The Song of Roland

The Song of Roland

“And Roland, fearless as a lion or leopard brought / To bay at last, called to the men of France / With words inspiriting. Then once more replied / To Oliver: “Friend, of this no more! for here / In Ronceval are twenty thousand Franks, / But not one coward. It is Frankish law / That every man must suffer for liege lord / Or good or ill, or fire or wintry blast, / Ay, truly, must not reck of life or limb. / Bestir you, comrade! Grasp your lance, and I / My Durendal, bestowed by the King’s hand. / Whoever wears it after me shall say:  / ‘This was the sword of one who fought till death.’”

 

I have good memories of the first time I read this. My sister, who loves epic poetry, had pulled The Song of Roland off our bookshelf one day out of curiosity and found herself hooked. She kept telling me that I ought to read it. So I took it with me on a housesitting job, and devoting only fifteen minutes a day to it, I finished easily in a handful of days.

She was quite right.

The Song of Roland tells the story of a battle by the Christian Franks against the heathen Spanish, who, desperate to shake off the Franks’ mighty power, have secured an arrangement with a Frankish traitor to attack the rearguard held by the greatest of the Frankish knights, Sir Roland.

It is a brave story of sacrifice, friendship, and perseverance. Roland is a dynamic leader with enough panache, gut, and strength for the entire Frankish army. His friend Oliver is a faithful fellow who can hold his own against Roland’s overpowering personality. And the Archbishop is just plain awesome. That man can really handle a sword.

I used Frederick Bliss Luquiens’s translation and I love it. I don’t know how it measures up to Dorothy Sayers’ version, since I have not read hers, but I found it very readable. Luquiens was a teacher of early French, among other languages, at Yale, and after his death a number of students were given his personal translation of The Song of Roland, which he had never tried to publish. At first they thought they would just print a few copies to distribute among his former students for their enjoymen, but upon reading it and not being able to put it down, they decided it was far too good not to publish. It flows beautifully, being written in unrhymed pentameter, and while the voice of the poem is decidedly antiquated (think Rosemary Sutcliff’s dialogue), there was never a passage where I could not understand what was being said.

It is a short, easy read (especially for epic poetry), and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a good starter in the genre.

Advertisements

A Wee Bit of Sunshine

sunshine

Greetings! The dear and lovely Wendy of The Jumping Bean nominated me for the Sunshine Blogger Award. If you’ve never been there before, please go over and check her out. She is awesome 10x and the biggest sweetheart. Anyway, I needed some sunshine right now, since everything is frigid where I am, and we’ve mostly had just gray skies.

So…seven random facts about me. This could either be incredibly interesting or incredibly boring.

  1. I am germaphobic. Which means I sort of have that whole stay-healthy-and-avoid-the-germ thing down to a fine art, and go on high alert when someone sneezes.
  2. I am an opera fanatic, most especially of Placido Domingo’s work. Everyone can keep their musicals and their tv shows-I’ll be in the corner with some Puccini or Verdi.
  3. There are three foods I never get tired of eating: pizza, tacos, and Chinese food.
  4. I love Nascar. This year will be my fifteenth as a die-hard fan, and if you want to get me talking, ask me about the sport.
  5. I worked as a horse wrangler for a film that starred John Rhys-Davies. (It wasn’t Lord of the Rings, though.)
  6. I answered the door for a pizza delivery man dressed up as a wise man for a Christmas play. In a fake beard.
  7. I am an unofficial ASL interpreter; I sign a portion of the service/sermon at church each week.

Now here are the rules:

1.      Thank the blogger who nominated you for the award

  1. Display the banner/sticker/logo on your blog.
  2. Share 7 facts or things about yourself.
  3. Nominate 5 bloggers that you admire and inform nominees by commenting on their blog.

So…I nominate Joni from Lace and Fog and Aberdeen from A Glimpse of Starlight, who are both wonderful people with beautiful blogs!

Character Interviews: The Three Merchants

sakov

Since I sent my WIP Crowning Heaven to my beta readers two nights ago, I have been relaxing with a side project that has been percolating in my head for a few weeks.  Today I sat down and had a chat with the main characters and loved it too much not to share.

Three rival merchants in 9th century Byzantine are forced to forget old grievances and work together when they are held hostage by bandits seeking ransom.

Note: These fellows are of varying ethnic background and speak in their native accents, so please forgive them if their grammar is not up to standard.

Ini-heret, a Greek/Egyptian:

What is your favorite food?

Eish Masri, which is our standard bread, with lamb and rice flavored with garlic. It is my usual food as I travel, though sometimes I have to do without the lamb.

What is the worst injury you have ever received?

I had a fall from my camel many years ago (it was not a clumsy accident—we were on very bad ground in bad weather) and I broke my arm and my ribs. I was far from help and with ignorant fellows who barely spoke the language, so I was six months in a Bedouin healer’s tent before I was well enough to travel.

What is your greatest fear?

That when I grow old I will become fat and a fool. And crocodiles. A spiteful woman cursed me to be eaten by them, and I pray that she was not stronger than my amulets.

What is something you would dream of but never expect to happen?

That I should be both rich and beloved. Who doesn’t? But you asked for something I do not expect, and I do not expect that, because it is impossible.

Is there anything you would rather die than do?

Perhaps. But I have not had to be in that situation, so I do not think about it.

What do you care the most about in life?

The knowledge I have of goods and of gold. My mind is my greatest asset, and while riches come and go, my mind cannot be touched.

Whose opinion do you care the most about?

My own.

How do you react when you get tired?

I snap. But I do not act rashly.

What is your dream job?

I am happy doing what I do. If I were to do anything else, it would be to govern a city. So long as it was not too powerful, because I don’t want a knife in my back.

Are you more comfortable under authority or in authority?

In authority. What do you think I do for a living?

What do you see as the most significant event in your life so far?

The day I made my first hard bargain. I drove it hard against a man who was forty years older than me and far more experienced, and I won.

What has been the greatest trial in your life so far?

When my father died and left me and my mother poor. I had to leave home to support us, and I didn’t want to leave my mother.

What would you do if you had a free hour and could do anything you wanted to?

First, I would eat. Eish Masri and roasted lamb. And then I would sleep. Just a little. And then I would eat a honey cake, perhaps, and do some trading with whatever merchants were nearby. If they had something I want.

What is most important to you, heart, head or hands?

My head. I thought you were listening.

What would you least like to be chased by?

A crocodile or a lion. Both go very fast and will kill you.

Would you rather die alone or with friends?

Alone? If friends were there, perhaps they could save me.

What is the last lie you told?

I told it to a Byzantine trader last week. I said I was out of amber, and that I was out of Chinese silk. I did not want to do business with him, because I will get a better price in Krakow.

What is something you would tell nobody (barring the author)?

I was sold as a slave once. I was captured by slave traders and they were taking me to the galleys. I gave them the slip before we reached the coast—I knew the area and I carried a knife so small they never found it.

What is one thing you would love everyone to know about you?

I do not buy cheap goods. Everything I sell—it is the best that can be found in the world.

What would be your preferred mode of execution?

Poison. Maybe beheading, if it is a sharp sword.

Is there anyone you would die for or follow to the ends of the earth?

No.

What would move you to tears?

My mother. She was a beautiful woman, and she died many years ago. But if she came to me again, I would cry because I would be happy to see her.

What is the dumbest thing you’ve ever done?

I traded three silks of fine make for a ruby that was not real. But I was young. I learned.

Describe your wife or ideal wife?

I’m not that interested in women. They get in the way, and they make you complacent and fat, and wanting pleasure instead of work.

Would you rather be guilty of a crime and get away with it or be innocent and falsely accused?

Guilty, I think. I do a little bit of cheating, and I think that is just fine.

 

Fernando Casimiro, son of a Spanish father and a mother of mixed Slavic background:

What is your favorite food?

Seasoned rice or a good barley soup with bread.

What is the worst injury you have ever received?

I was shot by an arrow while traveling up the Amber Road during a war. It was lodged in above my knee, and it was very hard keeping it clean—you know, keeping the infection away. But it did not stop me much. I used a cane for the better part of a year, and that was all.

What is your greatest fear?

That something would happen to my wife and daughter and two sons. I do not think about it—we all know that we love each other. But I would be the saddest if something happened.

What is something you would dream of but never expect to happen?

I do not dream many impossible dreams. God has been good in granting me a good life and a heaven someday. Why should I ask for more?

Is there anything you would rather die than do?

I would never kill a man in cold blood, and I would never put my family in danger.

What do you care the most about in life?

My family.

Whose opinion do you care the most about?

I should say my wife’s, don’t you think? *laughs* But I trust my son’s trade sense. He is very smart.

How do you react when you get tired?

I don’t know if I have a reaction. I nod off…I don’t talk.

What is your dream job?

I should have liked to be a bullfighter. Do not tell my wife—she will think I still want to do it. I only want to in my dreams. It is not practical.

Are you more comfortable under authority or in authority?

I am comfortable in authority.

What do you see as the most significant event in your life so far?

There was a time when I met some young men of questionable character, and they were very drunk. They noticed a cross around my neck, and asked if I was a Christian, in front of some Greeks I was trying to trade with. Those Greeks were not friendly to Christians, and I didn’t want them to know. At the time I struggled with many doubts—not about being a Christ-follower, but whether I was a brave one. It got worse. The young men—I told you they were very drunk—they started to say that they would cut my throat if I was a Christian. And I decided that I had had enough and I must decide if I was going to be a coward about it or not. And—I had not even thought about it before I did it—but I turned around and told them (with my hand on my knife) that I was a Christian, and I wasn’t afraid of them. As it turned out, the Greeks stood up for me and sent the young men away. And they still traded with me, because they said I was a real man, even though I was a Christian. And it was significant, not because it was a huge thing, but because God proved to me that He would take care of His own. And I decided that I was not going to be a coward.

What has been the greatest trial in your life so far?

I had a second daughter, and she was four when she died. She was a beautiful child, and so happy. That is why my other daughter is so special to me.

What would you do if you had a free hour and could do anything you wanted to?

I would spend it with my family. It doesn’t matter what we do. Just so long as we are together and happy.

What is most important to you, heart, head or hands?

Oh, maybe the heart. That is where all the strong feelings come from.

What would you least like to be chased by?

Probably a lion. I saw one kill a wild ox by breaking its neck. One swipe and it was done. It would kill me faster than that.

Would you rather die alone or with friends?

With friends. If they were good friends. Family I would prefer, though.

What is the last lie you told?

I refuse to tell lies now. The last one I told was when I was a boy and I took some of my father’s dates. But I did tell him the truth, later.

What is something you would tell nobody (barring the author)?

 I would rather not answer that question, if it is not a problem.

What is one thing you would love everyone to know about you?

This is not an easy one to answer—I do not like everybody knowing about me and my matters. I guess it would be that even though I am the richest of all the merchants in Constantinople, I do not have black market dealings. And I do not live a frivolous lifestyle. But it is not their business anyway.

What would be your preferred mode of execution?

Must I answer this? You know, I do not like to think about death. It will come when it comes, and I will not be able to stop it.

Is there anyone you would die for or follow to the ends of the earth?

My family. And my father or my mother, if they were still alive.

What would move you to tears?

When I think of beauty. I know it seems strange—I work with the finest marble statues, or the best silks, or amber that is the purest in the world. But it’s not that beauty—it is a sunset, or the way the wind sweeps sand, or a little street child playing in the street. It is those things.

What is the dumbest thing you’ve ever done?

You know, I do not have very many regrets, but one thing that I think was not wise of me was to buy the villa on the far border. The Tartars took it, and they have had it for fifteen years now.

Describe your wife or ideal wife?

I have my ideal wife. She is wonderful, she is kind, she is intelligent, and she takes very good care of everything I put in her hands. She is an asset to me and to my trade in every possible way.

Would you rather be guilty of a crime and get away with it or be innocent and falsely accused?

(vehemently) I would rather be innocent. I would rather have my honesty and nothing than be fattened on dishonesty.

 

Giancarlo Fiorelli, of Italian birth:

What is your favorite food?

How can I have a favorite? That is like saying you have a favorite child. But no—I think I like sausage—from my Italy—with pasta and herbs.

What is the worst injury you have ever received?

My foot was broken after one of my servants dropped an idol on it. It was made of stone. It was a miracle that no sickness set in to the foot. I sent the servant away. He was no good.

What is your greatest fear?

I don’t know. Maybe dying. You can’t do anything after you die. But I also don’t like being robbed. That’ s bad too. No, no—it is water. I have a fear of drowning. And of dying of thirst.

What is something you would dream of but never expect to happen?

Yes—that I will live forever! No, I am only making joke. It would be that I become a king. I think that would be so nice.

Is there anything you would rather die than do?

Watch a little child or an animal suffer. I hate it. It makes me want to stop existing so I do not feel the pain.

What do you care the most about in life?

Staying happy. And making the people around me happy. Except for some merchants, and of course vagabonds. I really don’t care about them. Some of them deserve to be unhappy.

Whose opinion do you care the most about?

My wife Maria’s. She has a heart like honey, but a tongue like fire. And you get it from her, if you do not agree.

How do you react when you get tired?

I forget things. That is why I try and sleep enough. Otherwise I forget things. Important things.

What is your dream job?

To be a rich man and do no work. I am a little rich, but not enough to do no work.

Are you more comfortable under authority or in authority?

That is a hard one. It depends on which one is harder at the moment.

What do you see as the most significant event in your life so far?

The day my son Giancarlo was born. He is my first child, and my heart almost burst with happiness.

What has been the greatest trial in your life so far?

I have lost three children, when they were babies. One I never even saw. That has always been sad to me.

What would you do if you had a free hour and could do anything you wanted to?

I would eat, and I toss my little children into the air. It makes them laugh.

What is most important to you, heart, head or hands?

Oh, everything, yes?

What would you least like to be chased by?

A pack of wolves. They are frightening beasts and always so hungry.

Would you rather die alone or with friends?

With friends. That makes it more comfortable.

What is the last lie you told?

Oh, I think I told it to my wife Bernicia. I told her I hadn’t eaten already.

What is something you would tell nobody (barring the author)?

If I tell you, then it wouldn’t be nobody!

What is one thing you would love everyone to know about you?

That I love food. I will never turn down food. And if anyone has need of a roof over their heads, my door will never be closed.

What would be your preferred mode of execution?

Oh, don’t make me think about that! It makes me want to squirm! Whatever is fast and won’t hurt too much!

Is there anyone you would die for or follow to the ends of the earth?

Umm, I have to think about that one.

What would move you to tears?

Little children. Happy, sad—it doesn’t matter. They are so wonderful, so full of life—they just make my eyes—they fill with tears.

What is the dumbest thing you’ve ever done?

I pay some guards to escort my caravan once, and they ended up robbing me. I and five of my servants, we have to walk all the way to the nearest city—fifteen miles in hot sun and cold night.

Describe your wife or ideal wife?

I have three, and they are all ideal. Maria, she is the smart one. Bernicia, she is the sweet one—and Claudia, she is the best cook.

Would you rather be guilty of a crime and get away with it or be innocent and falsely accused?

Don’t ask me this question. You maybe not like the answer. Ask me a different one…

 

Guest Post: Not the Same Hobbit

beiot

Greetings, all! Today I have a special treat for you all in the form of a lovely guest post by The Philologist (aka Elisabeth). She is a woman of many talents, which include writing beautifully and playing the violin very well.

So without further ado, here is “Not the Same Hobbit”:

Most book-heroes belong to one of two categories: the learning hero or the lucky hero. The learning hero is changed by the events of the story and ends the book a different man than he began. The lucky hero, by contrast, stays essentially the same, while circumstances change around him, taking him for a wild ride. Mister Bilbo Baggins has the privilege of being both.

There is no doubt that he is grown by his adventure (as Gandalf remarks in the last chapter, he is not the same Hobbit who set out from Bag-End), yet he never ceases to be himself—the gentle, home-loving soul we met in chapter one. It is interesting to see how his neighbors view him when he gets home: queer, and not quite respectable anymore, but still a Hobbit and a Baggins. If they had seen him only a matter of weeks before brushing elbows with Elf-lords, conversing with magical beasts, and helping bring ancient prophecies to pass, they probably would not have trusted their senses.

In the course of his adventures Bilbo is awakened to the greatness of life. He experiences real danger, true friendship, and high courage. He sees far-off places and meets strange people; he learns what sacrifice is, both internal and external. The beautiful thing is that when he returns home, he does not scorn the Shire because of what he has learned. He holds onto the good qualities we saw in him at the beginning: a love of people, a love of nature, an appreciation for life’s simple pleasures. His neighbors are right in thinking he is still, in the end, a Hobbit.

Bilbo’s journey is a good analogy for a reader’s journey into a realm of fiction—particularly fantasy, legend, or fairy-tale. In such stories, we may travel to places as impossibly far-off as the Lonely Mountain is to the inhabitants of Hobbiton, and meet dangers as foreign as dragons and hostile Elves. These “pretend worlds” seemingly have nothing to do with our real lives, and are at best (we might be tempted to think) a fun way to relax and refresh ourselves for the work of the “actual world”, when in fact these stories have the power to change us as Bilbo’s adventures changed him, equipping us to better live the life we have been given.

We do not live in a merely physical world. Our world is also a world of feelings and spirits and ideas and truths and miracles. Our world is supernatural as well as natural. Yet our senses become dull easily, and we begin to live as though the spiritual were less real than the physical. We walk according to what we see, not according to “the things that are unseen”. Imaginative stories can keep us from slipping into such a mindset, strangely enough, by painting spiritual things as though they were physical. When we come into the presence of Smaug, a vast and terrifying presence, radiating heat, sending shadows leaping up the walls and a glow like fire glinting from the gold, we are cowed; and when he speaks with his dragon-tongue, proud and subtle, mixing truth with lie, we understand in a new way what temptation is. We have heard its whispers in our own hearts and minds, but now we understand it for what it is—the malicious deceit of a serpent who seeks only his own glory and our destruction. We do not simply know it in our minds; we have experienced it. Spiritual truth is often easiest for us to grasp when we imagine it in physical form, as in the parables Jesus told—the lying tongue of a dragon is only one of countless examples.

Conversely, our appreciation for physical blessings is increased when we see them through spiritual eyes. When Bilbo comes home to the Shire after his journey, he sees old, familiar things in a new light. After looking upon perilous mountains and dark forests, he looks at the hills and trees he has known all his life and they are suddenly beautiful. After coming close to death in so many different ways, he has a keener appreciation for everyday life. Frodo’s experience at the end of The Lord of the Rings is similar: he sees his neighbors, simple and silly and happily ignorant of the world, and he loves them the more dearly because he has known suffering and sacrifice. To Bilbo and Frodo colors are brighter, water is sweeter, and the sun is warmer. Their senses have been stretched to take in greatness, grief, majesty, beauty, love—and suddenly they see these things everywhere, when they had overlooked them before.

We are all born “lucky heroes”. The world around us is moved by the sovereign hand of God, and we find ourselves thrown into dangers or dropped into valleys we did not expect. But through these adventures, physical, spiritual, and even literary, we can become “learning heroes”: growing as we journey, expanding our hearts to greater loves and our minds to higher thoughts. And hopefully at our journey’s end we will find, like Bilbo, that without ceasing to be a Hobbit, we have become something more.

Blessings of 2015, Hopes for 2016

post hting

2015 was a fantastic year. In the inevitable ups and downs, the Lord blessed me abundantly with His steadfast love and mercy. With it being the new year, I think it is only fitting that I dedicate this post to looking back on blessings and looking forward to goals.

Blessings of 2015 and now:

-The Sea Scribblers Short Story Contest was a success, thanks to the wonderful Annie and Schuyler, and of course everyone who participated.

-My WIP is nearly ready for beta readers. *squeal*

-I am in possession of seven new beautiful notebooks as of last night, and I cannot wait to start putting them to good use (read: MORE STORIES).

-I was given Nadine Brandes’s book A Time to Die for Christmas, and I am wildly excited to start reading it.

-My newfound love for opera/Placido Domingo. I had been crazy over a song or two sung by Placido Domingo in the past, but in this last month, I have been swept away in the great amount of absolutely gorgeous music he  has done. It is making me a better, deeper writer. No, really.

-All my dear writing/blogging/Twitter friends and family. All of you who have encouraged, prayed, and helped me out this year—you have been an incredible blessing to me!

-New story ideas. As much as I can be hard on those little fellows, they are what make writing exciting and worthwhile to me.

-New fancy coffee. Enough said.

Looking Forward:

I love goals.  Every time the new year rolls around, without fail I open a new word document or a fresh page in my notebook and scribble down my goals, hopes, and dreams for that year.

Of course, looking back, I always see how priorities change as the year goes by, and being the incredible optimist I am where goals are concerned, it is rare that everything gets done.  Still, it doesn’t hurt to give yourself something to shoot for.

-Read 55 books. I did a little over thirty last year, and I think with some careful consistency, I can do a little more. If any of you have a book you are dying to share, please let me know, I’m looking for new and interesting ones!

-Write two to three novels and four novellas/short stories.

-Have my WIP (Crowning Heaven) progressed to the point at which I can start querying it to professionals.

-Start a writer’s group.  No clue at all if this one will happen, but I like to dream.

-Take some writing classes to expand my horizons and stretch me a little.

And for fun:

-Be able to speak/understand enough Italian to understand an opera without subtitles.

-Build up my breath support and technique so I can tackle bigger vocal pieces.

 

Are you setting goals for 2016? What are some of your reading/writing goals?