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The flower of Chivalry ~ Thomas Campbell

Roland (Old Frankish: Hrōþiland; Medieval Latin: Hruodlandus or Rotholandus; Italian: Orlando or Rolando; died 15 August 778) was a Frankish military leader under Charlemagne who became one of the principal figures in the literary cycle known as the Matter of France. The historical Roland was military governor of the Breton March, responsible for defending Francia's frontier against the Bretons. His only historical attestation is in Einhard's Vita Karoli Magni, which notes he was part of the Frankish rearguard killed in retribution by the Basques in Iberia at the Battle of Roncevaux Pass.

Quotes about Roland[edit]


  • While he was vigorously pursuing the Saxon war, almost without a break, and after he had placed garrisons at selected points along the border, [Charles] marched into Spain [in 778] with as large a force as he could mount. His army passed through the Pyrenees and [Charles] received the surrender of all the towns and fortified places he encountered. He was returning [to Francia] with his army safe and intact, but high in the Pyrenees on that return trip he briefly experienced the Basques. That place is so thoroughly covered with thick forest that it is the perfect spot for an ambush. [Charles's] army was forced by the narrow terrain to proceed in a long line and [it was at that spot], high on the mountain, that the Basques set their ambush. [...] The Basques had the advantage in this skirmish because of the lightness of their weapons and the nature of the terrain, whereas the Franks were disadvantaged by the heaviness of their arms and the unevenness of the land. Eggihard, the overseer of the king's table, Anselm, the count of the palace, and Roland, the lord of the Breton March, along with many others died in that skirmish. But this deed could not be avenged at that time, because the enemy had so dispersed after the attack that there was no indication as to where they could be found.
    • Einhard, Vita Karoli Magni, 9
    • Paul Edward Dutton, trans., Charlemagne's Courtier: The Complete Einhard (Broadview Press, 1998), pp. 21–22


  • To give one a Roland for an Oliver.
    • John Ray, English Proverbs (1670)
    • Proverbial, meaning, says Ray, "a quid pro quo, to be even with one."
    • Reported in: Bergan Evans, Dictionary of Quotations (1968), p. 597
  • The brave Roland,—the brave Roland!
    Sad tidings reached the Rhenish strand
      That he had fallen in fight:
    And thy faithful bosom swoon’d with pain,
    O loveliest maid of Allémayne,
      For the loss of thine own true knight.
    But why so rash has she ta’en the veil
    In yon Nonnenwerther’s cloisters pale?
      For her vow had scarce been sworn,
    And the fatal mantle o’er her flung,
    When the Drachenfels to a trumpet rung,—
      ’Twas her own dear warrior’s horn.
    Woe! woe! each heart shall bleed,—shall break!
    She would have hung upon his neck,
      Had he come but yester-’even!
    And he had clasped those peerless charms
    That shall never, never fill his arms,
      Or meet him but in Heaven.
    Yet Roland the brave—Roland the true—
    He could not bid that spot adieu;
      It was dear still ’midst his woes.
    For he loved to breathe the neighboring air,
    And to think she bless’d him in her prayer
      When the Hallelujah rose.
    There’s yet one window of that pile,
    Which he built above the nun’s green isle;
      Thence sad and oft looked he
    (When the chant and organ sounded slow)
    On the mansion of his love below,
      For herself he might not see.
    She died. He sought the battle-plain;
    Her image filled his dying brain
      When he fell and wished to fall:
    And her name was in his latest sigh,
    When Roland, the flower of Chivalry,
      Expired at Roncevall.
  • Alone, as if enduring to the end
    A valiant armor of scarred hopes outworn,
    He stood there in the middle of the road
    Like Roland's ghost winding a silent horn.

Song of Roland[edit]

Main article: The Song of Roland
C. K. Scott Moncrieff, tr., The Song of Roland (London: Chapman & Hall, Ltd., 1919)
  • Pride hath Rollanz, wisdom Olivier hath;
    And both of them shew marvellous courage;
    Once they are horsed, once they have donned their arms,
    Rather they’d die than from the battle pass.
    Good are the counts, and lofty their language.
    Felon pagans come cantering in their wrath.
    Says Oliver: “Behold and see, Rollanz,
    These are right near, but Charles is very far.
    On the olifant deign now to sound a blast;
    Were the King here, we should not fear damage.
    Only look up towards the Pass of Aspre,
    In sorrow there you’ll see the whole rereward.
    Who does this deed, does no more afterward.”
    Answers Rollanz: “Utter not such outrage!
    Evil his heart that is in thought coward!
    We shall remain firm in our place installed;
    From us the blows shall come, from us the assault.”
    • Roland and Oliver
  • The Count Rollanz, with sorrow and with pangs,
    And with great pain sounded his olifant:
    Out of his mouth the clear blood leaped and ran,
    About his brain the very temples cracked.
    Loud is its voice, that horn he holds in hand;
    Charles hath heard, where in the pass he stands,
    And Neimes hears, and listen all the Franks.
    Then says the King: "I hear his horn, Rollant’s;
    He’ld never sound, but he were in combat."
    Answers him Guenes "It is no battle, that.
    Now are you old, blossoming white and blanched,
    Yet by such words you still appear infant.
    You know full well the great pride of Rollant
    Marvel it is, God stays so tolerant.
    Noples he took, not waiting your command;
    Thence issued forth the Sarrazins, a band
    With vassalage had fought against Rollant;
      He slew them first, with Durendal his brand,
    Then washed their blood with water from the land;
    So what he’d done might not be seen of man.
    He for a hare goes all day, horn in hand;
    Before his peers in foolish jest he brags.
    No race neath heav’n in field him dare attack.
    So canter on! Nay, wherefore hold we back?
    Terra Major is far away, our land.”
    The count Rollanz, though blood his mouth doth stain,
    And burst are both the temples of his brain,
    His olifant he sounds with grief and pain;
    Charles hath heard, listen the Franks again.
    “That horn,” the King says, “hath a mighty strain!”
    Answers Duke Neimes: “A baron blows with pain!
    Battle is there, indeed I see it plain,
    He is betrayed, by one that still doth feign.
    Equip you, sir, cry out your old refrain,
    That noble band, go succour them amain!
    Enough you’ve heard how Rollant doth complain.”
    That Emperour hath bid them sound their horns.
    The Franks dismount, and dress themselves for war,
    Put hauberks on, helmets and golden swords;
    Fine shields they have, and spears of length and force
    Scarlat and blue and white their ensigns float.
    His charger mounts each baron of the host;
    They spur with haste as through the pass they go.
    Nor was there one but thus to’s neighbour spoke:
    “Now, ere he die, may we see Rollant, so
    Ranged by his side we’ll give some goodly blows.”
    But what avail? They've stayed too long below.
    • Roland sounds the Olifant

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