Death, Dying, Grief and Mourning

            "Death is always the same,
                               but each man dies in his own way."

Carson McCullers, Clock Without Hands, 1960


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Death, Dying, Grief, and Mourning

in Western Literature


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Chanson de Roland, Author Unknown, 1090

 Translation: Charles Scott Moncrief  1919

Death of Roland

Death of Roland

2355 But Roland felt that death had made a way
     Down from his head till on his heart it lay;
     Beneath a pine running in haste he came,
     On the green grass he lay there on his face;
     His olifant and sword beneath him  placed,
2360 Turning his head  towards the pagan  race,
     Now this he did, in truth, that Charles might say
     (As he desired) and all the Franks his race; --
     'Ah, gentle count; conquering he was slain!' --
     He owned his faults often and every way,
2365 And for his sins his glove to God upraised.
     But roland feels he's no more time to seek;
     Looking to Spain, he lies on a sharp peak,
     And with one hand upon his breast he beats:
     "Mea Culpa!  God, by Thy Virtues clean
2370 Me from  my sins, the mortal and the mean,
     Which from the hour that I was born have been
     Until this day, when life is ended here!"
     Holds out his glove towards God, as he speaks
     Angels descend from  heaven on that scene.
2375 The count Roland, beneath a pine he sits,;
     Turning his eyes towards Spain, he begins
     Remembering so many divers things:
     So many lands where he went conquering,
     And France the Douce, the heroes of his kin,
2380 And Charlemagne, his lord who nourished him.
     Nor can he help but weep and sigh at this.
     But his own self, he's not forgotten him,
     He owns his faults, and God's forgiveness bids:
     "Very Father, in Whom no falsehood is,
2385 Saint Lazaron from death Thou didst remit,
     And Daniel save from the lions' pit;
     My soul in me preserve from all perils
     And from the sins I did in life commit!"
     His right-hand glove, to God he offers it
2390 Saint Gabriel from's hand hath taken it.
     Over his arm his head bows down and slips,
     He joins his hands: and so is life finish'd.
     God sent him down His angel cherubin,
     And Saint Michael, we worship in peril;
2395 And by their side Saint Gabriel alit;
     So the count's soul they bare to Paradis.
     Roland is dead; his soul to heav'n God bare.
     That Emperour to Rencesvals doth fare.
     There was no path nor passage anywhere
2400 Nor of waste ground no ell nor foot to spare
     Without a Frank or pagan lying there.
     Charles cries aloud: "Where are you, nephew fair?
     Where's the Archbishop and that count Oliviers?
     Where is Gerins and his comrade Gerers?
2405 Otes the Duke, and the count Berengiers
     And Ivorie, and Ive, so dear they were?
     What is become of Gascon Engelier,
     Sansun the Duke and Anseis the fierce?
     Where's old Gerard of Russillun; oh, where
2410 The dozen peers I left behind me here?"
     But what avail, since none can answer bear?
     "God!" says the King, "Now well may I despair,
     I was not here the first assault to share!"
     Seeming enraged, his beard the King doth tear.
2415 Weep from their eyes barons and chevaliers,
     A thousand score, they swoon upon the earth;
     Duke Neimes for them was moved with pity rare.



Adrienne Nater, 2008

2008 Adrienne Nater. All rights reserved.