Imagens das páginas
PDF

as he says, “Eager to find my lady, I have scoured the whole house with the glances of my eyes — in vain,” dwell in the memory as softer touches. And for the sterner, nothing can beat the last fight of Olaf Trygveson, where with the crack of Einar Tamberskelvir's bow Norway breaks from Olaf's hands, and the king himself, the last man with Kolbiorn his marshal to fight on the deck of the Long Serpent, springs, gold-helmed, mail-coated, and scarlet-kirtled, into the waves, and sinks with shield held up edgeways" to weight him through the deep green Water, The saga prose is straightforward and business-like, the dialogue short and pithy, with considerable interspersion of proverbial phrase, but with, except in case of bad texts, very little obscurity. It is, however, much interspersed also with verses which, like Icelandic verse in general, are alliterative in prosody, and often of the extremest euphuism and extravagance in phrase. All who have even a slight acquaintance with sagas know the extraordinary periphrases for common objects, for men and maidens, for ships and swords, that bestrew them. There is, I believe, a theory, not in itself improbable, that the more elaborate and far-fetched the style of this imagery, the later and less genuine is likely to be the poem, if not the Saga; but it is certain that the germs of the style are to be found

Style.

* Heimskringla does not say “edgeways,” but this is the clear meaning. Kolbiorn held his shield flat and below him, so that it acted as a float, and he was taken. Olaf sank.

362 EUROPEAN LITERATURE, 1100-1300.

in the Havamal and the other earliest and most certainly genuine examples.

It is perhaps well to add that very small sagas are called thattir (“scraps”), the same word as “tait” in the Scots phrase “tait of wool.” But it is admitted that it is not particularly easy to draw the line between the two, and that there is no difference in real character. In fact short sagas might be called thattir and vice versä. Also, as hinted before, there is exceedingly little comedy in the sagas. The roughest horse-play in practical joking, the most insolent lampoons in verbal satire, form, as a rule, the lighter element; and pieces like the Bandamanna Saga, which with tragic touches is really comic in the main, are admittedly rare.

In regard to the second, and contrasted, division of the subject of the present chapter, it has been already provençal noted that, just as Icelandic at this period ”” presents to the purview of the comparative literary historian one main subject, if not one only— the saga—so Provençal presents one main subject, and almost one only—the formal lyric. The other products of the Muse in langue d'oc, whether verse or prose, are so scanty, and in comparison" so unim

* Of course this is only in comparison. For instance, in Dr Suchier's Denkmäler (Halle, 1883), which contains nearly 500 large pages of Provençal anecdota, about four-fifths is devotional matter of various kinds and in various forms, prose and verse. But such matter, which is common to all mediaeval languages, is hardly literature at all, being usually translated, with scarcely any expense of literary originality, from the Latin, or each other.

[ocr errors]

portant, that even special historians of the subject have found but little to say about them. The earliest monument of all, perhaps the earliest finished monument of literature in any Romance language, the short poem on Boethius, in assonanced decasyllabic laisses, even in its present form probably older than our starting-point, and, it may be, two centuries older in its first form,-is indeed not lyrical; nor is the famous and vigorous verse - history of the Albigensian War in chanson style; nor the scanty remnants of other chansons, Girart de Rossilho, Daurel et Beton, Aigar et Maurim, which exist; nor the later Tomans d'aventure of Jaufre, Flamenca, Blandin of Cornwall. But in this short list almost everything of interest in our period—the flourishing period of the literature — has been mentioned which is not lyrical." And if these things, and others like them in much larger number, had existed alone, it is certain that Provençal literature would not hold the place which it now holds in the comparative literary history of Europe. That place is due to its lyric, construing that term in a wide sense such as that (but indeed a little wider) in which it has been already used with reference to the kindred and nearly contemporary lyric of France proper. It is best to say “nearly contemporary,” because it would appear that Provençal actually had the start of French in this respect, though no great start: and it is best to say “kindred" and not “daughter,” because though some forms and more names are common to the two, their developments are much more parallel than on the same lines, and they are much more sisters than mother and daughter. It would appear, though such things can never be quite certain, that, as we should indeed expect, the origin of first developments of Provençal lyric were *** of the hymn kind, and perhaps originally mixtures of Romance and Latin. This mixture of the vernacular and the learned tongues, both spoken in all probability with almost equal facility by the writer, is naturally not uncommon in the Middle Ages: and it helps to explain the rapid transference of the Latin hymn-rhythms to vernacular verse. Thus we have a Noel or Christmas poem not only written to the tune and in the measure of a Latin hymn, In, hoc anni circulo, not only crowning the Provençal six-syllable triplets with a Latin refrain, “De virgine Maria,” and other variations on the Virgin's title and name, but with Latin verses alternate to the Provençal ones. This same arrangement occurs with a Provençal fourth rhyme, which seems to have been a favourite one. It is arranged with a variety which shows its earliness, for the fourth line is sometimes “in the air” rhyming to nothing, sometimes rhymes with the other three, and sometimes forces its sound on the last of them, so that the quatrain becomes a pair of couplets. The earliest purely secular lyrics, however, are attributed to William IX., Count of Poitiers, who was a crusader in the very first year of the twelfth century,

* Alberic's Alexander (v. chap. iv.) is of course Provençal in a way, and there was probably a Provençal intermediary between the Chamson d'Antioche and the Spanish Gran Conquesta de Ultramar. But we have only a few lines of the first and nothing of the second.

and is said to have written an account of his

journey which is lost. His lyrics survive to the number of some dozen, and show that the art had by his time received very considerable development. For their form, it may suffice to say that of those given by Bartsch" the first is in seven-lined stanzas, rhymed aaaabab, the a-rhyme lines being iambic dimeters, and the b's monometers. Number two has five six-lined stanzas, all dimeters, rhymed aaabab : and a four-lined finale, rhymed ab, ab. The third is mono-rhymed throughout, the lines being dissyllabic with licence to extend. And the fourth is in the quatrain aaab, but with the b rhyme identical throughout, capped with a couplet ab. If these systems be compared with the exact accounts of early French, English, and German lyric in chapters v.-vii., it will be seen that Provençal probably, if not certainly, led the way in thus combining rhythmic arrangement and syllabic proportion with a cunning variation of rhyme-sound. It was also the first language to classify

Forms.

* The Grundriss zur Geschichte der Provenzalischen Literatur (Elberfeld, 1872) and the Chrestomathie Provençale (3d ed., Elberfeld, 1875) of this excellent scholar will not soon be obsolete, and may, in the peculiar conditions of the case, suffice all but special students in a degree hardly possible in any other literature. Mahn's Troubadours and the older works of Raynouard and Fauriel are the chief storehouses of wider information, and separate editions of the works of the chief poets are being accumulated by modern, chiefly German, scholars. An interesting and valuable addition to the English literature of the subject has been made, since the text was written, by Miss Ida Farnell's Lives of the Troubadours, a translation with added specimens of the poets and other editorial matter,

« AnteriorContinuar »