This passage comes from “Count Roland: Heroes Every Child Should Know,” about the Twelve Peers of France (who were among the first knights):
Next to Roland for valour and hardihood came Oliver, his companion. Many a heathen warrior did he slay, till at last his spear was shivered in his hand. “What are you doing, comrade?” cried Roland, when he was aware of the mishap. “A man wants no staff in such a battle as this. ‘Tis the steel and nothing else that he must have. Where is your sword Hautclere, with its hilt of gold and its pommel of crystal?” “On my word,” said Oliver, “I have not had time to draw it; I was so busy with striking.”
But as he spake he drew the good sword from its scabbard, and smote a heathen knight, Justin of the Iron Valley. A mighty blow it was, cleaving the man in twain down to his saddle—aye, and the saddle itself with its adorning of gold and jewels, and the very backbone also of the steed whereon he rode, so that horse and man fell dead together on the plains.
“Well done!” cried Roland; “you are a true brother of mine. ‘Tis such strokes as this that make the King love us.”
WTF. Maximum pwnage. This passage makes me wonder: Is the sword a cybernetic implement? Am I misusing this term? [Ethan?] Certainly, here the sword is the tool, the thing that makes man a creature of profane work (function, use, value)—here, the work of cutting dudes up, Drive-style. But does the sword extend the man out into the world, the place of objects? Does it extend the subject? (Do, in Drive, the knife, the car, the hammer, &c., all perform a similar tele- function?) [Yes, obviously, I just saw Drive. Much more Lynchian than I would have guessed.]
“A mighty blow:” This can be the horn, extending our breath, our voice into space, its way decaying forward, in a ripple, in time; this can be the sword, smiting, fracturing some realities into impossibility.
The question seems to be one of circularity and closed loops. The sword does not cut the knot; it seals the loop… France is invaded; France invades; France is invaded. There is something (movie-)noir in this knowledge and the steadfastness of the chivalrous hero in the face of the stupidity (the closed-ness) of the system: Despite dangers and loops, the sword, the mighty blow.
All for what? A jeweled saddle, a name that lives in song, a girl…