James Baldwin (1841–1925)


Easton Press books by James Baldwin

The Story of Roland - 1992

The Story of Roland

Here are related the daring feats and great exploits of Roland, worthiest of the barons of France in the time of Charlemagne, and those of Oliver and Reinold and Ogier the Dane, all heroes who were his companions in arms and who rivalled him in the number and greatness of their exploits. The story is culled from the works of song-writers and poets of five centuries and in as many languages.
The Song of Roland, often referred to as The Story of Roland, unfolds as a medieval epic poem, echoing the heroic deeds and tragic fate of Roland, a valiant knight in the service of Charlemagne. This timeless tale, deeply rooted in the chivalric tradition, resonates through the corridors of literary history as one of the earliest and most cherished works of French literature. Set against the backdrop of the Charlemagne's reign in the late 8th century, The Story of Roland narrates the heroic exploits of Roland, the nephew of Charlemagne, and his companions in the rearguard of the Frankish army. The narrative reaches its climax at the Battle of Roncevaux Pass, a historical event during Charlemagne's campaign against the Muslim Saracens in Spain.

At the heart of the epic is the figure of Roland, a symbol of knightly virtue and unwavering loyalty. His legendary sword, Durendal, becomes an emblem of Christian valor, and Roland himself embodies the epitome of the chivalric code. As the narrative unfolds, themes of honor, duty, and sacrifice take center stage. The epic is not only a tale of martial prowess but also a morality play, illustrating the consequences of pride and the importance of faith. Betrayal by Roland's stepfather, Ganelon, sets in motion a tragic sequence of events. Ganelon's envy and deceit lead to the ambush at Roncevaux, where Roland and his men face overwhelming odds.

Despite the impending doom, Roland refuses to call for Charlemagne's assistance, as doing so would bring shame upon him. His steadfastness in the face of adversity becomes a symbol of Christian fortitude. The climactic moment comes when, overwhelmed by the Saracen forces, Roland sounds his horn, the Olifant, to alert Charlemagne. The sound carries across the valleys but tragically reaches the king too late. The rearguard, including Roland, meets a heroic but tragic end. The Song of Roland has endured the test of time due to its rich tapestry of themes, its portrayal of heroic virtues, and its historical and cultural significance. It has inspired countless adaptations, translations, and interpretations, cementing its place not only in the literary canon but also in the collective imagination of generations. The epic stands as a testament to the enduring power of storytelling and the indelible mark of chivalric romance on Western literature.

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