The Purposes of Symmetry and Asymmetry in the Song of Roland Amanda Cecil College

Lines from the very first laisse of the legendary, The Song of Roland express the focus of the poem: the death of paganism and the triumph of the superior, Christianity through the will of God. “Saragossa … held by King Marsiliun who does not enjoy God. Marsiliun serves Mohamed and hopes to Appolin. But he can not prevent damage from surpassing him” (3 ). Here, in the really first lines of the impressive, the poet has actually already clarified the outcome of one who does not like God– damage will overtake him. In The Song of Roland, the poet utilizes the proportions and asymmetries of those who are excellent and those who are evil to highlight the God’s justice and the supremacy of Christianity.

In order to show the power of God and supremacy of Christianity, the poet first presents the pagans and Christians as parallel. The only distinction between the 2 groups is that the Christians are depicted as excellent and the pagans as evil. The parallels in between the Christians and pagans are very first detailed previous to the first fight. The Saracen society is depicted as matching the types of knightly virtues the Christians have. For example, Blancandrin is described as, “well endowed with the type of courage that befits a knight, and he had shrewdness and judgment to give the help of his lord” (4 ). This symmetry is likewise illustrated in more subtle ways throughout the poem; Marsiliun’s throne, like Charles’ is placed beneath a pine. There is also proportion in the outcome of the first battle. Though, since of Ganelon’s treachery, the Christians lose this fight; the losses Charles and Marsiliun suffer are mirrored. Roland cuts of Marsiliun’s right-hand man, and Charles loses his metaphorical right hand– Roland. Since the poet sets up 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 substantial example of proportion changing to asymmetry. Both nephews prove to be equally vibrant and happy. In response to Charles offering him more soldiers Roland states: “I will do no such thing. God puzzle me if I pity my ancestors! I will keep with me twenty thousand Franks … and you might go on your way through the pass in utter confidence, and fear no male as long as I am alive” (26 ). Marsilun’s nephew, Aleroth, echoes Roland’s brashness and pride: “King I have served you long and have understood suffering and hardship, and fights combated and won on the field. Grant me on favor: the very first blow at Roland. I will kill him … Charles will despair … you will have no more war as long as you live” (29 ). Aleroth and Roland both utilize similarly prideful language to assure their Kings that they will be triumphant. Their pride is likewise the cause of both of their deaths: Aleroth since he charges forward to make an effort on Roland’s life and Roland since he is too happy to blow his horn for aid. However, the poet treats their deaths noticeably in a different way. The matching that the poet has actually consumed to this point causes any difference between narrative about the Christians and pagans to stick out clearly. The poet spends little time on Aleroth’s death, providing it just a mention, however throughout his description of Roland’s death the narration slows down considerably. The moment when Roland passes away is held out over three laisses, which all describe the exact same scene. The very first ends with, “he uses his glove, as a token of his sins, to God,” the second with, “he has held out his ideal glove to God. Angels come down out of heaven and pertain to him,” and the third with, “he provides his right glove to God, and Saint Gabriel takes it from him” (72 ). Roland’s offering of his best glove to God indicates that Roland is a vassal of God, and God’s approval of it through Saint Gabriel acknowledges God as Roland’s supreme lord. The truth that the minute of Roland’s death is suspended in much narration draws the reader’s attention, simply as the poet’s variance from the typical balanced structure evinces its significance. What is substantial here is that Roland is conserved, as God’s approval of his glove illustrates. This evinces the goodness of Roland as a member of the Christian army, and therefore, the favor God provides to the Christians.

To continue with the theme of balance, the poet balances out Roland’s death with Charles’ vengeance. The poet also 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 survived both Virgil and Homer” (79 ). The mirroring in between the 2 also arises from Baligant’s effort to imitate Charles. For example Baligant names his sword “Precieuse” since it rhymes with the name of Charles’ sword: “Joyuse.” Since a replica is normally thought about inferior to the original, the poet can preserve the balance in between Charles and the Emir, while leaving no doubt in the reader’s mind that Charles, and thus Christianity, transcends. The matching in between Charles and Baligant continues when they battle each other, and this time, unlike in the case of the swords, their actions seem to be synchronised. The language the poet utilizes to describe the battle illustrates this:” [they] exchange heavy blows … absolutely 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 fight evokes the idea that the two are uniformly matched in ability and strength. The poet does this to construct the requirement for some divine intervention, which comes when Charles is terribly struck:

Charles staggers and nearly falls, but it is not God’s will that he should be eliminated or beaten. Saint Gabriel pertains to 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 vigor and clearness of mind return. (107 )

The poet uses proportion between the Emir and Charles to develop a circumstance in which God need to intervene to end the fight. God, obviously, selects to save Charles. It is an angelic vision, rather than Charles’ strength that turns the fight. This evinces the concept of the justice of God and supports the idea that the ethically excellent will get victory.

There is a last time in the legendary in which not balance, but asymmetry in those who are good and evil, is utilized to show the power of God. Ganelon’s trial is a trial-by-combat. Unlike the case of Charles and Baligant, the poet indicates that the males that will fight, Pinabel and Thierry, are unbalanced because they are not equally strong. Thierry who fights for the Emperor is described as, “gaunt of limb, and wiry, and quick … he is neither extremely tall nor really 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 a manner that makes it seem as if he will certainly win the battle against “gaunt,” “wiry” Thierry. The great difference in the strength of the two as soon as again constructs the requirement for a Godly intervention; in reality, Thierry says, “may God this day program which people remains in the right” (116 ). This might be the general cry of the Christians throughout the poem. The poet emphasizes Pinabel’s strength over Thierry’s to explain that it is the good guy and not merely the more powerful that wins, and to evince God’s justice for those who are morally excellent.

God’s justice for the excellent Christians is illustrated time and time again in the Song of Roland. The poet of The Tune of Roland utilizes symmetry and balance to structure the epic. Ganelon’s treachery is balanced with his trial and death, and Roland’s death is balanced with Charles’ vengeance. Proportion is used in the descriptions of the Christians and pagans and Charles and Baligant, permitting God’s intervention decide the outcome of fight. The poet likewise utilizes instances of asymmetry, such as in the death of Roland versus the death of his equivalent Aleroth. These circumstances draw the reader’s attention given that they deviate from the general structure of the legendary, and when it comes to Thierry and Pinabel’s combat, the asymmetry constructs a requirement for the intervention of God to help the excellent man and not the stronger man win the battle.