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The exploits of the hero himself are coarse and hideous failures, and the whole poem can only be taken as a counterblast to the spirit of chivalry. Again, we have the history of a solemn crusade undertaken by the citizens of a country town against the neighbouring castle. The hero of this is an allegorical personage, half man and half horse, signifying the union of bestial degradation with human ingenuity and cunning.

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Fauvel the name, it may be worth while to recall, occurs in Langland is a divinity in his way. All the personages of state, from kings and popes to mendicant friars, pay their court to him. But this serious and discontented spirit betrays itself also in compositions which are not parodies or travesties in form. Baudouin de Sebourc dates from the early years of the 14th century. It is strictly a chanson de geste in form, and also in the general run of its incidents. The hero is dispossessed of his inheritance by the agency of traitors, fights his battle with the world and its injustice, and at last prevails over his enemy Gaufrois, who has succeeded in obtaining the kingdom of Friesland and almost that of France.

Gaufrois has as his assistants two personages who were very popular in the poetry of the time,—viz. These two sinister figures pervade the fabliaux, tales and fantastic literature generally of the time.

Lenient, the historian of French satire, has well remarked that a romance as long as the Renart might be spun out of the separate short poems of this period which have the Devil for hero, and many of which form a very interesting transition between the fabliau and the mystery. But the Devil is in one respect a far inferior hero to Renart. He has an adversary in the Virgin, who constantly upsets his best-laid schemes, and who does not always treat him quite fairly.

The abuse of usury at the time, and the exactions of the Jews and Lombards, were severely felt, and Money itself, as personified, figures largely in the popular literature of the time. Roman de la Rose. The author of the earlier part was Guillaume de Lorris, who lived in the first half of the 13th century; the author of the later part was Jean de Meung, who was born about the middle of that century, and whose part in the Roman dates at least from its extreme end. This great poem exhibits in its two parts very different characteristics, which yet go to make up a not inharmonious whole.

It is a love poem, and yet it is satire. But both gallantry and raillery are treated in an entirely allegorical spirit; and this allegory, while it makes the poem tedious to hasty appetites of to-day, was exactly what gave it its charm in the eyes of the middle ages.

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It might be described as an Ars amoris crossed with a Quodlibeta. This mixture exactly hit the taste of the time, and continued to hit it for two centuries and a half. When its obvious and gallant meaning was attacked by moralists and theologians, it was easy to quote the example of the Canticles, and to furnish esoteric explanations of the allegory. The writers of the 16th century were never tired of quoting and explaining it.

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We cannot here analyse this celebrated poem. It is sufficient to say that the lover meets all sorts of obstacles in his pursuit of the rose, though he has for a guide the metaphorical personage Bel-Accueil. The early part, which belongs to William of Lorris, is remarkable for its gracious Jean de Meung. He keeps the allegorical form, and indeed introduces two new personages of importance, Nature and Faux-semblant.

In the mouths of these personages and of another, Raison, he puts the most extraordinary mixture of erudition and satire. At one time we have the history of classical heroes, at another theories against the hoarding of money, about astronomy, about the duty of mankind to increase and multiply. Accounts of the origin of loyalty, which would have cost the poet his head at some periods of history, and even communistic ideas, are also to be found here. In Faux-semblant we have a real creation of the theatrical hypocrite. All this miscellaneous and apparently incongruous material in fact explains the success of the poem.

It has the one characteristic which has at all times secured the popularity of great works of literature. It holds the mirror up firmly and fully to its age. The Roman de la rose , as might be supposed, set the example of an immense literature of allegorical poetry, which flourished more and more until the Renaissance. Some of these poems we have already mentioned, some will have to be considered under the head of the 15th century. But, as usually happens in such cases and was certain to happen in this case, the allegory which has seemed tedious to many, even in the original, became almost intolerable in the majority of the imitations.

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We have observed that, at least in the later section of the Roman de la rose , there is observable a tendency to import into the poem indiscriminate erudition. This tendency is now remote from our poetical habits; but in its own day it was only the natural result of the use of poetry Early didactic verse. It was many centuries before prose became recognized as the proper vehicle for instruction, and at a very early date verse was used as well for educational and moral as for recreative and artistic purposes.

French verse was the first born of all literary mediums in modern European speech, and the resources of ancient learning were certainly not less accessible in France than in any other country. Besides the Bestiary , which from its dedication to Queen Adela has been conjectured to belong to the third decade of the 12th century, Philippe wrote also in French a Liber de creaturis , both works being translated from the Latin. These works of mystical and apocryphal physics and zoology became extremely popular in the succeeding centuries, and were frequently imitated.

A moralizing turn was also given to them, which was much helped by the importation of several miscellanies of Oriental origin, partly tales, partly didactic in character, the most celebrated of which is the Roman des sept sages , which, under that title and the variant of Dolopathos , received repeated treatment from French writers both in prose and verse. Art, too, soon demanded exposition in verse, as well as science.

The favourite pastime of the chase was repeatedly dealt with, notably in the Roi Modus , mixed prose and verse; the Deduits de la chasse , of Gaston de Foix, prose; and the Tresor de Venerie of Hardouin , verse. Very soon didactic verse extended itself to all the arts and sciences. Vegetius and his military precepts had found a home in French octosyllables as early as the 12th century; the end of the same age saw the ceremonies of knighthood solemnly versified, and napes maps du monde also soon appeared.

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Profane knowledge was not the only subject which exercised didactic poets at this time. Religious handbooks and commentaries on the scriptures were common in the 13th and following centuries, and, under the title of Castoiements, Enseignements and Doctrinaux , moral treatises became common. In the 14th century the influence of the Roman de la rose helped to render moral verse frequent and popular. The same century, moreover, which witnessed these developments of well-intentioned if not always Artificial forms of verse.

Hitherto such poetry had chiefly been composed in the melodious but unconstrained forms of the romance and the pastourelle. In the 14th century the writers of northern France subjected themselves to severer rules. In this age arose the forms which for so long a time were to occupy French singers,—the ballade, the rondeau, the rondel, the triolet, the chant royal and others. These received considerable alterations as time went on. Thus the term rondeau, which since Villon has been chiefly limited to a poem of 15 lines, where the 9th and 15th repeat the first words of the first, was originally applied both to the rondel, a poem of 13 or 14 lines, where the first two are twice repeated integrally, and to the triolet, one of 8 only, where the first line occurs three times and the second twice.

The last is an especially popular metre, and is found where we should least expect it, in the dialogue of the early farces, the speakers making up triolets between them. As these three forms are closely connected, so are the ballade and the chant royal, the latter being an extended and more stately and difficult version of the former, and the characteristic of both being the identity of rhyme and refrain in the several stanzas.

It is quite uncertain at what time these fashions were first cultivated, but the earliest poets who appear to have practised them extensively were born at the close of the 13th and the beginning of the 14th centuries. Of these Guillaume de Machault c.

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He has left us 80, verses, never yet completely printed. Eustache Deschamps c. Froissart the historian — was also an agreeable and prolific poet. Deschamps, the most famous as a poet of the three, has left us nearly ballades and nearly rondeaux, besides much other verse all manifesting very considerable poetical powers. Less known but not less noteworthy, and perhaps the earliest of all, is Jehannot de Lescurel, whose personality is obscure, and most of whose works are lost, but whose remains are full of grace. Froissart appears to have had many countrymen in Hainault and Brabant who devoted themselves to the art of versification; and the Livre des cent ballades of the Marshal Boucicault — and his friends— c.

Early Drama. The Mysteries and miracles. There is no doubt that the mysteries subjects taken from the sacred writings and miracle plays subjects taken from the legends of the saints and the Virgin are of very early date. The mystery of the Foolish Virgins partly French, partly Latin , that of Adam and perhaps that of Daniel , are of the 12th century, though due to unknown authors. The fabliau has been sufficiently dealt with already. It chiefly supplied the subject; and some miracle-plays and farces are little more than fabliaux thrown into dialogue. Of the jeux-partis there are many examples, varying from very simple questions and answers to something like regular dramatic dialogue; even short romances, such as Aucassin et Nicolette , were easily susceptible of dramatization.

The poet has not indeed gone far for his subject, for he brings in his own wife, father and friends, the interest being complicated by the introduction of stock characters the doctor, the monk, the fool , and of certain fairies—personages already popular from the later romances of chivalry. Nevertheless later criticism has seen, and not unreasonably, in these two pieces the origin in the one case of farce, and thus indirectly of comedy proper, in the other of comic opera.

For a long time, however, the mystery and miracle-plays remained the staple of theatrical performance, and until the 13th century actors as well as performers were more or less taken from the clergy. It has, indeed, been well pointed out that the offices of the church were themselves dramatic performances, and required little more than development at the hands of the mystery writers.

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The occasional festive outbursts, such as the Feast of Fools, that of the Boy Bishop and the rest, helped on the development. The variety of mysteries and miracles was very great. A single manuscript contains forty miracles of the Virgin, averaging from to lines each, written in octosyllabic couplets, and at least as old as the 14th century, most of them perhaps much earlier. The mysteries proper, or plays taken from the scriptures, are older still.