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Such are the contents of “Isengrimus," a poem written, as is evident from various circumstances, in South Flanders, during the first half of the twelfth century, probably earlier, for the “Reinardus," which is certainly not so old, was composed about the middle of that century. And this affords additional proof, if such were necessary, that the Reynardine fables were in general circulation during the whole of the eleventh century; for we may be sure that, when an ecclesiastic (and that this work was the production of a writer of that class is obvious from the traces of classical learning which it exhibits) took it into his head to relate in Latin verse detached stories selected from a whole cycle of romance, that cycle was one which had long been current in the songs and traditions of the people.
§ xi. The poem which we have just examined forms a portion of, or rather is engrafted into, that more extensive work, containing 6596 lines, the “Fabella Lupina,” as it is designated in one of the three manuscripts from which it was printed, which was published some years since by Mone, under the title of “Reinardus Vulpes."*
This publication has certainly been of considerable service, as the poem in question is undoubtedly one of the most valuable monuments of the literature of the middle ages, which have of late been
* Reinardus Vulpes. Carmen Epicum seculis IX et XII conscriptum. Ad fidem Codd. MSS. edidit et adnotationibus illustravit Franciscus Josephus Mone. Reinhart Fuchs aus dem neunten und zwölften Jahrhundert. Herausgegeben und erlaütert von F.J. Mone. 8vo. Stuttgart und Tübingen. 1832.
given to the world; and it may well excite our surprise, that so extensive and highly interesting a work, should have remained so long entirely unknown, and indeed not have been published till our own time: a fact, which can scarcely be explained by the supposition that the clergy, to whom some parts of it must certainly have been peculiarly displeasing, took every means in their power to suppress it.
While we thank the editor for the publication of the text, we feel bound to express our regret, that in his notes he should have indulged in so many fanciful and unfounded views, especially with regard to the age of the poem, which he asserts, without a shadow of evidence, to have been originally composed in the ninth century, and afterwards interpolated in the twelfth ; and to contain, under the semblance of a romance, an allegorical history of the affairs and quarrels of various well-known personages; among whom he supposes Zwentibolcus, King of Lorraine, and son of the Emperor Arnulf, and who flourished towards the close of the ninth century, to be represented as Isengrimus the Wolf, and his minister, Reginarius, as Reinardus the Fox.
Before we analyse the poem, it will, therefore, be as well to demolish, as we trust to do with a very
few words, these “grillenfangereyen" (as his countrymen characteristically designate such whimsical speculations) of Professor Mone, whose peculiar notions on the subject of the poem were first made generally known in a series of papers in the “ Morgenblatt" for
1831 (No. 222-6), to which the purchaser of the book is very coolly referred, if, as is most likely, not being contented with the opinions set forth in the Professor's notes to the poem, he wishes to learn (which he ought to do from the preface) the Editor's detailed opinion of the work in question.
But let us proceed. In the first place, there is not the slightest ground for attributing any part of the poem to a writer of the ninth century; for though portions of it may appear to be in a somewhat earlier style, there is nothing in them to justify in the least the supposition of their being the production of that early period. Reinardus is obviously not a piece of pure invention; the style in which the story is related, and the oftentimes uncalled-for instances of book-learning which it exhibits, are the author's own. But he himself refers to some written authority :
“Gavisam scriptura refert his lusibus illam.”—v. 1879.
This scriptura was probably some earlier and more simple Latin history, which, if it contained all the materials of the present poem (and it most probably did so, the Isengrimus forming perhaps a portion only of some more extensive work, the rest of which is lost), that fact must tend greatly to diminish the value of Reinardus in our opinion. It is possible, however, though much less probable, that an earlier poem in the vernacular tongue, and current among the common people, formed the basis of the present work.
That the Poem was written between the
and 1160, is proved, by the author's apostrophising two ecclesiastics who were personally friendly to him. These were, Walter, prior of Egmond,* and Baldwin, prior of Lisborn, in Westphalia. Walter was a native of Flanders; and in the year 1129 was at the head of an ecclesiastical establishment at Lens in Artois, attached to the Abbey of Ghent. In that year the bishop of Utrecht and the Countess of Holland wished to nominate some worthy ecclesiastic from Ghent to the Abbey of Egmond ; Arnold, abbot of Ghent, recommended Walter, who was accordingly appointed, and filled the situation from 1130 to 1161 with the highest credit. About the same time, another Benedictine, named Baldwin, was called from the same school to be abbot of the newly-established monastery at Lisborn. His inauguration took place in 1130, and he held the office until 1161, when he was succeeded by Franco. From this circumstance, and from the fact of the poem containing internal evidence of its having been written in North Flanders, we may reasonably conclude that its author was a countryman of Walter and Baldwin, that is to say a Fleming, and probably an ecclesiastic attached to the monastery of Saint Peter at Ghent.
“ Nomine vel numero unus erat, sed nullus eorum,
Vivendi studiis et pietate manus,
Reinardus, lib. iii. I. 1501, et seq.
The writer, whoever he was,* was undoubtedly a churchman ; this is shown not only by his learning, all of which was at that time in the hands of the Church, but also by the monkish spirit which pervades the third fable of the third book. The fact of his indulging in bitter derision upon the downfall of the Church, and sparing neither the supreme head of it, nor St. Bernard, whose fame then echoed throughout Europe, does not at all militate against this opinion; for, at the period when he wrote, the divided state of parties would fully account for such an expression of opinion. The author of the Reinardus was, however, no freethinking scorner, but a man who honoured the clergy when their conduct justified him in doing so, as his praise of Walter and Baldwin sufficiently attest ;-his calling them his friends and confidants affording additional evidence of his connexion with the Church. If, too, as has been surmised, he was a Benedictine, rigidly observant of the ancient rules of the order, and, as such, one to whom the rapidly-extending innovations of the Cistercian monks could not but be highly objectional, his vehement opposition to Saint Bernard, who was the head of the Cistercians, and to the Crusades, to the promotion of which that distinguished prelate had lent all his influence, is easily accounted for. When we add, that the work contains
* His name was probably Nivardus ; for a MS. in the Royal Library at Berlin, which is supposed to be of the fourteenth century, contains some extracts from this poem, with the rubric Magister Nivardas de Isengrino et Reinardo.