Imagens das páginas

ness and gaiety. He left a vast legacy of ballades, rondeaux, chants royaux, besides historical poems and dits. In commencing the Dit de la Harpe, he harps on the harp thus :—

"Je puis trop Lien ma dame comparer
A la harpe et son gent cors parer
De xxv. cordes que la harpe ha,
Dont roys David par maintes fois harpa;
Et vraiement qui aimme de la harpe
Lie tresdous son et sagement en harpe
Et le grant bien des cordes en harpent
Trop miex le pris que d'or fin un arpent
Et pour itant weil aprendre a harper," &c.

Whatever we may choose to term this, it is certainly not common-sense. The quality of common-sense is BustacAe the note of Machault's admirer Eustache I)Mrf,amP■• Deschamps (1328-1415), who, not quite fortunately, has been saved thereby—saved from absurdity, but saved also from being a poet. A distinguished critic is of opinion that it would be well if arrangements could be made for a complete edition of Deschamps' writings.1 Why? Because he was so shrewd an observer of current events, and one finds in his verse so many valuable hints on the moral and political history of the fourteenth century! Deschamps was a plebeian, and during his lifetime went by the name of Eustache Morel. This was not a patronymic, but a surname, due to his dark complexion:—

"Chacuns me dit: tu es lais garnemens,
Qros visage as, tu es noirs et hallez."

1 The SocidW dea Anciena Textea has agreed to meet this, perhaps not very wide, demand.

The other name was derived from a house near Vertus, of which he tells us—

"Dehors Vertus ay maison gracieuse,
Ou j'avoye par long temps denieurc,
Oil pluseurs ont niene vie joyeuse.
Maison des champs l'ont pluseurs appelii."

Although Deschamps was not a poet endowed with fine sensibilities or creative imagination, he could write manly verse, and it is by no means fanciful to surmise that his frank, blunt style was just the style to please Bertrand du Guesclin, whose death indeed he deplores in a ballade full of mournful energy:—

"Estoc d'oneur, et arbres de vaillance
Cuer de lyon espris de hardiment,
La flour des preux et la gloire de France,
Victorieux et hardi combatant;
Saige en voz fais et bien entreprenant
Souverain hoinrne de guerre,
Vainqueur des gens et conquereur de terre
Le plus vaillant qui onques fust en vie:
Chascun pour vous doit noir vestir et quern:.
Plourez, plourez flour de chevalerie!"

If I am driven by conscience to refuse to the longlived "faiseurs" the coveted name of poet, the objections no longer hold in the case of Jean Froissart (1337-1410). Great in prose, he is not equally great in verse, but a delicate fancy, a lively, graceful, and melodious style, assuredly do not r count for nothing. These French writers have a strong \ claim on the attention of English students from their influence on Gower and Chaucer. Gower may be reckoned one of them, and Chaucer was nattered by Deschamps as a "great translator "I It is curious that one generally so well-informed as the late Professor Ten Brink should have attributed to Chaucer the invention of the daisy-cult. I will not expose myself to similar risk of error by nominating Froissart as the inventor, but he unquestionably wrote a DittiA de la Flour de la Margherite, whence, in all likelihood, Chaucer borrowed the idea:—

"Elle est petite
Blanche et vermeille et par usage habite
En tous vers lieus, aillours ne se delite.
Ossi chier a le preel d'une herrnite,
Mes ch'elle y puist croistre sans opposite,
Comme elle fait les beaus gardins d'Egypte
Son doulc. veoir grandement me proufite
Et pour ce est dedens mon cocr escripte
Si plainement

Que nuit et jour en pensant je recite
Les grans vertus de quoi elle est confite,
Et di ensi; li heure soit benite
Quant pour moi ai tele flourette eslite,
Qui de bontd et de beaute est dite
La souveraine et s'en attenc merite,
Se ne m'i nuist fortune la trahite," &c.

There is no common - sense in that, but daintiness, and charm, and ease, and serenity.

Christine de Pisan (1363-14^0) is avowedly a follower of Deschamps, dutifully subscribing herself "ta Christine dc disciple et ta bienveillante." Although she puan. essayed many kinds of composition, includ

ing the most frivolous, she, like her master, is most at home in serious political and patriotic subjects, and she treats them with masculine vigour. Among her ballades is one that reminds us of the Combai des Trente, since it hails the victory of seven Frenchmen over seven Englishmen, in 1403, at Montendre near Bordeaux; and her last poem was a dittii in honour of the triumphs of Jeanne d'Arc. It is a noble prean, wherein is expressed all the joy of a woman, all the eloquence of a statesman, and all the gratitude of a saint. Besides an allegorising Roman d'Othea et d'Hector, otherwise known as the Cent Histoires de Troye, Christine wrote a number of dits moraux addressed to her son Jean Castel, and designed, like Lord Chesterfield's Letters to his Son, as a preparation for life,—e.g.,

"Se tu as estat ou office,
Dont tu te nieslea de justice,
Gardes comment tu jugeras,
Car devant le grant juge yras."

Lastly, in the controversy regarding the Romance of the Rose, Christine championed the honour of her sex, with excellent effect, in an Epitrc au Dieu d'Amour.

The Livre des Cent Ballades is precious as throwing light on the literary dissipations of French gentlemen

The Livre des at the close of the fourteenth century.

cent Ballades. The work covavate of a great " debate " on love, opened by an old knight who counsels a young bachelor to be loyal, while a lady defends inconstancy and caprice. Unable to decide the point, the young man submits the question to thirteen lords, three of whom return a witty, evasive answer, seven side with the old knight, and only two are found to support the lady. The principal scene of this " debate " is a watermeadow by the Loire, where a gay company of ladies and gentlemen is assembled, but the meeting with the knight takes place on the road between Angers and Pont-de-Ce\ The Zivre was supposed to have been written by Marshal de Bouciqualt, then between twenty and thirty years old, and certain of his friends, during an expedition "oultre-mer"; but the latest authorities are opposed to this belief.1

1 These writings are not specially easy of access. Interesting specimens may be found in Leroux de Lincy's Jiecucil dc Chants Historiques; and Scheler has published an edition of Froissart's poems (Brussels, 1871). Mr Paget Toynbee's Specimens of Old French (Clarendon Press) will be valued.

« AnteriorContinuar »