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their simplicity and naiveté-for their happy representations of nature, and sometimes for the metaphysical fanaticism of love.
Other short poems describe war and its chances, and contain the praises of the knight's equipage, weapons and courage. We find in them a war represented sometimes with all its heroic details, sometimes merely in a general view. They also celebrate the acts which many heroes have performed in concert, the revolutions of provinces or of empires, the martial deeds of single tribes as well as of whole nations. The crusades, the captivity of Richard of the Lion Heart, the incorporation of many French provinces with England, the conquests of the French under Philip Augustus, the violent contests of the house of Swabia with the Popes and the Lombards, the tragic scenes and fierce battles in the interior of the empire, these great events gave to this minstrelsy a few strong poetical and heroic features. These songs contained sometimes the personal danger and misfortunes of the poet, sometimes those of a friend and companion in war. The more they come from the heart, the more energetic is the expression. The more strongly they bring to view persons and facts of importance and interest, the more does the soul and imagination appear exalted and excited.
The religious feelings of many knights, their love of God, their veneration for the saints, their hopes of heaven and anxious fears of hell, were sometimes breathed in strains full of ardent devotion, in which they alternately praised the divine mother and the saints, the merits of fasting and prayer, pilgrimage and peregrinations; of masses and processions, and of vows of perpetual obedience to the church. Yet these religious paroxysms were not always the paramount feeling of the poets. More frequently-particularly in the latter times of chivalry-their poems contained satires on the assumed power and dissolute lives of the clergy. They saw this order governing on all sides with anathema and excommunication, endeavouring to dethrone kings, to subjugate nations, convulsing states and empires by internal disorders, and many at last began to perceive that religion was abused, and converted into an instrument of temporal policy. The enthusiasm of the more enlightened grew cold even to the praises of the once celebrated crusades, as the unfortunate results of these expeditions could no longer be concealed, and censures and satires began to be levelled even against the crusaders themselves, the song of the poet strongly contrasting with the prejudices of the common people. Particular incidents strengthened these feelings in Germany. The noble race of the Hohenstauffens had been marked out, pursued, persecuted by the intrigues of Rome, until the last of the name, the un
happy Conradin, to the horror of half the christian world, perished on the scaffold. The first free opinions on the encroachments of the clergy expressed in the South of France, were brought before an inquisitorial tribunal, and the authors condemned, proscribed and exterminated, while the Church obtained territory at the expense of the Raymonds (VI. and VII.) of Thoulouse. A noble indignation against such wrongs, often induced the poets of Provence, to attack the clergy with bitterness. The poetical license of the times was not, however, satisfied with the clergy and the church alone. It was unsparing, and with a freedom than-even now might be wondered at, kings and princes, courtiers and vassals, inferiors and equals, were alike assailed. The censure of the poets was directed against every species of injustice, the oppression and disloyalty of the higher classes as well as the robberies and licentiousness of the lower; and although they were unable to reform the vicious, they sometimes humbled vice itself. Besides these smaller poetical pieces, the poets of chivalry composed larger rhymed tales or romances, a French invention, as the name will prove.* after the first crusade, they wished to animate and excite the people by the rehearsal of the deeds of Godfrey of Bouillon and for this purpose, they celebrated them in French rhyme. The experiment succeeded, and in a short time the whole country was inundated with rhymed tales.
We find in the ages of chivalry, two kinds of them-simple chronicles for the use of laymen, (for the learned the chronicles were written in Latin) which, although rhymed, and not without fables, yet relate the history of their times simply, without any ornament or studied poetical invention; or rhymed stories forming epopees in romantic taste, in which poetic inventions were added to the facts of real history. Chivalry was wonderfully well calculated to nourish the love of heroic tales. Every knight was under an obligation to give on oath a relation of his expeditions to the herald, who composed of them a protocol, and handed it to the king-at-arms,† by whom it was transmitted to posterity. Knights eminent for rank or character, had their own heralds, who were to notice the deeds of their lords, attend them in all their excursions, be always at their side, and as eye
• From Romanzo, or the country dialect, as distinguished from the written language of the learned men of that time who composed intirely in Latin. The language of the whole of France was called Lingua Romana after the irruption of the Northern tribes, although was corrupted by the Germans. This appellation was at first applied to the language adopted in Gaul during the Roman Government, as the Germans called the native Gauls, Romanos. See Lex. Sal ca, tit. 57-si Komanus Francum ligaverit-and again, si Francus Romanum ligaverit, &c.
He was the chief of the heralds; his subordinates were commonly called, Poursuivants.
witnesses describe their exploits with more precision and truth.* For this purpose they chose the ablest men, under the rank of esquires, as their heralds, and confided to them only such trusts and duties as would qualify them to become the historians of their masters and of the age. At tournaments, they were to observe the combatants, and after their conclusion, to give a report of every event to the installed judges of these games; who then pronounced their judgment, deciding on the victory and the victors. On other public festivals and at feasts, they were required, partly for the pleasant recollection of each merry day, partly to aid them in future on similar occasions, to note down all remarkable circumstances, as the number, rank and quality of the guests; the dress and ornaments of the ladies, the armour and weapons of the knights, the conversation, the acts of courtesy, the arrangement of the tables, the number and rarity of the dishes; the changes of dresses and masks, the supper and banquet, the number and behaviour of the by-standers, &c. They were also sent to foreign countries and courts to announce war, to carry messages of peace, to assist at tournaments and coronation feasts, and were ordered to observe everything, especially those peculiarities in manners and customs-in arms and dresses which were unknown in their native land, that on future occasions, all that were approved of might be employed. These constant and detailed descriptions and reports, soon gave them a facility in expression and representation, but on the other hand, the habit of noticing and describing even the most trifling circumstances, made them prolix beyond all necessity or moderation.†
* The chief author on the functions of the Heralds is Menestrier, de la Chevalerie Ancienne et Moderne, c. v. p. 192 and 215-Origines des Armoir, p. 64. See also, du Cange verb: Araldus and Prosecutor. Sainte Palaye sur la Chevalerie, vol. i. pp. 47-56-283. There exists still a description of the deeds of the Black Prince, composed by his herald; a romance of the exploits of the renowned French Knight, John Seintre, in the 14th century, also written by his herald. The romance of Lancelot of the Lake and Perceforest, appeal often to such Protocols to verify their relations. The latter romance says distinctly, that the Knights were obliged to at test their reports to the herald by an oath See Matthias de Couci in the Recueil des hist. de Charles VII. par Godefroi, p. 677. In Wolfram of Eschilback, we find that Gamuret the father of Parzipal, made an adventurous excursion with twenty shield bearers, (squires) and three Italian fiddlers (minstrels) &c. According to this old custom, Edward II. took in his campaign in Scotland, the Monk, Robert Baston with him to celebrate his victories as an eye witness. This royal bard sung also the seige of Striveling (Stirling) Castle, in monkish latin hexameters, which are printed in Fordun's Scoti Chron. c. xxiii. 1. 12. He had however the misfortune to be caught by the Scots, and to be compelled to sing, for his ransom, the praises of Robert Bruce-Warton's Hist. of English Poetry. 1. i. p. 232. In pursuance of this early custom, it was made in the statutes and regulations of the order of chivalry in later times, a duty on every knight to suffer his deeds to be carefully and exactly written down; as in the rules of the orders of the Garter and Golden Fleece.
t In this taste are composed the Chronicles of Froissart, but even on this account he is become so much the more instructive to modern critics in history and ethics.
From such reports and protocols of the kings-at-arms and their subordinate heralds, were derived the materials of the chivalrous novels and romances. These events were sometimes sung separately, sometimes many were melted together into one narrative, and other incidents or poetical inventions were interspersed as episodes through the tale. As for the rhythm, they chose short lines adapted to music, which were again divided into strophes, because every romance, however long, was by custom so arranged, as to be sung accompanied by a musical instrument. If, as was commonly the case, the romance was too long to be sung at once, it was divided into greater and smaller sections, as the change of the adventures and of the heroes permitted-generally, the herald between such sections, addressed the auditors in a kind of prologue or parabasis, in which he sometimes represented the importance of his romance, and sometimes requested attention to his song.*
The earliest romance of which we have any knowledge, (though long since lost) was composed in French, by a knight who related the real adventures of Godfrey of Bouillon.t
It soon appeared to the clergy in France, that such stories might inspire the people with heroic enthusiasm-they therefore invented and composed in Latin, under the name of Archbishop Turpin, a fabulous life of Charlemagne, to exhort and stimulate all ranks to crusades and other enterprizes in arms, for the honour of the church. The same fabulous chronicle was, in England, turned into a British story, and King Arthur became the hero of the tale.
As soon as there existed rich materials for poetry, in the exploits of Charlemagne and King Arthur, two kind of romances were composed, one of real events, as found in the protocols of the heralds, but romantically adorned; the other, of fictitious adventures, full of agreeable and lovely, but at the same time, of
* In the ancient libraries in England are found, as Warton (Hist. of English Poetry, I. i. sect. 2.) relates, written fragments of ancient poetry. They seem to have been sections of larger poems, and were sung in parts. Proofs of prologues or addresses to the audience, which were common also with the Greek rhapsodists, are found in Warton, vol. i. p. 18-19-Percy's Reliques of Ancient English Poetry, vol. it. p. 163—Goujet Biblioth. Francaise, t. ix. p. 3. &c.
+ The chronicle of Gottfried, Prior of Vigeois in Limonsin, describes the tenor and purpose of the first French romance as follows. After speaking of the taking of Jerusalem in 1999, he continues, “cujus exercitus bella vel magnifica gesta Baldricus Burguliensis Abbas, et alii quidam luculento et veraci stylo descripserunt. Nos succincte ad alia tendimus. Gregorius, cognomento Bechada de Castro de Turribus, professione miles, subtilissimi ingenii vir, aliquantulum imbutus litteris, horum gesta præliorum, materna ut ita dixerim lingua rythmno vulgari, ut populus pleniter intelligeret, ingens volumen decenter composuit, et ut vera et faceta verba proferret, duodecim annorum spatio, super hoc opus operam dedit. Ne vero vil scerel propter verbum vulgare, non sine precepto Episcopi Eustorgii et consiliis Guaberti Normanni hoc opus aggressus est. Labbé, Biblio. Nov. t. ii. p. 296.
monstrous and absurd stories, of friendly and hostile spirits, of ghosts and spectres, of dragons and giants, of witches and sorcerers. They tell of tournaments and combats, of the defeat of rivals, of excursions over the whole universe to please a mistress and merit her love and esteem. The sources of these inventions were various. Many were drawn from earlier ages, from the times of barbarism and blind superstition. All ages of ignorance are marked by a belief in spirits and supernatural events, and a deep fear that leads to the most frightful superstitions. Many old songs or tales which had been composed under the influence of such opinions, in Heathen as well as in Christian ages, and were still by tradition preserved, were undoubtedly used by the minstrels in their poems, and the colouring deepened, and the incidents augmented by their own extravagant imaginations. Christian and Pagan superstitions were often united.*
An abundant addition of strange tales of sorcery, and all the appanage of giants, dwarfs and elfs, and visions and incorporeal forms came from the East, parts of which, however, had been already interwoven in the monkish legends, and Latin tales of earlier times. The romantic poets also gained in time, some indistinct information of the ancient heroes of Greece, and of the fabulous deeds of Alexander. In the East, there had long since been composed in the Arabic and new Persian languages, biographies of Alexander the Great, which the Oriental muse had filled with wonders and the most incredible incidents.† One of these manuscripts, in 1070, during the reign of the Emperor Michael Ducas, fell into the hands of Simeon Seth, Protovestiarius in the palace of Antiochus, at Constantinople, who translated it into Greek. This Greek text was translated into Latin, perhaps, even before the time of the fictitious Turpin (1110); but evident traces of the frequent use of this biography among the Western Christians are met with a little later. In 1190, we find it cited by Gyraldus Cambrensis. Aretin Guilichinus brought it into elegiac verse, and since that time it has been translated into French, Italian and German.§
i * The Pagan Saxons were already in the romance of Charlemagne called Saracens, and the Saracens in their turn Heathens; they adored Mahomet, Terragant, Apollo, and many other Gods, and what is more droll, had their Cardinals who repeated masses.
+ Herbelot, Biblioth. Orient. voc. Escander.
Leo Allatius de Simeonibus, p. 181. Fabricii Biblioth. Græc. 1. v. c. 42. t. x. p.
|| Hearne Vindic. Antiquit. Acad. Oxon. t. 2, p. 802. note.
Quadrio della Storia é della regione d'ogni Poesia, v. iv. p. 478. Phil. Labbei Nova Bibl. MSS. (Paris 1654-7,) Sp. i. p. 68, Historia Alexandri regis a magistro VOL. IV.-No. 8.