Count of Mans and Knight of Blaives, was son of Duke Milo of
Aiglant, his mother being Bertha, the sister of Charlemagne. His sword
was called Durandal, and his horse Veillantiff. He was eight feet high,
and had an open countenance, which invited confidence, but inspired
respect. In Italian romance he is called Orlando, his sword Durandana, and his horse Vegliantino. (See Song of
“I knew of no one to compare him to but the Archangel Michael.” —Croquemitaine, iii.
Called the Christian Theseus (2 syl.), or the Achilles of the West. Roland or Rolando (Orlando in Italian).
One of Charlemagne's paladins and nephews. He is represented as
brave, loyal, and simple-minded. On the return of Charlemagne from
Spain, Roland, who commanded the rear-guard, fell into an ambuscade at
Roncesvalles, in the Pyrenees, and perished with all the flower of
French chivalry (778). He is the hero of Theroulde's Chanson de
Roland; the romance called Chroniq de Turpin; Boiardo's epic Orlando in Love
(Italian); and Ariosto's epic of Orlando Mad (Italian).
after slaying Angoulaffre, the Saracen giant, in single combat at
Fronsac, asked as his reward the hand of Aude, daughter of Sir Gerard
and Lady Guibourg; but they never married, as Roland fell at
Roncesvalles, and Aude died of a broken heart. (Croquemitaine, xi.)
A Roland for an Oliver.
A blow for a blow, tit for tat. Roland and Oliver were two of the
paladins of Charlemagne, whose exploits are so similar that it is very
difficult to keep them distinct. What Roland did Oliver did, and what
Oliver did Roland did. At length the two met in single combat, and
fought for five consecutive days on an island in the Rhine, but neither
gained the least advantage. (See in La Légende des Siècles, by Victor Hugo, the poem entitled Le Mariage de Roland.
The etymologies connecting the proverb with Charles II., General
Monk, and Oliver Cromwell, are wholly unworthy of credit, for even
Shakespeare alludes to it: “England all Olivers and Rolands bred” (1 Henry VI., i.
2); and Edward Hall, the historian, almost a century before
“But to have a Roland to resist an Oliver, he sent solempne
ambassadors to the Kyng of Englande, offeryag hym hys doughter in
mariage.” —Henry VI.
(See Oliver, Breche.)
In French, a bon chat bon rat.
To die like Roland. To die of starvation or thirst. It is said that
Roland, the great paladin, set upon in the
defile of Roncesvalles, escaped the general slaughter, and died of
hunger and thirst in seeking to cross the Pyrenees.
“Post ingentem Hispanorum caedem prope Pyrenaei saltus juga ... siti
miserrime extinctum. Inde nostri intolerabili siti et immiti volentes
significare se torque, facere aiunt, Rolandi morte se perire.” —John de la Bruiere Champie: Re Cibria, xvi. 5.
Faire le Roland.
Like the blast of Roland's horn.
When Roland was set upon by the Gascons at Roncesvalles, he sounded
his horn to give Charlemagne notice of his danger. At the third blast
it cracked in two, but so loud was the blast that birds fell dead and
the whole Saracen army was panicstruck. Charlemagne heard the sound at
St. Jean Pied de Port, and rushed to the rescue, but arrived too late.
Oh, for one blast of that dread born
On Fontarabian echoes borne,
That to King Charles did come.
Sir Walter Scott: Marmion, vi. 33.
Song of Roland.
Part of the Ghansons de Geste, which treat of the
achievements of Charlemagne and his paladins. William of Normandy had
it sung at the head of his troops when he came to invade England.
Song of Roland.
When Charlemagne had been six years in Spain, by the advice of
Roland, his nephew, he sent Ganelon on an embassy to Marsillus, the
pagan king of Saragossa. Ganelon, out of jealousy, betrayed to
Marsillus the route which the Christian army designed to take on its
way home, and the pagan king arrived at Roncesvalles just as Roland was
conducting through the pass a rearguard of 20,000 men. Roland fought
till 100,000 Saracens lay slain, and only 50 of his own men survived.
At this juncture another army, consisting of 50,000 men, poured from
the mountains. Roland now blew his enchanted horn, and blew so loudly
that the veins of his neck started. Charlemagne heard the blast, but
Ganelon persuaded him that it was only his nephew hunting the deer.
Roland died of his wounds, but in dying threw his trusty sword Durandal
into a poisoned stream, where it remained.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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