August 15: Roland The Headless Saracen Fighter

There's probably way better versions of this on YouTube, but the amateur spirit appeals to me.


Have I done one of these bullet-pointy posts lately? I'm not going to go back and look in case the answer is "yes."

• I'm surprised the islamophobes -- the kind of people who are urging Europeans to make babies or succumb to the rising hordes in the banlieues -- haven't made more of The Song of Roland, what with stuff like this:
He saw the Saracen seize his sword;
His eyes he oped, and he spake one word—
“Thou art not one of our band, I trow,”
And he clutched the horn he would ne’er forego;
On the golden crest he smote him full,
Shattering steel and bone and skull,
Forth from his head his eyes he beat,
And cast him lifeless before his feet.
When you realize that the poem rewrote history (to make the Basques into Moors), you think it would be even more appealing to those folks. Why hasn't the Wall Street Journal editorial page already run an article asking why there aren't more archbishops like these:
When Turpin felt him flung to ground,
And four lance wounds within him found,
He swiftly rose, the dauntless man,
To Roland looked, and nigh him ran.
Spake but, “I am not overthrown—
Brave warrior yields with life alone.”
He drew Almace’s burnished steel,
A thousand ruthless blows to deal.
• This has got to be one of the longest death scenes in literature. In stanza 154, Roland, sounding his horn, literally blows his brains out ("Burst asunder his temple's vein"). Then he has a tender scene with his special friend Olivier, who's just been killed. Then he fights some. Then he carries Olivier back for a proper benediction. Then, as you've seen, he kills one last Saracen who tried to get his sword. Then he tries to destroy the sword, lest an Arab get it (sword = constitution, in our time). And then, like a good Frenchman, he makes sure his death is orderly:
With face to earth, his form he laid,
Beneath him placed he his horn and sword,
And turned his face to the heathen horde.
Thus hath he done the sooth to show,
That Karl [Charlemagne, not Marx -- ed.] and his warriors all may know,
That the gentle count a conqueror died.
That's stanza 195. Forty stanzas! After he blew his temple vein out! And he still has a two-stanza death speech! That is pretty legendary.

0 comments: