The Song of Roland

by

Anonymous

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Swords Symbol Icon

In the poem’s medieval context, swords are more than just weapons—they symbolize a knight’s reputation and honor on the battlefield. For example, when Roland knows he is dying, he tries to destroy his beloved sword, Durendal, because its hilt contains precious Christian relics. Roland believes that Durendal will be desecrated if it falls into pagan hands—and his own honor as a knight will thus be destroyed with it. Along similar lines, Ganelon’s oath on his sword, Murgleys, to betray Roland is an indication of just how corrupt his character is, further solidifying knights’ swords as representations of their honor and true character.

Swords Quotes in The Song of Roland

The The Song of Roland quotes below all refer to the symbol of Swords. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Christianity vs. Paganism Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin edition of The Song of Roland published in 1957.
Laisses 79–103 Quotes

“Companion Roland, your Olifant now blow;
Charles in the passes will hear it as he goes,
Trust me, the French will all return right so.”
“Now God forbid”, Roland makes answer wroth,
“That living man should say he saw me go
Blowing of horns for any Paynim foe!
Ne’er shall my kindred be put to such reproach.
When I shall stand in this great clash of hosts
I’ll strike a thousand and then sev’n hundred strokes,
Blood-red the steel of Durendal shall flow.
Stout are the French, they will do battle bold,
These men of Spain shall die and have no hope.”

Related Characters: Count Roland (speaker), Oliver (speaker), Emperor Charlemayn / Carlon / Charles
Related Symbols: Swords
Page Number: 93
Explanation and Analysis:
Laisses 168–186 Quotes

“Ah, Durendal, fair, hallowed, and devote,
What store of relics lie in thy hilt of gold!
St Peter’s tooth, St Basil’s blood, it holds,
Hair of my lord St Denis, there enclosed,
Likewise a piece of Blessed Mary’s robe;
To Paynim hands ’twere sin to let you go;
You should be served by Christian men alone,
Ne’er may you fall to any coward soul!
Many wide lands I conquered by your strokes
For Charles to keep whose beard is white as snow
Whereby right rich and mighty is his throne.”

Related Characters: Count Roland (speaker), Emperor Charlemayn / Carlon / Charles
Related Symbols: Swords
Page Number: 141
Explanation and Analysis:
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Swords Symbol Timeline in The Song of Roland

The timeline below shows where the symbol Swords appears in The Song of Roland. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Laisses 16–31
Loyalty, Honor, and Chivalry Theme Icon
Treachery vs. Chivalry Theme Icon
Ganelon gathers his sword, Murgleys, his steed, and the rest of his things. Many knights weep as they bid... (full context)
Laisses 32–52
Treachery vs. Chivalry Theme Icon
...to take an oath to betray Roland. Ganelon does, swearing on the relics of his sword, Murgleys. (full context)
Christianity vs. Paganism Theme Icon
Treachery vs. Chivalry Theme Icon
...and on this he swears to fight Roland. Then several pagans approach Ganelon with gifts—a sword and helm—in exchange for his help against Roland. Queen Bramimonda also gives Ganelon rich jewelry... (full context)
Laisses 79–103
Loyalty, Honor, and Chivalry Theme Icon
...he won’t bring shame on France by calling for help against pagans, and that his sword, Durendal, will soon be red with his enemies’ blood. Oliver urges him a third time,... (full context)
Laisses 104–127
Loyalty, Honor, and Chivalry Theme Icon
...strikes so aggressively with his lance that it soon shatters. He then takes up his sword, Durendal, and stabs one of the remaining Peers through the brain and body, even killing... (full context)
Laisses 138–167
Christianity vs. Paganism Theme Icon
Loyalty, Honor, and Chivalry Theme Icon
...those who are currently rushing to his aid. He enters the field again with his sword, Durendal, bent on revenge. Archbishop Turpin approves, remarking that unless a knight is fierce in... (full context)
Christianity vs. Paganism Theme Icon
Loyalty, Honor, and Chivalry Theme Icon
...several French knights. Roland, irate, warns Marsile that he will soon become acquainted with his sword. Accordingly, he slices off Marsile’s sword-arm and then beheads Marsile’s son Jurfaret. At this, the... (full context)
Laisses 168–186
Loyalty, Honor, and Chivalry Theme Icon
...his ears, and he knows he’ll be dead soon. Taking his Olifant and Durendal the sword, he walks toward Spain. He climbs a mound and falls down underneath a tall tree... (full context)
Christianity vs. Paganism Theme Icon
Loyalty, Honor, and Chivalry Theme Icon
...he gets up and begins striking Durendal against a nearby stone. To his distress, the sword remains intact. He reflects that Charlemayn once owned Durendal, and then had been commanded by... (full context)
Christianity vs. Paganism Theme Icon
Loyalty, Honor, and Chivalry Theme Icon
...but to no avail. At last he mourns over the many relics embedded in the sword’s golden hilt—it’s unfitting, he says, for such a sword to fall into non-Christian hands. (full context)
Christianity vs. Paganism Theme Icon
The Ideal King Theme Icon
Loyalty, Honor, and Chivalry Theme Icon
...Roncevaux. Charlemayn settles down for sleep, still fully clad in armor. Beside him rests his sword, Joyeuse, which contains the same lance which pierced Christ on the cross. Charlemayn weeps until... (full context)
Laisses 227–240
Christianity vs. Paganism Theme Icon
The Ideal King Theme Icon
Loyalty, Honor, and Chivalry Theme Icon
Baligant, too, dresses himself in armor adorned with costly gems, and he carries his sword, Précieuse—named in imitation of Charlemayn’s Joyeuse—and his spear, Maltet. He mounts his horse, looking fresh... (full context)