« AnteriorContinuar »
more original. But it so happens that the prominent qualities of form in the first, of matter and spirit in the second, though intense and delightful, are not very complicated, various, or wide-ranging. If monotony were not by association a question-begging word, it might be applied with much justice to both : and it is consequently not necessary to have read every Icelandic saga in the original, every Provençal lyric with a strictly philological competence, in order to appreciate the literary value of the contributions which these two charming isolations made to European history. Yet again, the production of Spain during this time is of the smallest, containing, perhaps, nothing save the Poem of the Cid, which is at once certain in point of time and distinguished in point of merit; while that of Italy is not merely dependent to a great extent on Provençal, but can be better handled in connection with Dante, who falls to the province of the writer of the next volume. The Celtic tongues were either past or not come to their chief performance; and it so happens that, by the confession of the most ardent Celticists who speak as scholars, no Welsh or Irish texts affecting the capital question of the Arthurian legends can be certainly attributed to the twelfth or early thirteenth centuries. It seemed to me, therefore, that I might, without presumption, undertake the Volume. Of the execution as apart from the undertaking others must judge. I will only mention (to show that the book is not a mere compilation) that the chapter on the Arthurian Romances summarises, for the first time in print, the result of twenty years' independent study of the subject, and that the views on prosody given in chapter v. are not borrowed from any one. I have dwelt on this less as a matter of personal *Planation, which is generally superfluous to friends *nd never disarms foes, than in order to explain and illustrate the principle of the Series. All its volumes have been or will be allotted on the same principle— that of occasionally postponing or antedating detailed *tention to the literary production of countries which Were not at the moment of the first consequence, while giving greater prominence to those that were: but at the same time never losing sight of the general literary drift of the whole of Europe during the whole period in each case. It is to guard against such loss of sight that the plan of committing each period to a single Writer, instead of strapping together bundles of in“ependent essays by specialists, has been adopted. For a survey of each time is what is aimed at, and a survey is not to be satisfactorily made but by one pair of eyes. As the individual study of different literatures deepens and widens, these surveys may be more and more difficult: they may have to be made more and more “by allowance.” But they are also more and more useful, not to say more and more necessary, lest a deeper and wider ignorance should accompany the deeper and wider knowledge. The dangers of this ignorance will hardly be denied, and it would be invidious to produce examples of them from writings of the present day. But there can be nothing ungenerous in referring—honoris, not invidia, causa—to one of the very best literary histories of this or any century, Mr Ticknor's Spanish Literature. There was perhaps no man of his time who was more widely read, or who used his reading with a steadier industry and a better judgment, than Mr Ticknor. Yet the remarks on assonance, and on long monorhymed or single-assonanced tirades, in his note on Berceo (History of Spanish Literature, vol. i. p. 27), show almost entire ignorance of the whole prosody of the chansons de geste, which give such an indispensable light in reference to the subject, and which, even at the time of his first edition (1849), if not quite so well known as they are to-day, existed in print in fair numbers, and had been repeatedly handled by scholars. It is against such mishaps as this that
We are here doing our best to supply a guard."
* One of the most difficult points to decide concerned the allowance of notes, bibliographical or other. It seemed, on the whole, better not to overload such a Series as this with them ; but an attempt has been made to supply the reader, who desires to carry his studies further, with references to the best editions of the principal texts and the best monographs on the subjects of the different chapters. I have scarcely in these notes mentioned a single book that I have not
myself used; but I have not mentioned a tithe of those that I have used.
THE FUNCTION OF LATIN. PAGE Reasons for not noticing the bulk of mediaeval Latin literature— Excepted divisions—Comic Latin literature—Examples of its verbal influence—The value of burlesque—Hymns—The Dies Irae—The rhythm of Bernard–Literary perfection of the Hymns—Scholastic Philosophy—Its influence on phrase and method—The great Scholastics . - - - - 1
European literature in 1100—Late discovery of the chansons— Their age and history—Their distinguishing character—Mistakes about them—Their isolation and origin—Their metrical form—Their scheme of matter—The character of Charlemagne — Other characters and characteristics — Realist quality— Volume and age of the chansons—Twelfth century–Thirteenth century—Fourteenth, and later—Chansons in print— Language: oc and oil—Italian—Diffusion of the chansons— Their authorship and publication—Their performance—Hearing, not reading, the object—Effect on prosody—The jongleurs