After worshipping at the shrines of Saint Michael on his Mount and of the Virgin at Chartres, one may wander far and wide over France, and seldom feel lost; all later Gothic art comes naturally, and no new thought disturbs the perfected form. Yet tourists of English blood and American training are seldom or never quite at home there. Commonly they feel it only as a stage-decoration. The twelfth and thirteenth centuries, studied in the pure light of political economy, are insane. The scientific mind is atrophied, and suffers under inherited cerebral weakness, when it comes in contact with the eternal woman--Astarte, Isis, Demeter, Aphrodite, and the last and greatest deity of all, the Virgin. Very rarely one lingers, with a mild sympathy, such as suits the patient student of human error, willing to be interested in what he cannot understand. Still more rarely, owing to some revival of archaic instincts, he rediscovers the woman. This is perhaps the mark of the artist alone, and his solitary privilege. The rest of us cannot feel; we can only study. The proper study of mankind is woman and, by common agreement since the time of Adam, it is the most complex and arduous. The study of Our Lady, as shown by the art of Chartres, leads directly back to Eve, and lays bare the whole subject of sex. If it were worth while to argue a paradox, one might maintain that Nature regards the female as the essential, the male as the superfluity of her world. Perhaps the best starting-point for study of the Virgin would be a practical acquaintance with bees, and especially with queen bees. Precisely where the French man may come in, on the genealogical tree of parthenogenesis, one hesitates to say; but certain it is that the French woman, from very early times, has shown qualities peculiar to herself, and that the French woman of the Middle Ages was a masculine character. Almost any book which deals with the social side of the twelfth century has something to say on this subject, like the following page from M. Garreau's volume published in 1899, on the "Social State of France during the Crusades":-- A trait peculiar to this epoch is the close resemblance between the manners of men and women. The rule that such and such feelings or acts are permitted to one sex and forbidden to the other was not fairly settled. Men had the right to dissolve in tears, and women that of talking without prudery .... If we look at their intellectual level, the women appear distinctly superior. They are more serious; more subtle. With them we do not seem dealing with the rude state of civilization that their husbands belong to .... As a rule, the women seem to have the habit of weighing their acts; of not yielding to momentary impressions. While the sense of Christianity is more developed in them than in their husbands, on the other hand they show more perfidy and art in crime .... One might doubtless prove by a series of examples that the maternal influence when it predominated in the education of a son gave him a marked superiority over his contemporaries. Richard Coeur-de-Lion the crowned poet, artist, the king whose noble manners and refined mind in spite of his cruelty exercised so strong an impression on his age, was formed by that brilliant Eleanor of Guienne who, in her struggle with her husband, retained her sons as much as possible within her sphere of influence in order to make party chiefs of them. Our great Saint Louis, as all know, was brought up exclusively by Blanche of Castile; and Joinville, the charming writer so worthy of Saint Louis's friendship, and apparently so superior to his surroundings, was also the pupil of a widowed and regent mother. The superiority of the woman was not a fancy, but a fact. Man's business was to fight or hunt or feast or make love. The man was also the travelling partner in commerce, commonly absent from home for months together, while the woman carried on the business. The woman ruled the household and the workshop; cared for the economy; supplied the intelligence, and dictated the taste. Her ascendancy was secured by her alliance with the Church, into which she sent her most intelligent children; and a priest or clerk, for the most part, counted socially as a woman. Both physically and mentally the woman was robust, as the men often complained, and she did not greatly resent being treated as a man. Sometimes the husband beat her, dragged her about by the hair, locked her up in the house; but he was quite conscious that she always got even with him in the end. As a matter of fact, probably she got more than even. On this point, history, legend, poetry, romance, and especially the popular fabliaux--invented to amuse the gross tastes of the coarser class-- are all agreed, and one could give scores of volumes illustrating it. The greatest men illustrate it best, as one might show almost at hazard. The greatest men of the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth centuries were William the Norman; his great grandson Henry II Plantagenet; Saint Louis of France; and, if a fourth be needed, Richard Coeur-de-Lion. Notoriously all these men had as much difficulty as Louis XIV himself with the women of their family. Tradition exaggerates everything it touches, but shows, at the same time, what is passing in the minds of the society which tradites. In Normandy, the people of Caen have kept a tradition, told elsewhere in other forms, that one day, Duke William,--the Conqueror,-- exasperated by having his bastardy constantly thrown in his face by the Duchess Matilda, dragged her by the hair, tied to his horse's tail, as far as the suburb of Vaucelles; and this legend accounts for the splendour of the Abbaye-aux-Dames, because William, the common people believed, afterwards regretted the impropriety, and atoned for it by giving her money to build the abbey. The story betrays the man's weakness. The Abbaye-aux-Dames stands in the same relation to the Abbaye-aux-Hommes that Matilda took towards William. Inferiority there was none; on the contrary, the woman was socially the superior, and William was probably more afraid of her than she of him, if Mr. Freeman is right in insisting that he married her in spite of her having a husband living, and certainly two children. If William was the strongest man in the eleventh century, his great- grandson, Henry II of England, was the strongest man of the twelfth; but the history of the time resounds with the noise of his battles with Queen Eleanor whom he, at last, held in prison for fourteen years. Prisoner as she was, she broke him down in the end. One is tempted to suspect that, had her husband and children been guided by her, and by her policy as peacemaker for the good of Guienne, most of the disasters of England and France might have been postponed for the time; but we can never know the truth, for monks and historians abhor emancipated women,--with good reason, since such women are apt to abhor them,--and the quarrel can never be pacified. Historians have commonly shown fear of women without admitting it, but the man of the Middle Ages knew at least why he feared the woman, and told it openly, not to say brutally. Long after Eleanor and Blanche were dead, Chaucer brought the Wife of Bath on his Shakespearean stage, to explain the woman, and as usual he touched masculine frailty with caustic, while seeming to laugh at woman and man alike:-- "My liege lady! generally," quoth he,
CHAPTER XITHE THREE QUEENS
"Women desiren to have soverainetee." The point was that the Wife of Bath, like Queen Blanche and Queen Eleanor, not only wanted sovereignty, but won and held it. That Saint Louis, even when a grown man and king, stood in awe of his mother, Blanche of Castile, was not only notorious but seemed to be thought natural. Joinville recorded it not so much to mark the King's weakness, as the woman's strength; for his Queen, Margaret of Provence, showed the courage which the King had not. Blanche and Margaret were exceedingly jealous of each other. "One day," said Joinville, "Queen Blanche went to the Queen's [Margaret] chamber where her son [Louis IX] had gone before to comfort her, for she was in great danger of death from a bad delivery; and he hid himself behind the Queen [Margaret] to avoid being seen; but his mother perceived him, and taking him by the hand said: 'Come along! you will do no good here!' and put him out of the chamber. Queen Margaret, observing this, and that she was to be separated from her husband, cried aloud: 'Alas! will you not allow me to see my lord either living or dying?'" According to Joinville, King Louis always hid himself when, in his wife's chamber, he heard his mother coming. The great period of Gothic architecture begins with the coming of Eleanor (1137) and ends with the passing of Blanche (1252). Eleanor's long life was full of energy and passion of which next to nothing is known; the woman was always too slippery for monks or soldiers to grasp.
E cele son aufin qui cuida conquester
La firge ou le paon, ou faire reculer. The aufin or dauphin became the Fou of the French game, and the bishop of the English. Baldwin played his Virgin to save his pawn; his opponent played the bishop to threaten either the Virgin or the pawn. For a hundred and fifty years, the Virgin and Queens ruled French taste and thought so successfully that the French man has never yet quite decided whether to be more proud or ashamed of it. Life has ever since seemed a little flat to him, and art a little cheap. He saw that the woman, in elevating herself, had made him appear ridiculous, and he tried to retaliate with a wit not always sparkling, and too often at his own expense. Sometimes in museums or collections of bric-a-brac, you will see, in an illuminated manuscript, or carved on stone, or cast in bronze, the figure of a man on his hands and knees, bestridden by another figure holding a bridle and a whip; it is Aristotle, symbol of masculine wisdom, bridled and driven by woman. Six hundred years afterwards, Tennyson revived the same motive in Merlin, enslaved not for a time but forever. In both cases the satire justly punished the man. Another version of the same story--perhaps the original--was the Mystery of Adam, one of the earliest Church plays. Gaston Paris says "it was written in England in the twelfth century, and its author had real poetic talent; the scene of the seduction of Eve by the serpent is one of the best pieces of Christian dramaturgy ... This remarkable work seems to have been played no longer inside the church, but under the porch":--
That in Israel, as wide as is the lond,
That so great faith in all the loud he ne fond
As in a woman, and this is no lie;
And as for men, look ye, such tyrannie
They doen all day, assay hem who so list,
The truest is full brotell for to trist.
|Molt fu mesire Robiers dolans cant il vint a Marselle de cou k'il n'oi parler de nulle chose ki fust ou pais; si dist a Jehan: --Ke ferons nous? Vous m'aves preste de vos deniers la vostre mierchi, si les vos renderai car je venderai mon palefroi et m'acuiterai a vous. --Sire, dist Jehans, crees moi se il vous plaist je vous dirai ke nous ferons; jou ai bien enchore c sous de tournois, s'll vous plaist je venderai nos ii chevaus et en ferai deniers; et je suis li miousdres boulengiers ke vous sacies, si ferai pain francois et je ne douc mie ke je ne gaagne bien et largement mon depens. --Jehans, dist mesire Robiers, je m'otroi del tout a faire votre volente Et lendemam vendi Jehans ses .ii. chevaux X livres de tornois, et achata son ble et le fist muire, et achata des corbelles et coumencha a faire pain francois si bon et si bien fait k'il en vendoit plus ke li doi melleur boulengier de la ville, et fist tant dedens les ii ans k'il ot bien c livres de katel. Lors dist Jehans a son segnour: --Je lo bien que nous louons une tres grant mason et jou akaterai del vin et hierbegerai la bonne gent --Jehan, dist mesire Robiers, faites a vo volente kar je l'otroi et si me loc molt de vous. Jehans loua une mason grant et bielle, et si hierbrega la bonne gent et gaegnoit ases a plente, et viestoit son segnour biellement et richement, et avoit mesire Robiers son palefroi et aloit boire et mengier aveukes les plus vallans de la ville, et Jehans li envoioit vins et viandes ke tout cil ki o lui conpagnoient s'en esmervelloient. Si gaegna tant ke dedens .iiii ans il gaegna plus de ccc livres de meuble sains son harnois qui valoit bien .L. livres.||Much was Sir Robert grieved when he came to Marseilles and found that there was no talk of anything doing in the country, and he said to John: "What shall we do? You have lent me your money, I thank you, and will repay you, for I will sell my palfrey and discharge the debt to you." "Sir," said John, "trust to me, if you please, I will tell you what we will do, I have still a hundred sous, if you please I will sell our two horses and turn them into money, and I am the best baker you ever knew, I will make French bread, and I've no doubt I shall pay my expenses well and make money" "John," said Sir Robert, "I agree wholly to do whatever you like"|
Et leans avail luminaire
Si grant con l'an le porrait faire
De chandoiles a un ostel.
Que qu'il parloient d'un et d'el,
Uns vallez d'une chambre vint
Qui une blanche lance tint
Ampoigniee par le mi lieu.
Si passa par endroit le feu
Et cil qui al feu se seoient,
Et tuit cil de leans veoient
La lance blanche et le fer blanc.
S'issoit une gote de sang
Del fer de la lance au sommet,
Et jusqu'a la main au vaslet
Coroit cele gote vermoille....
A tant dui autre vaslet vindrent
Qui chandeliers an lors mains tindrent
De fin or ovrez a neel.
Li vaslet estoient moult bel
Qui les chandeliers aportoient.
An chacun chandelier ardoient
Dous chandoiles a tot le mains.
Un graal antre ses dous mains
Une demoiselle tenoit,
Qui avec les vaslets venoit,
Bele et gente et bien acesmee.
Quant cle fu leans antree
Atot le graal qu'ele tint
Une si granz clartez i vint.
Qu'ausi perdirent les chandoiles
Lor clarte come les estoiles
Qant li solauz luist et la lune.
Apres celi an revint une
Qui tint un tailleor d'argent. Le graal qui aloit devant
De fin or esmere estoit,
Pierres precieuses avoit
El graal de maintes menieres
Des plus riches et des plus chieres
Qui en mer ne en terre soient.
Totes autres pierres passoient
Celes del graal sanz dotance.
Tot ainsi con passa la lance
Par devant le lit trespasserent
Et d'une chambre a l'autre alerent.
Et li vaslet les vit passer,
Ni n'osa mire demander
Del graal cui l'an an servoit.
And, within, the hall was bright|
As any hall could be with light
Of candles in a house at night.
So, while of this and that they talked,
A squire from a chamber walked,
Bearing a white lance in his hand,
Grasped by the middle, like a wand;
And, as he passed the chimney wide,
Those seated by the fireside,
And all the others, caught a glance
Of the white steel and the white lance.
As they looked, a drop of blood
Down the lance's handle flowed;
Down to where the youth's hand stood.
From the lance-head at the top
They saw run that crimson drop....
Presently came two more squires,
In their hands two chandeliers,
Of fine gold in enamel wrought.
Each squire that the candle brought
Was a handsome chevalier.
There burned in every chandelier
Two lighted candles at the least.
A damsel, graceful and well dressed,
Behind the squires followed fast
Who carried in her hands a graal;
And as she came within the hall
With the graal there came a light So brilliant that the candles all
Lost clearness, as the stars at night
When moon shines, or in day the sun.
After her there followed one
Who a dish of silver bore.
The graal, which had gone before,
Of gold the finest had been made,
With precious stones had been inlaid,
Richest and rarest of each kind
That man in sea or earth could find.
All other jewels far surpassed
Those which the holy graal enchased.
Just as before had passed the lance
They all before the bed advance,
Passing straightway through the hall,
And the knight who saw them pass
Never ventured once to ask
For the meaning of the graal.
Quaint reis Marcs nus out conjeies
E de sa curt nus out chascez,
As mains ensemble nus preismes
E hors de la sale en eissimes,
A la forest puis en alasmes
E un mult bel liu i trouvames
E une roche, fu cavee,
Devant ert estraite la entree,
Dedans fu voesse ben faite,
Tante bel cum se fust portraite.
When King Marc had banned us both,|
And from his court had chased us forth,
Hand in hand each clasping fast
Straight from out the hall we passed;
To the forest turned our face;
Found in it a perfect place,
Where the rock that made a cave
Hardly more than passage gave;
Spacious within and fit for use,
As though it had been planned for us.
Ja nus bons pris ne dirat sa raison
Adroitement s'ansi com dolans non;
Mais par confort puet il faire chanson.
Moult ai d'amins, mais povre sont li don;
Honte en avront se por ma reancon
Suix ces deus yvers pris.
Ceu sevent bien mi home et mi baron,
Englois, Normant, Poitevin et Gascon,
Ke je n'avoie si povre compaingnon
Cui je laissasse por avoir au prixon.
Je nel di pas por nulle retraison,
Mais ancor suix je pris.
Or sai ge bien de voir certainement
Ke mors ne pris n'ait amin ne parent,
Cant on me lait por or ne por argent.
Moult m'est de moi, mais plus m'est de ma gent
C'apres ma mort avront reprochier grant
Se longement suix pris.
N'est pas mervelle se j'ai lo cuer dolent
Cant li miens sires tient ma terre en torment.
S'or li menbroit de nostre sairement
Ke nos feismes andui communament,
Bien sai de voir ke ceans longement
Ne seroie pas pris.
Ce sevent bien Angevin et Torain,
Cil bacheler ki or sont fort et sain,
C'ancombreis suix long d'aus en autrui main.
Forment m'amoient, mais or ne m'aimment grain.
De belles armes sont ores veut cil plain,
Por tant ke je suix pris.
Mes compaingnons cui j'amoie et cui j'aim,
Ces dou Caheu et ces dou Percherain,
Me di, chanson, kil ne sont pas certain,
C'onques vers aus n'en oi cuer faus ne vain.
S'il me guerroient, il font moult que villain
Tant com je serai pris.
Comtesse suer, vostre pris soverain
Vos saut et gart cil a cui je me claim
Et par cui je suix pris.
Je n'ou di pas de celi de Chartain
La meire Loweis.
No prisoner can tell his honest thought|
Unless he speaks as one who suffers wrong;
But for his comfort he may make a song.
My friends are many, but their gifts are naught.
Shame will be theirs, if, for my ransom, here
I lie another year.
They know this well, my barons and my men,
Normandy, England, Gascony, Poitou,
That I had never follower so low
Whom I would leave in prison to my gain.
I say it not for a reproach to them,
But prisoner I am!
The ancient proverb now I know for sure:
Death and a prison know nor kin nor tie,
Since for mere lack of gold they let me lie.
Much for myself I grieve; for them still more.
After my death they will have grievous wrong
If I am prisoner long.
What marvel that my heart is sad and sore
When my own lord torments my helpless lands!
Well do I know that, if he held his hands,
Remembering the common oath we swore,
I should not here imprisoned with my song,
Remain a prisoner long.
They know this well who now are rich and strong
Young gentlemen of Anjou and Touraine,
That far from them, on hostile bonds I strain.
They loved me much, but have not loved me long.
Their plains will see no more fair lists arrayed,
While I lie here betrayed.
Companions, whom I loved, and still do love,
Geoffroi du Perche and Ansel de Caleux,
Tell them, my song, that they are friends untrue.
Never to them did I false-hearted prove;
But they do villainy if they war on me,
While I lie here, unfree.
Countess sister! your sovereign fame
May he preserve whose help I claim,
Victim for whom am I!
I say not this of Chartres' dame,
Mother of Louis!
Nus hom ne puet ami reconforter
Se cele non ou il a son cuer mis.
Pour ce m'estuet sovent plaindre et plourer
Que mis confors ne me vient, ce m'est vis,
De la ou j'ai tote ma remembrance.
Pour bien amer ai sovent esmaiance
A dire voir.
Dame, merci! donez moi esperance
De joie avoir.
Jene puis pas sovent a li parler
Ne remirer les biaus iex de son vis.
Ce pois moi que je n'i puis aler
Car ades est mes cuers ententis.
Ho! bele riens, douce sans conoissance,
Car me mettez en millor attendance
De bon espoir!
Dame, merci! donez moi esperance
De joie avoir.
Aucuns si sont qui me vuelent blamer
Quant je ne di a qui je suis amis;
Mais ja, dame, ne saura mon penser
Nus qui soit nes fors vous cui je le dis
Couardement a pavours a doutance
Dont puestes vous lors bien a ma semblance
Mon cuer savoir.
Dame, merci! donez moi esperance
De joie avoir.
There is no comfort to be found for pain|
Save only where the heart has made its home.
Therefore I can but murmur and complain
Because no comfort to my pain has come
From where I garnered all my happiness.
From true love have I only earned distress
The truth to say.
Grace, lady! give me comfort to possess
A hope, one day.
Seldom the music of her voice I hear
Or wonder at the beauty of her eyes.
It grieves me that I may not follow there
Where at her feet my heart attentive lies.
Oh, gentle Beauty without consciousness,
Let me once feel a moment's hopefulness,
If but one ray!
Grace, lady! give me comfort to possess
A hope, one day.
Certain there are who blame upon me throw
Because I will not tell whose love I seek;
But truly, lady, none my thought shall know,
None that is born, save you to whom I speak
In cowardice and awe and doubtfulness,
That you may happily with fearlessness
My heart essay.
Grace, lady! give me comfort to possess
A hope, one day.
De grant travail et de petit esploit
Voi ce siegle cargie et encombre
Que tant somes plain de maleurte
Ke nus ne pens a faire ce qu'il doit,
Ains avons si le Deauble trouve
Qu'a lui servir chascuns paine et essaie
Et Diex ki ot pour nos ja cruel plaie
Metons arrier et sa grant dignite;
Molt est hardis qui pour mort ne s'esmaie.
Diex que tout set et tout puet et tout voit
Nous auroit tost en entre-deus giete
Se la Dame plaine de grant bonte
Pardelez lui pour nos ne li prioit
Si tres douc mot plaisant et savoure
Le grant courous dou grant Signour apaie;
Molt par est fox ki autre amor essai
K'en cestui n'a barat ne fausete
Ne es autres n'a ne merti ne manaie.
La souris quiert pour son cors garandir
Contre l'yver la noif et le forment
Et nous chaitif nous n'alons rien querant
Quant nous morrons ou nous puissions garir.
Nous ne cherchons fors k'infer le puant;
Or esgardes come beste sauvage
Pourvoit de loin encontre son domage
Et nous n'avons ne sens ne hardement;
Il est avis que plain somes de rage.
Li Deable a getey por nos ravir
Quatre amecons aescbies de torment;
Covoitise lance premierement
Et puis Orguel por sa grant rois emplir
Et Luxure va le batel trainant
Felonie les governe et les nage.
Ensi peschant s'en viegnent au rivage
Dont Diex nous gart par son commandement
En qui sains fons nous feismes homage.
A la Dame qui tous les bien avance
T'en va, chancon s'el te vielt escouter
Onques ne fu nus di millor chaunce.
With travail great, and little cargo fraught,|
See how our world is labouring in pain;
So filled we are with love of evil gain
That no one thinks of doing what he ought,
But we all hustle in the Devil's train,
And only in his service toil and pray;
And God, who suffered for us agony,
We set behind, and treat him with disdain;
Hardy is he whom death does not dismay.
God who rules all, from whom we can hide nought,
Had quickly flung us back to nought again
But that our gentle, gracious, Lady Queen
Begged him to spare us, and our pardon wrought;
Striving with words of sweetness to restrain
Our angry Lord, and his great wrath allay.
Felon is he who shall her love betray
Which is pure truth, and falsehood cannot feign,
While all the rest is lie and cheating play.
The feeble mouse, against the winter's cold,
Garners the nuts and grain within his cell,
While man goes groping, without sense to tell
Where to seek refuge against growing old.
We seek it in the smoking mouth of Hell.
With the poor beast our impotence compare!
See him protect his life with utmost care,
While us nor wit nor courage can compel
To save our souls, so foolish mad we are.
The Devil doth in snares our life enfold;
Four hooks has he with torments baited well;
And first with Greed he casts a mighty spell,
And then, to fill his nets, has Pride enrolled,
And Luxury steers the boat, and fills the sail,
And Perfidy controls and sets the snare;
Thus the poor fish are brought to land, and there
May God preserve us and the foe repel!
Homage to him who saves us from despair!
To Mary Queen, who passes all compare,
Go, little song! to her your sorrows tell!
Nor Heaven nor Earth holds happiness so rare.