Imagens das páginas
PDF

the chansons bear witness, and availing themselves of posion of the the confession of disaster at Roncesvalles, chansons. Set up a counter-story in which Roland is personally worsted by Bernardo del Carpio, and the quarrels of the paymims are taken up by Spain herself. In England the imitations, though fairly numerous, are rather late. They have been completely edited for the Early English Text Society, and consist (for Bevis of Hampton has little relation with its chanson namesake save the name) of Sir Forumbras (Fierabras), The Siege of Milan, Sir Otuel (two forms), the Life of Charles the Great, The Sowdone of Babylone, Huon of Bordeaua, and The Four Sons of Aymon, besides a very curious Semi- original entitled Rauf Coilzear (Collier), in which the well-known romancedonnée of the king visiting some obscure person is applied to Charlemagne. Of these, one, the version of Huon of Bordeaua," is literature of no mean kind; but this is because it was executed by Lord Berners, long after our present period. Also, being of that date, it represents the latest French form of the story, which was a very popular one, and incorporated very large borrowings from other sources (the loadstone rock, the punishment of Cain, and so forth) which are foreign to the subject and substance of the chansons proper.

Their author- Very great pains have been spent on the ship and publi question of the authorship, publication, or cation. performance of these compositions. As is the case with so much mediaeval work, the great mass

* Ed. S. Lee, London, 1883-86.

1 of them is entirely anonymous. A line which concludes, or rather supplements, Roland—

“Cifalt la geste que Turoldus declinet”—

has been the occasion of the shedding of a very great deal of ink. The enthusiastic inquisitiveness of some has ferreted about in all directions for Turolds, Thorolds, or Therouldes, in the eleventh century, and discovering them even among the companions of the Conqueror himself, has started the question whether Taillefer was or was not violating the copyright of his comrade at Hastings. The fact is, however, that the best authorities are very much at sea as to the meaning of declinet, which, though it must signify “go over,” “tell like a bead- roll,” in some way or other, might be susceptible of application to authorship, recitation, or even copying. In some other cases, however, we have more positive testimony, though they are in a great minority. Graindor of Douairefashioned the work of Richard the Pilgrim, an actual partaker of the first Crusade, into the present Antioche, Jérusalem, and perhaps Les Chétifs. Either Richard or Graindor must have been one of the very best poets of the whole cycle. Jehan de Flagy wrote the spirited Garin le Loheraim; and Jehan Bodel of Arras Les Saismes. Adenès le Roi, a trouvère, of whose actual position in the world we know a little, wrote or refashioned three or four chansons of the thirteenth century, including Berte aus grams Piés, and one of the forms of part of Ogier. Other names—Bertrand of Bar sur Aube, Pierre de Rieu, Gerard d'Amiens, Raimbert de Paris, Brianchon (almost a character of Balzac ), Gautier of Douai, Nicolas of Padua (an interesting person who was warned in a dream to save his soul by compiling a chanson), Herbert of Dammartin, Guillaume de Bapaume, Huon de Willeneuve—are mere shadows of names to which in nearly all cases no personality attaches, and which may be as often those of mere jongleurs as of actual poets. No subject, however, in connection with these chansons de geste has occupied more attention than the ro, or precise mode of what has been called above formance their “authorship, publication, or performance.” They are called chansons, and there is no doubt at all that in their inception, and during the earlier and better part of their history, they strictly deserved the name, having been written not to be read but to be sung or recited. To a certain extent, of course, this was the case with all the lighter literature of mediaeval times. Far later than our present period the English metrical romances almost invariably begin with the minstrel's invocation, “Listen, lordings,” varied according to his taste, fancy, and metre; and what was then partly a tradition, was two or three hundred years earlier the simple record of a universal practice. Since the early days of the Romantic revival, even to the present time, the minutest details of this singing and recitation have been the subject of endless Wrangling; and even the point whether it was “ singing” or “recitation” has been argued. In a wider and calmer view these things become of very small interest. Singing and recitation

—as the very word recitative should be enough to remind any one—pass into each other by degrees imperceptible to any but a technical ear; and the instruments, if any, which accompanied the performance of the chansons, the extent of that accompaniment, and the rest, concern, if they concern history at all, the history of music, not that of literature. But it is a matter of quite other importance that, as has been said, lighter mediaeval literature a..., , generally, and the chansoms in particular, reading, the were meant for the ear, not the eye object. —to be heard, not to be read. For this intention very closely concerns some of their most important literary characteristics. It is certain as a matter of fact, though it might not be very easy to account for it as a matter of argument, that repetitions, stock phrases, identity of scheme and form, which are apt to be felt as disagreeable in reading, are far less irksome, and even have a certain attraction, in matter orally delivered. Whether that slower irritation of the mind through the ear of which Horace speaks supplies the explanation may be left undiscussed. But it is certain that, especially for uneducated hearers (who in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, if not in the thirteenth, must have been the enormous majority), not merely the phraseological but the rhythmical peculiarities of the chansons would be specially suitable. In particular, the long maintenance Effort on of the mono-rhymed, or even the single** assonanced, tirade depends almost entirely upon its being delivered vivd voce. Only then does D

that wave-clash which has been spoken of produce its effect, while the unbroken uniformity of rhyme on the printed page, and the apparent absence of uniformity in the printed assonances, are almost equally annoying to the eye. Nor is it important or superfluous to note that this oral literature had, in the Teutonic countries and in England more especially, an immense influence (hitherto not nearly enough allowed for by literary historians) in the great change from a stressed and alliterative to a quantitative and rhymed prosody, which took place, with us, from about 1200 A.D. Accustomed as were the ears of all to quantitative (though very licentiously quantitative) and rhymed measures in the hymns and services of the Church—the one literary exercise to which gentle and simple, learned and unlearned, were constantly and regularly addicted—it was almost impossible that they should not demand a similar prosody in the profaner compositions addressed to them. That this would not affect the chansons themselves is true enough; for there are no relics of any alliterative prosody in French, and its accentual scanning is only the naturally “crumbled ” quantity of Latin. But it is extremely important to note that the metre of these chansoms themselves, single - rhyme and all, directly influenced English writers. Of this, however, more will be found in the chapter on the rise of English literature proper.

Another, and for literature a hardly less important, consequence of this intention of being heard, was that probably from the very first, and certainly from an early period, a distinction, not very

The jongleurs.

« AnteriorContinuar »