Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

fox approaches the raven to steal the tion of p.ose, the excellence of all the cheese, he begins as a hypocrite, moods of conversation and eloquence, piously and cautiously, and as one of the reign and tyranny of taste and the family. He calls the raven his method, the art and theory of develop "good father Don Rohart, who sings ment and arrangement, the gift of being so well;" he praises his voice, “so measured, clear, amusing, and piquant : sweet and fine.” You would be the We have taught Europe how ideas best singer in the world if you kept fall into order, and wnich ideas are clear of nuts.” Reynard is a rogue, ar. agreeable; and this is what our Frenchartist in the way of invention, not a men of the eleventh century are about mere glutton ; he loves roguery for its to teach their Saxons ring five or six own sake ; he rejoires in his superior-centuries, first with the lance, next ity, and draws out his mockery. When with the stick, next with the birch. Tibert, the cat, by his counsel hung

IV. hinself at the bel' rope, wishing to ring 't, he uses irony, enjoys and relishes it, Consider, then, this Frenchman or pretends to wax impatient with the Norman, this man from Anjou or poor fool whom he has caught, calls Maine, who in his well-knit coat of him proud, complains because the mail, with sword and lance, came to other does not answer, and because he seek his fortune in England. He took wishes to rise to the clouds and visit the manor of some slain Saxon, and the saints. And from beginning to settled himself in it with his soldiers end this long epic of Reynard the Fox and comrades, gave them land, houses, is the same; the raillery never ceases, the right of levying taxes, on condition and never fails to be agreeable. Rey of their fighting under him and for nard has de much wit, that he is par. him, as men-at-arms, marshals, stand doned for every thing.[/The necessity ard-bearers; it was a league in case of for laughter is national-so indigenous danger. In fact, they were in a hostile to the French, that a stranger cannot and conquered country, and they have understand, and is shocked by it. This to maintain themselves. Each one pleasure does not resemble physical hastened to build for himself a place joy in any respect, which is to be de- of refuge, castle or fortress, * well for: spised for its grossness ; on the con- tified, of solid stone, with narrow win. trary, it sharpens the intelligence, and dows, strengthened with battlements, brings to light many a delicate or tick- garrisoned by soldiers, pierced with, lish idea. The fabliaux are full of loopholes. Then these men went to truths about men, and still more about Salisbury, to the number of sixty thouwomen, about people of low rank, and sand, all holders of iand, having a? still more about those of high rank; least enough to maintain a man with it is a method of philosophizing by horse or arms. There, placing their stealth and bo.fly. in spite of conven- hands in William's, they promised him tionalism, and in opposition to the fealty and assistance; and the king's powers that be. This taste has noth- edict declared that they must be all ing in common either with open satire, united and bound together like browhich is offensive because it is cruel; thers in arms, to defend and succor in the contrary, it provokes good hu- each other. They are an armed colony.

We soon see that the jester is stationary, like the Spartans amongs. 1ot ill-disposed, that he does not wish the Helots; and they make laws ac lo wound; if he stings, it is as a bee, cordingly. When a Frenchman is without venom; an instant later he is found dead in any district, the inhabi not thinking of it; if need be, he will tants are to give up the murderer, oi take himself as an object of his pleas. failing to do so, they must pay forty: antry; all he wishes is to keep up in seven marks as a fine ; if the dead man himself and in us sparkling and pleas is English, it rests with the people of ing ideas. Do we not see here in ad the place to prove it by the oath of vance an abstract of the whole French four near relatives of the deceased literature, the incapacity for great

* At King Stephen's death there were 11t poetry, the sudden and durable perfec- castles.

nor

ass.

It was

*

They are to beware of killing a stag, them as coarse ard stupid. They boar, or fawn; for an offence against stood amongst them, as the Spaniards the forestlaws they wiii lose their eyes. amongst the Americans in the sixteenth They have nothing of all their prop- century, superior in force and culture, erty assured to them except as alms, more versed in letters, more expert in or on condition of paying tribute, or by the arts of luxury. They preserved taking the oath of allegiance. Here their manners and their speech. Eng. a free Saxon proprietor is made a land, to all outward appearance--the body-slave on his own estate.* Here court of the king, the castles of the a noble and rich Saxon lady feels on nobles, the palaces of he bishops, the her shoulder the weight of the hand of houses of the wealthy -was French ; a Norman valet, who is become by force and the Scandinavian people, of whom her husband or her lover. There were sixty years ago the Saxon kings used Saxms of one sol, or of two sols, ac- to have poems sung to them, though corưing to the sum which they gained that the nation had forgotten its lan. for their masters; they sold them, guage, and trcated it in their laws as hired them, worked them on joint ac- though it were no longer their sister. count, like an ox or an One

a French literature, then, Norman abbot has his Saxon prede- which was at this time domiciled across cessors c'ug up, and their bones thrown the channel,* and the conquerors tried without the gates. Another keeps to make it purely French, purged from men-at-arms, who bring his recalcitrant | all Saxon alloy. They made such a monks to reason by blows of their point of this, that the nobles in the swords. Imagine, if you can, the pride reign of Henry II. sent their sons to of these new lords, conquerors, stran- France, to preserve them from bargers, masters, nourished by habits of barisms. “For two hundred years,” violent activity, and by the savagery, says Higden, “ children in scole, ignorance, and passions of feudal life. agenst the usage and manir of all other "They thought they might do whatso- nations beeth compelled for to leve ever they pleased,” say the old chron- hire own langage, and for to construe hir iclers. “ They shed blood indiscrimi- lessons and hire thynges in Frensche.” nately, snatched the morsel of bread The statutes of the universities obliged from the mouth of the wretched, and the students to converse either in seized upon all the money, the goods, French or Latin. “Gentilmen chilthe land.”+ Thus“ all the folk in the dren beeth taught to speke Frensche low country were at great pains to seem from the tyme that they bith rokked in numble before Ivo Taille-bois, and only hire cradell; and uplondissche men will to address him with one knee on the likne himself to gentylmen, and fondeth ground; but although they made a with greet besynesse for to speke point of paying him every honor, and Frensche.” Of course the poetry, is giving him all and more than all which French. The Norman brought his they owed him in the way of rent and minstrel with him ; there was Taillefer, service, he harassed, tormented tor- the jongleur, who sang the Song of tured, imprisoned them, set his dogs Roland at the battle of Hastings ; there upon their cattle, broke the legs was Adeline, the jongleuse, who receivec and backbones of their beasts of bur- an estate in the partition which fol den, . . . and sent men to attack their lowed the Conquest. The Norman se vants on the road with sticks and who ridiculed the Saxon kings, who swords.” | The Normans would not dug up the Saxon saints, and cast them and could not borrow any idea or cus- without the walls of the church, loved tom from such boors ; § they despised none but French ideas and verses. It

was into French verse that Robert * 1. Thierry, Histoire de la Conquête de i'Angleterre, i.

Wace rendered the legendary history William of Malmesbury. A. Thierry, ii. ", 122-203

for education; and not only the language but A. Thierry.

the manners of the French were esteemed the 1* In the year 652," says Warton, i. 3, “it most polite accomplishments." was the common practice of the Anglo-Saxons

wow their youth to the monasteries of France + Trevisa's translation of the Polycronycom

* Warton,

i.

5.

or

of the England which was conquered, ) excuses himself humb.y for aot having and the actual history of the Nor- “ de Français la faconde. Pardommer mandy in which he continued to live. moi,” he says, “que de ce je forsvoie Enter one of the abbeys where the je suis Anglais.” minstrels come to sing, “where the And yet, after all, neither the race clerks after dinner and supper read nor the tongue has perished. It is poems, the chronicles of kingdoms, the necessary that the Norman should learn wonders of the world,” * you will only English, in order to command his find Latin or French verses, Latin tenants ; his Saxon wife speaks it to French prose.

What becomes him, and his sons receive it from the of English? Obscure, despised, we lips of their nurse; the contagion is hear it no more, except in the mouths strong, for he is obliged to send them of degraded franklins, outlaws of the to France, to preserve them froin ine forest, swineherds, peasants, the low- jargon which on his domain threatens est orders. It is no longer, or scarcely to overwhelm and spoil them. From written; gradually we find in the Saxon generation to generation the contagion chronicle that the idiom alters, is ex- spreads; they breathe it in the air, tinguished; the chronicle itself ceases with the foresters in the chase, the within a century after the Conquest.t farmers in the field, the sailors on the The people who have leisure or secur- ships : for these coarse people, shut in ity enough to read or write are French; by their animal existence, are not the for them authors devise and compose; kind to learn a foreign language i by literature always adapts itself to the the simple weight of their dulness they taste of those who can appreciate and impose their idiom on their conquerors, pay for it. Even the English | en- at all events such words as pertain to deavor to write in French : thus Robert living things./ Scholarly speech, the Grostête, in his allegorical poem on language of law, abstract and philoChrist; Peter Langtoft, in his Chronicle sophical expressions, — in short, all of England, and in his Life of Thomas words depending on reflection and cul.

Becket; Hugh de Rotheland, in his ture may be French/ since there is poem of Hippomedon ; John Hoveden, nothing to prevent it. This is just and many others. Several write the what happens; these kind of ideas and first half of the verse in English, and this kind of speech are not understood the second in French; a strange sign by the commonalty, who, not being of the ascendency which is moulding able to touch them, cannot change and oppressing them. Even in the fif- them. This produces a French, a teenth century,many of these poor colonial French, doubtless perverted, folk are employed in this task ; French pronounced with closed mouth, with a is the language of the court, from it contortion of the organs of speech, arose all poetry and elegance; he is but “ after the school of Stratford-atte. a clodhopper who is inapt at that style. Bow;" yet it is still French. On the They apply themselves to it as our old other hand, as regards the speech emscholars did to Latin verses; they are ployed about common actions and gallicized as those were latinized, by visible objects, it is the people, the constraint, with a sort of fear, knowing Saxons, who fix it ; these living words well that they are but schoolboys and are too firmly rooted in his experience provincials. Gower, one of their best to allow of being parted with, and thus poets, at the end of his French works, the whole substance of the language Statutes of foundation of New College; the Norman who, slowly and constrain

comes from him. Here, then, we have Oxford. In the abbey of Glastonbury, in 1247: Liber de excidio Trojæ, gesta Ricardi regis, edly, speaks and understands English, gesta Alexandri Magni, etc. In the abbey of a deformed, gallicized English, yet Peterborough: Amys et A melion, Sir Triszam, Guy de Bourgogne, gesta Otuclis, les English, in sap and root; but he has prophéties de Merlin, le Charlemagne de Tur taken his time about it, for it has repin, la destruction de Troie, etc. Warton, quired two centuries. It was only ibidem.

Warton, i. 72-78. under Henry III. that the new tongue $ In 1400. Warton, ii. 248. Gower died'in 1408; his French ballads belong to the end of is complete, with the new constitution the fourteen:h century.

and that, after the like fashion, by al.

In 1154

[ocr errors]

liance and intermixture ; the burgesses | il y avait une petite huisserie et basse, come to take their seats in Parliament et était bien petite la chapelle; et alorg with the nobles, at the same time that devint la porte si grande qu'il semblait Saxon words settle down in the lan- que ce fut la porte d'un palais.” guage side by side with French words. He stops, corrects himself, wishes to

explain himself better for his readers V.

across the Channel, and says in Eng

lish:-"And at the Desertes of Arabye, So was modern English formed, by he wente into a Chapelle where a compromise, and the necessity of being Eremyte duelte. And whan he entred understood. But we can well imagine in to the Chapelle that was but a lytille that these nobles, even while speaking and a low thing, and had but a lytill the : ising dialect, have their hearts full Dore and a low, "han the Entree began of French tastes and ideas; France re

to wexe so gret and so large, and s) mains the home of their mind, and the highe, as though it had ben of a gret literature which now begins, is but Mynstre, or the Zate of a Paleys.” * translation. Translators, copyists, im- You perceive that he amplifies, and itators—there is nothing else. Eng- thinks himself bound to clinch and land is a distant province, which is to drive in three or four times in succesFrance what the United States were, sion the same idea, in order to get it thirty years ago, to Europe: she ex-into an English brain; his thought is ports her wool, and imports her ideas. drawn out, dulled, spoiled in the proOpen the Voyage and Travaile of Sir cess. Like every copy, the new literaJohn Maundeville,* the oldest prose- ture is mediocre, and repeats what it writer, the Villehardouin of the coun. imitates, with fewer merits and greater try : his book is but the translation of faults. a translation. He writes first in Latin,

Let us see, then, what our Norman the language of scholars; then in baron gets translated for him ; first, French, the language of society; finally, the chronicles of Geoffroy Gaimar and he reflects, and discovers that the Robert Wace, which consist of the barons, his compatriots, by governing fabulous history of England continued the Saxon churls, have ceased to speak up to their day, a dull-rhymed rhaptheir own Norman, and that the rest of sody, turned into English in a rhapsody the nation never knew it ; he translates no less dull/The first Englishman his manuscript into English, and, in who attempts it is Layamon,t a monk addition, takes care to make it plain, of Ernely, still fettered in the old idiom, feeling that he speaks to less expanded understandings. He says in French :- * Sir John Maundeville's Voyage and “Il advint une fois que Mahomet allait Travaile, ed. Halliwell, 1866, xii. p. 139.

is confessed that the original on which Wace dans une chapelle où il y avait un depended for his ancient History of Englana saint ermite. Il entra en la chapelle où is the Latin compilation of Geoffrey of Mon.

mouth. . He wrote in 1356, and died in 1372.

† Extract from the account of the proceed "'And for als moche as it is longe time ings at Arthur's coronation given by Layamon, passcu that ther was no generalle Passage ne in his translation of Wace, executed about 1180 yage over the See, and many Men desiren for Madden's Layamon, 1847, ii. 5. 625, et pas to here speke of the holy Lond, and han there- sim: of gret Solace and Comfort, I, John Maunde

Tha the king igeten hafde vylle, Knyght, alle be it I be not worthi, that

And al his mon-weorede, 23 born in Englond, in the town of Seynt-Al

Tha bugen ut of burhge bones, passed the See in the Zeer of our Lord Jesu-Crist 1322, in the Day of Seynt Michelle,

Alle tha kinges, ini hidreto have been longe tyme over the See,

And heoe here-thringes. a id have seyn and gon thorghe manye dyverse

Alle the biscopes, ondes, and many Provynces, and Kingdomes, And alle tha clærckes,

All tha eorles, “ And zee shulle undirstonde that I have put

And alle tha beornes. this Boke out of Latyn into Frensche, and

Alle the theines, translated it azen out of Frensche, into Eng

Alle the sweines, lyssche, that every Man of my Nacioun may

Feire iscrudde, undirstonde it."--Sir John Maundeville's

Helde geond fel-le. Voyage and Travaile, ed. Halliwell, 1866,

Summe heo gungen æruck, prologue, p. 4.

Summe heo guanen urnen,

It

Theines swithe balde.

and Iles.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

who sometimes happens to rhyme, 1 of Conscience. The titles alone mako sometimes fails, altogether barbarous one yawn : what of the text ? and childish, unable to develop a con

“ Mankynde mad ys to do Goddus wylle, tinuous idea, babbling in little confused

And alle Hys byddyngus to fulfille; and incomplete phrases, after the fash- For of al Hys makyng more and les ion of the ancient Saxons after him a Man most principal creature es.

Al that He made for man hit was done monk, Robert of Gloucester,* and a

As ye schal here after sone." * canon, Robert of Brunne, both as insipid and clear as their French models, There is a poem! You did not think naving become gallicized, and adopted so; call it a sermon, if you will give the significant characteristic of the its proper name. It goes on, well di race, namely, the faculty and habit of vided, well prolonged, flowing, but void easy narration, of seeing moving spec. of meaning; the literature which sur. tacles without deep emotion, of writing rounds and resembles it bears witness prosaic poetry, of discoursing and de- of its origin by its loquacity and its veloping, of believing that phrases end-clearness. ing in the same sounds form real It bears witness to it by other and poetry. Our honest English versifiers, more agreeable features. Here and like their preceptors in Normandy and there we find divergences more or less Ile-de-France, garnished with rhymes awkward into the domain of genius ; their dissertations and histories, and for instance, a ballad full of quips called them poems. At this epoch, in against Richard, King of the Romans, fact, on the Continent, the whole learn- who was taken at the battle of Lewes: ing of the schools descends into the Sometimes, charm is not lacking, nor street; and Jean de Meung, in his sweetness either. No one has ever poem of la Rose, is the most tedious of spoken so bright and so well to the doctors. So in England, Robert of ladies as the French of the Continent, Brunne transposes into verse the and they have not quite forgotten this Manuel des Péchés of Bishop Grostête ; talent while settling in England. You Adam Davie, certain Scripture his- perceive it readily in the manner in tories; Hampole † composes the Pricke which they celebrate the Virgin. No Summe heo gunnen lepen,

thing could be more different from the Summe heo gunnen sceoten,

Saxon sentiment, which is altogether Summe heo wrestleden

biblical, than the chivalric adoration of And wither-gome makeden,

the sovereign Lady, the fascinating VirSumme heo on uelde Pleouweden under scelde,

gin and Saint, who was the real deity Summe heo driven balles

of the middle ages. It breathes in this Wide geond tha feldes.

pleasing hymn:
Monianes kunnes gomen
Ther heo gunnen driuen.

“ Blessed beo thu, avedi,
And wha swa mihte iwinne

Ful of hovene blisse;
Wurthscipe of his
gomene,

Swete flur of parais,
Hine me ladde mid songe

Moder of milternisse.
At foren than leod kinge ;

I-blessed beo thu, Lavedi,
And the king, for his gomene,

So fair and so briht;
Gaf him geven gode.

Al min hope is uppon the,
Alle tha quene

Bi day and bi nicht.
The icumen weoren there,

Bricht and scene quep of storre,
And alle tha lafdies,

So me liht and lere.
Leoneden geond walles,

In this false fikele world,
To bihalden the dugethen,

So me led and steore.” 1
And that folc plæie.
This ilæste threo dæges,

There is but a short and easy stęp be
Swulc gomes and swulc plæges, tween this tender worship of the Virgin
Tha, at than veorthe dæie

and the sentiments of the court of love The king gon to spekene And agæf his goden cnihten

The English rhymesters take it; and All heore rihten;

when they wish to praise their earthly Ho gef seolver, he gæf gold,

mistresses, they borrow, here as elseHe gef hors, he gef lond,

where, the ideas and the very form ol Castles, and clothes eke; His monnen he iquende.

* Warton, ii. 36.

Time of Henry III., Reliquiæ Antiquia | About 1312 | About 1349.

edited by Messrs. Wright and Halliwell, i. non

• After 1299.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »