Imagens das páginas
PDF

Amiles (the earliest vernacular form of which is a true chanson de geste of the twelfth century)—there are not many indications of any higher or finer notion of Christianity than that which is confined to the obedient reception of the sacraments, and the cutting off Saracens' heads whensoever they present themselves." In manners, as in theology and ethics, there is the same simplicity, which some have called almost Realist barbarous. Architecture and dress receive * considerable attention; but in other ways the arts do not seem to be far advanced, and living is still conducted nearly, if not quite, as much in public as in the Odyssey or in Beowulf. The hall is still the common resort of both sexes by day and of the men at night. Although gold and furs, silk and jewels, are lavished with the usual cheap magnificence of fiction, very few details are given of the minor supellea, or of ways of living generally. From the Chanson de Roland in particular (which, though it is a pity to confine the attention to it as has sometimes been done, is undoubtedly the type of the class in its simplest and purest form) we should learn next to nothing about the state of society depicted, except that its heroes were religious in their fashion, and terrible fighters. But it ought to be added that the perusal of a large number of these chansons leaves on the mind a much more genuine belief in their world (if it may so be called) as having for a time actually existed, than that which is created by the reading of Arthurian romance. That fair vision we know (hardly knowing why or how we know it) to have been a creation of its own Fata Morgana, a structure built of the wishes, the dreams, the ideals of men, but far removed from their actual experience. This is not due to miracles—there are miracles enough in the chansons de geste most undoubtingly related: nor to the strange history, geography, and chronology, for the two divisions are very much on a par there also. But strong as the fantastic element is in them, the chansons de geste possess a realistic quality which is entirely absent from the gracious idealism of the Romances. The emperors and the admirals, perhaps even their fair and obliging daughters, were not personages unknown to the contemporaries of the Norman conquerors of Italy and Sicily, or to the first Crusaders. The faithful and ferocious, covetous and indomitable, pious and lawless spirit, which hardly dropped the sword except to take up the torch, was, poetic presentation and dressing apart, not so very different from the general temper of man after the break up of the Roman peace till the more or less definite mapping out of Europe into modern divisions. More than one Vivien and one William of Orange listened to Peter the Hermit. In the very isolation of the atmosphere of these romances, in its distance from modern thought and feeling, in its lack (as some have held) of universal quality and transcendent human interest, there is a certain element of strength. It was not above its time, and it therefore does not reach the highest forms of literature. But it was intensely of its time; and thus it far exceeds the lowest kinds, and retains an abiding value even apart from the distinct, the high, and the very curious perfection, within narrow limits, of its peculiar form. It is probable that very few persons who are not specially acquainted with the subject are at all aware Polume and age of the enormous bulk and number of these of the cha" poems, even if their later remaniements (as they are called) both in verse and prose—fourteenth and fifteenth century refashionings, which in every case meant a large extension—be left out of consideration. The most complete list published, that of M. Léon Gautier, enumerates 110. Of these he himself places only the Chanson de Roland in the eleventh century, perhaps as early as the Norman Conquest of England, certainly not later than 1095. To the twelfth he assigns (and it may be observed that, enthusiastic as M. Gautier is on the literary side, he shows on all questions of age, &c., a wariness not always exhibited by scholars more exclusively philological) Acquin, A liscans, Amis et Amiles, Antioche Aspremont, Auberi le Bou'90”9, Aye d'Avignon, the Bataile Loquifer, the oldest (now only known in Italian) form of Berte aus grams Poé, Beuves d’Hanstone (with another Italian form more or less independent), the room, Charroi de Němes, Les Chétifs, the Chevalerie century. Ogier de Danemarche, the Chevalerie Vivien (otherwise known as Covenant Vivien), the major part (also known by separate title) of the Chevalier and Come, La Conquete de la Pe” Bretagne (another form of Amin), the Couronnement soon de la Roche, Doon de Nanteuil, the Enfances Charlemagne, the Enfances Godefroi, the Enfances Roland, the Enfances Ogier, Floovant, Garin le Loherain, Garnier de Nanteuil, Giratz de Rossilho, Girbert de Metz, Gui de Bourgogne, Gui de Nanteuil, Helias, Hervis de Metz, the oldest form of Huon de Bordeaua, Jérusalem, Jourdains de Blaivies, the Lorraine cycle, including Garin, &c., Macaire, Mainet, the Moniage Guillaume, the Momiage Raimoart, Orson de Beauvais, Rainoart, Raoul de Cambrai, Les Saisnes, the Siège de Barbastre, Syracon, and the Voyage de Charlemagne. In other words, nearly half the total number date from the twelfth century, if not even earlier.

1 Even the famous and very admirable death-scene of Vivien (again v. infra) will not disprove these remarks.

By far the larger number of the rest are not later than the thirteenth. They include—Aimeri de Nar

Thirteenth bonne, Aiol, Ansóis de Carthage, Ansóis Fils

century. de Gerbert, Auberon, Berte aus grams Piés in its present French form, Beton et Daurel, Beuves de Commarchis, the Departement des Enfans Aimeri, the Destruction de Rome, Doon de Mayence, Elie de Saint Gilles, the Enfances Doon de Mayence, the Enfances Guillaume, the Enfances Vivien, the Entrée en Espagne, Fierabras, Foulques de Candie, Gaydon, Garin de Montglane, Gaufrey, Gérard de Viane, Guibert d'Andrenas, Jehan de Lanson, Maugis d'Aigremont, the Mort Aimeri de Narbonne, Otinel, Parise la Duchesse, the Prise de Cordres, the Prise de Pampelune, the Quatre Fils d’Aymon, Renaud de Montauban (a variant of the same), Renier, the later forms of the Chanson de Roland, to which the name of Roncevaua is sometimes given for the sake of distinction, the Siège de

Aarbonne, Simon de Pouille, Vivien l'Amachour de Montbranc, and Yon. By this the list is almost exhausted. The fourteenth century, though fruitful in remaniements, someFourteenth, times in mono-rhymed tirades, but often in “” Alexandrine couplets and other changed shapes, contributes hardly anything original except the very interesting and rather brilliant last branches of the Cheralier an Cygme—Baudouin de Seboure, and the Bastart de Bouillon; Hugues Capet, a very lively *d readable but slightly vulgar thing, exhibiting an almost undisguised tone of parody; and some frag*ents known by the names of Hernaut de Beaulande, *nier de Gennes, &c. As for fifteenth and sixteenth °ntury work, though some pieces of it, especially the Very long and unprinted poem of Lion de Bourges, are included in the canon, all the chanson-production of this time is properly apocryphal, and has little or nothing left of the chanson spirit, and only the shell of the chanson form. It must further be remembered that, with the exception of a very few in fragmentary condition, all these chansons in poems are of great length. Only the later print. or less genuine, indeed, run to the preposterous extent of twenty, thirty, or (it is said in the case of Lion de Bourges) sixty thousand lines. But Roland itself, one of the shortest, has four thousand; Aliscans, which is certainly old, eight thousand; the oldest known form of Huon, ten thousand. It is probably not excessive to put the average length of the older chansons at six thousand lines; while if the

« AnteriorContinuar »