« PreviousContinue »
years ago.' When Berthe heard him she wept softly-tendrement a ploré. The hermit saw how worn out she was, and offered her some of his bread, which was black and full of straw-noirs ert et pleine de pailles. Berthe took the bread and wished God might repay him, but she was so faint she could not eat any of his bread: 'not even one single morsel did she swallow.'
'Nes un tout seul morsel n'en a-ele avalé.'
The hermit sighed at seeing this; he could not help it; he had tears in his eyes. She seemed to him to come 'de bonne part' from God and not from the devil. He would have taken her into his cell if he could, but he could not, he was so loyal to the rules of his order.
'Il avait le cuer si plain de loyauté.'
'Bele,-fair one,' says the good man, 'be not cast down, I will tell you what to do. Take your way to the house of Master Simon and his wife, they live not far off and are good people, steady and of good reputation; I never knew better people by my hope of salvation-si soit m'ame saisie.' The hermit pointed out the way with tears of compassion in his eyes, and Berthe went off in the direction of the house of Master Simon. She met, however, Master Simon in the way, who, seeing so fair a lady in such piteous plight, with her dress all torn by the thorns, and hearing her speak so sweetly, was much touched, so that the watersprings of his heart came down upon his face
'Bien semble gentil fame, moult gran pitié l'emprent,
and he asked Berthe whence she comes. Now Berthe, in a fit of terror and anguish, during the night when the storm beat upon her and the noise of wild beasts was all around her, had vowed to God that if she escaped she never would disclose her real position, but pass as a woman of mean condition. So she answers, she is from Alsace, and has run away from home, from a cruel step-mother. Simon then takes her home to his house, and says, Wife, look what a present I make you!'
'Dame! esgardez, fait-il, dont je vous fais present.' Master Simon's wife Constance, and his two daughters Ysabel and Ayglente, all come round Berthe, and bring her before the fire, and chafe her cold hands and feet, soigneusement,' with tearful compassion, and bring her something to eat. But she had suffered so much in the wood she could eat nothing, but only drawing close to the fire, said 'God bless the hermit, it was so cold in the forest where it rains and blows.' Constance
and Simon and their daughters are filled with renewed pity for poor Berthe, and did what they could. Master Simon, who was no villein at heart, put down a carpet and white matting under her feet, and they bring warm cloths and put them in her bosom. 'Constance,' says Master Simon, 'I am sure she must be hungry.' 'Master,' says Constance, she shall eat, by the body of St. Germain.' Lady,' says Berthe, I would sooner go to bed; I cannot eat, my heart is so faint.'
On the following days she recovered, and won the favour of everybody in the house by her gentle manner, while the daughters grew especially attached to her and marvelled at her skill with her needle, which, when they first discovered, they both ran off at once to their mother to tell her what a wonderful needlewoman Berthe was. So Berthe finds active occupation with her tapestry, and in going daily with her Psalter and her 'Heures' to the church hard by, where she always prays for her father and mother far away, and especially for King Pepin, that God will keep him from pride and folly.
'Pour le roy Pepin proie, celui n'oublie mie
Qui Dame Dieu le gart d'orgueil et de folie.' Meanwhile the hateful Servian woman-'child of a bad mother, may the Sacrament choke her!'
'La Serve de putain que le cors Dieu cravente,'
who was reigning in her stead, was making herself daily more and more hateful to both high and low; all her care was to collect money, and as for the poor they cursed her night and day. She put taxes on everything, and taxed everybody, and when they could not pay seized everything they had. In ignorance of all this, after some years, Blanchefleur was seized with an irresistible longing to see her daughter once more, and leaving the King Floire at home to take care of the government, she set out for Paris and entered France, but what was her surprise to find herself received with marks of loathing and detestation on all sides, and this on account of her daughter :-curses fell thick around her; May her soul be carried off to hell, since she brought forth such a queen as lords it over us, and thus distresses us with her foul way of living; and he who begot her, may his soul be accursed!'
When Blanchefleur knows of this she exclaims, God! how can this be? whence comes such a diabolical state of things? it cannot be my daughter Berthe, who was so well brought up, and of good birth and ancient ancestry by both father's and mother's side.'
As the unhappy Queen Blanchefleur continues her journey,
amid a population all casting maledictions upon her, a peasant rushes forward and seizes her horse by the bridle. Dame, have mercy on me for God's sake. I have to complain of your daughter. I had but one horse, which earned my bread for me; with that I nourished myself and my wife Margerie, and my little children, who are now dying of hunger; and that has been taken from me.' The queen redresses his wrongs as best she can, and arrives at the king's palace, where the false queen and her mother are in great consternation. The old mother proposes to poison Blanchefleur; the daughter is for packing up her illgotten treasure and flying away with a male accomplice to Sicily. They do not agree upon what is to be done, but, as a temporary expedient, determine that the false queen shall be put to bed with a feigned sickness, and the windows curtained up so that the queen shall not be able to see the features of the impostor. Blanchefleur, after some successful attempts to oppose her entrance into the closed room, at length forced her way to the bedside of her supposed daughter. Great fear had the Servian, more than I can tell you. All her body was in a tremble: she had no fancy for laughing.'
'Grand paour ot la Serve, plus ne vous puis dire,
Trestout li cors li trèmble, n'ot pas talent de rire.
After first greetings, Mother,' said the Serve, 'I suffer such pain that I am become as yellow as wax; the doctors say the light is too much for me, and that nothing is worse than speaking thus. I am very sorry not to see you. How I long to behold the king my father! But leave me to my repose and Jesus reward you.' When Blanchefleur heard the Serve speak thus she felt a pang at her heart. So aid me, God,' she cried, 'who never lies, this is never my daughter whom I find here: had she been half dead, by the body of St. Remi, she would have kissed and embraced me.' She rushes to the window, tears down the curtain, and sees at once it is not her daughter. 'Haro!' she cries, treason! treason! this is not my daughter. Alas! woe is me. This is the daughter of Margiste, whom I brought up. They have murdered my child Berthe, who loved me so dearly!'
'Haro! traï! traï!
Ce n'est pas ma fille lasse! dolente aimi!
Such are some of the most touching passages of a poem which is full of grace and tenderness, and written in a very careful and even style.
Berthe is of course discovered after a time, and that by the Vol. 120.-No. 240.
King Pepin himself, when hunting in the forest of Mans. Some little difficulty takes place on account of her faithful adhesion to her vow while flying by night through the forest, but in the end all matters are wound up with due poetical justice.
Of the rest of the romances of the Carlovingian cycle it would be both wearisome and unprofitable to give a similar analysis to those which we have already given. Some of them, like Garin li Loherain,' 'Raoul de Cambrai,' Fierabras,' 'Huon de Bordeaux,' Parthenopex de Blois,' 'Ogier le Danois,' and a few others, indeed repay a more attentive study than could be expended on the rest, but our limits compel us to restrict our notice of other Chansons to such passages as offer any striking particularity of manner or excellence of style.
Of all the cycle 'Garin li Loherain' is one of the most excellent in point of style and truthfulness of description of manners. This romance we include in the Carlovingian series, although the events are supposed to happen in the time of Pepin, The following passage is very noticeable as offering a glimpse of the domestic life of a vassal of the 11th or 12th century, besides containing some fine lines of verse.
Begue, the Duke, was sitting one day in his castle of Belin, near Bordeaux, and near him the fair Beatrix his wife. The Duke kisses her on the mouth and on the cheek, and the Duchess smiles sweetly as he does so. He sees his children running up through the hall. The one was twelve and the other was ten years of age. With them were a troop of noble boys of rank; he sees them run the one to the other, and leap and sport and laugh in joyfulness of play. The Duke sees them and begins nevertheless to sigh; his lady observes and reasons with him. Eh! mighty Duke, why such mournful thoughts? you have gold and silver in your treasure chests, falcons enough have you on perch, and robes of sable and ermine, and mules and palfreys and hackneys, and well have you triumphed over all your foes.' The Duke replies: Dame, you have spoken truth, but you make a mistake in one thing-wealth does not consist either in sable or ermine, or in coined money, mules or hackneys; but wealth consists in kindred and in friends. The heart of a man is worth all the gold of a country.
"N'est pas richoise ne de vair ne de gris,
Ne de deniers de murs et de roncins.
King Pepin has settled me in these borders where I have no dear kindred near me. I have but one brother, Garin of Lorraine ;
raine; it is seven years since I saw him; on that account am I full of sorrow, uneasiness, and regret.'
There are two scenes in Garin li Loherain' highly characteristic of the savage natures which chivalry had not yet humanized; one of them is where Guillaume de Blancafort has persuaded the emperor to outlaw certain friends and relatives of the empress; the latter pleads for them, but in vain; her interference irritates Pepin so much that he strikes her on the face.
This relation was evidently made at a much earlier date than the 12th century. It was not in the age of Quènes de Bethune and Chrestien de Troyes that one could have represented a king of France striking his queen in the face till the blood came.
In the other scene, Garin kills his adversary in a combat before the Court, and then throws himself on the body, rips it open with his sword Froberge, pulls out the heart with both his hands, and strikes a cousin of the dead man with it in the face, and tells him he can salt or roast it as he pleases.
The combat of Roland and Olivier, in 'Gerard de Viane,' under the walls of Vienne, in sight of two armies looking on while their champions do battle, with 'la belle Aude' likewise for spectator-whose feelings are torn asunder in a conflict of emotion as brother or lover seem to have the advantage—is one of the finest situations in all epic poetry.
The style of the older romances is generally the best. 'Garin li Loherain,' 'Raoul de Cambrai,' and 'Gerard de Roussillon,' are in this respect the most noticeable. In exemplification we give a few single lines from 'Gerard de Roussillon.' The first is a terse admonition to a suzerain not to provoke his vassal unnecessarily, for no man is in so good a way that he cannot be drawn out of it :'—
'Nul n'est en bon chemin que l'on bien ne desvoie.'
So also the following line is expressive of the hereditary hatreds of the middle ages, when the blood revenge' went on accumulating from generation to generation. Speaking of a fresh death, the result of ancient feud, he says, 'Now has ancient hate begotten a new death!'-
'Adès ha vielle haine novele morte portée.
So too these lines are significant of an age when generosity came next to valour among the virtues. 'Have you a wealthy prince? However great be his riches, if he have not generosity he must live in great shame.'
'Riches princes aves, qui avoir ha sans conte;
S'il ne set qu'est donner, vivre doit à grande honte.'