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Book Report: The Song of Roland



Because I wanted to be particularly unemployable, I emphasized medieval literature while I was majoring in English. Well, maybe not, but it worked out that way. (Fortunately, I learned to type.) What really happened was that I fell in love with the stories, from Chaucer to Chrétien de Troyes to the monks who preserved the Lebor na hUidre.

Since I was also studying French at the same time, I got a smattering of Old French and a little contact with La Chanson de Roland. The story is a familiar one to me: rash Roland, faithful Oliver, kingly Charlemagne, and treacherous Ganelon playing out their roles against the background of war with the Moors in Spain.

Syd cleaned out his bookcases, and, as is the rule with all books, I am entitled to pick what I want out of the rejects. Somehow he felt he could part with Dorothy Sayers’s translation of Roland. Naturally, I snapped it up. It was awesome. Everyone was there, hacking and slashing. Knights got split in half all the way down through their destriers, slices got taken out of people’s heads, revealing the very bones of the skull, bowels gushed out, brains smashed, and all the usual war business. Famous swords, Joyeuse (which T. and I got to see when we were in France!) and Durendal, did their skillful work. Armor gleamed with gems. Horses snorted. Enemies plotted.

Two thumbs up (on the basis that it gets to stay on the shelf and I would definitely give it to T.R., if no one else).

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