Edited by K. Olsen, A. Harbus, and T. Based on papers presented at an international conference held July , at the University of Groningen. Peeters, Romance Notes , Source: Forum for Modern Language Studies , Edited by David Alan Brown et al. Scandinavian Studies , Source: Women's History Review , Women's History Review , Source: New Medieval Literatures , 4.
Edited by Barbara Stevenson and Cynthia Ho. Source: Medieval Women and the Law. Edited by Jo Catling. Cambridge University Press, Pages 13 - Edited by Denis Renevey and Christiania Whitehead. Source: Journal of Arabic Literature , Source: Studia Neophilologica , Edited by Sonya Stephens.
Studia Neophilologica , Essays for Felicity Riddy. Source: Modern Language Review , Source: Medievalia et Humanistica New Series , Literacy and the Lay Reader Year of Publication: Record Number: Author s : Simms, Katharine. Contributor s : Title : Textiles and Textile Imagery in the "Exeter Book" [The author briefly explores three kinds of textile imagery in the tenth century "Exeter Book" manuscript: textile and textile production metaphors for fate, peacemaking, and illicit sexual activity. Title note supplied by Feminae. Record Number: Author s : Harvey, Ruth. Contributor s : Title : Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Troubadours [The author looks at evidence of Eleanor's connections to troubadours.
Despite some modern historians' optimistic constructions of Eleanor and her court as a haven for troubadours, there is virtually no documentation of troubadours either in her entourage or writing songs for her. Record Number: Author s : Haycock, Marged. The first examples come from two thirteenth century Welsh translations of the Latin Tiburtine oracles, "Breuddwyd Sibli" and "Proffwydoliaeth Sibli Ddoeth. Haycock suggests that Gwerful may have taken the example of the Sibyl as a female forerunner to legitimize her public writing. Some are victims of their love for unfaithful men.
In a comic inversion, these women are more constant than are the knights they love. Howard Bloch, and Daniel Heller-Roazen. All have made advances by refusing to adhere to the fixed boundaries drawn by previous scholarship. Of particular interest are works by Hamburger, discussing the agency nuns attained even when cloistered, and Bloch, describing the role of Marie de France in creating vernacular literature. Record Number: Author s : Meli, Beatriz. Record Number: Author s : Nicholson, Francesca. Nicholson argues that they sometimes identify with a male lover and sometimes speak as women.
The claim that hagiographic narratives are vehicles for male voyeurism achieved some currency in feminist scholarship of the 80s; this chapter deploys the notion of interpassive vision as a means of complicating such claims, reassessing the way these critics characterise gender and sexual desire and suggesting alternative approaches to the relationship between vision and reader response in medieval texts.
Summary provided by the author. Contributor s : Title : War and Truce: Women in "The Wallace" [The author concentrates on the scenes of Wallace's courtship of his future wife and the diplomatic efforts of the English queen. Milfull argues that in both cases the poet regards the women as intrusive and potentially dangerous. Record Number: Author s : Howie, Cary. Record Number: Author s : Blumreich, Kathleen. Record Number: Author s : Besserman, Lawrence.
Record Number: Author s : Gaunt, Simon. Record Number: Author s : Bodden, M. Contributor s : Title : Chaucer's "Clerk's Tale": Interrogating "Virtue" through Violence [The author argues that the tale of Griselda should not be read as an allegory of humanity's relationship to God but as Chaucer's critique of hagiography's docile, virtuous heroines.
Bodden cites the Envoy as clear evidence of Chaucer's condemnation of violence and in particular the torture of women. Her plots to destroy Silence by appealing to her husband's threatened honor are too simplistic. Instead she brings her husband shame and must be executed by being torn apart by horses, the traditional death of traitors. Record Number: Author s : Harker, C. Contributor s : Title : Chrystis Kirk on the Grene and "Peblis to the Ploy": The Economy of Gender [In these two Middle Scots satires female misbehavior is defined as sexual license, whether it be peasant girls who are available to every man or the lower-class woman who thinks that she can entice a well-off merchant.
Harker argues that anxieties over class distinction and the instability of the urban burghs are transferred to unruly, lower class female bodies. In the first he rashly made an alliance with Jacqueline, countess of Holland, which endangered England's ties with Burgundy. Defending her territories proved difficult, and he abandoned her, taking one of her ladies-in-waiting as his wife soon thereafter.
Popular sympathy coalesced around the deserted countess with poems and petitions celebrating her as a good wife betrayed. Humphrey was rehabilitated to a degree by representing his second wife, Eleanor Cobham, as a seductress who snared him with sex and enchantments. Record Number: Author s : Doyle, Kara. Contributor s : Title : Narratizing Marie of Ponthieu [The author analyzes three texts related to the life of Marie, countess of Ponthieu.
She was heir to her father's holdings of Ponthieu but her husband's rebellion against the French king, Philippe Auguste, resulted in the forfeiture of her inheritance. The three texts analyzed are: 1 the legal agreement between Marie and Lous VIII restoring her land and the inheritance rights to her children; 2 the "Roman de la Violette" by Gerbert de Montreuil in which Marie is acknowledged as patron; and the anonymous "Fille de comte de Ponthieu" in which the heroine's resemblance to Marie is less direct.
Significantly all three texts downplay women's agency and do not portray the woman as holding land. Evidence suggests that Marie took direct action to regain her family's lands and privileges Title note supplied by Feminae. The corporeal status of her sexually-violated body and the gaps in her garment align her with the Muses of Poetry, negating a perception of Philosophy as pure, perfect, or whole.
Her imperfect garment and female body thus symbolize human loss, corruption and mortality. Record Number: Author s : Kay, Sarah. In the case of the Deadly Sins, flaying skin is linked to bodily punishment; in the case of Virtues, flayed skin alludes to Scripture and written documents manuscripts being written on parchment, or flayed animal skin. Contributor s : Title : The "Fenzeit" and the Feminine: Robert Henryson's "Orpheus and Eurydice" and the Gendering of Poetry [The author argues that the narrative in the poem is associated with the feminine while the concluding "moralitas" is identified as masculine.
McGinley suggests that in this way the poet calls into question the traditional patriarchal values and presents the feminine more positively. The Mirror for Princes tradition of advice literature as reflected in the Middle English version of the "Secretorum" also emphasized the importance of religion in a king's responsibilities, particularly with regard to sexual self-control. Record Number: Author s : Starkey, Kathryn. Although the image of an adulterous couple may not seem appropriate for shoes associated with marriage, other iconography on the slippers such as an orchard, falcon, chessboard, and literary inscriptions and contemporary Dutch literature about the Tristan story indicate that the urban public was reappropriating elements of courtly culture.
CONTENTS OF THE SECOND VOLUME.
Record Number: Author s : Tolhurst, Fiona. Record Number: Author s : Edwards, A. Edwards briefly examines cultural influences Bokenham, Chaucer, Lydgate, and Capgrave , religious practices devotion to St. Margaret and the Virgin , and manuscript conventions small dimensions and copying verse as prose that contributed to books such as this one that were intended for family audiences. Record Number: Author s : Johnston, Mark. Johnston argues that while a few behaviors are gender specific, the poet generally emphasizes a common ethic of courtliness for nobles of both sexes.
In the larger historical moment they uphold the ties of kinship as society comes to accept the personal loyalty owed to a centralizing sovereign. Dorigen's expressions are extremely anguished and disordered, while the male characters experience grief more "rationally" in connection with honor and the loss of power over women.
Record Number: Author s : Contributor s : Title : Reading Queenship in Cynewulf's "Elene" [The author argues that Cynewulf wanted his audience to read Elene both typologically and as a figure relevant to three different historical periods: early Christian Rome, the present age of the tenth century, and a Golden Age of English conversion. Record Number: Author s : Classen, Albrecht. Contributor s : Title : Marriage and the Creation of Kin in the Sagas [The author concludes in part: "The fact that kinship networks were up for negotiation, that each conjugal unit in a sense selected for itself when which kinship bonds were the most important, meant that power within marriage was up for negotiation too.
The default obligation for men was their blood relatives and for women seems rather to have been to their husbands; but the system was flexible enough that each couple worked out for itself which relationships were most important. It is not a tender lament from a separated lover.
Instead it is an angry curse directed at the husband who abandoned her. Niles suggests that modern gender assumptions prevented critics from recognizing the anger, vengeance, and other strong emotions expressed by the female speaker. Record Number: Author s : Besamusca, Bart. Record Number: Author s : Salisbury, Eve.
Contributor s : Title : Chaucer's "Wife," the Law, and the Middle English Breton Lays [The author argues that Chaucer's Wife and the Breton lays address legal questions and loopholes concerning rape and marriage, commenting on and reinforcing the laws of both ecclesiastical and secular counts. Record Number: Author s : Donavin, Georgiana. Contributor s : Title : Taboo and Transgression in Gower's "Apollonius of Tyre" [The author examines the themes of violence and incest in the story of Apollonius and Antiochus. The author argues that prohibitions against these crimes serve in part to evoke them.
Contributor s : Title : Marie de France's "Bisclavret": What the Werewolf Will and Will Not Wear ["This chapter will attempt to unravel that tangled tension in the story of 'Bisclavret,' where there are two opposing functions of clothing: to confine in a social role or identity imposed from without , or to express a self-definition, chosen or generated from within.
Leoninus uses echoes from Ovid not only to establish a playful, loving exchange with his male addressees but, according to Holsinger and Townsend, to celebrate male-male sexual consummation as "a noble and ennobling pursuit. Record Number: Author s : Griffiths, Fiona. Contributor s : Title : Herrad of Hohenbourg and the Poetry of the "Hortus deliciarum: Cantat tibi cantica" [The author provides a brief overview of Herrad's encyclopedic "Hortus. Latin texts and English translations of selected poems from the "Hortus deliciarum follow.
Record Number: Author s : Colwell, Tania. Record Number: Author s : Curtis, Liane. Contributor s : Title : Christine de Pizan and "Dueil Angoisseux" [When Christine de Pizan began her literary carrier, writing the "Cent Ballades," she exploited her widow's status, writing in terms of lamentation and long suffering; these were supposed to come naturally to women, especially to widows, removed by misfortune from contamination though sexual activity; "Dueil Angoisseux" was one of these ballades; the poem, an expressions of a widow's grief, was set to music by Binchois Gilles ; both Christine's text and Binchois' music exploit effectively a topic, suffering, in which women were believed to be superior to men; the Appendix presents the French text of "Dueil Angoisseux" along with an English translation].
Record Number: Author s : Jordan, Constance. Because Eve needs to be innocent, the poet adapted an episode from the "Heliand" concerning Pilate's wife's vision. Thus Eve ensares her husband thinking that she is being given special visions of God. Title note from Feminae.
Contributor s : Title : Gendered Knowledge and Eavesdropping in the Late-Medieval "Minnerede" [The author argues for a poetics of gender in the "Minnerede" with an eavesdropping male narrator and a female speaker whose concerns about love are voiced in secret. The "Minnereden" narratives take place in two different milieu, the city and the court. The appendix inventories twenty-five "Minnereden" and seven "maeren" that feature an eavesdropping motif. Record Number: Author s : Powell, Morgan. The poet sets his wedding song for Christ and his bride, Holy Church, within the context of the secular court which is seen as the equivalent of heaven.
She argues that vocabulary, style, and literary technique are all very similar to Marie de France's texts. She also argues that the theme of spiritual marriage in the saint's life would be congenial to the author of "Eliduc. Record Number: Author s : Contributor s : Title : Gender in the World of William Marshal and Bertran de Born [The author analyzes the lives of both William Marshal, knight "extraordinaire," and Bertran de Born, a French lord and troubadour, arguing for a continuity in their culture of a secular, knightly world made up largely of men.
Contributor s : Title : Not Safe Even in Their Own Castles: Reading Domestic Violence Against Children in Four Middle English Romances [The author argues that the physical abuse, danger in homes, abusive foster guardians, and forced marriages experienced by the children in these romances served to evoke pathos. Readers among the gentry and urban middle class were anxious about violence and insecurity but in these romances the children usually triumphed over extreme difficulties with a happy ending. Record Number: Author s : Wilcockson, Colin.
Record Number: Author s : Arden, Heather. Record Number: Author s : Batt, Catherine. Record Number: Author s : Keen, Catherine. When the father kills the child, the blood is paternal blood and represents a sacrifice for loyalty or for God. When the mother kills the child, the blood is maternal, associated with the impurities of childbirth, and is done only as an act of revenge. Record Number: Author s : Sanok, Catherine. Seeing women, who are normally excluded from authority, portrayed as preaching and teaching without any suggestion of heterodoxy must have made civic and ecclesiastical officials nervous.
Record Number: Author s : Sheerin, Daniel. Mortuary rolls announced the deaths of prominent religious women and men and provided space for monasteries and cathedrals to record prayers and commemorative poems. The author suggests that groups competed for the most elegant and rhetorically inventive entries. He also suggests that poems written by nuns may have prompted the misogynous comments in several of the entries from male religious communities.
Latin texts and English translations follow of Matilda's obituary notice and the poems on the mortuary roll from women's communities. Record Number: Author s : Udry, Susan. For Robert his chief concern is women's sociability and the ways to promote social interactions between members of varied classes. On the other hand the Chevalier is concerned that his daughters make good marriages and carry on his lineage.
- Aïe Aïe Aïe !.
- Walks in Rome, Augustus J.C. Hare.
- W. E. H. LECKY'S WORKS.
- Religion, Gender, and Culture in the Pre-Modern World.
He warns his daughters that artificial beauty in the form of fashion and cosmetics only distorts the beauty that comes from God. Record Number: Author s : Hafner, Susanne. Record Number: Author s : Watt, Diane. Contributor s : Title : Consuming Passions in Book VIII of John Gower's "Confessio Amantis" [The author argues that the various "appetites" condemned by Gower incest, latent homosexuality, and female desire are part of a mirror for princes guide to proper manly behavior that emphasizes the control of sexuality.
Record Number: Author s : Niebrzydowski, Sue. Contributor s : Title : Reframing the Violence of the Father: Reverse Oedipal Fantasies in Chaucer's Clerk's, Man of Law's, and Prioress's Tales [The author argues that the family relations both in the tales of Griselda and of Custance manifest a profound anxiety about paternity and a need for concealed violence, both physical and psychic. The happy endings do not mask the father's violence and the conflict between the generations.
Record Number: Author s : Patterson, Lee. Contributor s : Title : Chaucer's Pardoner on the Couch: Psyche and Clio in Medieval Literary Studies [the author argues that psycholanalytic theory has been abandoned by psychology and medicine while at the same time medieval literary historians have adopted it with great enthusiasm; the author takes the "Pardoner's Prologue" and "Tale" as a case study and suggests that the castration and homosexuality frequently seen as the key elements in the Pardoner's character were intended by Chaucer to be read metaphorically as indications of the Pardoner's barrenness and false religious beliefs].
Record Number: Author s : Holmes, Olivia. Contributor s : Title : Dante's Two Beloveds: Ethics as Erotic Choice [The author explores the pattern of two competing but almost identical female archetypes as love objects in Dante's writings particularly in the "Convivio" and the "Commedia". In certain respects the women are rivals and represent the sacred versus the profane. In some cases they can also be read as stages in ethical development with the first female as precursor and the second as fulfillment. Record Number: Author s : Pearsall, Derek. Contributor s : Title : Eleanor Prescott Hammond [Hammond had a rigorous university education but held no teaching positions; nevertheless she compiled two volumes that are still of use today, "Chaucer: A Bibliographic Manual" and "English Verse: Between Chaucer and Surrey" ].
Women in the "Chanson d'Antioche" [The poet adapted already existing verse to create a three-part cycle about the First Crusade. The author argues that the poet introduces women generally as an element of humor. Record Number: Author s : Marvin, Julia. Contributor s : Title : Albine and Isabelle: Regicidal Queens and the Historical Imagination of the Anglo-Norman Prose "Brut" Chronicles [The author argues that the prose continuators of the "Brut," particularly the author of the "Long Continuation," draw connections between Albine, the rebellious daughter of a noble king who kills her royal husband and is exiled to a distant isle that she names Albion, and Queen Isabella of France, who plotted with Roger Mortimer to kill her husband, King Edward II, and usurp his power.
The Appendix presents an edition of the prose prologue to the "Long Version" of the Anglo-Norman prose "Brut" with a facing page English translation. Record Number: Author s : Burgess, Christopher. Contributor s : Title : Broken Bodies and Singing Tongues: Gender and Voice in the Cambridge, Corpus Christi College 23 "Psychomachia" [The author argues that the Anglo-Saxon reader of the "Psychomachia" and the "Passio Sancti Romani" also by Prudentius was encouraged through text and illustrations to see the self as masculine and the body as feminine.
Karkov notes that the Anglo-Saxon "Psychomachia" manuscripts were the first to depict the Virtues and Vices as primarily female, rather than the earlier practice of Virtues as male warriors and the Vices as monsters. Contributor s : Title : Sexual Behavior and Social Consequences in the Old French "Chanson de geste" [The author argues that sexuality in French epics is generally subordinated to concerns of lineage and social order.
Young women sometimes express sexual desire and even take the initiative, but it is up to the male characters to determine what will happen. Frequently the hero demonstrates sexual restraint and is rewarded later with marriage to the young girl who turns out to be a king's daughter. Eulalie, a poem on the Passion, a life of St. Leger, and perhaps a poem on Boethius. These four documents are of the highest interest. Not merely has the language assumed a tolerably regular form, but its great division into Langue d'Oc and Langue d'Oil is already made, and grammar, prosody, and other necessities or ornaments of bookwriting, are present.
The following extracts will illustrate this part of French literature. The Romance oaths and the 'St. Eulalie' are given in full, the 'Passion' and the 'St. Leger' in extract; it will be observed that the interval between the first and the others is of very considerable width. This interval probably represents a century of active change, and of this unfortunately we have no monuments to mark the progress accurately.
Pro deo amur et pro christian poblo et nostro commun salvament, d'ist di in avant, in quant deus savir et podir me dunat, si salvarai eo cist meon fradre Karlo et in aiudha et in cadhuna cosa, si cum on per dreit son fradra salvar dist, in o quid il mi altresi fazet, et ab Ludher nul plaid nunqua prindrai, qui meon vol cist meon fradre Karle in damno sit.
Considering the great extent and the political divisions of the country called France, it is not surprising that the language which was so slowly formed should have shown considerable dialectic variations. The characteristics of these dialects, Norman, Picard, Walloon, Champenois, Angevin, and so forth, have been much debated by philologists.
But it so happens that the different provinces displayed in point of literature considerable idiosyncrasy, which it is scarcely possible to dispute. Hardly a district of France but contributed something special to her wide and varied literature. The South, though its direct influence was not great, undoubtedly set the example of attention to lyrical form and cadence. Britanny contributed the wonderfully suggestive Arthurian legends, and the peculiar music and style of the lai. It is however with the eleventh century that the history of French literature properly so called begins.
We have indeed few Romance manuscripts so early as this, the date of most of them not being earlier than the twelfth. But by the eleventh century not merely were laws written in French charters and other formal documents were somewhat later , not merely were sermons constantly composed and preached in that tongue, but also works of definite literature were produced in it. From this date it is therefore possible to abandon generalities, and taking the successive forms and developments of literature, to deal with them in detail. Before however we attempt a systematic account of French literature as it has been actually handed down to us, it is necessary to deal very briefly with two questions, one of which concerns the antecedence of possible ballad literature to the existing Chansons de Gestes, the other the machinery of diffusion to which this and all the early historical developments of the written French language owed much.
It has been held by many scholars, whose opinions deserve respect, that an extensive literature of Cantilenae 12 , or short historical ballads, preceded the lengthy epics which we now possess, and was to a certain extent worked up in these compositions. It is hardly necessary to say that this depends in part upon a much larger question — the question, namely, of the general origins of epic poetry.
There are indeed certain references 13 to these Cantilenae upon which the theories alluded to have been built. But the Cantilenae themselves have, as one of the best of French literary historians, the late M. No remnant of them survives save the already-mentioned Latin prose canticle of St. Faron, in which vestiges of a French and versified original are thought to be visible, and the ballad of Saucourt, a rough song in a Teutonic dialect In default of direct evidence an argument has been sought to be founded on the constant transitions, repetitions, and other peculiarities of the Chansons, some of which and especially Roland , the most famous of all present traces of repeated handlings of the same subject, such as might be expected in work which was merely that of a diaskeuast 15 of existing lays.
It is however probable that the explanation of this phenomenon need not be sought further than in the circumstances of the composition and publication of these poems, circumstances which also had a very considerable influence on the whole course and character of early French literature. We know nothing of the rise or origin of the two classes of Trouveurs and Jongleurs.
The former which it is needless to say is the same word as Troubadour , and Trobador , and Trovatore is the term for the composing class, the latter for the performing one. The natural consequence of this irregular form of publication was a good deal of repetition in the works published. We may therefore conclude, without entering further into the details of a debate unsuitable to the plan of this history, that, while but scanty evidence has been shown of the existence previous to the Chansons de Gestes of a ballad literature identical in subject with those compositions, at the same time the existence of such a literature is neither impossible nor improbable.
It is otherwise with the hypothesis of the existence of prose chronicles, from which the early epics and Roland in particular are also held to have derived their origin. But this subject will be better handled when we come to treat of the beginnings of French prose. For the present it is sufficient to say that, with the exception of the scattered fragments already commented upon, there is no department of French literature before the eleventh century and the Chansons de Gestes , which possesses historical existence proved by actual monuments, and thus demands or deserves treatment here. The chronicler Sigebert confirms the statement that he was made bishop 'quod Romanam non minus quam Teutonicam calleret linguam.
Faron, his predecessor, towards the end of the ninth century.
Dictionnaire universel d’histoire et de géographie Bouillet Chassang/Lettre C
Helgaire uses the words 'juxta rusticitatem,' 'carmen rusticum;' and Lingua Rustica is usually if not universally synonymous with Lingua Romana. It was published in by Holtzmann. The Cassel Glossary, which came from Fulda, was published in the last century Paris, Gaston Paris speaks with apparent confidence of the pre-existing chants , and, in matter of authority, no one speaks with more than he: but it can hardly be said that there is proof of the fact.
The earliest form which finished literature took in France was that of epic or narrative poetry. Towards the middle of the eleventh century certainly, and probably some half-century earlier, poems of regular construction and considerable length began to be written. These are the Chansons de Gestes , so called from their dealing with the Gestes 17 , or heroic families of legendary or historical France. It is remarkable that this class of composition, notwithstanding its age, its merits, and the abundant examples of it which have been preserved, was one of the latest to receive recognition in modern times.
The matter of many of the Chansons, under their later form of verse or prose romances of chivalry, was indeed more or less known in the eighteenth century. But an appreciation of their real age, value, and interest has been the reward of the literary investigations of our own time. It was not till that the oldest and the most remarkable of them was first edited from the manuscript found in the Bodleian Library Since that time investigation has been constant and fruitful, and there are now more than one hundred of these interesting poems known.
The origin and sources of the Chansons de Gestes have been made a matter of much controversy. We have already seen how, from the testimony of historians and the existence of a few fragments, it appears that rude lays or ballads in the different vernacular tongues of the country were composed and sung if not written down at very early dates.
According to one theory, we are to look for the origin of the long and regular epics of the eleventh and subsequent centuries in these rude compositions, first produced independently, then strung together, and lastly subjected to some process of editing and union. It has been sought to find proof of this in the frequent repetitions which take place in the Chansons, and which sometimes amount to the telling of the same incident over and over again in slightly varying words.
Others have seen in this peculiarity only a result of improvisation in the first place, and unskilful or at least uncritical copying in the second. This, however, is a question rather interesting than important. What is certain is that no literary source of the Chansons is now actually in existence, and that we have no authentic information as to any such originals. At a certain period — approximately given above — the fashion of narrative poems on the great scale seems to have arisen in France. It spread rapidly, and was eagerly copied by other nations.
The definition of a Chanson de Geste is as follows. It is a narrative poem, dealing with a subject connected with French history, written in verses of ten or twelve syllables, which verses are arranged in stanzas of arbitrary length, each stanza possessing a distinguishing assonance or rhyme in the last syllable of each line. The assonance, which is characteristic of the earlier Chansons, is an imperfect rhyme, in which identity of vowel sound is all that is necessary.
Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index
Thus traitor , felon , compaingnons , manons , noz , the first, fourth, and fifth of which have no character of rhyme whatever in modern poetry, are sufficient terminations for an assonanced poem, because the last vowel sound, o, is identical. There is moreover in this versification a regular caesura, sometimes after the fourth, sometimes after the sixth syllable; and in a few of the older examples the stanzas, or as they are sometimes called laisses , terminate in a shorter line than usual, which is not assonanced.
This metrical system, it will be observed, is of a fairly elaborate character, a character which has been used as an argument by those who insist on the existence of a body of ballad literature anterior to the Chansons. We shall see in the following chapters how this double definition of a Chanson de Geste , by matter and by form, serves to exclude from the title other important and interesting classes of compositions slightly later in date. The period of composition of these poems extended, speaking roughly, over three centuries. In the eleventh they began, but the beginnings are represented only by Roland , the Voyage de Charlemagne , and perhaps Le Roi Louis.
Most and nearly all the best date from the twelfth. The thirteenth century also produces them in great numbers, but by this time a sensible change has come over their manner, and after the beginning of the fourteenth only a few pieces deserving the title are written. They then undergo transformation rather than neglect, and we shall meet them at a later period in other forms. Before dealing with other general characteristics of the early epics of France it will be well to give some notion of them by actual selection and narrative. For this purpose we shall take two Chansons typical of two out of the three stages through which they passed.
Roland will serve as a sample of the earliest, Amis et Amiles of the second. Of the third, as less characteristic in itself and less marked by uniform features, it will be sufficient to give some account when we come to the compositions which chiefly influenced it, namely the romances of Arthur and of antiquity.
The Chanson de Roland , the most ancient and characteristic of these poems, though extremely popular in the middle ages 19 , passed with them into obscurity. The earliest allusion to the Oxford MS. Conybeare forty years later dealt with it in the Gentleman's Magazine of , and by degrees the reviving interest of France in her older literature attracted French scholars to this most important monument of the oldest French. It was first published as a whole by M. Michel in , and since that time it has been the subject of a very great amount of study.
Its length is decasyllabic lines, and it concludes with an obscure assertion of authorship, publication or transcription by a certain Turoldus The date of the Oxford MS. There are other MSS. The argument of the poem is as follows:—. Charlemagne has warred seven years in Spain, but king Marsile of Saragossa still resists the Christian conqueror.
Unable however to meet Charlemagne in the field, he sends an embassy with presents and a feigned submission, requesting that prince to return to France, whither he will follow him and do homage. Roland opposes the reception of these offers, Ganelon speaks in their favour, and so does Duke Naimes. Then the question is who shall go to Saragossa to settle the terms.
Roland offers to go himself, but being rejected as too impetuous, suggests Ganelon — a suggestion which bitterly annoys that knight and by irritating him against Roland sows the seeds of his future treachery. Ganelon goes to Marsile, and at first bears himself truthfully and gallantly. The heathen king however undermines his faith, and a treacherous assault on the French rearguard when Charlemagne shall be too far off to succour it is resolved on and planned. Then the traitor returns to Charles with hostages and mighty gifts.
The return to France begins; Roland is stationed to his great wrath in the fatal place, the rest of the army marches through the Pyrenees, and meanwhile Marsile gathers an enormous host to fall upon the isolated rearguard. There is a long catalogue of the felon and miscreant knights and princes that follow the Spanish king. The pagan host, travelling by cross paths of the mountains, soon reaches and surrounds Roland and the peers. Oliver entreats Roland to sound his horn that Charles may hear it and come to the rescue, but the eager and inflexible hero refuses.
Archbishop Turpin blesses the doomed host, and bids them as the price of his absolution strike hard. The battle begins and all its incidents are told. The French kill thousands, but thousands more succeed. Peer after peer falls, and when at last Roland blows the horn it is too late. Charlemagne hears it and turns back in an agony of sorrow and haste. But long before he reaches Roncevaux Roland has died last of his host, and alone, for all the Pagans have fallen or fled before him. The arrival of Charlemagne, his grief, and his vengeance on the Pagans, should perhaps conclude the poem.
There is however a sort of afterpiece, in which the traitor Ganelon is tried, his fate being decided by a single combat between his kinsman Pinabel and a champion named Thierry, and is ruthlessly put to death with all his clansmen who have stood surety for him. Episodes properly so called the poem has none, though the character of Oliver is finely brought out as contrasted with Roland's somewhat unreasoning valour, and there is one touching incident when the poet tells how the Lady Aude, Oliver's sister and Roland's betrothed, falls dead without a word when the king tells her of the fatal fight at Roncevaux.
The following passage will give an idea of the style of this famous poem. It may be noticed that the curious refrain Aoi has puzzled all commentators, though in calling it a refrain we have given the most probable explanation:—. As Roland is by far the most interesting of those Chansons which describe the wars with the Saracens, so Amis et Amiles 21 may be taken as representing those where the interest is mainly domestic.
Amis et Amiles is the earliest vernacular form of a story which attained extraordinary popularity in the middle ages, being found in every language and in most literary forms, prose and verse, narrative and dramatic. This popularity may partly be assigned to the religious and marvellous elements which it contains, but is due also to the intrinsic merits of the story. The Chanson contains lines, dates probably from the twelfth century, and is written, like Roland , in decasyllabic verse, but, unlike Roland , has a shorter line of six syllables and not assonanced at the end of each stanza.
Its story is as follows:—. Amis and Amiles were two noble knights, born and baptized on the same day, who had the Pope for sponsor, and whose comradeship was specially sanctioned by a divine message, and by the miraculous likeness which existed between them. They were however brought up, the one in Berri, the other in Auvergne, and did not meet till both had received knighthood. As soon as they had joined company, they resolved to offer their services to Charles, and did him great service against rebels.
Εθνικό Κέντρο Βιβλίου / Greek books in translation
Here the action proper begins. The latter declares that Amis deserves her better, and to Amis she is married, bearing however no good-will to Amiles for his resignation of her and for his firm hold on her husband's affection. He at once accuses Amiles of treason, and the knight is too conscious of the dubiousness of his cause to be very willing to accept the wager of battle. From this difficulty he is saved by Amis, who comes to Paris from his distant seignory of Blaivies Blaye , and fights the battle in the name and armour of his friend, while the latter goes to Blaye and plays the part of his preserver.
Both ventures are made easier by the extraordinary resemblance of the pair. This embroglio is smoothed out, and Amiles and Bellicent are happily united. The generous Amis however has not been able to avoid forswearing himself while playing the part of Amiles; and this sin is punished, according to a divine warning, by an attack of leprosy. His wife Lubias seizes the opportunity, procures a separation from him, and almost starves him, or would do so but for two faithful servants and his little son. At last a means of cure is revealed to him.
If Amiles and Bellicent will allow their two sons to be slain the blood will recover Amis of his leprosy. The stricken knight journeys painfully to his friend and tells him the hard condition. Amiles does not hesitate, and the following passage tells his deed:—. No sooner has the blood touched Amis than he is cured, and the knights solemnly visit the church where Bellicent and the people are assembled. The story is told and the mother, in despair, rushes to the chamber where her dead children are lying. But she finds them living and in full health, for a miracle has been wrought to reward the faithfulness of the friends now that suffering has purged them of their sin.
This story, touching in itself, is most touchingly told in the Chanson. No poem of the kind is more vivid in description, or fuller of details of the manners of the time, than Amis et Amiles. Bellicent and Lubias, the former passionate and impulsive but loving and faithful, the latter treacherous, revengeful, and cold-hearted, give perhaps the earliest finished portraits of feminine character to be found in French literature. Amis and Amiles themselves are presented to us under so many more aspects than Roland and Oliver that they dwell better in the memory.
Not even the immolation of Ganelon's hostages is so striking as the calm ferocity with which Charlemagne dooms his wife and son as well as his daughter to pay with their lives the penalty of Bellicent's fault; while the sudden lapse of Amis from his position of feudal lordship at Blaye to that of a miserable outcast, smitten and marked out for public scorn and ill-treatment by the visitation of God, is unusually dramatic. Amis et Amiles bears to Roland something not at all unlike the relation of the Odyssey to the Iliad.
Its continuation, Jourdains de Blaivies , adds the element of foreign travel and adventure; but that element is perhaps more characteristically represented, and the representation has certainly been more generally popular, in Huon de Bordeaux. Of the remaining Chansons, the following are the most remarkable. Aliscans twelfth century deals with the contest between William of Orange, the great Christian hero of the south of France, and the Saracens.
This poem forms, according to custom, the centre of a whole group of Chansons dealing with the earlier and later adventures of the hero, his ancestors, and descendants. The series formed by these and others 22 is among the most interesting of these groups. Le Chevalier au Cygne is a title applied directly to a somewhat late version of an old folk-tale, and more generally to a series of poems connected with the House of Bouillon and the Crusades. Antioche , the first of these, which describes the exploits of the Christian host, first in attacking and then in defending that city, is one of the finest of the Chansons, and is probably in its original form not much later than the events it describes, being written by an eye-witness.
The variety of its personages, the vivid picture of the alternations of fortune, the vigour of the verse, are all remarkable. This group is terminated by Baudouin de Sebourc 24 , a very late but very important Chanson, which falls in with the poetry of the fourteenth century, and the Bastart de Bouillon La Chevalerie Ogier de Danemarche 26 is the oldest form in which the adventures of one of the most popular and romantic of Charlemagne's heroes are related. Fierabras had also a very wide popularity, and contains some of the liveliest pictures of manners to be found in these poems, in its description of the rough horse-play of the knights and the unfilial behaviour of the converted Saracen princess.
This poem is also of much interest philologically Garin le Loherain 28 is the centre of a remarkable group dealing not directly with Charlemagne, but with the provincial disputes and feuds of the nobility of Lorraine. Raoul de Cambrai 29 is another of the Chansons which deal with 'minor houses,' as they are called, in contradistinction to the main Carlovingian cycle. Hugues Capet 31 , though very late, is attractive by reason of the glimpses it gives us of a new spirit supplanting that of chivalry proper. In it the heroic distinctly gives place to the burlesque.
Macaire 32 , besides being written in a singular dialect, in which French is mingled with Italian, supplies the original of the well-known dog of Montargis. Huon de Bordeaux 33 , already mentioned, was not only more than usually popular at the time of its appearance, but has supplied Shakespeare with some of the dramatis personae of A Midsummer Night's Dream , and Wieland and Weber with the plot of a well-known poem and opera. Jourdains de Blaivies , the sequel to Amis et Amiles , contains, besides much other interesting matter, the incident which forms the centre of the plot of Pericles.
Les Saisnes 35 deals with Charlemagne's wars with Witekind. Doon de Mayence 37 , though not early, includes a charming love-episode. In these numerous poems there is recognisable in the first place a distinct family likeness which is common to the earliest and latest, and in the second, the natural difference of manners which the lapse of three hundred years might be expected to occasion.
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There is a sameness which almost amounts to monotony in the plot of most Chansons de Gestes: the hero is almost always either falsely accused of some crime, or else treacherously exposed to the attacks of Saracens, or of his own countrymen. The agents of this treachery are commonly of the blood of the arch-traitor Ganelon, and are almost invariably discomfited by the good knight or his friends and avengers. The part 40 which Charlemagne plays in these poems is not usually dignified: he is represented as easily gulled, capricious, and almost ferocious in temper, ungrateful, and ready to accept bribes and gifts.
In the earliest Chansons the part played by women is not so conspicuous as in the later, but in all except Roland it has considerable prominence. Sometimes the heroine is the wife, daughter, or niece of Charlemagne, sometimes a Saracen princess. But in either case she is apt to respond without much delay to the hero's advances, which, indeed, she sometimes anticipates. The conduct of knights to their ladies is also far from being what we now consider chivalrous.
Blows are very common, and seem to be taken by the weaker sex as matters of course. The prevailing legal forms are simple and rather sanguinary. The judgment of God, as shown by ordeal of battle, settles all disputes; but battle is not permitted unless several nobles of weight and substance come forward as sponsors for each champion; and sponsors as well as principal risk their lives in case of the principal's defeat, unless they can tempt the king's cupidity.
These common features are necessarily in the case of so large a number of poems mixed with much individual difference, nor are the Chansons by any means monotonous reading.
Their versification is pleasing to the ear, and their language, considering its age, is of surprising strength, expressiveness, and even wealth. Though they lack the variety, the pathos, the romantic chivalry, and the mystical attractions of the Arthurian romances, there is little doubt that they paint, far more accurately than their successors, an actually existing state of society, that which prevailed in the palmy time of the feudal system, when war and religion were deemed the sole subjects worthy to occupy seriously men of station and birth.
In giving utterance to this warlike and religious sentiment, few periods and classes of literature have been more strikingly successful. Nowhere is the mere fury of battle better rendered than in Roland and Fierabras. Nowhere is the valiant indignation of the beaten warrior, and, at the same time, his humble submission to providence, better given than in Aliscans. Nowhere is the devout sentiment and belief of the same time more fully drawn than in Amis et Amiles.
The method of composition and publication of these poems was peculiar. The poet was commonly a man of priestly or knightly rank, the performer who might be of either sex was probably of no particular station. The Jongleur, or Jongleresse, wandered from castle to castle, reciting the poems, and interpolating in them recommendations of the quality of the wares, requests to the audience to be silent, and often appeals to their generosity. Some of the manuscripts which we now possess were originally used by Jongleurs, and it was only in this way that the early Chanson de Geste was intended to be read.
The process of hawking about naturally interfered with the preservation of the poems in their original purity, and even with the preservation of the author's name. In very few cases 41 is the latter known to us. The question whether the Chansons de Gestes were originally written in northern or southern French has often been hotly debated.
The facts are these. Two of these 42 are admitted translations or imitations of Northern originals. The third, Girartz de Rossilho , is undoubtedly original, but is written in the northernmost dialect of the Southern tongue. The inference appears to be clear that the Chanson de Geste is properly a product of northern France. Such a hypothesis is evidently unreasonable, and would probably never have been started had not some of the earliest students of Old French been committed by local feeling to the championship of the language of the Troubadours.
On the other hand, almost all the dialects of Northern French are represented, Norman and Picard being perhaps the commonest The language of these poems, as the extracts given will partly show, is neither poor in vocabulary, nor lacking in harmony of sound. It is indeed, more sonorous and stately than classical French language was from the seventeenth century to the days of Victor Hugo, and abounds in picturesque terms which have since dropped out of use.
The massive castles of the baronage, with their ranges of marble steps leading up to the hall, where feasting is held by day and where the knights sleep at night, are often described. Dress is mentioned with peculiar lavishness. Pelisses of ermine, ornaments of gold and silver, silken underclothing, seem to give the poets special pleasure in recording them. In no language are what have been called 'perpetual' epithets more usual, though the abundance of the recurring phrases prevents monotony.
The 'clear countenances' of the ladies, the 'steely brands' of the knights, their 'marble palaces,' the 'flowing beard' of Charlemagne, the 'guileful tongue' of the traitors, are constant features of the verbal landscape. From so great a mass of poetry it would be vain in any space here available to attempt to arrange specimen 'jewels five words long. Before quitting the subject of the Chansons de Gestes, it may be well to give briefly their subsequent literary history. They were at first frequently re-edited, the tendency always being to increase their length, so that in some cases the latest versions extant run to thirty or forty thousand lines.
As soon as this limit was reached, they began to be turned into prose, the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries being the special period of this change. The art of printing came in time to assist the spread of these prose versions, and for some centuries they were almost the only form in which the Chansons de Gestes, under the general title of romances of chivalry, were known.
The verse originals remained for the most part in manuscript, but the prose romances gained an enduring circulation among the peasantry in France. From the seventeenth century their vogue was mainly restricted to this class. His versions were executed entirely in the spirit of the day, and did not render any of the characteristic features of the old Epics. But they drew attention to them, and by the end of the century, University Professors began to lecture on old French poetry.
The exertions of M. Paulin Paris, of M. Francisque Michel, and of some German scholars first brought about the re-editing of the Chansons in their original form about half a century ago; and since that time they have received steady attention, and a large number have been published — a number to which additions are yearly being made. Rather more than half the known total are now in print. Each of these is composed of many poems. Contrasted with these are the 'petites gestes,' which include only a few Chansons. Michel, Paris, The MS. Another, of much later date in point of writing but representing the same text, exists at Venice.
Of later versions there are six manuscripts extant. The Chanson de Roland has since its editio princeps been repeatedly re-edited, translated, and commented. The most exact edition is that of Prof. Stengel, Heilbronn, , who has given the Bodleian Manuscript both in print and in photographic facsimile. Jonckbloet, Guillaume d'Orange. The Hague, The most convenient edition is that of Kroeber and Servois, Paris, There is an English fourteenth-century version published by Mr.
Herrtage for the Early English Text Society, Paris and E. This is scarcely the fact, unless by 'later' we are to understand all except Roland. In Roland itself the presentment is by no means wholly complimentary. Paul Meyer has recently edited this latter poem under the title of Daurel et Beton Paris, To these should be added a fragment, Aigar et Maurin , which seems to rank with Girartz.
The Romance language, spoken in the country now called France, has two great divisions, the Langue d'Oc and the Langue d'Oil 44 , which stand to one another in hardly more intimate relationship than the first of them does to Spanish or Italian. Yet it is not possible to avoid giving some sketch of the literary developments of Southern France in any history of French literature, as well because of the connection which subsisted between the two branches, as because of the altogether mistaken views which have been not unfrequently held as to that connection.
We have already seen that this supposition as applied to Epic poetry is entirely false; we shall see hereafter that, except as regards some lyrical developments, and those not the most characteristic, it is equally ill-grounded as to other kinds of composition. But the literature of the South is quite interesting enough in itself without borrowing what does not belong to it, and it exhibits not a few characteristics which were afterwards blended with those of the literature of the kingdom at large.
The southern limit is formed by the Pyrenees, the Gulf of Lyons, and the Alps, while Catalonia is overlapped to the south-west just as Savoy is taken in on the north-east. This wide district gives room for not a few dialectic varieties with which we need not here busy ourselves. The general language is distinguished from northern French by the survival to a greater degree of the vowel character of Latin. The vocabulary is less dissolved and corroded by foreign influence, and the inflections remain more distinct.
The result, as in Spanish and Italian, is a language more harmonious, softer, and more cunningly cadenced than northern French, but endowed with far less vigour, variety, and freshness. The separate development of the two tongues must have begun at a very early period. A few early monuments, such as the Passion of Christ 46 and the Mystery of the Ten Virgins 47 , contain mixed dialects.
It is arranged in laisses and assonanced. Of the eleventh century the principal monuments are a few charters, a translation of part of St. John's Gospel, and several religious pieces in prose and verse. Not till the extreme end of this century does the Troubadour begin to make himself heard. The most remarkable works of the first period have been already alluded to. This period may possibly have produced original epics of the Chanson form, though, as has been pointed out, no indications of any such exist, except in the solitary instance of Girartz de Rossilho.
It is thought to be the oldest vernacular poem on the subject, and is in a mixed dialect partaking of the forms both of north and south. A single prose monument remains in the shape of a fragmentary translation of the Gospel of St. But by far the most important example of this period is the Boethius. The poem, as we have it, extends to decasyllabic verses arranged on the fashion of a Chanson de Geste, and dates from the eleventh century, or at latest from the beginning of the twelfth, but is thought to be a rehandling of another poem which may have been written nearly two centuries earlier.
The narrative part of the work is a mere introduction, the bulk of it consisting of moral reflections taken from the De Consolatione. The stimulus which brought it to perfection has been generally taken to be that of the crusades, aided by the great development of peaceful civilisation at home which Provence and Languedoc then saw. The spirit of chivalry rose and was diffused all over Europe at this time, and in some of its aspects it received a greater welcome in Provence than anywhere else.
For the mystical, the adventurous, and other sides of the chivalrous character, we must look to the North, and especially to the Arthurian legends, and the Romans d'Aventures which they influenced. Passion is indeed not the only motive of the Troubadours, but it is their favourite motive, and their most successful. The connection of this predominant instinct with the elaborate and unmatched attention to form which characterises them is a psychological question very interesting to discuss, but hardly suitable to these pages. It is sufficient here to say that these various motives and influences produced the Troubadours and their literature.
This literature was chiefly lyrical in form, but also included many other kinds, of which a short account may be given. In the third decade of the twelfth Guillem Bechada had written a poem on the conquest of Jerusalem by the Crusaders, which, however, has perished, though the northern cycle of the Chevalier au Cygne may represent it in part. Guillem of Poitiers also wrote a historical poem on the Crusades with similar ill fate.
This is the chronicle of the Albigensian War, written in Alexandrines by William of Tudela and an anonymous writer. We also possess a rhymed chronicle of the war of in Navarre, by Guillem Anelier. Blandin de Cornoalha is another existing romance, and so is the far more interesting Flamenca , a lively picture of manners dating from the middle of the thirteenth century.
A very few narrative poems of a sacred character are also found, and vestiges of drama may be traced. But, as we have said, the real importance of the period consists in its lyrical poetry, the poetry of the Troubadours. The names of separate poets are given, and pieces have come down to us without the names of their writers. The chief forms in which these poets exercised their ingenuity were as follows.
The simplest and oldest was called simply vers ; it had few artificial rules, was written in octosyllabic lines, and arranged in stanzas. Here the rhymes were interlaced, and the alternation of masculine and feminine by degrees observed. The length of the lines varied. Both these forms were consecrated to love verse; the Sirvente, on the other hand, is panegyrical or satirical, its meaning being literally 'Song of Service.
The planh or Complaint was a dirge or funeral song written generally in decasyllabics. The tenson or debate is in dialogue form, and when there are more than two disputants is called torneijamens. The retroensa is a longer refrain poem of later date, but in neither is the return of the same rhyme in each stanza necessarily observed, as in the French ballade. The alba is a leave-taking poem at morning, and the serena if it can be called a form, for scarcely more than a single example exists a poem of remembrance and longing at eventide.
The pastorela , which had numerous sub-divisions, explains itself. The descort is a poem something like the irregular ode, which varies the structure of its stanzas. Not merely the rhymes but the words which rhyme are repeated on a regular scheme. The breu-doble double-short is a curious little form on three rhymes, two of which are repeated twice in three four-lined stanzas, and given once in a concluding couplet, while the third finishes each quatrain. Other forms are often mentioned and given, but they are not of much consequence. Its most considerable remains, besides religious works and a few scientific and grammatical treatises, are a prose version of the Chanson des Albigeois , and an interesting collection of contemporary lives of the Troubadours.
This poet, like most of the other literary names of the period, belongs to the school of Toulouse, a somewhat artificial band of writers who flourished throughout the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, held poetical tournaments on the first Sunday in May, invented or adopted the famous phrase gai saber for their pursuits, and received, if they were successful, the equally famous Golden Violet and minor trinkets of the same sort.
The brotherhood directed itself by an art of poetry in which the half-forgotten traditions of more spontaneous times were gathered up. To this period, and to its latter part, the Waldensian writings entitled La Nobla Leyczon , to which ignorance and sectarian enthusiasm had given a much earlier date, are now assigned.
With a few words on these two points this chapter may be concluded. It may be regarded as not proven that any initial influence was exercised over northern French literature by the literature of the South, and more than this, it may be held to be unlikely that any such influence was exerted. With regard to lyric poetry the case is rather different. The earliest existing lyrics of the North are somewhat later than the earliest songs of the Troubadours, and no great lyrical variety or elegance is reached until the Troubadours' work had, by means of Thibaut de Champagne and others, had an opportunity of penetrating into northern France.
On the other hand, the forms which finished lyric adopted in the North are by no means identical with those of the Troubadours. The scientific and melodious figures of the Ballade, the Rondeau, the Chant-royal, the Rondel, and the Villanelle, cannot by any ingenuity be deduced from Canso or Balada, Retroensa or Breu-Doble. The Alba and the Pastorela agree in subject with the Aubade and the Pastourelle, but have no necessary or obvious connection of form. The Troubadours undoubtedly preceded their Northern brethren in scrupulous attention to poetical form, and in elaborate devices for ensuring such attention.
They preceded them too in recognising that quality in poetry for which there is perhaps no other word than elegance. There can be little doubt that they sacrificed to these two divinities, elegance and the formal limitation of verse, matters almost equally if not more important. The motives of their poems are few, and the treatment of those motives monotonous. Love, war, and personal enmity, with a certain amount of more or less frigid didactics, almost complete the list. In dealing with the first and the most fruitful, they fell into the deadly error of stereotyping their manner of expression.
The objection would hardly be fatal, if this eternity did not extend to a great many things besides hawthorn and nightingales. In the later Troubadours especially, the fault which has been urged against French dramatic literature just before the Romantic movement was conspicuously anticipated.
Every mood, every situation of passion, was catalogued and analysed, and the proper method of treatment, with similes and metaphors complete, was assigned. There was no freshness and no variety, and in the absence of variety and freshness, that of vigour was necessarily implied. It may even be doubted whether the influence of this hot-house verse on the more natural literature of the North was not injurious rather than beneficial. In this chapter the information given is based on a smaller acquaintance at first hand with the subject than is the case in the chapters on French proper. Herr Karl Bartsch has been the guide chiefly followed.
The passion for narrative poetry, which at first contented itself with stories drawn from the history or tradition of France, took before very long a wider range. The origin of the Legend of King Arthur, of the Round Table, of the Holy Graal, and of all the adventures and traditions connected with these centres, is one of the most intricate questions in the history of mediaeval literature. It would be beyond the scope of this book to attempt to deal with it at length.
It is sufficient for our purpose, in the first place, to point out that the question of the actual existence and acts of Arthur has very little to do with the question of the origin of the Arthurian cycle. The history of mediaeval literature, as distinguished from the history of the Middle Ages, need not concern itself with any conflict between the invaders and the older inhabitants of England.
The question which is of historical literary interest is, whether the traditions which Geoffrey of Monmouth, Walter Map, Chrestien de Troyes, and their followers, wrought into a fabric of such astounding extent and complexity, are due to Breton originals, or whether their authority is nothing but the ingenuity of Geoffrey working upon the meagre data of Nennius As far as this question concerns French literature, the chief champions of these rival opinions were till lately M. Paulin Paris. In no instance was the former able to produce Breton or Celtic originals of early date.
On the other hand, M. Paris showed that Nennius is sufficient to account for Geoffrey, and that Geoffrey is sufficient to account for the purely Arthurian part of subsequent romances and chronicles. The religious element of the cycle has a different origin, and may possibly not be Celtic at all. It must, however, still be admitted that the extraordinary rapidity with which so vast a growth of literature was produced, apparently from the slenderest stock, is one of the most surprising things in literary history.
Before the middle of the twelfth century little or nothing is heard of Arthur. Before that century closed at least a dozen poems and romances in prose, many of them of great length, had elaborated the whole legend as it was thenceforward received, and as we have it condensed and Englished in Malory's well-known book two centuries and a half later. The probable genesis of the Arthurian legend, in so far as it concerns French literature, appears to be as follows. First in order of composition, and also in order of thought, comes the Legend of Joseph of Arimathea, sometimes called the 'Little St.
There is nothing in this work which is directly connected with Arthur. By some it has been attributed to a Latin, but not now producible, 'Book of the Graal,' by others to Byzantine originals. Anyhow it fell into the hands of the well-known Walter Map 53 , and his exhaustless energy and invention at once seized upon it.
He produced the 'Great St. Graal,' a very much extended version of the early history of the sacred vase, still keeping clear of definite connection with Arthur, though tending in that direction. From this, in its turn, sprang the original form of Percevale , which represents a quest for the vessel by a knight who has not originally anything to do with the Round Table.
The link of connection between the two stories is to be found in the Merlin , attributed also to Robert de Borron, wherein the Welsh legends begin to have more definite influence. This, in its turn, leads to Artus , which gives the early history of the great king.
Then comes the most famous, most extensive, and finest of all the romances, that of Lancelot du Lac , which is pretty certainly in part, and perhaps in great part, the work of Map; as is also the mystical and melancholy but highly poetical Quest of the Saint Graal , a quest of which Galahad and Lancelot, not, as in the earlier legends, Percival, are the heroes. To this succeeds the Mort Artus , which forms the conclusion of the whole, properly speaking. This, however, does not entirely complete the cycle. Other legends were worked up into the omnium gatherum of Giron le Courtois , and with this the cycle proper ceases.
But not the slightest testimony can be adduced to show that any such persons ever had existence These prose romances form for the most part the original literature of the Arthurian story. As is the case with most of these early writers, little or nothing is known of Chrestien de Troyes but his name. He lived in the last half of the twelfth century, he was attached to the courts of Flanders, Hainault, and Champagne, and he wrote most of his works for the lords of these fiefs.
Besides his Arthurian work he translated Ovid, and wrote some short poems. Chrestien de Troyes deserves a higher place in literature than has sometimes been given to him. But Percevale and the Chevalier au Lyon are very charming poems, deeply imbued with the peculiar characteristics of the cycle — religious mysticism, passionate gallantry, and refined courtesy of manners. Chrestien de Troyes undoubtedly contributed not a little to the popularity of the Arthurian legends. Although, by a singular chance, which has not yet been fully explained, the originals appear to have been for the most part in prose, the times were by no means ripe for the general enjoyment of work in such a form.
The reciter was still the general if not the only publisher, and recitation almost of necessity implied poetical form. Chrestien did not throw the whole of the work of his contemporaries into verse, but he did so throw a considerable portion of it. Percevale is, perhaps, the best example of Chrestien's fashion of composition. The work of Borron is very short, amounting in all to some ninety pages in the reprint. The Percevale le Gallois of Chrestien and his continuators, on the other hand, contains, as has been said, more than forty-five thousand verses. This amplification is produced partly by the importation of incidents and episodes from other works, but still more by indulging in constant diffuseness and what we must perhaps call commonplaces.
From a literary point of view the prose romances rank far higher, especially those in which Map is known or suspected to have had a hand. The peculiarity of what may be called their atmosphere is marked. An elaborate and romantic system of mystical religious sentiment, finding vent in imaginative and allegorical narrative, a remarkable refinement of manners, and a combination of delight in battle with devotion to ladies, distinguish them. This is, in short, the romantic spirit, or, as it is sometimes called, the spirit of chivalry; and it cannot be too positively asserted that the Arthurian romances communicate it to literature for the first time, and that nothing like it is found in the classics.
In the work of Map and his contemporaries it is clearly perceivable. The most important element in this — courtesy — is, as we have already noticed, almost entirely absent from the Chansons de Gestes, and where it is present at all it is between persons who are connected by some natural or artificial relation of comradeship or kin.
Nor are there many traces of it in such fragments and indications as we possess of the Celtic originals, which may have helped in the production of the Arthurian romances. No Carlovingian knight would have felt the horror of Sir Bors when the Lady of Hungerford exercises her undoubted right by flinging the body of her captive enemy on the camp of his uncle. Even the chiefs who are presented in the Chanson d'Antioche as joking over the cannibal banquet of the Roi des Tafurs, and permitting the dead bodies of Saracens to be torn from the cemeteries and flung into the beleaguered city, would have very much applauded the deed.
Gallantry, again, is as much absent from the Chansons as clemency and courtesy. The scene in Lancelot , where Galahault first introduces the Queen and Lancelot to one another, contrasts in the strongest manner with the downright courtship by which the Bellicents and Nicolettes of the Carlovingian cycle are won. No doubt Map represents to a great extent the sentiments of the polished court of England.
But he deserves the credit of having been the first, or almost the first, to express such manners and sentiments, perhaps also of having being among the first to conceive them. These originals are not all equally represented in Malory's English compilation. Of Robert de Borron's work little survives except by allusion. Lancelot du Lac itself, the most popular of all the romances, is very disproportionately drawn upon. Of the youth of Lancelot, of the winning of Dolorous Gard, of the war with the Saxons, and of the very curious episode of the false Guinevere, there is nothing; while the most charming story of Lancelot's relations with Galahault of Sorelois disappears, except in a few passing allusions to the 'haughty prince.
It seems also probable that considerable portions of the original form of the Arthurian legends are as yet unknown, and have altogether perished. The very interesting discovery in the Brussels Library, of a prose Percevale not impossibly older than Chrestien, and quite different from that of Borron, is an indication of this fact. So also is the discovery by Dr. Jonckbloet in the Flemish Lancelot , which he has edited, of passages not to be found in the existing and recognised French originals.
The truth would appear to be that the fascination of the subject, the unusual genius of those who first treated it, and the tendency of the middle ages to favour imitation, produced in a very short space of time the last quarter or half of the twelfth century an immense amount of original handling of Geoffrey's theme. To this original period succeeded one of greater length, in which the legends were developed not merely by French followers and imitators of Chrestien, but by his great German adapters, Wolfram von Eschenbach, Gottfried of Strasburg, Hartmann von der Aue, and by other imitators at home and abroad.
Lastly, as we shall see in a future chapter, come Romans d'Aventures, connecting themselves by links more or less immediate with the Round Table cycle, but independent and often quite separate in their main incidents and catastrophes. The great number, length, and diversity of the Arthurian romances make it impossible in the space at our command to abstract all of them, and useless to select any one, inasmuch as no single poem is as in the case of the Chansons typical of the group. Et Lanceloz lor demande porquoi il plorent et font tel duel?
Et il dient que c'est por l'amor de lui, que trop est perillox li ponz. This becomes in the poem a passage more than lines long, of which the beginning and end may be given:—. Of the earliest French poem on this subject only a few fragments exist. The Chanson d'Alixandre is, however, in all probability a much more important work than Alberic's. It is in form a regular Chanson de Geste, written in twelve-syllabled verse, of such strength and grace that the term Alexandrine has cleaved ever since to the metre.
Its length, as we have it 56 , is 22, verses, and it is assigned to two authors, Lambert the Short 57 and Alexander of Bernay, though doubt has been expressed whether any of the present poem is due to Lambert; if we have any of his work, it is not later than the ninth decade of the twelfth century. Lambert, Alexander, and perhaps others, are thought to have known not Alberic, but a later ten-syllabled version into Northern French by Simon of Poitiers. The remoter sources are various.
Foremost among them may undoubtedly be placed the Pseudo-Callisthenes, an unknown Alexandrian writer translated into Latin about the fourth century by Julius Valerius, who fathered upon the philosopher a collection of stories partly gathered from Plutarch, Quintus Curtius, and a hundred other authorities, partly elaborated according to the fashion of Greek romancers.
Some oriental traditions of Alexander were also in the possession of western Europe. Out of all these, and with a considerable admixture of the floating fables of the time, Lambert and Alexander wove their work. There is, of course, not the slightest attempt at antiquity of colour. Alexander has twelve peers, he learns the favourite studies of the middle ages, he is dubbed knight, and so forth. Many interesting legends, such as that of the Fountain of Perpetual Youth, make their first appearance in the poem, and it is altogether one of extraordinary merit.
A specimen laisse may be given:—. While the figure of Alexander served as centre to one group of fictions, most of which were composed in Chanson form, the octosyllabic metre, which had made the Arthurian romances its own, was used for the versification of another numerous class, most of which dealt with the tale of Troy divine. Here also the poems were neither entirely fictitious, nor on the other hand based upon the best authorities. Dares Phrygius and Dictys Cretensis, with some epitomes of Homer, were the chief sources of information.
This work 58 , which extends to more than thirty thousand verses, has the redundancy and the long-windedness which characterise many, if not most, early French poems written in its metre. But it has one merit which ought to conciliate English readers to Benoist. It contains the undoubted original of Shakespeare's Cressida. Nor is this episode the only one of merit in Benoist. His verse is always fluent and facile, and not seldom picturesque, as the following extract Andromache's remonstrance with Hector will show:—.
The poems of the Cycle of Antiquity have hitherto been less diligently studied and reprinted than those of the other two. Few of them, with the exception of Alixandre and Troie , are to be read even in fragments, save in manuscript. To these must be added Athis et Prophilias Porphyrias , or the Siege of Athens, a work which has been assigned to many authors, and the origin of which is not clear, though it enjoyed great popularity in the middle ages. The Protesilaus of Hugues de Rotelande is the only other poem of this series worth the mentioning.
Neither of these two classes of poems possesses the value of the Chansons as documents for social history. The picture of manners in them is much more artificial. But the Arthurian romances disclose partially and at intervals a state of society decidedly more advanced than that of the Chansons. The bourgeois , the country gentleman who is not of full baronial rank, and other novel personages appear. Note to Third Edition. Gaston Paris has sketched in Romania and summarised in his Manuel , but has not developed in book form, a view of the Arthurian romances different from his father's and from that given in the text.
The 'Celtic' view has also been maintained in a book of much learning and value, Studies on the Legend of the Holy Grail London, , by Mr. Alfred Nutt. I have not attempted to incorporate or to combat these views in the text for two reasons, partly because they will most probably be superseded by others, and partly because the evidence does not seem to me sufficient to establish any of them certainly. And I may add that as a whole it seems to me quite the greatest literary creation of the Middle Ages, except the Divina Commedia , though of course it has the necessary inferiority of a collection by a great number of different hands to a work of individual genius.
Geoffrey of Monmouth, circa , produced a Historia Britonum , avowedly based on a book brought from Britanny by Walter, Archdeacon of Oxford. No trace of this book, unless it be Nennius, can be found. See note at end of chapter. He lived in the last three quarters of the twelfth century. To take them chronologically, M. Hucher has published Robert de Borron's Little Saint Graal in prose, his Percevale , and the Great Saint Graal , with full and valuable if not incontestable notes, 3 vols. The verse form of the Little Saint Graal was published by M.
Michel in An edition of Artus was promised by M. Paulin Paris, but interrupted or prevented by his death. The great works of Map, Lancelot and the Quest , as well as the Mort Artus , have never been critically edited in full; and the sixteenth-century editions being rare and exceedingly costly, as well as uncritical, they are not easily accessible, except in M. Tristan was published partially forty years ago by M. Merlin was edited in by M. Paris and M.
A complete edition of Chrestien de Troyes has been undertaken by Dr. This under its second title of Le Chevalier au Lyon has also been edited by Dr. Holland third edition Besides this there is the great Romance of Percevale continued by others, especially a certain Manessier , of which M. Potvin has given an excellent edition, 6 vols.
Haupt Berlin, This piecemeal condition of the texts, and the practical inaccessibility of many of them, make independent judgment in the matter very difficult. What is wanted first of all is a book on the plan of M. The statements made above represent the opinions which appear most probable to the writer, not merely from the comparison of authorities on the subject, but from the actual study of the texts as far as they are open to him.
See note at end of Chapter. Joly, Op. See also P. Singular as the statement may appear, no one of the branches of literature hitherto discussed represents what may be called a specially French spirit. Despite the astonishing popularity and extent of the Chansons de Gestes, they are, as is admitted by the most patriotic French students, Teutonic in origin probably, and certainly in genius.
The Arthurian legends have at least a tinge both of Celtic and Oriental character; while the greater number of them were probably written by Englishmen, and their distinguishing spirit is pretty clearly Anglo-Norman rather than French. All these divisions, moreover, have this of artificial about them, that they are obviously class literature — the literature of courtly and knightly society, not that of the nation at large.
It is far otherwise with the division of literature which we are now about to handle. The Fabliaux 60 , or short verse tales of old France, take in the whole of its society from king to peasant with all the intervening classes, and represent for the most part the view taken of those classes by each other. Perhaps the bourgeois standpoint is most prominent in them, but it is by no means the only one. Their tone too is of the kind which has ever since been specially associated with the French genius. What is called by French authors the esprit gaulois — a spirit of mischievous and free-spoken jocularity — does not make its appearance at once, or in all kinds of work.
In most of the early departments of French literature there is a remarkable deficiency of the comic element, or rather that element is very much kept under. More comic, but still farcical in its comedy, is the curious running fire of exaggerated expressions of poltroonery which the Red Lion keeps up in Antioche , while the names and virtues of the Christian leaders are being catalogued to Corbaran. In the Arthurian Romances also the comic element is scantily represented, and still takes the same form of exaggeration and horse-play. At the same time it is proper to say that both these classes of compositions are distinguished, at least in their earlier examples, by a very strict and remarkable decency of language.
Aïe Aïe Aïe !
In the Fabliaux the state of things is quite different. The attitude is always a mocking one, not often going the length of serious satire or moral indignation, but contenting itself with the peculiar ludicrous presentation of life and humanity of which the French have ever since been the masters. In the Fabliaux begins that long course of scoffing at the weaknesses of the feminine sex which has never been interrupted since. In the Fabliaux is to be found for the first time satirical delineation of the frailties of churchmen instead of adoring celebration of the mysteries of the Church.
All classes come in by turns for ridicule — knights, burghers, peasants.