre> answer -- resonate

Karles l'o´t e ses cumpaignes tutes.
ăo dist li reis: "Bataille funt nostre hume!"

  • Karles -- proper name; nominative singular <Charles> Charles, Charlemagne -- Charles
  • l'o´t -- personal pronoun; third person singular direct object masculine <il> he + verb; third person singular preterite <oir, odir> hear -- heard it
  • e -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- and
  • ses -- possessive; third person singular nominative plural feminine <son> his -- his
  • cumpaignes -- noun; nominative plural <compaigne> troops -- troops
  • tutes -- adjective; nominative plural feminine <tot> all, every, completely -- all
  • šo -- demonstrative; oblique singular neuter <šo, ceo, ce, ceu> this, that, it -- these words
  • dist -- verb; third person singular preterite <dire> say, tell -- spoke
  • li -- definite article; nominative singular masculine <li> the -- the
  • reis -- noun; nominative singular <roi> king -- king
  • bataille -- noun; oblique singular <bataille> battle -- battle
  • funt -- verb; third person plural present <faire> make -- fight
  • nostre -- possessive; first person plural nominative plural masculine <nostre> our -- our
  • hume -- noun; nominative plural <home, ome> man -- troops

Li quens Rollant ad la buche sanglente.
De sun cervel rumput en est li temples.

  • li -- definite article; nominative singular masculine <li> the -- ...
  • quens -- noun; nominative singular <conte> count -- count
  • Rollant -- proper name; nominative singular <Rollant> Roland -- Roland
  • ad -- verb; third person singular present <avoir, aveir> have, be -- has
  • la -- definite article; oblique singular feminine <li> the -- his
  • buche -- noun; oblique singular <bouche, buche> mouth -- mouth
  • sanglente -- adjective; oblique singular feminine <sanglent> bloody -- full of blood
  • de -- preposition; <de> of, from -- of
  • sun -- possessive; third person singular oblique singular masculine <son> his -- his
  • cervel -- noun; oblique singular <cervel> brains -- brains
  • rumput -- verb; perfective participle nominative singular masculine <rompre> break, burst -- burst open
  • en -- pronoun; inanimate <en> of it -- ...
  • est -- verb; third person singular present <estre, iestre, aistre> be -- has
  • li -- definite article; nominative singular masculine <li> the -- the
  • temples -- noun; nominative singular <temple> temple, forehead -- temple

L'olifan sunet a dulor e a peine.
Karles l'o´t e ses Franceis l'entendent.

  • l'olifan -- definite article; oblique singular masculine <li> the + noun; oblique singular <olifant> ivory horn -- the horn
  • sunet -- verb; third person singular present <suner, soner> sound, utter -- he blows
  • a -- preposition; <a, ad> to, up to, against, in, on -- in
  • dulor -- noun; oblique singular <dolor> pain, suffering -- suffering
  • e -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- and
  • a -- preposition; <a, ad> to, up to, against, in, on -- in
  • peine -- noun; oblique singular <peine, paine> torment, suffering -- pain
  • Karles -- proper name; nominative singular <Charles> Charles, Charlemagne -- Charles
  • l'o´t -- personal pronoun; third person singular direct object masculine <il> he + verb; third person singular preterite <oir, odir> hear -- heard him
  • e -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- and
  • ses -- possessive; third person singular nominative plural masculine <son> his -- his
  • Franceis -- proper name; nominative plural <Franceis> free, noble, subject of the king of France -- subjects
  • l'entendent -- personal pronoun; third person singular direct object masculine <il> he + verb; third person plural present <entendre> try, pay attention, understand, hear -- hear him

ăo dist li reis: "Cel corn ad lunge aleine!"

  • šo -- demonstrative; oblique singular neuter <šo, ceo, ce, ceu> this, that, it -- these words
  • dist -- verb; third person singular preterite <dire> say, tell -- spoke
  • li -- definite article; nominative singular masculine <li> the -- the
  • reis -- noun; nominative singular <roi> king -- king
  • cel -- demonstrative; nominative singular masculine <cil> that -- that
  • corn -- noun; nominative singular <corn, cor> horn -- horn
  • ad -- verb; third person singular present <avoir, aveir> have, be -- has
  • lunge -- adjective; oblique singular feminine <lonc, long, loing> long, far -- long
  • aleine -- noun; oblique singular <aleine, alaine> blast, breath -- a breath

Respont dux Neimes: "Baron i fait la peine!
Bataille i ad, par le men esc´entre.
Cil l'at tra´t ki vos en roevet feindre.

  • respont -- verb; third person singular present <respondre> answer -- answers
  • dux -- noun; nominative singular <duc> duke -- duke
  • Neimes -- proper name; nominative singular <Neimes> Naimes -- Naimes
  • baron -- noun; nominative singular <baron> brave warrior, brave knight -- a brave knight
  • i -- particle; <i> there -- there
  • fait la peine -- verb; third person singular present <faire> make + definite article; oblique singular feminine <li> the + noun; oblique singular <peine, paine> torment, suffering -- is in distress
  • bataille -- noun; oblique singular <bataille> battle -- battle
  • i -- particle; <i> there -- ...
  • ad -- verb; third person singular present <avoir, aveir> have, be -- is
  • par le men esc´entre -- preposition; <par> through, by, by reason of + definite article; oblique singular masculine <li> the + possessive; first person singular oblique singular masculine <mon> my + noun; oblique singular <esc´ent> knowledge -- to my knowledge
  • cil -- demonstrative; nominative singular masculine <cil> that -- he who
  • l'at -- personal pronoun; third person singular direct object masculine <il> he + verb; third person singular present <avoir, aveir> have, be -- has... him...
  • tra´t -- verb; perfective participle oblique singular masculine <trair> betray -- betrayed
  • ki -- relative pronoun; subject <qui> who -- who
  • vos -- personal pronoun; second person plural direct object <vos> you -- you
  • en -- pronoun; inanimate <en> of it -- ...
  • roevet -- verb; third person singular present <rover> ask, call upon, order -- orders
  • feindre -- verb; infinitive <feindre> do nothing, shy away -- to do nothing

Adubez vos, si criez vostre enseigne,
Si sucurez vostre maisnee gente:
Asez oez que Rollant se dementet!"

  • adubez vos -- verb; second person plural imperative <adober> arm oneself + personal pronoun; second person plural direct object <vos> you -- arm yourself
  • si -- conjunction; <si> and, and thus -- and
  • criez -- verb; second person plural imperative <crier> shout -- shout
  • vostre -- possessive; second person plural oblique singular feminine <vostre> your -- your
  • enseigne -- noun; oblique singular <enseigne> war cry -- war cry
  • si -- conjunction; <si> and, and thus -- and
  • sucurez -- verb; second person plural imperative <secorer> go to the help of -- go to the help of
  • vostre -- possessive; second person plural oblique singular feminine <vostre> your -- your
  • maisnee -- noun; oblique singular <maisniee, maisnie> household, army -- army
  • gente -- adjective; oblique singular feminine <gent> fair, handsome, beautiful -- fair
  • asez -- adverb; <asez, assÚs> many, much, very well -- very well
  • oez -- verb; second person plural present <oir, odir> hear -- you hear
  • que -- conjunction; <que> that -- that
  • Rollant -- proper name; nominative singular <Rollant> Roland -- Roland
  • se dementet -- verb; third person singular present <se dementer> lament -- is lamenting

ăo sent Rollant que la mort le tresprent,
Devers la teste sur le quer li descent.

  • šo -- demonstrative; oblique singular neuter <šo, ceo, ce, ceu> this, that, it -- ...
  • sent -- verb; third person singular present <sentir> smell, feel -- feels
  • Rollant -- proper name; nominative singular <Rollant> Roland -- Roland
  • que -- conjunction; <que> that -- that
  • la -- definite article; nominative singular feminine <li> the -- ...
  • mort -- noun; nominative singular <mort> death -- death
  • le -- personal pronoun; third person singular direct object masculine <il> he -- him
  • tresprent -- verb; third person singular present <tresprendre> overcome completely -- overcomes completely
  • devers -- preposition; <devers, de vers> in the direction of, from the direction of -- from
  • la -- definite article; oblique singular feminine <li> the -- his
  • teste -- noun; oblique singular <teste> head -- head
  • sur -- preposition; <seur, soure, sur, sor> on, over, to, above -- to
  • le -- definite article; oblique singular masculine <li> the -- his
  • quer -- noun; oblique singular <cuer, coer, cor> heart -- heart
  • li -- personal pronoun; third person singular indirect object masculine <il> he -- ...
  • descent -- verb; third person singular present <descendre> descend, dismount -- it descends

Desuz un pin i est alet curant,
Sur l'erbe verte s'i est culchet adenz,
Desuz lui met s'espee e l'olifan,
Turnat sa teste vers la paiene gent:

  • desuz -- preposition; <desos, desous> under -- under
  • un -- indefinite article; oblique singular masculine <un> a -- a
  • pin -- noun; oblique singular <pin> pine tree -- pine tree
  • i -- particle; <i> there -- ...
  • est -- verb; third person singular present <estre, iestre, aistre> be -- he has
  • alet -- verb; perfective participle nominative singular masculine <aler> go -- gone
  • curant -- verb; participle present nominative singular masculine <corre> run -- running
  • sur -- preposition; <seur, soure, sur, sor> on, over, to, above -- on top of
  • l'erbe -- definite article; oblique singular feminine <li> the + noun; oblique singular <erbre> grass -- the grass
  • verte -- adjective; oblique singular feminine <vert> green -- green
  • s'i est culchet -- personal pronoun; third person singular direct object <se> he + particle; <i> there + verb; third person singular present <estre, iestre, aistre> be + verb; perfective participle nominative singular masculine <couchier> lie down -- there he has lain down
  • adenz -- adverb; <adenz> face downwards -- face downwards
  • desuz -- preposition; <desos, desous> under -- under
  • lui -- personal pronoun; third person singular direct object masculine <il> he -- him
  • met -- verb; third person singular present <metre, mectre, mettre> put -- he puts
  • s'espee -- possessive; third person singular oblique singular feminine <son> his + noun; oblique singular <espee> sword -- his sword
  • e -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- and
  • l'olifan -- definite article; oblique singular masculine <li> the + noun; oblique singular <olifant> ivory horn -- the horn
  • turnat -- verb; third person singular preterite <torner> turn, return -- he turned
  • sa -- possessive; third person singular oblique singular feminine <son> his -- his
  • teste -- noun; oblique singular <teste> head -- head
  • vers -- preposition; <vers> towards -- towards
  • la -- definite article; oblique singular feminine <li> the -- the
  • paiene -- adjective; oblique singular feminine <paien> pagan, heathen -- pagan
  • gent -- noun; oblique singular <gent> race, people -- people

Pur šo l'ad fait que il voelt veirement
Que Carles diet e trestute sa gent,
Li gentilz quens, qu'il fut mort cunquerant.

  • pur -- preposition; <por> for -- for
  • šo -- demonstrative; oblique singular neuter <šo, ceo, ce, ceu> this, that, it -- the reason
  • l'ad -- personal pronoun; third person singular direct object masculine <il> he + verb; third person singular present <avoir, aveir> have, be -- he has... this
  • fait -- verb; perfective participle oblique singular masculine <faire> make -- done
  • que -- conjunction; <que> that -- that
  • il -- personal pronoun; third person singular nominative masculine <il> he -- he
  • voelt -- verb; third person singular present <voloir> want -- wants
  • veirement -- adverb; <voirement> really -- really
  • que -- conjunction; <que> that -- that
  • Carles -- proper name; nominative singular <Charles> Charles, Charlemagne -- Charles
  • diet -- verb; third person singular subjunctive present <dire> say, tell -- say
  • e -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- and
  • trestute -- reinforcing element; <tres>... + adjective; nominative singular feminine <tot> all, every, completely -- entire
  • sa -- possessive; third person singular nominative singular feminine <son> his -- his
  • gent -- noun; nominative singular <gent> race, people -- people
  • li -- definite article; nominative singular masculine <li> the -- the
  • gentilz -- adjective; nominative singular masculine <gentil> noble, brave -- brave
  • quens -- noun; nominative singular <conte> count -- count
  • qu'il -- conjunction; <que> that + personal pronoun; third person singular nominative masculine <il> he -- that he
  • fut -- verb; third person singular preterite <estre, iestre, aistre> be -- has
  • mort -- verb; perfective participle nominative singular masculine <morir> kill, die -- died
  • cunquerant -- verb; present participle nominative singular masculine <conquerre, cunquerre> conquer, capture -- as a conqueror

Cleimet sa culpe e menut e suvent,
Pur ses pecchez Deu en puroffrid lo guant. AOI

  • cleimet -- verb; third person singular present <clamer> call, proclaim, confess -- he confesses aloud
  • sa -- possessive; third person singular oblique singular feminine <son> his -- his
  • culpe -- noun; oblique singular <colpe, corpe, cope> sin, mistake -- sins
  • e -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- ...
  • menut e suvent -- adverb; <menu, menut> quickly + conjunction; <e, et, ed> and + adverb; <sovent> frequently, often -- tapping his chest quickly and frequently
  • pur -- preposition; <por> for -- for
  • ses -- possessive; third person singular oblique plural masculine <son> his -- his
  • pecchez -- noun; oblique plural <pechiÚ> sin, mistake -- sins
  • Deu -- proper name; oblique singular <Dieu, Deu> God -- to God
  • en -- pronoun; inanimate <en> of it -- ...
  • puroffrid -- verb; third person singular preterite <porofrir> present -- offered
  • lo -- definite article; oblique singular masculine <li> the -- his
  • guant -- noun; oblique singular <gant> glove -- glove
  • AOI -- interjection; <AOI>... -- ... # unknown element, possibly a war cry, typical of the Chanson de Roland

Morz est Rollant, Deus en ad l'anme es cels.
Li emperere en Rencesvals parvient.

  • morz -- verb; perfective participle nominative singular masculine <morir> kill, die -- died
  • est -- verb; third person singular present <estre, iestre, aistre> be -- has
  • Rollant -- proper name; nominative singular <Rollant> Roland -- Roland
  • Deus -- proper name; nominative singular <Dieu, Deu> God -- God
  • en -- pronoun; inanimate <en> of it -- ...
  • ad -- verb; third person singular present <avoir, aveir> have, be -- has
  • l'anme -- definite article; oblique singular feminine <li> the + noun; oblique singular <anme, alme, arme, ame> soul, somebody -- his soul
  • es -- preposition; <en> in, into, on, on top of + definite article; oblique plural masculine <li> the -- in...
  • cels -- noun; oblique plural <ciel> heaven -- heaven
  • li -- definite article; nominative singular masculine <li> the -- the
  • emperere -- noun; nominative singular <empereor> emperor -- emperor
  • en -- preposition; <en> in, into, on, on top of -- in
  • Rencesvals -- proper name; oblique singular <Rencesvals> Roncevaux -- Roncevaux
  • parvient -- verb; third person singular present <parvenir> arrive -- arrives

Il nen i ad ne veie ne senter,
Ne voide tere, ne alne ne plein pied,
Que il n'i ait o Franceis o paien.

  • il -- personal pronoun; third person singular nominative masculine <il> he -- ...
  • nen -- negation; <ne, nen> not -- ...
  • i -- particle; <i> there -- there
  • ad -- verb; third person singular present <avoir, aveir> have, be -- is
  • ne -- negation; <ne, ni> nor, and not -- no
  • veie -- noun; oblique singular <veie> road -- road
  • ne -- negation; <ne, ni> nor, and not -- nor
  • senter -- noun; oblique singular <sentier> path -- path
  • ne -- negation; <ne, ni> nor, and not -- nor
  • voide -- adjective; oblique singular feminine <vuit, vuide> empty -- empty
  • tere -- noun; oblique singular <terre> land, country, earth -- any piece of ground
  • ne -- negation; <ne, ni> nor, and not -- nor
  • alne -- noun; oblique singular <alne> ell -- any ell
  • ne -- negation; <ne, ni> nor, and not -- or
  • plein -- adjective; oblique singular masculine <plein, plain> full -- full
  • pied -- noun; oblique singular <piÚ> foot -- foot
  • que -- conjunction; <que> that -- where
  • il -- personal pronoun; third person singular nominative masculine <il> he -- ...
  • n'i -- negation; <ne, nen> not + particle; <i> there -- there... no
  • ait -- verb; third person singular subjunctive present <avoir, aveir> have, be -- is
  • o -- conjunction; <o, u> or -- ...
  • Franceis -- proper name; oblique singular <Franceis> free, noble, subject of the king of France -- Frenchman
  • o -- conjunction; <o, u> or -- or
  • paien -- noun; oblique singular <paien, pagien> pagan, heathen -- heathen

Carles escriet: "U estes vos, bels niÚs?"
...

  • Carles -- proper name; nominative singular <Charles> Charles, Charlemagne -- Charles
  • escriet -- verb; third person singular present <escrier> cry out, shout -- cries out
  • u -- interrogative adverb; <ou> where -- where
  • estes -- verb; second person plural present <estre, iestre, aistre> be -- are
  • vos -- personal pronoun; second person plural nominative <vos> you -- you
  • bels -- adjective; nominative singular masculine <bel> dear, beloved, handsome -- beloved
  • niÚs -- noun; nominative singular <nevot, neveu> grandson, nephew -- my nephew

"Deus! dist li reis, tant me pois esmaier
Que jo ne fui a l'estur cumencer!"

  • Deus -- proper name; nominative singular <Dieu, Deu> God -- God
  • dist -- verb; third person singular preterite <dire> say, tell -- said
  • li -- definite article; nominative singular masculine <li> the -- the
  • reis -- noun; nominative singular <roi> king -- king
  • tant -- adverb; <tant> so, so much -- so much
  • me -- personal pronoun; first person singular direct object <jo, jou, jeu> I -- myself
  • pois -- verb; first person singular present <pooir, poeir, poier> can, be able -- I can
  • esmaier -- verb; infinitive <esmaier> be dismayed -- torment
  • que -- conjunction; <que> that -- for
  • jo -- personal pronoun; first person singular nominative <jo, jou, jeu> I -- ...
  • ne -- negation; <ne, nen> not -- not
  • fui -- verb; first person singular preterite <estre, iestre, aistre> be -- having been
  • a -- preposition; <a, ad> to, up to, against, in, on -- at
  • l'estur -- definite article; oblique singular masculine <li> the + noun; oblique singular <estor, estorm> noise, tumult, battle -- of the battle
  • cumencer -- verb; infinitive <comencier> begin, start -- the beginning

Tiret sa barbe cum hom ki est iret;
Plurent des oilz si baron chevaler;
Encontre tere se pasment .XX. millers.

  • tiret -- verb; third person singular present <tirer> pull -- he pulls
  • sa -- possessive; third person singular oblique singular feminine <son> his -- his
  • barbe -- noun; oblique singular <barbe> beard -- beard
  • cum -- conjunction; <com, comme> as -- like
  • hom -- noun; nominative singular <home, ome> man -- a man
  • ki -- relative pronoun; subject <qui> who -- who
  • est -- verb; third person singular present <estre, iestre, aistre> be -- is
  • iret -- adjective; nominative singular masculine <irÚ, iriÚ> angry, distressed, furious -- distressed
  • plurent -- verb; third person plural present <plorer> cry, shed tears -- shed tears
  • des -- preposition; <de> of, from + definite article; oblique plural masculine <li> the -- from their
  • oilz -- noun; oblique plural <oeuil, oil> eye -- eyes
  • si -- possessive; third person singular nominative plural masculine <son> his -- his
  • baron -- noun; nominative plural <baron> brave warrior, brave knight -- warrior
  • chevaler -- noun; nominative plural <chevalier> knight -- knights
  • encontre -- preposition; <encontre> to, towards, against -- on top of
  • tere -- noun; oblique singular <terre> land, country, earth -- earth
  • se pasment -- verb; third person plural present <se pasmer> faint, swoon -- faint
  • .XX. -- number; <.XX.> twenty -- twenty # in Old French, numbers were preceded and followed by a dot
  • millers -- numeral; nominative plural <millier> thousand -- thousand men

Lesson Text


Rollant ad mis l'olifan a sa buche,
Empeint le ben, par grant vertut le sunet.

Halt sunt li pui e la voiz est mult lunge,
Granz .XXX. liwes l'o´rent il respundre.

Karles l'o´t e ses cumpaignes tutes.
ăo dist li reis: "Bataille funt nostre hume!"


Li quens Rollant ad la buche sanglente.
De sun cervel rumput en est li temples.

L'olifan sunet a dulor e a peine.
Karles l'o´t e ses Franceis l'entendent.

ăo dist li reis: "Cel corn ad lunge aleine!"
Respont dux Neimes: "Baron i fait la peine!
Bataille i ad, par le men esc´entre.
Cil l'at tra´t ki vos en roevet feindre.

Adubez vos, si criez vostre enseigne,
Si sucurez vostre maisnee gente:
Asez oez que Rollant se dementet!"


ăo sent Rollant que la mort le tresprent,
Devers la teste sur le quer li descent.

Desuz un pin i est alet curant,
Sur l'erbe verte s'i est culchet adenz,
Desuz lui met s'espee e l'olifan,
Turnat sa teste vers la paiene gent:

Pur šo l'ad fait que il voelt veirement
Que Carles diet e trestute sa gent,
Li gentilz quens, qu'il fut mort cunquerant.

Cleimet sa culpe e menut e suvent,
Pur ses pecchez Deu en puroffrid lo guant. AOI


Morz est Rollant, Deus en ad l'anme es cels.
Li emperere en Rencesvals parvient.

Il nen i ad ne veie ne senter,
Ne voide tere, ne alne ne plein pied,
Que il n'i ait o Franceis o paien.

Carles escriet: "U estes vos, bels niÚs?"
...


"Deus! dist li reis, tant me pois esmaier
Que jo ne fui a l'estur cumencer!"

Tiret sa barbe cum hom ki est iret;
Plurent des oilz si baron chevaler;
Encontre tere se pasment .XX. millers.

Translation

Roland has put the horn at his mouth,
He places it solidly, with great force he blows it.
The mountains are high and the sound carries very far,
Thirty long miles away they heard it resonate.
Charles heard it, and all his troops.
The king spoke these words: "Our troops fight a battle!"
Count Roland has his mouth full of blood.
The temple of his brains has burst open.
He blows the horn in suffering and in pain.
Charles heard him and his subjects hear him.
The king spoke these words: "That horn has a long breath!"
Duke Naimes answers: "A brave knight is in distress!
There is a battle, to my knowledge.
He who has betrayed him, orders you to do nothing.
Arm yourself, and shout your war cry,
And go to the help of your fair army:
You hear very well that Roland is lamenting."
Roland feels that death overcomes him completely,
it descends from his head to his heart.
He has gone, running, under a pine tree,
there he has lain down on top of the green grass, face downwards,
he puts his sword and the horn under him,
he turned his head towards the pagan people:
He has done this for the reason that he really wants
that Charles and his entire people say
that he the brave count has died as a conqueror.
He confesses his sins aloud, tapping his chest quickly and frequently
For his sins he offered his glove to God.
Roland has died, God has his soul in heaven.
The emperor arrives in Roncevaux.
There is no road nor path,
nor any empty piece of ground, nor any ell or full foot,
where there is no Frenchman or heathen.
Charles cries out: "Where are you, my beloved nephew?"
...
"God!" the king said, "I can torment myself so much
for not having been there at the beginning of the battle!"
He pulls his beard like a man who is distressed;
His warrior knights shed tears from their eyes;
twenty thousand men faint on top of the earth.

Grammar

6. Case: Nominal Declension, Class III

In addition to the two declension classes discussed in Lesson 1, there is a third group of nouns in Old French, which is characterized by a varying number of syllables in the individual paradigms (the so-called imparisyllabic declension). This group of nouns traces back to the third declension in Latin (e.g. lex, legis), which included imparasyllabic nouns as well. Since the nominative singular had a number of syllables different from the other cases (e.g. La. imperator 'emperor-Nom.' vs. imperatorem 'emperor-Acc.'), the paradigm is characterized by a shift of accentuation, which affects the subsequent phonological changes. The following table presents the Latin forms and their Old French equivalents:

Nominal Declension, Latin vs. Old French

    Nom. Sg.   Nom. Pl.
Latin:   imperator 'emperor'   imperatores
Old French:   emperedre   emperedor
    Acc./Obl. Sg.   Acc./Obl. Pl.
Latin:   imperatorem   imperatores
Old French:   emperedor   emperedors

Nominal Declension, Class III

    Sg.   Pl.
Nom.   emperedre 'emperor'   emperedor
    chantere 'singer'   chanteor
Obl.   emperedor   emperedors
    chanteor   chanteors

Nouns included in this class are, for example: cuens, conte 'count', enfes, enfant 'child', niÚs, nevo 'nephew', sire, seignor 'lord', tra´tre, tra´tor 'traitor', and others. These nouns can be divided in four groups; three of them are:

  • masculine nouns referring to agents (verb stem + a suffix -eor or (i)ere), for example: chantere, chanteor 'singer', derived from the verb chanter (stem: chant-) 'sing' or buvere, buveor 'drinker' from the verb bevre (stem: buv-) 'drink';
  • masculine nouns, often of Germanic origin with a suffix -on for cases other than the nominative. These nouns are primarily nouns of persons or proper names. Examples include: ber, baron 'baron', lerre, larron 'thief', compaing, compaignon 'companion', Charles, Charlon 'Charles', Guenes, Ganelon 'Ganelon', and others;
  • feminine nouns that alternate the nominative singular with the other forms in -ain.

Nominal Declension, Feminine Nouns in -ain

    Sg.   Pl.
Nom.   la none 'the nun'   les nonains
Obl.   la nonain   les nonains

Examples include ante, antain 'aunt', pute, putain 'prostitute', niece, niešain, 'niece', and others that are less frequent.

The fourth group in Class III consists of a variety of nouns, such as hom, home 'man', enfes, enfant 'child', sire, seignor 'lord'. These are all masculine nouns with the exception of suer, seror 'sister'.

Like the other declensional groups (Lesson 1), the case distinction gradually disappeared: the masculine nominative singular ending (-s) spread to nouns that originally did not have it, as sire > sires (which gives the following paradigm: li sires, le seigneur, li seigneur, les seigneurs). Moreover, one of the two forms, the nominative or oblique, came to be generalized to the rest of the paradigm; most commonly it was the oblique form that generalized: e.g. li gars vs. le garšon 'boy' became li garšons vs. le garšon (plural: li garšon and les garšons). This process came to completion in the Middle French period, when the oblique form eventually was the only form left. In the 13th century, a limited number of (animate) nouns developed double paradigms, each based on the nominative vs. oblique stem, cf:

Nominal Declension, Development of sire

    Sg.   Pl.
Nom.   li sire   li sire
Obl.   le sire   les sires

Nominal Declension, Development of seigneur

    Sg.   Pl.
Nom.   li seigneurs   li seigneur
Obl.   le seigneur   les seigneurs
7. Verb Conjugation: Present and Past

The verb in Old French expresses person, number, tense, mood, and to some extent aspect. Verb forms typically do not have an obligatory subject personal pronoun, so chant means 'I sing'. Cf. also: chante 'he sings' vs. li reis chante 'the king sings'. A verbal paradigm typically has three forms in the singular (1st, 2nd, and 3rd person) and three in the plural. The majority of the forms are "synthetic," which means that a unique form expresses the entire verbal concept, e.g. fenissons 'end-Present-we'.

Several forms are "analytic," which means that an auxiliary is combined with the main verb, generally the perfective participle or an infinitive. Compare: chant 'I sing' vs. ai chantÚ 'I have sung'.

On the basis of the ending of the infinitive, we distinguish four conjugations in Old French: verbs in -er, -ir, -oir, and in -re. Of these the verbs in -er and most verbs in -ir are so-called regular verbs. It is accurate to say that as a rule of thumb the verbs in -er, which are most frequent, trace back to the first conjugation verbs in Latin (e.g. Latin cantare survives as chanter in Old French).

There are two types of verb in -ir: those that include an infix -iss- in some forms, and those that do not. The infix traces back to the Latin infix -isc-, an inchoative marker, which conveys the notion of 'to begin', as in tepesco 'I become warm', based on tepeo 'I am warm'. Reflecting this etymological origin, many verbs in -ir are formed on adjectives (OFr. adj. sage 'wise' > v. assagir 'become wise', adj. riche 'rich' > v. enrichir 'become rich'); others are in origin Germanic verbs (e.g. r˘tir 'roast', choisir 'choose').

Verbs in -oir go back to second conjugation verbs in -ere in Latin (e.g. Latin manere 'stay' vs. OFr. manoir 'stay'). Verbs in -re trace back to the Latin verbs in -re.

Verbal Conjugation, Verbs in -er, Present Indicative (chanter)

Present   Ending   Sg.   Ending   Pl.
1st pers.   -   chant 'I sing'   -ons   chantons
2nd pers.   -es   chantes   -ez   chantez
3rd pers.   -e   chante(t)   -ent   chantent

In some verbs, the accent is on the verb ending throughout the entire paradigm; in others, it shifts to the verb stem for certain forms (1st sg., 2nd sg. and 3rd sg. and pl. present indicative and present subjunctive, and 2nd sg. imperative). This accounts for an alternation pattern, as in the verb amer:

amer 'love'

Present   Sg.   Pl.
1st pers.   aim 'I love'   amons
2nd pers.   aimes   amez
3rd pers.   aime(t)   aiment

Verbal Conjugation, Verbs in -ir with infix

Present   Ending   Sg.   Ending   Pl.
1st pers.   -is   fenis 'I end'   -issons   fenissons
2nd pers.   -is   fenis   -iss(i)ez   feniss(i)ez
3rd pers.   -it   fenist   -issent   fenissent

Verbal Conjugation, Verbs in -ir without infix

Present   Ending   Sg.   Ending   Pl.
1st pers.   -   part 'I leave'   -ons   partons
2nd pers.   -s   parz   -ez   partez
3rd pers.   -t   part   -ent   partent

Verbal Conjugation, Verbs in -re

Present   Ending   Sg.   Ending   Pl.
1st pers.   -   cor 'I run'   -ons   corons
2nd pers.   -s   cors   -ez   corez
3rd pers.   -t   cort   ent   corent

The Old French verb has two past tenses, an imperfective (which traces back to the Latin imperfective in -bam, for example cantabam 'I sang') and a preterite (Fr. passe/simple), which goes back to the Latin perfective form, e.g. cantavi 'I have sung'. Latin cantabam survived as chantoie in Old French; Latin cantavi survived as chantai in Old French.

The imperfective and preterite forms for the various conjugations in Old French are as follows.

Verbal Conjugation, Imperfective and Preterite, Verbs in -er (chanter)

Imperfective   Ending   Sg.   Ending   Pl.
1st pers.   -oie   chantoie   -iiens   chantiiens
            -´ons   chant´ons
2nd pers.   -oies   chantoies   -iiez   chantiiez
3rd pers.   -oit   chantoit   -oient   chantoient
                 
Preterite   Ending   Sg.   Ending   Pl.
1st pers.   -ai   chantai   -ames   chantames
2nd pers.   -as   chantas   -astes   chantastes
3rd pers.   -a   chanta   -erent   chanterent

Verbal Conjugation, Imperfective and Preterite, Verbs in -ir with infix (fenir)

Imperfective   Ending   Sg.   Ending   Pl.
1st pers.   -issoie   fenissoie   -issiiens   fenissiiens
            -iss´ons   feniss´ons
2nd pers.   -issoies   fenissoies   -issiiez   fenissiiez
3rd pers.   -issoi(e)t   fenissoi(e)t   -issoient   fenissoient
                 
Preterite   Ending   Sg.   Ending   Pl.
1st pers.   -i   feni   -imes   fenimes
2nd pers.   -is   fenis   -istes   fenistes
3rd pers.   -i   feni   -irent   fenirent

Verbal Conjugation, Imperfective and Preterite, Verbs in -ir without infix (partir)

Imperfective   Ending   Sg.   Ending   Pl.
1st pers.   -oie   partoie   -iions   partiions
            -´ons   part´ons
            -´ens   part´ens
2nd pers.   -oies   partoies   -iiez   partiiez
            -´ez   part´ez
3rd pers.   -oit   partoit   oient   partoient
                 
Preterite   Ending   Sg.   Ending   Pl.
1st pers.   -i   parti   -imes   partimes
2nd pers.   -is   partis   -istes   partistes
3rd pers.   -i   parti   -irent   partirent

Verbal Conjugation, Imperfective and Preterite, Verbs in -re (corre)

Imperfective   Ending   Sg.   Ending   Pl.
1st pers.   -oie   coroie   -iiens   coriiens
            -´ons   cor´ons
2nd pers.   -oies   coroies   -iiez   coriiez
3rd pers.   -oit   coroit   oient   coroient
                 
Preterite   Ending   Sg.   Ending   Pl.
1st pers.   -ui   corui   -umes   corumes
2nd pers.   -us   corus   -ustes   corustes
3rd pers.   -u   coru   -urent   corurent
8. Avoir and Estre

The verbs avoir and estre in Old French have two functions: they function as full lexical elements and as auxiliairies. Avoir is, first of all, a verb of possession; in addition it is used in a common impersonal construction (see Grammar Point 10), and it is an important tense auxiliary (see Grammar Point 9). Estre is a lexical verb conveying existence, a copula, and an auxiliary. The conjugations of both verbs are as follows:

Verbal Conjugation, avoir

Present   Sg.   Pl.
1st pers.   ai 'I have'   avons
2nd pers.   as   avez
3rd pers.   a   ont
         
Imperfective   Sg.   Pl.    
1st pers.   avoie   'I had'   av´ons, aviiens
2nd pers.   avoies   av´ez, aviiez    
3rd pers.   avoit   avoient    
             
Preterite   Sg.   Pl.
1st pers.   oi 'I had'   eŘmes, oŘmes
2nd pers.   eŘs, oŘs   eŘstes, oŘstes
3rd pers.   ot, out   orent, ourent
         
Participles    
Present participle   aiant
Perfective participle   eŘs

Verbal Conjugation, estre

Present   Sg.   Pl.
1st pers.   sui 'I am'   somes, esmes
2nd pers.   es, ies, iÚs   estes
3rd pers.   est   sont
         
Imperfective (Type I)   Sg.   Pl.
1st pers.   iere, ere 'I was'   eriiens, er´ons
2nd pers.   ieres, eres   eriiez, er´ez
3rd pers.   iert, ert   ierent, erent
    iere, ere    
         
Imperfective (Type II)   Sg.   Pl.
1st pers.   estoie 'I was'   estiiens, est´ons
2nd pers.   estoies   estiiez, est´ez
3rd pers.   estoitt   estoient
         
Preterite   Sg.   Pl.
1st pers.   fui 'I was'   fumes
2nd pers.   fus   fustes
3rd pers.   fu   furent
         
Participles    
Present participle   estant
Perfective participle   estÚ
9. Compound Tenses

While Latin only had one auxiliary, esse, which combined with the perfective particle (e.g., laudauts est 'he is in the state resulting from the praising'), French from its earliest stage had two, estre and avoir, as the following examples show:

Auxiliary estre:

  • alez est en un verger (CdR 11)
  • 'he went into an orchard'
  • murs ne citÚt n'est remÚs a fraindre (CdR 5, Lesson 1)
  • 'there is no wall or town left to conquer'

Auxiliary avoir:

  • li reis m'ad tramis ses messages (CdR 181)
  • 'the king has sent me his messages'
  • set anz ad estet en Espaigne (CdR 2, Lesson 1)
  • 'he has spent seven years in Spain'

In Old French the auxiliaries combine with the perfective participle to form four so-called analytic verb forms or compound tenses: present perfect, past perfect (or pluperfect), future perfect, and conditional perfect. For example:

Present Perfect:   ai chantÚ   'I have sung'
Past Perfect:   avoie chantÚ   'I had sung'
Future Perfect:   avrai chantÚ   'I will have sung'
Conditional Perfect:   avroie chantÚ   'I would have sung'

In Old French, estre is not only a tense auxiliary but a passive auxiliary as well, as the following examples show:

estre, tense auxiliary:

  • alez est en un verger (CdR 11)
  • 'he went into an orchard'

estre, passive auxiliary:

  • la tra´sun ne poet estre celee (CdR 1458)
  • 'the treason cannot be kept secret'

In general transitive verbs combine with avoir in compound tenses, while intransitive verbs combine with estre, as in the following examples:

Transitive verb + avoir

  • li reis m'ad tramis ses messages (CdR 181)
  • 'the king has sent me his messages'

Intransitive verb + estre

  • alez est en un verger (CdR 11)
  • 'he has gone into an orchard'

Some verbs combine with avoir or estre according to whether their use is transitive or intransitive, cf.:

morir, intransitive use ('die'):

  • morz est Rollant (CdR 2397, this lesson)
  • 'Roland has died'
  • paien sunt morz a millers (CdR 1439)
  • 'the pagans have died by thousands'

morir, transitive use ('kill'):

  • qui tei a mort France douce a honnie (CdR 2953)
  • '(he) who has killed you has dishonored (our) beloved France'

Reflexive verbs as a rule combine with estre in compound tenses as well, cf:

  • s'i est cuchet (CdR 2358, this lesson)
  • 'he lay down'

But there are many instances with avoir, as in:

  • il s'a vestu
  • 'he has put his clothes on'

With other verbs as well, there is some variation or confusion in the use of auxliaries, cf.:

  • mur ne citet n'i est remÚs a fraindre (CdR 5, Lesson 1)
  • 'there is no wall or town left to conquer'
  • en la citet nen ad remÚs paien (CdR 101, Lesson 1)
  • 'in the town no pagan is left'
10. Impersonal Verbs

Impersonal verbs are verbs that ypically occur in the third person singular, with or without a pronominal element, as in:

  • anuite 'it is getting dark'
  • il anuite 'it is getting dark'

Strictly speaking, il in this context is a pronominal element that occupies the place of a pronominal subject, but has no semantic value (it is empty). Most instances of impersonal verbs in Old French do not have this element.

Impersonal verbs are found in all early Indo-European languages and, while many early Indo-European languages had numerous impersonal verbs, their number in most languages decreased with time.

There are three types of impersonal verbs in Indo-European:

  1. impersonal verbs expressing meteorological conditions and events;
  2. impersonal verbs expressing emotions, feelings, and physical experience;
  3. impersonal verbs expressing modality, such as necessity.

These three types are attested in Old French; category 3 verbs increase with time.

10.1. Meteorological conditions and events
  • (il) anuite 'it is getting dark'
  • (il) avesprit 'it is getting dark'
  • (il) ajorne 'the day breaks'
  • (il) neige 'it is snowing'
  • (il) plove 'it is raining'
10.2. Emotions, feelings, and physical experience
  • (il) abelist 'it pleases'
  • (il) membre 'remember'
  • (il) remembre 'remember'
10.3. Modality, such as necessity
  • (il) affiert 'it is fitting'
  • (il) loist 'it is possible'
  • (il) estuet 'it is necessary'
  • (il) semble 'it seems'
  • (il) fault 'it is necessary'
  • (il) covient 'it is necessary'
  • (il) chaut 'it matters, it is important'

In addition to these impersonal verbs, there are also several impersonal expressions in Old French, cf:

  • estre tart a 'to be eager'
  • estre avis a 'to be of the opinion'
  • avoir mestier a 'to be of use to, need'

The person who is undergoing the emotional or physical experience or to whom the modality refers is referred to in the oblique case or a pronominal direct or indirect object:

  • molt est la reine tart 'the queen is very eager'
  • m'est avis 'it seems to me'
  • morir le covient 'he had to die'
  • ni li chalt (CdR 227) 'it does no matter to him'

The verb avoir has been glossed in this on-line course as meaning 'have, be'. Avoir, first of all, is a verb of possession 'have', but in impersonal constructions its meaning becomes 'be', cf.:

  • num ad Rollant 'he has the name Roland; he is called Roland'
  • grifuns i ad 'there are griffins'

The object or person that is present takes the form of an oblique case, as in the preceding example. The constructions are found in Old French with or without il and with or without i, cf:

  • ad + oblique case 'there is' --
  • meillor vassal n'aveit en la curt nul (CdR 231) 'there was no better knight at the court'
  • i + ad + oblique case 'there is' --
  • bataille i ad (CdR 1791, this lesson) 'there is a battle'
  • grifuns i ad (CdR 2544) 'there are griffins'
  • n'i ad cheval (CdR 2522) 'there is no horse'
  • n'i ad castel (CdR 3, Lesson 1) 'there is no castle'
  • il + i + ad + oblique case 'there is' --
  • il nen i ad ne veie ne senter (CdR 2399, this lesson) 'there is no road nor path'
  • que il n'i ait o Franceis o paien (CdR 2401, this lesson) 'where there is no Frenchman nor pagan"

The use of il in these constructions is rather rare in early times, but spreads in the Middle French period; eventually the expression became fixed, including il as well as i. It survives in Modern French as il y a 'there is'.