CHAPTER XIII

LES MIRACLES DE NOTRE DAME

Vergine Madre, figlia del tuo figlio,
Umile ed alta piu che creatura,
Termine fisso d'eterno consiglio,
Tu sei colei che l'umana natura
Nobilitasti si, che il suo fattore
Non disdegno di farsi sua fattura....
La tua benignita non pur soccorre
A chi dimanda, ma molte fiate
Liberamente al dimandar precorre.
In te misericordia, in te pietate,
In te magnificenza, in te s'aduna
Quantunque in creatura e di bontate.

Vergine bella, che di sol vestita,
Coronata di stelle, al sommo sole
Piacesti si che'n te sua luce ascose;
Amor mi spinge a dir di te parole;
Ma non so 'ncominciar senza tu aita,
E di colui ch'amando in te si pose.
Invoco lei che ben sempre rispose
Chi la chiamo con fede.
Vergine, s'a mercede
Miseria estrema dell' umane cose
Giammai ti volse, al mio prego t'inchina!
Soccorri alia mia guerra,
Bench'i sia terra, e tu del del regina!

Dante composed one of these prayers; Petrarch the other. Chaucer translated Dante's prayer in the "Second Nonnes Tale." He who will may undertake to translate either;--not I! The Virgin, in whom is united whatever goodness is in created being, might possibly, in her infinite grace, forgive the sacrilege; but her power has limits, if not her grace; and the whole Trinity, with the Virgin to aid, had not the power to pardon him who should translate Dante and Petrarch. The prayers come in here, not merely for their beauty,--although the Virgin knows how beautiful they are, whether man knows it or not; but chiefly to show the good faith, the depth of feeling, the intensity of conviction, with which society adored its ideal of human perfection.

The Virgin filled so enormous a space in the life and thought of the time that one stands now helpless before the mass of testimony to her direct action and constant presence in every moment and form of the illusion which men thought they thought their existence. The twelfth and thirteenth centuries believed in the supernatural, and might almost be said to have contracted a miracle-habit, as morbid as any other form of artificial stimulant; they stood, like children, in an attitude of gaping wonder before the miracle of miracles which they felt in their own consciousness; but one can see in this emotion, which is, after all, not exclusively infantile, no special reason why they should have so passionately flung themselves at the feet of the Woman rather than of the Man. Dante wrote in 1300, after the height of this emotion had passed; and Petrarch wrote half a century later still; but so slowly did the vision fade, and so often did it revive, that, to this day, it remains the strongest symbol with which the Church can conjure.

Men were, after all, not wholly inconsequent; their attachment to Mary rested on an instinct of self-preservation. They knew their own peril. If there was to be a future life, Mary was their only hope. She alone represented Love. The Trinity were, or was, One, and could, by the nature of its essence, administer justice alone. Only childlike illusion could expect a personal favour from Christ. Turn the dogma as one would, to this it must logically come. Call the three Godheads by what names one liked, still they must remain One; must administer one justice; must admit only one law. In that law, no human weakness or error could exist; by its essence it was infinite, eternal, immutable. There was no crack and no cranny in the system, through which human frailty could hope for escape. One was forced from corner to corner by a remorseless logic until one fell helpless at Mary's feet.

Without Mary, man had no hope except in atheism, and for atheism the world was not ready. Hemmed back on that side, men rushed like sheep to escape the butcher, and were driven to Mary; only too happy in finding protection and hope in a being who could understand the language they talked, and the excuses they had to offer. How passionately they worshipped Mary, the Cathedral of Chartres shows; and how this worship elevated the whole sex, all the literature and history of the time proclaim. If you need more proof, you can read more Petrarch; but still one cannot realize how actual Mary was, to the men and women of the Middle Ages, and how she was present, as a matter of course, whether by way of miracle or as a habit of life, throughout their daily existence. The surest measure of her reality is the enormous money value they put on her assistance, and the art that was lavished on her gratification, but an almost equally certain sign is the casual allusion, the chance reference to her, which assumes her presence.

The earliest prose writer in the French language, who gave a picture of actual French life, was Joinville; and although he wrote after the death of Saint Louis and of William of Lorris and Adam de la Halle, in the full decadence of Philip the Fair, toward 1300, he had been a vassal of Thibaut and an intimate friend of Louis, and his memories went back to the France of Blanche's regency. Born in 1224, he must have seen in his youth the struggles of Thibaut against the enemies of Blanche, and in fact his memoirs contain Blanche's emphatic letter forbidding Thibaut to marry Yolande of Brittany. He knew Pierre de Dreux well, and when they were captured by the Saracens at Damietta, and thrown into the hold of a galley, "I had my feet right on the face of the Count Pierre de Bretagne, whose feet, in turn, were by my face." Joinville is almost twelfth-century in feeling. He was neither feminine nor sceptical, but simple. He showed no concern for poetry, but he put up a glass window to the Virgin. His religion belonged to the "Chanson de Roland." When Saint Louis, who had a pleasant sense of humour put to him his favourite religious conundrums, Joinville affected not the least hypocrisy. "Would you rather be a leper or commit a mortal sin?" asked the King. "I would rather commit thirty mortal sins than be a leper," answered Joinville. "Do you wash the feet of the poor on Holy Thursday?" asked the King. "God forbid!" replied Joinville; "never will I wash the feet of such creatures!" Saint Louis mildly corrected his, or rather Thibaut's, seneschal, for these impieties, but he was no doubt used to them, for the soldier was never a churchman. If one asks Joinville what he thinks of the Virgin, he answers with the same frankness:--

Ung jour moi estant devant le roi lui demanday congie d'aller en pelerinage a nostre Dame de Tourtouze [Tortosa in Syria] qui estoit ung veage tres fort requis. Et y avoit grant quantite de pelerins par chacun jour pour ce que c'est le premier autel qui onques fust fait en l'onneur de la Mere de Dieu ainsi qu'on disoit lors. Et y faisoit nostre Dame de grans miracles a merveilles. Entre lesquelz elle en fist ung d'un pouvre homme qui estoit hors de son sens et demoniacle. Car il avoit le maling esperit dedans le corps. Et advint par ung jour qu'il fut amene a icelui autel de nostre Dame de Tourtouze. Et ainsi que ses amys qui l'avoient la amene prioient a nostre Dame qu'elle lui voulsist recouvrer sante et guerison le diable que la pouvre creature avoit ou corps respondit: "Nostre Dame n'est pas ici; elle est en Egipte pour aider au Roi de France et aux Chrestiens qui aujourdhui arrivent en la Terre sainte centre toute paiennie qui sont a cheval." Et fut mis en escript le jour que le deable profera ces motz et fut apporte au legat qui estoit avecques le roi de France; lequel me dist depuis que a celui jour nous estion arrivez en la terre d'Egipte. Et suis bien certain que la bonne Dame Marie nous y eut bien besoin.

This happened in Syria, after the total failure of the crusade in Egypt. The ordinary man, even if he were a priest or a soldier, needed a miraculous faith to persuade him that Our Lady or any other divine power, had helped the crusades of Saint Louis. Few of the usual fictions on which society rested had ever required such defiance of facts; but, at least for a time, society held firm. The thirteenth century could not afford to admit a doubt. Society had staked its existence, in this world and the next, on the reality and power of the Virgin; it had invested in her care nearly its whole capital, spiritual, artistic, intellectual, and economical, even to the bulk of its real and personal estate; and her overthrow would have been the most appalling disaster the Western world had ever known. Without her, the Trinity itself could not stand; the Church must fall; the future world must dissolve. Not even the collapse of the Roman Empire compared with a calamity so serious; for that had created, not destroyed, a faith.

If sceptics there were, they kept silence. Men disputed and doubted about the Trinity, but about the Virgin the satirists Rutebeuf and Adam de la Halle wrote in the same spirit as Saint Bernard and Abelard, Adam de Saint-Victor and the pious monk Gaultier de Coincy. In the midst of violent disputes on other points of doctrine, the disputants united in devotion to Mary; and it was the single redeeming quality about them. The monarchs believed almost more implicitly than their subjects, and maintained the belief to the last. Doubtless the death of Queen Blanche marked the flood-tide at its height; but an authority so established as that of the Virgin, founded on instincts so deep, logic so rigorous, and, above all, on wealth so vast, declined slowly. Saint Louis died in 1270. Two hundred long and dismal years followed, in the midst of wars, decline of faith, dissolution of the old ties and interests, until, toward 1470, Louis XI succeeded in restoring some semblance of solidity to the State; and Louis XI divided his time and his money impartially between the Virgin of Chartres and the Virgin of Paris. In that respect, one can see no difference between him and Saint Louis, nor much between Philippe de Commines and Joinville. After Louis XI, another fantastic century passed, filled with the foulest horrors of history--religious wars; assassinations; Saint Bartholomews; sieges of Chartres; Huguenot leagues and sweeping destruction of religious monuments; Catholic leagues and fanatical reprisals on friends and foes,--the actual dissolution of society in a mass of horrors compared with which even the Albigensian crusade was a local accident, all ending in the reign of the last Valois, Henry III, the weirdest, most fascinating, most repulsive, most pathetic and most pitiable of the whole picturesque series of French kings. If you look into the Journal of Pierre de l'Estoile, under date of January 26,1582, you can read the entry:--

The King and the Queen [Louise de Lorraine], separately, and each accompanied by a good troop [of companions] went on foot from Paris to Chartres on a pilgrimage [voyage] to Notre-Dame-de-dessous-Terre [Our Lady of the Crypt], where a neuvaine was celebrated at the last mass at which the King and Queen assisted, and offered a silver-gilt statue of Notre Dame which weighed a hundred marks [eight hundred ounces], with the object of having lineage which might succeed to the throne.

In the dead of winter, in robes of penitents, over the roughest roads, on foot, the King and Queen, then seven years married, walked fifty miles to Chartres to supplicate the Virgin for children, and back again; and this they did year after year until Jacques Clement put an end to it with his dagger, in 1589, although the Virgin never chose to perform that miracle; but, instead, allowed the House of Valois to die out and sat on her throne in patience while the House of Bourbon was anointed in their place. The only French King ever crowned in the presence of Our Lady of Chartres was Henry IV--a heretic.

The year 1589, which was so decisive for Henry IV in France, marked in England the rise of Shakespeare as a sort of stage-monarch. While in France the Virgin still held such power that kings and queens asked her for favours, almost as instinctively as they had done five hundred years before, in England Shakespeare set all human nature and all human history on the stage, with hardly an allusion to the Virgin's name, unless as an oath. The exceptions are worth noting as a matter of curious Shakespearean criticism, for they are but two, and both are lines in the "First Part of Henry VI," spoken by the Maid of Orleans:--

Christ's mother helps me, else I were too weak!

Whether the "First Part of Henry VI" was written by Shakespeare at all has been a doubt much discussed, and too deep for tourists; but that this line was written by a Roman Catholic is the more likely because no such religious thought recurs in all the rest of Shakespeare's works, dramatic or lyric, unless it is implied in Gaunt's allusion to "the world's ransom, blessed Mary's Son." Thus, while three hundred years caused in England the disappearance of the great divinity on whom the twelfth and thirteenth centuries had lavished all their hopes, and during these three centuries every earthly throne had been repeatedly shaken or shattered, the Church had been broken in halves, faith had been lost, and philosophies overthrown, the Virgin still remained and remains the most intensely and the most widely and the most personally felt, of all characters, divine or human or imaginary, that ever existed among men. Nothing has even remotely taken her place. The only possible exception is the Buddha, Sakya Muni; but to the Western mind, a figure like the Buddha stood much farther away than the Virgin. That of the Christ even to Saint Bernard stood not so near as that of his mother. Abelard expressed the fact in its logical necessity even more strongly than Saint Bernard did:--

Te requirunt vota fidelium,
Ad te corda suspirant omnium,
Tu spes nostra post Deum unica,
Advocata nobis es posita.
Ad judicis matrem confugiunt,
Qui judicis iram effugiunt,
Quae praecari pro eis cogitur,
Quae pro reis mater efficitur.

"After the Trinity, you are our ONLY hope"; spes nostra unica; "you are placed there as our advocate; all of us who fear the wrath of the Judge, fly to the Judge's mother, who is logically compelled to sue for us, and stands in the place of a mother to the guilty." Abelard's logic was always ruthless, and the "cogitur" is a stronger word than one would like to use now, with a priest in hearing. We need not insist on it; but what one must insist on, is the good faith of the whole people,--kings, queens, princes of all sorts, philosophers, poets, soldiers, artists, as well as of the commoners like ourselves, and the poor,--for the good faith of the priests is not important to the understanding, since any class which is sufficiently interested in believing will always believe. In order to feel Gothic architecture in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, one must feel first and last, around and above and beneath it, the good faith of the public, excepting only Jews and atheists, permeating every portion of it with the conviction of an immediate alternative between heaven and hell, with Mary as the ONLY court in equity capable of overruling strict law.

The Virgin was a real person, whose tastes, wishes, instincts, passions, were intimately known. Enough of the Virgin's literature survives to show her character, and the course of her daily life. We know more about her habits and thoughts than about those of earthly queens. The "Miracles de la Vierge" make a large part, and not the poorest part, of the enormous literature of these two centuries, although the works of Albertus Magnus fill twenty-one folio volumes and those of Thomas Aquinas fill more, while the "Chansons de Geste" and the "Romans," published or unpublished, are a special branch of literature with libraries to themselves. The collection of the Virgin's miracles put in verse by Gaultier de Coincy, monk, prior, and poet, between 1214 and 1233--the precise moment of the Chartres sculpture and glass--contains thirty thousand lines. Another great collection, narrating especially the miracles of the Virgin of Chartres, was made by a priest of Chartres Cathedral about 1240. Separate series, or single tales, have appeared and are appearing constantly, but no general collection has ever been made, although the whole poetic literature of the Virgin could be printed in the space of two or three volumes of scholastic philosophy, and if the Church had cared half as truly for the Virgin as it has for Thomas Aquinas, every miracle might have been collected and published a score of times. The miracles themselves, indeed, are not very numerous. In Gaultier de Coincy's collection they number only about fifty. The Chartres collection relates chiefly to the horrible outbreak of what was called leprosy--the "mal ardent,"--which ravaged the north of France during the crusades, and added intensity to the feelings which brought all society to the Virgin's feet. Recent scholars are cataloguing and classifying the miracles, as far as they survive, and have reduced the number within very moderate limits. As poetry, Gaultier de Coincy's are the best.

Of Gaultier de Coincy and his poetry, Gaston Paris has something to say which is worth quoting:--

It is the most curious, and often the most singular monument of the infantile piety of the Middle Ages. Devotion to Mary is presented in it as a kind of infallible guarantee not only against every sort of evil, but also against the most legitimate consequences of sin and even of crime. In these stories which have revolted the most rational piety, as well as the philosophy of modern times, one must still admit a gentle and penetrating charm; a naivete; a tenderness and a simplicity of heart, which touch, while they raise a smile. There, for instance, one sees a sick monk cured by the milk that Our Lady herself comes to invite him to draw from her "douce mamelle"; a robber who is in the habit of recommending himself to the Virgin whenever he is going to "embler," is held up by her white hands for three days on the gibbet where he is hung, until the miracle becomes evident, and procures his pardon; an ignorant monk who knows only his Ave Maria, and is despised on that account, when dead reveals his sanctity by five roses which come out of his mouth in honour of the five letters of the name Maria; a nun, who has quitted her convent to lead a life of sin, returns after long years, and finds that the Holy Virgin, to whom, in spite of all, she has never ceased to offer every day her prayer, has, during all this time, filled her place as sacristine, so that no one has perceived her absence.

Gaston Paris inclined to apologize to his "bons bourgeois de Paris" for reintroducing to them a character so doubtful as the Virgin Mary, but, for our studies, the professor's elementary morality is eloquent. Clearly, M. Paris, the highest academic authority in the world, thought that the Virgin could hardly, in his time, say the year 1900, be received into good society in the Latin Quarter. Our own English ancestors, known as Puritans, held the same opinion, and excluded her from their society some four hundred years earlier, for the same reasons which affected M. Gaston Paris. These reasons were just, and showed the respectability of the citizens who held them. In no well-regulated community, under a proper system of police, could the Virgin feel at home, and the same thing may be said of most other saints as well as sinners. Her conduct was at times undignified, as M. Paris complained, She condescended to do domestic service, in order to help her friends, and she would use her needle, if she were in the mood, for the same object. The "Golden Legend" relates that:--

A certain priest, who celebrated every day a mass in honour of the Holy Virgin, was brought up before Saint Thomas of Canterbury who suspended him from his charge, judging him to be short-witted and irresponsible. Now Saint Thomas had occasion to mend his hair-cloth shirt, and while waiting for an opportunity to do so, had hidden it under his bed; so the Virgin appeared to the priest and said to him: "Go find the archbishop and tell him that she, for love of whom you celebrated masses, has herself mended his shirt for him which is under his bed; and tell him that she sends you to him that he may take off the interdict he has imposed on you." And Saint Thomas found that his shirt had in fact been mended. He relieved the priest, begging him to keep the secret of his wearing a hair-shirt.

Mary did some exceedingly unconventional things, and among them the darning Thomas A'Becket's hair-shirt, and the supporting a robber on the gibbet, were not the most singular, yet they seem not to have shocked Queen Blanche or Saint Francis or Saint Thomas Aquinas so much as they shocked M. Gaston Paris and M. Prudhomme. You have still to visit the cathedral at Le Mans for the sake of its twelfth- century glass, and there, in the lower panel of the beautiful, and very early, window of Saint Protais, you will see the full-length figure of a man, lying in bed, under a handsome blanket, watching, with staring eyes, the Virgin, in a green tunic, wearing her royal crown, who is striking him on the head with a heavy hammer and with both hands. The miracle belongs to local history, and is amusing only to show how little the Virgin cared for criticism of her manners or acts. She was above criticism. She made manners. Her acts were laws. No one thought of criticizing, in the style of a normal school, the will of such a queen; but one might treat her with a degree of familiarity, under great provocation, which would startle easier critics than the French, Here is an instance:--

A widow had an only child whom she tenderly loved. On hearing that this son had been taken by the enemy, chained, and put in prison, she burst into tears, and addressing herself to the Virgin, to whom she was especially devoted, she asked her with obstinacy for the release of her son; but when she saw at last that her prayers remained unanswered, she went to the church where there was a sculptured image of Mary, and there, before the image, she said: "Holy Virgin, I have begged you to deliver my son, and you have not been willing to help an unhappy mother! I've implored your patronage for my son, and you have refused it! Very good! just as my son has been taken away from me, so I am going to take away yours, and keep him as a hostage!" Saying this, she approached, took the statue child on the Virgin's breast, carried it home, wrapped it in spotless linen, and locked it up in a box, happy to have such a hostage for her son's return. Now, the following night, the Virgin appeared to the young man, opened his prison doors, and said: "Tell your mother, my child, to return me my Son now that I have returned hers!" The young man came home to his mother and told her of his miraculous deliverance; and she, overjoyed, hastened to go with the little Jesus to the Virgin, saying to her: "I thank you, heavenly lady, for restoring me my child, and in return I restore yours!"

For the exactness of this story in all its details, Bishop James of Voragio could not have vouched, nor did it greatly matter. What he could vouch for was the relation of intimacy and confidence between his people and the Queen of Heaven. The fact, conspicuous above all other historical certainties about religion, that the Virgin was by essence illogical, unreasonable and feminine, is the only fact of any ultimate value worth studying, and starts a number of questions that history has shown itself clearly afraid to touch. Protestant and Catholic differ little in that respect. No one has ventured to explain why the Virgin wielded exclusive power over poor and rich, sinners and saints, alike. Why were all the Protestant churches cold failures without her help? Why could not the Holy Ghost--the spirit of Love and Grace--equally answer their prayers? Why was the Son powerless? Why was Chartres Cathedral in the thirteenth century-- like Lourdes to-day--the expression of what is in substance a separate religion? Why did the gentle and gracious Virgin Mother so exasperate the Pilgrim Father? Why was the Woman struck out of the Church and ignored in the State? These questions are not antiquarian or trifling in historical value; they tug at the very heart-strings of all that makes whatever order is in the cosmos. If a Unity exists, in which and toward which all energies centre, it must explain and include Duality, Diversity, Infinity--Sex!

Although certain to be contradicted by every pious churchman, a heretic must insist on thinking that the Mater Dolorosa was the logical Virgin of the Church, and that the Trinity would never have raised her from the foot of the Cross, had not the Virgin of Majesty been imposed, by necessity and public unanimity, on a creed which was meant to be complete without her. The true feeling of the Church was best expressed by the Virgin herself in one of her attested miracles: "A clerk, trusting more in the Mother than in the Son, never stopped repeating the angelic salutation for his only prayer. Once as he said again the 'Ave Maria,' the Lord appeared to him, and said to him: 'My Mother thanks you much for all the Salutations that you make her; but still you should not forget to salute me also: tamen et me salutare memento.'" The Trinity feared absorption in her, but was compelled to accept, and even to invite her aid, because the Trinity was a court of strict law, and, as in the old customary law, no process of equity could be introduced except by direct appeal to a higher power. She was imposed unanimously by all classes, because what man wanted most in the Middle Ages was not merely law or equity, but also and particularly favour. Strict justice, either on earth or in heaven, was the last thing that society cared to face. All men were sinners, and had, at least, the merit of feeling that, if they got their deserts, not one would escape worse than whipping. The instinct of individuality went down through all classes, from the count at the top, to the jugleors and menestreus at the bottom. The individual rebelled against restraint; society wanted to do what it pleased; all disliked the laws which Church and State were trying to fasten on them. They longed for a power above law,--or above the contorted mass of ignorance and absurdity bearing the name of law; but the power which they longed for was not human, for humanity they knew to be corrupt and incompetent from the day of Adam's creation to the day of the Last Judgment. They were all criminals; if not, they would have had no use for the Church and very little for the State; but they had at least the merit of their faults; they knew what they were, and, like children, they yearned for protection, pardon, and love. This was what the Trinity, though omnipotent, could not give. Whatever the heretic or mystic might try to persuade himself, God could not be Love. God was Justice, Order, Unity, Perfection; He could not be human and imperfect, nor could the Son or the Holy Ghost be other than the Father. The Mother alone was human, imperfect, and could love; she alone was Favour, Duality, Diversity. Under any conceivable form of religion, this duality must find embodiment somewhere, and the Middle Ages logically insisted that, as it could not be in the Trinity, either separately or together, it must be in the Mother. If the Trinity was in its essence Unity, the Mother alone could represent whatever was not Unity; whatever was irregular, exceptional, outlawed; and this was the whole human race. The saints alone were safe, after they were sainted. Every one else was criminal, and men differed so little in degree of sin that, in Mary's eyes, all were subjects for her pity and help.

This general rule of favour, apart from law, or the reverse of law, was the mark of Mary's activity in human affairs. Take, for an example, an entire class of her miracles, applying to the discipline of the Church! A bishop ejected an ignorant and corrupt priest from his living, as all bishops constantly had to do. The priest had taken the precaution to make himself Mary's MAN; he had devoted himself to her service and her worship. Mary instantly interfered,-- just as Queen Eleanor or Queen Blanche would have done,--most unreasonably, and never was a poor bishop more roughly scolded by an orthodox queen! "Moult airieement," very airily or angrily, she said to him (Bartsch, 1887, p. 363):--

Ce saches tu certainement
Se tu li matinet bien main
Ne rapeles mon chapelain
A son servise et a s'enor,
L'ame de toi a desenor
Ains trente jors departira
Et es dolors d'infer ira.

Now know you this for sure and true,
Unless to-morrow this you do,
--And do it very early too,--
Restore my chaplain to his due,
A much worse fate remains for you!
Within a month your soul shall go
To suffer in the flames below.

The story-teller--himself a priest and prior--caught the lofty trick of manner which belonged to the great ladies of the court, and was inherited by them, even in England, down to the time of Queen Elizabeth, who treated her bishops also like domestic servants;-- "matinet bien main!" To the public, as to us, the justice of the rebuke was nothing to the point; but that a friend should exist on earth or in heaven, who dared to browbeat a bishop, caused the keenest personal delight. The legends are clearer on this point than on any other. The people loved Mary because she trampled on conventions; not merely because she could do it, but because she liked to do what shocked every well-regulated authority. Her pity had no limit.

One of the Chartres miracles expresses the same motive in language almost plainer still. A good-for-nothing clerk, vicious, proud, vain, rude, and altogether worthless, but devoted to the Virgin, died, and with general approval his body was thrown into a ditch (Bartsch, 1887, p. 369):--

Mais cele ou sort tote pities
Tote douceurs tote amisties
Et qui les siens onques n'oublie
SON PECHEOR n'oblia mie.

"HER sinner!" Mary would not have been a true queen unless she had protected her own. The whole morality of the Middle Ages stood in the obligation of every master to protect his dependent. The herdsmen of Count Garin of Beaucaire were the superiors of their damoiseau Aucassins, while they felt sure of the Count. Mary was the highest of all the feudal ladies, and was the example for all in loyalty to her own, when she had to humiliate her own Bishop of Chartres for the sake of a worthless brute. "Do you suppose it doesn't annoy me," she said, "to see my friend buried in a common ditch? Take him out at once! I command! tell the clergy it is my order, and that I will never forgive them unless to-morrow morning without delay, they bury my friend in the best place in the cemetery!":--

Cuidies vos donc qu'il ne m'enuit
Quant vos l'aves si adosse
Que mis l'aves en un fosse?
Metes Ten fors je le comant!
Di le clergie que je li mant!
Ne me puet mi repaier
Se le matin sans delayer
A grant heneur n'est mis amis
Ou plus beau leu de l'aitre mis.

Naturally, her order was instantly obeyed. In the feudal regime, disobedience to an order was treason--or even hesitation to obey-- when the order was serious; very much as in a modern army, disobedience is not regarded as conceivable. Mary's wish was absolute law, on earth as in heaven. For her, other laws were not made. Intensely human, but always Queen, she upset, at her pleasure, the decisions of every court and the orders of every authority, human or divine; interfered directly in the ordeal; altered the processes of nature; abolished space; annihilated time. Like other queens, she had many of the failings and prejudices of her humanity. In spite of her own origin, she disliked Jews, and rarely neglected a chance to maltreat them. She was not in the least a prude. To her, sin was simply humanity, and she seemed often on the point of defending her arbitrary acts of mercy, by frankly telling the Trinity that if the Creator meant to punish man, He should not have made him. The people, who always in their hearts protested against bearing the responsibility for the Creator's arbitrary creations, delighted to see her upset the law, and reverse the rulings of the Trinity. They idolized her for being strong, physically and in will, so that she feared nothing, and was as helpful to the knight in the melee of battle as to the young mother in child-bed. The only character in which they seemed slow to recognize Mary was that of bourgeoise. The bourgeoisie courted her favour at great expense, but she seemed to be at home on the farm, rather than in the shop. She had very rudimentary knowledge, indeed, of the principles of political economy as we understand them, and her views on the subject of money-lending or banking were so feminine as to rouse in that powerful class a vindictive enmity which helped to overthrow her throne. On the other hand, she showed a marked weakness for chivalry, and one of her prettiest and most twelfth-century miracles is that of the knight who heard mass while Mary took his place in the lists. It is much too charming to lose (Bartsch, 1895, p. 311):- -

Un chevalier courtois et sages,
Hardis et de grant vasselages,
Nus mieudres en chevalerie,
Moult amoit la vierge Marie.
Pour son barnage demener
Et son franc cors d'armes pener,
Aloit a son tournoiement
Garnis de son contentement.
Au dieu plaisir ainsi avint
Que quant le jour du tournoi vint
Il se hastoit de chevauchier,
Bien vousist estre en champ premier.
D'une eglise qui pres estoit
Oi les sains que l'on sonnoit
Pour la sainte messe chanter.
Le chevalier sans arrester
S'en est ale droit a l'eglise
Pour escouter le dieu servise.
L'en chantoit tantost hautement
Une messe devotement
De la sainte Vierge Marie;
Puis a on autre comencie.
Le chevalier vien l'escouta,
De bon cuer la dame pria,
Et quant la messe fut finee
La tierce fu recomenciee
Tantost en ce meisme lieu.
"Sire, pour la sainte char dieu!"
Ce li a dit son escuier,
"L'heure passe de tournoier,
Et vous que demourez ici?
Venez vous en, je vous en pri!
Volez vous devenir hermite
Ou papelart ou ypocrite?
Alons en a nostre mestier!"

A knight both courteous and wise
And brave and bold in enterprise.
No better knight was ever seen,
Greatly loved the Virgin Queen.
Once, to contest the tourney's prize
And keep his strength in exercise,
He rode out to the listed field
Armed at all points with lance and shield;
But it pleased God that when the day
Of tourney came, and on his way
He pressed his charger's speed apace
To reach, before his friends, the place,
He saw a church hard by the road
And heard the church-bells sounding loud
To celebrate the holy mass.
Without a thought the church to pass
The knight drew rein, and entered there
To seek the aid of God in prayer.

High and dear they chanted then
A solemn mass to Mary Queen;
Then afresh began again.
Lost in his prayers the good knight stayed;
With all his heart to Mary prayed;
And, when the second one was done,
Straightway the third mass was begun,
Right there upon the self-same place.
"Sire, for mercy of God's grace!"
Whispered his squire in his ear;
"The hour of tournament is near;
Why do you want to linger here?
Is it a hermit to become,
Or hypocrite, or priest of Rome?
Come on, at once! despatch your prayer!
Let us be off to our affair!"

The accent of truth still lingers in this remonstrance of the squire, who must, from all time, have lost his temper on finding his chevalier addicted to "papelardie" when he should have been fighting; but the priest had the advantage of telling the story and pointing the moral. This advantage the priest neglected rarely, but in this case he used it with such refinement and so much literary skill that even the squire might have been patient. With the invariable gentle courtesy of the true knight, the chevalier replied only by soft words:--

"Amis!" ce dist li chevalier,
"Cil tournoie moult noblement
Qui le servise dieu entent."

In one of Milton's sonnets is a famous line which is commonly classed among the noblest verses of the English language:--

"They also serve, who only stand and wait."

Fine as it is, with the simplicity of the grand style, like the "Chanson de Roland" the verse of Milton does not quite destroy the charm of thirteenth-century diction:--

"Friend!" said to him the chevalier,
"He tourneys very nobly too,
Who only hears God's service through!"

No doubt the verses lack the singular power of the eleventh century; it is not worth while to pretend that any verse written in the thirteenth century wholly holds its own against "Roland":--

"Sire cumpain! faites le vus de gred?
Ja est co Rollanz ki tant vos soelt amer!"

The courtesy of Roland has the serious solidity of the Romanesque arch, and that of Lancelot and Aucassins has the grace of a legendary window; but one may love it, all the same; and one may even love the knight,--papelard though he were,--as he turned back to the altar and remained in prayer until the last mass was ended.

Then they mounted and rode on toward the field, and of course you foresee what had happened. In itself the story is bald enough, but it is told with such skill that one never tires of it. As the chevalier and the squire approached the lists, they met the other knights returning, for the jousts were over; but, to the astonishment of the chevalier, he was greeted by all who passed him with shouts of applause for his marvellous triumph in the lists, where he had taken all the prizes and all the prisoners:--

Les chevaliers ont encontrez,
Qui du tournois sont retournes,
Qui du tout en tout est feru.
S'en avoit tout le pris eu
Le chevalier qui reperoit
Des messes qu' oies avoit.
Les autres qui s'en reperoient
Le saluent et le conjoient
Et distrent bien que onques mes
Nul chevalier ne prist tel fes
D'armes com il ot fet ce jour;
A tousjours en avroit l'onnour.
Moult en i ot qui se rendoient
A lui prisonier, et disoient
"Nous somes vostre prisonier,
Ne nous ne pourrions nier,
Ne nous aiez par armes pris."
Lors ne fu plus cil esbahis,
Car il a entendu tantost
Que cele fu pour lui en l'ost
Pour qui il fu en la chapelle.

His friends, returning from the fight,
On the way there met the knight,
For the jousts were wholly run,
And all the prizes had been won
By the knight who had not stirred
From the masses he had heard.
All the knights, as they came by,
Saluted him and gave him joy,
And frankly said that never yet
Had any knight performed such feat,
Nor ever honour won so great
As he had done in arms that day;
While many of them stopped to say
That they all his prisoners were:
"In truth, your prisoners we are:
We cannot but admit it true:
Taken we were in arms by you!"
Then the truth dawned on him there,
And all at once he saw the light,

That She, by whom he stood in prayer,
--The Virgin,--stood by him in fight!

The moral of the tale belongs to the best feudal times. The knight at once recognized that he had become the liege-man of the Queen, and henceforth must render his service entirely to her. So he called his "barons," or tenants, together, and after telling them what had happened, took leave of them and the "siecle":--

"Moult est ciest tournoiement beaux

Ou ele a pour moi tournoie;
Mes trop l'avroit mal emploie
Se pour lui je ne tournoioie!
Fox seroie se retournoie
A la mondaine vanite.
A dieu promet en verite
Que james ne tournoierai
Fors devant le juge verai
Qui conoit le bon chevalier
Et selonc le fet set jutgier."
Lors prent congie piteusement,
Et maint en plorent tenrement.
D'euls se part, en une abaie
Servi puis la vierge Marie.

"Glorious has the tourney been
Where for me has fought the Queen;
But a disgrace for me it were
If I tourneyed not for her.
Traitor to her should I be,
Returned to worldly vanity.
I promise truly, by God's grace,
Never again the lists to see,
Except before that Judge's face,
Who knows the true knight from the base,
And gives to each his final place."
Then piteously he takes his leave
While in tears his barons grieve.
So he parts, and in an abbey
Serves henceforth the Virgin Mary.

Observe that in this case Mary exacted no service! Usually the legends are told, as in this instance, by priests, though they were told in the same spirit by laymen, as you can see in the poems of Rutebeuf, and they would not have been told very differently by soldiers, if one may judge from Joinville; but commonly the Virgin herself prescribed the kind of service she wished. Especially to the young knight who had, of his own accord, chosen her for his liege, she showed herself as exacting as other great ladies showed themselves toward their Lancelots and Tristans. When she chose, she could even indulge in more or less coquetry, else she could never have appealed to the sympathies of the thirteenth-century knight- errant. One of her miracles told how she disciplined the young men who were too much in the habit of assuming her service in order to obtain selfish objects. A youthful chevalier, much given to tournaments and the other worldly diversions of the siecle, fell in love, after the rigorous obligation of his class, as you know from your Dulcinea del Toboso, with a lady who, as was also prescribed by the rules of courteous love, declined to listen to him. An abbot of his acquaintance, sympathizing with his distress, suggested to him the happy idea of appealing for help to the Queen of Heaven. He followed the advice, and for an entire year shut himself up, and prayed to Mary, in her chapel, that she would soften the heart of his beloved, and bring her to listen to his prayer. At the end of the twelvemonth, fixed as a natural and sufficient proof of his earnestness in devotion, he felt himself entitled to indulge again in innocent worldly pleasures, and on the first morning after his release, he started out on horseback for a day's hunting. Probably thousands of young knights and squires were always doing more or less the same thing, and it was quite usual that, as they rode through the fields or forests, they should happen on a solitary chapel or shrine, as this knight did. He stopped long enough to kneel in it and renew his prayer to the Queen:--

La mere dieu qui maint chetif
A retrait de chetivete
Par sa grant debonnairte
Par sa courtoise courtoisie
Au las qui tant l'apele et prie
Ignelement s'est demonstree,
D'une coronne corronnee
Plaine de pierres precieuses
Si flamboianz si precieuses
Pour pou li euil ne li esluisent.
Si netement ainsi reluisent
Et resplendissent com la raie
Qui en este au matin raie.
Tant par a bel et cler le vis
Que buer fu mez, ce li est vis,
Qui s'i puest assez mirer.
"Cele qui te fait soupirer
Et en si grant erreur t'a mis,"
Fait nostre dame, "biau douz amis,
Est ele plus bele que moi?"
Li chevaliers a tel effroi
De la clarte, ne sai que face;
Ses mains giete devant sa face;
Tel hide a et tel freeur
Chaoir se laisse de freeur;
Mais cele en qui pitie est toute
Li dist: "Amis, or n'aies doute!
Je suis cele, n'en doute mie,
Qui te doi faire avoir t'amie.
Or prens garde que tu feras.
Cele que tu miex ameras
De nous ii auras a amie."

God's Mother who to many a wretch
Has brought relief from wretchedness.
By her infinite goodness,
By her courteous courteousness,
To her suppliant in distress
Came from heaven quickly down;
On her head she bore the crown,
Full of precious stones and gems
Darting splendour, flashing flames,
Till the eye near lost its sight
In the keenness of the light,
As the summer morning's sun
Blinds the eyes it shines upon.
So beautiful and bright her face,
Only to look on her is grace.

"She who has caused you thus to sigh,
And has brought you to this end,"--
Said Our Lady,--"Tell me, friend,
Is she handsomer than I?"
Scared by her brilliancy, the knight
Knows not what to do for fright;
He clasps his hands before his face,
And in his shame and his disgrace
Falls prostrate on the ground with fear;
But she with pity ever near
Tells him:--"Friend, be not afraid!
Doubt not that I am she whose aid
Shall surely bring your love to you;
But take good care what you shall do!
She you shall love most faithfully
Of us two, shall your mistress be."

One is at a loss to imagine what a young gentleman could do, in such a situation, except to obey, with the fewest words possible, the suggestion so gracefully intended. Queen's favours might be fatal gifts, but they were much more fatal to reject than to accept. Whatever might be the preferences of the knight, he had invited his own fate, and in consequence was fortunate to be allowed the option of dying and going to heaven, or dying without going to heaven. Mary was not always so gentle with young men who deserted or neglected her for an earthly rival;--the offence which irritated her most, and occasionally caused her to use language which hardly bears translation into modern English. Without meaning to assert that the Queen of Heaven was jealous as Queen Blanche herself, one must still admit that she was very severe on lovers who showed willingness to leave her service, and take service with any other lady. One of her admirers, educated for the priesthood but not yet in full orders, was obliged by reasons of family interest to quit his career in order to marry. An insult like this was more than Mary could endure, and she gave the young man a lesson he never forgot:--

Ireement li prent a dire
La mere au roi de paradis:
"Di moi, di moi, tu que jadis
M'amoies tant de tout ton coeur.
Pourquoi m'as tu jete puer?
Di moi, di moi, ou est donc cele
Qui plus de moi bone est et bele?...
Pourquoi, pourquoi, las durfeus,
Las engignez, las deceuz,
Me lais pour une lasse fame,
Qui suis du del Royne et Dame?
Enne fais tu trop mauvais change
Qui tu por une fame estrange
Me laisses qui par amors t'amoie
Et ja ou ciel t'apareilloie
En mes chambres un riche lit

Por couchier t'ame a grand delit?
Trop par as faites grant merveilles
S'autrement tost ne te conseilles
Ou ciel serra tes lits deffais<
Et en la flamme d'enfer faiz!"
With anger flashing in her eyes
Answers the Queen of Paradise:
"Tell me, tell me! you of old
Loved me once with love untold;
Why now throw me aside?
Tell me, tell me! where a bride
Kinder or fairer have you won?...
Wherefore, wherefore, wretched one,
Deceived, betrayed, misled, undone,
Leave me for a creature mean,
Me, who am of Heaven the Queen?
Can you make a worse exchange,
You that for a woman strange,
Leave me who, with perfect love,
Waiting you in heaven above,
Had in my chamber richly dressed
A bed of bliss your soul to rest?
Terrible is your mistake!
Unless you better council take,
In heaven your bed shall be unmade,
And in the flames of hell be spread."

A mistress who loved in this manner was not to be gainsaid. No earthly love had a chance of holding its own against this unfair combination of heaven and hell, and Mary was as unscrupulous as any other great lady in abusing all her advantages in order to save HER souls. Frenchmen never found fault with abuses of power for what they thought a serious object. The more tyrannical Mary was, the more her adorers adored, and they wholly approved, both in love and in law, the rule that any man who changed his allegiance without permission, did so at his own peril. His life and property were forfeit. Mary showed him too much grace in giving him an option.

Even in anger Mary always remained a great lady, and in the ordinary relations of society her manners were exquisite, as they were, according to Joinville, in the court of Saint Louis, when tempers were not overwrought. The very brutality of the brutal compelled the courteous to exaggerate courtesy, and some of the royal family were as coarse as the king was delicate in manners. In heaven the manners were perfect, and almost as stately as those of Roland and Oliver. On one occasion Saint Peter found himself embarrassed by an affair which the public opinion of the Court of Heaven, although not by any means puritanic, thought more objectionable--in fact, more frankly discreditable--than an honest corrupt job ought to be; and even his influence, though certainly considerable, wholly failed to carry it through the law-court. The case, as reported by Gaultier de Coincy, was this: A very worthless creature of Saint Peter's--a monk of Cologne--who had led a scandalous life, and "ne cremoit dieu, ordre ne roule," died, and in due course of law was tried, convicted, and dragged off by the devils to undergo his term of punishment. Saint Peter could not desert his sinner, though much ashamed of him, and accordingly made formal application to the Trinity for a pardon. The Trinity, somewhat severely, refused. Finding his own interest insufficient, Saint Peter tried to strengthen it by asking the archangels to help him; but the case was too much for them also, and they declined. The brother apostles were appealed to, with the same result; and finally even the saints, though they had so obvious interest in keeping friendly relations with Peter, found public opinion too strong to defy. The case was desperate. The Trinity were--or was--emphatic, and--what was rare in the Middle Ages--every member of the feudal hierarchy sustained its decision. Nothing more could be done in the regular way. Saint Peter was obliged to divest himself of authority, and place himself and his dignity in the hands of the Virgin. Accordingly he asked for an audience, and stated the case to Our Lady. With the utmost grace, she instantly responded:--

"Pierre, Pierre," dit Nostre Dame,
"En moult grand poine et por ceste ame
De mon douz filz me fierai
Tant que pour toi l'en prierai."
La Mere Dieu lors s'est levee,
Devant son filz s'en est alee
Et ses virges toutes apres.
De lui si tint Pierre pres,
Quar sanz doutance bien savoit
Que sa besoigne faite avoit
Puisque cele l'avoit en prise
Ou forme humaine avoit prise.

Quant sa Mere vit li douz Sire
Qui de son doit daigna escrire
Qu'en honourant et pere et mere
En contre lui a chere clere
Se leva moult festivement
Et si li dist moult doucement;
"Bien veigniez vous, ma douce mere,"
Comme douz filz, comme douz pere.
Doucement l'a par la main prise
Et doucement lez lui assise;
Lors li a dit:--"A douce chiere,
Que veus ma douce mere chiere,
Mes amies et mes sereurs?"

"Pierre, Pierre," our Lady said,
"With all my heart I'll give you aid,
And to my gentle Son I'll sue
Until I beg that soul for you."
God's Mother then arose straightway,
And sought her Son without delay;
All her virgins followed her,
And Saint Peter kept him near,
For he knew his task was done
And his prize already won,
Since it was hers, in whom began
The life of God in form of Man.

When our dear Lord, who deigned to write
With his own hand that in his sight
Those in his kingdom held most dear
Father and mother honoured here,--
When He saw His Mother's face
He rose and said with gentle grace:
"Well are you come, my heart's desire!"
Like loving son, like gracious sire;
Took her hand gently in His own;
Gently placed her on His throne,
Wishing her graciously good cheer:--
"What brings my gentle Mother here,
My sister, and my dearest friend?"

One can see Queen Blanche going to beg--or command--a favour of her son, King Louis, and the stately dignity of their address, while Saint Peter and the virgins remain in the antechamber; but, as for Saint Peter's lost soul, the request was a mere form, and the doors of paradise were instantly opened to it, after such brief formalities as should tend to preserve the technical record of the law-court. We tread here on very delicate ground. Gaultier de Coincy, being a priest and a prior, could take liberties which we cannot or ought not to take. The doctrines of the Church are too serious and too ancient to be wilfully misstated, and the doctrines of what is called Mariolatry were never even doctrines of the Church. Yet it is true that, in the hearts of Mary's servants, the Church and its doctrines were at the mercy of Mary's will. Gaultier de Coincy claimed that Mary exasperated the devils by exercising a wholly arbitrary and illegitimate power. Gaultier not merely admitted, but frankly asserted, that this was the fact:--

Font li deables:--"de cest plait,
Mal por mal, assez miex nous plest
Que nous aillons au jugement
Li haut jugeur qui ne ment.
C'au plait n'au jugement sa mere
De droit jugier est trop avere;
Mais dieu nous juge si adroit,
Plainement nous lest notre droit.
Sa mere juge en tel maniere
Qu'elle nous met touz jors arriere
Quant nous cuidons estre devant.
. . . . . . .
En ciel et en terre est plus Dame
Par un petit que Diex ne soit.
Il l'aimme tant et tant la croit,
N'est riens qu'elle face ne die
Qu'il desveile ne contredie.
Quant qu'elle veut li fait acroire,
S'elle disoit la pie est noire
Et l'eue trouble est toute clere:
Si diroit il voir dit ma mere!"

"In this law-suit," say the devils,
"Since it is a choice of evils,
We had best appeal on high
To the Judge Who does not lie.
What is law to any other,
'T is no use pleading with His Mother;
But God judges us so true
That He leaves us all our due.
His Mother judges us so short
That she throws us out of court
When we ought to win our cause.
. . . . . . . .
In heaven and earth she makes more laws
By far, than God Himself can do,
He loves her so, and trusts her so,
There's nothing she can do or say
That He'll refuse, or say her nay.
Whatever she may want is right,
Though she say that black is white,
And dirty water clear as snow:--
My Mother says it, and it's so!"

If the Virgin took the feelings of the Trinity into consideration, or recognized its existence except as her Son, the case has not been reported, or, at all events, has been somewhat carefully kept out of sight by the Virgin's poets. The devils were emphatic in denouncing Mary for absorbing the whole Trinity. In one sharply disputed case in regard to a villain, or labourer, whose soul the Virgin claimed because he had learned the "Ave Maria," the devils became very angry, indeed, and protested vehemently:--

Li lait maufe, li rechinie
Adonc ont ris et eschinie.
C'en font il:--"Merveillans merveille!
Por ce vilain plate oreille
Aprent vo Dame a saluer,
Se nous vorro trestous tuer
Se regarder osons vers s'ame.
De tout le monde vieut estre Dame!
Ains nule dame ne fu tiez.
II est avis qu'ele soit Diex
Ou qu'ele ait Diex en main bornie. Nul besoigne n'est fournie,
Ne terrienne ne celestre,
Que toute Dame ne veille estre.
Il est avis que tout soit suen;
Dieu ne deable n'i ont rien."

The ugly demons laugh outright
And grind their teeth with envious spite;
Crying:--"Marvel marvellous!
Because that flat-eared ploughman there
Learned to make your Dame a prayer,
She would like to kill us all
Just for looking toward his soul.
All the world she wants to rule!
No such Dame was ever seen!
She thinks that she is God, I ween,
Or holds Him in her hollow hand.
Not a judgment or command
Or an order can be given
Here on earth or there in heaven,
That she does not want control.
She thinks that she ordains the whole,
And keeps it all for her own profit.
God nor Devil share not of it."

As regards Mary of Chartres, these charges seem to have been literally true, except so far as concerned the "laid maufe" Pierre de Dreux. Gaultier de Coincy saw no impropriety in accepting, as sufficiently exact, the allegations of the devils against the Virgin's abuse of power. Down to the death of Queen Blanche, which is all that concerns us, the public saw no more impropriety in it than Gaultier did. The ugly, envious devils, notorious as students of the Latin Quarter, were perpetually making the same charges against Queen Blanche and her son, without disturbing her authority. No one could conceive that the Virgin held less influence in heaven than the queen mother on earth. Nevertheless there were points in the royal policy and conduct of Mary which thoughtful men even then hesitated to approve. The Church itself never liked to be dragged too far under feminine influence, although the moment it discarded feminine influence it lost nearly everything of any value to it or to the world, except its philosophy. Mary's tastes were too popular; some of the uglier devils said they were too low; many ladies and gentlemen of the "siecle" thought them disreputable, though they dared not say so, or dared say so only by proxy, as in "Aucassins." As usual, one must go to the devils for the exact truth, and in spite of their outcry, the devils admitted that they had no reason to complain of Mary's administration:--

"Les beles dames de grant pris
Qui traynant vont ver et gris,
Roys, roynes, dus et contesses, En enfer vienent a granz presses;
Mais ou ciel vont pres tout a fait
Tort et bocu et contrefait.
Ou ciel va toute la ringaille;
Le grain avons et diex la paille."

"All the great dames and ladies fair
Who costly robes and ermine wear,
Kings, queens, and countesses and lords
Come down to hell in endless hordes;
While up to heaven go the lamed,

The dwarfs, the humpbacks, and the maimed;
To heaven goes the whole riff-raff;
We get the grain and God the chaff."

True it was, although one should not say it jestingly, that the Virgin embarrassed the Trinity; and perhaps this was the reason, behind all the other excellent reasons, why men loved and adored her with a passion such as no other deity has ever inspired: and why we, although utter strangers to her, are not far from getting down on our knees and praying to her still. Mary concentrated in herself the whole rebellion of man against fate; the whole protest against divine law; the whole contempt for human law as its outcome; the whole unutterable fury of human nature beating itself against the walls of its prison-house, and suddenly seized by a hope that in the Virgin man had found a door of escape. She was above law; she took feminine pleasure in turning hell into an ornament; she delighted in trampling on every social distinction in this world and the next. She knew that the universe was as unintelligible to her, on any theory of morals, as it was to her worshippers, and she felt, like them, no sure conviction that it was any more intelligible to the Creator of it. To her, every suppliant was a universe in itself, to be judged apart, on his own merits, by his love for her,--by no means on his orthodoxy, or his conventional standing in the Church, or according to his correctness in defining the nature of the Trinity. The convulsive hold which Mary to this day maintains over human imagination--as you can see at Lourdes--was due much less to her power of saving soul or body than to her sympathy with people who suffered under law,--divine or human,--justly or unjustly, by accident or design, by decree of God or by guile of Devil. She cared not a straw for conventional morality, and she had no notion of letting her friends be punished, to the tenth or any other generation, for the sins of their ancestors or the peccadilloes of Eve.

So Mary filled heaven with a sort of persons little to the taste of any respectable middle-class society, which has trouble enough in making this world decent and pay its bills, without having to continue the effort in another. Mary stood in a Church of her own, so independent that the Trinity might have perished without much affecting her position; but, on the other hand, the Trinity could look on and see her dethroned with almost a breath of relief. Aucassins and the devils of Gaultier de Coincy foresaw her danger. Mary's treatment of respectable and law-abiding people who had no favours to ask, and were reasonably confident of getting to heaven by the regular judgment, without expense, rankled so deeply that three hundred years later the Puritan reformers were not satisfied with abolishing her, but sought to abolish the woman altogether as the cause of all evil in heaven and on earth. The Puritans abandoned the New Testament and the Virgin in order to go back to the beginning, and renew the quarrel with Eve. This is the Church's affair, not ours, and the women are competent to settle it with Church or State, without help from outside; but honest tourists are seriously interested in putting the feeling back into the dead architecture where it belongs.

Mary was rarely harsh to any suppliant or servant, and she took no special interest in humiliating the rich or the learned or the wise. For them, law was made; by them, law was administered; and with their doings Mary never arbitrarily interfered; but occasionally she could not resist the temptation to intimate her opinion of the manner in which the Trinity allowed their--the regular--Church to be administered. She was a queen, and never for an instant forgot it, but she took little thought about her divine rights, if she had any,--and in fact Saint Bernard preferred her without them,--while she was scandalized at the greed of officials in her Son's Court. One day a rich usurer and a very poor old woman happened to be dying in the same town. Gaultier de Coincy did not say, as an accurate historian should, that he was present, nor did he mention names or dates, although it was one of his longest and best stories. Mary never loved bankers, and had no reason for taking interest in this one, or for doing him injury; but it happened that the parish priest was summoned to both death-beds at the same time, and neglected the old pauper in the hope of securing a bequest for his church from the banker. This was the sort of fault that most annoyed Mary in the Church of the Trinity, which, in her opinion, was not cared for as it should be, and she felt it her duty to intimate as much.

Although the priest refused to come at the old woman's summons, his young clerk, who seems to have acted as vicar though not in orders, took pity on her, and went alone with the sacrament to her hut, which was the poorest of poor hovels even for that age:--

Close de piex et de serciaus
Comme une viez souz a porciaus.

Roof of hoops, and wall of logs,
Like a wretched stye for hogs.

There the beggar lay, already insensible or at the last gasp, on coarse thatch, on the ground, covered by an old hempen sack. The picture represented the extremest poverty of the thirteenth century; a hovel without even a feather bed or bedstead, as Aucassins' ploughman described his mother's want; and the old woman alone, dying, as the clerk appeared at the opening:--

Li clers qui fu moult bien apris
Le cors Nostre Seigneur a pris
A l'ostel a la povre fame
S'en vient touz seus mes n'i treuve ame.
Si grant clarte y a veue
Que grant peeur en a eue.
Ou povre lit a la vieillete
Qui couvers iert d'une nateite

Assises voit XII puceles
Si avenans et si tres beles
N'est nus tant penser i seust
Qui raconter le vout peust.
A coutee voist Nostre Dame
Sus le chevez la povre fame
Qui por la mort sue et travaille.
La Mere Dieu d'une tovaille
Qui blanche est plus que fleur de lis
La grant sueur d'entor le vis
A ses blanches mains li essuie.

The clerk, well in these duties taught,
The body of our Saviour brought
Where she lay upon her bed
Without a soul to give her aid.
But such brightness there he saw
As filled his mind with fear and awe.
Covered with a mat of straw
The woman lay; but round and near

A dozen maidens sat, so fair
No mortal man could dream such light,
No mortal tongue describe the sight.
Then he saw that next the bed,
By the poor old woman's head,
As she gasped and strained for breath
In the agony of death,
Sat Our Lady,--bending low,--
While, with napkin white as snow,
She dried the death-sweat on the brow.

The clerk, in terror, hesitated whether to turn and run away, but Our Lady beckoned him to the bed, while all rose and kneeled devoutly to the sacrament. Then she said to the trembling clerk:--

"Friend, be not afraid!
But seat yourself, to give us aid,
Beside these maidens, on the bed."

And when the clerk had obeyed, she continued--

"Or tost, amis!" fait Nostre Dame,
"Confessies ceste bone fame
Et puis apres tout sans freeur
Recevra tost son sauveeur
Qui char et sanc vout en moi prendre."

"Come quickly, friend!" Our Lady says,
"This good old woman now confess
And afterwards without distress
She will at once receive her God
Who deigned in me take flesh and blood."

After the sacrament came a touch of realism that recalls the simple death-scenes that Walter Scott described in his grand twelfth- century manner. The old woman lingered pitiably in her agony:--

Lors dit une des demoiselles
A madame sainte Marie:
"Encore, dame, n'istra mie
Si com moi semble du cors l'ame."
"Bele fille," fait Nostre Dame,
"Traveiller lais un peu le cors,
Aincois que l'ame en isse hors,
Si que puree soil et nete
Aincois qu'en Paradis la mete.
N'est or mestier qui soions plus,
Ralon nous en ou ciel lassus,
Quant tens en iert bien reviendronsv En paradis l'ame emmerrons."

A maiden said to Saint Marie,

"My lady, still it seems to me
The soul will not the body fly."
"Fair child!" Our Lady made reply,
"Still let awhile the body fight
Before the soul shall leave it quite.
So that it pure may be, and cleansed
When it to Paradise ascends.
No longer need we here remain;
We can go back to heaven again;
We will return before she dies,
And take the soul to paradise."

The rest of the story concerned the usurer, whose death-bed was of a different character, but Mary's interest in death-beds of that kind was small. The fate of the usurer mattered the less because she knew too well how easily the banker, in good credit, could arrange with the officials of the Trinity to open the doors of paradise for him. The administration of heaven was very like the administration of France; the Queen Mother saw many things of which she could not wholly approve; but her nature was pity, not justice, and she shut her eyes to much that she could not change. Her miracles, therefore, were for the most part mere evidence of her pity for those who needed it most, and these were rarely the well-to-do people of the siecle, but more commonly the helpless. Every saint performed miracles, and these are standard, not peculiar to any one intermediator; and every saint protected his own friends; but beyond these exhibitions of power, which are more or less common to the whole hierarchy below the Trinity, Mary was the mother of pity and the only hope of despair. One might go on for a volume, studying the character of Mary and the changes that time made in it, from the earliest Byzantine legends down to the daily recorded miracles at Lourdes; no character in history has had so long or varied a development, and none so sympathetic; but the greatest poets long ago plundered that mine of rich motives, and have stolen what was most dramatic for popular use. The Virgin's most famous early miracle seems to have been that of the monk Theophilus, which was what one might call her salvation of Faust. Another Byzantine miracle was an original version of Shylock. Shakespeare and his fellow dramatists plundered the Church legends as freely as their masters plundered the Church treasuries, yet left a mass of dramatic material untouched. Let us pray the Virgin that it may remain untouched, for, although a good miracle was in its day worth much money--so much that the rival shrines stole each other's miracles without decency--one does not care to see one's Virgin put to money- making for Jew theatre-managers. One's two-hundred and fifty million arithmetical ancestors shrink.

For mere amusement, too, the miracle is worth reading of the little Jew child who ignorantly joined in the Christian communion, and was thrown into a furnace by his father in consequence; but when the furnace was opened, the Virgin appeared seated in the midst of the flames, with the little child unharmed in her lap. Better is that called the "Tombeor de Notre Dame," only recently printed; told by some unknown poet of the thirteenth century, and told as well as any of Gaultier de Coincy's. Indeed the "Tombeor de Notre Dame" has had more success in our time than it ever had in its own, as far as one knows, for it appeals to a quiet sense of humour that pleases modern French taste as much as it pleased the Virgin. One fears only to spoil it by translation, but if a translation be merely used as a glossary or footnote, it need not do fatal harm.

The story is that of a tumbler--tombeor, street-acrobat--who was disgusted with the world, as his class has had a reputation for becoming, and who was fortunate enough to obtain admission into the famous monastery of Clairvaux, where Saint Bernard may have formerly been blessed by the Virgin's presence. Ignorant at best, and especially ignorant of letters, music, and the offices of a religious society, he found himself unable to join in the services:- -

Car n'ot vescu fors de tumer
Et d'espringier et de baler.
Treper, saillir, ice savoit;
Ne d'autre rien il ne savoit;
Car ne savoit autre lecon
Ne "pater noster" ne chancon
Ne le "credo" ne le salu
Ne rien qui fust a son salu.

For he had learned no other thing
Than to tumble, dance and spring:
Leaping and vaulting, that he knew,
But nothing better could he do.
He could not say his prayers by rote;
Not "Pater noster", not a note,
Not "Ave Mary," nor the creed;
Nothing to help his soul in need.

Tormented by the sense of his uselessness to the society whose bread he ate without giving a return in service, and afraid of being expelled as a useless member, one day while the bells were calling to mass he hid in the crypt, and in despair began to soliloquize before the Virgin's altar, at the same spot, one hopes, where the Virgin had shown herself, or might have shown herself, in her infinite bounty, to Saint Bernard, a hundred years before:--

"Hai," fait il, "con suis trais!
Or dira ja cascuns sa laisse
Et jo suis ci i hues en laisse
Qui ne fas ci fors que broster
Et viandes por nient gaster.
Si ne dirai ne ne ferai?
Par la mere deu, si ferai!
Ja n'en serai ore repris;
Jo ferai ce que j'ai apris;
Si servirai de men mestier
La mere deu en son mostier;
Li autre servent de canter
Et jo servirai de tumer."
Sa cape oste, si se despoille,
Deles l'autel met sa despoille,
Mais por sa char que ne soit nue
Une cotele a retenue
Qui moult estait tenre et alise,
Petit vaut miex d'une chemise,
Si est en pur le cors remes.
Il s'est bien chains et acesmes,
Sa cote caint et bien s'atorne,
Devers l'ymage se retorne
Mout humblement et si l'esgarde:
"Dame," fait il, "en vostre garde
Comant jo et mon cors et m'ame.
Douce reine, douce dame,
Ne despisies ce que jo sai
Car jo me voil metre a l'asai
De vos servir en bone foi
Se dex m'ait sans nul desroi.
Jo ne sai canter ne lire
Mais certes jo vos voil eslire
Tos mes biax gieus a eslicon.
Or soie al fuer de taurecon
Qui trepe et saut devant sa mere. Dame, qui n'estes mie amere
A cels qui vos servent a droit,
Quelsque jo soie, por vos soit!"

Lors li commence a faire saus
Bas et petits et grans et haus

Primes deseur et puis desos,
Puis se remet sor ses genols,
Devers l'ymage, et si l'encline:
"He!" fait il, "tres douce reine
Par vo pitie, par vo francise,
Ne despisies pas mon servise!"

"Ha!" said he, "how I am ashamed!
To sing his part goes now each priest,
And I stand here, a tethered beast,
Who nothing do but browse and feed
And waste the food that others need.
Shall I say nothing, and stand still?
No! by God's mother, but I will!
She shall not think me here for naught;
At least I'll do what I've been taught!
At least I'll serve in my own way
God's mother in her church to-day.
The others serve to pray and sing;
I will serve to leap and spring."
Then he strips him of his gown,
Lays it on the altar down;
But for himself he takes good care
Not to show his body bare,
But keeps a jacket, soft and thin,
Almost a shirt, to tumble in.
Clothed in this supple woof of maille
His strength and health and form showed well.
And when his belt is buckled fast,
Toward the Virgin turns at last:
Very humbly makes his prayer;
"Lady!" says he, "to your care
I commit my soul and frame.
Gentle Virgin, gentle dame,
Do not despise what I shall do,
For I ask only to please you,
To serve you like an honest man,
So help me God, the best I can.
I cannot chant, nor can I read,
But I can show you here instead,
All my best tricks to make you laugh,
And so shall be as though a calf
Should leap and jump before its dam.
Lady, who never yet could blame
Those who serve you well and true,
All that I am, I am for you."

Then he begins to jump about,
High and low, and in and out,

Straining hard with might and main;
Then, falling on his knees again,
Before the image bows his face:
"By your pity! by your grace!"
Says he, "Ha! my gentle queen,
Do not despise my offering!"

In his earnestness he exerted himself until, at the end of his strength, he lay exhausted and unconscious on the altar steps. Pleased with his own exhibition, and satisfied that the Virgin was equally pleased, he continued these devotions every day, until at last his constant and singular absence from the regular services attracted the curiosity of a monk, who kept watch on him and reported his eccentric exercise to the Abbot.

The mediaeval monasteries seem to have been gently administered. Indeed, this has been made the chief reproach on them, and the excuse for robbing them for the benefit of a more energetic crown and nobility who tolerated no beggars or idleness but their own; at least, it is safe to say that few well-regulated and economically administered modern charities would have the patience of the Abbot of Clairvaux, who, instead of calling up the weak-minded tombeor and sending him back to the world to earn a living by his profession, went with his informant to the crypt, to see for himself what the strange report meant. We have seen at Chartres what a crypt may be, and how easily one might hide in its shadows while mass is said at the altars. The Abbot and his informant hid themselves behind a column in the shadow, and watched the whole performance to its end when the exhausted tumbler dropped unconscious and drenched with perspiration on the steps of the altar, with the words:--

"Dame!" fait il, "ne puis plus ore;
Mais voire je reviendrai encore."

"Lady!" says he, "no more I can,
But truly I'll come back again!"

You can imagine the dim crypt; the tumbler lying unconscious beneath the image of the Virgin; the Abbot peering out from the shadow of the column, and wondering what sort of discipline he could inflict for this unforeseen infraction of rule; when suddenly, before he could decide what next to do, the vault above the altar, of its own accord, opened:--

L'abes esgarde sans atendre
Et vit de la volte descendre
Une dame si gloriouse
Ains nus ne vit si preciouse
Ni si ricement conreee,
N'onques tant bele ne fu nee.
Ses vesteures sont bien chieres
D'or et de precieuses pieres.

Avec li estoient li angle
Del ciel amont, et li arcangle,
Qui entor le menestrel vienent,
Si le solacent et sostienent.
Quant entor lui sont arengie
S'ot tot son cuer asoagie.
Dont s'aprestent de lui servir
Por ce qu'ils volrent deservir
La servise que fait la dame
Qui tant est precieuse geme.
Et la douce reine france
Tenoit une touaille blance,
S'en avente son menestrel
Mout doucement devant l'autel.
La franc dame debonnaire
Le col, le cors, et le viaire
Li avente por refroidier;
Bien s'entremet de lui aidier;
La dame bien s'i abandone;
Li bons hom garde ne s'en done,
Car il ne voit, si ne set mie
Qu'il ait si bele compaignie.

The Abbot strains his eyes to see,
And, from the vaulting, suddenly,
A lady steps,--so glorious,--
Beyond all thought so precious,--
Her robes so rich, so nobly worn,--
So rare the gems the robes adorn,--
As never yet so fair was born.

Along with her the angels were,
Archangels stood beside her there;
Round about the tumbler group
To give him solace, bring him hope;
And when round him in ranks they stood,
His whole heart felt its strength renewed.
So they haste to give him aid
Because their wills are only made
To serve the service of their Queen,
Most precious gem the earth has seen.
And the lady, gentle, true,
Holds in her hand a towel new;
Fans him with her hand divine
Where he lies before the shrine.
The kind lady, full of grace,
Fans his neck, his breast, his face!
Fans him herself to give him air!
Labours, herself, to help him there!
The lady gives herself to it;
The poor man takes no heed of it;
For he knows not and cannot see
That he has such fair company.

Beyond this we need not care to go. If you cannot feel the colour and quality--the union of naivete and art, the refinement, the infinite delicacy and tenderness--of this little poem, then nothing will matter much to you; and if you can feel it, you can feel, without more assistance, the majesty of Chartres.

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