Matthew's Reviews > The Song of Roland

The Song of Roland by Anonymous
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Nov 27, 07

Read in December, 2007

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, a lot of brutal death and dismemberment, and a host of carboard characters who are difficult to identify with if you do not share their religious hysteria. I've read plenty of books along similar lines and liked them a lot, but this one struck me as particularly stiff.

Later troubadours and authors would expand the legends of Charlemagne's 12 peers and humanize them more than this book does. The Song of Roland is worth reading if you're curious about the origins of the literary Roland/Orlando figure and some of his companions in arms, but it is far from being the most interesting book about this character.
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message 1: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian Wold That's too bad for you. I really liked this prose translation because it read very fast. I thought the battle scenes were vivid and exciting. I am at a disadvantage when it comes to cultural works because I am Christian and I tend to root for the Christians.


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