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fox approaches the raven to steal the |
cheese, he begins as a hypocrite,
piously and cautiously, and as one of
the family. He calls the raven his
"good father Don Rohart, who sings
so well;" he praises his voice, "so
sweet and fine." You would be the
best singer in the world if you kept
clear of nuts." Reynard is a rogue, ar.
artist in the way of invention, not a
mere glutton; he loves roguery for its
own sake; he rejoices in his superior-
ity, and draws out his mockery. When
Tibert, the cat, by his counsel hung
himself at the bel' rope, wishing to ring
't, he uses irony, enjoys and relishes it,
pretends to wax impatient with the
poor fool whom he has caught, calls
him proud, complains because the
other does not answer, and because he
wishes to rise to the clouds and visit
the saints. And from beginning to
end this long epic of Reynard the Fox
is the same; the raillery never ceases,
and never fails to be agreeable. Rey-
nard has sc much wit, that he is par-
doned for every thing.The necessity
for laughter is national-so indigenous
to the French, that a stranger cannot
understand, and is shocked by it. This
pleasure does not resemble physical
joy in any respect, which is to be de-
spised for its grossness; on the con-
trary, it sharpens the intelligence, and
brings to light many a delicate or tick-
lish idea. The fabliaux are full of
truths about men, and still more about
women, about people of low rank, and
still more about those of high rank;
it is a method of philosophizing by
stealth and boldly. in spite of conven-
tionalism, and in opposition to the
powers that be. This taste has noth-
ing in common either with open satire,
which is offensive because it is cruel;
In the contrary, it provokes good hu-
We soon see that the jester is
hot ill-disposed, that he does not wish
to wound; if he stings, it is as a bee,
without venom; an instant later he is
not thinking of it; if need be, he will
take himself as an object of his pleas
antry; all he wishes is to keep up in
himself and in us sparkling and pleas
ing ideas. Do we not see here in ad
vance an abstract of the whole French
literature, the incapacity for great
poetry, the sudden and durable perfec-

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tion of pose, the excellence of all the moods of conversation and eloquence, the reign and tyranny of taste and method, the art and theory of develop ment and arrangement, the gift of being measured, clear, amusing, and piquant We have taught Europe how ideas fall into order, and which ideas are agreeable; and this is what our Frenchmen of the eleventh century are about to teach their Saxons during five or six centuries, first with the lance, next with the stick, next with the birch.



Consider, then, this Frenchman or Norman, this man from Anjou or Maine, who in his well-knit coat of mail, with sword and lance, came to seek his fortune in England. He took the manor of some slain Saxon, and settled himself in it with his soldiers and comrades, gave them land, houses, the right of levying taxes, on condition of their fighting under him and for him, as men-at-arms, marshals, stand ard-bearers; it was a league in case of danger. In fact, they were in a hostile and conquered country, and they have to maintain themselves. Each hastened to build for himself a place of refuge, castle or fortress, well fortified, of solid stone, with narrow windows, strengthened with battlements, garrisoned by soldiers, pierced with loopholes. Then these men went to Salisbury, to the number of sixty thou sand, all holders of iand, having at least enough to maintain a man with horse or arms. There, placing their hands in William's, they promised him fealty and assistance; and the king's edict declared that they must be all united and bound together like brothers in arms, to defend and succor each other. They are an armed colony. stationary, like the Spartans amongs. the Helots; and they make laws ac cordingly. When a Frenchman is found dead in any district, the inhabi tants are to give up the murderer, o failing to do so, they must pay forty seven marks as a fine; if the dead man is English, it rests with the people of the place to prove it by the oath of four near relatives of the deceased

At King Stephen's death there were 111



coarse ard stupid. stood amongst them, as the Spaniards amongst the Americans in the sixteenth century, superior in force and culture, more versed in letters, more expert in the arts of luxury. They preserved their manners and their speech. Eng. land, to all outward appearance-the court of the king, the castles of the nobles, the palaces of he bishops, the houses of the wealthy -was French; and the Scandinavian people, of whom sixty years ago the Saxon kings used to bave poems sung to them, though that the nation had forgotten its lan guage, and treated it in their laws as though it were no longer their sister.

They are to beware of killing a stag, | them as boar, or fawn; for an offence against the forest-laws they will lose their eyes. They have nothing of all their property assured to them except as alms, or on condition of paying tribute, or by taking the oath of allegiance. Here a free Saxon proprietor is made a body-slave on his own estate.* Here a noble and rich Saxon lady feels on her shoulder the weight of the hand of a Norman valet, who is become by force her husband or her lover. There were Saxons of one sol, or of two sols, according to the sum which they gained for their masters; they sold them, hired them, worked them on joint account, like an ox or an ass. One Norman abbot has his Saxon predecessors dug up, and their bones thrown without the gates. Another keeps men-at-arms, who bring his recalcitrant monks to reason by blows of their swords. Imagine, if you can, the pride of these new lords, conquerors, strangers, masters, nourished by habits of violent activity, and by the savagery, ignorance, and passions of feudal life. They thought they might do whatsoever they pleased," say the old chroniclers. 66 "They shed blood indiscriminately, snatched the morsel of bread from the mouth of the wretched, and seized upon all the money, the goods, the land." Thus "all the folk in the low country were at great pains to seem numble before Ivo Taille-bois, and only to address him with one knee on the ground; but although they made a point of paying him every honor, and giving him all and more than all which they owed him in the way of rent and service, he harassed, tormented tortured, imprisoned them, set his dogs upon their cattle, broke the legs and backbones of their beasts of burden, and sent men to attack their se vants on the road with sticks and swords." The Normans would not and could not borrow any idea or custon from such boors; § they despised

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It was a French literature, then, which was at this time domiciled across the channel,* and the conquerors tried to make it purely French, purged from all Saxon alloy. They made such a point of this, that the nobles in the reign of Henry II. sent their sons to France, to preserve them from barbarisms. "For two hundred years," says Higden,† "children in scole, agenst the usage and manir of all other nations beeth compelled for to leve hire own langage, and for to construe hir lessons and hire thynges in Frensche." The statutes of the universities obliged the students to converse either in French or Latin. "Gentilmen children beeth taught to speke Frensche from the tyme that they bith rokked in hire cradell; and uplondissche men will likne himself to gentylmen, and fondeth with greet besynesse for to speke Frensche." Of course the poetry is French. The Norman brought his minstrel with him; there was Taillefer, the jongleur, who sang the Song of Roland at the battle of Hastings; there was Adeline, the jongleuse, who receivec an estate in the partition which fol lowed the Conquest. The Norman who ridiculed the Saxon kings, who dug up the Saxon saints, and cast them without the walls of the church, loved none but French ideas and verses. Wace rendered the legendary history was into French verse that Robert


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of the England which was conquered, | and the actual history of the Normandy in which he continued to live. Enter one of the abbeys where the minstrels come to sing, "where the clerks after dinner and supper read poems, the chronicles of kingdoms, the wonders of the world," * you will only find Latin or French verses, Latin or French prose. What becomes of English? Obscure, despised, we hear it no more, except in the mouths of degraded franklins, outlaws of the forest, swineherds, peasants, the lowest orders. It is no longer, or scarcely written; gradually we find in the Saxon chronicle that the idiom alters, is extinguished; the chronicle itself ceases within a century after the Conquest.† The people who have leisure or security enough to read or write are French; for them authors devise and compose; literature always adapts itself to the taste of those who can appreciate and pay for it. Even the English endeavor to write in French: thus Robert Grostête, in his allegorical poem on Christ; Peter Langtoft, in his Chronicle of England, and in his Life of Thomas Becket; Hugh de Rotheland, in his poem of Hippomedon; John Hoveden, and many others. Several write the first half of the verse in English, and the second in French; a strange sign of the ascendency which is moulding and oppressing them. Even in the fifteenth century,§ many of these poor folk are employed in this task; French is the language of the court, from it arose all poetry and elegance; he is but a clodhopper who is inapt at that style. They apply themselves to it as our old scholars did to Latin verses; they are gallicized as those were latinized, by constraint, with a sort of fear, knowing well that they are but schoolboys and provincials. Gower, one of their best poets, at the end of his French works,

*Statutes of foundation of New College, Oxford. In the abbey of Glastonbur 7, in 1247: Liber de excidio Troja, gesta Ricardi regis, gesta Alexandri Magni, etc. In the abbey of Peterborough: Amys et Amelion, Sir Tristam, Guy de Bourgogne, gesta Otuclis, les prophéties de Merlin, le Charlemagne de Turpin, la destruction de Troie, etc. Warton, ibidem. † In 1154. Warton, i. 72-78. In 1400. Warton, ii. 248. Gower died in 1408; his French ballads belong to the end of the fourteenth century.

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And yet, after all, neither the race nor the tongue has perished. It is necessary that the Norman should learn English, in order to command his tenants; his Saxon wife speaks it to him, and his sons receive it from the lips of their nurse; the contagion is strong, for he is obliged to send them to France, to preserve them from the jargon which on his domain threatens to overwhelm and spoil them. From generation to generation the contagion spreads; they breathe it in the air, with the foresters in the chase, the farmers in the field, the sailors on the ships: for these coarse people, shut in by their animal existence, are not the kind to learn a foreign language by the simple weight of their dulness they impose their idiom on their conquerors, at all events such words as pertain to living things./Scholarly speech, the language of law, abstract and philo sophical expressions, in short, all words depending on reflection and culture may be French since there is nothing to prevent it. This is just what happens; these kind of ideas and this kind of speech are not understood by the commonalty, who, not being able to touch them, cannot change them. This produces a French, a colonial French, doubtless perverted, pronounced with closed mouth, with a contortion of the organs of speech, "after the school of Stratford-atteBow;" yet it is still French. On the other hand, as regards the speech employed about common actions and visible objects, it is the people, the Saxons, who fix it; these living words are too firmly rooted in his experience to allow of being parted with, and thus the whole substance of the language comes from him. Here, then, we have the Norman who, slowly and constrainedly, speaks and understands English, a deformed, gallicized English, yet English, in sap and root; but he has taken his time about it, for it has required two centuries. It was only under Henry III. that the new tongue is complete, with the new constitution and that, after the like fashion, by al

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 across the Channel, and says in English:-"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, than the Entree began of French tastes and ideas; France reto wexe so gret and so large, and sɔ 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, the language of scholars; then in French, the language of society; finally, he reflects, and discovers that the barons, his compatriots, by governing the Saxon churls, have ceased to speak their own Norman, and that the rest of the nation never knew it ; he translates his manuscript into English, and, in addition, takes care to make it plain, feeling that he speaks to less expanded understandings. He says in French :"Il advint une fois que Mahomet allait dans une chapelle où il y avait un saint ermite. Il entra en la chapelle où

He wrote in 1356, and died in 1372. "And for als moche as it is longe time passcu that ther was no generalle Passage ne yage over the See, and many Men desiren for to here speke of the holy Lond, and han thereof gret Solace and Comfort, I, John Maundevylle, Knyght, alle be it I be not worthi, that 23 born in Englond, in the town of Seynt-Alones, passed the See in the Zeer of our Lord Jesu-Crist 1322, in the Day of Seynt Michelle, And hidreto have been longe tyme over the See, and have seyn and gon thorghe manye dyverse ondes, and many Provynces, and Kingdomes, and Iles.

"And zee shulle undirstonde that I have put this Boke out of Latyn into Frensche, and translated it azen out of Frensche, into Englyssche, that every Man of my Nacioun may undirstonde it."-Sir John Maundeville's Voyage and Travaile, ed. Halliwell, 1866, prologue, p. 4.

Let us see, then, what our Norman baron gets translated for him; first, the chronicles of Geoffroy Gaimar and Robert Wace, which consist of the fabulous history of England continued up to their day, a dull-rhymed rhapsody, turned into English in a rhapsody no less dull. I The first Englishman who attempts it is Layamon,† a monk of Ernely, still fettered in the old idiom,

*Sir John Maundeville's Voyage and Travaile, ed. Halliwell, 1866, xii. p. 139. It is confessed that the original on which Wace depended for his ancient History of England is the Latin compilation of Geoffrey of Mon


† Extract from the account of the proceed ings at Arthur's coronation given by Layamon in his translation of Wace, executed about 1180 Madden's Layamon, 1847, ii. 5. 625, et pas sim:

Tha the king igeten hafde
And al his mon-weorede,
Tha bugen ut of burhge
Theines swithe balde.
Alle tha kinges,

And heore here-thringes.
Alle the biscopes,
And alle tha clærckes,
All tha eorles,

And alle tha beornes.
Alle the theines,
Alle the sweines,
Feire iscrudde,
Helde geond felle.

Summe heo gunnen æruen,

Summe heo gunnen urnen,

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who sometimes happens to rhyme,
sometimes fails, altogether barbarous
and childish, unable to develop a con-
tinuous idea, babbling in little confused
and incomplete phrases, after the fash-
ion of the ancient Saxons after him a
monk, Robert of Gloucester,* and a
canon, Robert of Brunne, both as in-
sipid and clear as their French models,
naving become gallicized, and adopted
the significant characteristic of the
race, namely, the faculty and habit of
easy narration, of seeing moving spec-
tacles without deep emotion, of writing
prosaic poetry, of discoursing and de-
veloping, of believing that phrases end-
ing in the same sounds form real
poetry. Our honest English versifiers,
like their preceptors in Normandy and
Ile-de-France, garnished with rhymes
their dissertations and histories, and
called them poems.
At this epoch, in
fact, on the Continent, the whole learn-
ing of the schools descends into the
street; and Jean de Meung, in his
poem of la Rose, is the most tedious of
doctors. So in England, Robert of
Brunne transposes into verse the
Manuel des Péchés of Bishop Grostête;
Adam Davie,t certain Scripture his-
tories; Hampole ‡ composes the Pricke

Summe heo gunnen lepen,
Summe heo gunnen sceoten,
Summe heo wrestleden
And wither-gome makeden,
Summe heo on uelde
Pleouweden under scelde,
Summe heo driven balles
Wide geond tha feldes.
Monianes kunnes gomen
Ther heo gunnen driuen.
And wha swa mihte iwinne
Wurthscipe of his gomene,
Hine me ladde mid songe
At foren than leod kinge;
And the king, for his gomene,
Gaf him geven gode.
Alle tha quene

The icumen weoren there,
And alle tha lafdies,
Leoneden geond walles,
To bihalden the dugethen,
And that tolc plæie.
This ilæste threo dæges,
Swulc gomes and swulc plæges,
Tha, at than veorthe dæie
The king gon to spekene
And agæf his goden cnihten
All heore rihten ;

He gef seolver, he gæf gold,
He gef hors, he gef lond,
Castles, and clothes eke;
His monnen he iquende.

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of Conscience. The titles alone make
one yawn: what of the text?
"Mankynde mad ys to do Goddus wylle,
And alle Hys byddyngus to fulfille;
For of al Hys makyng more and les
Man most principal creature es.
Al that He made for man hit was done
As ye schal here after sone." *
There is a poem! You did not think
so; call it a sermon, if you will give
its proper name. It goes on, well di
vided, well prolonged, flowing, but void
of meaning; the literature which sur-
rounds and resembles it bears witness
of its origin by its loquacity and its

It bears witness to it by other and more agreeable features. Here and there we find divergences more or less awkward into the domain of genius; for instance, a ballad full of quips against Richard, King of the Romans, who was taken at the battle of Lewes. Sometimes, charm is not lacking, nor sweetness either. No one has ever spoken so bright and so well to the ladies as the French of the Continent, and they have not quite forgotten this talent while settling in England. You perceive it readily in the manner in which they celebrate the Virgin. Nothing could be more different from the Saxon sentiment, which is altogether biblical, than the chivalric adoration of the sovereign Lady, the fascinating Virgin and Saint, who was the real deity of the middle ages. It breathes in this pleasing hymn:

"Blessed beo thu, avedi,
Ful of hovene blisse;
Swete flur of parais,
Moder of milternisse.

I-blessed beo thu, Lavedi,
So fair and so briht;

Al min hope is uppon the,
Bi day and bi nicht.

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Bricht and scene quen of storre,
So me liht and lere.

In this false fikele world,

So me led and steore." t

There is but a short and easy step be tween this tender worship of the Virgin and the sentiments of the court of love The English rhymesters take it; and when they wish to praise their earthly mistresses, they borrow, here as elsewhere, the ideas and the very form ol

*Warton, ii. 36.

†Time cf Henry III., Reliquia Antiquia About 1349. edited by Messrs. Wright and Halliwell, i. ron

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