THE LIFE OF THE EMPEROR CHARLES

[32] Adpropinquantis finis conplura fuere prodigia, ut non solum alii, sed etiam ipse hoc minitari sentiret. Per tres continuos vitaeque termino proximos annos et solis et lunae creberrima defectio et in sole macula quaedam atri coloris septem dierum spatio visa. Porticus, quam inter basilicam et regiam operosa mole construxerat, die ascensionis Domini subita ruina usque ad fundamenta conlapsa. Item pons Rheni apud Mogontiacum, quem ipse per decem annos ingenti labore et opere mirabili de ligno ita construxit, ut perenniter durare posse videretur, ita tribus horis fortuitu incendio conflagravit, ut, praeter quod aqua tegebatur, ne una quidem astula ex eo remaneret. Ipse quoque, cum ultimam in Saxoniam expeditionem contra Godofridum regem Danorum ageret, quadam die, cum ante exortum solis castris egressus iter agere coepisset, vidit repente delapsam caelitus cum ingenti lumine facem a dextra in sinistram per serenum aera transcurrere. Cunctisque hoc signum, quid portenderet, ammirantibus, subito equus, quem sedebat, capite deorsum merso decidit eumque tam graviter ad terram elisit, ut, fibula sagi rupta balteoque gladii dissipato, a festinantibus qui aderant ministris exarmatus et sine amiculo levaretur. Iaculum etiam, quod tunc forte manu tenebat, ita elapsum est, ut viginti vel eo amplius pedum spatio longe iaceret. Accessit ad hoc creber Aquensis palatii tremor et in domibus, ubi conversabatur, assiduus laqueariorum crepitus. Tacta etiam de caelo, in qua postea sepultus est, basilica, malumque aureum, quo tecti culmen erat ornatum, ictu fulminis dissipatum et supra domum pontificis, quae basilicae contigua erat, proiectum est. Erat in eadem basilica in margine coronae, quae inter superiores et inferiores arcus interiorem aedis partem ambiebat, epigramma sinopide scriptum, continens, quis auctor esset eiusdem templi, cuius in extremo versu legebatur: KAROLUS PRINCEPS. Notatum est a quibusdam eodem, quo decessit, anno paucis ante mortem mensibus eas, quae PRINCEPS exprimebant, litteras ita esse deletas, ut penitus non apparerent. Sed superiora omnia sic aut dissimulavit aut sprevit, acsi nihil horum ad res suas quolibet modo pertineret.


Omens of Death

[32] Very many omens had portended his approaching end, a fact that he had recognized as well as others. Eclipses both of the sun and moon were very frequent during the last three years of his life, and a black spot was visible on the sun for the space of seven days. The gallery between the basilica and the palace, which he had built at great pains and labor, fell in sudden ruin to the ground on the day of the Ascension of our Lord. The wooden bridge over the Rhine at Mayence, which he had caused to be constructed with admirable skill, at the cost of ten years' hard work, so that it seemed as if it might last forever, was so completely consumed in three hours by an accidental fire that not a single splinter of it was left, except what was under water. Moreover, one day in his last campaign into Saxony against Godfred, King of the Danes, Charles himself saw a ball of fire fall suddenly from the heavens with a great light, just as he was leaving camp before sunrise to set out on the march. It rushed across the clear sky from right to left, and everybody was wondering what was the meaning of the sign, when the horse which he was riding gave a sudden plunge, head foremost, and fell, and threw him to the ground so heavily that his cloak buckle was broken and his sword belt shattered; and after his servants had hastened to him and relieved him of his arms, he could not rise without their assistance. He happened to have a javelin in his hand when he was thrown, and this was struck from his grasp with such force that it was found lying at a distance of twenty feet or more from the spot. Again, the palace at Aix-la-Chapelle frequently trembled, the roofs of whatever buildings he tarried in kept up a continual crackling noise, the basilica in which he was afterwards buried was struck by lightning, and the gilded ball that adorned the pinnacle of the roof was shattered by the thunderbolt and hurled upon the bishop's house adjoining. In this same basilica, on the margin of the cornice that ran around the interior, between the upper and lower tiers of arches, a legend was inscribed in red letters, stating who was the builder of the temple, the last words of which were Karolus Princeps. The year that he died it was remarked by some, a few months before his decease, that the letters of the word Princeps were so effaced as to be no longer decipherable. But Charles despised, or affected to despise, all these omens, as having no reference whatever to him.

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