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The Song of Roland

Book Overview: 

The Song of Roland is an epic poem, originally sung in Old French. It tells the story of the Battle of Roncevaux Pass in 778. This is an English translation. Translated by Charles Kenneth Scott-Moncrieff.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .Since the rereward you have for me decreed.
  Charles the King will never lose by me,
  As I know well, nor charger nor palfrey,
  Jennet nor mule that canter can with speed,
  Nor sumpter-horse will lose, nor any steed;
  But my sword's point shall first exact their meed."
  Answers him Guenes: "I know; 'tis true in-deed."


  When Rollant heard that he should be rerewarden
  Furiously he spoke to his good-father:
  "Aha! culvert; begotten of a bastard.
  Thinkest the glove will slip from me hereafter,
  As then from thee the wand fell before Charles?"
            &nbs. . . Read More

Community Reviews

This is a work of legend, events that actually happened during the Carolingian Era having been distorted and magnified so as to become myth. The epic, an example of the poetic form chanson de geste, is based on the Battle of Roncesvalles in the Pyrenees. After seven years of trying, Charles the G...more

Charlemagne's Rear Guard
17 September 2013

In her introduction Dorothy Sayers compared the Song of Roland with Homer but in my opinion that is like comparing a graffiti artist with Pablo Picasso. Yeah, they're both painters, but they simply exist on two completely different levels. Granted, the So...more

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...more

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...more

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 vi...more

Poetry is not my favorite genre but this is a superb translation by Dorothy Sayers, the writer of Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries.

Before the poem, she devotes several pages to a thorough and interesting history of knights, lords, lieges, etc.. and their relationships with each other. I think this hel...more

I am Oliver.

I'm a big fan of heroic literature, but The Song of Roland is not my favorite. Honestly, this is very much 'For the Glory of God', a crusader's epic poem. Not a great fit for me thematically, but I really wanted to have this piece of the puzzle slotted in for my understanding of hero...more

One of the best action stories that I have ever read. The entire poem is just invigorating. I love how the characters are established so quickly and so skillfully, and each of them are interesting in their own ways, from the valiant Roland, the zealous Archbishop and the treacherous Ganelon. In a...more

"The Song of Roland" is the most unintentionally hilarious epic I have ever read. I kept trying to imagine how its original audience would have received it--possibly the way we respond to testosterone-driven action movies today. The main difference, aside from the medium, seems to be that in mode...more

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...more

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