James Bryce Bryce.

The book of history. A history of all nations from the earliest times to the present, with over 8,000 illustrations (Volume 9) online

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Online LibraryJames Bryce BryceThe book of history. A history of all nations from the earliest times to the present, with over 8,000 illustrations (Volume 9) → online text (page 42 of 55)
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his pupil Heloise than for his " Intro-
duction to Theology," which was con-
demned by the synod of Soissons in 1121 ;
his views brought him into violent con-
flict in 1140 with Pope Innocent II.,
and with that zealous defender
of the faith, Bernard of Clair-
vaux. The power of the Church
over human thought was shown
by a number of new monastic foun-
dations. Benedictine foundations had
been scattered broadcast over France
during the sixth century ; to these were
added in 1098 Cistercians in the forest
monastery of Citeaux in the Cote d'Or.
At the outset they renounced the pleasures
of the world and lived only in mystical
communion with God, though they also
deserve credit for the impulse they gave to
gardening and vine cultivation. Under
St. Bernard the order rose with such
rapidity that its centre was transferred in
1115 from Citeaux to the new foundation
of Clairvaux on the Aube ; on Bernard's
death the order embraced 160 monasteries.
The struggle against earthly and sinful
desires, the ideals of self-renunciation and
purification, were also pursued by the
Carthusians of La Chartreuse founded in
1084, by Bruno, at Grenoble in Southern
France ; their rule imposed silence, the
wearing of a hair shirt and total abstin-
ence from wine, and advised the pursuit of
science. The same principles actuated
the more distinguished Premonstratensian
foundation, whose first monastery was
situated in the wooded meadows of Pre-
montre near Laon in 1119.

These three orders, which were
native to France, were eventu-

of the

ally outstripped in importance
and dimensions by the Dominicans and
Franciscans, who came in from Spain and
Italy, and whose organisation belongs to
the second decade of the thirteenth
century. The Dominicans occupied them-
selves with the task of higher education,



with the management of the Inquisition,
which was especially active in Southern
France, and with the extirpation of the
Albigenses and Waldenses; the Francis-
cans -gained a great hold on the lower


classes as preachers and confessors. The
Inquisition was a means which served both
the ecclesiastical and the political unity
of France ; in order to protect the purity
of the faith, powerful opponents or rivals
of the royal power were occasionally ex-
terminated, such as the Counts of Toulouse
(1207-1229) and the Knights Templars

Northern France presented a more ex-
clusive front to the outer world than
Southern, where great harbours were con-
nected by trade with the west, and where
great and populous sea towns were centres
of the world's commerce ; he"nce the
effects of the Crusades were far stronger in
the south than in the north. The knightly
class then became the exponent of poetry
and deprived the clergy of some portion
of their influence upon the intellectual
development of the nobles ; the crusading
movement also gave them a tendency to
idealism, a burning enthusiasm for bold
deeds, a devouring ambition, and a stain-
less sense of honour. On the other hand,
this movement gave an impulse to the
taste for outward show, for adventurous
enterprise, for purposeless attempts to
gain reputation, and for the trifling game
of love. At the same time were dissemi-
nated the seeds of those heresies which
were equally dangerous to the Church and


to society ; these were introduced from
the East Roman Empire by sectaries, the
Bogumiles and Cathari, whose degeneracy
and indiscretion led to extravagances which
permeated the whole of Southern France.
In France, as elsewhere,
knights were originally
drawn from the ranks of
the lower nobility, who
possessed no property, and
were in the service of some
ecclesiastical or secular
noble ; for pecuniary reward
they passed from the service
of one lord to another, and
were occasionally occupied
with highway robbery and
plunder. But among the
more highly educated and
talented of this class there
were men who combined
the professions of singer
and poet, who passed from
castle to castle and sang
the praises of their host
and the honour of his ladies
AS IT WAS m their remote and desolate
fortress, receiving in return presents
of money and festival entertainment.
These harmless parasites of society were
known as " jongleurs," and were at the


same time performers on musical instru-
ments, wandering singers, and begging
poets. A change took place after the
Crusades, when great lords and even kings
devoted themselves to the service of love

Drawn from the ranks of the lower nobility, the knights of France served the ecclesiastical or secular lords for
pecuniary reward, and were occasionally engaged in highway robbery and plunder. But those who were more highly
educated and gifted found other spheres for their talents. Combining the professions of singer and poet, they passed
from one castle to another singing the praises of their hosts. After the Crusades, great lords and even kings devoted
themselves to the service of love and song, and entered into keen rivalry for the laurels of the singer and the poet

and song, entered into rivalry for
the laurels of the knight and poet,
fought in tournaments, and settled
personal quarrels according to the
customs of knighthood. Hence de-
veloped in Southern France the numerous
and highly
gifted class of
the troubadours
(inventors or
poets), and in
the north the
less numerous
" trouveres."
The jongleurs
became mere
singers and ac-
c ompanists,
who followed
their distin-
guished poet-

stiffness and affectation of court life
finds scornful, bitter, and at times
wearied expression in his poems. The
most famous of his followers was
Bertran de Born, who died about
1215 in a monastery, one of the most

political of the
and the author
of many "sir-
ventes," satir-
ical songs or
lampoons in-
tended to serve
a cause which
the author con-
sidered just.
This singer,
who belonged


These old miniatures show some of the_great poets and singers of to a noble
mediaeval France, known as Troubadours,
in the service of the Dauphin of Auve:

of the great poets and singers ot lu a nuuic

lours. The first is Perdigon, a knight f a m\\\j Anfa-

rgne; next comes the Monk of Mont- '


ICal patrons audon, the son of a noble family ; in tne third figure we see Albertet, the fort, -near


turned his high gifts and personal
charm to ill account by stimulating
the princes Henry and Richard Lion-
heart to revolt against their father,
Henry II. of England, thus evoking
a series of cruel wars all over French


son of a jongleur, while the last is that of Marcabru, a pupil of Cercamons.

upon tneir

journeys of love and song, to perform
their compositions or to accompany them
upon the harp, zither, or viola.

The first important troubadour was the
adventurous Count William IX. of Poitiers,
who died in 1127 ; his disgust with the


_ ,

an e s

Conception of

soil from the Garonne to the mouth of the
Seine, which district included those fiefs
then possessed by the English king in France.
Dante in his " Divina Commedia "
places Bertran as the author of civil strife

in the pit of hell, where he

n( j s h j mse jf ^ n distinguished
.,, ,1

company with other poets.

r> . J

Bertran was not merely the

trumpet-toned singer of military themes ;

he was also a sympathetic and tender

composer of love songs, and he throws the

chief responsibility for the wickedness

of the times upon the clergy. The anti-

clericalism of the sirventes

is still more obvious in the

case of Guilhem Figueira, a

poet of low birth. The

highest point of the Southern

French lyric poetry is repre-

sented by men who are for

the most part of unblemished

reputation ; it lasted about

one hundred years, and the

principal figures are such

men as Bernart of Venda-

dour, who died about 1200,

a protege of the Count of

Poitiers, Arnaut Daniel,

whose fame was sung by

Dante and Petrarch, and

Guiraut de Bornelh, who

died about 1220 - "the

master of the troubadours."

This age, short as it was,

produced a many-sided lyric

poetry of love and shepherd

songs of elaborate canzone

with effective refrains, of

careful and over-elaborate

rhythms and rhymes; it

also exercised a perma-

nent influence upon the

German minnesingers and

upon the poetry of Dante.

In the second half of the thirteenth
century the knightly class began to
degenerate into rudeness of manner and
cupidity. The tournament became a
brawl and love poetry an unnatural,
unmeaning, and often immoral word-play.
The Albigensian wars (1208-1229) deprived
the nobility of Southern France of their
political power and of their great wealth,
and therefore made their patronage and
their presents to singers and poets things
of the past. Crusades, commanded by
papal legates, ended in the most cruel
persecution and extermination of the

Waldenses and their chief patrons among
the nobles and princes, stifled all freedom
of life and thought, and put an end to the
delights of society and to the enthusiasm
for art. Southern France had formerly
been a centre of intellectual life, ready to
receive all new discoveries, whether they
came from the East or from Spain and
Italy ; it now became an isolated desert,
broken only by the passionate denuncia-
tions of heresy.

The lyric poetry of Northern France is
far inferior to that of the south ; on the
other hand, the epic poetry of the south
cannot be compared with
the productions of the half-
Teutonic north. Hence lyric
poetry to the north of the
Loire is, in form and con-
tents, merely a feeble echo
of the south, and its repre-
sentatives, the trouveres and
ministrales, are but feeble
imitators of the southern
poets and singers. The
only important figure is
Count Thibaut of Cham-
pagne, who was King of
Navarre from 1234 > ne
gained reputation as a poet
of love songs, religious
songs, and hymns to the
Virgin, though in his case
elaboration of form replaced
the vital spark of genius.
The character of the
Northern Frenchmen was
matter-of-fact rather than
fantastic or emotional, and
inclined more to the free
and occasionally immoral
fabliau than to the chivalrous
poem of love.

None the less, the north
retained a strong and
capable nucleus of chivalry, and was
preserved from southern degeneration
until the fourteenth century. The educa-
tion and training of the knight was
ostensibly founded upon that of the monk ;
in fact, the age of the Crusades
had united the ideals of the
Knights were k ig htly and ecclesiastical

Trained & J .

career in the persons of
ecclesiastical orders of knights. The young
noble who was intended for a knight was
sent at an early age to his lord's castle, even
as the novice was educated from childhood
within the walls of the monastery and


prepared for the future duties of his order.
Until his fourteenth year he stood midway
between the servants and companions of
the household. He waited at table, went
errands for his master, accompanied him
when hunting or travelling, and performed
duties also for his mistress. He then
became a squire and his master's armour
bearer, practised riding, the use of arms,
and all knightly pursuits. He received
the accolade in his twenty-first year with
the observance of certain religious for-
malities. The previous night (la veille)
was spent by the squire in the chapel in
prayer ; in the morning he
took the bath of purifica-
tion, and after several
hours' rest, was clothed in
red and white garments.
The time of rest was to
symbolise his future state
of rest in Paradise, the
white garment his moral
purity, and the red, the
battles in which he would
have to shed his blood.
From the priest's hands he
received the knight's sword
on his knees before the altar,
and made his vows. He
then received from some
distinguished noble, in the
presence of witnesses, the
blow on the shoulder or neck
which dubbed him knight.

The religious character
even of this secular
chivalry was expressed in
the struggles for Chris-
tianity against the heathen
for as such the adherents
of Mahomet were reckoned
by the Church of the time
and in the protection of
widows and orphans, of the
oppressed and defenceless ; at the same
time ideal theories of honour and love were
constantly disturbed by entirely secular
thoughts. The conception of honour
appears rather as the honour of a class or

profession than that of a
The Strict person A knight who had

f, been guilty of base dealing or

the Knights -L ,

common offence, or had shown

himself cowardly in battle, was expelled,
publicly denounced by a herald, and
cursed by the Church, his coat of arms
and his weapons were broken by the
executioner, his shield was bound to the

An Age when



tail of his horse and destroyed by the
animal in the course of its wild career.

During the better period of the chival-
rous movement the robbery of merchants
and of monasteries was naturally avoided,
as was any infringement of the
property of others. Practice

ii_ i j i

in the use of arms could be

. , , .

gained not only in campaigns

and feuds, but also in tournaments,
the organisation of which was the result
of the Crusades. These took place in
the presence of ladies, who gave their
praises to the victors and whose colours
were worn by the knights, so
that the whole proceeding
was connected with courtly
life. In the French tourna-
ments thousands often
fought ; men were killed
and wounded, though the
laws of the tournament
insisted that only blunted
weapons should be used,
and that the struggle
should end when the oppo-
nent had been thrown from
his horse. The need for some
sign by which knights could
distinguish one another, as
their lowered visors made
recognition impossible, led
to the use of coats of arms,
which were hereditary in a
family ; there was some
outward sign upon the hel-
met, the shield, and the
surcoat, consisting either of
an animal or some other

The knight did not
trouble himself greatly
with learning. He occa-

always a clever player on the zither.
Reading and writing were unknown accom-
plishments to him. This lack of education,
as is invariably the case, led to a disregard
of the refinements of life and produced an
inclination to drunkenness and gambling,
to cruelty towards subordinates and
prisoners, and even towards wife and
children. The castles were usually re-
stricted in space, as they were thus more
defensible ; the main room was the
knight's hall, and here the lords lived,
especially in winter, in great lack of
occupation, cut off from all refining



influences. They ate without knives or
forks, with fingers or wooden spoons, sat
upon benches or stools, and had little or no
light when darkness came ; in cold weather
the heating of the rooms was generally
defective. Instead of windows, they had
openings in the walls, which, in bad
weather, or for the protection against cold,
were closed with shutters.

The education of the knights was but
scanty, better provision in this respect
being made for their wives and daughters.
Ladies of good birth were often able to
read and write, and sometimes even knew
Latin or some other foreign tongue ; they
were clever at needlework, cooking, and
the preparation of medicine, and were dis-
tinguished especially by courtly manners
and refined modesty. Food and clothing
in knightly families, apart from festival
occasions or drinking
bouts, from which
women were ex-
cluded, were very
simple, as their sup-
plies depended upon
the chase, the fish
pond, the vegetable
garden, the produce
sent in by the serfs,
or the small beer
brewed in the castle
brewery ; foreign
wines appeared only
after the Crusades.
Clothing, for the
most part, was
home - made also.

The service of ladies, peculiar to chivalry,
bore within itself the germ of degeneration
in so far as it was carried on not only
by unmarried but by married knights,
usually devoted to some married woman,
for whom adventures were undergone,
tournaments fought, though sometimes
the fair one was entirely unknown or
purely imaginary. The result was an
unnatural and affected subtlety, which
destroyed a movement contributing largely
at the outset to the development of
courtly manners and culture.

Chivalry, like the feudal system in
general, was wholly incompatible with the
conception of a uniform state as planned
by the Capets. Instead of devoting their
strength and their forces to their king
and country, adventurous knights went
fighting throughout the world, in Spain
or in the East, against the " heathen," in



the civil wars of England, or in Italy or
Sicily, whither they were attracted by the
possibility of gaining lands and money ;
here Charles of Anjou, the chivalrous
brother of Louis IX., won Naples and
Sicily from the declining family of the
Hohenstauffen. Hence it was fortunate
for France that this restless and adven-
turous class was destroyed by internal
disruption and degeneration, and became
robber knights, lost life and property in
the Crusades, or perished on foreign soil
before the invention of gunpowder, when
the consequent change of military tactics
entirely put an end to their existence.

The guidance of French literature
passed from the hands of the clergy to
the knights, first in poetry and afterwards
in history. The earlier poems of Northern
France are of a narrative and legendary
character, and deal
principally with
Christ and His
Apostles, the Virgin
Mary, the saints and
martyrs of the
Church, remarkable
conversions, and
lives of an edifying
character. With the
beginning of the
Crusades the subject-
matter is extended,
and no longer con-
fined to the imme-
diate environment of
the writer; the scene
of action is often laid
in the East. It is not until the age of the
Crusades that the chivalrous epic begins
its career.

The personality of Charlemagne, which
had now become fabulous, was first
brought into local connection with the
East as a result of the disagreeable recep-
tion accorded to the first Crusaders by the
Byzantine Greeks and their emperor,
Alexius ; this connection appears in the
Alexandrian poem " Comment Charles
de France vint en Jerusalem." Charles
is said to have started under the influence
of his wife's pride to measure his power
with Hugo of Constantinople, a king who
is supposed to have been more powerful.
He makes a pilgrimage to the Holy
Land, where God does miracles for
him and gives him the chief relics of
the Passion, which he causes to be pre-
served in St. Denis. In Constantinople








he sees that Hugo is inferior to himself ;
his companions mock at the Byzantine
and his Greeks, but are preserved by
Divine Providence from the misfortunes
which they had deserved. Here we have
clearly a Crusader's conception of his
own fortunes. The influence of Crusading
ideas is also obvious in the description of
the great emperor, ascribed to
Frenc ArchbishopTurpinof Rheims,

Heroes of an but really composed at the

end of the eleventh or the
beginning of the twelfth century ;
this was the " Historia de vita Caroli
magni et Rolandi ejus nepotis," which
dealt with his struggles with the unbe-
lievers in Spain, the heroic death of
Roland, the warden of the Breton March,
in the valley of Roncesvalles, and the
treachery of Ganelon ; the latter subject
is also treated in the Latin poem concern-
ing the treachery of Ganelon. The
figure of Charles is sometimes modelled
on that of Christ, and his twelve paladins
correspond to the twelve disciples ; he
also appears as an idealised Crusader.

The model for Ganelon's character seems
to have been the treacherous and voluble
Greek who, in the opinion of the Cru-
saders betrayed by him, was in secret
connection with the infidels. This
chronicle was soon translated into the
dialect of the Isle de France, which from
the twelfth century onwards became a
more uniform literary language. . The
subject of this somewhat poetical cycle
was reduced to writing in its earliest form
about 1090 as the " Chanson de Geste de
Roland." It was an amalgamation of
older poems, perhaps fragments from
Charles' lost collection of epics, and was
edited in its present form about 1170 by
the minstrel Turold ; the hero resembles
the Teutonic warrior rather than the
Crusader inspired by religious ideals. In
comparison with Roland, the Emperor
Charles is a somewhat feeble figure, and is
depicted rather as a querulous

Chtrle' old man than as the bold and
energetic restorer of the em-

in Poetry . ^, ,

pire. The character drawing is
elementary, and produced by the simplest
means and often by nothing more than the
conventional adjective. The lights and
shadows are distributed unequally. On
the one side we see subtlety and cunning,
on the other invincible heroism and super-
natural power, friendship and fidelity to
death, and heartrending grief, inspired by


the warmest patriotism, for the death of
so many nobles. The poem arose within
the area of the Norman dialect, and was
intended to celebrate the praises of the
Breton race, to which the historical Roland
belongs. Several other narratives from
the Carolingian cycle describe the
battles of Charles with his disobedient
vassals, apparently modelled upon that
war of suppression which the Capets
waged against the feudal nobility of the
twelfth century. As the poets belong to
the retinues of the great lords who were
conquered, they are invariably found in
sympathy with the losing side.

About the middle of the twelfth century
a fresh body of material for French epic
poetry was provided from England and
Brittany. In the sixth century the Britons
had retreated from modern Britain before
the Anglo-Saxons and brought with them
their legends of King Arthur and the
heroes of the round table ; these stories
had also been disseminated by Geoffrey
of Monmouth, who was for some time in
French service, in his " Historia Brit-
taniae," or " Historia Britonum," com-
posed before 1135. In the

TnTthe" R man de Bmt " f R bert

~ Wace, Arthur, like the legend-
Holy Grail X, ,

ary Charlemagne, is repre-
sented as the chief of twelve peers, and as
accomplishing marvellous exploits with
these bold knights. The religious element
was introduced into this cycle by the
amalgamation of the Arthur traditions
with the legend of the Holy Grail.

The best known of these Grail epics is the
" Perceval" of Chrestien de Troyes, a poet
acquainted with Latin authors and especially
with Ovid ; his works were composed at
the courts of Champagne and Flanders
between 1155 and 1188. In this epic is
shown the picture of a knight inspired
by religious enthusiasm and moral purity,
without fear or reproach, which is ex-
pressed in a series of adventures, and at
times in exquisite form ; the same poet
in his " Chevalier de la Charette " (Lance-
lot) and in his " Tristan," which is now
lost, depicts two knights of more human
character, who are made traitors or
weaklings by the seductions of love. The
remarkable versatility of this epic poet
appears in another form in the love epic
of " Erec and Enite " and the " Chevalier
au Lion." Love is here a source of true
heroism and chivalrous spirit. Chrestien
thus displays a series of knightly crusades


in their most different forms, especially
as affected by the service of love, which
may bring either destruction or blessing.

Two German epic poets entered into the
labours of Chrestien, Hartmann von Aue,
the author of " Erec " about 1190 and of
" Iwein " about 1200, and Gottfried of
Strassburg, the author of " Tristan and
Isolde " about 1210. Wolfram von
Eschenbach in his " Par-
zival " shortly after 1200
uses the material which
appears in Chrestien's
poem of the same name,
and follows his model

Online LibraryJames Bryce BryceThe book of history. A history of all nations from the earliest times to the present, with over 8,000 illustrations (Volume 9) → online text (page 42 of 55)