Throughout the epic poem, The Song of Roland, the poet essentially dissects the idea of good versus evil as it is represented in contrast between the two opposing armies. Good being the French Christian army led by Charlemagne and on the contrary, the Muslim Sacarens led by Marsile and Baligant representing evil. While the battle between good and evil and Christian versus Muslim wages on throughout the text, the poet also illustrates the characteristics of the true and fake virtues that compose or destroy a knight or lord. An ideal knight or lord encompasses all chivalrous qualities: altruism, generosity and respect. Such qualities are important for boosting morale of the respected army and country. However when standards are not met by knights or lords and a disregard of important lordly and knightly qualities is present then personal downfall is inevitable.
According to the poet, an ideal lord is defined as being totally selfless and faithful toward one another. For example, when the Franks notice they are outnumbered against the Pagans and realize their chances of victory are slim, the poet states, “The Franks see that there are so many pagans/On all sides the fields are covered with them. / Time and again they call upon Oliver and Roland/And the twelve peers to act as their protectors” (Roland, 77 ll 1510-1513). The battle between the Pagans and Christians is noteworthy to Oliver and Roland’s character because even though they are vulnerable to injury, they are willing to sacrifice themselves for their fellow knights. In addition, Charlemagne also shows his selflessness to his lords when he prays for revenge on Roland’s behalf. Stating, “May your love be with me this day/ In your mercy, if it pleases you, allow me/ To gain revenge for my nephew Roland” (Roland, 128 ll 3107-3109). Such examples are significant because they illustrate how compassionate and selfless love for a fellow lord or knight can outweigh even the number of armies on the opposing side.
In addition to being faithful towards fellow knights and lords, faithfulness to Christianity is equally as important when defining the values of lordship and knightly service. As true followers to God’s word, the Christian Franks must remain faithful to their religion so as to preserve their national pride as well as their own significance to a divine being. For example, when Charlemagne arrives on the battle field and is heartbroken to see so many of his knights dead, he requests God to keep the sun stationary so his men can have a proper burial during the day. God grants his request, as the poet states, “God performed a great miracle for Charlemagne/ For the sun remained where it was/ The pagans are fleeing, the Franks are in close pursuit” (Roland, 107 ll 2457-2460). Considering that the Franks have direct connection to God and represent his word, they encompass all the good will, values and virtues that create a perfect knight.
Finally, honoring and serving on total...