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destruction, this intellectual vandalism, the clergy, the traditional and bitter foes of the secular poet, were more or less conscious tools, while the master-singers contributed to the same result by their ineptitude. Then there was the rise, both economic and political, of the middle class. The importance of this factor in the overthrow of court-verse1 cannot well be overestimated. Already in the reign of Frederick II. a wandering gleeman, Freidank, had scented the offence and revenged it in advance. His antipathy found vent in opprobrious terms. The knights, the clergy, and the peasants were the orders created by God. The fourth, or trading, class was of the Devil.
Over and above these external enemies, however, it is possible to detect in the court-poetry of the fourteenth and concluding portion of the thir
Inlernal dtcay. .
teenth century many signs of decay — signs that are strictly parallel with evidences of old age in the individual. "The gay poets of the Middle Age," remarks M. Dinaux,2 "began with singing love and its delights; later they turned into verse the tales, the histories, and the fabliaux of the country; then, when age and infirmities overtook them, they fell back on sacred and philosophic subjects." He adds that the gay poets did not always observe these " time-limits," and that, in general, their compositions exhibit a fine medley of the worldly and other-worldly. The speech and confession of a typical trouvire, Hugues de Bersil, explain this apparent contradiction by the real contradiction of preaching and practice:—
1 The words "court-verse," "court-poetry," 4c., though in universal use on the Continent, have been adopted not without misgivings. The terms are new, and have been censured as exaggerating the influence of courts on the poetry in question. The diminution of this influence, however, was of capital importance in the transformations poetry was now to undergo.
2 Trourires du NoM de la France et du Midi dc la Belgique, vol. iv. p. 51.
"Hugues de Bersil qui tant a
M. Dinaux refers to a tendency only; and in these lines the tendency is clear enough. We also have to do with a tendency, and another French writer, quite independently, sums up the character of the fourteenth century in the words: "Every discourse is practically a sermon. To speak is to preach. In the art of preaching lies the whole art of speaking." True, on the whole; and yet, in its inconsistencies, the period resembles the gay poets. Outstanding inconsistencies are the futile attempts of epic and romance to survive and thrive in this uncongenial atmosphere; and convenience suggests that these failures be noted first. To the decadent lyric, naturally more capable of adaptation, will be consecrated the ensuing chapter.
One striking feature of the "death-struck" epic is
the quality of inventiveness. In the cavalier handling of the various matidres, whether of France,
or Britain, or "Rome la grant, the later poets do on a large scale what their precursors had only ventured to do piecemeal and apologetically. Even the Chanson de Geste, supposed to be strongly based on the bed-rock of historical fact, manifests this caprice. Doubtless the fiction of veracity had still to be maintained, but a compromise was not difficult of attainment, and lay in the direction of enfances (i.e., first exploits) and genealogy. A well-known name like that of the rather mysterious William is made the pivot of a whole cycle of poems more or less "contaminated." To this particular cycle — the Geste of Garin de Montglane, as it was called in mediaeval times —belong about twenty epics, assonanced or rhymed, ranging from the commencement of the twelfth to the end of the thirteenth century, and recounting the feats of seven or eight generations of heroes, in which are commonly included the taking of a town and the winning of a Saracen princess. Of these the Enfances Guillaume, the Dipartement des Enfants Aimeri, and the Enfanais Vivien are wholly outside tradition. The Enfances Garin de Montglane, perhaps the last of the series, pertains to the fourteenth century.
The lack of reverence already implied in the tampering with history or legend, the ascription of imaginstrduum- ary doings to traditional names, comes to ary spirit. a },ead in works lilfe JJugms Capet, le Bastard de Bouillon, Baudouin de Seboure, Tristan de Nanteuil, and Charles le Chauve, none of them attached
to the conventional cycles. These are not true epics, but parodies.1 How little they are animated by the spirit of chivalry may be inferred from the circumstance that in them sentiments are avowed that would have ravished the heart of Cobbler Simon. Thus Bavdouin de Seboure explains:—
"Car trestous venons d'Eve, notro pere fu Adans.
It is the same with Hwjuvs Capet:—
"Dieu est tout rassotis qu'ainsi avance un humme."
Nor do morals fare better than religion. In Tristan de Nanteuil'1 Blanchardine, Tristan's mistress, accompanies her lover disguised as a knight — "par jour est chevalier, par nuit la mariee." A Alohammedan princess falls in love with the pretended knight, who is already a mother, and Blanchardine, spite of all attempts at evasion, is compelled to wed the lady now converted to Christianity. Naturally she falls into sore perplexity as to how to discharge her marital duties, but, ere it is too late, is miraculously transformed into a man. Instead of Blanchardine she becomes Blanchardin, and lives happily with her wife Clarinde, by whom she has several children.
The best of the set is Bavdouin de Seboure,3 and the best thing in Baudouin de Seboure is the episode of the rhcoidManof Old Man of the Mountain, which is full a*Mountain. of delightful irony. "Would you see wonders?" he says to the kings, Baudouin, Polibans, and the Khulif of Baudas, who visit him, and calling up one of his subjects, signs to him to fling himself down. The Hautassis complies, and is dashed to pieces. Five others immolate themselves in like manner, to the dismay of Baudouin. The Khalif, however, expresses becoming admiration, and the guests are then conducted to a garden flowing with wine and honey. In the midst sits Ivorine, the Old Man's daughter, in a baldachin; and with her are two hundred damsels singing melodiously. Ivorine has never yet smiled on mortal man, waiting indeed for the flower of knighthood. Her father, who has his eye on one of the Saracen visitors, tries to coax her:—
1 On this point critics are not absolutely at one. Hiujues Capet, at any rate, is open to grave suspicion.
2 See Jahrbuch fiir rom. vnd eng. Literatur, ix. p. 366.
3 Li Romans de Baudouin de Sebourc, Valenciennes, 1841.
"Dume, vechi trois prinches corageus et hardis:
The lovely creature allows that this is so, and Baudouin, who could not have held his tongue for all the gold of Paris, inquires if he is the lucky man. Ivorine, smiling on him, replies that he is her friend. "Par Dieu," quoth Baudouin, " s'ai bel joeil conquis." The Old Man, however, is not so well pleased, regarding Baudouin as the least worthy of the three. But worse is to follow. Ivorine, the reverse of dutiful, pours scorn on her father for having begotten her, seeing that she was to be the cause of his ruin. More