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
“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.”
“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.”