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was preceded by a phase of toleration. Great noblemen, like Humphrey de Bohun, though retaining French as a badge of their rank, may have been well pleased to listen to itinerant "seggers," who visited their halls primed with adaptations of favourite French poems, and even to encourage such adaptations by substantial rewards. Thus while some, indeed most, English romances bear the impress of the middle-class spirit, others—notably Twain and Gawain, based on the Ghevalier au Lion of Chrestien de Troyes—preserve the old knightly tone unimpaired.
The term " adaptation" expresses much better than "translation" the actual relation between French "• comcy,' the and English romances. "Translation" has "*•*«■"•" a suggestion of Bohn, but the real parallel is the adaptation of French plays to the London stage. The adapter seldom approaches his models with the reverence, the loving and conscientious devotion, of a disciple. He was a man of business anxious to meet the tastes of his customers; and, speaking generally, he regarded the whole body of romances as raw material to be exploited in any way he deemed proper. Who were the adapters? The question cannot be answered with certainty. Anyhow, they were not always identical with the persons reciting the poems. Often they were degenerate plerks^who thus provided the minstrel with means of livelihood. But the most ignorant "segger" could not remain unaffected by the schooling his occupation aii'orded. If he were intelligent and something of a poet, what more natural than that he should throw in, here and there, a touch of his own? The "segger," however, tended rather to curtail than to add. And his alterations were not rated as improvements. Robert Manning says of Tristrem—
"Over gestes it has the steem,
If men it wivd us made Thomas."
Lapses of memory and misconception were accountable for many of these disfigurements.
It was in the Arthurian cycle, as an ideal representation of high life, that the French court-epic attained its highest technical perfection. In the
Word-painting. ~ . . . r
English imitations this art is, for the most part, ignored; and instead of heightening the courtliness of his version by all the resources he might have learned from Chrestien de Troyes, the adapter makes shift with some long-winded prose romance, and churns it into poetry by the light of nature. Arthour and Merlinl contains a feature which is highly characteristic of the Old English romance, and, in more skilful hands, might have signalised a positive advance. This is the landscape, specimens of which are to be found also in Alisaunder? Here is one.
"Whan corn ripeth in every steode,
1 Ed. Kolbing, Leipzig, 1890.
2 See Weber's Metrical Romances. 3 vols., Edinburgh, 1810.
Such pictures—reinforced, and indeed, as will be seen, rather incongruously and miscellaneously, by pithy sayings—have frequently no organic connection with the narrative, and are in this way out of place. They are used to stimulate the attention of the audience, as well as to mark divisions in the narrative, and correspond to what we find in the later popular ballad. This romance Alisaunder, based on the Roman de Toute Chevalerie of Eustace (or Thomas) de Kent, brings before us the mediaeval ideal of a king. Richard Cceur de Lionl reveals to us a coarser type, but much more alive—that of a rough knight of enormous frame and overbearing temper. There is something peculiarly felicitous in Ten Brink's comparison of him with John Bull, for by this time Richard was everywhere regarded as the representative national hero.
A striking trait of the English romance is the way
it seeks to link itself with glorious epochs of the
national life in the far distant past. This
l'atriotism. . . . 7 "-.
is seen in ArtJwur and Merlin. The i ranklin in his tale speaks of
"Engelond, that cleped eke was Bretayne."
But the romancer goes further, and boldly identifies Britons and Englishmen—
"The Bretouns that beth Iuglisse now."
That this is not a mere gloss may be inferred from the general tone of the writer. English, he says, shall be my speech, no longer French or Latin. He who is bor n in the land, to him also English is known. The gentleman speaks French, but every Englishman knows English.
1 Also iu Weber.
The tendency to retrospect is even more marked
in two romances dating from the first quarter of the
fourteenth century—Guy of Warwick and
Looking bock. . __ . ,
Bevis of Hampton. Arthur, never really an Englishman, had been divested of his local attributes, but Athelstan and Edgar could only be thought of as members of a race which was now, after centuries of oppression, reassuming its rightful place both at home and in the eyes of the world. The story of Ghiy of Warwick is closely allied with the legends of Eutachius and Alexius. Of humble origin—the son of a steward—he rises by his own merit and wins the hand of an earl's daughter. One day after hunting he feels a sudden compunction, leaves his castle and his blooming bride, and sets out for the Holy Land. On his return he finds things in a sorry plight. King Athelstan is besieged in Winchester by the Danes, and lacks a champion to contend with the gigantic Colbrand. The monarch receives supernatural directions to apply to the first pilgrim that knocks at his door. This happens to be Guy, who is prevailed upon to do battle. Victory smiles on him, but, indifferent to worldly honours, he again takes his pilgrim's cloak and journeys to his home. Here, unrecognised, he finds his wife all that he could desire — pious and given to good works — and, after some stay, departs once more and lives the life of a hermit. Finally, he sends for her, and dies in her arms. This poem is written in short couplets. A second version in twelve-lined stanzas, indited " ful fer in the north cuntre," contains an account of Guy's son Rembrun.
The Carlovingian cycle is represented by two versions of Otinel, of which the scene is principally in Lombardy. These versions are of very different merit. The first, Sir Otvcl, is a tolerably close translation of the French chanson de geste; and, technically, the substitution of the short couplet for the monorhymed tirade is an improvement, as harmonising better with the non-epic character of the poem. As regards its rival, the versifier had no great skill in his art, though he was not to seek in Charlemagne-lore, and probably aimed at producing an extensive compilation, of which Sir Otuel was an instalment. Even as it is, the title is plainly inadequate, and French criticism has proposed as an amendment Charlemagne and Roland.
Another poem founded on a chanson de geste is Amis and Amiloun. In France this legend had been drawn
Amis and within the Carlovingian cycle, from which,
Amiioun. in fae English version, it is again divorced. Instead of Charlemagne we meet with a Duke of Lombardy, whose daughter Belisant is an exact counterpart of her imperial namesake. Her mission is to seduce Amis, and she does seduce him. Amis, not Amiloun, for the English romancer, despite the precautionary " n," has succeeded in confounding the pair so as to attribute to Amis the grisly devotion of Amiles. Practically, it does not much matter; in either case