The Mediaeval Mind/Chapter 23



From Roland to Tristan and Lancelot

The instance of Godfrey of Bouillon showed how easy was the passage from knighthood in history to knighthood in legend and romance: legend springing from fact, out of which it makes a story framed in a picture of the time; romance unhistorical in origin, borrowing, devising, imagining according to the taste of an audience and the faculty of the trouvère. A boundless mediaeval literature of poetic legend and romantic fiction sets forth the ways of chivalry. Our attention may be confined to the Old French, the source from which German, English, and Italian literatures never ceased to draw. Three branches may be selected: the chansons de geste; the romans d'aventure; and the Arthurian romances. The subjects of the three are distinct, and likewise the tone and manner of treatment. Yet they were not unaffected by each other; for instance, the hard feudal spirit of the chansons de geste became touched with the tastes which moulded the two other groups, and there was even a borrowing of topic. This was natural, as the periods of their composition over-lapped, and doubtless their audiences were in part the same.

The chansons de geste (gesta=deeds) were epic narratives with historical facts for subjects, and commonly were composed in ten-syllable assonanced or (later) rhyming couplets, laisses so called, the same final assonance or rhyme extending through a dozen or so lines. They told the deeds of Charlemagne and his barons, or the feuds of the barons among themselves, especially those of the time following the emperor's death. So the subject might be national, for instance the war against the Saracens in Spain; or it might be more provincially feudal in every sense of the latter word.[1] It is not to our purpose to discuss how these poems grew through successive generations, nor how much of Teutonic spirit they put in Romance forms of verse. They were composed by trouvères or jongleurs. The Roland is the earliest of them, and in its extant form belongs to the last part of the eleventh century. One or two others are nearly as early; but the vast majority, as we have them, are the creations, or rather the remaniements, of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.

These chansons present the feudal system in epic action. They blazon forth its virtues and its horrors. The heroes are called barons (ber) and also chevaliers;[2] vassalage and prowess (proecce) are closely joined; the Roland speaks of the vassalage of Charles le ber (Charlemagne). The usages of chivalry are found:[3] a baron begins as enfant, and does his youthful feats (enfances); then he is girt with manhood's sword and given the thwack which dubs him chevalier. Naturally, the chivalry of the chansons is feudal rather than romantic. It is chivalry, sometimes crusading against "felun paien," sometimes making war against emperors or rivals; always truculent, yet fighting for an object and not for pure adventure's sake or the love of ladies. The motives of action are quite tangible, and the tales reflect actual situations and conditions. They tell what knights (the chevaliers and barons) really did, though, of course, the particular incidents related may not be historical. Naturally they speak from the time of their composition. The Roland, for example, throbs with the crusading wrath of the eleventh century—a new fervour, and no passionate memory of the old obscure disaster of Roncesvalles. It does not speak from the time of the great emperor. For when Charlemagne lived there was neither a "dulce France" nor the sentiment which enshrined it; nor was there a sharply deliminated feudal Christianity set over against a world of "felun paien"—those false paynim, who should be trusted by no Christian baron. The whole poem revolves around a treason plotted by a renegade among vile infidels.

In this rude poem which carries the noblest spirit of the chansons de geste, the soul of feudal chivalry climbs to its height of loyal expiation for overweening bravery. The battle-note is given in Roland's words, as Oliver descries the masses of paynim closing in around that valiant rear-guard.

Said Oliver: "Sir comrade, I think we shall have battle with these Saracens."

Replied Roland: "God grant it! Here must we hold for our king. A man should suffer for his lord, endure heat and cold, though he lose hair and hide. Let each one strike his best, that no evil song be sung of us. The paynim are in the wrong, Christians in the right!"[4]

Then follows Oliver's prudent solicitation, and Roland's fatal refusal to sound his horn and recall Charles and his host: "Please God and His holy angels, France shall not be so shamed through me; better death than such dishonour. The harder we strike the more the emperor will love us." Oliver can be stubborn too; for when the fight is close to its fell end, he swears that Roland shall never wed his sister Aude, if, beaten, he sound that horn.[5]

The paynim host is shattered and riven; but nearly all the Franks have fallen. Roland looks upon the mountains and the plain. Of those of France he sees so many lying dead, and he laments them like a high-born knight (chevaliers gentilz). "Seigneurs barons, may God have pity on you and grant Paradise to your souls, and give them to repose on holy flowers! Better vassals shall I never see; long are the years that you have served me, and conquered wide countries for Charles—the emperor has nurtured you for an ill end! Land of France, sweet land, to-day bereft of barons of high prize! Barons of France! for me I see you dying. I cannot save or defend you! God be your aid, who never lies! Oliver, brother, you I must not fail. I shall die of grief, if no one slay me! Sir comrade, let us strike again."[6]

Roland and Oliver are almost alone, and Oliver receives a death-stroke. With his last strength he slays his slayer, shouts his defiance, and calls Roland to his aid. He strikes on blindly as Roland comes and looks into his face;—and then might you have seen Roland swoon on his horse, and Oliver wounded to death. "He had bled so much, that his eyes were troubled, and he could not see to recognize any mortal man. As he met his comrade, he struck him on his helmet a blow that cut it shear in twain, though the sword did not touch the head. At this Roland looked at him, and asked him soft and low: 'Sir comrade, did you mean that? It is Roland, who loves you well. You have not defied me.'

"Says Oliver, 'Now I hear you speak; I did not see you; may the Lord God see you! I have struck you; for which pardon me.'"

Roland replied: "I was not hurt. I pardon you here and before God."

"At this word they bent over each other, and in such love they parted." Oliver feels his death-anguish at hand; sight and hearing fail him: he sinks from his horse and lies on the earth; he confesses his sins, with his two hands joined toward heaven. He prays God to grant him Paradise, and blesses Charles and sweet France, and his comrade Roland above all men. Stretched on the ground the count lies dead.[7]

A little after, when Roland and Turpin the stout arch-bishop have made their last charge, and the paynim have withdrawn, and the archbishop too lies on the ground, just breathing; then it is that Roland gathers the bodies of the peers and carries them one by one to lay them before the archbishop for his absolution. He finds Oliver's body, and tightly straining it to his heart, lays it with the rest before the archbishop, whose dying breath is blessing and absolving his companions. And with tears Roland's voice breaks: "Sweet comrade, Oliver, son of the good count Renier, who held the March of Geneva; to break spear and pierce shield, and counsel loyally the good, and discomfit and vanquish villains, in no land was there better knight."[8] Knowing his own death near, Roland tries to shatter his great sword, and then lies down upon it with his face toward Spain; he holds up his glove toward God in token of fealty; Gabriel accepts his glove and the angels receive his soul.

This was the best of knighthood in the best of the chansons: and we see how close it was to what was best in life. As the fight moves on to Oliver's blow and Roland's pardon, to Roland's last deeds of Christian comradeship, and to his death, the eyes are critical indeed that do not swell with tears. The heroic pathos of this rough poem is great because the qualities which perished at Roncesvalles were so noble and so knightly.

The poem passes on to the vengeance taken by the emperor upon the Saracens, then to his return to Aix, and the short great scene between him and Aude, Roland's betrothed:

"Where is Roland, the chief, who vowed to take me for his wife?"

Charles weeps, and tears his white beard as he answers: "Sister, dear friend, you are asking about a dead man. But I will make it good to thee—there is Louis my son, who holds the Marches.…"

Aude replies: "Strange words! God forbid, and His saints and angels, that I should live after Roland." And she falls dead at the emperor's feet.

As was fitting, the poem closes with the trial of the traitor Ganelon, by combat. His defence is feudal: he had defied Roland and all his companions; his treachery was proper vengeance and not treason. But his champion is defeated, and Ganelon himself is torn in pieces by horses, while his relatives, pledged as hostages, are hanged. All of which is feudalism, and can be matched for savagery in many a scene from the Arthurian romances of chivalry—not always reproduced in modern versions.

So the chansons de geste are a mirror of the ways and customs of feudal society in the twelfth century. The feudal virtues are there, troth to one's liege, orthodox crusading ardour, limitless valour, truth-speaking. There is also enormous brutality; and the recognized feudal vices, cruelty, impiousness, and treason. In the Raoul de Cambrai, for example, the nominal hero is a paroxysm of ferocity and impiety. All crimes rejoice him as he rages along his ruthless way to establish his seignorial rights over a fief unjustly awarded him by Louis, the weak son of Charlemagne. His foil is Bernier, the natural son of one of the rightful heirs against whom Raoul carries on raging feudal war. But Bernier is also Raoul's squire and vassal, who had received knighthood from him, and so is bound to the monster by the strongest feudal tie. He is a pattern of knighthood and of every feudal virtue. On the day of his knighting he implored his lord not to enter on that fell war against his (Bernier's) family. In vain. The war is begun with fire and sword. Bernier must support his lord; says he: "Raoul, my lord, is worse (plu fel) than Judas; he is my lord; he has given me horse and clothes, my arms and cloth of gold. I would not fail him for the riches of Damascus": and all cried, "Bernier, thou art right."[9]

But there is a limit. Raoul is ferociously wasting the land, and committing every impiety. He would desecrate the abbey of Origni, and set his tent in the middle of the church, stabling his horse in its porch and making his bed before the altar. Bernier's mother is there as a nun; Raoul pauses at her entreaties and those of his uncle. Then his rage breaks out afresh at the death of two of his men; he burns the town and abbey, and Bernier's mother perishes with the other nuns in the flames.

Now the monster is feasting on the scene of desolation—and it is Lent besides! After dining, he plays chess: enter Bernier. Raoul asks for wine. Bernier takes the cup and, kneeling, hands it to him. Raoul is surprised to see him, but at once renews his oath to disinherit all of Bernier's family—his father and uncles. Bernier speaks and reproaches Raoul with his mother's death: "I cannot bring her back to life, but I can aid my father whom you unjustly follow up with war. I am your man no longer. Your cruelty has released me from my duties; and you will find me on the side of my father and uncles when you attack them." For reply, Raoul breaks his head open with the butt of his spear; but then at once asks pardon and humiliates himself strangely. Bernier answers that there shall be no peace between them till the blood which flowed from his head returns back whence it came. Yet in the final battle he still seeks to turn Raoul back before attacking him who had been his liege lord. Again in vain; and Raoul falls beneath Bernier's sword. Here are the two sides of the picture, the monster of a lord, the vassal vainly seeking to be true: a situation utterly tragic from the standpoint of feudal chivalry.

It is not to be supposed that a huge body of poetic narrative could remain utterly truculent. Other motives had to enter;—the love of women, of which the Roland has its one great flash. The ladies of the chansons are not coy, and often make the first advances. Such natural lusty love is not romantic; it is not l'amour courtois; and marriage is its obvious end. The chansons also tend to become adventurous and to fill with romantic episode. An interesting example of this is the Renaud de Montaubon where Renaud and his three brothers are aided by the enchanter, Maugis, against the pursuing hate of Charlemagne and where the marvellous horse, Bayard, is a fascinating personality. This diversified and romantic tale long held its own in many tongues. In the somewhat later Huon de Bordeaux we are at last in fairyland—verily at the Court of Oberon—his first known entry into literature.[10] Thus the 'chansons tend toward the tone and temper of the romans d'aventure.

The latter have the courtly love and the purely adventurous motives of the Arthurian romances, with which the men who fashioned them probably were acquainted, as were the jongleurs who recast certain of the chansons de geste to suit a more courtly taste. Of the romans d'aventure, so-called, the Blancandrin or the Amadas or the Flamenco, may be taken as the type; or, if one will, Flore et Blanchefleur and Aucassin et Nicolette, those two enduring lovers' tales.[11] Courtly love and knightly ventures are the themes of these romans so illustrative of noble French society in the thirteenth century. They differ from the Arthurian romances in having other than a Breton origin; and their heroes and heroines are sometimes of more easily imagined historicity than the knights and ladies of the Round Table. But they never approached the universal vogue of the Arthurian Cycle.

It goes without saying that tastes in reading (or rather listening) diverged in the twelfth century, just as in the twentieth. One cannot read the old chansons de geste in which fighting, and not love, is the absorbing topic, without feeling that the audience before whom they were chanted was predominantly male. One cannot but feel the contrary to have been the fact with the romances in verse and prose which constitute that immense mass of literature vaguely termed Arthurian. These two huge groups, the chansons de geste and the Arthurian romances, overlap chronologically and geographically. Although the development of the chansons was somewhat earlier, the Arthurian stories were flourishing before the chansons were past their prime; and both were in vogue through central and northern France. But the Arthurian stories won adoptive homes in England, Germany, Italy, and elsewhere. Indeed their earlier stages scarcely seem attached to real localities: nor were their manners and interests rooted in the special traditions of any definite place.

The tone and topics of these romances suggest an audience chiefly of women, and possibly feminine authorship. Doubtless, with a few exceptions, men composed and recited them. But the male authors were influenced by the taste, the favour and patronage, and the sympathetic suggestive interest of the ladies. Prominent among the first known composers of these "Breton" lays was a woman, Marie de France as she is called, who lived in England in the reign of Henry II. (1154-1189). Her younger contemporary was the facile trouvère Chrétien de Troies, of whose life little is actually known. But we know that the subject of his famous Lancelot romance, called the Conte de la charrette, was suggested to him (about 1170) by the Countess Marie de Champagne, daughter of Louis VII. Surely then he wrote to please the taste of that royal dame, whose queenly mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, was also a patroness of this courtly poetry.

These are instances proving the feminine influence upon the composition of these romances. And the growth of this great Arthurian Cycle represents, par excellence, the entry of womanhood into the literature of chivalry. Men love, as well as women; but the topic engrosses them less, and they talk less about it Likewise men appreciate courtesy; but in fact it is woman's influence that softens manners. And while the masculine fancy may be drawn by what is fanciful and romantic, women abandon themselves to its charm.

Of course the origin or provenance of these romances was different from that of the chansons de geste. It was Breton—it was Welsh, it was walhisch (the Old-German word for the same) which means that it was foreign. In fact, the beginnings of these stories floated beautifully in from a weiss-nicht-wo which in the twelfth century was already hidden in the clouds. When the names of known localities are mentioned, they have misty import. Arthurian geography is more elusive than Homeric.

In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries these stories took form in the verse and prose compositions in which they still exist. Sometimes the poet's name is known, Chrétien de Troies, for instance; but the source from which he drew is doubtful. It probably was Breton, and Artus once in Great Britain fought the Saxons like as not. But the growth, the development, the further composition, of the matière de Bretagne is predominantly French. In France it grows; from France it passes on across the Rhine, across the Alps, then back to what may have been its old home across the British Channel. With equal ease on the wings of universal human interest it surmounts the Pyrenees. It would have crossed the ocean, had the New World been discovered.

Far be it from our purpose to enter the bottomless swamp of critical discussion of the source and history of the Arthurian romances. Two or three statements—general and probably rather incorrect—may be made. Marie de France, soon after the middle of the twelfth century, wrote a number of shortish narrative poems of chivalric manners and romantic love, which, as it were, touch the hem of Arthur's cloak. Chrétien de Troies between 1160 and 1175 composed his Tristan (a story originally having nothing to do with Arthur), and then his Erec (Geraint), then Cligés; then his (unfinished) Lancelot or the Conte de la charrette; then Ivain or the Chevalier au lion, and at last Perceval or the Conte du Graal. How much of the matter of these poems came from Brittany—or indirectly from Great Britain? This is a large unsolved question! Another is the relation of Chrétien's poems to the subsequent Arthurian romances in verse and prose. And perhaps most disputed of all is the authorship (Beroul? Robert de Boron? Walter Mapes?) of this mass of Arthurian Old French literature which was not the work of Chrétien. Without lengthy prolegomena it would be fruitless to attempt to order and name these compositions. The Arthurian matters were taken up by German poets of excellence—Heinrich von Veldeke, Hartmann von Aue, Gottfried von Strassburg, Wolfram von Eschenbach,—and sometimes the best existing versions are the work of the latter; for instance, Wolfram's Parzival and Gottfried's Tristan. And again the relation of these German versions to their French originals becomes still another problem.

For the chivalry of these romances, one may look to the poems of Chrétien and to passages in the Old French prose (presumably of the early thirteenth century), to which the name of Robert de Boron or Walter Mapes is attached. Chrétien enumerates knightly excellences in his Cligés, and, speaking from the natural point of view of the jongleur, he puts largesce (generosity) at their head. This, says he, makes one a prodome more than hautesce (high station) or corteisie or savoirs or jantillesce (noble birth) or chevalerie, or hardemans (hardihood) or seignorie, or biautez (beauty).[12]

Such are the knightly virtues, which, however, reach their full worth only through the aid of that which makes perfect the Arthurian knight, the high love of ladies, shortly to be spoken of. In the meanwhile let us turn from Chrétien to the broader tableau of the Old French prose, and note the beginning of Artus, as he is there called. The lineage of the royal boy remains romantically undiscovered, till the time when he is declared to be the king. It is then that he receives all kinds of riches from the lords of his realm. He keeps nothing for himself; but makes inquiry as to the character and circumstances of his future knights, and distributes all among them according to their worth. This is the virtue of largesce.

Now comes the ceremony of making him a knight, and then of investing him with, as it were, the supreme knighthood of kingship. The archbishop, it is told, "fist (made) Artu chevalier, et celle nuit veilla Artus a la mestre Eglise (the cathedral) jusques au jour." Then follows the ceremony of swearing allegiance to him; but Arthur has not yet finally taken his great sword. When he is arrayed for the mass, the archbishop says to him: "Allez querre (seek) l'espee et la jostise dont vos devez defendre Saincte Eglise et la crestiante sauver."

"Lors alia la procession au perron, et la demanda li arcevesques a Artu, se il est tiels que il osast jurer et creanter Dieu et madame Sainte Marie et a tous Sains et toutes Saintes, Sainte Eglise a sauver et a maintenir, et a tous povres homes et toutes povres femmes pais et loiaute tenir, et conseiller tous desconseillies, et avoier (guide) tous desvoies (erring), et maintenir toutes droitures et droite justice a tenir, si alast avant et preist l'espee dont nostre sire avoit fait de lui election. Et Artus plora et dist: 'Ensi voirement com Dieus est sire de toutes les choses, me donit-il force et povoir de ce maintenir que vous avez dit.'

"II fu a genols et prit l'espee a jointes mains et la leva de l'enclume (anvil) ausi voirement come se ele ne tenist a riens; et lors, l'espee toute droite, l'enmenerent a l'autel et la mist sus; et lors il le pristrent et sacrerent et l'enoindrent, et li firent toutes iceles choses que l'en doit faire a roi."[13]

All this is good chivalry as well as proper feudalism. And there are other instances of genuine feudalism in these Romances. Such is the scene between the good knight Pharien and the bad king Claudas, where the former renounces his allegiance to the latter (je declare renoncer a vostre fief) and then declares himself to be Claudas's enemy, and claims the right to fight or slay him; since Claudas has not kept troth with him.[14]

There is perhaps nothing lovelier in all these Romances than the story of the young Lancelot, reared by the tender care of the Lady of the Lake. His training supplements the genial instincts of his nature, and the result is the mirror of all knighthood's qualities. He is noble, he is true, he is perfect in bravery, in courtesy, in modesty, the Lady imparting the precepts of these virtues to his ready spirit.[15] There is no knightly virtue that is not perfect in this peerless youth, as he sets forth to Arthur's Court, there to receive knighthood and prove himself the peerless knight and perfect lover. In this Old French prose his career is set forth most completely, and most correctly, so to speak. One or two points may be adverted to.

Lancelot is not strictly Arthur's knight. Originally he owed no fealty to him; and he avoided receiving his sword from the king, in order that he might receive it from Guinever, as he did. And so, from the first, Lancelot was Guinever's knight, as he was afterwards her accepted lover. Consequently his relations to her broke no fealty of his to Arthur.

Again, one notices that the absolute character of Lancelot's love and troth to Guinever is paralleled by the friendship of the high prince Galahaut to him. That has the same précieuse logic; it is absolute. No act or thought of Galahaut infringes friendship's least conceived requirement; while conversely that marvellous high prince leaves undone no act, however extreme, which can carry out the logic of this absolute single-souled devotion. At last he dies on thinking that Lancelot is dead; just as the latter could not have survived the death of Guinever. In spite of the beauty of Galahaut's devotion, its logic and preciosity scarcely throb with manhood's blood. It will not cause our eyes to swell with human tears, as did the blind blow and the true words which passed between Oliver and Roland at Roncesvalles.[16]

Chivalry—the institution and the whole knightly character—began in the rough and veritable, and progressed to courtlier idealizations. Likewise that knightly virtue, love of woman, displays a parallel evolution, being part of the chivalric whole. Beginning in natural qualities, its progress is romantic, logical, fantastic, even mystical.

Feudal life in the earlier mediaeval centuries did not foster tender sentiments between betrothed or wedded couples. The chief object of every landholder was by force or policy to secure his own safety and increase his retainers and possessions. A ready means was for him to marry lands and serfs in the robust person of the daughter, or widow, of some other baron. The marriage was prefaced by scant courtship; and little love was likely to ensue between the rough-handed husband and high-tempered wife. Such conditions, whether in Languedoc, Aquitaine, or Champagne, made it likely that high-blooded men and women would satisfy their amorous cravings outside the bonds of matrimony. For these reasons, among others, the Provençal and Old French literature, which was the medium of development for the sentiment of love, did not commonly concern itself with bringing lovers to the altar.

In literature, as in life, marriage is usually the goal of bliss and silence for love-song and love-story: attainment quells the fictile elements of fear and hope. Entire classes of mediaeval poetry like the aube (dawn) and the pastorelle had no thought of marriage. The former genre of Provençal and Old French, as well as Old German, poetry, is a lyric dialogue wherein the sentiments of lover and mistress become more tender with the approach of the envious dawn.[17] The latter is the song of the merry encounter of some clerk or cavalier with a mocking or complaisant shepherdess. Yet one must beware of speaking too categorically. For in mediaeval love-literature, marriage is looked forward to or excluded according to circumstances; and there are instances of romantic love where the lovers are blessed securely by the priest at the beginning of their adventures. But whether the lover look to wed his lady, or whether he have wedded her, or whether she be but his paramour, is all a thing of incident, dependent on the traditional or devised plot of the story.[18]

Like all other periods that have been articulate in literature—and those that have not been, so far as one may guess—the Middle Ages experienced and expressed the usual ways of love. These need not detain us. For they were included as elements within those interesting forms of romantic love, which were presented in the lyrics of the Troubadours and their more or less conscious imitators, and in the romantic narratives of chivalry. This literature elaborately expresses mediaeval sentiments and also love's passion. Its ideals drew inspiration from Christianity and many a suggestion from the antique. More especially, in its growth, at last two currents seem to meet. The one sprang from the fashions of Languedoc and the courtly centres of the north; the other was the strain of fantasy and passion constituting the matière de Bretagne.

Languedoc had been Romanized before the Christian era, and thereafter did not cease to be the home of the surviving Latin culture. By the eleventh century, castles and towns held a gay and aristocratic society, on which Christianity, honeycombed with heresy, sat lightly, or at least joyfully. This society was inclined to luxury, and the gentle relationships between men and women interested it exceedingly. Out of it as the eleventh century closes, songs of the Troubadours begin to rise and give utterance to thoughts and feelings of chivalric love. These songs flourished during the whole of the twelfth century, and then their notes were crushed by the Albigensian Crusade, which destroyed the pretty life from which they sprang.

She whom such songs were meant to adulate or win, frequently was the wife of the Troubadour's lord. The song might intend nothing beyond such worship as the lady's spouse would sanction; or it might give subtle voice to a real passion, which offered and sought all. To separate the sincere and passionate from the fanciful in such songs is neither easy nor apt, since fancy may enhance the expression of passion, or present a pleasing substitute. At all events, in this very personal poetry, passion and imaginative enhancings blended in verses that might move a lady's heart or vanity.

Love, with the Troubadours and their ladies, was a source of joy. Its commands and exigencies made life's supreme law. Love was knighthood's service; it was loyalty and devotion; it was the noblest human giving. It was also the spring of excellence, the inspiration of high deeds. This love was courteous, delicately ceremonial, precise, and on the lady's part exacting and whimsical. A moderate knowledge of the poems and lives of the Troubadours and their ladies will show that love with its joys and pains, its passion, its fancies and subtle conclusions, made the life and business of these men and dames.[19]

In culture and the love of pleasure the great feudal courts of Aquitaine, Champagne, and even Flanders, were scarcely behind the society of Languedoc. And at these courts, rather than in Languedoc, courtly love encountered a new passionate current, and found the tales which were to form its chief vehicle. These were the lays and stories, as of Tristan and of Arthur and his knights, which from Great Britain had come to Brittany and Normandy. They were now attracting many listeners who had no part with Arthur or Tristan, save the love of love and adventure. Marie de France had put certain Breton lays into Old French verse. And one or two decades later, a request from the great Countess Marie de Champagne led Chrétien de Troies, as we have seen, to recast other Breton tales in a manner somewhat transformed with thoughts of courtly love. These northern poems of love and chivalry were written to please the taste of high-born dames, just as the Troubadours had sung and still were singing to please their sisters in the south. The southern poems may have influenced the northern.[20]

In the courtly society of Champagne and Aquitaine diverse racial elements had long been blending, and acquirements, once foreign, had turned into personal qualities. Views of life had been evolved, along with faculties to express them. Likewise modes of feeling had developed. This society had become what it was within the influence of Christianity and the antique educational tradition. It knew the Song of Songs, as well as Ovid's stories, and likewise his Ars amatoria, which Chrétien was the first to translate into Old French. Possibly its Christianity had learned of a boundless love of God, and its mortal nature might feel mortal loves equally resistless. And now, in the early twelfth century, there came from lands which were or had been Breton, an abundance of moving and catching stories of adventure and of passion which broke through restraint, or knew none. Dames and knights and their rhymers would eagerly receive such tales, and not as barren vessels; for they refashioned and reinspired them with their own thoughts of the joy of life and love, and with thoughts of love's high service and its uplifting virtue for the lover, and again of its ways and the laws which should direct and guide, but never stem, it.

Thus it came that French trouvères enlarged the matter of these Breton lays. Their romances reflected the loftiest thoughts and the most eloquent emotion pertaining to the earthly side of mediaeval life. In these rhyming and prose compositions, love was resistless in power; it absorbed the lover's nature; it became his sole source of joy and pain. So it sought nothing but its own fulfilment; it knew no honour save its own demands. It was unimpeachable, for in ecstasy and grief it was accountable to no law except that of its being. This resistless love was also life's highest worth, and the spring of inspiration and strength for doing valorously and living nobly. The trouvère of the twelfth century created new conceptions of love's service, and therewith the impassioned thought that beyond what men might do in the hope of love's fruition or at the dictates of its affection, love was itself a power strengthening and ennobling him who loved. Thought and feeling joined in this conviction, each helping the other on, in interchanging rôles of inspirer and inspired. And finally the two are one:

"Oltre la spera, che più larga gira,
Passa il sospiro ch' esce del mio core:
Intelligenza nuova, che l'Amore
Piangendo mette in lui, pur su lo tira."

No one can separate the thought and feeling in this verse. But they were not always fused. The mediaeval fancy sported with this love; the mediaeval mind delighted in it as a theme of argument. And the fancy might be as fantastic as the reasoning was finely spun.

The literature of this love draws no sharp lines between love as resistless passion and love as enabling virtue; yet these two aspects are distinguishable. The first was less an original creation of the Middle Ages than the second. Antiquity had known the passion which overwhelmed the stricken mortal, and had treated it as something put upon the man and woman, a convulsive joy, also a bane. Antiquity had analyzed it too, and had shown its effects, especially its physical symptoms. Much had been written of its fatal nature; songs had sung how it overthrew the strong and brought men and women to their death. Looking upon this love as something put on man and woman, antiquity pictured it mainly as an insanity cast like a spell upon some one who otherwise would have been sane. But the Middle Ages saw love transformed into the man and woman, saw it constitute their will as well as passion, and perceived that it was their being. If the lover could not avoid or resist it, the reason was because it was his mightiest self, and not because it was a compulsion from without; it was his nature, not his disease.

The nature, ways, and laws of this high and ennobling love were much pondered on and talked of. They were expounded in pedantic treatises, as well as set forth in tales which sometimes have the breath of universal life. Ovid's Ars amatoria furnished the idea that love was an art to be learned and practised. Mediaeval clerks and rhymers took his light art seriously, and certain of them made manuals of the rules and precepts of love, devised by themselves and others interested in such fancies. An example is the Flos amoris or Ars amatoria of Andrew the Chaplain, who compiled his book not far from the year 1200.[21] He wrote with his obsequious head filled with a sense of the authority in love matters of Marie de Champagne, and other great ladies. His book contains a number of curious questions which had been laid before one or the other of those reigning dames, and which they solved boldly in love's favour. Thus on solicitation Countess Marie decided that there could be no true love between a husband and wife; and that the possession of an honoured husband or beautiful wife did not bar the proffer or acceptance of love from another. The living literature of love was never constrained by the foolishness of the first proposition, but was freely to exemplify the further conclusion which others besides the countess drew.

Andrew gives a code of love's rules. He would have no one think that he composed them; but that he saw them written on a parchment attached to the hawk's perch, and won at Arthur's Court by the valour of a certain Breton knight. They read like proverbs, and undoubtedly represent the ideas of courtly society upon courtly love. There are thirty-one of them—for example:

(1) Marriage is not a good excuse for rejecting love.
(2) Who does not conceal, cannot love.
(3) None can love two at once. There is no reason why a woman should not be loved by two men, or a man by two women.
(4) It is love's way always to increase or lessen.
(9) None can love except one who is moved by love's suasion.
(12) The true lover has no desire to embrace anyone except his (or her) co-lover (co-amans).
(13) Love when published rarely endures.
(14) Easy winning makes love despicable; the difficult is held dear.
(15) Every lover turns pale in the sight of the co-lover.
(16) The lover's heart trembles at the sudden sight of the co-lover.
(18) Prowess (probitas) alone makes one worthy of love.
(20) The lover is always fearful.
(23) The one whom the thought of love disturbs, eats and sleeps little.
(25) The true lover finds happiness only in what he deems will please his co-lover.
(28) A slight fault in the lover awakens the co-lover's suspicion.
(30) The true lover constantly, without intermission, is engrossed with the image of the co-lover.

These rules were exemplified in the imaginative literature of courtly love. Such love and the feats inspired by it made the chief matter of the Arthurian romances, which became the literary property of western Europe; and the supreme examples of their darling theme are the careers and fortunes of the two most famous pairs of lovers in all this gallant cycle, Tristan and Iseult, Lancelot and Guinevere. In the former story love is resistless passion; in the latter its virtue- and valour-bestowing qualities appear. In both, the laws forbidding its fruition are shattered: in the Tristan story blindly, madly, without further thought; while in the tale of Lancelot this conflict sometimes rises to consciousness even in the lovers' hearts. How chivalric love may reach accord with Christian precept will be shown hereafter in the progress of the white and scarlet soul of Parzival, the brave man proving himself slowly wise.

Probably there never was a better version of the story of Tristan and Iseult than that of Gottfried of Strassburg, who transformed French originals into his Middle High German poem about the year 1210.[22] The poet-adapter sets forth his ideas of love in an elaborate prologue. Very antithetically he shows its bitter sweet, its dear sorrow, its yearning need; indeed to love is to yearn—an idea not strange to Plato—and Gottfried uses the words sene, senelîch, senedaere (all of which are related to sehnsucht, which is yearning) to signify love, a lover, and his pain. His poem shall be of two noble lovers:

"Ein senedaere, eine senedaerin."

The more love's fire burns the heart, the more one loves; this pain is full of love, an ill so good for the heart that no noble nature once roused by it would wish to lose part therein. Who never felt love's pain has never felt love:

"Liep unde leit diu waren ie
An minnen ungescheiden."

It is good for men to hear a tale of noble love, yes, a deep good. It sweetens love and raises the hearer's mood; it strengthens troth, enriches life. Love, troth, a constant spirit, honour, and whatever else is good, are never so precious as when set in a tale of love's joy and pain. Love is such a blessed thing, such a blessed striving, that no one without its teaching has worth or honour. These lovers died long ago; yet their love and troth, their life, their death, will still give troth and honour to seekers after these. Their death lives and is ever new, as we listen to the tale. Evidently, in Gottfried's mind the Tristan tale of love's almighty passion carried the thought of love as the inspiration of a noble life. Yet that thought was not native to the legend, and finds scant exemplification in Gottfried's poem.

The tragic passion of the main narrative is presaged by the story of Tristan's parents. His mother was Blancheflur, King Mark's sister, and his father Prince Riwalin. She saw him in the May-Court tourney held near Tintajoel. She took him into her thoughts; he entered her heart, and there wore crown and sceptre.

She greeted him; he her. She bashfully began: "My lord, may God enrich your heart and courage; but I harbour something against you."

"Sweet one, what have I done?"

"You have done violence to my best friend"—it was her heart, she meant.

"Beauty, bear me no hate for that; command, and I will do your bidding."

"Then I will not hate you bitterly. I will see what atonement you will make."

He bowed, and carried with him her image. Love's will mastered his heart, as he thought of Blancheflur, of her hair, her brow, her cheek, her mouth, her chin, and the glad Easter day that smiling lay in her eyes. Love the heart-burner set his heart aflame, and lo! he entered upon another life; purpose and habit changed, he was another man.

Sad is the short tale of these lovers. Riwalin is killed in battle, and at the news of his death Blancheflur expires, giving birth to a son. Rual the Faithful names the child Tristan, to symbolize the sorrow of its birth.

The story of Tristan's early years draws the reader to the accomplished, happy youth. He is the delight of all; for his young manhood is courtliness itself, and valour and generosity. He is loved, and afterwards recognized and knighted, by his uncle Mark. Then he sets out and avenges his father's death; after which he returns to Mark's Court, and vanquishes the Irish champion Morold. A fragment of Tristan's sword remained in Morold's head; Tristan himself received a poisoned wound, which could be healed, as the dying Morold told him, only by Ireland's queen, Iseult. Very charming is the story of Tristan's first visit to Ireland, disguised as a harper, under the name of Tantris. The queen hearing of his skill, has him brought to the palace, where she heals him, and he in return becomes the teacher of her daughter, the younger Iseult, whom he instructs in letters, music and singing, French and Latin, ethics, courtly arts and manners, till the girl became as accomplished as she was beautiful, and could write and read, and compose and sing pastorelles and rondeaux and other songs.

On his return to Cornwall he told Mark of the young Iseult, and then, at Mark's request, set forth again to woo her for him. The Irish king has promised his daughter to whoever shall slay the dragon. Tristan does the deed, cuts out the dragon's tongue as proof, and then falls overcome and fainting. The king's cupbearer comes by, breaks his lance on the dead dragon, and, riding on, announces that he has slain the monster; he has the great head brought to the Court upon a wagon. Iseult is in despair at the thought of marrying the cupbearer; her mother doubts his story, and bids Iseult ride out and search for the real slayer. The ladies discover Tristan, with him the dragon's tongue. They carry him to the palace to heal him, and the young Iseult recognizes him as the harper Tantris, and redoubles her kind care. But after a while she noticed the notch in his sword, and saw that it fitted the fragment found in Morold's head—and is not Tantris just Tristan reversed? This is the man who slew Morold, her mother's brother! She seizes the sword and rushes in to kill him in his bath. Her mother checks her, and at last she is appeased, Tristan letting them see that an important mission has brought him to Ireland. There is truce between them, and Tristan goes to the king with Mark's demand for Iseult's hand. Then the cupbearer is discomfited, peace is made between the Irish king and Mark, and the young Iseult, with Brangaene her cousin, makes ready to sail with Tristan. The queen secretly gave a love-drink into Brangaene's care, which Iseult and Mark should drink together. The people followed down to the haven, and all wept and lamented that with fair Iseult the sunshine had left Ireland.

Iseult is sad. She cannot forget that it is Tristan who slew her uncle and is now taking her from her home. Tristan fails to comfort her. They see land. Tristan calls for wine to pledge Iseult. A little maid brings—the love-drink! They drink together, not wine but that endless heart's pain which shall be their common death. Too late, Brangaene with a cry throws the goblet into the sea. Love stole into both their hearts; gone was Iseult's hate. They were no longer two, but one; the sinner, love, had done it. They were each other's joy and pain; doubt and shame seized them. Tristan bethought him of his loyalty and honour, struggling against love vainly. Iseult was like a bird caught with the fowler's lime; shame drove her eyes away from him; but love drew her heart. She gave over the contest as she looked on him, and he also began to yield. They thought each other fairer than before; love was conquering.

The ship sails on. Love's need conquered. They talk together of the past, how he had once come in a little boat, and of the lessons: "Fair Iseult, what is troubling you?"

"What I know, that troubles me; what I see, the heaven and sea, that weighs on me; body and life are heavy." They leaned toward each other; bright eyes began to fill from the heart's spring; her head sank, his arm sustained her;—"Ah! sweet, tell me, what is it?"

Answered love's feather-play, Iseult: "Love is my need, love is my pain."

He answered painfully: "Fair Iseult, it is the rude wind and sea."

"No, no, it is not wind or sea; love is my pain."

"Beauty, so with me! Love and you make my need. Heart's lady, dear Iseult, you and the love of you have seized me. I am dazed. I cannot find myself. All the world has become naught, save thee alone."

"Sir, so is it with me."

They loved, and in each other saw one mind, one heart, one will. Their silent kiss was long. In the night, love the physician brought their only balm. Sweet had the voyage become; alas! that it must end.

With their landing begins the trickery and falsehood compelled by the situation. The fearful Iseult plotted to murder the true Brangaene, who alone knew. After a while Mark's suspicion is aroused, to be lulled by guile. Plot and counterplot go on; the lovers win and win again; truth and honour, everything save love's joy and fear and all-sufficiency, are cast to the winds. Even the "Judgment of God" is tricked; the hot iron does not burn Iseult swearing her false oath, literally true. Many a time Mark's jealousy has been fiercely stirred, only to be tricked to sleep again. Yet he knows that Tristan and Iseult are lovers. He calls them to him; he tells them he will not avenge himself, they are too dear to him. But let them take each other by the hand and leave him. So, together, they disappear in the forest.

Then comes the wonderful, beautiful story of the love-grotto and the lovers' forest-life; they had the forest and they had themselves, and needed no more. One morning they arose to the sweet birds' song of greeting; but they heard a horn; Mark must be hunting near. So they were very careful, and again prepared deception. Mark has been told of the love-grotto in the wood. In the night he came and found it, looked through its little rustic window as the day began to dawn. There lay the lovers, apart, a naked sword between them. A sunbeam, stealing through the window, touches Iseult's cheek, touches her sweet mouth. Mark loves her anew. Then fearful lest the sunlight should disturb her, he covered the window with grass and leaves and flowers, blessed her, and went away in tears. The lovers waken. They had no need to fear. The lie of the naked sword again had won. Mark sends and invites them to return.

Insatiable love knew no surcease or pause. The German poet is driven to a few reflections on the deceits of Eve's daughters, the anxieties of forbidden love, and the crown of worth and joy that a true woman's love may be. At last the lovers are betrayed—in each other's arms. They know that Mark has seen them.

"Heart's lady, fair Iseult, now we must part. Let me not pass from your heart. Iseult must ever be in Tristan's heart. Forget me not."

Says Iseult: "Our hearts have been too long one ever to know forgetting. Whether you are near or far, nothing but Tristan enters mine. See to it that no other woman parts us. Take this ring and think of me. Iseult with Tristan has been ever one heart, one troth, one body, one life. Think of me as your life—Iseult."

The fateful turning of the story is not far off: Tristan has met the other Iseult, her of the white hands. The poet Gottfried did not complete his work. He died, leaving Tristan's heart struggling between the old love and the new—the new and weaker love, but the more present offering to pain. The story was variously concluded by different rhymers, in Gottfried's time and after. The best ending is the extant fragment of the Tristan by Thomas of Brittany, the master whom Gottfried followed. In it, the wounded Tristan dies at the false news of the black sails—the treachery of Iseult of the white hands. The true Iseult finds him dead; kisses him, takes him in her arms, and dies.

From the time when on the ship Tristan and Iseult cast shame and honour to the winds, the story tells of a love which knows no law except itself, a love which is not hindered or made to hesitate and doubt by any command of righteousness or honour. Love is the theme; the tale has no sympathy or understanding for anything else. It is therefore free from the consciously realized inconsistencies present at least in some versions of the story of Lancelot and Guinevere. In them two laws of life seem on the verge of conflict. On the one—the feebler—side, honour, troth to marriage vows, some sense of right and wrong; on the other, passionate love, which is law and right unto itself, having its own commands and prohibitions; a love which is also an inspiration and uplifting power unto the lover; a love holy in itself and yet because of its high nature the more fatally impeached by truth and honour trampled on. In the conflict between the two laws of life in the Lancelot story, the rights and needs and power of love maintain themselves; yet the end must come, and the lovers live out love's palinode in separate convents. For this love to be made perfect, must be crowned with repentance.

Who first created Lancelot, and who first made the peerless knight love Arthur's queen? This question has not yet been answered.[23] Chrétien de Troies' poem, Le Conte de la charrette, has for its subject an episode in Lancelot's long love of Guinevere.[24] Here, as in his other poems, Chrétien is a facile narrator, with little sense of the significance that might be given to the stories which he received and cleverly remade. But their significance is shown in the Old French prose Lancelot, probably composed two or three decades after Chrétien wrote. It contains the lovely story of Lancelot's rearing, by the Lady of the Lake, and of his glorious youth. It brings him to the Court of Arthur, and tells how he was made a knight—it was the queen and not the king from whom he received his sword. And he loves her—loves her and her only from the first until his death. He has no thought of serving any other mistress. And he is aided in his love by the "haute prince Galehaut," the most high-hearted friend that ever gave himself to his friend's weal.

From the beginning Lancelot's love is worship, it is holy; and almost from the beginning it is unholy. From the beginning, too, it is the man's inspiration, it is his strength; it makes him the peerless knight, peerless, in courtesy, peerless in emprise; this love gives him the single eye, the unswerving heart, the resistless valour to accomplish those adventures wherein all other knights had found their shame—they were not perfect lovers! Only through his perfect love could Lancelot have accomplished that greatest adventure of the Val des faux amants;—Val sans retour for all other knights.[25] Lancelot alone had always been, and to his death remained, a lover absolutely true in act and word and thought; incomparably more chastely loyal to Guinevere than her kingly spouse. Against the singleness of this perfect love enchantments fail, and swords and lances break. Yet this love, fraught with untruth and dishonour, must conceal itself from that king who, while breaking his own marriage vows as passion led him, trusted and honoured above all men the peerless knight whose peerlessness was rooted in his unholy holy love for Arthur's queen.

The first full sin between Lancelot and Guinevere was committed when Arthur was absent on a love-adventure, which brought him to a shameful prison. He was delivered by Lancelot, and recognizing his deliverer, he said in royal gratitude: "I yield you my land, my honour, and myself." Lancelot blushes! Thereafter, as towards Arthur, Lancelot and Guinevere are forced into stratagems almost as ignoble as those by which King Mark was tricked. And Guinevere—she too is peerless among women; perfect in beauty, perfect in courtliness, perfect in dutifulness to her husband—saving her love for Lancelot! Guinevere's dutifulness to Arthur is not shaken by his outrageous treatment of her because of the "false Guinevere," when he cast off and sought to burn his queen. She will continue to obey him though he has dishonoured her and all the time, unknown to her outrageous, unjustly accusing lord, how had she cast her and his honour down with Lancelot! Only while she is put away from her lord, and under Lancelot's guard, for that time she will be true to marriage vows; and Lancelot assents.[26]

The latter part of the story, when asceticism enters with Galahad,[27] suggests that the peerless knight of "les temps adventureux" was sinful. But the main body of the tale put no reproach on Lancelot for his great love. It told of a love as perfect and as absolute as the author or compiler could conceive; and the conduct of Lancelot was intended to be that of a perfect lover, whose sentiments and actions should accord with the idea of courtly love and exemplify its rules. Their underlying principle was that love should always be absolute, and that the lover's every thought and act should on all occasions correspond with the most extreme feelings or sentiments or fancies possible for a lover. In the prose narrative, for example, Lancelot goes mad three times because of his mistress's cruelty, a cruelty which may seem to us absurd, but which represents the adored lady's insistence, under all circumstances, upon the most unhesitating and utter devotion from her lover.

Chrétien's Conte de la charrette is a clear rendering of the idea that love shall be absolute, and hesitate at nothing; it is an example of courtly love carried to its furthest imagined conclusions. It displays all the rules of Andrew the Chaplain in operation. In it Lancelot will do anything for Guinevere, will show himself a coward knight at her command, or perform feats of arms; he will desire the least little bit of her—a tress of hair—more than all else which is not she; he will throw himself from the window to be near her; engaged in deadly combat, the sight of her makes him forget his enemy; at the news of her death he seeks at once to die. Of course his heart loathes the thought of infringing this great love by the slightest fancy for another woman. On the other hand, when by marvels of valour Lancelot rescues Guinevere from captivity, she will not speak to him because for a single instant he had hesitated to mount a charrette, in which no knight was carried save one who was felon and condemned to death. This was logical on Guinevere's part; Lancelot's love should always have been so absolute as never for one instant to hesitate. Much of this is extreme, and yet hardly unreal. Heloïse's love for Abaelard never hesitated.

Such love, imperious and absolute, shuts out all laws and exigencies save its own;[28] it must be virtue and honour unto itself; it is careless of what ill it may do so long as that ill does not infringe love's laws. Evidently before it the bonds of marriage break, or pale to insignificance. It is its own sanction, nor needs the faint blessing of the priest. The poet—as the actual lover likewise—may even deem that love can best show itself to be the principle of its own honour when unsustained by wedlock; thus unsustained and unobscured it stands alone, fairer, clearer, more interesting and romantic. Again, since mediaeval marriage in high life was more often a joining of fiefs than a union of hearts, there would be high-born dames and courtly poets to declare that love could only exist between knight and mistress, and not between husband and wife. Marriage shuts out love's doubts and fears; there is no need of further knightly services; and husband and wife by law are bound to render to each other what between lovers is gracious favour; this was the opinion of Marie de Champagne, it also was the opinion of Heloïse. In chivalric poetry the lovers, when at last duly married, may continue to call each other ami et amie rather than wife and lord;[29] or a knight may shun marriage lest he settle down and lose worship, doing no more adventurous feats of arms, like Chrétien's Erec, till his wife Enide stung him by her speech.[30] Some centuries later Malory has Lancelot utter a like sentiment: "But to be a wedded man I think never to be, for if I were, then should I be bound to tarry with my wife, and leave arms and tournaments, battles and adventures."

If allowance be made for the difference in topic and treatment between the Arthurian romances and Guillaume de Lorris's portion of the Roman de la rose, the latter will be seen to illustrate similar love principles. De Lorris's poem is fancy playing with thoughts of love which had inspired these tales of chivalry. Every one knows its gentle idyllic character;—how charming, for instance, is the conflict between the Lover-to-be and Love, who quickly overcomes the ready yielder. So he surrenders unconditionally, gives himself over; Love may slay him or gladden him—"le cuers est vostre, non pas miens," says the lover to Love, and you shall do with it as you will. Then Love sweetly takes his little golden key, and locks the lover's heart, after which he safely may impart his rules and counsels: the lover must abjure vilanie, and foul and slanderous speech—the opposite of courtesy. Pride also (orgoil) must be abandoned. He should attire himself seemingly, and show cheerfulness; he must be niggardly in nothing; his heart must be given utterly to one; he shall undergo toils and endure griefs without complaint; in absence he will always think of the beloved, sighing for her, keeping his love aflame; he will be shameful, confused and changing colour in her presence; at night he will toss and weep for love of her, and dream dreams of passionate delight; then wakeful, he will rise and wander near her dwelling, but will not be seen—nor will he forget to be generous to her waiting-maid. All of this will make the lover pale and lean. To aid him to endure these agonies, will come Hope with her gentle healings, and Fond-thought, and Sweet-speech of the beloved with a wise confidant, and Sweet-sight of her dwelling, maybe of herself. The Roman de la rose is fancy, and the Arthurian romances are fiction. In the one or the other, imagination may take the place of passion, and the contents of the poem or romance afford a type and presentation of the theory of love.

  1. On the chansons de geste see Gaston Paris, Littérature française au moyen âge; Leon Gautier in Petit de Julleville's Histoire de la langue et de la littérature française, vol. i.; more at length Gautier, Épopées nationales, and Paulin Paris in vol. 22 of L'Histoire littérature de France; also Nyrop, Storia dell' epopea francese nel media evo. Ample bibliographies will be found in these works.
  2. On the field of Roncesvalles, Roland folds the hands of the dead Archbishop Turpin, and grieves over him, beginning:

    "E! gentilz hum chevaliers de bon aire, …"

    (Roland, line 2252).

  3. Leon Gautier, in his Chevalerie, makes the chansons de geste his chief source.
  4. 1006-1016.
  5. 1051 sqq. and 1700 sqq.
  6. 1851-1868.
  7. 1940-2023.
  8. 2164 sqq.
  9. Raoul de Cambrai, cited by Gautier, Chevalerie, p. 75.
  10. Unless indeed Oberon, the fairy king, be a romantic form of the Alberich of the Nibelungen (Gaston Paris).
  11. See Gaston Paris, Lit. française, etc., chaps, iii. and v.; and Émile Littré in vol. 22 of the Histoire littéraire de la France. For examples of these romans, see Langlois, La Société française au XIIIᵉ siècle d'après dix romans d'aventure (2nd ed., Paris, 1904).
  12. Chrétien, Cligés, line 201 sqq.
  13. The Old French from vol. ii. of P. Paris, Romans de la Table Ronde, p. 96. One sees that the coronation is a larger knighting, and kingship a larger knighthood.
  14. Romans de la Table Ronde, iii. 96. This scene closely parallels that between Bernier and Raoul de Cambrai, instanced above.
  15. See the first part of vol. iii. of Romans de la Table Ronde, especially pp. 113-117.
  16. It would be easy to go on drawing illustrations of the actual and imaginative elements in chivalry, until this chapter should grow into an encyclopedia. They could so easily be taken from many kinds of mediaeval literature in all the mediaeval tongues. The French has barely been touched upon. It affords an exhaustless store. Then in the German we might draw upon the courtly epics, Gottfried of Strassburg's Tristan or the Parzival of Wolfram von Eschenbach; or on the Nibelungenlied, wherein Siegfried is a very knight. Or we might draw upon the knightly precepts (the Ritterlehre) of the Winsbeke and the Winsbekin (printed in Hildebrand's Didaktik aus der Zeit der Kreuzzüge, Deutsche Nat. Litt. ). And we might delve in the great store of Latin Chronicles which relate the mediaeval history of German kings and nobles. In Spanish, there would be the Cid, and how much more besides. In Italian we should have latter-day romantic chivalry; Pulci's Rotta di Roncisvalle; Boiardo's Orlando innamorato; Ariosto's Orlando furioso; still later, Tasso's Gerusalemme liberata, which takes us well out of the Middle Ages. And in English there is much Arthurian romance; there is Chevy Chace; and we may come down through Chaucer's Knight's Tale, to the sunset beauty of Spenser's Fairie Queen. This glorious poem should serve to fix in our minds the principle that chivalry, knighthood, was not merely a material fact, a ceremony and an institution; but that it also was that ultra-reality, a spirit. And this spirit's ideal creations the ideal creations of the many phases of this spirit accorded with actual deeds which may be read of in the old Chronicles. For final exemplification of the actual and the ideally real in chivalry, the reader may look within himself, and observe the inextricable mingling of the imaginative and the real. He will recognize that what at one time seems part of his imagination, at another will prove itself the veriest reality of his life. Even such wavering verity of spirit was chivalry.
  17. See Gaston Paris in Journal des servants, 1892, pp. 161-163. Of course the English reader cannot but think of the brief secret marriage between Romeo and Juliet.
  18. Marriage or no marriage depends on the plot; but occasionally a certain respect for marriage is shown, as in the Eliduc of Marie de France, and of course far more strongly in Wolfram's Parzival. In Chrétien's Ivain the hero marries early in the story; and thereafter his wife acts towards him with the haughty caprice of an amie; Ivain, at her displeasure, goes mad, like an ami. The romans d'aventure afford other instances of this courtly love, sometimes illicit, sometimes looking to marriage. See Langlois, La Société française au XIIIᵉ siècle d'après dix romans d'aventure.
  19. On Provençal poetry see Diez, Poesie der Troubadours (2nd ed. by Bartsch, Leipzig, 1883); id., Leben und Werke der Troubadours; Justin H. Smith, The Troubadours at Home (New York and London, 1899); Ida Farnell, Lives of the Troubadours (London).
  20. Cf. Gaston Paris, t. 30, pp. 1-18, Hist. lit. de la France; Paul Meyer, Romania, v. 257-268; xix. 1-62. "Trouvère" is the Old French word corresponding to Provençal "Troubadour."
  21. On this work see Gaston Paris, Romania, xii. 524 sqq. (1883); id. in Journal des savants, 1888, pp. 664 sqq. and 727 sqq.; also (for extracts) Raynouard, Choix des poésies des Troubadours, ii. lxxx. sqq.
  22. On origins and sources see, generally, Gaston Paris, Tristan and Iseult (Paris, 1894), reprinted from Revue de Paris of April 15, 1894; W. Golther, Die Sage von Tristan und Isolde (Munich, 1887).
  23. Cf. generally, J. L. Weston, The Legend of Sir Lancelot du Lac (London, 1901, David Nutt).
  24. See Gaston Paris, Romania, xii. 459-534.
  25. Paulin Paris, Romans de la Table Ronde, iv. 280 sqq.
  26. See Paulin Paris, Romans de la Table Ronde, iv. Guinevere's woman-mind is shown in the following scene. On an occasion the lovers' sophisticated friend, the Dame de Malehaut, laughs tauntingly at Lancelot: "'Ah! Lancelot, Lancelot, dit-elle, je vois que le roi n'a plus d'autre avantage sur vous que la couronne de Logres!'

    "Et comme il ne trouvait rien à répondre de convenable, 'Ma chère Malehaut, dit la reine, si je suis fille de roi, il est fils de roi; si je suis belle, il est beau; de plus, il est le plus preux des preux. Je n'ai done pas à rougir de l'avoir choisi pour mon chevalier'" (Paulin Paris, ibid. iv. 58).

  27. Galahad's mother was Helene, daughter of King Pelles (roi pêcheur), the custodian of the Holy Grail. A love-philter makes Lancelot mistake her for Guinevere; and so the knight's loyalty to his mistress is saved. The damsel herself was without passion, beyond the wish to bear a son begotten by the best of knights (Romans, etc., v. 308 sqq.).
  28. "For what is he that may yeve a lawe to lovers? Love is a gretter lawe and a strengere to himself than any lawe that men may yeven"(Chaucer, Boece, book iii. metre 12).
  29. As in Chrétien's Cligés, 6751 sqq., when Cligés is crowned emperor and Fenice becomes his queen, then: De s'amie a feite sa fame—but he still calls her amie et dame, that he may not cease to love her as one should an amie. Cf. also Chrétien's Erec, 4689.
  30. See also Gawain's words to Ivain when the latter is married in Chrétien's Ivain, 2484 sqq.