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versial, between two rival Troubadours, on some knotty point of amatory ethics, and often took place before, and was decided by, a Court of Love. To these courts we shall again have occasion to refer when we come to speak of Chaucer. The latter was employed on themes of war or politics or satire. Among the most eminent composers of sirventes were Bertrand de Born, the gifted knight of Perigord, whose insidious suggestions kept alive for years the feud which divided our Henry II. and his sons, Peyrols, a knight of Auvergne, and Sordello of Mantua. Bertrand and Sordello both figure in the great poem of Dante, the one in the Inferno, the other in the Purgatorio. Poems by these, and many other Troubadours, may be found in the great work of M. Raynouard on the Provençal poetry.
But the poetry of the Trouvères had a far more important and lasting influence over our early. English literature than that of the Troubadours. We may arrange it under four heads Romances, Fabliaux, Satires, and Historical Poetry. To the first head belong, besides a great number of poems on separate subjects, four great epic cycles of romance; the first relating to Charlemagne, the second to Arthur and the Round Table, the third to the crusades for the recovery of the Holy Sepulchre, and the fourth to the ancient world and its heroes, especially Alexander the Great. Of the romances relating to Charlemagne, the oldest is the Chanson de Roland, a narrative of the last battle and death of the brave Roland on the field of Roncesvalles. This poem, although in the shape in which we now have it, it was not written down earlier than the twelfth century, in its primitive form is believed to date from the reign of Louis le Débonnaire.* The metre is the ten-syllable rhyming couplet. Among the more celebrated pieces in this cycle are the Four Sons of Aymon, Roland and Ferrabras, and Ogier le Danois. A direct * Démogeot, Hist. de la Lit. Française.
proof of the high antiquity of some portions at least of the Charlemagne romance is found in the lines in which Richard Wace (who wrote about 1155) describes the proceedings of the Norman minstrel Taillefer, just before the battle of Hastings:
"Taillefer, qui moult bien chantait,
Sur un cheval qui tot allait,
Qui moururent à Roncevaux."
The next cycle, that of Arthur, was unquestionably founded upon the national and patriotic songs of Wales and Brittany. At the courts of the petty kingdoms of Wales, which for centuries, while the Saxons were fighting with each other or struggling against the Danes, seem to have enjoyed comparative prosperity and peace, the Welsh bards, feeding their imagination on the memory of the gallant stand made by their patriot prince against the Teutonic hordes, gradually wove a beautiful tissue of romantic poetry, of which the central figure was Arthur. The songs in which his exploits were celebrated naturally made their way among their self-exiled brethren in Brittany, and, perhaps, were by them added to and embellished. From Brittany they easily passed into the rest of France, and by the congenial imaginations of the Norman poets were eagerly welcomed. This is the direct influence of Brittany upon the formation of the Arthur cycle; and it is exemplified in the romance of Iwain or Owen, composed in French by Chrétien of Troyes, about the year 1160, after the Breton original by Jehann Vaour. There was also an indirect or reflex influence, communicated through the British history of Geoffrey of Monmouth, which, as we have seen, is stated by its author to have been translated from a work in the Breton language. Geoffrey reproduced this work in Latin, adding probably
a good deal from original Welsh sources, and the result was the Historia Britonum. This Latin history became exceedingly popular, and was resorted to by the Trouvères as a secondary mine of information respecting Arthur and the Round Table. The earliest form of these French romances was unquestionably metrical, but it has happened that the original poems have in some instances been lost, so that the oldest existing versions of portions of the cycle are in French prose. The authors of these prose versions as Luke Gast, Walter Mapes, and Robert Broom -appear to have been natives of England.
Of the third cycle, that relating to the crusades, the most important piece is the famous romance of Richard Coeurde-Lion.
The leading poem of the fourth cycle is the Alexandreis, the joint work of Lambert li Cors and Alexander of Paris, published in 1184. The extraordinary success of this poem caused the metre in which it was composed (the twelve-syllable rhyming couplet) to be known thenceforth by the name of Alexandrine.
The Fabliau, or Metrical Tale, aimed, not at singing the actions of heroes, but at describing, in an amusing, striking way, the course of real life. It was to the chivalrous romance what comedy is to tragedy — comedy, that is to say, like that of Menander, not like that of Aristophanes; it is not political, and does not attack individuals, but paints society and phases of character. With a frequent touch of satire, or flavour of cynicism, the Fabliau is upon the whole an account of the every-day life and manners of the time, of which it conveys no very pleasing or edifying impression. Many fabliaux were drawn from eastern sources; e. g., the famous Indian tale of the Seven Wise Masters, which has been rendered or imitated in so many different languages.
The glaring inconsistencies which this world presents between promise and performance-between theory and
practice-give rise in every age to satire. Every village has its satirist, who with greater or less skill exposes the hypocrite, and ridicules the dupe. It is quite a secondary question whether the satire current in any particular age finds or misses literary expression. In the Middle Ages the great literary movement of France, which we are now considering, could not fail to extend to satire also. And as deficient practice and performance are nowhere so offensive as when they accompany the grandest theories and the most uncompromising professions, it was natural that the vices of ministers of the Church, that one powerful European institution, the very grandeur of which made it a more obvious mark, should be the principal theme of mediæval satirists. The continuation of the Roman de la Rose, by Jean de Meun, composed about the end, and the famous tale of Reynard the Fox, composed about the middle, of the thirteenth century, are full of satirical attacks upon men in high places and established institutions, in all which the clergy come in for the principal share of invective.
Historical Poetry.—The period which produced so many Latin chronicles for circulation among the clergy, gave birth also to French chronicles in verse for the entertainment of the laity. In verse, — because few laymen could read, and a history in rhyme was easier and more agreeable to remember, both for the reciter and for the hearer. We do not hear of prose chronicles in French, still less in English, until the next period, by which time a reading and cultivated lay audience had been formed. The chief name of note among these French metrical chroniclers is that of Maitre Wace, a learned clerk, born in Jersey, near the end of the eleventh century, and educated in Normandy. His first history, the Brut d'Angleterre (Chronicle of England), is in the main a translation of Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Britonum before mentioned, and ends with the year 680. His second work,
the Roman de Rou (Rollo), is a history of the Dukes of Normandy, reaching down to 1170, the sixteenth year of Henry II. Part of this latter work is in the Alexandrine measure; the remaining portion, and all the Brut d'Angleterre are in the eight-syllable romance metre. Another chronicler, Benoit, also composed, at the desire of Henry II., a history of the Dukes of Normandy, which appeared some years after that of Wace. Wace died about the year 1175.
The English poetry of the period bears witness, as we have said, in almost every line, to the powerful foreign influences amid which it grew up, and to which it owed the chief part of its inspiration. It may be arranged, therefore, under the same four heads as the French poetry; to these, however, we will add two others, religious poems, and occasional poems; since it is in these compositions that we first find a marked originality, a promise of an independent growth to come.
English versions or imitations of the popular French romances began to be multiplied towards the end of the thirteenth and beginning of the fourteenth centuries. For a particular account of these English romances, the reader may consult the excellent work of Ellis.* Besides the two heroic subjects, Charlemagne and Arthur, (the heroes of classical antiquity seem to have been less popular with the English versifiers,) the crusades, particularly the one in which King Richard was engaged, and many miscellaneous topics, are handled by these writers. Yet even Guy of Warwick, Bevis of Hamptoun, and Richard Caur-de-Lion, though the names have such a local and national sound, were founded upon French originals, the authors of which, indeed, were probably Englishmen, but derived from France their literary culture.
Scarcely any English versions of Fabliaux are known to exist of earlier date than 1350. The raillery and more *Specimens of Early English Romances.