“Roland common-sense which is the traditional characteristic

“Roland is fierce, and Oliver is wise.

” Oliver is Roland’s”companion”—brought up with him, according to the practice of the time,sharing his pursuits and training—and he displays something of thatblunt, hard-headed common-sense which is the traditional characteristicof the “hero’s friend”. Wisdom, in the sense of practical prudence, is avaluable, but not a showy or perhaps a very endearing quality. It is thedisastrous Mary Stuarts of history, not the cautious and thriftyElizabeth Tudors, who flame their way through the pages of ballad andromance. Oliver is a sounder soldier than Roland—more concerned withmilitary necessities than with his own prestige. He mounts a hill beforethe battle to find out how many enemies they have to reckon with—anaction which, by _chanson de geste_ standards, scarcely becomes agentleman; finding the odds unreasonable, he urges Roland to summonassistance—a thing which that hero considers to be beneath his dignity.

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He goes grimly and gallantly to a task which he knows to be impossible,but he cherishes no illusions, and is unromantic enough to feel nopleasure in the knowledge that “someone had blundered”. He has notRoland’s sunny disposition; he is capable of cherishing resentment, andwhen his forebodings have proved all too true, he has a regrettabletendency to say, “I told you so”:


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