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Is not this the lively and warm imagination of the south? they speak of springtime and of love," the fine and lovely weather," like trouvères, even like troubadours. The dirty, smoke-grimed cottage, the black feudal castle, where all but the master lie higgledy-piggledy on the straw in the great stone hall, the cold rain, the muddy earth, make the return of the sun and the warm air delicious.
"Sumer is i-cumen in,
Sing cuccu, cuccu.
Murie sing cuccu,
Sing, cuccu nu,
Sing, cuccu. Here are glowing pictures, such as Guillaume de Lorris was writing at the same time, even richer and more lifelike, perhaps because the poet found here for inspiration that love of country life which in England is deep and national. Others, more imitative, attempt pleasantries like those of Rutebeuf and the fabliaux, frank quips, and even satirical, loose waggeries. Their true aim and end is to hit out at the monks. In every French country or country which imitates France, the most manifest use of convents is to furnish material for sprightly and scandalous stories. One writes, for instance, of the kind of life the monks lead at the abbey of Cocagne:
“There is a wel fair abbei,
1 Warton, i. 30. * Poem of the Owl and Nightingale, who dispute as to which has the finest voice.
Rich met to princes and kinges.
With iamblene up and down.” This is the triumph of gluttony and feeding. Moreover many things could be mentioned in the middle ages which are now unmentionable. But it was the poems of chivalry, which represented to him the bright side of his own mode of life, that the baron preferred to have translated. He desired that his trouvère should set before his eyes the magnificence which he displayed, and the luxury and enjoyments which he has introduced from France. Life at that time, without and even during war, was a great pageant, a brilliant and tumultuous kind of fête. When Henry II. traveled, he took with him a great number of horsemen, foot-soldiers, baggage-wagons, tents, pack-horses, comedians, courtesans and their overseers, cooks, confectioners, posture-makers, dancers, barbers, go-betweens, hangers-on. In the morning when they start, the assemblage begins to shout, sing, hustle each other, make racket and rout, as if hell were let loose.” William Longclamps, even in time of peace, would not travel without a thousand horses by way of escort. When Archbishop à Becket came to France, he entered the town with two hundred knights, a number of barons and nobles, and an army of servants, all richly armed and equipped, he himself being provided with four-and-twenty suits; two hundred and fifty children walked in front, singing national songs; then dogs, then carriages, then a dozen packhorses, each ridden by an ape and a man; then equerries with shields and war-horses; then more equerries, falconers, a suit of domestics, knights, priests; lastly, the archbishop himself, with his private friends. Imagine these processions, and also these entertainments; for the Normans, after the Conquest, "borrowed
1 Letter of Peter of Blois.
from the Saxons the habit of excess in eating and drinking.”l At the marriage of Richard Plantagenet, Earl of Cornwall, they provided thirty thousand dishes. They also continued to be gallant, and punctiliously performed the great precept of the love courts; for in the middle age the sense of love was no more idle than the others. Moreover, tournaments were plentiful; a sort of opera prepared for their own entertainment. So ran their life, full of adventure and adornment, in the open air and in the sunlight, with show of cavalcades and arms; they act a pageant, and act it with enjoyment. Thus the King of Scots, having come to London with a hundred knights, at the coronation of Edward I., they all dismounted, and made over their horses and superb caparisons to the people; as did also five English lords, imitating their example. In the midst of war they took their pleasure. Edward III., in one of his expeditions against the King of France, took with him thirty falconers, and made his campaign alternately hunting and fighting3 Another time, says Froissart, the knights who joined the army carried a plaster over one eye, having vowed not to remove it until they had performed an exploit worthy of their mistresses. Out of the very exuberancy of spirit they practiced the art of poetry; out of the buoyancy of their imagination they made a sport of life. Edward III. built at Windsor a hall and a round table; and at one of his tourneys in London, sixty ladies, seated on palfreys, led, as in a fairy tale, each her knight by a golden chain. Was not this the triumph of the gallant and frivolous French fashions ? Edward's wife Philippa sat as a model to the artists for their Madonnas. She appeared on the field of battle; listened to Froissart, who provided her with moral-plays, love-stories, and “things fair to listen to.” At once goddess, heroine, and scholar, and all this so agreeably, was she not a true queen of refined chivalry ? Now, as also in France under Louis of Orleans and the Dukes of Burgundy, this most elegant and romanesque civilization came into full bloom, void of common sense, given up to passion, bent on pleasure, immoral and brilliant, but, like its neighbors of Italy and Provence, for lack of serious intention, it could not last.
i William of Malmesbury.
2 At the installation-feast of George Nevill, Archbishop of York, the brother of Guy of Warwick, there were consumed, 104 oxen and 6 wild bulls, 1000 sheep, 304 calves, as many hogs, 2000 swine, 500 stags, bucks, and does, 204 kids, 22,802 wild or tame fowl, 300 quar ters of corn, 300 tuns of ale, 100 of wine, a pipe of hypocras, 12 porpoises and seals.
3 These prodigalities and refinements grew to excess under his grandson Richard II.
Of all these marvels the narrators make display in their stories. Here is a picture of the vessel which took the mother of King Richard into England:
“Swlk on ne seygh they never non;
On such subjects they never run dry. When the King of Hungary wishes to console his afflicted daughter, he proposes to take her to the chase in the following style:
“To-morrow ye shall in hunting fare:
1 Warton, i. 156.
A leish of harehound with you to streek,
children full fain singing.