Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

more

be, because they are strong, and a tion, and such an army, and kept a strong man loves to prove his strength written roll of the same, and who pro by knocking down his neighbors; but ceeded to register the whole of Engalso from a desire of fame, and as a land in his Domesday Book. Sixteen point of honor/ By, this one word days after the disembarkation, the conhonor the whole spirit of warfare is trast between the two nations was changed. Saxon poets painted war as manifested at Hastings by its visible a murderous fury, as a blind madness effects. which shook flesh and blood, and The Saxons “ate and drank the awakened the instincts of the beast of whole night. You might have seen prey ; Norman poets describe it as a them struggling much, and leaping and tourney. The new passion which they singing," with shouts of laughter and introduce is that of vanity and gal- noisy joy.* In the morning they lantry ;X Guy of Warwick dismounts packed behind their palisades the dense all the knights in Europe, in order to masses of their heavy infantry, and deserve the hand of the prude and with battle-axe hung round their neck scornful Félice. The tourney itself is awaited the attack. The wary Norbut a ceremony, somewhat brutal, I mans weighed the chances of heaven admit, since it turns upon the breaking and hell, and tried to enlist God upon of arms and limbs, but yet brilliant and their side. Robert Wace, their hisFrench. To show skill and courage, torian and compatriot, is no dispiay the magnificence of dress and troubled by poetical imagination than armor, be applauded by and please the they were by warlike inspiration; and iadies, such feelings indicate men of on the eve of the battle his mind is as greater sociality, more under the in- prosaic and clear as theirs. † The iluence of public opinion, less the same spirit showed itself in the battle. slaves of their own passions, void both | They were for the most part bowmen of lyric inspiration and savage enthu- and horsemen, well-skilled, nimble, and siasm, gifted by a different genius, clever. Taillefer, the jongleur, who because inclined to other pleasures. asked for the honor of striking the first

Such were the men who at this blow, went singing, like a true French moinent were disembarking in Eng. volunteer, performing tricks all the land to introduce their new manners while. I Having arrived before the and a new spirit, French at bottom, in

* Robert Wace, Roman du Rou. mind and speech, though with special

# Ibid. and provincial features; of all the

Et li Normanz et li Franceiz most matter-of-fact, with an eye to the Tote nuit firent oreisons, main chance, calculating, having the

Et furent en aflicions. nerve and the dash of our own soldiers,

De lor péchiés confèz se firent but with the tricks and precautions of

As proveires les regehirent,

Et qui n'en out proveires prèz. lawyers; heroic undertakers of profit- 4 son veizin se fist confèz, able enterprises; having gone to

Pour co ke samedi esteit

Ke la bataille estre debveit. Sicily and Naples, and ready to travel

Unt Normanz a pramis e voé, Constantinople or Antioch, so it be Si com li cler l'orent loé, to take a country or bring back money; Ke à ce jor mez s'il veskeient, subtle politicians, accustomed in Sicily

Char ni saunc ne mangereient to hire themselves to the highest bid

Giffrei, éveske de Coustances,

A plusors joint lor pénitances. der, and apable of doing a stroke of Cli reçut li confessions business in the heat of the Crusade, like Et dona li béneiçons, Buleémond, who before Antioch, spec- 1 Robert Wace, Roman du Rou: ulated on the dearth of his Christian Taillefer ki moult bien cantout allies, and would only open the town

Sur un roussin qui tot alout

Devant li dus alout cantant to them under condition of the ir keep

De Kalermaine e de Rolant, ing it for himself; methodical and E d'Oliver et des vassals persevering conquerors, expert in ad- Ki moururent à Roncevals. ministration, and fond of scribbling on

Quant ils orent chevalchié tant

K'as Engleis vindrent aprismant paper, like tnis very William, who

Sires! dist Taillefer, merci was able to organize such ar expedi- Je vos a: la: quement servi.

were

English, he cast his lance vuree times | cessantly repeated, moulds its plan in the air, then his sword, and caught and gives it its dire tion; in town oi them again by the handle; and Har country, cultivated or not, in its infancy old's clumsy foot-soldiers, who only and its age, it spends its existence and knew how to cleave coats of mail by employs its energy in conceiving an blows from their battle-axes,

event or an object. This is its originas astonished, saying to one another that and perpetual process; and whether it it was magic.” As for William, change its region, return, advance, amongst a score of prudent and cun prolong, or alter its course, its wiol; ning actions, he performed two well- motion is but a series of consecutive calculated ones, which, in this sore steps ; so that the least alteration in embarrassmens, brought him safe out the size, quickness, or precision of its of his difficulties. He ordered his primitive stride transforms and reguarchers tu shoot into the air ; the ar. lates the whole course, as in a tree the rows wounded many of the Saxons in structure of the first shoot determines the face, and one of them pierced Har- the whole foliage, and governs the old in the eye. After this he simulated whole growth.*?/When the French flight; the Saxons, intoxicated with joy man conceives an event or an object, and wrath, quitted their entrenchments, he conceives quickly and distinctly ; and exposed themselves to the lances there is no internal disturbance, no of his horsemen. During the remain- previous fermentation of confused and der of the contest they only make a violent ideas, which, becoming con stand by small companies, fight with cen ed and elaborated, end in a fury, and end by being slaughtered. noisy outbreak. The movement of his The strong, mettlesome, brutal race intelligence is nimble and prompt like threw themselves on the enemy like a that of his limbs ; at once and without savage bull; the dexterous Norman effort he seizes upon his idea. But he hunters wounded them adroitly, knock seizes that alone ; he leaves on one ed them down, and placed them under side all the long entangling offshoots the yoke.

whereby is entwined and twisted III.

amongst its neightoring ideas; he

does not embarrass himself with nor What then is this French race, which think of them; he detaches, plucks, by arms and letters make such a splen- touches but slightly, and that is all. did entrance upon the world, and is so He is deprived, or if you prefer it, he manifestly destined to rule, that in the is exempt from those sudden half-visEast, for example, their name of | ions which disturb a man, and open up Franks will be given to all the nations to him instantaneously vast deeps and of the West ? Wherein consists this far perspectives. Images are excited new spirit, this precocious pioneer, by internal commotion; he, not being this key of all middle-age civilization so moved, imagines not.

He is only There is in every mind of the kind moved superficially; he is without a fundamental activity which, when in large sympathy; he does not perceive Tut mon servise me debvez,

an object as it is, complex and combined, Hui, si vos plaist, me le rendez

but in parts, with a discursive and Por tout guerredun vos requier, superficial knowledge, / That is why Et si vos voil forment preier,

no race in Europe is less poetical. Otreiez-mei, ke jo n'i faille, Li primier colp de la bataille.”

Let us look at their epics; none are Et li dus répont : “ Je l'otrei."

more prosaic. They are not wanting Et Taillefer point à desrei ;

in number : The Song of Roland, Garin Devant toz li altres se mist,

le Loherain, Ogier le Danois, i Berthe 'a Englez féri, si l'ocist. De sos le pis, parmie la pance,

aux grands Pieds. There is a library Li fist passer ultre la lance,

of them. Though their manners are A terre estendu l'abati.

heroic and their spirit fresh, though Poiz trait l'espée altre féri. Poiz a crié: “ Venez, venez!

* The idea of types app licable throughou Ke fetes-vos ? Férez, férez!”

all physical and moral nature. Donc l'unt Englez avironé,

f Danois is a contraction of le d' Ardennois Al secund colp k' 1 ou doné.

from the Ardennes.--TR.

they have originality, and deal with | men regard the circuir stance or the grand events, yet, spite of this, the action by itself, and adhere to this narrative is as dull as that of the bab- view. Their idea remains exact, clear, bling Norman chroniclers. Doubtless and simple, and does not raise up a when Homer relates he is as clear as similar image to be confused with the they are, and he develops as they do: first, to color or transform itself. I: but his magnificent titles of rosy-fin- remains dry; they conceive the divis gered Morn, the wide-bosomed Air, the ions of the object one by one, withoui divine and nourishing Earth, the earth ever collecting them, as the Saxcns shaking Ocean, come in every instant would, in an abrupt impassioned, glow and expand their purple bloom over ing semi-vision. Nothing is more on the speeches and battles, and the grand posed to their genius than the genuinc abounding similes which interrupt the songs and profound hymns, such as narrative tell of a people more inclined the English monks were singing be to enjoy beauty, than to proceed neath the low vaults of their churches straight to fact.//But here we have They would be disconcerted by the un facts, always facts, nothing but facts ; evenness and obscurity of such lan the Frenchman wants to know if the guage. They are not capable of such hero will kill the traitor, the lover an access of enthusiasm and such exwed the maiden; he must not be de- cess of emotion. They never cry out, layed by poetry or painting. He ad. they speak, or rather they converse, vances nimbly to the end of the story, and that at moments when the soul, not lingering for dreams of the heart overwhelmed by its trouble might be or wealth of landscape. There is no expected to cease thinking and feeling. splendor, no color, in his narrative; Thus Amis, in a mystery-play, being his style in quite bare, and without leprous, calmly requires his friend figures; you may read ten thousand Amille to slay his two sons, in order verses in these old poems without that their blood may heal him of his meeting one/ Shall we open the most leprosy; and Amille replies still more ancient, the most original, the most calmly,* If ever they try to sing, even eloquent, at the most moving point, in heaven, "a roundelay high and the Song of Roland, when Roland is clear,” they will produce little rhymed dying? The narrator is moved, and arguments, as dull as the dullest talk yet his language remains the same,

Seint Lazaron de mort resurrexis, smooth, accentless, so penetrated by

Et Daniel des lions guaresis, the prosaic spirit, and so void of the

Guaris de mei l'arome de tuz perilz, poetic! He gives an abstract of mo- Pur les pecchez que en ma vie fis. tives, a summary of events, a series of Sun destre guant à Deu en puroffrit. causes for grief, a series of causes for

Seint Gabriel de sa main l'ad pris.

Desur sun bras teneit le chef enclin, consolation.* Nothing more. These

Juntes ses mains est alet à sa fin.

Deus i tramist sun angle cherubin, * Genin, Chanson de Roland: Co sent Rollans que la mort le trespent,

Et seint Michel qu'on cleimet del péri

Ensemble ad els seint Gabriel i vint.
Devers la teste sur le quer li descent;
Nesuz un pin i est alet curant,

L'anme del cunte portent en pareis.
Sur l'herbe verte si est culchet adenz ;

* Mon très-chier ami débonnaire, Desuz lui met l'espée et l'olifan;

Vous m'avez une chose ditte Turnat sa teste vers la paiene gent,

Qui n'est pas à faire petite Pour ço l'at fait que il voelt veirement

Mais l'on doit moult resonguer Que Carles diet e trestute sa gent,

Et nonpourquant, sanz esiongnier Li gentilz quens, qu'il fut mort cunquérant. Puisque garison autrement Cleimet sa culpe, e menut e suvent,

Ne povez avoir vraiement, Pur ses pecchez en puroffrid lo guant.

Pour vostre amour les occiray, Li quens B.ollans se jut desuz un pin,

Et le sang vous ypporteray:. Envers Espagne en ad turnet sun vis,

Vraiz Diex, mou't est excellente, De plusurs choses a remembrer le prist.

Et de grant charité plaine, De tantes terres cume li bers cunquist,

Vostre bonté souveraine. De dulce France, des humes de sun lign,

Car vostre grâce présente, De Carlemagne sun seignor ki l’nurrit.

A toute personne humaine, Ne poet muer n'en plurt et ne susprit.

Vraix Diex, moult est excellente, Mais lui meisme ne volt mettre en ubli.

Puisqu'elle a cuer et entente, Cleimet sa culpe, si priet Dieu mercit:

Et que à ce desir l'amaine “ Veire paterne, ki unques de mentis,

Que de vous servir de paine.

que

are.

Pursue this literature to its conclu- | intelligence is a reasoning faculty, sion : regard it, like that of the Skalds, which spreads, though urwittingly, at the time of its decadence, when its Nothing is more clear than the style of vices, being exaggerated, display, like the old French narratives and of the those of the Skalds, only still more earliest poems: we do not perceive strongly the kind of mind which pro- that we are following a narrator, so duced it. The Skalds fall off into non- easy is the gait, so even the road he bese ; it loses itself into babble and opens to us, so smoothly and gradually p'atitude. The Saxon could not mas- every idea glides into the next; and ter his craving for exaltation ; the this is why he narrates so well. The Frenchman could not restrain the volu- chroniclers Villehardouin, Joinville, blity of his tongue. He is too diffuse Froissart, the fathers of prose, have an ud too clear; the Saxon is too obscure ease and clearness approached by ind brief. The one was excessively none, and beyond all, a charm, a grace, ag‘tatea and carried away; the other which they had not to go out of their explains and develops without meas- way to find. Grace is a national pos.

From the twelfth century the session in France, and springs from the Gestes spun out degenerate into 'rhap native delicacy which has a horror of sodies and psalmodies of thirty or forty incongruities; the instinct oi French: thousand verses. Theology enters into men avoids violent shocks in works of them; poetry becomes an intermin- taste as well as in works of argument; able, intolerable litany, where the they desire that their sentiments and ideas, expounded, developed, and re- ideas shall harmonize, and not clash. peated ad infinitum, without one out. Throughout they have this measured burst of emotion or one touch of origin. spirit, exquisitely refined.* They take ality, flow like a clear and insipid care, on a sad subject, not to push stream, and send off their reader, by emotion to its limits ; they avoid big dint of their monotonous, rhymes, into words. Think how Joinville relates in a comfortable slumber. What a de- six lines the death of the poor sick plorable abundance of/ distinct and priest who wished to finish celebrating facile ideas! We meet with it again the mass, and “never more did sing, in the seventeenth century, in the liter- and died.” Open a mystery-play, ary gossip which took place at the Théophilus, or that of the Queen of Hun. feet of men of distinction; it is the gary, for instance : when they are go fault and the talent of the race. With ing to burn her and her child, she says this involuntary art of perceiving, and two short lines about “this gentle dew isolating instantaneously and clearly which is so pure an innocent,” nothing each part of every object, people can Take a fabliau, even a dramaspeak, even for speaking's sake, and tic one : when the penitent knight, forever.

who has undertaken to fill a barrel Such is the primitive process; how with his tears, dies in the hermit's will it be continued ? Here appears a company, he asks from him only one new trait in the French genius, the last gift: “Do but embrace me, and most valuable of all. It is necessary then I'll die in the arms of my friend.” to comprehension that the second idea Could a more touching sentiment be shall be contiguous to the first; other expressed in more sober language? wise that genius is thrown out of its We must say of their poetry what is course and arrested; it cannot pro- said of certain pictures : This is made ceed b;; irregular bounds ; it must walk out of nothing. Is there in the world step by step, on a straight road ; order any thing more delicately graceful than is innate in it: without study, and in thé verses of Guillaume de Lorris ? th: first place, it disjoints and decom. Allegory clothes his ideas so as to dim poses the object or event, however their too great brightness; ideal fig complicated and entangled it may be, ures, half transparent, float about the and sets the parts one by one in suc lover, luminous, yet in a cloud, and cession to each other, according to iead him amidst all the gentle and deli their natural connection. True, it is

more.

* See H Taine, La Fontaine and his Fables still in a state of barbarism ; yet its

IP 75.

;

cate-hued ideas to the rose, whose the brightness of the morning: then,

sweet odor embalms all the plain.” humming a burden of a song, he reThis refinement goes so far, that in turns to his narrative. He seeks Thibaut of Champagne and in Charles amusement, and herein lies his power. of Orléans it turns to affectation and In life, as in literature, it is pleasure insipidity. In them all impressions he aims at, nist sensual pleasure or grow more slender; the perfume is so emotion. He is lively, not voluptu. weak, that one often fails to catch it; ous; dainty, not a glutton. He taker on their knees befcre their lady they love for a pastime, not for an intoxica whisper their waggeries and conceits; tion. It is

pretty fruit which be they love politely and wittily; they plucks, tastes, and leaves.

And we arrange ingeniously in a bouquet their must remark yet further, that the best · painted words," all the flowers of of the fruit in his eyes is the fact of its “ fresh and beautiful language;" they beirg forbidden. He says to hin self know how to mark fleeting ideas in that he is duping a husband, that "he their flight, soft melancholy, vague deceives a cruel woman, and thinks reverie ; they are as elegant as talka- he ought to obtain a pope's indulgence tive, and as charming as the most for the deed.”* He wishes to be amiable abbés of the eighteenth cen- merry—it is the state he prefers, the tury. This lightness of touch is prop- end and aim of his life ; and especially er to the race, and appears as plainly to laugh at other people. The short under the armor and amid the massa. verse of his fabliaux gambols and leaps cres of the middle ages as amid the like a schoolboy released from school. courtesies and the musk-scented, wad over all things respected or respectaded coats of the last court. You will ble : criticizing the church, women, the find it in their coloring as in their sen- great, the monks. Scoffers, banterers, timents. They are not struck by the our fathers have abundance both of ex magnificence of nature, they see only pression and matter; and the matter her pretty side ; they paint the beauty comes to them so naturally, that with. of a woman by a single feature, which out culture, and surrounded by coarse is only polite, saying, “She is more ness, they are as delicate in their railgracious than the rose in May.” They lery as the most refined. They touch do not experience the terrible emotion, upon ridicule lightly, they mock with ecstasy, sudden oppression of heart out emphasis, as it were innocently; which is displayed in the poetry of their style is so harmonious, that at neighboring nations. they say discreet- first sight we make a mistake, and do ly, “ She began to smile, which vastly not see any harm in it. They seem art. became her.” They add, when they less ; they look so very demure ; only are ir a descriptive humor, " that she a word shows the imperceptible smile : had a sweet and perfumed breath,” it is the ass, for example, which they and a body " white as new-fallen snow call the high priest, by reason of his on a branch.” They do not aspire padded cassock and his serious air, nigher; lieauty pleases, but does not and who gravely begins “to play the transport them. They enjoy agreeable organ.” At the close of the history. -notions, but are not fitted for deep the delicate sense of comicality has sensations. The full rejuvenescence of touched you, though you cannot say being, the warm air of spring, which how. They do not call things by their renews and penetrates all existence, names, especially in love matters ; suggests but a pleasing couplet; they they let you guess it; they assume remark in passing, Now is winter that you

as sharp and know zone, the hawthorn blossoms, the rose ing as themselves.t A man might expands" and so pass on about their discriminate, embellish at times, per. business | It is a light gladsomeness

, haps refine upon them, but their first zoon ghe, like that which an April traits are incomparable. When the landscape affords:// For an instant the author glances at the mist of the

* La Fontaine, Contas, Richard Minutolo.

Parler lui veut d'une besogne streams rising about the willow trees,

Då crois que peu conquerrerois she pleasant vapor which imprisons Si la besogne vous nommois.

66

are

[ocr errors]
« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »