One of the crowning achievements of medieval literature, The Song of Roland tells the story of the battle of Roncesvals in 778 and enters into the very soul of a gallant, brutal, and tumultuous age.
At the center of this heroic epic is Roland, the supreme embodiment of the chivalric ideal who leads his men into combat and fights valiantly to the death. But Roland is just one of the superbly defined figures in the panoramic drama. The poem’s vivid portrayals of Ganelon’s treason, Roland’s last stand, Charlemagne’s campaign of vengeance, and the final act of retribution are justly famous. Equally fascinating is the sophisticated use of repetition and juxtaposition that gives this work its remarkable organic unity and time-defying dimension of vision.
As Robert Harrison, the translator of this acclaimed edition, explains, “The carefully balanced structure of The Song of Roland is designed like a folding mirror to reflect the battle between Good and Evil at all levels of meaning.” Quite possibly the oldest and surely the greatest chanson de geste, The Song of Roland is a sophisticated and enduring work that remains a masterpiece to this day.
Translated and with an Introduction by Robert Harrison And an Afterword by Guy Gavriel Kay
“Only one other work of ancient literature shares the same concern with transcendent reality, combined with a simple yet elevated style and a tone of high moral purpose—the Old Testament.”—Robert Harrison