La Chanson De Roland, And The Song Of Roland

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La Chanson de Roland, or The Song of Roland, is the oldest surviving French poem. It is also the oldest and greatest of the chansons de geste, medieval epic poems written in French. In old French, "geste" means a deed or action, often of heroic proportions. A hundred or so of these epic poems survive, dating from around the year 1100 to the late fourteenth century. In their time, they were exceedingly popular.

Although we know neither the identity of The Song of Roland 's composer nor the date of its composition, most scholars estimate that the poem was written between 1098-1100. This dating puts the poem 's origin at the time of the First Crusade, and indeed the poem has been characterized by some scholars as "propaganda" to encourage Christians to take up arms against Islam. "Propaganda" here is a loose term, including a broad range of artistic creations that can intend to push listeners to action or simply paint certain policies or events from a specific perspective. What can be said for certain is that The Song of Roland seems animated by the spirit of the Crusades, a time when the medieval Catholic Church, at the height of its power, sought to expand Christendom into the Holy Land.

The poem describes events happening several centuries earlier, during the reign of the mighty Christian warrior-king Charlemagne. The historical context of the poem therefore straddles several centuries, and to properly understand the poem we must bear in mind its rich historical

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