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The Song of Roland

3.54 of 5 stars 3.54  ·  rating details  ·  8,185 ratings  ·  295 reviews
A translation of the medieval epic poem about Roland's adventures and death in Charlemagne's war against the pagans...Title: .The Song of Roland..Author: .Merwin, W. S. (TRN)..Publisher: .Random House Inc..Publication Date: .2001/02/01..Number of Pages: .137..Binding Type: .PAPERBACK..Library of Congress: .00048989
Paperback, 160 pages
Published February 13th 2001 by Modern Library (first published 1070)
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It's not surprising that this work's greatest descendants are satires. It's often difficult to take the simplistic pro-crusade sentiment seriously. Each time one of the Knights yelled to some dead Muslim "We're right, you're wrong!" I laughed. When you're debate opponent is already slain, I guess you don't need to say anything else.

Ariosto drew on this tradition for his 'Orlando Furioso', but each time a knight yells to the Muslims "You're wrong!" the Muslims yell the same thing back. Though the
Mark Adderley
There's not much to say about The Song of Roland. It's a great epic, of course. Dorothy L. Sayers' translation is a little more poetic than accurate. She also disconcertingly changes the spellings of character names for metrical reasons or else for assonance. That's confusing. The introduction is excellent, though. And, once you've got used to the name thing, the translation is very readable. I prefer Glyn S. Burgess' translation that has essentially replaced Sayers'. Perhaps it's not as literar ...more
"Pagans are wrong: Christians are right indeed."

Wow, thanks for that stunning piece of religious thinking, Roland!

If you like sophisticated metaphysical analysis such as that, as well as lavish descriptions of bowels and brains spilling out onto the ground, then boy howdy, is this the book for you! Man. Okay, some works are classics because they're really amazingly good—beautifully written, incisive, profound. Others are classics because they're super old. The Song of Roland, the oldest survivin
Evan Leach
The oldest surviving major work of French literature, and an entertaining medieval classic. This epic poem tells a stylized version of the Battle of Roncevaux Pass (in 778), when Charlemagne's Christian forces fought the Muslims. If you enjoy epic poetry or medieval literature, this is not to be missed. 4 stars, recommended.
Aug 31, 2014 Kamil rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: History buffs
Recommended to Kamil by: History of literature course
The Song of Roland, a French epic from the end of the 11th century, shows a war between the Saracen invaders of Spain, led by Marsilius and Baligant, and the French,led by Roland and Charlemagne.

In a ploy, Charlemagne retreats from Spain, when the last part of his army, led by Roland, anbushed by Marsilius in the Roncevaux valley.

The Song of Roland served as a background for various knightly epics, and it is said that even Tolkien drew from it. The book is written favoring the christians, with
The Song of Roland, while about Charlemagne (800 AD) , is really a story of the Crusading era (ca. 1100 AD). Einhard, Charlemagne's biographer, notes in passing that the battle of Roncesvalles was fought against Basques, but in the Song, the enemy is the Saracen. And while some of the Saracens are depicted as evil, and many die being cleaved from head down to the spine of the horse they are riding, the real evils of this story are the treacherous Ganelon and Roland's own pride. Unwilling to blow ...more
Rachel Rueckert
After finishing The Song of Rolland, I am struck with how many arguments it raises for war and the justifications it seems to give for it. While there is much to point out from the text, I think the clearest examples of this process is found in the Christian symbols, defending the Franks position as “right,” and in dehumanizing the enemy.

It is difficult to leave Sunday school in our 21st century LDS paradigm and reasonably see how Rolland could be portrayed as a Christ figure. For me, the major
I can't really tell if this was a hero's poem or a critique on hero's poems. Roland, the titular character, makes a huge blunder in being overbold, an act that gets him both chewed out by his best friend as well as killed. Besides the fact that he's Charlemagne's nephew, Roland doesn't DO anything that makes him a great knight BESIDES fight well. The interesting part is that warriors on the opposing side (all of whom are Muslims) can at times be described as good warriors but bad people. In the ...more
Linette Soberay
This is an exemplary piece of epic literature that I really enjoyed reading. It was interesting to really see how flawed the European view of the Saracens of the Middle East was during the crusades. It really shows how not only were the views of the Europeans skewed, but it also relates to the views of many people today. When you ask a person about their view of Christianity, their answer will vary depending on where the person is from. We as people are often forced to make the same assumptions ...more
Karl Steel
Jan 13, 2008 Karl Steel rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: medievalists, nostalgics for greater France
Looked over a few of the other reviews. Look, folks, it's not a romance, and it has nothing to do with 'courtly love.' It's the chanson de geste. Not a romance. Nothing erotic going on here.

Given that the earliest ms is in Anglo-Norman, kept track this time round of Charlemagne's involvement in England.

I do wish, however, that I had assigned Burgess's trans. Curious to have a go with it. The use of 'race' in this one seems a bit off.
Benoit Turgeon
When read out of context, this might seem like a strange book, but remember, this was written sometime around the eleventh century about facts from the eighth century. This was at a time when hero's feats were GREATLY exaggerated as they were sung about. This is a translation so we lose the poetic rhythm of the original which had exactly ten syllables for each of the 4000 lines.
Mar 06, 2010 Elaine rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Elaine by: Proffesor Root
I had epiphanies all through this book! It was mainly a war story about French "Christians" taking over Arabic "Heathens," however it was the first book I was able to read in a foreign language in less than 10 days, and I was just excited to understand all of it, and enjoyed the story line and making up modern-ish alterations to it in my mind while and after reading it.
Franskt kappakvæði samið á 11. eða 12. öld en segir frá sögulegum atburðum sem áttu sér stað á 8. öld. Elsta varðveitta handrit er frá 12. öld. Kvæðið mögulega elsta franska kappakvæðið.

Kvæðið segir frá bardaganum við Roncevaux sem átti sér stað milli manna Karlamagnúsar og baska árið 778 en færir verulega í stílinn ef elsta sagnfræðilega samtímaheimild er skoðuð.

Baskarnir hafa breyst í múslima og illþýði frá Afríku, m.a. risa, og verður kvæðið fyrir vikið að baráttu milli góðs og ills, kristni
Patrick Bates
The Song of Roland
By Unknown

The pivotal characters of this book include:
Roland, a nobleman in the Court of Charlemagne.

Charlemagne, the Holy Roman Emperor who has invaded Spain

King Marsile, the Saracen King of Spain

Ganelon, The father in law of Roland and nobleman of the Court of Charlemagne

Baligant, emir of Babylon who leads a battle against Charlemagne’s forces.

The Song of Roland is a medieval epic that tells the story of the Battle of Roncevaux in 778 AD. Both the author and the date of com
Very enjoyable companion to my history studies on the Carolingian era. That said, I felt more than usual the loss of not being able to read this in the original language. Just glancing at the Old French makes me understand how much I'm missing. This straight prose translation does not attempt to preserve any of the poetry of the original.

I will never really understand the fondness for cataloging weaponry but it seems to be a very compelling interest from Herodotus through Churchill and beyond.
M.G. Bianco
The student who opens his heart to Homer, Plato, St. Augustine, the author of The Song of Roland, Dante, Chaucer, and Shakespeare, doesn't get, he gives; he learns to love these authors whose Beauty, Truth, and Good shine through the dark divine and human matter of their works like swarms of stars in the honey-combed night of time; he gazes on them with the thrilled fear we call "awe" and "wonder," the way a lover gazes upon his beloved, who would be shocked and ashamed at anyone who asked what
This was an easy read; the book is slim and the chapter are very short.
Things I got from this book:

It's a fast-moving, dramatic French epic based on a true event during Charlemagne’s somewhat unsuccesful campaign of 778 in northern Moorish Spain, a 'minor' ambush of the rear guard as he returned home - at the Pyrenees (not by muslims as the story claims though); and a true man, Hruodland (Roland), Charlemagne's Breton warden, who perished in this battle (how noble and brave he actually was is no
This is definitely the version of this book to get since the 50+ page introduction/apologia (best read after the story) provides a very good historical background and examination of the major themes of the story, although it engages in a great deal of moral relativism which I generally reject out of hand. Right is right and wrong is wrong, whether in the 10th Century or today, whether the Moslems in question are assembling at the foothills of the Pyrenees or flying into the Twin Towers.

Anyway, t
Ryan Handermann
Crusade propaganda. I have friends who try to defend this as a great Christian epic. However, the characters are hardly Christian, even in a "Just War" sense, Charlemagne falls woefully short. Vengeance against one's enemies is the greatest reason to fight. Sometimes I wonder if it is a subversive work, showing the blood lust of Christians, only to take it down. But it is not. It is unashamedly advocating killing your enemies and rejoicing in their death.

The end is very telling: Ganelon betrays
David Sarkies
Sep 17, 2013 David Sarkies rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who like medieval poetry
Recommended to David by: Nobody in particular
Shelves: poetry
In her introduction Dorothy Sayers compared the Song of Roland with Homer but in my opinion that is like comparing a grafitti artist with Pablo Picasso. Yeah, their both painters, but they simply exist on two completely different levels. Granted, the Song of Roland is an epic poem in the tradition sense in that it chronicles events that occurred four hundred years before the poem appeared in its final form and was no doubt handed down by word of mouth for at least a bit of that time, but the st ...more
As this is the premier song of deeds, I have presented for your edification the medieval rules of battle such as they are presented here:

1. The Defiance -- slinging insults at each other. For example: "Fair France this day shall find her honour flown!"

2. The Encounter with the Spear -- jousting, basically, though it's sometimes also thrown.

3a The Encounter with the Sword on Horseback -- if the spears break without unhorsing or slaying anyone, you go at it with swords, trying to achieve the follo
The translator W.S. Merwin makes the intriguing statement in his introduction that when he thinks about the language of this classic work he thinks of water and light. Unfortunately his translation did not convey such aesthetics to me, but I'd still choose this copy over a rhyming translation.

The earliest of the surviving chansons de geste that tell the stories of Charlemagne's knights, a piece contemporary with Beowulf, this epic poem contains a lot of melodramatic pathos, a lot of repetition,
I had to read The Song of Roland for medieval lit, mostly because it's an epic of the period, while the other medieval texts are all romances -- I assume that later we'll have to make some comparisons and draw some contrasts. It's interesting to me because of my background with the classical epics -- it reminds me very strongly of the Iliad and the Odyssey. Obviously, they're all oral poems, designed to be memorised and performed, so in terms of language there's a lot of similarity, but there's ...more
I initially set out to give this book two stars. While I appreciate the epic poem's form and the window into medieval life it provides, I admit that it often struck me as tedious, boring and weird. Too many people running around smiting each other with swords that contain Saint Peter's teeth and then continuing to live, despite the fact that their ears are leaking brains. The text speaks for itself when it says, "How many helms and hauberks broken in the field remain! / How many heads and hands ...more
Julia Boechat Machado
Canção de Gesta do século XI. Ficcionalização da batalha de Roncesvales, repleta de erros históricos, mas muito interessante. A vaidade que o impede de tocar o olifante é imperdoável aos olhos modernos, mas quase cavalheiresca. Se ele fosse um grego antigo, seria sua falha, aquela que perde o herói. Ao invés disso, ele toca o olifante não pra pedir ajuda, mas por querer vingança.
É muito humano. Carlos Magno é impressionante humano, é um imperador, um guerreiro, mas também um homem velho – embora
Heroism. Blood and gore. Larger than life characters. Betrayal. Honor. Revenge. The blows of French axes against Saracen scimitars. All the elements of good epic poetry.

Dorothy Sayers’ translation is lyric and poetic, and capitalizes on the medieval feel of archaic language. I found her notes helpful, but also found it bit distracting when she slightly altered the characters names in order to make them fit better with the meter. The French translation that I read (by Léon Gautier) used much mor
I feel badly giving any classic less than three stars, let alone one as venerable and beloved as The Song of Roland, but I feel that this one has not aged well. It's full of gratuitous violence, xenophobia/bigotry, and one-dimensional characters (unlike, for example, the flawed heroes of Arthurian legend). The poetry is sometimes beautiful, sometimes uninteresting, and often repetitive. Of course, I read it in translation, so it probably lost something there.

For me, The Song of Roland was intere
Nolan Flavin
The Song of Roland: Also rightfully titled by myself The Insanely Bias Tug-Of War Between the Christians and Muslims. I found this book unproductive, juvenile, and quite silly. While I am sure it was written with much sincerity from its author, it has failed to age very well. It went out of date the moment people read it who weren't Muslim-hating (and, for that matter, Muslim-ignorant) Frenchmen.

I read the Frederick Goldin translation, and his narration flowed well and sounded great. The book wa
Steve Hemmeke

I don't recall reading anything like this, ever. A French epic poem written around 1100, about a battle in the Pyrenees mountains in 778 between France and Spain. The poem is not historically accurate. It was romanticized into a battle between Christianity and Islam, but history seems to say both sides were Christian.

1. Might must defend right.
Roland wants to fight the Muslims, mainly. Several other examples uphold this principle, and it's a good one. We ought not initiate vi
Roland and Oliver are great companions and yet there seems to be tension between the two. Roland is described as bold and Oliver is wise. When Oliver urges Roland to blow the Oliphant and call Charlemagne for help he is too proud to show weakness and thinks he and his men can take on the Muslims. Roland was truly something else. Refusing help when he clearly knew he was about to get ambuscaded. He exhibits traits of a true knight, bravado and heroism. Fighting against all odds, even in his last ...more
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Goodreads Librari...: Different edition, same ISBN 9 23 Jun 21, 2014 06:31AM  
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  • The History of the Franks
  • Tristan: With the Tristran of Thomas
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  • Piers Plowman
  • King Harald's Saga
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  • Hrafnkel's Saga and Other Icelandic Stories
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