A Short History of French Literature, by George Saintsbury

Chapter 5.

Fabliaux. The Roman Du Renart.

Foreign Elements in Early French Literature.

Singular as the statement may appear, no one of the branches of literature hitherto discussed represents what may be called a specially French spirit. Despite the astonishing popularity and extent of the Chansons de Gestes, they are, as is admitted by the most patriotic French students, Teutonic in origin probably, and certainly in genius. The Arthurian legends have at least a tinge both of Celtic and Oriental character; while the greater number of them were probably written by Englishmen, and their distinguishing spirit is pretty clearly Anglo-Norman rather than French. On the other hand, Provençal poetry represents a temperament and a disposition which find their full development rather in Spanish and Italian literature and character than in the literature and character of France. All these divisions, moreover, have this of artificial about them, that they are obviously class literature — the literature of courtly and knightly society, not that of the nation at large. Provençal literature gives but scanty social information; from the earlier Chansons at least it would be hard to tell that there were any classes but those of nobles, priests, and fighting men; and though, as has been said, a more complicated state of society appears in the Arthurian legends, what may be called their atmosphere is even more artificial.

The Esprit Gaulois makes its appearance.

It is far otherwise with the division of literature which we are now about to handle. The Fabliaux60, or short verse tales of old France, take in the whole of its society from king to peasant with all the intervening classes, and represent for the most part the view taken of those classes by each other. Perhaps the bourgeois standpoint is most prominent in them, but it is by no means the only one. Their tone too is of the kind which has ever since been specially associated with the French genius. What is called by French authors the esprit gaulois— a spirit of mischievous and free-spoken jocularity — does not make its appearance at once, or in all kinds of work. In most of the early departments of French literature there is a remarkable deficiency of the comic element, or rather that element is very much kept under. The comedy of the Chansons consists almost entirely in the roughest horse-play; while the knightly notion of gabz or jests is exemplified in the Voyage de Charlemagne à Constantinople, where it seems to be limited to extravagant, and not always decent, boasts and gasconnades. More comic, but still farcical in its comedy, is the curious running fire of exaggerated expressions of poltroonery which the Red Lion keeps up in Antioche, while the names and virtues of the Christian leaders are being catalogued to Corbaran. In the Arthurian Romances also the comic element is scantily represented, and still takes the same form of exaggeration and horse-play. At the same time it is proper to say that both these classes of compositions are distinguished, at least in their earlier examples, by a very strict and remarkable decency of language.

In the Fabliaux the state of things is quite different. The attitude is always a mocking one, not often going the length of serious satire or moral indignation, but contenting itself with the peculiar ludicrous presentation of life and humanity of which the French have ever since been the masters. In the Fabliaux begins that long course of scoffing at the weaknesses of the feminine sex which has never been interrupted since. In the Fabliaux is to be found for the first time satirical delineation of the frailties of churchmen instead of adoring celebration of the mysteries of the Church. All classes come in by turns for ridicule — knights, burghers, peasants. Unfortunately this freedom in choice of subject is accompanied by a still greater freedom in the choice of language. The coarseness of expression in many of the Fabliaux equals, if it does not exceed, that to be found in any other branch of Western literature.

Definition of Fabliaux.

The interest of the Fabliaux as a literary study is increased by the precision with which they can be defined, and the well-marked period of their composition. According to the excellent definition of its latest editor, the Fabliau61 is 'le récit, le plus souvent comique, d'une aventure réelle ou possible, qui se passe dans les données moyennes de la vie humaine,' the recital, for the most part comic, of a real or possible event occurring in the ordinary conditions of human life. M. de Montaiglon, to be rigidly accurate, should have added that it must be in verse, and, with very rare, if any, exceptions, in octosyllabic couplets. Of such Fabliaux, properly so called, we possess perhaps two hundred. They are of the most various length, sometimes not extending to more than a score or so of lines, sometimes containing several hundreds. They are, like most contemporary literature, chiefly anonymous, or attributed to persons of whom nothing is known, though some famous names, especially that of the Trouvère Rutebœuf, appear among their authors. Their period of composition seems to have extended from the latter half of the twelfth century to the latter half of the fourteenth, no manuscript that we have of them being earlier than the beginning of the thirteenth century, and none later than the beginning of the fifteenth. If, however, their popularity in their original form ceased at the latter period, their course was by no means run. They had passed early from France into Italy (as indeed all the oldest French literature did), and the stock-in-trade of all the Italian Novellieri from Boccaccio downwards was supplied by them. In England they found an illustrious copyist in Chaucer, whose Canterbury Tales are perfect Fabliaux, informed by greater art and more poetical spirit than were possessed by their original authors. In France itself the Fabliaux simply became farces or prose tales, as the wandering reciter of verse gave way to the actor and the bookseller. They appear again (sometimes after a roundabout journey through Italian versions) in the pages of the French tale-tellers of the Renaissance, and finally, as far as collected appearance is concerned, receive their last but not their least brilliant transformation in the Contes of La Fontaine. In these the cycle is curiously concluded by a return to the form of the original.

Subjects and character of Fabliaux.

Until MM. de Montaiglon and Raynaud undertook their edition, which has been slowly completed, the study of the Fabliaux was complicated by the somewhat chaotic conditions of the earlier collections. Barbazan and his followers printed as Fabliaux almost everything that they found in verse which was tolerably short. Thus, not merely the mediaeval poems called dits and débats, descriptions of objects either in monologue or dialogue, which come sometimes very close to the Fabliau proper, but moral discourses, short romances, legends like the Lai d'Aristote, and such-like things, were included. This interferes with a comprehension of the remarkably characteristic and clearly marked peculiarities of the Fabliau indicated in the definition given above. As according to this the Fabliau is a short comic verse tale of ordinary life, it will be evident that the attempts which have been made to classify Fabliaux according to their subjects were not very happy. It is of course possible to take such headings as Priests, Women, Villeins, Knights, etc., and arrange the existing Fabliaux under them. But it is not obvious what is gained thereby. A better notion of the genre may perhaps be obtained from a short view of the subjects of some of the principal of those Fabliaux whose subjects are capable of description. Les deux Bordeors Ribaux is a dispute between two Jongleurs who boast their skill. It is remarkable for a very curious list of Chansons de Gestes which the clumsy reciter quotes all wrong, and for a great number of the sly hits at chivalry and the chivalrous romances which are characteristic of all this literature. Thus one Jongleur, going through the list of his knightly patrons, tells of Monseignor Augier Poupée —

'Qui à un seul coup de s'espee

Coupe bien à un chat l'oreille;'

and of Monseignor Rogier Ertaut, whose soundness in wind and limb is not due to enchanted armour or skill in fight, but is accounted for thus —

'Quar onques ne ot cop feru' (for that never has he struck a blow).

Le Vair Palefroi contains the story of a lover who carries off his beloved on a palfrey grey from an aged wooer. La Housse Partie, a great favourite, which appears in more than one form, tells the tale of an unnatural son who turns his father out of doors, but is brought to a better mind by his own child, who innocently gives him warning that he in turn will copy his example. Sire Hain et Dame Anieuse is one of the innumerable stories of rough correction of scolding wives. Brunain la Vache au Prestre recounts a trick played on a covetous priest. In Le Dit des Perdrix, a greedy wife eats a brace of partridges which her husband has destined for his own dinner, and escapes his wrath by one of the endless stratagems which these tales delight in assigning to womankind. Le sot Chevalier, though extremely indecorous, deserves notice for the Chaucerian breadth of its farce, at which it is impossible to help laughing. The two Englishmen and the Lamb is perhaps the earliest example of English-French, and turns upon the mistake which results in an ass's foal being bought instead of the required animal. Le Mantel Mautaillié is the famous Arthurian story known in English as 'The Boy and the Mantle.' Le Vilain Mire is the original of Molière's Médecin malgré lui. Le Vilain qui conquist Paradis par Plaist is characteristic of the curious irreverence which accompanied mediaeval devotion. A villein comes to heaven's gate, is refused admission, and successively silences St. Peter, St. Thomas, and St. Paul, by very pointed references to their earthly weaknesses. As a last specimen may be mentioned the curiously simple word-play of Estula. This is the name of a little dog which, being pronounced, certain thieves take for 'Es tu là?'

Sources of Fabliaux.

Such are a very few, selected as well as may be for their typical character, of these stories. It is not unimportant to consider briefly the question of their origin. Many of them belong no doubt to that strange common fund of fiction which all nations of the earth indiscriminately possess. A considerable number seem to be of purely original and indigenous growth: but an actual literary source is not wanting in many cases. The classics supplied some part of them, the Scriptures and the lives of the saints another part; while not a little was due to the importation of Eastern collections of stories resulting from the Crusades. The chief of these collections were the fables of Bidpai or Pilpai, in the form known as the romance of 'Calila and Dimna,' and the story of Sendabar (in its Greek form Syntipas). This was immensely popular in France under the verse form of Dolopathos, and the prose form of Les sept Sages de Rome. The remarkable collection of stories called the Gesta Romanorum is apparently of later date than most of the Fabliaux; but the tales of which it was composed no doubt floated for some time in the mouths of Jongleurs before the unknown and probably English author put them together in Latin.

The Roman du Renart.

Closely connected with the Fabliaux is one of the most singular works of mediaeval imagination, the Roman du Renart62. This is no place to examine the origin or antiquity of the custom of making animals the mouthpieces of moral and satirical utterance on human affairs. It is sufficient that the practice is an ancient one, and that the middle ages were early acquainted with Aesop and his followers, as well as with Oriental examples of the same sort. The original author, whoever he was, of the epic (for it is no less) of 'Reynard the Fox,' had therefore examples of a certain sort before his eyes. But these examples contented themselves for the most part with work of small dimension, and had not attempted connected or continuous story. A fierce battle has been fought as to the nationality of Reynard. The facts are these. The oldest form of the story now extant is in Latin. It is succeeded at no very great interval by German, Flemish, and French versions. Of these the German as it stands is apparently the oldest, the Latin version being probably of the second half of the twelfth century, and the German a little later. But (and this is a capital point) the names of the more important beasts are in all the versions French. From this and some minute local indications, it seems likely that the original language of the epic is French, but French of the Walloon or Picard dialect, and that it was written somewhere in the district between the Seine and the Rhine. This, however, is a matter of the very smallest literary importance. What is of great literary importance is the fact that it is in France that the story receives its principal development, and that it makes its home. The Latin, Flemish, and German Reynards, though they all cover nearly the same ground, do not together amount to more than five-and-twenty thousand lines. The French in its successive developments amounts to more than ninety thousand in the texts already published or abstracted; and this does not include the variants in the Vienna manuscript of Renart le Contrefait, or the different developments of the Ancien Renart, recently published by M. Ernest Martin.

The Ancien Renart.

The order and history of the building up of this vast composition are as follows. The oldest known 'branches,' as the separate portions of the story are called, date from the beginning of the thirteenth century. These are due to a named author, Pierre de Saint Cloud. But it is impossible to say that they were actually the first written in French: indeed it is extremely improbable that they were so. However this may be, during the thirteenth century a very large number of poets wrote pieces independent of each other in composition, but possessing the same general design, and putting the same personages into play. In what has hitherto been the standard edition of Renart, Méon published thirty-two such poems, amounting in the aggregate to more than thirty thousand verses. Chabaille added five more in his supplement, and M. Ernest Martin has found yet another in an Italianised version. This last editor thinks that eleven branches, which he has printed together, constitute an 'ancient collection' within the Ancien Renart, and have a certain connection and interdependence. However this may be, the general plan is extremely loose, or rather non-existent. Everybody knows the outline of the story of Reynard; how he is among the animals (Noble the lion, who is king, Chanticleer the cock, Firapel the leopard, Grimbart the badger, Isengrin the wolf, and the rest) the special representative of cunning and valour tempered by discretion, while his enemy Isengrin is in the same way the type of stupid headlong force, and many of the others have moral character less strongly marked but tolerably well sustained. How this general idea is illustrated the titles of the branches show better than the most elaborate description. 'How Reynard ate the carrier's fish;' 'how Reynard made Isengrin fish for eels;' 'how Reynard cut the tail of Tybert the cat;' 'how Reynard made Isengrin go down the well;' 'of Isengrin and the mare;' 'how Reynard and Tybert sang vespers and matins;' 'the pilgrimage of Reynard,' and so forth. Written by different persons, and at different times, these branches are of course by no means uniform in literary value. But the uniformity of spirit in most, if not in all of them, is extremely remarkable. What is most noticeable in this spirit is the perpetual undertone of satirical comment on human life and its affairs which distinguishes it. The moral is never obtrusively put forward, and it is especially noteworthy that in this Ancien Renart, as contrasted with the later development of the poem, there is no mere allegorising, and no attempt to make the animals men in disguise. They are quite natural and distinct foxes, wolves, cats, and so forth, acting after their kind, with the exception of their possession of reason and language.

Le Couronnement Renart.

The next stage of the composition shows an alteration and a degradation. Renart le Couronné, or Le Couronnement Renart63, is a poem of some 3400 lines, which was once attributed to Marie de France, for no other reason than that the manuscript which contains it subjoins her Ysopet or fables. It is, however, certainly not hers, and is in all probability a little later than her time. The main subject of it is the cunning of the fox, who first reconciles the great preaching orders Franciscans and Dominicans; then himself becomes a monk, and inculcates on them the art of Renardie; then repairs to court as a confessor to the lion king Noble who is ill, and contrives to be appointed his successor, after which he holds tournaments, journeys to Palestine, and so forth. It is characteristic of the decline of taste that in the list of his army a whole bestiary (or list of the real and fictitious beasts of mediaeval zoology) is thrust in; and the very introduction of the abstract term Renardie, or foxiness, is an evil sign of the abstracting and allegorising which was about to spoil poetry for a time, and to make much of the literature of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries tedious and heavy. The poem is of little value or interest. The only chronological indication as to its composition is the eulogy of William of Flanders, killed ('jadis,' says the author) in 1251.

Renart le Nouvel.

The next poem of the cycle is of much greater length, and of at least proportionately greater value, though it has not the freshness and verve of the earlier branches. Renart le Nouvel was written in 1288 by Jacquemart Giélée, a Fleming. This poem is in many ways interesting, though not much can be said for its general conception, and though it suffers terribly from the allegorising already alluded to. In its first book (it consists of more than 8000 lines, divided into two books and many branches) Renart, in consequence of one of his usual quarrels with Isengrin, gets into trouble with the king, and is besieged in Maupertuis. But the sense of verisimilitude is now so far lost, that Maupertuis, instead of being a fox's earth, is an actual feudal castle; and more than this, the animals which attack and defend it are armed in panoply, ride horses, and fight like knights of the period. Besides this the old familiar and homely personages are mixed up with a very strange set of abstractions in the shape of the seven deadly sins. All this is curiously blended with reminiscences and rehandlings of the older and simpler adventures. Another remarkable feature about Renart le Nouvel is that it is full of songs, chiefly love songs, which are given with the music. Its descriptions, though prolix, and injured by allegorical phrases, are sometimes vigorous.

Renart le Contrefait.

The cycle was finally completed in the second quarter of the fourteenth century by the singular work or works called Renart le Contrefait. This has, unfortunately, never been printed in full, nor in any but the most meagre extracts and abstracts. Its length is enormous; though, in the absence of opportunity for examining it, it is not easy to tell how much is common to the three manuscripts which contain it. Two of these are in Paris and one in Vienna, the latter being apparently identical with one which Ménage saw and read in the seventeenth century. One of the Parisian manuscripts contains about 32,000 verses, the other about 19,000; and the Vienna version seems to consist of from 20,000 to 25,000 lines of verse, and about half that number of prose. The author (who, in so far as he was a single person, appears to have been a clerk of Troyes, in Champagne) wrote it, as he says, to avoid idleness, and seems to have regarded it as a vast commonplace book, in which to insert the result not merely of his satirical reflection, but of his miscellaneous reading. A noteworthy point about this poem is that in one place the writer expressly disowns any concealment of his satirical intention. His book, he says, has nothing to do with the kind of fox that kills pullets, has a big brush, and wears a red skin, but with the fox that has two hands and, what is more, two faces under one hood64. Notwithstanding this, however, there are many passages where the old 'common form' of the epic is observed, and where the old personages make their appearance. Indeed their former adventures are sometimes served up again with slight alterations. Besides this there is a certain number of amusing stories and fabliaux, the most frequently quoted of which is the tale of an ugly but wise knight who married a silly but beautiful girl in hopes of having children uniting the advantages of both parents, whereas the actual offspring of the union were as ugly as the father and as silly as the mother. Combined with these things are numerous allusions to the grievances of the peasants and burghers of the time against the upper classes, with some striking legends illustrative thereof, such as the story of a noble dame, who, hearing that a vassal's wife had been buried in a large shroud of good stuff, had the body taken up and seized the shroud to make horsecloths of. This original matter, however, is drowned in a deluge not merely of moralising but of didactic verse of all kinds. The history of Alexander is told in one version by Reynard to the lion king in 7000 verses, and is preluded and followed by an account of the history of the world on a scarcely smaller scale. This proceeding, at least in the Vienna version, seems to be burdensome even to Noble himself, who, at the reign of Augustus, suggests that Reynard should exchange verse for prose, and 'compress.' The warning cannot be said to be unnecessary: but works as long as Renart le Contrefait, and, as far as it is possible to judge, not more interesting, have been printed of late years; and it is very much to be wished that the publication of it might be undertaken by some competent scholar.


Renart is not the only bestial personage who was made at this time a vehicle of satire. In the days of Philippe le Bel a certain François de Rues composed a poem entitled Fauvel, from the name of the hero, a kind of Centaur, who represents vice of all kinds. The direct object of the poem was to attack the pope and the clergy.

Some extracts from the Fabliau of the Partridges and from Renart may appropriately now be given:—

Por ce que fabliaus dire sueil,

en lieu de fable dire vueil

une aventure qui est vraie,

d'un vilain qui delés sa haie

prist deus pertris par aventure.

en l'atorner mist moult sa cure;

sa fame les fist au feu metre.

ele s'en sot bien entremetre:

le feu a fait, la haste atorne.

et li vilains tantost s'en torne,

por le prestre s'en va corant.

mais au revenir targa tant

que cuites furent les pertris.

la dame a le haste jus mis,

s'en pinça une pelëure,

quar molt ama la lechëure,

quant diex li dona a avoir.

ne bëoit pas a grant avoir,

mais a tos ses bons acomplir.

l'une pertris cort envaïr:

andeus les eles en menjue.

puis est alee en mi la rue

savoir se ses sires venoit.

quant ele venir ne le voit,

tantost arriere s'en retorne,

et le remanant tel atorne

mal du morsel qui remainsist.

adonc s'apenssa et si dist

que l'autre encore mengera.

moult tres bien set qu'ele dira,

s'on li demande que devindrent:

ele dira que li chat vindrent,

quant ele les ot arrier traites;

tost li orent des mains retraites,

et chascuns la seue en porta.

  *  *  *  *  *  *

Tant dura cele demoree

que la dame fu saoulee,

et li vilains ne targa mie:

a l'ostel vint, en haut s'escrie

'diva, sont cuites les pertris?'

'sire,' dist ele. 'ainçois va pis,

quar mengies les a li chas.'

li vilains saut isnel le pas,

seure li cort comme enragiés.

ja li ëust les iex sachiés,

quant el crie 'c'est gas, c'est gas.

fuiiés,' fet ele, 'Sathanas!

couvertes sont por tenir chaudes.'

(He accepts the excuse; bids her lay the table, and goes to sharpen his knife. The priest arrives. She tells him that her husband is plotting outrage against him, and as a proof shows him sharpening his knife. The priest flies, and she tells her husband that he has run off with the partridges. The husband pursues, but in vain, and the Fabliau thus concludes:—)

A l'ostel li vilains retorne,

et lors sa feme en araisone:

'diva,' fait il, 'et quar me dis

coment tu perdis les pertris?'

cele li dist 'se diex m'aït,

tantost que li prestres me vit,

si me prïa, se tant l'amasse,

que je les pertris li moustrasse,

quar moult volentiers les verroit

et je le menai la tout droit

ou je les avoie couvertes.

il ot tantost les mains ouvertes,

si les prist et si s'en fuï.

mes je gueres ne le sivi,

ains le vous fis moult tost savoir.'

cil respont 'bien pués dire voir

or le laissons a itant estre.'

ainsi fu engingniés le prestre

et Gombaus qui les pertris prist.

par example cis fabliaus dist:

fame est faite por decevoir.

mençonge fait devenir voir

et voir fait devenir mençonge.

cil n'i vout metre plus d'alonge

qui fist cest fablel et ces dis.

ci faut li fabliaus des pertris.

(Reynard and Isengrin go a-fishing.)

Ce fu un poi devant Noël

que l'en metoit bacons en sel,

li ciex fu clers et estelez,

et li vivier fu si gelez,

ou Ysengrin devoit peschier,

qu'on pooit par desus treschier,

fors tant c'un pertuis i avoit,

qui des vilains faiz i estoit,

ou il menoient lor atoivre

chascune nuit juër et boivre:

un seel i estoit laissiez.

la vint Renarz toz eslaissiez

et son compere apela.

'sire,' fait il, 'traiiez vos ça:

ci est la plenté des poissons

et li engins ou nos peschons

les anguiles et les barbiaus

et autres poissons bons et biaus.'

dist Ysengrins 'sire Renart,

or le prenez de l'une part,

sel me laciez bien a la qeue.'

Renarz le prent et si li neue

entor la qeue au miex qu'il puet.

'frere,' fait il, 'or vos estuet

moult sagement a maintenir

por les poissons avant venir.'

lors s'est en un buisson fichiez:

si mist son groing entre ses piez

tant que il voie que il face.

et Ysengrins est seur la glace

et li sëaus en la fontaine

plains de glaçons a bone estraine.

l'aive conmence a englacier

et li sëaus a enlacier

qui a la qeue fu noëz:

de glaçons fu bien serondez.

la qeue est en l'aive gelee

et en la glace seelee.

This chapter would be incomplete without a reference to the Ysopet of Marie de France65, which may be said to be a link of juncture between the Fabliau and the Roman du Renart. Ysopet (diminutive of Aesop) became a common term in the middle ages for a collection of fables. There is one known as the Ysopet of Lyons, which was published not long ago66; but that of Marie is by far the most important. It consists of 103 pieces, written in octosyllabic couplets, with moralities, and a conclusion which informs us that the author wrote it 'for the love of Count William' (supposed to be Long-Sword), translating it from an English version of a Latin translation of the Greek. Marie's graceful style and her easy versification are very noticeable here, while her morals are often well deduced and sharply put. The famous 'Wolf and Lamb' will serve as a specimen.

Ce dist dou leu e dou aignel,

qui beveient a un rossel:

li lox a lo sorse beveit

e li aigniaus aval esteit.

irieement parla li lus

ki mult esteit cuntralïus;

par mautalent palla a lui:

'tu m'as,' dist il, 'fet grant anui.'

li aignez li ad respundu

'sire, eh quei?' 'dunc ne veis tu?

tu m'as ci ceste aigue tourblee:

n'en puis beivre ma saolee.

autresi m'en irai, ce crei,

cum jeo ving, tut murant de sei.'

li aignelez adunc respunt

'sire, ja bevez vus amunt:

de vus me vient kankes j'ai beu.'

'qoi,' fist li lox, 'maldis me tu?'

l'aigneus respunt 'n'en ai voleir.'

lous li dit 'jeo sai de veir:

ce meïsme me fist tes pere

a ceste surce u od lui ere,

or ad sis meis, si cum jeo crei.'

'qu'en retraiez,' feit il, 'sor mei?

n'ere pas nez, si cum jeo cuit.'

'e cei pur ce,' li lus a dit:

'ja me fais tu ore cuntraire

e chose ke tu ne deiz faire.'

dunc prist li lox l'engnel petit,

as denz l'estrangle, si l'ocit.


Ci funt li riche robëur,

li vesconte e li jugëur,

de ceus k'il unt en lur justise.

fausse aqoison par cuveitise

truevent assez pur eus cunfundre.

suvent les funt as plaiz semundre,

la char lur tolent e la pel,

si cum li lox fist a l'aingnel.

60 The first collection of Fabliaux was published by Barbazan in 1756. This was re-edited by Méon in 1808, and reinforced by the same author with a fresh collection in 1823. Meanwhile Le Grand d'Aussy had (1774-1781) given extracts, abstracts, and translations into modern French of many of them. Jubinal, Robert, and others enriched the collection further, and in vol. xxiii. of the Histoire Littéraire M. V. Le Clerc published an excellent study of the subject. A complete collection of Fabliaux has, however, only recently been attempted, by M. M. A. de Montaiglon and G. Raynaud (6 vols., Paris, 1872-1888).

61 Fabliau is, of course, the Latin fabula. The genealogy of the word is fabula, fabella, fabel, fable, fablel, fableau, fabliau. All these last five forms exist.

62 It should be noticed that this title, though consecrated by usage, is a misnomer. It should be Roman de Renart, for this latter is a proper name. The class name is goupil (vulpes). The standard edition is that of Méon (4 vols., Paris, 1826) with the supplement of Chabaille, 1835. This includes not merely the Ancien Renart, but the Couronnement and Renart le Nouvel. Renart le Contrefait has never been printed. Rothe (Paris, 1845) and Wolf (Vienna, 1861) have given the best accounts of it. Recently M. Ernest Martin has given a new critical edition of the Ancien Renart (3 vols., Strasburg and Paris, 1882-1887).

63 The necessary expression of the genitive by de is later than this. Mediaeval French retained the inflection of nouns, though in a dilapidated condition. Properly speaking Renars is the nominative, Renart the general inflected case.

64 This is a free translation of the last line of the original, which is as follows:—

Pour renard qui gelines tue,

Qui a la rousse peau vestue,

Qui a grand queue et quatre piés,

N'est pas ce livre communiés;

Mais pour cellui qui a deux mains

Dont il sont en ce siècle mains,

Qui ont sous la chappe Faulx Semblant.


Wolf, Op. cit. p. 5.

The final allusion is to a personage of the Roman de la Rose.

65 Ed. Roquefort, vol. ii. See next chapter.

66 By Dr. W. Förster. Heilbronn, 1882.


Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00