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tinction was, that the troubadours and trouvères never sung or recited any but their own compositions; and altogether the profession of the jongleur was considered much inferior to that of the troubadour, even when the latter, like the former, went from castle to castle with his mandoline on his back, claiming hospitality in return for his music and poetry.
Like the bards, the jongleurs held a kind of neutral character, which gave them admittance to hostile camps and castles; and the garb of these strolling minstrels was therefore not unfrequently assumed by barons and knights when engaged on some clandestine mission. Thus we are told that when Ela, Countess of Salisbury, had lost her parents in England, and was by her guardians detained in secret in a castle in Normandy, King Richard I.—who desired to give the rich heiress in marriage to his illegitimate brother, William Longsword, the son of Fair Rosamond-sent a knight called William Talbot, disguised as a pilgrim, to traverse the province in search of the fair prisoner. Talbot was lucky enough to discover the castle in which she was concealed, but was unable to penetrate within its gates until he assumed the dress of a jongleur. This gained him admittance; and having found the means of informing the young countess of his mission, he returned with her to England, where the marriage was celebrated.
The compositions of jongleurs, trouvères, and troubadours, were alike distinguished by a variety of names, which must not, however, therefore be accepted as indicating as many distinct kinds of poetry, for very frequently they only designate a difference of form, or are used to indicate the subjectmatter of the poem. In fact, but four different kinds of poetic compositions can be distinguished—namely, romances, * dramatic compositions, fabliaux or tales, and the more strictly lyrical poems; because, though all compositions not dramatic in those days were chanted to the accompaniment of music, we cannot comprise under the latter denomination narratives sometimes containing 20,000 verses, nor satirical delineations of character, and anecdotes borrowed from private and domestic life, such as the fabliaur. The romances, which seem to have derived their name from the language in which they originated are, from the historical point of view, the most interesting of all the literary productions of the middle ages, though in point of æsthetic value they are perhaps inferior. They are, as M. de Villemain justly observes,f invaluable supplements to the history of the times, and supplements which narrate all that history has forgotten. So fully do they initiate the reader into the manners and customs of the bygone times which they depict, that from their pages has been compiled a description of the chivalric institutions, laws, and customs, so minute and complete in all its details, that we can hardly form a clearer conception of any institution of our own day, than we may
* We must observe that in thus classifying the compositions of the middle ages, we comprehend under the name of romances a variety of works which are very different from such as we now designate by that name. For instance, moral and religious allegories, philosophical treatises, works on natural history, and works professedly purely historical
, in all of which the trouvères more particularly distinguished themselves. + Cours de Littérature Française.
obtain of chivalry from M. Lacurne de St Palaye's essays upon the subject, compiled from these sources. The romances of the middle ages are of various character, but the most numerous and the most important are the love romances and the chivalrous romances--the former being purely fictitious, and treating exclusively of love adventures; while in one class of the latter, chivalrous exploits are the only theme, and in another these and amorous adventures bear an equal share, while in those of later date at least some degree of historical truth prevails. The principal object which the old romancers had in view, was not only to amuse their auditors, and to inspire the knights and esquires with the virtues belonging to their station, but also to stimulate their warlike ardour by placing before them ideal deeds of strength and valour, surpassing all those which history recorded. The effect of these exciting narratives in an age when men were but too prone to consider warlike enterprise or its mimic sports the sole occupation worthy of them, was such that the sentiments of honour which chivalry had contributed so greatly to develop, and which exercised so beneficial an influence as long as they were kept pure, ultimately degenerated into a kind of fanaticism, which in a measure reproduced the ferocity they had at first helped to subdue; and the welfare and safety of the state, which were originally the chief objects of the institution of chivalry, were forgotten in a desire for personal glory. The share which women had in the abuses as well as the merits of chivalry are also distinctly traced in these old romances. We there see the weaker sex using the almost boundless influence which they possessed, to stimulate their admirers to deeds of the utmost temerity, for no other purpose than to gratify their own vanity and to test the strength of the passion they inspired. We see them presiding over the tournaments, rewarding valour with their sweetest smiles, punishing cowardice and want of skill with a contempt with which they did not always visit moral depravity, and giving the signal for the action to begin. Until this signal was given, the knights, who gloried in the title of slaves to the ladies, were considered bound in their chains, and unable to begin the combat before their fair mistresses had condescended to unrivet their fetters and give free scope to their valour. But if the ladies on these occasions fanned the flame of military ardour, they also endeavoured to prevent its degenerating into ferocity; and when the combat threatened to become too fierce, a sign from them arrested the upraised lances, and re-established order and chivalrous decorum. Each tournament ended with a tilt in honour of the ladies; and a kiss from the Queen of Beauty, as the lady who presided over the fête was sometimes termed, was considered by the victor a reward far above the value of the prize awarded to him by the judges of the combat. And if his wounds prevented him from appearing in the festive assembly which terminated the pleasures of the day, he is represented as forgetting the tediousness of his sick-bed in listening to the romances, which recorded loves and achievements similar to his own.
One of the most remarkable of these romances is the Vows of the Heron,' a production of the middle of the fourteenth century, which, if space permitted, we should like to give in outline, as exhibiting in a strong light that mixture of savage ferocity and chivalrous courtesy which characterised the manners of the middle ages. In commenting upon this romance, Lacurne de St Palaye proves by quotations from Froissart, that even those parts which might seem to have been entirely supplied by the poet's imagination, are probably historical occurrences, or, at all events, are in strict conformity with the manners of the times. Thus, as regards the vow of Gautier de Mauny, Froissart relates as follows: ‘During the first week that the king of France was challenged, Messire Gautier de Mauny, as soon as he could suppose that the king was challenged, took and selected about forty stout lances, and rode with them through Brabant night and day until he arrived in Hainault, and he concealed himself in the forest of Blaton, and as yet no one knew what he meant to do; but he said to some of his private friends that he had promised in England, before ladies and lords, that he would be the first to enter France, and that he would there take a castle or fortified town, and that it was his intention to ride as far as Montaigne, and to surprise the town, which belonged to the kingdom of France. Even the probability of the most romantic vow recorded in the old poem—that of the Earl of Salisbury—is confirmed by Froissart. Speaking of the ambassadors sent by the king of England to ratify the alliances formed for him by the Count of Hainault with several princes of the empire, the chronicler relates that they were attended by a splendid retinue, and adds: “There were among them several young bachelors who had each one eye covered with a cloth, in order that they might not see; and it was said they had vowed in the presence of ladies in their country that never they would see with more than one eye until they had performed some act of valour in the kingdom of France ; and they would divulge nothing to those who questioned them, and every one wondered much at it.'
The romances, though frequently very long, were nevertheless so arranged as to admit of their being recited consecutively. Some numbered from 15,000 to 20,000 verses; but being divided into several so-called branches, each generally commencing with an invitation to the auditors to be attentive, it is supposed that the jongleur either reposed between each branch, or that another took his place. Some of these romances are written partly in prose partly in verse, in which case the prose was recited and the rhymed part only was sung to the accompaniment of the harp, the viol, the mandoline, or mandore, or whatever the instruments of those days may have been called. So great was the love of princes, barons, and knights of all degrees for the romances, that a moralist poet of their day* reproaches them with loving better to listen to the recital of the adventures of Roland and Oliver, than to the history of the passion of Jesus Christ; and another accuses them of being hardhearted to the poor, while they spend large sums in decorating the walls of their castles with representations of the deeds of Charlemagne and his paladins.
The hold which religion had upon men's minds relative to the outward observances of its forms, without exercising any corresponding influence over their thoughts and feelings, is, however, curiously illustrated in the fact of the jongleurs very frequently refusing to recite any but what they termed sacred poems on the Sabbath. The subjects of these poems were indeed borrowed from the Bible, but being treated after the fashion of the day,
* Guillaume de Wadington, an Anglo-Norman trouvère.
they retained little or nothing of their sacred character. Thus in one of the most singular of these compositions, entitled 'The Court of Paradise,'* the Divinity is represented as intending to hold a Cour Plénière on All Saints' Day, and, in consequence, sending out St Jude and St Simon to invite the attendance of the saints. In general it was in their old age only that the jongleurs composed these sacred poems--a composition of the kind being looked upon as an act expiatory of the sin of having composed others of a more profane character. The confession of their considering it in this light is generally made at the opening of the poem; and their example was in this respect frequently followed by the trouvères and troubadours, who imposed upon themselves similar acts of penitence, if they did not attempt to expiate still more fully the sins of their youth, by participation in the Crusades, at the period when these holy wars were exciting the greatest enthusiasm throughout Europe.
The fabliaux—which were generally short, humorous, and satirical tales and anecdotes, descriptive of the life of those classes of the community round which the laws and customs of chivalry shed no poetic haloshew the shady side, not only of the society they depict, but of the poet's mind who drew the picture, for they are very frequently but the embodiment of coarse subjects in still coarser language. There are, however, many exceptions to this rule, in which we see the follies of the times attacked in a playful and graceful manner, and with a display of that sprightly and piquant wit, which even at that early period was a distinguishing characteristic of the French people. Such are the two little poems by the trouvère Henri d’Andely, from the beginning of the thirteenth century, and entitled 'The Battle of the Seven Liberal Arts,' and · The Battle of the Wines.'
Among the questions which greatly agitated the learned world during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, one related to the proper manner of commencing a course of studies. On one side, it was maintained that logic ought to be the first science with which the student was made acquainted; on the other, that a sound education ought to be based upon a knowledge of Latin grammar and of the best authors of antiquity. Each opinion had its partisans. The university of Paris decided in favour of dialectics and the liberal sciences, the university of Orleans stood up for the rights of the Latin grammar and the classics. Henri d’Andely, adopting this side of the question, endeavours in the first of the fabliaux above alluded to, to render ridiculous the absurd verbosity which characterised the dialectics of his day. In his poem he describes a battle between the two universities on the plain of Montlhéri, and enumerates the names of the combatants on both sides, among which figure those of all the distinguished scholars of the period. In the mêlée, Aristotle upsets the grammar, and is in his turn thrown down by the authors who defend the former; but Bollius and Macrobus come to his rescue. All the writers of antiquity, from Homer to Claudian, take part in the action. At length Logic, full of consternation, sends to negotiate for peace; but as Grammar does not understand the language of the dialectic ambassador, the battle continues. At last
Mentioned by De la Rue-Essais Historiques sur les Bardes, les Jongleurs et les Trouvères.
Astronomy intervenes, and by means of a thunderbolt puts an end to the fray.
The Battle of the Wines 'makes us acquainted with the wines most in use during the twelfth century. Being convoked to meet at the table of King Philip Augustus of France, they all make their appearance, and each in its turn extols its own good qualities, disputes those of the others, and enumerates the faults of its antagonists. An English priest sits in judgment upon them, and having tasted each, excommunicates those which are bad. Beer also is placed before his judgment-seat, and suffers the penalties of the law. A wine of Normandy is on its way to the royal table, but seeing the English priest, turns back, and ventures not to appear at court. The king then classifies the wines, and assigns to each its rank. But the poet ends by recommending every one to drink the wine which God gives him.
The strictly lyrical poems of trouvères and troubadours are designated under a variety of names, the enumeration of which would have no interest. The greatest merit of these poems in the eyes of those who, like ourselves, are endeavouring to trace the history of the usages, the morals, and the feelings of the times, in its literary monuments, is the strong impress which they bear of being really the expressions of personal experiences, or the fruits of a situation, if we may be allowed a French locution. The troubadours were not poets in that higher sense of the word which denotes a seer -one who penetrates into the secret depths of man's nature, and reveals to him worlds which his own unaided sight would never have discovered; one who comprises in a glance the past and the future, understands their eternal connection, and points out truths ever new and ever old. Nor were they poets in that sense of the word which denotes an interpreter-one who translates into articulate sounds all that poetry of the feelings and the passions, which, the same in all ages, dwells silent and mute in the hearts of the many, but bursts forth from his lips in eloquent strains, and are welcomed by the dumb ones to whose inward life he has lent a voice. Indeed we are hardly inclined to allow the troubadours the name of poet in any other acceptation than that of rhymer. But they are graceful and sincere rhymers, who let us into all the secrets of that strange mixture of fantastic sentimentalism and intellectual subtlety, which they honoured with the name of love. Indeed the life of almost every troubadour of whom we have any knowledge, is a little love romance after the fashion of the day. The favourable reception which these poets met with in all the courts of Europe, most distinguished for polite tastes and elegant manners, and in the castles of the great and wealthy barons, who surrounded themselves with more than regal splendour; the desire which ladies, even of the highest rank, evinced to please those whose songs might proclaim their virtues and their attractions to the world, and acquire for them a reputation against which the female delicacy of the times did not revolt; this, and all the other honours attendant upon their vocation, sometimes led the troubadours to forget the humble birth and fortunes which were frequently their inheritance, and aspire to the love of those whom at first they only ventured to worship from afar. To judge from their verses they were not always left to languish in despair ; but at times it happened that