A Short History of French Literature, by George Saintsbury

Chapter 11.

Prose Chronicles.

Beginning of Prose Chronicles.
Grandes Chroniques de France.

In all countries the use of prose for literature is chronologically later than the use of poetry, and France is no exception to the rule. The Chansons de Gestes were in their way historical poems, and they were, as we have seen, soon followed by directly historical poems in considerable numbers. It was not, however, till the prose Arthurian romances of Map and his followers had made prose popular as a vehicle for long narratives, that regular history began to be written in the vulgar tongue. The vogue of these prose romances dates from the latter portion of the twelfth century; the prose chronicle follows it closely, and dates from the beginning of the thirteenth. It was not at first original. The practice of chronicle writing in Latin had been frequent during the earlier centuries, and at last the monks of three monasteries, St. Benoit sur Loire, St. Germain des Prés, and St. Denis, began to keep a regular register of the events of their own time, connecting this with earlier chronicles of the past. The most famous and dignified of the three, St. Denis, became specially the home of history. The earliest French prose chronicles do not, however, come from this place. They are two in number; both date from the earliest years of the thirteenth century, and both are translations. One is a version of a Latin compilation of Merovingian history; the other of the famous chronicle of Turpin131. These two are composed in a southern dialect bordering on the Provençal, and the first was either written by or ascribed to a certain Nicholas of Senlis. The example was followed, but it was not till 1274 that a complete vernacular version of the history of France was executed by a monk of St. Denis — Primat — in French prose. This version, slightly modified, became the original of a compilation very famous in French literature and history, the Grandes Chroniques de France, which was regularly continued by members of the same community until the reign of Charles V, from official sources and under royal authority. The work, under the same title but written by laics, extends further to the reign of Louis XI. The necessity of translation ceased as soon as the example of writing in the vernacular had been set, though Latin chronicles continued to be produced as well as French.


Long, however, before history on the great scale had been thus attempted, and very soon after the first attempt of Nicholas of Senlis had shown that the vulgar tongue was capable of such use, original prose memoirs and chronicles of contemporary events had been produced, and, as happens more than once in French literature, the first, or one of the first, was also the best. The Conquête de Constantinoble132 of Geoffroy de Villehardouin was written in all probability during the first decade of the thirteenth century. Its author was born at Villehardouin, near Troyes, about 1160, and died, it would seem, in his Greek fief of Messinople in 1213. His book contains a history of the Fourth Crusade, which resulted in no action against the infidels, but in the establishment for the time of a Latin empire and in the partition of Greece among French barons. Villehardouin's memoirs are by universal consent among the most attractive works of the middle ages. Although no actually original manuscript exists, we possess a copy which to all appearance faithfully represents the original. To readers, who before approaching Villehardouin have well acquainted themselves with the characteristics of the Chansons de Gestes, the resemblance of the Conquête de Constantinoble to these latter is exceedingly striking. The form, putting the difference between prose and verse aside, is very similar, and the merits of vigorous and brightly coloured language, of simplicity and vividness of presentation, are identical. At the same time either his own genius or the form which he has adopted has saved Villehardouin from the crying defect of most mediaeval work, prolixity and monotony. He has much to say as well as a striking manner of saying it, and the interest of his work as a story yields in nothing to its picturesqueness as a piece of literary composition. His indirect as well as direct literary value is moreover very great, because he enables us to see that the picture of manners and thought given by the Chansons de Gestes is in the main strictly true to the actual habits of the time — the time, that is to say, of their composition, not of their nominal subjects. Villehardouin is the chief literary exponent of the first stage of chivalry, the stage in which adventure was an actual fact open to every one, and when Eastern Europe and Western Asia offered to the wandering knight opportunities quite as tempting as those which the romances asserted to have been open to the champions of Charlemagne and Arthur. But, as a faithful historian, he, while putting the poetical and attractive side of feudalism in the best light, does not in the least conceal its defects, especially the perpetual jarring and rivalry inevitable in armies where hundreds of petty kings sought each his own advantage.

Minor Chroniclers between Villehardouin and Joinville.

The Fourth Crusade was fertile in chroniclers. Villehardouin's work was supplemented by the chronicle of Henri de Valenciennes, which is written in a somewhat similar style, but with still more resemblance to the manner and diction of the Chansons, so much so that it has been even supposed, though probably without foundation, to be a rhymed Chanson thrown into a prose form. This process is known to have been actually applied in some cases. Another historian of the expedition whose work has been preserved was Robert de Clari. Baldwin Count of Flanders, who also accompanied it, was not indeed the author but the instigator of a translation of Latin chronicles which, like the Grandes Chroniques de France, was continued by original work and attained, under the title of Chronique de Baudouin d'Avesnes, very considerable dimensions.

The thirteenth century also supplies a not inconsiderable number of works dealing with the general history of France. Guillaume de Nangis wrote in the latter part of the century several historical treatises, first in Latin and then in French. An important work, entitled La Chronique de Rains (Rheims), dates from the middle of the period, and, though less picturesque in subject and manner than Villehardouin, has considerable merits of style. Normandy, Flanders, and, the Crusades generally, each have groups of prose chronicles dealing with them, the most remarkable of the latter being a very early French translation of the work of William of Tyre, with additions133. Of the Flanders group, the already mentioned chronicle called of Baudouin d'Avesnes is the chief. It is worth mentioning again because in its case we see the way in which French was gaining ground. It exists both in Latin and in the vernacular. In other cases the Latin would be the original; but in this case it appears, though it is not positively certain, that the book was written in French, and translated for the benefit of those who might happen not to understand that language.


As Villehardouin is the representative writer of the twelfth century, so is Joinville134 of the thirteenth, as far as history is concerned. Jean de Joinville, Sénéchal of Champagne, was born in 1224 at the castle of Joinville on the Marne, which afterwards became the property of the Orleans family, and was destroyed during the Revolution. He died in 1319. He accompanied Saint Louis on his unfortunate crusade in 1248, but not in his final and fatal expedition to Tunis. Most of the few later events of his life known to us were connected with the canonisation of the king; but he is known to have taken part in active service when past his ninetieth year. His historical work, a biography of St. Louis, deals chiefly with the crusade, and is one of the most circumstantial records we have of mediaeval life and thought. It is of much greater bulk than Villehardouin's Conquête, and is composed upon a different principle, the author being somewhat addicted to gossip and apt to digress from the main course of his narrative. It has, however, to be remembered that Joinville's first object was not, like Villehardouin's, to give an account of a single and definite enterprise, but to display the character of his hero, to which end a certain amount of desultoriness was necessary and desirable. His style has less vigour than that of his countryman and predecessor, but it has more grace. It is evident that Joinville occasionally set himself with deliberate purpose to describe things in a literary fashion, and his interspersed reflections on manners and political subjects considerably increase the material value of his work. It is unfortunate that nothing like a contemporary manuscript has come down to us, the earliest in existence being one of the late fourteenth century, when considerable changes had passed over the language. With the aid of some contemporary documents on matters of business which Joinville seems to have dictated, M. de Wailly has effected an exceedingly ingenious conjectural restoration of the text of the book, but the interest of this is in strictness diminished by the fact that it is undoubtedly conjectural. The period of composition of Joinville's book was somewhat late in his life, apparently in the first years of the fourteenth century, and about 1310 he presented it to Louis le Hutin, though it does not appear what became of the manuscript.

The period between Joinville and Froissart is peculiarly barren in chronicles. Besides the serial publications already noticed, the Chroniques de France and the Chroniques de Flandre, there are perhaps only two which are worth mentioning. The first is a Chronique des Quatre Premiers Valois, written with exactness and careful attention to authentic sources of information. The other is the Chronique of Jean Lebel, canon of Liège. This is not only a work of considerable merit in itself, but still more remarkable because it was the model, and something more, of Froissart. That historian began by almost paraphrasing the work of Lebel; and though by degrees he worked the early parts of his book into more and more original forms according to the information which he picked up, these parts remained to the last indebted to the author from whom they had been originally compiled.


Froissart was born in 1337 and did not die till after 1409, the precise date of his death being unknown. There are few problems of literary criticism which are more difficult than that of arranging a definitive edition of his famous Chroniques135. In most cases the task of the critic is to decide which of several manuscripts, all long posterior to the author's death, deserves most confidence, or how to supply and correct the faults of a single document. In Froissart's case there is, on the contrary, an embarrassing number of seemingly authentic texts. During the whole of his long life, Froissart seems to have been constantly occupied in altering, improving, and rectifying his work, and copies of it in all its states are plentiful. The early printed editions represent merely a single one of these; Buchon's is somewhat more complete. But it is only within the last few years that the labours of M. Kervyn de Lettenhove and M. Siméon Luce have made it possible (and not yet entirely possible) to see the work in all its conditions. M. Kervyn de Lettenhove's edition is complete and excellent as far as it goes. That of M. Luce is still far from finished. The editor, however, has succeeded in presenting three distinct versions of the first book. This is the most interesting in substance, the least in manner and style. It deals with a period most of which lay outside of Froissart's own knowledge, and in treating which he was at first content to paraphrase Jean Lebel, though afterwards he made this part of the book much more his own. It never, however, attained to the gossiping picturesqueness of the later books (there are four in all), in which the historian relies entirely on his own collections. Although Cressy, Poitiers, and Najara may be of more importance than the fruitless chevauchée of Buckingham through France, the gossip of the Count de Foix' court, and the kite-and-crow battles of the Duke de Berri and his officers with Aymerigot Marcel and Geoffrey Tête-Noire, they are much less characteristic of Froissart. The literary instinct of Scott enabled him (in a speech of Claverhouse136) exactly to appreciate our author. Some of his admirers have striven to make out that traces of political wisdom are to be found in the later books. If it be so, they are very deeply hidden. A sentence which must have been written when Froissart was more than fifty years old puts his point of view very clearly. Geoffrey Tête-Noire, the Breton brigand, 'held a knight's life, or a squire's, of no more account than a villain's,' and this is said as if it summed up the demerits of the free companion. Beyond knights and ladies, tourneys and festivals, Froissart sees nothing at all. But his admirable power of description enables him to put what he did see as well as any writer has ever put it. Vast as his work is, the narrative and picturesque charm never fails; and in a thousand different lights the same subject, the singular afterglow of chivalry, which the influence of certain English and French princes kept up in the fourteenth century, is presented with a mastery rare in any but the best literature. He is so completely indifferent to anything but this, that he does not take the slightest trouble to hide the misery and the misgovernment which the practical carrying out of his idea caused. Never, perhaps, was there a better instance of a man of one idea, and certainly there never was any man by whom his one idea was more attractively represented. To this day it is difficult even with the clearest knowledge of the facts to rise from a perusal of Froissart without an impression that the earlier period of the Hundred Years' War was a sort of golden age in which all the virtues flourished, except for occasional ugly outbreaks of the evil principle in the Jacquerie, the Wat Tyler insurrection, and so forth. As a historian Froissart is, as we should expect, not critical, and he carries the French habit of disfiguring proper names and ignoring geographical and other trifles to a most bewildering extent. But there is little doubt that he was diligent in collecting and careful in recording his facts, and his extreme minuteness often supplies gaps in less prolix chroniclers.

Fifteenth-Century Chroniclers.

The last century of the period which is included in this chapter is extremely fertile in historians. These range themselves naturally in two classes; those who undertake more or less of a general history of the country during their time, and those who devote themselves to special persons as biographers, or to the recital of the events which more particularly concern a single city or district. The first class, moreover, is more conveniently subdivided according to the side which the chroniclers took on the great political duel of their period, the struggle between Burgundy and France.

The Burgundian side was particularly rich in annalists. The study and practice of historical writing had, as a consequence of the Chronicle of Baudouin, and the success of Lebel and Froissart, taken deep root in the cities of Flanders which were subject to the Duke of Burgundy, while the magnificence and opulence of the ducal court and establishments naturally attracted men of letters. Froissart's immediate successor, Enguerrand de Monstrelet, belongs to this party. Monstrelet137, who wrote a chronicle covering the years 1400-1444, is not remarkable for elegance or picturesqueness of style, but takes particular pains to copy exactly official reports of speeches, treaties, letters, etc. Another important chronicle of the same side is that of George Chastellain138, a busy man of letters, who was historiographer to the Duke of Burgundy, and wrote a history of the years 1419-1470. Chastellain was a man of learning and talent, but was somewhat imbued with the heavy and pedantic style which both in poetry and prose was becoming fashionable. The memoirs of Olivier de la Marche extend from 1435 to 1489, and are also somewhat heavy, but less pedantic than those of Chastellain. Dealing with the same period, and also written in the Burgundian interest, are the memoirs of Jacques du Clerq, 1448-1467, and of Lefèvre de Saint Rémy, 1407-1436; as also the Chronicle of Jehan de Wavrin, beginning at the earliest times and coming down to 1472. Wavrin's subject is nominally England, but the later part of his work of necessity concerns France also.

The writers on the royalist side are of less importance and less numerous, though individually perhaps of equal value. The chief of them are Mathieu de Coucy, who continued the work of Monstrelet in a different political spirit from 1444 to 1461; Pierre de Fenin, who wrote a history of part of the reign of Charles VI; and Jean Juvenal des Ursins139, a statesman and ecclesiastic, who has dealt more at length with the whole of the same reign. Of these Juvenal des Ursins takes the first rank, and is one of the best authorities for his period; but from a literary point of view he cannot be very highly spoken of, though there is a certain simplicity about his manner which is superior to the elaborate pedantry of not a few of his contemporaries and immediate successors.

The second class has the longest list of names, and perhaps the most interesting constituents. First may be mentioned Le Livre des Faits et bonnes Mœurs du sage roi Charles V. This is an elaborate panegyric by the poetess Christine de Pisan, full of learning, good sense, and sound morality, but somewhat injured by the classical phrases, the foreign idioms, and the miscellaneous erudition, which characterise the school to which Christine belonged. Far more interesting is the Livre des Faits du Maréchal de Bouciqualt140, a book which is a not unworthy companion and commentary to Froissart, exhibiting the kind of errant chivalry which characterised the fourteenth century, and in part the fifteenth, and which so greatly assisted the English in their conflicts with the French. Joan of Arc was made, as might have been expected, the subject of numerous chronicles and memoirs which have come down to us under the names of Cousinot, Cochon, and Berry. The Constable of Richemont, who had the credit of overthrowing the last remnant of English domination at the battle of Formigny, found a biographer in Guillaume Gruel.

Lastly have to be mentioned three curious works of great value and interest bearing on this time. These are the journals of a citizen of Paris141 (or two such), which extend from 1409 to 1422, and from 1424 to 1440, and the so-called Chronique scandaleuse of Jean de Troyes covering the reign of Louis XI. These, with the already-mentioned chronicle of Juvenal des Ursins, are filled with the minutest information on all kinds of points. The prices of articles of merchandise, the ravages of wolves, etc., are recorded, so that in them almost as much light is thrown on the social life of the period as by a file of modern newspapers. The chronicle of Jean Chartier, brother of Alain, that of Molinet in continuance of Chastellain, and the short memoirs of Villeneuve, complete the list of works of this class that deserve mention.

Examples of the three great French historians of the middle ages follow:—


La velle de la saint Martin vindrent devant Gadres en Esclavonie, si virent la cité fermee de halz murs et de haltes torz, et pour noiant demandissiés plus bele ne plus fort ne plus riche. et quant li pelerin la virent, il se merveillerent mult et distrent li uns a l'autre 'coment porroit estre prise tel vile par force, se diex meïsmes nel fait?' Les premieres nés vindrent devant la vile et aëncrerent et atendirent les autres et al matin fist mult bel jor et mult cler, et vinrent les galies totes et li huissier et les autres nés qui estoient arrieres, et pristrent le port par force et rompirent la chaaine qui mult ere forz et bien atornee, et descendirent a terre, si que li porz fu entr'aus et la vile. lor veïssiez maint chevalier et maint serjant issir des nés et maint bon destrier traire des huissiers et maint riche tref et maint pavellon.

Einsine se loja l'oz et fu Gadres assegie le jor de la saint Martin. a cele foiz ne furent mie venu tuit li baron, ear encor n'ere mie venuz li marchis de Montferrat qui ere remés arriere por afaire que il avoit. Estiennes del Perche fu remés malades en Venise et Mahis de Monmorenci, et quant il furent gari, si s'en vint Mahis de Monmorenci aprés l'ost a Gadrez; mes Estienes del Perche ne le fist mie si bien, quar il guerpi l'ost et s'en ala en Puille sejorner. avec lui s'en ala Rotrox de Monfort et Ives de la Ille et maint autre, qui mult en furent blasmé, et passerent au passage de marz en Surie.

L'endemain de la saint Martin issirent de cels de Gadres et vindrent parler le duc de Venise qui ere en son paveillon, et li distrent que il li rendroient la cité et totes les lor choses sals lor cors en sa merci. et li dus dist qu'il n'en prendroit mie cestui plet ne autre, se par le conseil non as contes et as barons, et qu'il en iroit a els parler.

Endementiers que il ala parler as contes et as barons, icele partie dont vos avez oï arrieres, qui voloient l'ost depecier, parlerent as messages et lor distrent 'por quoi volez vos rendre vostre cité? li pelerin ne vos assaldront mie ne d'aus n'avez vos garde, se vos vos poëz defendre des Venisïens, dont estes vos quites.' et ensi pristrent un d'aus meïsmes qui avoit non Robert de Bove, qui ala as murs de la vile et lor dist ce meïsmes. Ensi entrerent li message en la vile et fu li plais remés. Li dus de Venise com il vint as contes et as barons, si lor dist 'seignor, ensi voelent cil de la dedanz rendre la cité sals lor cors a ma merci, ne je ne prendroie cestui plait ne autre se per voz conseill non' et li baron li respondirent 'sire, nos vos loons que vos le preigniez et si le vos prïon.' et il dist que il le feroit. Et il s'en tornerent tuit ensemble al paveillon le duc por le plait prendre, et troverent que li message s'en furent alé par le conseil a cels qui voloient l'ost depecier. E dont se dreça uns abes de Vals de l'ordre de Cistials, et lor dist 'seignor, je vos deffent de par l'apostoile de Rome que vos ne assailliez ceste cité, quar ele est de crestïens et vos iestes pelerin.' Et quant ce oï li dus, si en fu mult iriez et destroiz et dist as contes et as barons 'seignor, je avoie de ceste vile plait a ma volonté, et vostre gent le m'ont tolu et vos m'aviez convent que vos le m'aideriez a conquerre, et je vos semoing que vos le façoiz.'

Maintenant li conte et li baron parlerent ensemble et cil qui a la lor partie se tenoient, et distrent 'mult ont fait grant oltrage cil qui ont cest plait desfet, et il ne fu onques jorz que il ne meïssent paine a cest ost depecier. or somes nos honi, se nos ne l'aidons a prendre.' Et il vienent al duc et li dïent 'sire, nos le vos aiderons a prendre por mal de cels qui destorné l'ont.' Ensi fu li consels pris; et al matin alerent logier devant les portes de la vile, et si drecierent lor perrieres et lor mangonials et lor autres engins dont il avoient assez; et devers la mer drecierent les eschieles sor les nés. lor commencierent a la vile a geter les pieres as murz et as lors. Ensi dura cil asals bien por v jors et lor si mistrent lors trenchëors a une tour, et cil commencierent a trenchier le mur. et quant cil dedenz virent ce, si quistrent plait tot atretel com il l'avoient refusé par le conseil a cels qui l'ost voloient depecier.


Au mois d'aoust entrames en nos neis a la Roche de Marseille: a celle journée que nous entrames en nos neis, fist l'on ouvrir la porte de la nef, et mist l'on touz nos chevaus ens, que nous deviens mener outre mer; et puis reclost l'on la porte et l'enboucha l'on bien, aussi comme l'on naye un tonnel. pour ce que, quant le neis est en la grant mer, toute la porte est en l'yaue. Quant li cheval furent ens, nostre maistres notonniers escrïa a ses notonniers qui estoient ou bec de la nef et lour dist 'est aree vostre besoingne?' et il respondirent 'oïl, sire, vieingnent avant clerc et li provere.' Maintenant que il furent venu, il lour escrïa 'chantez de par dieu'; et il s'escrïerent tuit a une voiz 'veni creator spiritus.' et il escrïa a ses notonniers 'faites voile de par dieu'; et il si firent. et en brief tens li venz se feri ou voile et nous ot tolu la vëue de la terre, que nous ne veïsmes que ciel et yaue: et chascun jour nous esloigna li venz des païs ou nous avions estei neiz. et ces choses vous moustre je que cil est bien fol hardis, qui se ose mettre en tel peril atout autrui chatel ou en pechié mortel; ear l'on se dort le soir la ou on ne set se l'on se trouvera ou font de la mer au matin.

En la mer nous avint une fiere merveille, que nous trouvames une montaigne toute ronde qui estoit devant Barbarie. nous la trouvames entour l'eure de vespres et najames tout le soir, et cuidames bien avoir fait plus de cinquante lieues, et lendemain nous nous trouvames devant icelle meïsmes montaigne; et ainsi nous avint par dous foiz ou par trois. Quant li marinnier virent ce, il furent tuit esbahi et nous distrent que nos neis estoient en grant peril; ear nous estiens devant la terre aus Sarrazins de Barbarie. Lors nous dist uns preudom prestres que on appeloit doyen de Malrut, ear il n'ot onques persecucïon en paroisse. ne par defaut d'yaue ne de trop pluie ne d'autre persecucïon, que aussi tost comme il avoit fait trois processïons par trois samedis, que diex et sa mere ne le delivrassent. Samedis estoit: nous feïsmes la premiere processïon entour les dous maz de la nef; je meïsmes m'i fiz porter par les braz, pour ce que je estoie grief malades. Onques puis nous ne veïsmes la montaigne, et venimes en Cypre le tiers samedi.


Je fuis adont infourmé par le seigneur d'Estonnevort, et me dist que il vey, et aussi firent plusieurs, quant l'oriflambe fut desploiee et la bruïne se chey, ung blanc coulon voller et faire plusieurs volz par dessus la baniere du roy; et quant il eut assez volé, et que on se deubt combatre et assambler aux ennemis, il se print a sëoir sur l'une des bannieres du roy; dont on tint ce a grant signiffïance de bien. Or approchierent les Flamens et commenchierent a jetter et a traire de bombardes et de canons et de gros quarreaulx empenez d'arain; ainsi se commença la bataille. Et en ot le roy de France et ses gens le premier encontre, qui leur fut moult dur; ear ces Flamens, qui descendoient orgueilleusement et de grant voulenté, venoient roit et dur, et boutoient en venant de l'espaule et de la poitrine ainsi comme senglers tous foursenez, et estoient si fort entrelachiés tous ensemble qu'on ne les povoit ouvrir ne desrompre. La fuirent du costé des François par le trait des canons, des bombardes et des arbalestres premierement mort: le seigneur de Waurin, baneret, Morelet de Halwin et Jacques d'Ere. Et adont fut la bataille du roy reculee; mais l'avantgarde et l'arrieregarde a deux lez passerent oultre et enclouïrent ces Flamens, et les misrent a l'estroit. Je vous diray comment sur ces deux eles gens d'armes les commencierent a pousser de leurs roides lances a longs fers et durs de Bourdeaulx, qui leur passoient ces cottes de maille tout oultre et les perchoient en char; dont ceulx qui estoient attains et navrez de ces fers se restraindoient pour eschiever les horïons; ear jamais ou amender le peuïssent ne se boutoient avant pour eulx faire destruire. La les misrent ces gens d'armes a tel destroit qu'ilz ne se sçavoient ne povoient aidier ne ravoir leurs bras ne leurs planchons pour ferir ne eulz deffendre. La perdoient les plusieurs force et alaine, et la tresbuchoient l'un sur l'autre, et se estindoient et moroient sans coup ferir. La fut Phelippe d'Artevelle encloz et pousé de glaive et abatu, et gens de Gand qui l'amoient et gardoient grant plenté atterrez entour luy. Quant le page dudit Phelippe vey la mesadventure venir sur les leurs, il estoit bien monté sur bon coursier, si se party et laissa son maistre, ear il ne le povoit aidier; et retourna vers Courtray pour revenir a Gand.

(A)insi fut faitte et assamblee celle bataille; et lors que des deux costez les Flamens furent astrains et encloz, ilz ne passerent plus avant, ear ilz ne se povoient aidier. Adont se remist la bataille du roy en vigeur, qui avoit de commencement ung petit branslé. La entendoient gens d'armes a abatre Flamens en grant nombre, et avoient les plusieurs haches acerees, dont ilz rompoient ces bachinets et eschervelloient testes; et les aucuns plommees, dont ilz donnoient si grans horrïons, qu'ilz les abatoient a terre. A paines estoient Flamens chëuz, quant pillars venoient qui entre les gens d'armes se boutoient et portoient grandes coutilles, dont ilz les partüoient; ne nulle pitié n'en avoient non plus que se ce fuissent chiens. La estoit le clicquetis sur ces bacinets si grant et si hault, d'espees, de haches, et de plommees, que l'en n'y ouoit goutte pour la noise. Et ouÿ dire que, se tous les heaumiers de Paris et de Brouxelles estoient ensemble, leur mestier faisant, ilz n'euïssent pas fait si grant noise comme faisoient les combatans et les ferans sur ces testes et sur ces bachinets. La ne s'espargnoient point chevalliers ne escuïers ainchois mettoient la main a l'euvre par grant voulenté, et plus les ungs que les autres; si en y ot aucuns qui s'avancerent et bouterent en la presse trop avant; ear ilz y furent encloz et estains, et par especïal messire Loÿs de Cousant, ung chevallier de Berry, et messire Fleton de Revel, filz au seigneur de Revel; mais encoires en y eut des autres, dont ce fut dommage: mais si grosse bataille, dont celle la fut, ou tant avoit de pueple, ne se povoit parfurnir et au mieulx venir pour les victorïens, que elle ne couste grandement. Car jeunes chevalliers et escuïers qui desirent les armes se avancent voulentiers pour leur honneur et pour acquerre loënge; et la presse estoit la si grande et le dangier si perilleux pour ceulx qui estoient enclos ou abatus, que se on n'avoit trop bonne ayde, on ne se povoit relever. Par ce party y eut des Françoiz mors et estains aucuns; mais plenté ne fut ce mie; ear quant il venoit a point, ilz aidoient l'un l'autre. La eut ung molt grant nombre de Flamens occis, dont les tas des mors estoient haulx et longs ou la bataille avoit esté; on ne vey jamais si peu de sang yssir a tant de mors.

Quant les Flamens qui estoient derriere veirent que ceulx devant fondoient et chëoient l'un sus l'autre et que ilz estoient tous desconfis, ilz s'esbahirent et jetterent leurs plançons par terre et leurs armures et se misrent a la fuitte vers Courtray et ailleurs. Ilz n'avoient cure que pour eulx mettre a sauveté. Et Franchois et Bretons aprés, quy les chassoient en fossez et en buissons, en aunois et an marés et bruieres, cy dix, cy vingt, cy trente, et la les recombatoient de rechief, et la les occïoient, se ilz n'estoient les plus fors. Si en y eut ung moult grant nombre de mors en la chace entre le lieu de la bataille et Courtray, ou ilz se retraioient a saulf garant. Ceste bataille advint sur le Mont d'Or entre Courtray et Rosebeque en l'an de grace nostre seigneur, mil iijc. iiijxx. et II., le jeudi devant le samedi de l'advent, le xxvije. jour de novembre, et estoit pour lors le roy Charles de France ou xiiije. an de son ëage.

131 The chronicle of the pseudo-Turpin is of little real importance in the history of French literature, because it is admitted to have been written in Latin. The busy idleness of critics has however prompted them to discuss at great length the question whether the Chanson de Roland may not possibly have been composed from this chronicle. The facts are these. Tilpin or Turpin was actually archbishop of Rheims from 753-794, but nobody pretends that the chronicle going under his name is authentic. All that is certain is that it is not later than 1165, and that it is probably not earlier than the middle, or at most the beginning, of the eleventh century, while the part of it which is more particularly in question is of the end of that century. Roland is almost certainly of the middle at latest. Curiosity on this point may be gratified by consulting M. Gaston Paris, De pseudo-Turpino, Paris, 1865, or M. Léon Gautier, Epopées Françaises, Paris, 1878. But, from the literary point of view, it is sufficient to say that, while Turpin is of the very smallest literary merit, Roland is among the capital works of the middle ages.

132 Ed. N. de Wailly. Paris, 1874.

133 Ed. P. Paris. 2 vols., 1879-80. It is characteristic of the middle ages that this work usually bore the title of Roman d'Eracle, for no other reason than that the name of Héraclius occurs in the first sentence.

134 Ed. N. de Wailly. Paris, 1874. Besides the Histoire de St. Louis, Joinville has left an interesting Credo, a brief religious manual written much earlier in his life.

135 Ed. Kervyn de Lettenhove. 20 vols., Brussels. Ed. S. Luce, Paris, in course of publication. The edition of Buchon, 3 vols., Paris, 1855, is still the best for general use. Froissart's poems give many biographical details which are interesting, but unimportant. He wandered all his life from court to court, patronised and pensioned by kings, queens, and princes. He was successively curé of Lestines and canon of Chimay. In early life he was much in England, being specially patronised by Edward III. and Philippa.

136 Old Mortality, chap. 35.

137 Ed. Buchon. Paris, 1858.

138 Chastellain has been fortunate, like most Flemish writers, in being excellently and completely edited (by M. Kervyn de Lettenhove. 8 vols., Brussels).

139 Ed. Michaud et Poujoulat.

140 Ed. Michaud et Poujoulat.

141 Ed. Michaud et Poujoulat, in whose collection most of the many authors here mentioned will be also found.


Last updated Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 22:29