Lesson #44: Chansons de Geste

If you’re wondering how I got to this topic, I came by way of Wagner (or Mozart)’s composition of ‘O Fortuna’ from Carmina Burana.*

Anyway, a few steps later, I ended up looking into the chansons de geste. The chansons de geste are medieval (11th-13th centuries) French epic poems forming the base of the Charlemagne legend and are typical in their composition in that they narrate stories of heroic adventure and great deeds.** The most famous of these is The Song of Roland, but there are more than 80 in total.***

*Seriously. I actually read today that either Wagner (wrong) or Mozart (VERY wrong) composed Orff’s masterpiece. My soul cries.

**Like epics from pretty much everywhere in the western world beginning with one of my very favourite pieces of literature, Homer’s Iliad and including such heroes as Grettir the Strong (Iceland — Sagas of the Icelanders), Cu Chulainn (Ireland — The Ulster Cycle) and Väinämöinen (Finland — Kalevala).

***If you read French, descriptions for all of the chansons de geste can be found here.

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