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out of more definite Celtic tales like that of Tristram, partly from classical, Eastern, and other sources, belongs to the English in the wide sense—that is to say, the nation or nations partly under English rule proper, partly under Scottish, partly under that of the feudatories or allies of the English kings as Dukes of Normandy—has to support it not merely the arguments stated above as to the concentration of the legend proper between Troyes and Herefordshire, between Broceliande and Northumbria, as to MS. authority, as to the inveteracy of the legend in English,_not only those negative ones as to the certainty that if it were written by Englishmen it would be written in French,--but another, which to the com
parative student of literary history may seem strongest .
of all. Here first, here eminently, and here just at the time when we should expect it, do we see that strange faculty for exhibiting a blend, a union, a cross of characteristics diverse in themselves, and giving when blended a result different from any of the parts, which is more than anything else the characteristic of the English language, of English literature, of English politics, of everything that is English. Classical rhetoric, French gallantry, Saxon religiosity and intense realisation of the other world, Oriental extravagance to some extent, the “Celtic vague” — all these things are there. But they are all co-ordinated, dominated, fashioned anew by some thing which is none of them, but which is the English genius, that curious,
anomalous, many - sided genius, which to those who look at only one side of it seems insular, provincial, limited, and which yet has given us Shakespeare, the one writer of the world to whom the world allows an absolute universality.
ANTIQUITY IN ROMANCE.
ODDITY OF THE CLASSICAL ROMANCE — ITS IMPORTANCE – THE TROY STORY — THE ALEXANDREID – CALLISTHENES — LATIN VERSIONSTHEIR STORY-ITs. DEVELOPMENTs—ALBERIC OF BESANÇON-THE DECASYLLABIC PoEM-THE GREAT “Roman D'ALIXANDRE”—FORM, ETC.—contLNUATIONs—“KING ALEXANDER ''-CHARACTERISTICS.– THE TALE OF TROY-DICTYS AND DARES-THE DARES STORY-ITS ABSURDITY – ITS CAPABILITIES — TROILUS AND BRISEIDA — THE ‘RoMAN DE TROIE’—THE PHASES OF CRESSID — THE ‘HISTORIA TROJANA’—MEANING OF THE CLASSICAL ROMANCE.
As the interest of Jean Bodel’s first two divisions * differs strikingly, and yet represents, in each case Oddity of the intimately and indispensably, certain sides Classical of the mediaeval character, so also does that * of his third. This has perhaps more purely an interest of curiosity than either of the others. It neither constitutes a capital division of general literature like the Arthurian story, nor embodies and preserves a single long-past phase in national spirit and character, like the chansons de geste. From certain standpoints of the drier and more rigid criticism it is * See note 2, p. 26.
exposed to the charge of being trifling, almost puerile. We cannot understand—or, to speak with extremer correctness, it would seem that some of us cannot understand—the frame of mind which puts Dictys and Dares on the one hand, Homer on the other, as authorities to be weighed on equal terms, and gravely sets Homer aside as a very inferior and prejudiced person; which, even after taking its Dictys and Dares, proceeds to supplement them with entire inventions of its own; which, after in the same way taking the Pseudo-Callisthenes as the authoritative biographer of Alexander, elaborates the legend with a wild luxuriance that makes the treatment of the Tale of Troy seem positively modest and sober; which makes Thebes, Julius Caesar, anything and anybody in fabulous and historical antiquity alike, the centre, or at least the nucleus, of successive accretions of romantic fiction. Nevertheless, the attractions, intrinsic and extrinsic, of the division are neither few nor small. This very Its importance confusion, as it seems nowadays, this extra””” ordinary and almost monstrous blending of uncritical history and unbridled romance, shows one of the most characteristic sides of the whole matter, and exhibits, as do few other things, that condition of mediaeval thought in regard to all critical questions which has so constantly to be insisted on. As in the case of the Arthurian story, the matter thus presented caught hold of the mediaeval imagination with a remarkable grip, and some of the most interesting literary successions of all history date from it. Among them it is almost enough to mention the chain of names—Benoit
de Sainte-More, Guido Colonna, Boccaccio, Chaucer,
Ane sparke of lufe than till his hart culd spring,
Laing's Poems of Henryson (Edinburgh, 1865), p. 93. This volume is unfortunately not too common ; but ‘The Testament and Complaint of Cressid’ may also be found under Chaucer in Chalmers's Poets (i. 298 for this passage).