The Song of Roland

by

Anonymous

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The Song of Roland: Laisses 187–202 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
In Saragossa, the maimed Marsilion gets off his horse and swoons. His wife, Queen Bramimond, laments his state. Marsilion’s followers curse their god, Apollyon, for shaming them, beating and trampling the idol. They even kick Mahound into a ditch “for pigs and dogs to mangle and befoul.” After Marsile is carried to his chamber, Queen Bramimond continues to lament that Charlemayn is so courageous, and that there’s no one left who will face him.
With this passage, the poet suggests that the Saracens’ gods are false and of no use to their followers. Because pigs and dogs are both considered to be unclean animals in Islam, it seems likely that the poet intends a particular insult with those details (“Mahound,” again, is a corruption of the name Muhammad).
Themes
Christianity vs. Paganism Theme Icon
When Charlemayn first occupied Spain seven years ago, Marsile sent letters to Baligant of Babylon, an ancient emir, requesting his aid against the French, or else Marsile would convert and make peace with Charlemayn. Because of the great distance, the emir has been delayed in his response, but now he has assembled a massive navy at Alexandria. Now the navy sets out for Spain, sailing through the night and arriving at Saragossa the following morning. Baligant declares that he will go to France and not stop fighting Charlemayn until he submits. He sends two envoys, Clarifant and Clarien, to give Marsilion this news, carrying a glove and wand in token.
Just as it appears that Charlemayn’s victory is complete, the emir Baligant fulfills Marsilion’s old request for help with impeccable timing, heightening the drama once again and giving Charlemayn a chance for additional heroism—he faces not just Spain, but the vast reaches of the pagan empire.
Themes
Christianity vs. Paganism Theme Icon
Clarifant and Clarien ride into Saragossa. Outside Marsilion’s palace they find people mourning the loss of their gods and the impending death of their king. When the envoys enter Marsile’s chamber, Bramimond greets them with the wretched news of what happened at Roncevaux and wishes someone would slay her. Clarien assures her that Baligant has come to find and conquer Charlemayn, but the queen is skeptical that anyone can make the fearless emperor yield.
In Saragossa, society is in disarray—both their political and religious world has been overturned, and Charlemayn appears to be unconquerable. The messengers from Babylon introduce fresh hope.
Themes
Christianity vs. Paganism Theme Icon
Marsile speaks up and says that he will give Spain to Baligant—as he has no living heir—and advise him on how to conquer Charlemayn. He gives the envoys the keys to Saragossa and tells them where Charlemayn is camped. Clarifant and Clarien ride back to Baligant and report on everything that occurred in battle yesterday, including Marsilion getting his hand chopped off by Roland, and relay Marsile’s plea for help. Hearing all this, Baligant summons his men from the ships and onto horses so that Baligant can be avenged without delay. Baligant himself rides to Marsile’s palace, where Bramimonda informs him that the king is near death.
Baligant’s entrance into the story suggests the arrival of a much bigger player. Whereas Marsilion was felled by Roland—who was, after all, a mere baron—the impending showdown between emir and emperor represents an even more obvious clash of civilizations.
Themes
Christianity vs. Paganism Theme Icon
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When Baligant enters, Marsile has two aides help him sit upright, and he offers his glove to Baligant to symbolize granting him his whole kingdom. Baligant accepts the glove and leaves the palace, weeping. He shouts to his men to hurry before Charlemayn and his camp have a chance to return to France.
With the transfer of the glove, the leadership of the Saracens officially passes from the dying Marsilion to Baligant. Like Charlemayn, Baligant is free with his emotions, perhaps signifying that he is a more worthy opponent of Charlemayn that Marsilion was. 
Themes
Christianity vs. Paganism Theme Icon
The Ideal King Theme Icon