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King of Peers
A Summarized Adaptation of The Song of Roland …
© 2022 James LaFond
DEC/10/22
Copyright 2022 James LaFond
A Crackpot Book
Publisher Lynn Lockhart
A sub book of Songs of Aryas, an inquiry into epic and historic Aryan heritage.
Inspired by SaySay, Waterfront Hotel, Oakland, California, musing out loud with her head upon the wood-be poet’s chest.
For Paul Bingham, a friend come kindly in the winter of a life to the aid of a wandering fool mistaken for a willful sorcerer
“Even though you were not here, I felt close to you.”
-SaySay, 3/29/22, from a letter left on the writer’s rented bed while he was away

King of Peers 1: Impressions of The Song of Roland
Composed in the 11th Century by Teraldus the Norman, Arranged for English Voices by Michael Newth, Performed here by Greg Marsden and Summer Williams
Having listened to this audiobook a good dozen times, and now inspired by a woman’s voice of medieval mind, this listener will attempt a summary with commentary. First the poetic quality of Newth’s adaptation is beautiful and humorous, grave and poignent. The voice and instrumental performance is wonderful. This is a highly recommended selection.
The poem itself seems to be an adaptation of the emotive war poetry of Homer to the Age of Chivalry, with a semi-historic treatment of the conquests of Charles the Great in the 800s combined with the career of Deago “The Cid” in the 900s. Something of the Norse scald is filtered in down through the dusky cloak of Christianity to reflect brightly from the silvery shield of Islam—like an arctic night affronting the might of the crescent moon.
The Song is arranged in Chants, with collective choral refrains.
Named after Roland, the Song is more to the point about Charles the Great or Charlemagne, the stoic drama of a king grown wise and tired in drear years, yet still astride the world stage and casting dread fears. His right arm and as well his lucky charm is Roland, a bold, blunt, warrior, forever a youth in spirit whose energy both confounds and sustains his Uncle, Charles the Great, as he faces the decline of age from the perilous incline of a conqueror who wishes in his heart that he were a sage. Charles seems a Marcus Arelius trapped in the body of Maximus Thrax and facing the existential threat of both ancient decay and rival faith.
The First Jest—Treachery
Chant 1
The Deceit of King Marsille the Moor
If one wonders at the symbology of the deck of playing cards, with queens homely and demure, one-eyed spying jacks, brazen jacks, kings of septers, swords and suicide, gray of beard, and of the Joker, or Jester and of the Ace, The Song of Roland will answer many of these accounts.
Roland the brazen jack,
Charles, king of swords,
Gamelon the one-eyed jack,
Marsille the suicide king,
Blancendrin the ace,
And fate, grim, inscrutable, cutting both ways in the fray, as the cosmic jester, this Jest, Fate’s joke upon man and his many willful actions.
“In land of Spain King Charlemagne’s at war,
For seven years our Emperor has fought that haughty realm,
and won it to the shores.”
Seven is the sacred number of the hero [1] central to Seven against Thebes, Seven Samurai and The Magnificent Seven, divisor of the moon, of interest in that Islam is a lunar faith and the above-named war there a crusade. This number is embedded in The Epic of Gilgamesh.
Only Saragoss remains for the king to take, placing the Muslims in crisis. King Marsille is old like Charlemagne and relies on a wise counselor by the name of Blancendrin, who suggests to his king that he feign surrender and promise to convert to Christ and count on striking a blow in the mountain passes at the French rear as the invader retreats with loads of tribute paid, including 20 noble sons who are being sacrificed as asurity hostages. The leading men of Spain are more than willing to have their first born heirs slain in retribution for their pact-breaking, with the preservation of their lands superseding all family concerns.
The above is a clear device for making out the Moors as evil in the ears of the listener. For, as the poet relates, the chief concerns of the Frankish heroes are their families. This was not hyperbolic, as Muslim warlords had much larger broods of children than Christians and these broods were prone to fall upon each other in feud over their father’s power, where the Christian sons were strictly ruled by the law of Primagenitor, with the eldest son taking all and the others bond in service to him or the church.
Marsille, who is described as brave:
“Despises God the Lord,
He serves Mahom, and on Apollo calls.”
It is quite interesting that the agent Pagan deity of the arts is evoked by the poet, suggesting an Islamic inheritance of the cosmopolitan ports of the ancient Middle Sea.
The poet always teases the listener with overarching themes given in advance, such as in reference to the Moorish King, “He’ll not avoid the suffering in store.”
The enemy in this poem, something of a myopic Iliad, is preordained as doomed, even as the central hero of the ancient poem is preordained to die.
Marsille asks for advise from his underlords on how to escape death and infamy. He is not an unsympathetic character. His Muslim lords are various described as pagan, heathen and Saracen, again drawing comparisons with Pre-Christian Europeans and bringing to the ear the fact that many of these Muslim men of Spain are racial Europeans converted to Islam by deed or by history.
Blancendrin is wise and brave and worthy to advise the king and is the mastermind of the drama to unfold. He advises his king to “Convey to Charles the sons of our own wives.”
“It is better far that our sons lose their heads than we lose the lands we love best.”
A chorus of pagan lords chant their ascent to this plan.
The poet has advanced the Christian God as an executive producer of his work, not leaving the outcome—only the acts—in the hands of lesser beings and of suffering men.
A deputation of ten of “Spain’s most wicked men” is raised to seek Charles at Cordova and sway his heart towards peaceful appeasement.
Charles “will not avoid the treachery they are bringing.”
And a harp plays ominously the rhythm of strife.
Notes
-1. See The First Boxers, and also He: Gilgamesh into the Face of Time
king of peers   ›     ‘His Look is Dread’

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