A Short History of French Literature, by George Saintsbury

Chapter 7.

Serious and Allegorical Poetry.

In consequence of the slowness with which prose was used for any regular literary purpose in France, verse continued to do duty for it until a comparatively late period in almost all departments of literature. By the very earliest years of the twelfth century, and probably much earlier (though we have no certain evidence of this latter fact), documents of all kinds began to be written in verse of various forms. Among the earliest serious verse that was written rank, as we might expect, verse chronicles. It was not till 1200 at soonest that long translations from the Latin in French prose were made, but such translations, and original works as well, were written in French verse long before.

Verse Chronicles.

The rhymed Chronicles were numerous, but, with rare exceptions, they cannot be said to be of any very great literary importance. Whether they were imitated directly from the Chansons de Gestes, or vice versa, is a question which, as it happens, can be settled without difficulty. For they are almost all in octosyllabic couplets, a metre certainly later than the assonanced decasyllabics of the earliest Chansons. The latter form and the somewhat later dodecasyllable or Alexandrine are rarely used for Verse Chronicles, the most remarkable exception being the spirited Combat des Trente77, which is however very late, and the Chronique de du Guesclin of the same date. There are earlier examples of history in Alexandrines (some are found in the twelfth century, such as the account of Henry the Second's Scotch Wars by Jordan Fantome, Chancellor of the diocese of Winchester), but they are not numerous or important. It is not unworthy of notice that the majority of the early Verse Chronicles are English or Anglo-Norman. The first of importance is that of Geoffrey Gaymar, whose Chronicle of English history was written about 1146. Gaymar was followed by a much better known writer, the Jerseyman Wace78, who not only, as has been mentioned, versified Geoffrey of Monmouth into the Brut79, but produced the important Roman de Rou80, giving the history of the Dukes of Normandy and of the Conquest of England. The date of the Brut is 1155, of the Rou 1160. This latter is the better of the two, though Wace was not a great poet. It consists chiefly of octosyllabics, with a curious insertion of Alexandrines in rhymed not assonanced laisses. Wace was followed by Benoist de Sainte-More, who extended his Chronicle of the Dukes of Normandy to more than forty thousand verses. The 'Life of St. Thomas' (Becket), by Garnier de Pont St. Maxence, also deserves notice, as does an anonymous poem on the English wars in Ireland. But the most interesting of this group is probably the history81 of William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke, who died in 1219 and who during his life played a great part in England. It abounds in passages of historical interest and literary value. During the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the practice of writing history in verse gradually died out, yet some of the most important examples date from this time. Such are the Chronicles of Philippe Mouskès82, a Fleming, in more than thirty thousand verses, extending from the Siege of Troy to the year 1243. Mouskès is of some importance in literary history, because of the great extent to which he has drawn on the Chansons de Gestes for his information. In 1304 Guillaume Guiart, a native of Orleans, wrote in twelve thousand verses a Chronicle of the thirteenth century, including a few years earlier and later. There are a large number of other Verse Chronicles, but few of them are of much importance historically, and fewer still of any literary interest.

History, however, was by no means the only serious subject which took this incongruous form in the middle ages. The amount of miscellaneous verse written during the period between the end of the eleventh and the beginning of the fifteenth century is indeed enormous. Only a very small portion of it has ever been printed, and the mere summary description of the manuscripts which contain it is as yet far from complete. If it be said generally that, during the greater part of these three hundred years, the first impulse of any one who wished to write, no matter on what subject, was to write in verse, and that the popular notion of the want of literary tastes in the middle ages is utterly mistaken, some idea may be formed of the vast extent of literature, poetical in form, which was then produced. Much no doubt of this literature is not in the least worthy of detailed notice; much, whether worthy or not, must from mere considerations of space and proportion remain unnoticed here. What is possible, is to indicate briefly the chief forms, authors, and subjects, which fall under the heading of this chapter, and to give a somewhat detailed account of the great serious poem of mediæval France, the Roman de la Rose. Peculiarities of metre and so forth will be indicated where it is necessary, but it may be said generally that the great mass of this literature is in octosyllabic couplets.

Miscellaneous Satirical Verse.

It has already been observed in discussing the Fabliaux that the first enquirers into old French literature were led to include a very miscellaneous assortment of poems under that head; and it may now be added that this miscellaneous assortment with much else constitutes the farrago of the present chapter. The two great poems of the Roman du Renart and the Roman de la Rose stand as representatives of the more or less serious poetry of the time, and everything else may be said to be included between them. Beginning nearest to the Roman du Renart and its kindred Fabliaux, we find a vast number of half-satirical styles of poetry, many, if not most of them, known (according to what has been noted in the preface as characteristic of mediaeval literature) by distinctive form-names. Of these dits and débats have already been noticed, but it is not easy to give a notion of the number of the existing examples, or of the extraordinary diversity of subjects to which both, and especially the dits, extend. Perhaps some estimate may be formed from the fact that the dits of three Flemish poets alone, Baudouin de Condé, Jean de Condé, and Watriquet de Couvin, fill four stout octavo volumes83. The subjects of these and of the large number of dits composed by other writers and anonymous are almost innumerable. The earliest are for the most part simple enumerations of the names of streets, of street cries, of guilds, of coins, and such-like things. By degrees they become more definitely didactic, and at last allegorical moralising masters them as it does almost every other kind of poetry in the fourteenth century. The débat, sometimes called dispute, or bataille, is an easily understood variety of the dit. Rutebœuf's principal débat has been named; another in a less serious spirit is that between Charlot et le Barbier. There is a Bataille des Vins, a Bataille de Caréme et de Charnage, a Débat de l'Hiver et l'Été, etc., etc. Another name much used for half-satirical, half-didactic verse was that of Bible, of which the most famous (probably because it was the first known) is that of Guyot de Provins — a violent onslaught on the powers that were in Church and State by a discontented monk. An extract from it will illustrate this division of the subject as well as anything else:—

Des fisicïens me merveil:

de lor huevre et de lor conseil

rai ge certes mont grant merveille,

nule vie ne s'apareille

a la lor, trop par est diverse

et sor totes autres perverse.

bien les nomme li communs nons;

mais je ne cuit qu'i ne soit hons

qui ne les doie mont douter.

il ne voudroient ja trover

nul home sanz aucun mehaing.

maint oingnement font e maint baing

ou il n'a ne senz ne raison,

cil eschape d'orde prison

qui de lor mains puet eschaper.

qui bien set mentir et guiler

et faire noble contenance,

tout ont trové fors la crëance

que les genz ont lor fait a bien.

tiex mil se font fisicïen

qui n'en sevent voir nes que gié.

li plus maistre sont mont changié

de grant ennui, n'il n'est mestiers

dont il soit tant de mençongiers.

il ocïent mont de la gent:

ja n'ont ne ami ne parent

que il volsissent trover sain;

de ce resont il trop vilain.

mont a d'ordure en ces lïens.

qui en main a fisicïens,

se met par els. il m'ont ëu

entre lor mains: onques ne fu,

ce cuit, nule plus orde vie.

je n'aim mie lor compaignie,

si m'aït dex, qant je sui sains:

honiz est qui chiet en lor mains.

par foi, qant je malades fui,

moi covint soffrir lor ennui.

Testaments of the satirical kind, chiefly noteworthy for the brilliant use which Villon made of the tradition of composing them, resveries and fatrasies (nonsense poems with a more or less satirical drift), parodies of the offices of the Church, of its sermons, of the miracle plays, are the chief remaining divisions of the poetry which, under a light and scoffing envelope, conceals a serious purpose.

Didactic verse. Philippe de Thaun.

Such things have at all times been composed in verse, and the reason is sufficiently obvious. In the first place, the intention of the writers is to a certain extent masked, and in the second, the reader's attention is attracted. But the middle ages by no means confined the use of verse to such cases. Downright instruction was, as often as not, the object of the verse writer in those days. The earliest, and as such the most curious of didactic poems, are those of Philippe de Thaun, an Englishman of Norman extraction, who wrote in the first quarter of the twelfth century. His two works are a Comput, or Chronological Treatise, dedicated to an uncle of his, who was chaplain to Hugh Bigod, Earl of Norfolk, and a Bestiary, or Zoological Catalogue, dedicated to Adela of Louvain, the wife of Henry the First. Written before the vogue of the versified Arthurian Romances had consecrated the octosyllable, these poems are in couplets of six syllables. Their great age, and to a certain extent their literary merit, deserve an extract:—

Monosceros est beste,

un corn ad en la teste,

pur çeo ad si a nun.

de buc ele ad façun.

par pucele eat prise,

or oëz en quel guise,

quant hom le volt cacer

et prendre et enginner,

si vent horn al orest

u sis repaires est;

la met une pucele

hors de sein sa mamele,

e par odurement

monosceros la sent;

dune vent a la pucele,

si baiset sa mamele,

en sun devant se dort,

issi vent a sa mort;

li hom survent atant,

ki l'ocit en dormant,

u trestut vif le prent,

si fait puis sun talent.

grant chose signefie,

ne larei nel vus die.

Monosceros griu est,

en franceis un-corn est:

beste de tel baillie

Jhesu Crist signefie;

un deu est e serat

e fud e parmaindrat;

en la virgine se mist,

e pur hom charn i prist,

e pur virginited,

pur mustrer casteed,

a virgine se parut

e virgine le conceut.

virgine est e serat

e tuz jurz parmaindrat.

ores oëz brefment

le signefïement.

Ceste beste en verté

nus signefie dé;

la virgine signefie,

sacez, sancte Marie;

par sa mamele entent

sancte eglise ensement;

e puis par le baiser

çeo deit signefïer,

que hom quant il se dort

en semblance est de mort:

dés cum home dormi,

ki en cruiz mort sufri,

ert sa destructïun

nostre redemptïun,

e sun traveillement

nostre reposement.

si deceut dés dïable

par semblant cuvenable;

anme e cors sunt un,

issi fud dés et hum,

e içeo signefie

beste de tel baillie.

Bestiaries and Computs (the French title of the Chronologies) were for some time the favourites with didactic verse writers, but before long the whole encyclopædia, as it was then understood, was turned into verse. Astrology, hunting, geography, law, medicine, history, the art of war, all had their treatises; and latterly Trésors, or complete popular educators, as they would be called nowadays, were composed, the best-known of which is that of Walter of Metz in 1245.

Moral and Theological verse.

All, or almost all, these works, written as they were in an age sincerely pious, if somewhat grotesque in its piety, and theoretically moral, if somewhat loose in its practice, contained not only abundant moralising, but also more or less theology of the mystical kind. It would therefore have been strange if ethics and theology themselves had wanted special exponents in verse. Before the middle of the twelfth century Samson of Nanteuil (again an Englishman by residence) had versified the Proverbs of Solomon, and in the latter half of the same century vernacular lives of the saints begin to be numerous. Perhaps the most popular of these was the legend of Barlaam and Josaphat, of which the fullest poetical form has been left us by an English trouvère of the thirteenth century named Chardry, by whom we have also a verse rendering of the 'Seven Sleepers,' and some other poems84. Somewhat earlier, Hermann of Valenciennes was a fertile author of this sort of work, composing a great Bible de Sapience or versification of the Old Testament, and a large number of lives of saints. Of books of Eastern origin, one of the most important was the Castoiement d'un Père à son Fils, which comes from the Panchatantra, though not directly. The translated work had great vogue, and set the example of other Castoiements or warnings. The monk Helinand at the end of the twelfth century composed a poem on 'Death,' and a vast number of similar poems might be mentioned. The commonest perhaps of all is a dialogue Des trois Morts et des trois Vifs, which exists in an astonishing number of variants. Gradually the tone of all this work becomes more and more allegorical. Dreams, Mirrors, Castles, such as the 'Castle of Seven Flowers,' a poem on the virtues, make their appearance.

Allegorical verse.
The Roman de la Rose.

The question of the origin of this habit of allegorising and personification is one which has been often incidentally discussed by literary historians, but which has never been exhaustively treated. It is certain that, at a very early period in the middle ages, it makes its appearance, though it is not in full flourishing until the thirteenth century. It seems to have been a reflection in light literature of the same attitude of mind which led to the development of the scholastic philosophy, and, as in the case of that philosophy, Byzantine and Eastern influences may have been at work. Certain it is that in some of the later Greek romances85, something very like the imagery of the Roman de la Rose is discoverable. Perhaps, however, we need not look further than to the natural result of leisure, mental activity, and literary skill, working upon a very small stock of positive knowledge, and restrained by circumstances within a very narrow range of employment. However this may be, the allegorising habit manifests itself recognisably enough in French literature towards the close of the twelfth century. In the Méraugis de Portlesguez of Raoul de Houdenc, the passion for arguing out abstract questions of lovelore is exemplified, and in the Roman des Eles of the same author the knightly virtues are definitely personified, or at least allegorised. At the same time some at all events of the Troubadours, especially Peire Wilhem, carried the practice yet further. Merci, Pudeur, Loyauté, are introduced by that poet as persons whom he met as he rode on his travels. In Thibaut de Champagne a still further advance was made. The representative poem of this allegorical literature, and moreover one of the most remarkable compositions furnished by the mediaeval period in France, is the Roman de la Rose86. It is doubtful whether any other poem of such a length has ever attained a popularity so wide and so enduring. The Roman de la Rose extends to more than twenty thousand lines, and is written in a very peculiar style; yet it maintained its vogue, not merely in France but throughout Europe, for nearly three hundred years from the date of its commencement, and for more than two hundred from that of its conclusion. The history of the composition of the poem is singular. It was begun by William of Lorris, of whom little or nothing is known, but whose work must, so far as it is easy to make out, have been done before 1240, and is sometimes fixed at 1237. This portion extends to 4670 lines, and ends quite abruptly. About forty years later, Jean de Meung, or Clopinel, afterwards one of Philippe le Bel's paid men of letters, continued it without preface, taking up William of Lorris' cue, and extended it to 22,817 verses, preserving the metre and some of the personages, but entirely altering the spirit of the treatment. The importance of the poem requires that such brief analysis as space will allow shall be given here. Its general import is sufficiently indicated by the heading —

Ci est le Rommant de la Rose

Où l'art d'amors est tote enclose;

though the rage for allegory induced its readers to moralise even its allegorical character, and to indulge in various far-fetched explanations of it. In the twentieth year of his age, the author says, he fell asleep and dreamed a dream. He had left the city on a fair May morning, and walked abroad till he came to a garden fenced in with a high wall. On the wall were portrayed figures, Hatred, Félonnie, Villonie, Covetousness, Avarice, Envy, Sadness, Old Age, Papelardie (Hypocrisy), Poverty — all of which are described at length. He strives to enter in, and at last finds a barred wicket at which he is admitted by Dame Oiseuse (Leisure), who tells him that Déduit (Delight) and his company are within. He finds the company dancing and singing, Dame Liesse (Enjoyment) being the chief songstress, while Courtesy greets him and invites him to take part in the festival. The god of love himself is then described, with many of his suite — Beauty, Riches, etc. A further description of the garden leads to the fountain of Narcissus, whose story is told at length. By this the author, who is thenceforth called the lover, sees and covets a rosebud. But thorns and thistles bar his way to it, and the god of love pierces him with his arrows. He does homage to the god, who accepts his service, and addresses a long discourse to him on his future duties and conduct. The prospect somewhat alarms him, when a new personage, Bel Acueil (Gracious Reception), comes up and tenders his services to the lover, the god having disappeared. Almost immediately, however, Dangier87 makes his appearance, and drives both the lover and Bel Acueil out of the garden. As the former is bewailing his fate, Reason appears and remonstrates with him. He persists in his desire, and parleys with Dangier, both directly and by ambassadors, so that in the end he is brought back by Bel Acueil into the garden and allowed to see but not to touch the rose. Venus comes to his aid, and he is further allowed to kiss it. At this, however, Shame, Jealousy, and other evil agents reproach Dangier. Bel Acueil is immured in a tower, and the lover is once more driven forth.

Here the portion due to William of Lorris ends. Its main characteristics have been indicated by this sketch, except that the extreme beauty and grace of the lavish descriptions which enclose and adorn the somewhat commonplace allegory perforce escape analysis. It is in these descriptions, and in a certain tenderness and elegance of general thought and expression, that the charm of the poem lies, and this is very considerable. The deficiency of action, however, and the continual allegorising threaten to make it monotonous had it been much longer continued in the same strain.

It is unlikely that it was this consideration which determined Jean de Meung to adopt a different style. In his time literature was already agitated by violent social, political, and religious debates, and the treasures of classical learning were becoming more and more commonly known. But prose had not yet become a common literary vehicle, save for history, oratory, and romance, nor had the duty of treating one thing at a time yet impressed itself strongly upon authors. Jean de Meung was satirically disposed, was accomplished in all the learning of his day, and had strong political opinions. He determined accordingly to make the poem of Lorris, which was in all probability already popular, the vehicle of his thoughts.

In doing this he takes up the story as his predecessor had left it, at the point where the lover, deprived of the support of Bel Acueil, and with the suspicions of Dangier thoroughly aroused against him, lies despairing without the walls of the delightful garden. Reason is once more introduced, and protests as before, but in a different tone and much more lengthily. She preaches the disadvantages of love in a speech nearly four hundred lines long, followed by another double the length, and then by a dialogue in which the lover takes his share. The difference of manner is felt at once. The allegory is kept up after a fashion, but instead of the graceful fantasies of William of Lorris, the staple matter is either sharp and satirical views of actual life, or else examples drawn indifferently from sacred and profane history. One speech of Reason's, a thousand lines in length, consists of a collection of instances of this kind showing the mobility of fortune. At length she leaves the lover as she found him, 'melancolieux et dolant,' but unconvinced. Amis (the friend), who has appeared for a moment previously, now reappears, and comforts him, also at great length, dwelling chiefly on the ways of women, concerning which much scandal is talked. The scene with Reason had occupied nearly two thousand lines; that with Amis extends to double that length, so that Jean de Meung had already excelled his predecessor in this respect. Profiting by the counsel he has received, the lover addresses himself to Riches, who guards the way, but fruitlessly. The god of love, however, takes pity on him (slightly ridiculing him for having listened to Reason), and summons all his folk to attack the tower and free Bel Acueil. Among these Faux Semblant presents himself, and, after some parley, is received. This new personification of hypocrisy gives occasion to some of the author's most satirical touches as he describes his principles and practice. After this, Faux Semblant and his companion, Contrainte Astenance (forced or feigned abstinence), set to work in favour of the lover, and soon win their way into the tower. There they find an old woman who acts as Bel Acueil's keeper. She takes a message from them to Bel Acueil, and then engages in a singular conversation with her prisoner, wherein the somewhat loose morality of the discourses of Amis is still further enforced by historical examples, and by paraphrases of not a few passages from Ovid. She afterward admits the lover, who thus, at nearly the sixteen-thousandth line from the beginning, recovers through the help of False Seeming the 'gracious reception' which is to lead him to the rose. The castle, however, is not taken, and Dangier, with the rest of his allegorical company, makes a stout resistance to 'Les Barons de L'Ost'— the lords of Love's army. The god sends to invoke the aid of his mother, and this introduces a new personage. Nature herself, and her confidant, Genius, are brought on the scene, and nearly five thousand verses serve to convey all manner of thoughts and scraps of learning, mostly devoted to the support, as before, of questionably moral doctrines. In these five thousand lines almost all the current ideas of the middle ages on philosophy and natural science are more or less explicitly contained. Finally, Venus arrives and, with her burning brand, drives out Dangier and his crew, though even at this crisis of the action the writer cannot refrain from telling the story of Pygmalion and the Image at length. The way being clear, the lover proceeds unmolested to gather the longed-for rose.

Popularity of the Roman de la Rose.

It is impossible to exaggerate, and not easy to describe, the popularity which this poem enjoyed. Its attacks on womanhood and on morality generally provoked indeed not a few replies, of which the most important came long afterwards from Christine de Pisan and from Gerson. But the general taste was entirely in favour of it. Allegorical already, it was allegorised in fresh senses, even a religious meaning being given to it. The numerous manuscripts which remain of it attest its popularity before the days of printing. It was frequently printed by the earliest typographers of France, and even in the sixteenth century it received a fresh lease of life at the hands of Marot, who re-edited it. Abroad it was praised by Petrarch and translated by Chaucer88; and it is on the whole not too much to say that for fully two centuries it was the favourite book in the vernacular literature of Europe. Nor was it unworthy of this popularity. As has been pointed out, the grace of the part due to William of Lorris is remarkable, and the satirical vigour of the part due to Jean de Meung perhaps more remarkable still. The allegorising and the length which repel readers of to-day did not disgust generations whose favourite literary style was the allegorical, and who had abundance of leisure; but the real secret of its vogue, as of all such vogues, is that it faithfully held up the mirror to the later middle ages. In no single book can that period of history be so conveniently studied. Its inherited religion and its nascent free-thought; its thirst for knowledge and its lack of criticism; its sharp social divisions and its indistinct aspirations after liberty and equality; its traditional morality and asceticism, and its half-pagan, half-childish relish for the pleasures of sense; its romance and its coarseness, all its weakness and all its strength, here appear.


The imitations of the Roman de la Rose were in proportion to its popularity. Much of this imitation took place in other kinds of poetry, which will be noticed hereafter. Two poems, however, which are almost contemporary with its earliest form, and which have only recently been published, deserve mention. One, which is an obvious imitation of Guillaume de Lorris, but an imitation of considerable merit, is the Roman de la Poire89, where the lover is besieged by Love in a tower. The other, of a different class, and free from trace of direct imitation, is the short poem called De Venus la Déesse d'Amors90, written in some three hundred four-lined stanzas, each with one rhyme only. Some passages of this latter are very beautiful.

Three extracts, two from the first part of the Roman de la Rose, and one from the second, will show its style:—

En iceli tens déliteus,

Que tote riens d'amer s'esfroie,

Sonjai une nuit que j'estoie,

Ce m'iert avis en mon dormant,

Qu'il estoit matin durement;

De mon lit tantost me levai,

Chauçai-moi et mes mains lavai.

Lors trais une aguille d'argent

D'un aguiller mignot et gent,

Si pris l'aguille à enfiler.

Hors de vile oi talent d'aler,

Por oïr des oisiaus les sons

Qui chantoient par ces boissons

En icele saison novele;

Cousant mes manches à videle,

M'en alai tot seus esbatant,

Et les oiselés escoutant,

Qui de chanter moult s'engoissoient

Par ces vergiers qui florissoient,

Jolis, gais et pleins de léesce.

Vers une rivière m'adresce

Que j'oï près d'ilecques bruire.

Car ne me soi aillors déduire

Plus bel que sus cele rivière.

D'un tertre qui près d'iluec ière

Descendoit l'iaue grant et roide,

Clere, bruiant et aussi froide

Comme puiz, ou comme fontaine,

Et estoit poi mendre de Saine,

Mès qu'ele iere plus espandue.

Onques mès n'avoie véue

Tele iaue qui si bien coroit:

Moult m'abelissoit et séoit

A regarder le leu plaisant.

De l'iaue clere et reluisant

Mon vis rafreschi et lavé.

Si vi tot covert et pavé

Le fons de l'iaue de gravele;

La praérie grant et bele

Très au pié de l'iaue batoit.

Clere et serie et bele estoit

La matinée et atemprée:

Lors m'en alai parmi la prée

Contreval l'iaue esbanoiant,

Tot le rivage costoiant.

  *  *  *  *  *  *

Une ymage ot emprès escrite,

Qui sembloit bien estre ypocrite,

Papelardie ert apelée.

C'est cele qui en recelée,

Quant nus ne s'en puet prendre garde,

De nul mal faire ne se tarde.

El fait dehors le marmiteus,

Si a le vis simple et piteus,

Et semble sainte créature;

Mais sous ciel n'a male aventure

Qu'ele ne pense en son corage.

Moult la ressembloit bien l'ymage

Qui faite fu à sa semblance,

Qu'el fu de simple contenance;

Et si fu chaucie et vestue

Tout ainsinc cum fame rendue.

En sa main un sautier tenoit,

Et sachiés que moult se penoit

De faire à Dieu prières faintes,

Et d'appeler et sains et saintes.

El ne fu gaie ne jolive,

Ains fu par semblant ententive

Du tout à bonnes ovres faire;

Et si avoit vestu la haire.

Et sachiés que n'iere pas grasse.

De jeuner sembloit estre lasse,

S'avoit la color pale et morte.

A li et as siens ert la porte

Dévéée de Paradis;

Car icel gent si font lor vis

Amegrir, ce dit l'Évangile,

Por avoir loz parmi la vile,

Et por un poi de gloire vaine,

Qui lor toldra Dieu et son raine.

  *  *  *  *  *  *

Comment le traistre Faulx-Semblant

Si va les cueurs des gens emblant,

Pour ses vestemens noirs et gris,

Et pour son viz pasle amaisgris.

'Trop sai bien mes habiz changier,

Prendre l'un, et l'autre estrangier.

Or sui chevaliers, or sui moines,

Or sui prélas, or sui chanoines,

Or sui clers, autre ore sui prestres,

Or sui desciples, or sui mestres,

Or chastelains, or forestiers:

Briément, ge sui de tous mestiers.

Or resui princes, or sui pages,

Or sai parler trestous langages;

Autre ore sui viex et chenus,

Or resui jones devenus.

Or sui Robers, or sui Robins,

Or cordeliers, or jacobins.

Si pren por sivre ma compaigne

Qui me solace et acompaigne,

(C'est dame Astenance-Contrainte),

Autre desguiséure mainte,

Si cum il li vient à plesir

Por acomplir le sien désir.

Autre ore vest robe de fame;

Or sui damoisele, or sui dame,

Autre ore sui religieuse,

Or sui rendue, or sui prieuse,

Or sui nonain, or sui abesse,

Or sui novice, or sui professe;

Et vois par toutes régions

Cerchant toutes religions. Mès de religion, sans faille,

G'en pren le grain et laiz la paille;

Por gens avulger i abit,

Ge n'en quier, sans plus, que l'abit.

Que vous diroie? en itel guise

Cum il me plaist ge me desguise;

Moult sunt en moi mué li vers,

Moult sunt li faiz aux diz divers.

Si fais chéoir dedans mes piéges

Le monde par mes priviléges;

Ge puis confesser et assoldre,

(Ce ne me puet nus prélas toldre,)

Toutes gens où que ge les truisse;

Ne sai prélat nul qui ce puisse,

Fors l'apostole solement

Qui fist cest establissement

Tout en la faveur de nostre ordre.'

77 This is an account of the battle of thirty Englishmen and thirty Bretons in the Edwardian wars.

78 There is, it appears, no authority for the Christian name of Robert which used to be given to Wace.

79 Wace's Brut is not the only one. The title seems to have become a common name.

80 The old edition of the Roman de Rou, by Pluquet, has been entirely superseded by that of Dr. Hugo Andresen. 2 vols. Heilbronn, 1877-1879.

81 Discovered recently in the Middlehill collection, and known chiefly by an article in Romania (Jan. 1882), giving an abstract and specimens.

82 Ed. Reiffenberg. Brussels, 1835-1845.

83 Ed. Schéler. Brussels, 1866-1868.

84 Well edited by Koch. Heilbronn, 1879.

85 See especially Hysminias and Hysmine.

86 Ed. F. Michel. 2 vols. Paris, 1864.

87 Dangier is not exactly 'danger.' To be 'en dangier de quelqu'un' is to be 'in somebody's power.' Dangier is supposed to stand for the guardian of the beloved, father, brother, husband, etc. This at least has been the usual interpretation, and seems to me to be much the more probable. M. Gaston Paris, however, and others, see in Dangier the natural coyness and resistance of the beloved object, not any external influence.

88 Chaucer's authorship of the existing translation has been denied. It is, however, certain that he did translate the poem.

89 Ed. Stehlich. Halle, 1881.

90 Ed. Förster. Berne, 1880.


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