Imagens das páginas

be condemned to the same Inferno of insignificance.

Bucve de Hanstone.

"Qe un gubler [i.e., jongleur] qe c qui arrive
Por veoir questa cort e la nobilite,
Tuto li son afaire el m'a dito e conti:
Qe in la dama no c la falsite,
Salvo q' ela oit un poeo grandi li pe;
Nian por 5o non vo' je qe stage1
Qi la po avoir, qe non la demands."

Bova cFAntona.

"' Fiolo,' disse Synibaldo, 'porestu civalcer
Palafren o destrer? A San Simon voio ander;
Che quelo castelo me dona to per;
Per quelo castelo me faeo clamer;
Ed i; ben trenta ani ch' el me l'a doner.
Se a quel castelo te posso mener,
Io faro guera no' a sta citta.'
Respoxe Bovolin: 'Io port ben givaloer
Destrer e cavalo chi me possa porter;
Infin a San Simon avero ander.'"

A similar comparison might have been instituted

between a Franco-Italian Huon d'Auvergiw and the

„.* Venetian U<io d'Alvernia, but, as Huon

Other Franco-"

Italian. oompo- d'Auvergne survives only iii a rough Italian translation, this is no longer feasible. The fact of this translation, however, may be taken as proving that Huon was written in the same kind of "pigeon" French as Bwvc d'Hanstone. These poems, Huon Jxjxol TJgo, narrate a journey to Hell, and — a matter of exceptional interest—in both Dante's influence is discernible. The last product of Franco-Italian literature is a prose romance, Aquilon d<- Bnnitre. Written by Rafaele Marmora of Verona at the close of the fourteenth century, it begins and ends with Italian ottave—a sure sign that the spell of French literary art was at last broken.

Closely allied with compilation as a symptom of

decay are the remaniements, to which some ancient

Chansons de Geste, like popular hymns in


our own day, were compelled to submit . Rehandling in these cases denotes several things. The verse may be changed. For the decasyllabic may be substituted the Alexandrine metre. The style and spelling are modernised. Old racy words like e*ntUre, naif, chilif are supplanted by learned terms, intlgre, natif, captif. Finally, by the insertion of new episodes and endless descriptions, the bulk of the poems is enormously increased. Ogier le Danois, in its latest form, numbers twenty-five thousand lines; Huon de Bordeaux thirty thousand; and others, it is said, forty, and even sixty, thousand lines. These totals are suggestive. The Chanson de Geste — may we not certify that it succumbed to fatty degeneration? A predisposing cause of the decline of the French epic was the decline of the French nobility. French ne Frmch society, with a growing distrust of its own nobiluy. pretensions, and sensible that it could no longer sustain them, found small inducement to encourage the production' of poems in whjch those pretensions were magnified. Clearly, in such circumstances, it was a problem not more difficult than unpleasant to determine at what point panegyric shaded off into intentional, or unintentional, irony. Here are verses depicting the actual state at which the barons had arrived, and which is held to account for the disaster of Poitiers:—

"Bombanz et vaine gloire, vesture deshonnete,
Lea ceintures dordes, la plume sur la tete,
La grant barbe de bouc, qui est une orde beste,
Les vous font estordiz, comme fouldre et tempeste. . . .
La trfes-grant traison qu'ils ont longtenips covee
Fut, en l'ost dessus dit, tres-clcrement provee."

But there was still left in France a remnant of true knights untainted by treason and capable of acquitting themselves like heroes. Their valour would almost persuade us to reject the foregoing citation as libellous, only that Crécy and Poitiers were facts. But such also was the Combat of the Thirty. Froissart bears witness to its reality, and the tidings must have been inexpressibly consoling to gallant hearts jealous for French honour.

The Combat, " memorised" in a brief poem of three hundred lines1—"the last echo of the Chansons dv Tht combat Geste"—is on a par with the famous duel desTrcnte. between the Chesapeake and Shannon. The English were disposed to make the most of their conquests, and the roar of the British lion sounded very harshly in the ear of the brave Beaumanoir. But he is even more afflicted at the woes of the country-folk. These poor caitiffs are bound with gyves and fetters—two and two, and three and three —and driven as one drives cattle to market. First, with great humility, Beaumanoir expostulates with the English commander Brambroc. He points out the folly of oppressing the peasantry. If they didn't work, the nobles would have to handle hoe and flail, and suffer poverty—a dreadful thing for any one not accustomed to it. In reply, Brambroc rudely boasts of the power and authority of his nation, whereupon Messire Jehan, changing his tone, challenges him to fight, sixty, eighty, or a hundred a-side. Brambroc, for all his boasting, was but a false knight, and had failed to keep an appointment with "the valiant nobleman, the gentle bachelor," Pierre Angier. Beaumanoir reminds him of this, and expresses the hope that he will not play him the same trick. Brambroc begs him to desist, and assures him that he will be the first in the field with thirty men, the least of whom shall be a squire. "Never will I bring villein thither, so help me God!" When the time comes, however, Brambroc arms a huge ruffian "with a sackful of beans on his shoulders and a belly bigger than a courser's," trusting that he will carry all before him by sheer weight. The poet, whoever he may have been, does not belittle the English as a race. They are "bold as lions," as is proved by the event. The Bretons are equally brave, and win. The Combat took place in 1350, and the poem, which is in laisses mmwrimes, was probably composed soon after.

1 Crapelet, Paris, 1835; Bartsch, Chrestomathie, p. 403.

Later, the exploits of Bertrand du Guesclin provided another opportunity, by which a Irouvire named Cuvelier profited to the tune of twenty-three thousand lines;1 and in 1376 the glories of the Black nutorimi Prince were enshrined in a poem comPomt. posed in not very good French by one Chandos, herald of Sir John Chandos, then Constable of Aquitaine.2 These writings, though possessing little or no literary merit, are of considerable historical value, since it is possible to glean from them many out-ofthe-way particulars respecting an exceptionally interesting time.

Romance showed itself even more impatient of restraint than the Chanson de Geste, and there sprang Romans into existence a class of poems known as d'Avcnture. ftomans d'Aventure. The term is somewhat elastic; definitions vary as to its scope, but all definitions are at one in recognising as the core and kernel of the matter the prevalence of the fictitious as compared with the traditional element. Outwardly, the Roman d'Aventure is attached to the Breton cycle —i.e., its metre is the octosyllabic couplet. Yet a third characteristic may be noted: the tale, as it unfolds, often sheds light on contemporary manners. Thus this species of verse has much affinity with the modern novel; and, to heighten the resemblance, the material of these poems was worked up later into miracles, many of which are merely dramatised versions of Romans cPAveature.

1 La Chanson de Bertrand dn Queselin, par Cuvelier. E. CharriiVe. Paris, 1839.

a Chandos Herald, The Life and Feats of Arms of Edicard the Black Prince. A Metrical Chronicle in Old French, with an English translation and notes by Francisque Michel. London, 1888.

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