Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 36.djvu/117

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his hero at the tournament in white, red, and black armour, excuse his romance-writing with these words:—

Sul ne sai pas de mentir lart,
Walter Map reset bon sa part.

(‘I am not the only one who knows the art of lying, Walter Map knows well his part of it.’).

The incident of the tournament figures of course in the ‘Lancelot,’ and it is almost incredible that we have not here a conscious allusion to that romance, and to Map as its author. With this corroborative evidence we may take the statement by the so-called Hélie de Borron in the ‘Meliadus.’ Hélie lived about 1230, and was an ‘arrangeur’ of older and shorter romances, from which he probably derived his assertion of Map's share in the composition of the ‘Lancelot.’ If Hélie was merely endeavouring to father the ‘Lancelot’ on an eminent man, it is strange that he should not have given Map his later designation of archdeacon, instead of going back fifty years to the time when he was a simple clerk of the king. That Hélie or his authorities should have known that Map was a royal clerk is in itself perhaps a little peculiar, and the assertion that he translated the ‘Lancelot’ into French at Henry's request is a further coincidence, when compared with Map's own statement in the ‘De Nugis’ that he engaged in literature at the king's wish (p. 140). Taking the analogy of the great prose ‘S. Graal,’ which was asserted to be a translation from the Latin by Robert de Borron, but which has proved to be founded on a short poem by that writer, we may not unfairly conclude that the foundation of the prose ‘Lancelot’ was an Anglo-French poem by Walter Map. Map wrote poetry and wrote in French, and it is possible that this is what he refers to as his ‘dicta,’ using that word in the sense of the French ‘dites,’ and ‘dicere’ in the sense of composing in the spoken language as opposed to ‘scribere’ (to compose in Latin). That such Anglo-French poems on this subject did exist we know from Ulrich of Zatzikhoven, who partly founded his romance of ‘Lanzelet’ on a book which he borrowed from Hugh de Morville [q. v.], when a hostage in Germany for Richard I. M. Paulin Paris and Dr. Jonckbloët even favour Map's claim to be the author of the prose ‘Lancelot,’ including the ‘S. Graal’ and ‘Morte Arthur.’ On the other hand, M. Gaston Paris would deprive him of any share whatever in its composition. On the whole it seems probable that Map did contribute in a considerable degree towards giving the Arthurian romances their existing shape, but how far any of his work has survived must be a matter of dispute. It is perhaps worth notice that M. Paulin Paris hazarded a theory that Map wrote his romances in defence of Henry's opposition to the Roman court, and that the legend of Joseph of Arimathea constituted a claim for pontifical supremacy in defiance of the pope (ib. i. 472 et sqq.). This theory, though perhaps far fetched, is enticing when viewed in connection with Map as the satirist of Roman corruption.

It is as a satirist, rather than as the author of the ‘De Nugis Curialium’ or the ‘Lancelot,’ that Walter Map has enjoyed so lasting a reputation. To his pen has been ascribed much of the Goliardic verse, in which the later twelfth and early thirteenth centuries were so prolific. These Latin poems consist of satires on the corruptions of the ecclesiastical order generally, and above all on the church of Rome. A ‘Goliardus’ was a clerk of loose life, who made a living by his coarse and satirical wit (on the derivation of the word see Wright, Latin Poems attributed to Walter Map, or Ducange, sub voce). From this we have the pretended Bishop Golias, the burlesque representative of the clerical order, whose ‘Confession’ and ‘Apocalypse’ are the chief among the poems of this class attributed to Map. But Giraldus Cambrensis was familiar with the ‘Confession,’ and criticises its writer severely under the name of Golias; it would therefore appear that he at any rate did not suspect his intimate friend of the authorship (Speculum Ecclesiæ, ap. Opera, iv. 291–3). Giraldus also cites the poem entitled ‘Golias in Romanam Curiam’ (ib.; cf. Latin Poems, pp. 36–9). Of the other poems the ‘Metamorphosis Goliæ’ (ib. pp. 21–30) appears to have been written about 1140 (art. by M. Hauréau in Mém. Acad. Inscr. et Belles-Lettres, xxviii. ii. 223–38). A collection of these poems was edited by Mr. T. Wright for the Camden Society, ‘Latin Poems attributed to Walter Map,’ 1841. There is no sure ground for ascribing any of this extant poetry to Map, and the ascriptions of them to him in manuscripts, though common in the fifteenth century, are in no case older than the fourteenth century. We do, however, know that Map wrote verses against the Cistercians, and some of his jests preserved by Giraldus are made at the expense of the clergy (cf. Opera, iii. 145, ‘vir linguæ dicacis et eloquentiæ grandis illorum et similium sugillans avaritiam episcoporum’). The ‘De Nugis Curialium’ moreover contains some unfavourable criticisms of the monastic orders, and comments on the avarice of the court of Rome (cf. pp. 37, 44–