Page images

vising, the deciding - the Anglo-Saxon rædboran, , Frisian réd-jewa.* The writing of the Lex Sal. racin, rachin (and before b rachim) is of no consequence, because, for example, lacina is there written for lagina. Thus Raginhard, is expert in counsel, adviser, and we have before seen that, throughout all these fables, the fox was actually the adviser. Moreover the French poem seems to exhibit a knowledge of this fact, probably from following closely its incomprehended original


Si ai maint bon conseil doné,
Par mon droit non ai non Renart,'-1. 15876.

"I have much good counsel given, by my right name I am called Reinhart. From this it is clear that the name of Reinhart in these fables was a characteristic one, and that it was originally applied to the fox on that account. It is therefore not to be wondered that a so deeply-contrived name of an animal became firmly rooted in the Frankish tongue, that it could even supplant the French appellative goupil, and from Renart at last became renard. But what appears more important, the first application, or finding of the name, must be traced up to a period at which the sense of the word ragin was generally perceptible, consequently our fables (Thierfabel) go back far beyond the twelfth century. I venture to maintain that this name alone justifies the supposition that the Fables of the Fox and the Wolf were known to the Franks in the fourth,

* Rechts-Alterthümer, 774, 787.


fifth and sixth centuries, when they used the yet unalloyed German tongue, dulled by no influx of the Gaulish language—that they took the fables with them from Germany across the Rhine.'

s vil. The next question for our examination is the locality in which the Renardine fables now possessed by us took their rise. This will not take us long, for the ground on which they could have sprung is not widely spread, nor indeed should we have alluded in this place to their local origin, but that we were anxious to call attention to the extraordinary fact, that this peculiar cycle of popular poetry acquired its popular and long enduring form, in those very regions in which that branch of the painter's art which may be pronounced of a cognate nature with the works under consideration-we mean, of course, cattle and landscape painting-has been cultivated with fond perseverance and pre-eminent success. For not only is it in Flanders, and the countries immediately adjoining to it—the north of France, and the western parts of Germany—that these poems have flourished most luxuriantly, as we shall take the opportunity of showing when we bring these various compositions under the notice of our readers, but Flanders is the scene of that history of Reynard, which, derived from the Flemish, now enjoys an European reputation, being, in fact, the type of the whole Renardine cycle; while the allusions to Flanders are so numerous in the various branches of the French Renart, as to leave

* Grimm, Reinhart Fuchs, Introduction, pp. ccxl-ccxlii.

little doubt that it was from that country the authors of those poems gathered their materials. The reader shall have proof of this in the words of that excellent and patriotic Flemish antiquary, M. Willems, who was commissioned to edit the old Flemish Reinaert, from the manuscript purchased by the Belgian government at Heber's sale, and who in his introduction to that work, thus speaks upon this very point:*.

“The scene of the adventures of Reynard and Isengrim, is throughout laid in Flanders, with the exception of one incident, which occurs in the district of Varmandois, † (verse 1514), and that this excursion of the fox and the wolf is not spoken of as if it had caused them to quit their own country, is sufficiently explained by the political circumstances of the times. By the marriage of Philip of Alsace, Earl of Flanders, to the daughter and sole heir of the Earl of Vermandois, who died in 1163, Vermandois was in that year united to Flanders, and continued so until 1186. In this intervening period, the Reinaert was most probably written, or how, otherwise, could Vermandois be introduced into it?

“In another place, the Fox speaks of the treasure of King Ermenrick, buried under a tree at Hulsterloo, which Hulsterloo is in a very wild, and unfrequented place ; and the Witte-Bock of the Archives of Ghent,

* Willems' Reinaert de Vos, 8vo. Ghent, 1836. Introduction, p. xxxv.

† See page 32 of this edition. # See p. 53 of this edition.

informs us, that pilgrimages to Our Lady of Hulsterloo, were frequent in the middle ages; for in that place the pilgrims offered their devotions to a miraculous image, which, according to a note to the unpublished chronicle of the abbey of Dronghen, near Ghent, had been removed thither from Teruane. Our Lady being offended at the slight reverence paid to her by the inhabitants of Teruane, commanded that her image should be placed somewhere else, which was accordingly done, in the sight of vast multitudes of people; two doves flying before the bearers of the image, leading them, like guides, until they came to Hulsterloo. The numbers which then visited it there were so great, as to cause a scarcity of food in Ghent.

“Hulsterloo, by Kieldrect, with its wood, wastes, and moors, was ceded to the abbey of Dronghen in the year 1136. It is very probable that some years after that time, the monks of the abbey erected a chapel in that place to the honour of the Blessed Virgin, which might account for the celebrity of her image there among the Flemings ; and the crowds which visited it during the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth centuries, in short, until Hulsterloo itself was destroyed by an inundation. But if it was a desolate place when Reinaert was written, the poem must be older than the transportation of the miraculous image, and, consequently, as old as the twelfth century."

Isengrim's becoming a monk in the cloister of Elmare,* and the mention of Herman, abbot of St. Mar

* See p. 42 of the present edition.


tin's, at Dornick,* and of Godfridus Andegavensis, both of whom lived in the earlier part of the twelfth century, are also cited by Willems, as proofs indicative, not only of the age of the Reinaert, but also of its being of Flemish origin. VIII. Before we

our notice of the principal works connected with the popular cycle of romance in which the Fox figures so conspicuously, we have a few preliminary remarks to make on the fact of the lion, a stranger, in our days at least, to the forests of the European continent, appearing in these histories as the acknowledged king of beasts. We had thought of noticing the peculiar fitness of the fox and the wolf, formerly the most populous denizens of our coverts, for the parts which they are called upon to perform. We pass this by, however, that we may examine the probable cause of the lion's being invested with regal authority. This circumstance would seem, at once, to contradict the Teutonic, or indeed European origin of the fable. But, setting aside our knowledge that lions were formerly brought into Europe from their native wilds, to be exhibited as important objects in royal and princely pageants-that proof of their

[ocr errors]

“ Ja ic, hets üü jaer, dat ic waert

Voor den deken Hermanne

In vollen seende te banne.”Reinaert, 1.2736-8,ed. Willems. † Maester Jufroet, in the Comburgh MS. of Reinaert. In the Heber MS. Gelis : and in the old prose ed, of Gerard de Leu, Geliis, and not Dielis, as Willems states in his note, p. 120. He probably quoted from Suhl's reprint.

« PreviousContinue »