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French verse One compares his lady o all kinds of prec ous stones and flowers; others sing truly amorous songs, at times sensual :
* Bytuene Mershe and Aueril,
An hendy lap ichabbe yhent,
"Suete lemmon, y preye the, of loue one speche,
Whil y lyue in world so wyde other nulle seche.
With thy loue, my siete leof, mi bliss thou mihtes eche
A suete cos of thy mouth mihte be my leche." t
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, smokegrimed cottage, the black feudal castle, where all but the master lie higgledypiggledy 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,
Groweth sed, and bloweth med,
Bulluc sterteth, bucke verteth:
Ne swik thu nauer nu. 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 wagAbout 1278. Warton, i. 28. ↑ Ibid. i. 31. + Warton, i. 30 Poem of the Owl and Nightingale, who dispute as to which has the finest voice.
geries. Their true aim and eud 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 spright ly 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,
Of white morkes and of gre..
The young nunnes takith a bote.
And techith the nunnes an oreisun, With iambleue up and down." This is the triumph of gluttony and feeding. Moreover could be mentioned in the middle ages, many things 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 féte. When Henry II. travelled, he took with him a great number of horsemen, foot-soldiers, baggage-wagons, tents pack-horses, comedians, courtesans, and their overseers, cooks, confection ers, posture-makers, dancers, barbers, go-betweens, hangers - cn.* * 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 Longchamps, even in time of peace, would not "ravel without a thousand horses
by way of escort. When Archbishop
Letter of Peter of Blois.
à Becket came to France, he entered | exploit worthy of their m tresses. Our the town with two hundred knights, a of the very exuberancy of spirit they number of barons and nobles, and an practised the art of poetry; out of the army of servants, all richly armed and buoyancy of their imagination they equipped, he himself being provided made a sport of life. Edward III. with four-and-twenty suits; two hun- built at Windsor a hall and a round dred and fifty children walk in front, table; and at one of his tourneys in singing national songs; then dogs, then | London, sixty ladies, seated on palfreys, carriages, then a dozen pack-horses, led, as in a fairy tale, each her knight each ridden by an ape and a man; then by a golden chain. Was not this the equerries with shields and war-horses; triumph of the gallant and frivolous then more equerries, falconers, a suite French fashions? Edward's wife of domestics, knights, priests; lastly, Philippa sat as a model to the artists the archbishop himself, with his private for their Madonnas. She appeared on friends. Imagine these processions, the field of battle; listened to Froissart, and also these entertainments; for the who provided her with moral-plays, Normans, after the Conquest, "bor- love-stories, and "things fair to listen rowed from the Saxons the habit of to." At once goddess, heroine, and excess in eating and drinking."* At scholar, and all this so agreeably, was the marriage of Richard Plantagenet, she not a true queen of refined chivalry? Ear. of Cornwall, they provided thirty Now, as also in France under Louis of thousand dishes.† They also contin- Orleans and the Dukes of Burgundy, ued to be gallant, and punctiliously per- this most elegant and romanesque formed the great precept of the love civilization came into full bloom, void courts; for in the middle age the sense of common sense, given up to passion, of love was no more idle than the others. bent on pleasure, immoral and brilliant, Moreover, tournaments were plentiful; but, like its neighbors of Italy and a sort of opera prepared for their own Provence, for lack of serious intention, entertainment. So ran their life, full it could not last. 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 fighting. ‡ Another time, says Froissart, the knights who joined the army carried a plaster over one eye, having vowed not in remove it until they had performed an
*William of Malmesbury.
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 quarters of corn, 300 tuns of ale, 100 of wine, a pipe of hypocras, 12 porpoises and seals.
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 Eng land;
"Swlk on ne seygh they never non;
Off asure forsothe it was.”*
On such subjects they never run dry. When the King of Hungary wishes to console his afflicted daughter, he pro poses to take her to the chase in the following style:
'To-morrow ye shall in hunting fare:
Well diapered with lilies new.
Your pommels shall be ended with gold,
Warton, i. 156.
Purple pall and ermine free.
The best wild fowl that may be take;
That hart and hynd shall come to you fist,
When you come home your menie among,
Th' one half of stone, th' other of tree;
With long paper fair burning,
Ani cloves that be sweet smelling.
That when ye sleep the taste may come;
All night minstrels for you shall wake."
*Warton, i. 176, spelling modernized.
Amid such fancies and splendors the poets delight and lose themselves and the wolf, like the embroideries o their canvas, bears the mark of this love of decoration. They weave it out of adventures, of extraordinary and surprising events. Now it is the life of King Horn, who, thrown into a boat when a lad, is wrecked upon the coast of England, and, becoming knight, reconquers the kingdom of his father. Now it is the history of Si Guy, who rescues enchanted knights, cuts down the giant Colbrand, challenges and kills the Sultan in his tent. It is not for me to recount these poems, which are not English, but only translations; still, here as in France, there are many of them; they fill the imagination of the young society, and they grow in exaggeration, until, falling to the lowest depth of insipidity and improbability, they are buried for ever by Cervantes. What would people say of a society which had no literature but the opera with its unrealities? Yet it was a literature of this kind which formed the intellectual food of the middle ages. //People then did not ask for truth, but entertainment, and that vehement and hollow, full of glare and startling events. They asked for impossible voyages, extravagant challenges, a racket of contests, a confusion of magnificence and entanglement of chances. For introspective history they had no liking, cared nothing for the adventures of the heart, devoted their attention to the outside. They remained children to the last, with eyes glued to a series of exaggerated and colored images. and, for lack of thinking, did not per ceive that they had learnt nothing.
What was there beneath this fanci ful dream? Brutal and evil humar passions, unchained at first by religiou fury, then delivered up to their own devices, and, beneath a show of exter nal courtesy, as vile as ever. Look at the popular king, Richard Cœur de Lion, and reckon up his butcheries and murders: "King Richard," says a poem, "is the best king ever mentioned in song." I have no objection; but
if he has the heart of a lion, he has also that brute's appetite. One day, under the walls of Acre, being convalescent, he had a great desire for some pork. There was no pork. They killed a young Saracen, fresh and tender, cooked and salted him, and the king ate him and found him very good; whereupon he desired to see the head of the pig. The cook brought it in trembling The king falls a laughing, and says the army has nothing to fear iron. famine, having provisions ready at hand. He takes the town, and presently Saladin's ambassadors come
sue for pardon for the prisoners Richard has thirty of the most no.. De headed, and bids his cook boil the heads, and serve one to each ambassador, with a ticket bearing the name and family of the dead man. Meanwhile, in their presence, he eats his own with a relish, bids them tell Saladin how the Christians make war, and ask him if it is true that they fear him. Then he orders the sixty thousand prisoners to be led into the plain :
"They were led into the place full even. There they heard angels of heaven; They said: "Seigneures, tuez,-tuez! Spares hem nought, and beheadeth these!" King Richard heard the angels' voice, And thanked God and the holy cross." Thereupon they behead them all. When he took a town, it was his wont
murder every one, even children and women. Such was the devotion of the middle ages, not only in romances, as here, but in history. At the taking of Jerusalem the whole population, seventy thousand persons, were massacred.
Thus even in chivalrous stories the fierce and unbridled instincts of the bloodthirsty brute break out. The authentic narratives show it. Henry II. irritated at a page, attempted to far out his eyes.* John Lackland let wenty-three hostages die in prison of hunger. Edward II caused at one time twenty-eight nobles to be hanged and disembowelled, and was himself put to death by the insertion of a red-hot
'ron into his bowels. Look in Froissart for the debaucheries and murders in France as well as in England, of the Hundred Years' War, and then for * See Langards History, ii. 55, note 4.-TR.
the slaughters at the Wars of the Roses. In both countries feudal 'nde pendence ended in civil war, and the middle age founders under its vices. Chivalrous courtesy, which cleaked the native ferocity, disappears like some hangings suddenly consumed by the breaking out of a fire; at that time in England they killed nobles in pref erence, and prisoners too, even chi dren, with insults, in cold blood. What, then, did man learn in this civil ization and by this literature? How was he humanized? What precepts of justice, habits of reflection, store of tre judgn.nts, did this culture interbetween his desires and his actions, in order to moderate his passion? He dreamed, he imagined a sort of elegant ceremonial in order the better to address lords and ladies; he dis covered the gallant code of little Jehan de Saintré. But where is the true education? Wherein has Froissart profited by all his vast experience? He was a fine specimen of a babbling child; what they called his poesy, the poésie neuve, is only a refined gabble, a senile puerility. Some rhetoricians, like Christine de Pisan, try to round their periods after an ancient model; but all their literature amounts to nothing. No one can think. Sir John Maundeville, who travelled all over the world a hundred and fifty years after Villehardouin, is as con. tracted in his ideas as Villehardouin himself. Extraordinary legends and fables, every sort of credulity and ignorance, abound in his book. When he wishes to explain why Palestine has passed into the hands of various pos sessors instead of continuing under one government, he says that it is because God would not that it should continue longer in the hands of traitors and sinners, whether Christians or others. He has seen at Jerusalem, on the steps of the temple, the footmarks of the ass which our Lord rode on Palm Sunday. He describes the Ethiopians as a people who have only on foot, but so large that they can make use of it as a parasol. He instances one island "where be people as big as gyants, of 28 feet long, and have no cloathing but beasts' skins;" then another island, "where "where there are many evil and foul
women, but have precious stones in their eyes, and have such force that if they behold any man with wrath, they slay him with beholding, as the basilisk doth' The good man relates; that is all: doubt and common sense scarcely exist in the world he lives in. He has neither judgment nor reflection; he piles facts one on top of another, with no further connection; his book is simply a mirror which reproduces recollections of his eyes and ears. "And all those who will say a Pater and an Ave Maria in my behalf, I give them an interest and a share in all the holy pilgrimages I eve. made in my life." That is his farewell, and accords with all the rest. Neither public morality nor public knowledge has gained any thing from these three centuries of culture. This French culture, copied in vain throughout Europe, has but superficially adorned mankind, and the varnish with which it decked them, is already tarnished everywhere or scales off. It was worse in England, where the thing was more superficial and the application worse than in France, where foreign hands laid it on, and where it could only half cover the Saxon crust, where that crust was worn away and rough. That is the reason why, during three centuries, throughout the whole first feudal age, the literature of the Normans in England, made up of imitations, translations, and clumsy copies, ends in nothing.
crown a cluster of foreign branches True, it had suffered, but at last the wound closed, the saps mingled. Even the hard, stiff ligatures with which the Conqueror bound it, henceforth con tributed to its fixity and vigor. land was mapped out; every title veri fied, defined in writing;* every right or tenure valued; every man registered as to his locality, and also his condi tion, duties, descent, and resources, that the whole nation was enveloped in a network of which not a mesh would break. Its future development had to be within these limits. Its constitution was settled, and in this positive ar. gent enclosure men were compelled to unfold themselves and to act. Solidarity and strife; these were the two effects of the great and orderly establishment which shaped and held together, on one side the aristocracy of the conquerors, on the other the conquered people; even as in Rome the systematic fusing of conquered peoples into the plebs, and the constrained organization of the patricians in contrast with the plebs, enrolled the private individuals in two orders, whose opposition and union formed the state. Thus, here as in Rome, the national character was moulded and completed by the habit of corporate action, the respect for written law, political and practical aptitude, the development of combative and patient energy. It was the Domesday Book which, binding this young society in a rigid discipline, made of the Saxon the Englishman of our own day.
Meantime, what has become of the Gradually and slowly, amidst the conquere people? Has the old stock, gloomy complainings of the chroni on which the brilliant continental flow-clers, we find the new man fashioned ers were grafted, engendered no literary shoot of its own? Did it continue barren during all this time under the Norman axe, which stripped it of all its buds? It grew very feebly, but it grew nevertheless. The subjugated
race is not a dismembered nation, dislocated, uprooted, sluggish, like the populations of the Continent, which, after the long Roman oppression, were given up to the unrestrained invasion of barbarians; it increased, remained fixed in its own soil, full of sap: its members were not displaced; it was simply lopped in order to receive on its
by action, like a child who cries be cause steel stays, though they improve his figure, give him pain. However reduced and downtrodden the Saxons were, they did not all sink into the populace. Some,t almost in every
* Domesday Book. Froude's Hist. of En land, 1858, i. 13: "Through all these arrange England should have his definite place and defments a single aim is visible, that every man in inite duty assigned to him, and that no human being should be at liberty to lead at his own pleasure an unaccountable existence. The dis of social life." cipline of an army was transferred to the detail?
↑ Domesday Book, "tenants-in-chief."