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The Song of Roland Paperback – February 13, 2001

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Editorial Reviews


"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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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Modern Library (February 13, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375757112
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375757112
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #534,095 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

55 of 56 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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5 of 5 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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on November 2, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I decided to use Kindle Matchbook to replace my physical copy with a digital version. It's a good thing I still have a physical copy lying around, because the Kindle version contains no links in the translation to the notes for each section. So, if you actually want to use the notes, you have to go back to the table of contents, navigate to the notes, read those for the next few sections, and then navigate back, the long way, to wherever you were in the text. Or you can use a chain of progressive bookmarks.

Is there simply no motivation for publishers to get their act together, when it comes to digital editions of books?

If I had just scanned my physical copy, the pdf would have been bulky, but at least I could have copied the notes section to a separate file and kept it open, while reading the main text. Would publishers prefer that we just scan their books ourselves?
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3 of 4 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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By R. Shaffer on October 8, 2012
Format: Paperback
The Song of Roland was written around 1090 and is based on events that happened about 300 years earlier. The forward is filled with all the theories, what we know or more precisely what we don't know. In my opinion, any story that is this old (nearly 1,000 years) and has to be translated is bound to lose something be it through the translation or just the fact that things have changed so much over such a long period of time. The version I read had a forward by W. S. Merwin.

I was drawn to this book because of Don Quixote, The Song of Roland would have been one of the books read by Quixote that drove him mad with chivalrous ideas. The Song of Roland shows many of the ways of the knights during medieval times, faithfulness to your lord, honor, to fight and die for your cause. To make a reputation, one that after your death, wouldn't shame your family and one of honor, bravery, and loyalty was what was most important to knights.

I was not disappointed, this book was what I expected, violent, epic battles against overwhelming enemies, pride, loyalty, and bravery that defines the word quixotic. Good Christian knights against evildoer pagans (non-Christians), and the idea that God will make sure that good triumphs over evil. No matter how many evildoers one must cleave in two (and there is plenty of cleaving).

This was a fast and easy read that I would recommend to those who are interested in the subject of knights and chivalry.
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