Having written my undergrad thesis on the Song of Roland (and loving Chestertonian rhythm wherever I find it), I’d like to share this poem written by a friend of mine on the 13th anniversary of September 11, 2001. I’d also like to recommend–again–the Paul Greengrass film United 93. Neither the movie nor this poem beg us to remember; they do better than that. They make it impossible for us to forget.
When Roland fought his victory
On the field of Roncevaux,
And Don John of Austria
Achieved his mighty blow,
And Martel’s iron hammer
Smote the Paynim horde,
The vanguards of a Christian Church,
They knew for what they warred.
But though the land and sea they swept
With chivalry’s dying breaths
The sky unblemished yet remained:
The air had not seen death.
But in Our Lord’s remembrance,
A thousand years had fled
Before the Paynim hosts would strike,
A second dragon’s head.
No knights, no Christendom saw they,
Only the West, corrupt.
They swore a bloody vow and bond
To meet where Mahound supped.
And in the sky at last they seized
The swords they lusted for,
To wield against the West’s strong towers;
The Paynims flew to war.
Strange thing! That in their flight,
Three of four would strike,
Flying but not fleeing,
Victory and death alike.
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