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modern man, reformed and regenerated by knowledge, looks across it and recognises on the opposite ridge, in the far-shining cities and stately porticoes, in the art, politics, and science of antiquity, many more ties of kinship and sympathy than in the mighty concave between, wherein dwell his Christian ancestry, in the dim light of scholasticism and theology.” " But the Renaissance does not often nowadays speak with such conviction, and “mediaeval” has generally lost its meaning of “dark.” The change was really brought about by those very books of chivalry for which Chapelain, the correct epic poet, made so unexpected and so pleasant an apology. When Lancelot came back with Gawain “out of Faerie,” when “Gothic.” — that is, mediaeval—art and literature revived in credit, and “the fictions of the Gothic romances” were more or less restored to honour, then followed naturally a new division of history, throwing back the darkness, and redeeming the proper centuries of romance from the disrepute that had befallen them. The Crusades, cathedrals, tournaments, old coloured glass and other splendid things, coming to be popularly known and appreciated, naturally determined the meaning of “Middle Ages” and “mediaeval” so as to denote especially the centuries to which these matters belonged—that is to say, roughly, from 1100 to 1500. “Dark” ceased to be a popular term for times so interesting as those of Ivanhoe, of Notre Dame de Paris, of Tannhäuser: the change in the meaning of “Gothic" corresponds with this general change of * The Service of Man, by James Cotter Morison, 1887, p. 177.
the popular historical conception: “Gothic,” with all its offence withdrawn, was restricted to a type of architecture not older than the twelfth century: it used to be a common term of contempt for everything in art, manners, and literature before the return of Greek grammar to the West. The change of view may be defended as a sound and reasonable one. The date 1100 is an epoch, if there is anything to be called an epoch in the whole course of history, though “mediaeval" may be a doubtful word for what began then. The Middle Age, regarded as an interval of confusion between two periods of more or less rational order, really ended at the close of the eleventh century. It was then that the wandering of the German nations was completed; out of the Teutonic anarchy came the unity of Christendom, consciously realised in the enterprise of the first Crusade. The establishment of the Normans in England meant the end of the old roving business, however it might be kept up in remoter places here and there. Magnus of Norway, the last king of the old fashion, died in 1103: his son was Sigurd the Crusader. The Northern world before 1100 was still in great part the world of the Germania, with its indomitable liberty, its protestant self-will; after 1100 Germania is harmonised in the new conception of Christendom. Tacitus gives the key to the earlier period; now, the interpreter is Dante in the De Monarchia. Or it might be said, using the words of Polybius when he foresaw the majesty of the Roman Empire, that in 1100 history became “all of one piece.” If this be illusory in some ways, if the apparent unity of Christendom cover no less misrule and unreason in the twelfth century than went naked in earlier times, still it is hardly possible to mistake the growth of a new spirit, in virtue of which the different nations are related more closely than they had ever been before.
One chief agent in this change is not religious doctrine nor politics, but the new languages. The great historical fact belonging to the close of the eleventh century, besides the Crusade, is the appearance of French and Provençal poetry, which is the beginning of modern literature. With hardly a warning came the rhymes of William, Count of Poitou, the first of a school that includes every modern poet. Everything that is commonly called poetry in the modern tongues may in some way or other trace its pedigree back to William of Poitiers singing
“ Farai chansoneta nova,
Ans que vent ni gel ni plova ;
Consi de qual guiza l'am.”
The thrill of rhymes like these is the first awakening of the world for that long progress of literature in which the Renaissance and other momentous changes are merely incidental and ordinary things, compared with the miracle of their first beginning. About the same time also the poetry of France declares itself, and the French authors begin their work of providing ideas, subjects, stories, useful information, and instruction
in manners for Spaniards, Dutch, Welsh, Danes, English, and other nations; whereby the nations altered their character generally, and became, some more and some less, but all in an appreciable measure, French in their literary fashions: as the Editor of these histories has explained in the volume that follows this.
Everything that we can think of in modern poetry (except always the survivals and revivals of Teutonic alliterative verse, and some few other antiquities) is related to the French and Provençal literature of the year 1100 as it is not related to anything in the Dark Ages—the earlier Middle Age. There is nothing abrupt, no shock of sudden transition in turning from the verse of Goethe, Hugo, or Tennyson, to the rhymes of Provence. These are modern poems :
“Quan la douss' aura venta
Deves vostre païs
Odor de paradis.”
“Quan vi la laudeta mover
De joi las alas contral rai,
Per la doussor qual cor li vai.”
Only the language is difficult to a modern reader: there is nothing old-fashioned in the manner of the verse.
This definite new beginning of French and Provençal, —which is also the beginning of Spanish and Italian, and a fresh opening for English and German poetry, —while it is a term from which to reckon the life of a new world, is no less decisively the end of an old
one, in literary history, at any rate. The Dark Ages in the history of literature are distinctly a period : they have a definite end, whatever their beginning may have been. Their end is marked by the appearance of the new Romance languages and their poetry, which take captive the Teutonic countries, and destroy the chances of the old Teutonic manner of composing verse. The Teutonic fashions are displaced, on their own ground. No Teutonic verse is so near to modern English poetry as the Provençal measures are. When Wordsworth imitates the stanza of Burns he is really imitating William of Poitou, who used it seven hundred years earlier : the melody of Bernard de Ventadour
“Quan la douss' aura venta”may be heard in any number of modern poets. Without any archaism or any difficult research, Victor Hugo can repeat the patterns of verse that were in vogue in the days of St Lewis. It is a different thing with verse of the old Teutonic school. It is possible to understand it, but in spite of blood-relationship its character is strange. The beginning of Volospá, for example, the old Northern hymn of the Doom, is something unfamiliar, as an Arabic verse might be. It is not of our own life, in the same intimate way as the Provençal measures :
“Before the years, when Naught was ; was neither sand nor sea nor cold billows; earth was seen not, nor high heaven; there was the gap gaping, and grass nowhere."
“ Ar vas alda, þat es ekki vas ;
Vasa sandr né sær né svalar unnir.”