Good and Evil in “The Song of Roland”

Lines from the very first laisse of the legendary, The Song of Roland reveal the focus of the poem: the death of paganism and the success of the superior, Christianity through the will of God. “Saragossa … held by King Marsiliun who does not like God. Marsiliun serves Mohamed and prays to Appolin. However he can not prevent damage from overtaking him” (3 ). Here, in the very first lines of the epic, the poet has actually already clarified the outcome of one who does not enjoy God– harm will surpass him. In The Song of Roland, the poet utilizes the proportions and asymmetries of those who are great and those who are wicked to show the God’s justice and the superiority of Christianity.

In order to reveal the power of God and superiority of Christianity, the poet initially presents the pagans and Christians as parallel. The only difference between the two groups is that the Christians are illustrated as good and the pagans as evil. The parallels between the Christians and pagans are very first illustrated previous to the first battle. The Saracen society is portrayed as mirroring the kinds of knightly virtues the Christians have. For example, Blancandrin is described as, “well endowed with the kind of guts that befits a knight, and he had shrewdness and judgment to bring to the help of his lord” (4 ). This symmetry is likewise illustrated in more subtle methods throughout the poem; Marsiliun’s throne, like Charles’ is positioned underneath a pine. There is also symmetry in the outcome of the very first fight. Though, because of Ganelon’s treachery, the Christians lose this fight; the losses Charles and Marsiliun suffer are mirrored. Roland cuts of Marsiliun’s right hand, and Charles loses his metaphorical right-hand man– Roland. Because the poet establishes the Christian and Saracens so symmetrically, any circumstances of non-symmetry draw the reader’s attention, evincing some significance.

Charles and Marsiliun’s nephews highlight a significant example of proportion changing to asymmetry. Both nephews show to be similarly strong and proud. In response to Charles providing him more soldiers Roland says: “I will do no such thing. God puzzle me if I embarassment my forefathers! I will keep with me twenty thousand Franks … and you might go on your way through the pass in utter confidence, and fear no man as long as I live” (26 ). Marsilun’s nephew, Aleroth, echoes Roland’s brashness and pride: “King I have served you long and have actually known suffering and difficulty, and battles fought and won on the field. Grant me on favor: the very first blow at Roland. I will kill him … Charles will lose heart … you will run out war as long as you live” (29 ). Aleroth and Roland both use equally prideful language to ensure their Kings that they will be victorious. Their pride is also the cause of both of their deaths: Aleroth due to the fact that he charges forward to make an attempt on Roland’s life and Roland due to the fact that he is too happy to blow his horn for aid. However, the poet treats their deaths noticeably differently. The mirroring that the poet has consumed to this point causes any difference between narration about the Christians and pagans to stand out clearly. The poet spends little time on Aleroth’s death, giving it simply a reference, however throughout his description of Roland’s death the narrative slows down significantly. The moment when Roland passes away is held out over three laisses, which all explain the very same scene. The first ends with, “he uses his glove, as a token of his sins, to God,” the second with, “he has held out his right glove to God. Angels descend out of paradise and concern him,” and the third with, “he uses his ideal glove to God, and Saint Gabriel takes it from him” (72 ). Roland’s offering of his right glove to God suggests that Roland is a vassal of God, and God’s approval of it through Saint Gabriel acknowledges God as Roland’s ultimate lord. The fact that the minute of Roland’s death is suspended in much narration draws the reader’s attention, just as the poet’s discrepancy from the typical symmetrical structure evinces its significance. What is considerable here is that Roland is conserved, as God’s acceptance of his glove illustrates. This evinces the goodness of Roland as a member of the Christian army, and therefore, the favor God offers to the Christians.

To continue with the theme of balance, the poet balances out Roland’s death with Charles’ vengeance. The poet likewise develops balance with the Christian army led by Charles and the pagan army led by the Emir, Baligant. The poet provides the Emir as a pagan equivalent to Charles. For instance, like Charles, Baligant is impossibly old:” [he] has actually endured both Virgil and Homer” (79 ). The mirroring between the 2 also arises from Baligant’s effort to mimic Charles. For instance Baligant names his sword “Precieuse” since it rhymes with the name of Charles’ sword: “Joyuse.” Because an imitation is typically thought about inferior to the original, the poet can keep the proportion between Charles and the Emir, while leaving no doubt in the reader’s mind that Charles, and hence Christianity, transcends. The matching between Charles and Baligant continues when they fight each other, and this time, unlike in the case of the swords, their actions appear to be synchronised. The language the poet uses to describe the battle illustrates this:” [they] exchange heavy blows … nothing can separate them and the battle can not end without the death of one or the other” (106 ). The language the poet uses to explain their battle evokes the concept that the 2 are uniformly matched in skill and strength. The poet does this to construct the requirement for some magnificent intervention, which comes when Charles is severely struck:

Charles staggers and practically falls, but it is not God’s will that he should be eliminated or beaten. Saint Gabriel concerns his side asking: “Great King, what are you doing?” When he hears the holy voice of the angel, Charles loses all fear of death, and his vitality and clearness of mind return. (107 )

The poet uses proportion in between the Emir and Charles to produce a circumstance in which God must step in to end the battle. God, obviously, chooses to save Charles. It is an angelic vision, rather than Charles’ strength that turns the battle. This evinces the idea of the justice of God and supports the idea that the morally excellent will receive victory.

There is a last time in the epic in which not proportion, but asymmetry in those who are excellent and evil, is utilized to illustrate the power of God. Ganelon’s trial is a trial-by-combat. Unlike the case of Charles and Baligant, the poet shows that the men that will battle, Pinabel and Thierry, are unbalanced because they are not equally strong. Thierry who defends the Emperor is referred to as, “gaunt of limb, and wiry, and fast … he is neither extremely tall nor very brief,” while Pinabel who defends Ganelon is, “tall and strong and brave and fast, and if he strikes a guy a blow, the other has actually come to the end of his days” (114 ). The poet explains Pinabel in such a way that makes it seem as if he will definitely win the battle versus “gaunt,” “wiry” Thierry. The fantastic distinction in the strength of the 2 once again constructs the requirement for a Godly intervention; in reality, Thierry says, “may God this day show which people remains in the right” (116 ). This could be the basic cry of the Christians throughout the poem. The poet emphasizes Pinabel’s strength over Thierry’s to explain that it is the great man and not merely the stronger that wins, and to evince God’s justice for those who are ethically good.

God’s justice for the excellent Christians is illustrated time and time again in the Tune of Roland. The poet of The Song of Roland uses symmetry and balance to structure the impressive. Ganelon’s treachery is stabilized with his trial and death, and Roland’s death is balanced with Charles’ revenge. Proportion is utilized in the descriptions of the Christians and pagans and Charles and Baligant, enabling God’s intervention choose the outcome of battle. The poet likewise uses instances of asymmetry, such as in the death of Roland versus the death of his counterpart Aleroth. These instances draw the reader’s attention considering that they differ the basic structure of the impressive, and in the case of Thierry and Pinabel’s battle, the asymmetry constructs a need for the intervention of God to assist the excellent guy and not the stronger man win the battle.