Gateway to the Classics: Stories of Roland by H. E. Marshall
Stories of Roland by  H. E. Marshall

Front Matter

[Book Cover]


'May the Lord of all glory receive your souls.'

[Title Page]


About This Book

The book from which these stories are taken is called the Song of Roland, for when the tales were first written down they were written as poetry. That was many hundreds of years ago. They were then set to music and sung to the sound of the harp by the minstrels, who strolled from place to place, singing of love and death, of battle and reward. For in those days, long long ago, when there were not many books and few could read, it was from the songs of the minstrels that the people learned the history of their country and the stores of their brave men.

The stories were told from minstrel to minstrel, from father to son, and were often changed in the telling. Sometimes a singer would forget a part, or another who was good at telling stories would add a little. Even when the stories were written down they were changed too, for there was no printing in those days, and the people who copied the poems would sometimes add or leave out parts, and sometimes a great poet would come, who, instead of copying merely, would tell the story in quite a new way. And so in time it happened that true history and fairy tale were interwoven, until at last it was hard to tell which was which.

And this is what happened with the stories that I have tried to tell again here. Charlemagne, the great king of whom they speak, belongs to history. He was very wise and powerful, although he lived more than a thousand years ago. He ruled over a vast empire, which stretched from the borders of Spain over half of Germany, at a time when our island was divided into several kingdoms, ruled by several kings.

We know from history that Charlemagne went to Spain to fight the Saracens and that as he returned home he was defeated. For the rest, the Song of Roland is a fairy tale. But through the ages it has come down to us, a song of soldiers and of chivalry. To the sound of it many a time the Frankish warrior must have marched to battle. To the sound of it the Normans marched upon the dreadful day of Hastings, when our Harold met his death, and for this reason, if for no other, to us it should be interesting.


Oxford, 1907


[List of Pictures]

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