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The Song of Roland (Modern Library Classics) Paperback – February 13, 2001


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Product Details

  • Series: Modern Library Classics
  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Modern Library (February 13, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375757112
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375757112
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.1 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #156,708 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"The Song of Roland is not a chance assembly of popular tales: it is a deliberate and masterly work of art."

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)

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52 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Boris Bangemann on April 17, 2004
Format: Paperback
The Song of Roland is the most famous of the "chansons de geste" (songs of deeds) of the Middle Ages. It provides a fascinating view into the spirit of warriors of that time and their motivation. The Song of Roland gives an idealized picture, of course, and if we can believe the historians, the medieval knights never lived up to their chivalric ideal.
The Song of Roland is not commonly included in the canon of must-read classics. Except in France, maybe. I assume the reason is that people in our time do not trace back their roots to the feudalism of the Middle Ages, and that they consider the chapter of chivalry closed after Cervantes's satirical portrait of knighthood in "Don Quixote". In one respect, however, this gory tale of slaughter, martyrdom and revenge is very contemporary. It illustrates the mindset of crusaders who see the world in terms of Good and Evil, and the language they use to incite contempt of the other party.
Apart from its historical value, the Song of Roland is also worth reading as literature - as an outstanding example for the heroic epic and as a piece of art whose "simple yet elevated style and tone of high moral purpose" (R. Harrison) is reminiscent of the Old Testament.
The three most easily available translations of the Song of Roland in the market are:
W.S. Merwin's 1963 prose translation with introduction, re-published in paperback by Random House's "Modern Library" in 2001 (ISBN 0375757112). His nine-page introduction is a succinct but sufficient overview of the historical events of AD 778 that became the basis of the Song of Roland.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan C. Pike on July 26, 2008
Format: Paperback
I agree with the previous (and, at this point, only other) review of this product in that the Song of Roland is (sadly) an often overlooked piece of medieval literature. I have taken several classes on the topic and I had never even heard of the poem until it was reccommended to me by my brother. After reading it, I too urge anyone interested in this style of literature to pick it up. It's a quick and easy read, yet for all that it embodies all the ideals and heroic qualities of France (and much of Christian western Europe) during the 8th and 9th centuries (and probably beyond as well). The Song of Roland exists as one of the dominant and most influential pieces of the period, and should not be neglected by any student of the era. Plus, you have to love a hero that is such a beast in battle that his death is not a result of any fighting wounds, but rather just a mighty blast of his own.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Acute Observer on October 18, 2012
Format: Paperback
The Song of Roland

This historical battle occurred on August 15, 778. Nobody knows who wrote this poem. Charlemagne attacked Spain. Upon his return, the rearguard was attacked and killed to the last man. Saracen Spain was a constant threat to Christian France. So too the separatist Christian Dukes of France. This poem must have been written before the 12th century. Some say the episodes in this poem were copied from real events in the First Crusade and other literary works. Carolingian society was based on a primitive form of feudalism. The Oxford University version of the "Song of Roland" is the oldest known version, 3998 lines of verse divided into 291 paragraphs. It is written in Anglo-Norman French of the early twelfth century. There are other versions of the poem. [Interest in Roland seems to have waned in modern times.]

King Charles of France had conquered most of Spain except for the mountain city of Saragossa where King Marsilla ruled. Marsilla's advisor Blancandrin suggested giving wealth to Charles so he would leave Spain. It is better to lose hostages than a kingdom. Count Roland says Marsilla can't be trusted and Charles should continue the war, but the others disagreed. Charles wants to send an envoy to Marsilla. Roland suggests his stepsire Ganelon. Ganelon is angered by this perilous task. Ganelon and Blancandrin speak together. Ganelon tells Marsilla of Charles' wishes, the latter is angered. But Blancandrin tells Marsilla what Ganelon told him. Ganelon says the conflict would cease after Roland died. Ganelon advises paying tribute so Charles will return to France. Then Marsilla can attack Roland in the outnumbered rear guard.

The treaty will mean peace in their time. Charlemagne accepts the tribute and Marsilla's promise, then leaves for France.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By DDC VINE VOICE on June 6, 2011
Format: Paperback
There is already one comprehensive review up and if you have no interest in classical literature, then I doubt I can influence you much in a review. But, it is worth nothing that this is an incredibly accessible rendering. A lot of people are scared off from reading the classics because of the difficulty in just getting through them. That is not the case here; this book flows over you like water and is a lot of fun to read. You also might want to check this out if you are a fan of C.S. Lewis or J.R.R. Tolkien - while I don't know that this influenced them, I can't imagine that they hadn't read it. In any event, I felt I could see the faint influence.
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