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Page:EB1911 - Volume 05.djvu/932

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CHARLEMAGNE


free Spain, not the Holy Land, from the Saracens. The legend probably originated in a desire to authenticate the relics in the abbey of Saint Denis, supposed to have been brought to Aix by Charlemagne, and is preserved in a 12th-century romance, Le Voyage de Charlemagne à Jérusalem et à Constantinople.[1] This journey forms the subject of a window in the cathedral of Chartres, and there was originally a similar one at Saint-Denis. On the way home Charles and his paladins visited the emperor Hugon at Constantinople, where they indulged in a series of gabs which they were made to carry out. Galien, a favourite 15th-century romance, was attached to this episode, for Galien was the son of the amours of Oliver with Jacqueline, Hugon's daughter. The traditions of Charlemagne's fights with the Norsemen (Norois, Noreins) are preserved in Aiquin (12th century), which describes the emperor's reconquest of Armorica from the "Saracen" king Aiquin, and a disaster at Cézembre as terrible in its way as those of Roncesvalles and Aliscans. La destruction de Rome is a 13th-century version of the older chanson of the emir Balan, who collected an army in Spain and sailed to Rome. The defenders were overpowered and the city destroyed before the advent of Charlemagne, who, however, avenged the disaster by a great battle in Spain. The romance of Fierabras (13th century) was one of the most popular in the 15th century, and by later additions came to have pretensions to be a complete history of Charlemagne. The first part represents an episode in Spain three years before Roncesvalles, in which Oliver defeats the Saracen giant Fierabras in single combat, and converts him. The hero of the second part is Gui de Bourgogne, who recovers the relics of the Passion, lost in the siege of Rome. Otinel (13th century) is also pure fiction. L'Entrée en Espagne, preserved in a 14th-century Italian compilation, relates the beginning of the Spanish War, the siege of Pampeluna, and the legendary combat of Roland with Ferragus. Charlemagne's march on Saragossa, and the capture of Huesca, Barcelona and Girone, gave rise to La Prise de Pampelune (14th century, based on a lost chanson); and Gui de Bourgogne (12th century) tells how the children of the barons, after appointing Guy as king of France, set out to find and rescue their fathers, who are represented as having been fighting in Spain for twenty-seven years. The Chanson de Roland relates the historic defeat of Roncesvalles on the 15th of August 778, and forms the very crown of the whole Carolingian legend. The two 13th-century romances, Gaidon, by Herbert Leduc de Dammartin, and Anséis de Carthage, contain a purely fictitious account of the end of the war in Spain, and of the establishment of a Frankish kingdom under the rule of Anséis. Charlemagne was recalled from Spain by the news of the outbreak of the Saxons. The contest between Charlemagne and Widukind (Guiteclin) offered abundant epic material. Unfortunately the original Guiteclin is lost, but the legend is preserved in Les Saisnes (c. 1300) of Jehan Bodel, which is largely occupied by the loves of Baudouin and Sibille, the wife of Guiteclin. The adventures of Blanchefleur, wife of Charlemagne, form a variation of the common tale of the innocent wife falsely accused, and are told in Macaire and in the extant fragments of La Reine Sibille (14th century). After the conquest of the Saracens and the Saxons, the defeat of the Northmen, and the suppression of the feudal revolts, the emperor abdicated in favour of his son Louis (Le Couronnement Looys, 12th century). Charles's harangue to his son is in the best tradition of epic romance. The memory of Roncesvalles haunts him on his death-bed, and at the moment of death he has a vision of Roland.

The mythic element is practically lacking in the French legends, but in Germany some part of the Odin myth was associated with Charles's name. The constellation of the Great Bear, generally associated with Odin, is Karlswagen in German, and Charles's Wain in English. According to tradition in Hesse, he awaits resurrection, probably symbolic of the triumph of the sun over winter, within the Gudensberg (Hill of Odin). Bavarian tradition asserts that he is seated in the Untersberg in a chair, as in his tomb at Aix-la-Chapelle. His white beard goes on growing, and when it has thrice encircled the stone table before him the end of the world will come; or, according to another version, Charles will arise and after fighting a great battle on the plain of Wals will reign over a new Germany. There were medieval chroniclers who did not fear to assert that Charles rose from the dead to take part in the Crusades. In the MS. Annales S. Stephani Frisingenses (15th century), which formerly belonged to the abbey of Weihenstephan, and is now at Munich, the childhood of Charlemagne is practically the same as that of many mythic heroes. This work, generally known as the chronicle of Weihenstephan, gives among other legends a curious history of the emperor's passion for a dead woman, caused by a charm given to Charles by a serpent to whom he had rendered justice. The charm was finally dropped into a well at Aix, which thenceforward became Charles's favourite residence. The story of Roland's birth from the union of Charles with his sister Gilles, also found in German and Scandinavian versions, has abundant parallels in mythology, and was probably transferred from mythology to Charlemagne.

The Latin chronicle, wrongly ascribed to Turpin (Tilpinus), bishop of Reims from 753 to 800, was in reality later than the earlier poems of the French cycle, and the first properly authenticated mention of it is in 1165. Its primary object was to authenticate the relics of St James at Compostella. Alberic Trium Fontium, a monk of the Cistercian monastery of Trois Fontanes in the diocese of Châlons, embodied much poetical fiction in his chronicle (c. 1249). A large section of the Chronique rimée (c. 1243) of Philippe Mousket is devoted to Charlemagne's exploits. At the beginning of the 14th century Girard of Amiens made a dull compilation known as Charlemagne from the chansons de gests, authentic history and the pseudo-Turpin. La Conqueste que fit le grand roi Charlemaigne es Espaignes (pr. 1486) is the same work as the prose compilation of Fierabras (pr. 1478), and Caxton's Lyf of Charles the Grete (1485).

The Charlemagne legend was fully developed in Italy, where it was to have later a great poetic development at the hands of Boiardo, Ariosto and Tasso. There are two important Italian compilations, MS. XIII. of the library of St Mark, Venice (c. 1200), and the Reali di Francia (c. 1400) of a Florentine writer, Andrea da Barberino (b. 1370), edited by G. Vandelli (Bologna, 1892). The six books of this work are rivalled in importance by the ten branches of the Norse Karlamagnus saga, written under the reign of Haakon V. This forms a consecutive legendary history of Charles, and is apparently based on earlier versions of the French Charlemagne poems than those which we possess. It thus furnishes a guide to the older forms of stories, and moreover preserves the substance of others which have not survived in their French form. A popular abridgment, the Keiser Karl Magnus Krönike (pr. Malmö, 1534), drawn up in Danish, serves in some cases to complete the earlier work. The 2000 lines of the German Kaiserchronik on the history of Charlemagne belong to the first half of the 12th century, and were perhaps the work of Conrad, the poet of the Ruolantes Liet. The German poet known as the Stricker used the same sources as the author of the chronicle of Weihenstephan for his Karl (c. 1230). The earliest important Spanish version was the Chronica Hispaniae (c. 1284) of Rodrigo de Toledo.

The French and Norman-French chansons circulated as freely in England as in France, and it was therefore not until the period of decadence that English versions were made. The English metrical romances of Charlemagne are: — Rowlandes Song (15th century); The Taill of Rauf Coilyear (c. 1475, pr. by R. Lekpreuik, St Andrews, 1472), apparently original; Sir Ferumbras (c. 1380) and the Sowdone of Babylone (c. 1400) from an early version of Fierabras; a fragmentary Roland and Vernagu (Ferragus); two versions of Otuel (Otinel); and a Sege of Melayne (c. 1390), forming a prologue to Otinel unknown in French.

  1. For clerical accounts of Charles's voyage to the Holy Land see the Chronicon (c. 968) of Benedict, a monk of St André, and Descriptio qualiter Karolus Magnus clavum et coronam Domini … detulerit, by an 11th-century writer.