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The pure traditions, as Professor Schulz calls those which had their birth and were current in Wales concerning this national hero, are short and meagre. Some of them, however, are sufficiently marvellous, such as his expedition to Jerusalem, and having made a cross of the same dimensions with the real cross, and his slaying 840 enemies with his own hand. He is not only represented as having been always victorious at the head of the Britons against the Saxons, and the Pagans with whom he waged war, but to have been invested with a miraculous sanctity. It was even believed of him that he was to become alive again, and to restore his race from a state of servitude to liberty. It is unnecessary to mention that the existence of Arthur is after all a questionable matter historically speaking; and that his deification alone may well throw doubt upon all the legends that have found at any time currency relative to such a champion. One thing appears to be established by ancient chronicles, that in the ninth century he had been raised from the simple ground of history, on which he originally stood, and had entered the region of fable, where henceforth he and his companions are to be followed. But here these questions occur, "To whom do Arthur and his warriors owe their poetical resurrection,-to the Welsh, or to the Bretons? And why should Arthur be selected above all others? Was it in Wales, or in Brittany, that he was chosen as the centre of this new creation?"
To these questions the author of the Essay before us addresses himself, and in the course of discussing them indicates how Welsh tradition came to have a remarkable influence on the literature of France; thus conferring an honour upon the ancient Britons which their real or supposed descendants in Wales will even at this day fondly enough accept.
He happily observes that tradition is not wafted from country to country, like a light seed at the mercy of the winds; for that it is a part of the intellectual life of a people to whom it belongs, and cannot take root beyond the limits of the material and intellectual power of that people. The Professor adopts the general doctrine, that the first inhabitants of Britain were Celts, and that Armorica, the country between the Loire, the Seine, and the sea, was at the time of Julius Cæsar inhabited by this race as well as Britain. During the wars with the Romans in this country, and also afterwards when the Picts and Scots penetrated into Wales, there were interchanges between the inhabitants of that part of the island and Armorica. At length the emigrations from Wales to the latter are supposed to have been often repeated, and to have continued when Britain was invaded by the Angles and Saxons. Pestilence also frightened and chased away numbers, who settled in the province formerly called Armorica, and now the Lesser Brittany. It was therefore most natural, observes our author, that the remembrance VOL. IV. (1841.) no. iv.
of the last battles of the Britons against the Anglo-Saxons should be preserved in Armorica by the refugees; nor is it surprising that they should paint the past in glowing and exaggerated colours. If we allow that the Welsh nation loved to cherish with the utmost warmth and fidelity the remembrance and the traditions of their heroes, of whom Arthur was the great representative and ideal model, we cannot reasonably deny that these feelings and recollections would be cherished in Brittany. Bards were common to the two nations; and dexterously, no doubt, they entwined authentic history with tradition; and hence it becomes not only very difficult to know how much is to be allotted to truth and how much to fancy, but to distinguish between what is purely of Welsh origin and what of Breton.
But to the question, Why was Arthur chosen as the centre of tradition?-our author's answer is, that he owes this preference to Merlin, who pronounced the prophecy that " Arthur will re-appear." "The bards of the sixth century," says the Professor, "do not overwhelm Arthur with glory and praise, but they name him as the principal chief, and commander-general who headed the expeditions. Do we not see at the present time that the deeds of inferior warriors are attributed to the commander-in-chief, and the acts of ministers to kings? Posterity required a centre, around which she could group her recollections of subordinate heroes. The national centre was the king; and what stronger consolation could be afforded to an oppressed people deprived of their chiefs and heroes, and what more enlivening hope could accompany a fugitive nation in its new country than that of its prophetic bard? He, the king, will return to reconduct the emigrants to their ancient country, to restore them from their present misery to their former glory. This tradition was very generally known in the twelfth century, and considered even then very ancient."
Having traced Arthur and his companions in their primitive and historical character, and followed them in their transit from history to fable, the second period of influence, according to our author, we find the hero invested by the French romances with new attributes, and fiction busy in surrounding him with personages of different character from those of pure and patriotic warriors. These compositions belong to the twelfth century, but according to their own testimony, the greater part of them are compiled from more ancient tales, especially Breton. Now Arthur is no longer made to appear as a fighting hero of the Welsh, but is more commonly merely a spectator, the superior of a wealthy court, a rewarder of exploits, which are often merely in pursuit of personal glory, and the renown of knighthood. "The ancient Welsh character of these romances is thus obscured, and they indicate a time when another great and general interest had dimmed the pristine lustre of the first remem
brance of Arthur." Tradition, the Professor also remarks, does not develope itself by capricious starts, it leaves no intervals; "for like the mind of man it does not advance suddenly, but proceeds from one step to another, according to its own laws." There must have been a period of transformation in the character of the Arthurian legends, during which the hero began to lose his patriotic importance, and his companions to become gallant knights; and our author is of opinion that this change from the ancient tradition to the numerous French romances took place subsequent to the year 1150, and that it was essentially prepared and effected in Britanny. From thence he traces the influence of Welsh tradition upon the literature of France. We shall here quote our author at considerable length. The extract will exhibit the professor's antiquarian learning to advantage. With a true German industry and talent he must have pursued the study of languages foreign to him, and with the zeal of a perfect book-worm explored many a library, and deciphered many an ancient document.—
"In returning to the French romances, we must again first distinguish between the romances of the twelfth century, in which we can still recognize the primitive Welsh and Breton elements, and those trivial and more recent works, which, mingling the traditions of Arthur with the Fable of the Sangraal, formed with these materials a sort of literary tower of Babel. "We reckon the following among the most ancient of the principal Romances:
"1. The first part of the English Romance of Merlin.
"2. The Tales of Arthur, related in the Chronicle of Geoffrey, and which describe his own particular exploits; they were much amplified in the second and more modern part of Merlin, and in the Morte d'Arthur.
"3. The English Tristan of Thomas Brittanicus, from which Godfrey of Strasbourg (about 1217) composed his German poem of Tristan und Isolde; and the French Tristan, which was the model of the work composed by Eilhart von Stolbergen about 1180 or 1190.
"4. Iwain, the Chevalier au Lion, which was composed in French about 1180, by Chrestien de Troyes, and about 1200 in German by Hartmann von Aue, from Welsh allegories. (nach Wälschen Verbildern dichteten.)
"5. The English Lancelot du Lac, communicated by Hugo de Morville, who was imprisoned with Richard Coeur de Lion, at Vienna, to Ulric von Zatzikofen, a German.
"6. The Welsh Geraint (Erek) see the Mabinogion, by Lady Charlotte Guest, which was probably put into French by Chrestien de Troyes, and (about 1200) into German, by Hartmann von Aue.
“7. Peredur, the Percival of the French, who became the hero of several Romances, and whom we again see in his purely Welsh character, in the Mabinogion, lately published by Lady Charlotte Guest. "In all these romances, we find the heroes represented as warrior
adventurers assembled round Arthur, either in his suite, or as his vassals. Invincible courage in battle, an unwearying desire to fight, an insatiable passion for the most extraordinary adventures, an inordinate ambition, love in its most engaging aspect, an unequalled splendour, the most refined courtesy and gallantry, the Service des Dames, in the most whimsical and refined form, mingled with the deepest devotedness.-Such are the characteristic traits of these romances, as they are those also of the most perfect and brilliant chivalry in general.
"None of these compositions are older than 1150, but all, as we have already said, refer to more ancient traditions; therefore feudal and chivalric institutions must have been mentioned in such traditions. Now, it is true, that a sort of rude and scarcely defined feudalism existed in England during the latter part of the heptarchy, and until 1066, as it did in France and Germany, under Charlemagne and his successors; but it nevertheless appears that the introduction of a regulated and legal feudal system into England must be attributed to William the Conqueror, who likewise introduced the true spirit of chivalry with his numerous followers. It is for this reason that we are inclined to deny a higher antiquity than 1066 to all those poetical compositions of the Welsh, which breathe this spirit, notwithstanding certain names and passages which might belong to an earlier period.
"In Provence, during a peace of nearly two centuries, which was never interrupted by the wars in the rest of Europe, where a wise administration, the intellectual habit of life of the people, and great affluence were not disturbed by hostile incursions, but strengthened and encouraged by commerce, a bright sky, and a fertile soil,-there, we maintain, that laws, manners, language, and every branch of civilization must have expanded and prospered.
"Poetry attained its highest perfection at the end of the eleventh and beginning of the twelfth century. It sung of war, adventures, religion, and love. Chivalry arose and obtained its proper character in the Provençal poetry. Chivalry was the ideal of Poetry, and in real life, feudalism corresponded with it, and was dignified by it.
"This Provençal spirit soon communicated itself to the North of France, and the first Crusade, which emanated principally from Provence, drew with it the inhabitants of the North of France. The Normans had not lost in their new country, that ancient love of adventure which had conducted their ancestors to the shores of England, France, Spain, Italy, and Sicily, even to the heart of Russia and Constantinople; they had not abandoned their love of heroic tales; but they forgot their ancient Pagan fables, and their Scandinavian and Germanic traditions, and turned with a vidity, under the serene sky of France, to the Frankish tales of Roland, Formun, and others. The Romance of Rollo does not yield in antiquity to the oldest romances of the North of France. These most ancient traditions of Wales and Brittany, which, after 1066, the Cantores Historici carried to them, (bringing them, no doubt, in greater number, in consequence of finding an attentive and admiring public,) here found a fertile and well prepared soil, in which they would easily take root. The chief character of Provençal poetry was lyric, and although the epic was not
unknown to them, (as Mr. Paris asserts in the preface to the first volume of his Garin de Loherain, contrary to M. Fauriel, Sur l'origine des epopées chévaleresques du moyen âge,) it is however certain, that the epic did not prevail in Provence; but, like the people of the North of France, the Provençals seized with avidity on the Welsh and Breton traditions, they possessed themselves of them as valuable and full of interest, imparting to them, however, a new character according to their own peculiar nationality, -a character which had hitherto been foreign to them, viz. the spirit of French chivalry. In this manner Arthur, the champion of Wales against the Saxons, was transformed into the brilliant representative of every chivalrous virtue; his court became the seat of the most luxurious, distinguished, and chivalrous life, and the heroes of his round table, the faultless models of courtesy and gallantry.
"It may here be asked, Why, when the Provençal lyric poetry was abandoned for the epic, a foreigner, as Arthur was, should have become the nucleus of this poetry instead of their own national hero, Charlemagne ? For in fact a royal centre of this kind was necessary for the epopée of chivalry, because the knights, thirsting after deeds of valour, as much required a king and master who would accord them the crown of glory, and feudal privileges, as adventures to enable them to merit that glory. Kings and princes were the supports of chivalry, and representing it in the most brilliant and perfect form.
"It is true that Charlemagne was as much the object of national poems, among the Franks in the tenth century, as Arthur was in Wales, and in the eleventh century the traditions concerning him were continually extending; we will only mention the Tales of Roland, of the sons of Haincos, of Bertha au Gros Pied, of Guillaume au court Nez, &c. where the poets overwhelm him and his paladins with all the glory and splendour of chivalry; but, according to an ancient and unchanging tradition, Charlemagne lived for ever in their memories as the patron of Christianity,—the invincible barrier against the assault of Paganism. It is on this account, that the romances which represented him fighting against the pagans, could not assign him any other place than that which tradition had already accorded him. Tradition in that case would have been its own destroyer. This would have been an easier task for those romancers who described his expeditions against his vassals; but there also, tradition rested upon historical and unvarying foundation, and following its general purport did not yield to the tendency, which had become general, of making the description of chivalry in itself the object of the epic, and creating for it an ideal world of its own. It was on this account that poets abandoned themselves so easily to another circle of traditions entirely new to them, and which, because it was new, was the fitter for that transformation, which could not originate in Wales, for the same reason that prevented the French from altering the traditions of Charlemagne. Still less could the Norman-Franks receive the Saxon poetry which they met with in England. The ancient poetry of the Anglo-Saxons, took its origin in the Scandinavian and German Mythology. This is proved by Beowulf, the Battle of Finnsburg, Cadmon, the Traveller's Song, and other fragments of ancient poetry which are still extant. The different bodies of emigrants from the North, from