Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

the object of the poet's adoration was either married to a jealous husband, or had plighted her troth to a mighty prince, or was surrounded by a throng of wealthy admirers, whose magnificent equipages and splendid retinues threw into the shade the humble singer, whose love was his only merit

, and his talent his only fortune, and who could only seek relief in breathing out his sufferings in plaintive songs and elegies. Thus the troubadour Arnaut de Mareuil, who lived in the latter part of the twelfth century, and was born of poor parents in Mareuil in the diocese of Perigueux, tiring of the profession of notary for which he was educated, and which enabled him to gain a livelihood, went out into the wide world, we are told, * with an empty purse, but a heart full of poetry.' His good fortune led him to the court of Adalasia, daughter of Count Raymond V. of Toulouse, and wife of the Viscount of Beziers. Amaut's skill in poetical and musical composition (two qualities which were very frequently united in the troubadours), and in the art of reading aloud, obtained for him a friendly reception, and soon gained for him so high a place in the favour of his patrons, that he was reckoned among the most honoured of their courtiers. But Arnaut's heart, according to his own confessions, soon learned to repeat too fervently those praises of Adalasia's beauty and virtues which at first only his gallantry and his duty as court - poet dictated, and to the passion of which he thus became a victim, we owe some of the sweetest strains among the Provençal poetry. He never mentions by name the lady. whom he addresses, for discretion was considered one of the most essential qualities of a troubadour; but as in one of his poems he expresses his happiness at having received some marks of a return of his feelings, it may be concluded that the lady was sharpsighted enough to penetrate his secret. However, after the death of the Vicomte de Beziers, the king of Aragon, the brilliant Alfonso II., appeared upon the scene as Adalasia's admirer; and though this prince was one of the most munificent patrons of the poets of his day, he would not tolerate Arnaut's presence at Adalasia's court. The poor troubadour was obliged to proceed to Montpellier, to the court of William VIII., where he poured out his sorrows in plaintive verses, in which he accuses himself of being the author of his own disgrace, because he had been indiscreet enough to boast of a favour received.

Another troubadour, Bernard de Ventadourt (1140–1195), the son of a humble menial in the service of Eblis II., Vicomte de Ventadour, was brought up in the castle of the latter, and being a child of prepossessing appearance and much promise, attracted the notice of its lord, who is spoken of by contemporary writers as a distinguished troubadour, though none of his compositions are extant. Bernard received not only an education equal to that of any young man of rank in those days, but was even instructed in those sciences which were generally cultivated by the studious inmates of the convents only; and his poetical compositions, distinguished by their melting tenderness and childlike simplicity, rank among the most musical and most graceful productions of the troubadours.

They soon won for him the favour of Agnes de Monluçon, the beautiful and youthful wife of his aged patron, who frequently sent for the young

* Diez-Leben u. Werke d. Troub.

+ Ibid.

troubadour to enliven her with his songs and his music. But the poet's heart interpreted too favourably the marks of interest bestowed upon his talent alone, and forgetting his duty to his benefactor, he ventured to ask a return of his love from Eblis's young wife. He was in consequence banished from the home of his childhood, round which, however, he continued for some time to hover, expressing his pains and his longings in verses of uncommon suavity.

Peire Rogier, another troubadour, who likewise lived in the twelfth century, and who was educated for the church, and had obtained a canonry in his native city, tired of the monotonous life of an ecclesiastic, and availing himself of his poetical talent, gave himself up to the more congenial profession of a troubadour. Having heard of the many noble qualities of Ermengarde, the daughter of Viscount Emeric II. of Narbonne, who had followed her father in the government of the principality, Peire presented himself to this high-minded lady, and was attached to her court as poet. As such it was his bounden duty to devote his strains to the praises of his liege lady; but Peire seems to have wished to occupy that place in Ermengarde’s affections, which so many court-poets were said to have won for themselves in the hearts of their mistresses. Ermengarde, however, whose character was exempt from that taint of licentiousness which, under the disguise of courtly gallantry, disgraced the manners of the period, for a time kept the passion of the bold troubadour within proper bounds, and was in his verses only addressed under the mysterious appellation of Tort n'avetz—(* You are wrong '), which probably indicated her severity.* But ultimately Peire Rogier's conduct seems to have endangered Ermengarde's reputation, and he was expelled from her court.

But it was not only attractions which every day presented themselves to their eyes, which exercised so irresistible a power over the inflammable hearts of these singers of love.' The mere mention of an unknown lady's charms was sometimes sufficient to kindle a flame that was only extinguished with the life of the singer. Thus we hear of a troubadour, Jauffre Rudel † by name, who having heard the praises of the Princess Melinsende, daughter of Raimond, Count of Tripoli, and the affianced bride of Manuel, Emperor of Constantinople, became so enamoured of this lady, whom he had never seen, that he at length determined to quit his native land, and to seek to regain, in the vicinity of the object of his adoration, that peace of heart of which the description of her charms had deprived him. But his heated imagination was undermining his health; a burning fever put an end to his life at the very moment he attained the object of his desires, and beheld for the first time in reality the fair phantom of his dreams.

Other troubadours, not content with declaring their fealty to the lady of their love in the terms used by the feudatory when pledging himself to his liege lord, or with considering themselves bound to her by laws similar to those which bound the vassal to his lord, even pushed their madness 80 far as to assimilate the object of their admiration to the Deity, and in consequence adapted to their love all the outward signs consecrated by the

* Diez-Leben u. Werke d. Troub.
+ Marchangy--La Gaule Poétique. Diez-Leben u. Werke d. Troub.

devotional feelings of the times to religion. When we meet with such passages as the subjoined in their works, we cannot perhaps accuse them of much greater exaggeration than even in our unpoetical era lovers may be guilty of, though the merit of a greater naïveté of expression may be on the side of the troubadours :

Without a doubt, God was astonished when I consented to separate myself from my lady; yes, God cannot but have given me much credit, for He is well aware that if I lost her, I would never again know happiness, and that He himself possesses nothing that could console me.'

Oh, sweet friend! when the soft breeze comes wafting from the loved spot that you inhabit, it seems to me that I inhale the breath of Paradise. O if I can but enjoy the charm of your glances, the happiness of contemplating you, I do not aspire to any greater favour: I believe myself in possession of God himself.'

'Your fascinating countenance, your soft smile, the whiteness, the elegance, all the graces of your person, are ever present in my thoughts and in my heart. Ah! if I occupied myself as much with God, if I bore towards him an attachment equally pure, without doubt he would before death, yes, even during this life, admit me into Paradise.' *

But when we find them fasting, and praying, and macerating their bodies in order to render themselves more worthy of the objects of their worship, we must give them credit for a sincerity of devotion and an extent of folly which could only be equalled in their own times. Can we wonder that when such were the sentiments constantly breathed in the strains of popular poets, who exercised an influence over their contemporaries quite disproportionate to their artistic merits, we should find that love had not only its devotees among the latter, but even its fanatics? Indeed we are told by the Chevalier de la Tour,f a writer of that period, that there existed during his lifetime a sect of lovers denominated Galois, who made vows to prove the strength of their love, by their invincible obstinacy in braving the rigours of the seasons, and to add to the glory of those they loved, by subjecting themselves to the most distressing discomforts for their sakes. According to the statutes of the fraternity, the members—among whom there were as many of the frailer as of the stronger sex-were bound, during the intensest summer heats, to wrap themselves in thick warm mantles and hoods, and thus clad, to run up the hill-sides in the broiling sun, to walk barefooted on the burning sands, and to warm themselves over large fires; while during the frosts of winter a wrapper of fine linen was to be their only garment, no fire was ever to be kindled in their houses, and they were to expose themselves to snows and biting winds; for thus only could they prove that love suffices for all things, that one thing only is needful for those that love-namely, the presence of the beloved object, and that all other matters are indifferent. Nevertheless, according to the Sieur de la Tour, the flaming hearts of these poor fanatics did not suffice to keep them warm, for many were found frozen to death on the road-side; but their fate did not deter others from following their

• Reynouard-Choix des Poésies Originales des Troubadours. + Quoted by St Palaye in his Mémoires sur l'Ancien Chevalerie. Marchangy-La Gaule Littéraire.

example; they were, on the contrary, considered as martyrs of love, and pilgrimages were made to their graves.

But of all the curious customs and institutions connected with the profession and influence of the troubadours, none have attracted more attention than the Cours d'Amour, or Tribunals of Love, the existence of which has been deduced from their writings, though history mentions no institutions of the kind. When, in consequence of the Crusades, classic learning revived in the west of Europe, none of the ancient authors was so much admired as Aristotle, whose metaphysics furnished a rich source of subtle and idle disputes, not only to jurists and theologians, but even to troubadours and trouvères. The specious dialectics which disfigured the more serious works of the times, were in almost equal measure applied to questions of love—the all-important subject in the eyes of the poets; and its laws and sentiments were discussed with as much gravity and pedantry, as the most abstruse question of civil or ecclesiastical law. One class of poems-called Tensons in the south, and Jeux Partis or Mi-Partis in the north (but which had also various other appellations according to the subject discussed)—were more especially devoted to the debating of these delicate questions. The tensons are poems in which generally two interlocutors maintain and defend, in alternate couplets, contradictory opinions, and which most frequently end by both parties retaining their previous opinion, and in consequence nominating some third persongenerally a troubadour of great renown, or a prince known for his love of letters, or some lady celebrated for wit and beauty—to arbitrate between them. The tensons were not, however, invariably presented under the form of questions to be debated, nor exclusively devoted to theses of love, but sometimes took the form of satires in dialogue, in which the interlocutors covered each other with abuse. When more than two interlocutors were introduced, the tenson was denominated torneyamen or tournament. One of the most curious of these extant, turns upon a question debated by three troubadours, all of whom had fixed their affections upon the same lady and had received from her encouragement, as to which of them had been most favoured. The tensons being in reality what they pretend to be--poetical disputes between contending parties—the different parts were generally written by the different troubadours, whose names figure in the dialogues; and in some of these poems, not only the names of the parties are given, to whose judgment the matter in dispute is submitted, but also the judgment itself. But it is supposed by many that there must have been a higher tribunal

, whose fiats were made binding by the law of public opinion, to which the disputants might appeal in case the arbitrators chosen by themselves failed to settle the matter to their satisfaction; and it cannot be denied that there are various

in the
poems themselves,

which infer the existence of such cours d'amour. Indeed the existence of the tribunals bearing this name is by many writers maintained as an indisputable fact; and among the number of these is Reynouard, who considers the question quite settled by a manuscript work, in Latin, by one Maître André, chaplain to the royal court of France, and who lived, according to Reynouard, in the last half of the thirteenth century. This manuscript

passages

may seem to

entitled ' Book of the Art of Loving, and of the Reprobation of Love,' and treating of the tribunals of love, of the laws promulgated and the judgments rendered by them—is by Reynouard looked upon with the same confiding reverence with which a learned legist would regard any other musty record of ancient laws and statutes; and he quotes with such extraordinary gravity the history of the origin of the code of love which ruled in these curious tribunals

, such as it is given by Maître André the chaplain, that we are at a loss to know whether he considers it a poetical tradition or a bonâ fide history. We give the narrative as it is related by him, after the Latin manuscript, and leave our readers to class it according to their own judgment :

A knight of Brittany once penetrated quite alone into a thick forest, hoping there to meet Artus. He soon met with a maiden, who said to him: “

I know what you are seeking; you will not, however, find it without my assistance. You have sought in love a lady of Brittany, who exacts that you shall bring her the celebrated falcon which rests upon a perch in the court of Artus. In order to obtain this falcon, you must prove by a victory gained in combat, that this lady is more beautiful than any of the ladies loved by the knights belonging to this court.”

After many romantic adventures, the knight found the falcon on a golden perch, close to the entrance of the palace, and he took possession of it. Pending from the perch was a little golden chain, to which was attached a written paper. This was the code of love which the knight was to gain possession of and make known to the world in the name of the King of Love, if he wished to take away the falcon unmolested. This code having been presented to an assembly, composed of a great many ladies and knights, the whole assembly consented to adopt its rules, and gave orders that they were to be faithfully observed in perpetuity, under penalty of severe punishment. All the persons who had been cited to appear in the assembly, and who were present, took away the code with them, and made it known to all lovers in the various countries of the world.'*

Then follow the laws, which are very commonplace, and which, happily, have not been maintained in perpetuity,' as in them we trace no reference to that pure and holy affection, and delicate, retiring sentiment, which in the present day is alone recognised as true love.

The judges in the courts of love, we are told, were ladies of distinguished rank and high repute for talent, virtue-according to the notions of the times—and beauty; and sometimes presided over by some mighty prince, such as Richard I. of England, or Alfonso II. of Aragon, renowned for his gallantry and courtesy. Judgment was not only given in such disputes as arose between the poets of the day upon some subtle question of love, but in all lovers' quarrels, in all matters relating to gallantry, these tribunals are said to have had a decisive voice. The fair judges weighed the matter in dispute, imposed penalties, prescribed the forms of reconciliation, and at times even pronounced the dissolution of the bonds which united the lovers. The sentences pronounced by the courts of love, which are said to have followed pretty closely the judicial forms observed in the legal

* Reynouard-Choix des Poésies Originales des Troubadours, v. vii. p. 103.

« ForrigeFortsæt »