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Monday, March 28, 2011

The Silent Slain and the Horn of Roland

Archibald MacLeish is one of my favorite poets - has been since high school when I began reading his work. 

I've been thinking about his poem, The Silent Slain today.

We too, we too, descending once again
The hills of our own land, we too have heard
Far off - ah, que ce cor a longue haleine -
The horn of Roland in the passages of Spain,
The first, the second blast, the failing third,
And with the third turned back and climbed once more
The steep road southward, and heard faint the sound
Of swords, of horses, the disastrous war,
And crossed the dark defile at last, and found
At Roncevaux upon the darkeining plain
The dead against the dead and on the silent ground
The silent slain -

You will, of course, recall that Roland blew his war horn three times to summon back the army of Charlemange to defend the rearguard forces from an attack by an overwhelming enemy force.  The effort to sound the horn caused a rupture in Roland's temple and he died.  Roland and the others - to a man - were dead before Charlemange could reach them.

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