Monday, February 21, 2005

President's Day

"We will have the most ethical administration in the history of the Republic." -- President Clinton, on the PBS program "Washington Week in Review", February 25, 1994

Some men let their words speak for themselves, and condemn without commentary.

I love the French folk epic "The Song of Roland." In particular, I love the Ganelon character. He's a sneaky, bitter little man who betrays Charlemagne at the battle of Roncesvalles in 778 AD. I always wondered exactly how Ganelon came to treason. The epic states little, only a small look into a perceived slight by his stepson Roland against his character. Little things can become large when Honor is involved. I wrote a poem to look into Ganelon's motives; all the facts are the same as in The Song of Roland, but I put them together with a first-person narrative straight from Ganelon's thoughts as I know them. Personally, I always sympathized with Ganelon, but fell short of approving his treason. Some people never learn the meaning of the word gratitude. Roland is one of those people.


I should have been among them
Laughing like the rest,
Enjoying life in full

I killed for him
I bled for him
and in return: insults

slights upon my character
Comissions to discredit
The good things I have done

I do not wish to drink
be merrry with my peers
When all they do is laugh me

An insult in the ear
Turns quickly toward the mouth
repeated in a chorus

Of course they never mean it
or so they say
It’s always in good fun

But fun at whose expense?
Roland runs men through
For less than what he throws at me

And Oliver, his lap dog
Continues with the barking
Little, short prattle

I chase him with a sneer
and he runs back to master
To cry and wet himself

Those two deserve each other
Both false, and living lies:
Two men a bit too close

I can’t beat Roland’s tongue
For he will cut mine off
If I returned in kind

Durendal should be mine!
By right, the sword is mine!
My wife, his mother, spurns me

And dreams all day of love
Her former husband’s seed
Replaced me in her eyes

Before I even met her
She had no love for others
And wanted my place for Roland

What should I do?
I can’t cry at my misfortune
I can’t strike at my obsession

I loved her
I cherished her
I gave her what I had

And that is what she wanted
A place for Roland at court
Where he can work his lies

Get ahead of me
Steal my peerage
Run with my glory

He leads my men in his name
And laughs when I am mentioned
I’m just Old Gan to him

But I am Ganelon
And was before his birth
He is no son of mine

His mother said she loved me
With pretty, batting eyes
Not suited to the truth

Once joined to me in law
Her love turned hard and cold
To match her diamond ring

I cannot take this further
Or it will be my grave
My presence will be felt

I know a man in Spain
Once friendly to my house
More friendly than my wife

My king,
My country,
My faith.

Roland, I am here
My smile is my vengeance
Your pride will be your grave.

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