Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

While Italy was rising step by step to the sublimest expression of poetical feeling, in France the best New Fmuh talents seemed engrossed with the con/orvu. struction of a formulary. The old simple schemes, which had sufficed for Thibaut de Champagne, for Gace Brule, and for Colin Muset, were discarded in favour of strict, in some cases very strict, laws, at once a challenge to technical ability and a grievous hindrance to a free and natural style. Under the new conditions, to write verse was not too easy; to write poetry, almost impossible. The only compensation was that these pedantic limitations counteracted a tendency to diffuseness, the characteristic besetment of this decadent age.

Let us first dispose of the various forms of the new French lyric. The chant royal corresponds in a meas

The chant ure to the Italian canzone, being reserved

royal for lofty and serious themes. The name is closely connected with the literary competitions of which I have spoken, and in which the poet winning the first prize stood forth as King. The chant royal was composed of five strophes. Each strophe consisted of eleven lines, and each line of ten syllables. Not only were all the strophes identical in plan, but the same rhymes were retained in the same order, while the last line of the first was repeated at the end of each succeeding strophe, and formed the refrain. At the close of the poem came the envoi of five lines addressed to the prince or president, and recapitulating in brief what has preceded.

The ancient name of the popular dance-song was balete, and it appears to have run thus—ababcCC.1 The later balade, on the other hand, generally ran ababbcbC. This form is an abridgment, as it were, of the chant royal, though it might be truer to describe the chant royal as a degenerate offshoot, or wilful corruption, of the balade. However that may be, the balade consisted of three strophes, having the same metre, the same rhymes, and, of course, the same refrain; and it concluded with a half strophe forming the envoi. The number of lines in a strophe, and the number of syllables in a line, were left to the poet's discretion. Generally, there were eight or ten lines, and seven, eight, or ten syllables. Later authorities — e.g., Sibilet in his Art Poitiquc (1548) — prescribe that the number of lines should correspond to the number of syllables; but this rule does not appear to have been universally followed, at any rate by the older poets.

The simple rondel, afterwards known as the triolet, had only one strophe of eight or seven lines, and either one or two rhymes. Where there are seven lines, the first line only constitutes the refrain. In the case of rondel everything turns on the refrain. The simplest form of the simple rondrt was A1A2aAaaAlA2. If, however, the refrain rhymed AB, the scheme became ABaAabAB. With regard to the number of syllables in a line, they range from one to ten, and the lines may be regular or irregular. Here is a rondel entirely composed of monosyllabic lines:—

1 The capital letters, here and eluewhere, indicate the one, two, or three lines of the refrain.

je

dy

que

je

le
vy

je
dy.

But a rondel was not necessarily simple, and the longer the refrain, the longer the rondel became. Thus the refrain ABBA resulted in the scheme ABBAabABabbaABBA. By means of a five-lined refrain with a three-lined resumption, or a six-lined refrain with a two-lined resumption, rondeaux were formed twenty-one or twenty-two lines in length. The tendency, however, was to diminish both the length and the importance of the refrain. The earlier rondeau double, afterwards known as the rondeau quatrain, consisted of twelve lines, and the later rondeau double of fifteen lines, each with a single refrain-line. The schemes of the rondeau quatrain and the rondeau double were respectively AbbaabAabboA and AabbaaabAaabbaA. Here is an example of the rondeau quatrain, by Charles of Orleans:—

"Gardez le trait de la fimcstre,
Amans, qui par rues passez:
Car plus tost en seres blessez
Que de trait d'arc ou arbalestre.
N'allez a destre n'a senestre
Regardant; mais les yeulx baissez:
GarcUz le trait de lafciwstre.
Si n'avez medecin bon maistre,

Si tost que vous serez navrez

A Dieu soyez reconimandez.

More vous tiens; demandez lc prestre.

Gardez le trait de la fenestre."

Often only the first word of the refrain was given, followed by "etc."; but this was a slipshod device, and ruinous to the metrical effect.

The school of Charles of Orleans invented what may be termed an imperfect rondeau—the bergerette, of '•h, bergerette which the distinctive feature was the reami vireiai. ception in a separate compartment of two new rhymes — for example, ABBAcdedabba ABBA. The virelai (earlier, vireli) is simply a bergerette expanded into several strophes, with the refrain repeated only at the conclusion of the last strophe.

There are many sorts of rhyme. The rime famine or rkhe is supposed to be formed of two masculine

varieties of rhymes, but in practice is often synony

rhymt. nious with the feminine rhyme. Rimes equivoques or equivoquies are those in which simple are rhymed with compound words or combinations of words: metent; cntremetent, or volagemenl; vol a jc ment. The rhyme is said to be anncjde when the last syllable of one line is the first of the next, and fratrisie when the last word of one line is the first of the next. The following strophe of a ballade by Eustache Deschamps will illustrate most of these peculiarities:—

"Lasse, lasse! malheureuse et dolente
Lente me voy, fors de souspirs et plains,
Plains sont nies jours d'ennuy et de tourmente.
Mente qui veult, car mes cuers est certains;

Tains jusqu'a mort, et pour celli qui j'ains,
Ains, mais ne fut dame si fort atainte,
Tainte me voy, quant il m'ayme le mains.
Mains, entendez ma piteuse complainte."

The rime bateUe is that in which the last syllable of one line is the middle syllable of the next. When all the lines of a strophe, or all the words of a line, begin with the same letter, the rhyme is senie. It is couronnic when the last two words of the line have the same ending:—

"La blanche colunibelle belle,"

and cmperulre when the rhyme is thrice repeated:—

"En grant remord Mort mord."

It would be possible, availing myself of treatises like Henri Cray's Art et Scioux de Rhitorique, to fill many Gviiiaurr* du pages with such details, but I prefer to Mackauu. deVote tne remainder of my space to the poets composing in this style. The earliest was Guillaume de Machault (c. 1284-1377), who attached himself to the person of successive monarchs (Philippe le Bel, Jean II., Charles V.), and sang their achievements. Machault was rather a minstrel than a poet; and, as a musician, he displayed some originality by inventing new airs (" des tailles nouvelles "). These airs gave considerable vogue to his verse, but, on his death, partly from the flimsy nature of its support, his fame suddenly collapsed. Like other poets of the school, he lived to be extremely old; it was an age of rapid transition, and Machault clung to Old French forms, though he failed to renew their pristine fresh

« AnteriorContinuar »