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winds. The angel, his guide, took and led him by a wondrous pleasant way till they came to high beautiful mountains of marble-stone, as it seemed: round about the foot of the mountain went a fiery river, in which an innumerable multitude of the damned were being punished, many of whom he knew. In one place he saw a hideous castle with smoke rising from it, and was told that it was for the tribulation of certain monks brought together there to be purified; one of them in a leaden ark till the Day of Judgment, because, like Ananias and Sapphira, he had sinned against the order. The place of glory is a city or a castle built with arches of gold and silver, adorned with sculpture (ppere anaglifo): he comes to it on his way, like Christian; he is not carried up to heaven.
The Bridge of Dread is found in many of these narratives,1 as in the Irish Vision of Adamnan and the Vision of Tundal—
"Over that lake thai se lygge
It is known in many romances. Gawain and other knights have to attempt it, for many ways lead from King Arthur's court, some of them in plain daylight, like that followed by Geraint along the ridge from the Usk to Cardiff, others again through valleys of darkness and ominous woods to the river of Death. Beyond that are walls and towers, and other forests, hills, and plains. There are some knights who have brought back a report of it.
1 Compare also St Gregory's Dialogues, iv. 37; St Boniface, Epistles. 1 Gaston Paris, Poimes et Ligendcs; Jacobs, Barlaam and Josaphat.
How Buddha came to be a saint of the Church, in the legend of Barlaam and Josaphat, has been gradually discovered and explained in the writings of several scholars.1 Solomon contributed in a 'less honourable way to the literature of the Middle Ages, through the legend of his unfaithful wife which appears in the romance of Gliges, and through the Dialogue tradition, in which his wisdom is met and parodied by the irreverent genius of Marcolf. The same fashion of dialogue led to a different myth about another wise man; Epictetus as well as Buddha becomes a legend, in Ypotis, so strangely noted by Chaucer as a specimen of romance.
"The Heroicall Poetry of the old Bards of Wales and Ireland (and perhaps all other Barberous Nations), who at publique Solemnities were wont to sing the Prayses of their valiant Ancestors, was the Originall of all the more Elegant Greeke and Eoman Epique Poems." —Samuel Butler's Commonplace Book, fol. 203.
Heroic poetry and the heroic motives in literature
were well known in the Dark Ages; indeed they give
The Heroin those ages their character more than any
Poem. thing else, apart from the educational Latin
influences. It is the age in which the exploits and
conflicts of kings and chieftains have transcendent
importance for the minds of their people, and find their record in different forms of poetry, to all of which the name heroic is appropriate. In the Teutonic and also in the Romance tongues a kind of narrative poem is gradually brought to completion, for which the title of Epic has been found acceptable. The old Teutonic epic poetry, the old French epic, Beowidf, and Roland,—these are works of the Dark Ages, which might more honourably be called, and not less correctly, the Heroic Age of the North.
Beowulf and Roland are epic poems, more or less complete and orderly; but these are not the only shapes in which heroic themes were represented. They came at the end of a long process of elaboration, the history of which is not easy to make out.
There are many references in Latin historians to songs in which Teutonic kings are praised. The "Saxon Poet" who turned into Latin verse the life of Charles the Great says that there were many songs in the vulgar tongue in honour of the Carlovingian house, the ancestors of Lewis the Pious :—
"Est quoque jam notum: vulgaria carmina magnis
But there are different ways of singing about a king and hero, and some of these are easily enough distinguished in the history of the Middle Ages. The proper epic—the noble and dignified narrative poem— is too complicated a thing, and requires too much preparation, to flourish everywhere. There are simpler kinds of verse, ballads sung in country choruses, like the song of Clothair II. referred to in the Life of St Faro. Clothair died in 628; the saint's Life was written in the ninth century. There it is told how Clothair's victory over the Saxons passed into popular songs among the common people, and how choruses of women kept time to the song,—
"Ex qua victoria carmen publicum juxta rusticitatem per omnium pene volitabat ora ita canentium, feminseque choros inde plaudendo componebant:
De Chlothario est canere rege Francorum
Qui ivit pugnare in gentem Saxonum
Quam graviter provenisset missis Saxonum
Si non fuisset inclytus Faro de gente Burgundionum.
Et in fine hujus carminis :—
Quando veniunt missi Saxonum in terram Francorum
Faro ubi erat princeps
Instinctu Dei transeunt per urbem Meldorum
Ne interficiantur a rege Francorum.
Hoc enim rustico carmine placuit ostendere quantum ab omnibus celeberrimus habebatur (sc. Faro)."
In the same sort of words will later historians tell how the heart of the people is touched by momentous heroic or tragic occurrences in their own day, and how they turn their news into ballads. So Barbour of the strife in Eskdale:—
"I will nocht rehers all the maner
So Mr James Melville of the death of the Earl of Moray: "the horrour of the deid of Dinnibirsall, quhilk the unburied corps lyand in the Kirk of Leithe maid to be nocht onlie unburied amangs the peiple, but be comoun rymes and sangs keipit in recent detestation." Common rhymes and songs amongst the people (Juxta rusticitatetn), ballads sung by girls in a ring, may have much of the heroic spirit, even much of the epic manner, but the epic poem does not belong to those singers or their audiences. Heroic poetry requires a court, like that of Alcinous in the Odyssey or that of Hrothgar the Dane in Beowulf; and it is not in every house, even of great men with a taste for such things, that the epic narrative is to be found. Much heroic poetry of the Middle Ages is not narrative but lyric. As the girls' dancing song is one of the oldest, at least one of the commonest, types of popular poetry in different countries, so the lyric eulogy of a chieftain (alive or dead) is the established form of courtly entertainment offered by a literary artist to his patron, essentially unvarying in motive in different parts of the world. The courtly lyric of praise is specially cultivated by Celtic and Scandinavian poets, and it may be that their attention to this branch of the art may have hindered the progress of epic in Ireland and Norway. However that may be, the lyric of praise is something different from the epic of adventure, though the two kinds may have much in common. The lyric may have much historical matter in it. The Icelandic court poems were used, scientifically, as sources for the lives of the Kings of Norway.