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,
"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.

Eleanor came to Paris, a Queen of fifteen years old, in 1137, bringing Poitiers and Guienne as the greatest dowry ever offered to the French Crown. She brought also the tastes and manners of the South, little in harmony with the tastes and manners of Saint Bernard whose authority at court rivalled her own. The Abbe Suger supported her, but the King leaned toward the Abbe Bernard. What this puritan reaction meant is a matter to be studied by itself, if one can find a cloister to study in; but it bore the mark of most puritan reactions in its hostility to women. As long as the woman remained docile, she ruled, through the Church; but the man feared her and was jealous of her, and she of him. Bernard specially adored the Virgin because she was an example of docile obedience to the Trinity who atoned for the indocility of Eve, but Eve herself remained the instrument of Satan, and French society as a whole showed a taste for Eves.

[Genealogical chart showing the relationships among the three queens.]

Eleanor could hardly be called docile. Whatever else she loved, she certainly loved rule. She shared this passion to the full with her only great successor and rival on the English throne, Queen Elizabeth, and she happened to become Queen of France at the moment when society was turning from worship of its military ideal, Saint Michael, to worship of its social ideal, the Virgin. According to the monk Orderic, men had begun to throw aside their old military dress and manners even before the first crusade, in the days of William Rufus (1087-1100), and to affect feminine fashions. In all ages, priests and monks have denounced the growing vices of society, with more or less reason; but there seems to have been a real outbreak of display at about the time of the first crusade, which set a deep mark on every sort of social expression, even down to the shoes of the statues on the western portal of Chartres:--

A debauched fellow named Robert [said Orderic] was the first, about the time of William Rufus, who introduced the practice of filling the long points of the shoes with tow, and of turning them up like a ram's horn. Hence he got the surname of Cornard; and this absurd fashion was speedily adopted by great numbers of the nobility as a proud distinction and sign of merit. At this time effeminacy was the prevailing vice throughout the world ... They parted their hair from the crown of the head on each side of the forehead, and their locks grew long like women, and wore long shirts and tunics, closely tied with points ... In our days, ancient customs are almost all changed for new fashions. Our wanton youths are sunk in effeminacy ... They insert their toes in things like serpents' tails which present to view the shape of scorpions. Sweeping the dusty ground with the prodigious trains of their robes and mantles, they cover their hands with gloves ...

If you are curious to follow these monkish criticisms on your ancestors' habits, you can read Orderic at your leisure; but you want only to carry in mind the fact that the generation of warriors who fought at Hastings and captured Jerusalem were regarded by themselves as effeminate, and plunged in luxury. "Their locks are curled with hot irons, and instead of wearing caps, they bind their heads with fillets. A knight seldom appears in public with his head uncovered and properly shaved according to the apostolic precept." The effeminacy of the first crusade took artistic shape in the west portal of Chartres and the glass of Saint-Denis, and led instantly to the puritan reaction of Saint Bernard, followed by the gentle asceticism of Queen Blanche and Saint Louis. Whether the pilgrimages to Jerusalem and contact with the East were the cause or only a consequence of this revolution, or whether it was all one,--a result of converting the Northern pagans to peaceful habits and the consequent enrichment of northern Europe,--is indifferent; the fact and the date are enough. The art is French, but the ideas may have come from anywhere, like the game of chess which the pilgrims or crusaders brought home from Syria. In the Oriental game, the King was followed step by step by a Minister whose functions were personal. The crusaders freed the piece from control; gave it liberty to move up or down or diagonally, forwards and backwards; made it the most arbitrary and formidable champion on the board, while the King and the Knight were the most restricted in movement; and this piece they named Queen, and called the Virgin:--

      Li Baudrains traist sa fierge por son paon sauver,
      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":--

Diabolus. Jo vi Adam mais trop est fols.

Eva. Un poi est durs.

Diabolus. Il serra mols. Il est plus durs qui n'est enfers.

Eva. Il est mult francs.

Diabolus. Ainz est mult sers.
Cure ne volt prendre de sei
Car la prenge sevals de tei.
Tu es fieblette et tendre chose
E es plus fresche que n'est rose.
Tu es plus blanche que crystal
Que neif que chiet sor glace en val.
Mal cuple en fist li Criatur.
Tu es trop tendre e il trop dur.
Mais neporquant tu es plus sage
En grant sens as mis tun corrage
For co fait bon traire a tei.
Parler te voil.

Eva. Ore ja fai.

Devil. Adam I've seen, but he's too rough.

Eve. A little hard!

Devil. He'll soon be soft enough! Harder than hell he is till now.

Eve. He's very frank!

Devil. Say very low!
To help himself he does not care;
The helping you shall be my share;
For you are tender, gentle, true,
The rose is not so fresh as you;
Whiter than crystal, or than snow
That falls from heaven on ice below.
A sorry mixture God has brewed,
You too tender, he too rude.
But you have much the greater sense,
Your will is all intelligence.
Therefore it is I turn to you.
I want to tell you--

Eve. Do it now!

The woman's greater intelligence was to blame for Adam's fall. Eve was justly punished because she should have known better, while Adam, as the Devil truly said, was a dull animal, hardly worth the trouble of deceiving. Adam was disloyal, too, untrue to his wife after being untrue to his Creator:--

La femme que tu me donas
Ele fist prime icest trespass
Donat le mei e jo mangai.
Or mest vis tornez est a gwai
Mal acontai icest manger.
Jo ai mesfait par ma moiller.

The woman that you made me take
First led me into this mistake.
She gave the apple that I ate
And brought me to this evil state.
Badly for me it turned, I own,
But all the fault is hers alone.

The audience accepted this as natural and proper. They recognized the man as, of course, stupid, cowardly, and traitorous. The men of the baser sort revenged themselves by boorishness that passed with them for wit in the taverns of Arras, but the poets of the higher class commonly took sides with the women. Even Chaucer, who lived after the glamour had faded, and who satirized women to satiety, told their tale in his "Legend of Good Women," with evident sympathy. To him, also, the ordinary man was inferior,--stupid, brutal, and untrue. "Full brittle is the truest," he said:--

For well I wote that Christ himself telleth
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.

Neither brutality nor wit helped the man much. Even Bluebeard in the end fell a victim to the superior qualities of his last wife, and Scheherazade's wit alone has preserved the memory of her royal husband. The tradition of thirteenth-century society still rules the French stage. The struggle between two strong-willed women to conrol one weak-willed man is the usual motive of the French drama in the nineteenth century, as it was the whole motive of Partenopeus of Blois, one of the best twelfth-century romans; and Joinville described it, in the middle of the thirteenth, as the leading motive in the court of Saint Louis, with Queen Blanche and Queen Margaret for players, and Saint Louis himself for pawn.

One has only to look at the common, so-called Elzevirian, volume of thirteenth-century nouvelles to see the Frenchman as he saw himself. The story of "La Comtesse de Ponthieu" is the more Shakespearean, but "La Belle Jehanne" is the more natural and lifelike. The plot is the common masculine intrigue against the woman, which was used over and over again before Shakespeare appropriated it in "Much Ado"; but its French development is rather in the line of "All's Well." The fair Jeanne, married to a penniless knight, not at all by her choice, but only because he was a favourite of her father's, was a woman of the true twelfth-century type. She broke the head of the traitor, and when he, with his masculine falseness, caused her husband to desert her, she disguised herself as a squire and followed Sir Robert to Marseilles in search of service in war, for the poor knight could get no other means of livelihood. Robert was the husband, and the wife, in entering his service as squire without pay, called herself John:--

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"

And the next day John sold their two horse for ten pounds, and bought his wheat and had it ground, and bought baskets, and began to make French bread so good and so well made that he sold more of it than the two best bakers in the city, and made so much within two years that he had a good hundred pound property Then he said to his lord "I advise our hiring a very large house, and I will buy wine and will keep lodgings for good society

"John," said Sir Robert, "do what you please, for I grant it, and am greatly pleased with you."

John hired a large and fine house and lodged the best people and gained a great plenty, and dressed his master handsomely and richly, and Sir Robert kept his palfrey and went out to eat and drink with the best people of the city, and John sent them such wines and food that all his companions marvelled at it. He made so much that within four years he gained more than three hundred pounds in money besides clothes, etc, well worth fifty.

The docile obedience of the man to the woman seemed as reasonable to the thirteenth century as the devotion of the woman to the man, not because she loved him, for there was no question of love, but because he was HER man, and she owned him as though he were child. The tale went on to develop her character always in the same sense. When she was ready, Jeanne broke up the establishment at Marseilles, brought her husband back to Hainault, and made him, without knowing her object, kill the traitor and redress her wrongs. Then after seven years' patient waiting, she revealed herself and resumed her place.

If you care to see the same type developed to its highest capacity, go to the theatre the first time some ambitious actress attempts the part of Lady Macbeth. Shakespeare realized the thirteenth-century woman more vividly than the thirteenth-century poets ever did; but that is no new thing to say of Shakespeare. The author of "La Comtesse de Ponthieu" made no bad sketch of the character. These are fictions, but the Chronicles contain the names of women by scores who were the originals of the sketch. The society which Orderic described in Normandy--the generation of the first crusade--produced a great variety of Lady Macbeths. In the country of Evreux, about 1100, Orderic says that "a worse than civil war was waged between two powerful brothers, and the mischief was fomented by the spiteful jealousy of their haughty wives. The Countess Havise of Evreux took offence at some taunts uttered by Isabel de Conches,--wife of Ralph, the Seigneur of Conches, some ten miles from Evreux,--and used all her influence with her husband, Count William, and his barons, to make trouble ... Both the ladies who stirred up these fierce enmities were great talkers and spirited as well as handsome; they ruled their husbands, oppressed their vassals, and inspired terror in various ways. But still their characters were very different. Havise had wit and eloquence, but she was cruel and avaricious. Isabel was generous, enterprising, and gay, so that she was beloved and esteemed by those about her. She rode in knight's armour when her vassals were called to war, and showed as much daring among men- at-arms and mounted knights as Camilla ..." More than three hundred years afterwards, far off in the Vosges, from a village never heard of, appeared a common peasant of seventeen years old, a girl without birth, education, wealth, or claim of any sort to consideration, who made her way to Chinon and claimed from Charles VII a commission to lead his army against the English. Neither the king nor the court had faith in her, and yet the commission was given, and the rank- and-file showed again that the true Frenchman had more confidence in the woman than in the man, no matter what the gossips might say. No one was surprised when Jeanne did what she promised, or when the men burned her for doing it. There were Jeannes in every village. Ridicule was powerless against them. Even Voltaire became what the French call frankly "bete," in trying it.

Eleanor of Guienne was the greatest of all Frenchwomen. Her decision was law, whether in Bordeaux or Poitiers, in Paris or in Palestine, in London or in Normandy; in the court of Louis VII, or in that of Henry II, or in her own Court of Love. For fifteen years she was Queen of France; for fifty she was Queen in England; for eighty or thereabouts she was equivalent to Queen over Guienne. No other Frenchwoman ever had such rule. Unfortunately, as Queen of France, she struck against an authority greater than her own, that of Saint Bernard, and after combating it, with Suger's help, from 1137 until 1152, the monk at last gained such mastery that Eleanor quitted the country and Suger died. She was not a person to accept defeat. She royally divorced her husband and went back to her own kingdom of Guienne. Neither Louis nor Bernard dared to stop her, or to hold her territories from her, but they put the best face they could on their defeat by proclaiming her as a person of irregular conduct. The irregularity would not have stood in their way, if they had dared to stand in hers, but Louis was much the weaker, and made himself weaker still by allowing her to leave him for the sake of Henry of Anjou, a story of a sort that rarely raised the respect in which French kings were held by French society. Probably politics had more to do with the matter than personal attachments, for Eleanor was a great ruler, the equal of any ordinary king, and more powerful than most kings living in 1152. If she deserted France in order to join the enemies of France, she had serious reasons besides love for young Henry of Anjou; but in any case she did, as usual, what pleased her, and forced Louis to pronounce the divorce at a council held at Beaugency, March 18, 1152, on the usual pretext of relationship. The humours of the twelfth century were Shakespearean. Eleanor, having obtained her divorce at Beaugency, to the deep regret of all Frenchmen, started at once for Poitiers, knowing how unsafe she was in any territory but her own. Beaugency is on the Loire, between Orleans and Blois, and Eleanor's first night was at Blois, or should have been; but she was told, on arriving, that Count Thibaut of Blois, undeterred by King Louis's experience, was making plans to detain her, with perfectly honourable views of marriage; and, as she seems at least not to have been in love with Thibaut, she was obliged to depart at once, in the night, to Tours. A night journey on horseback from Blois to Tours in the middle of March can have been no pleasure-trip, even in 1152; but, on arriving at Tours in the morning, Eleanor found that her lovers were still so dangerously near that she set forward at once on the road to Poitiers. As she approached her own territory she learned that Geoffrey of Anjou, the younger brother of her intended husband, was waiting for her at the border, with views of marriage as strictly honourable as those of all the others. She was driven to take another road, and at last got safe to Poitiers.

About no figure in the Middle Ages, man or woman, did so many legends grow, and with such freedom, as about Eleanor, whose strength appealed to French sympathies and whose adventures appealed to their imagination. They never forgave Louis for letting her go. They delighted to be told that in Palestine she had carried on relations of the most improper character, now with a Saracen slave of great beauty; now with Raymond of Poitiers, her uncle, the handsomest man of his time; now with Saladin himself; and, as all this occurred at Antioch in 1147 or 1148, they could not explain why her husband should have waited until 1152 in order to express his unwilling disapproval; but they quoted with evident sympathy a remark attributed to her that she thought she had married a king, and found she had married a monk. To the Frenchman, Eleanor remained always sympathetic, which is the more significant because, in English tradition, her character suffered a violent and incredible change. Although English history has lavished on Eleanor somewhat more than her due share of conventional moral reproof, considering that, from the moment she married Henry of Anjou, May 18, 1152, she was never charged with a breath of scandal, it atoned for her want of wickedness by French standards, in the usual manner of historians, by inventing traits which reflected the moral standards of England. Tradition converted her into the fairy-book type of feminine jealousy and invented for her the legend of the Fair Rosamund and the poison of toads.

For us, both legends are true. They reflected, not perhaps the character of Eleanor, but what the society liked to see acted on its theatre of life. Eleanor's real nature in no way concerns us. The single fact worth remembering was that she had two daughters by Louis VII, as shown in the table; who, in due time, married--Mary, in 1164, married Henry, the great Count of Champagne; Alix, at the same time, became Countess of Chartres by marriage with Thibaut, who had driven her mother from Blois in 1152 by his marital intentions. Henry and Thibaut were brothers whose sister Alix had married Louis VII in 1160, eight years after the divorce. The relations thus created were fantastic, especially for Queen Eleanor, who, besides her two French daughters, had eight children as Queen of England. Her second son, Richard Coeur-de-Lion, born in 1157, was affianced in 1174 to a daughter of Louis VII and Alix, a child only six years old, who was sent to England to be brought up as future queen. This was certainly Eleanor's doing, and equally certain was it that the child came to no good in the English court. The historians, by exception, have not charged this crime to Queen Eleanor; they charged it to Eleanor's husband, who passed most of his life in crossing his wife's political plans; but with politics we want as little as possible to do. We are concerned with the artistic and social side of life, and have only to notice the coincidence that while the Virgin was miraculously using the power of spiritual love to elevate and purify the people, Eleanor and her daughters were using the power of earthly love to discipline and refine the courts. Side by side with the crude realities about them, they insisted on teaching and enforcing an ideal that contradicted the realities, and had no value for them or for us except in the contradiction.

The ideals of Eleanor and her daughter Mary of Champagne were a form of religion, and if you care to see its evangels, you had best go directly to Dante and Petrarch, or, if you like it better, to Don Quixote de la Mancha. The religion is dead as Demeter, and its art alone survives as, on the whole, the highest expression of man's thought or emotion; but in its day it was almost as practical as it now is fanciful. Eleanor and her daughter Mary and her granddaughter Blanche knew as well as Saint Bernard did, or Saint Francis, what a brute the emancipated man could be; and as though they foresaw the society of the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries, they used every terror they could invent, as well as every tenderness they could invoke, to tame the beasts around them. Their charge was of manners, and, to teach manners, they made a school which they called their Court of Love, with a code of law to which they gave the name of "courteous love." The decisions of this court were recorded, like the decisions of a modern bench, under the names of the great ladies who made them, and were enforced by the ladies of good society for whose guidance they were made. They are worth reading, and any one who likes may read them to this day, with considerable scepticism about their genuineness. The doubt is only ignorance. We do not, and never can, know the twelfth-century woman, or, for that matter, any other woman, but we do know the literature she created; we know the art she lived in, and the religion she professed. We can collect from them some idea why the Virgin Mary ruled, and what she was taken to be, by the world which worshipped her.

Mary of Champagne created the literature of courteous love. She must have been about twenty years old when she married Count Henry and went to live at Troyes, not actually a queen in title, but certainly a queen in social influence. In 1164, Champagne was a powerful country, and Troyes a centre of taste. In Normandy, at the same date, William of Saint Pair and Wace were writing the poetry we know. In Champagne the court poet was Christian of Troyes, whose poems were new when the churches of Noyon and Senlis and Saint Leu d'Esserent, and the fleche of Chartres, and the Leaning Tower of Pisa, were building, at the same time with the Abbey of Vezelay, and before the church at Mantes. Christian died not long after 1175, leaving a great mass of verse, much of which has survived, and which you can read more easily than you can read Dante or Petrarch, although both are almost modern compared with Christian. The quality of this verse is something like the quality of the glass windows-- conventional decoration; colours in conventional harmonies; refinement, restraint, and feminine delicacy of taste. Christian has not the grand manner of the eleventh century, and never recalls the masculine strength of the "Chanson de Roland" or "Raoul de Cambrai." Even his most charming story, "Erec et Enide," carries chiefly a moral of courtesy. His is poet-laureate's work, says M. Gaston Paris; the flower of a twelfth-century court and of twelfth-century French; the best example of an admirable language; but not lyric; neither strong, nor deep, nor deeply felt. What we call tragedy is unknown to it. Christian's world is sky-blue and rose, with only enough red to give it warmth, and so flooded with light that even its mysteries count only by the clearness with which they are shown.

Among other great works, before Mary of France came to Troyes Christian had, toward 1160, written a "Tristan," which is lost. Mary herself, he says, gave him the subject of "Lancelot," with the request or order to make it a lesson of "courteous love," which he obeyed. Courtesy has lost its meaning as well as its charm, and you might find the "Chevalier de la Charette" even more unintelligible than tiresome; but its influence was great in its day, and the lesson of courteous love, under the authority of Mary of Champagne, lasted for centuries as the standard of taste. "Lancelot" was never finished, but later, not long after 1174, Christian wrote a "Perceval," or "Conte du Graal," which must also have been intended to please Mary, and which is interesting because, while the "Lancelot" gave the twelfth-century idea of courteous love, the "Perceval" gave the twelfth-century idea of religious mystery. Mary was certainly concerned with both. "It is for this same Mary," says Gaston Paris, "that Walter of Arras undertook his poem of 'Eracle'; she was the object of the songs of the troubadours as well as of their French imitators; for her use also she caused the translations of books of piety like Genesis, or the paraphrase at great length, in verse, of the psalm 'Eructavit.'"

With her theories of courteous love, every one is more or less familiar if only from the ridicule of Cervantes and the follies of Quixote, who, though four hundred years younger, was Lancelot's child; but we never can know how far she took herself and her laws of love seriously, and to speculate on so deep a subject as her seriousness is worse than useless, since she would herself have been as uncertain as her lovers were. Visionary as the courtesy was, the Holy Grail was as practical as any bric-a-brac that has survived of the time. The mystery of Perceval is like that of the Gothic cathedral, illuminated by floods of light, and enlivened by rivers of colour. Unfortunately Christian never told what he meant by the fragment, itself a mystery, in which he narrated the story of the knight who saw the Holy Grail, because the knight, who was warned, as usual, to ask no questions, for once, unlike most knights, obeyed the warning when he should have disregarded it. As knights-errant necessarily did the wrong thing in order to make their adventures possible, Perceval's error cannot be in itself mysterious, nor was the castle in any way mysterious where the miracle occurred, It appeared to him to be the usual castle, and he saw nothing unusual in the manner of his reception by the usual old lord, or in the fact that both seated themselves quite simply before the hall-fire with the usual household. Then, as though it were an everyday habit, the Holy Grail was brought in (Bartsch, "Chrestomathie," 183-85, ed. 1895):--

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.

The simplicity of this narration gives a certain dramatic effect to the mystery, like seeing a ghost in full daylight, but Christian carried simplicity further still. He seemed either to feel, or to want others to feel, the reality of the adventure and the miracle, and he followed up the appearance of the graal by a solid meal in the style of the twelfth century, such as one expects to find in "Ivanhoe" or the "Talisman." The knight sat down with his host to the best dinner that the county of Champagne afforded, and they ate their haunch of venison with the graal in full view. They drank their Champagne wine of various sorts, out of gold cups:--

Vins clers ne raspez ne lor faut
A copes dorees a boivre;

they sat before the fire and talked till bedtime, when the squires made up the beds in the hall, and brought in supper--dates, figs, nutmegs, spices, pomegranates, and at last lectuaries, suspiciously like what we call jams; and "alexandrine gingerbread"; after which they drank various drinks, with or without spice or honey or pepper; and old moret, which is thought to be mulberry wine, but which generally went with clairet, a colourless grape-juice, or piment. At least, here are the lines, and one may translate them to suit one's self:--

Et li vaslet aparellierent
Les lis et le fruit au colchier
Que il en i ot de moult chier,
Dates, figues, et nois mugates,
Girofles et pomes de grenates,
Et leituaires an la fin,
Et gingenbret alixandrin.
Apres ce burent de maint boivre,
Piment ou n'ot ne miel ne poivre
Et viez more et cler sirop.

The twelfth century had the child's love of sweets and spices and preserved fruits, and drinks sweetened or spiced, whether they were taken for supper or for poetry; the true knight's palate was fresh and his appetite excellent either for sweets or verses or love; the world was young then; Robin Hoods lived in every forest, and Richard Coeur-de-Lion was not yet twenty years old. The pleasant adventures of Robin Hood were real, as you can read in the stories of a dozen outlaws, and men troubled themselves about pain and death much as healthy bears did, in the mountains. Life had miseries enough, but few shadows deeper than those of the imaginative lover, or the terrors of ghosts at night. Men's imaginations ran riot, but did not keep them awake; at least, neither the preserved fruits nor the mulberry wine nor the clear syrup nor the gingerbread nor the Holy Graal kept Perceval awake, but he slept the sound and healthy sleep of youth, and when he woke the next morning, he felt only a mild surprise to find that his host and household had disappeared, leaving him to ride away without farewell, breakfast, or Graal.

Christian wrote about Perceval in 1174 in the same spirit in which the workmen in glass, thirty years later, told the story of Charlemagne. One artist worked for Mary of Champagne; the others for Mary of Chartres, commonly know as the Virgin; but all did their work in good faith, with the first, fresh, easy instinct of colour, light, and line. Neither of the two Maries was mystical, in a modern sense; none of the artists was oppressed by the burden of doubt; their scepticism was as childlike as faith. If one has to make an exception, perhaps the passion of love was more serious than that of religion, and gave to religion the deepest emotion, and the most complicated one, which society knew. Love was certainly a passion; and even more certainly it was, as seen in poets like Dante and Petrarch,--in romans like "Lancelot" and "Aucassin,"--in ideals like the Virgin,--complicated beyond modern conception. For this reason the loss of Christian's "Tristan" makes a terrible gap in art, for Christian's poem would have given the first and best idea of what led to courteous love. The "Tristan" was written before 1160, and belonged to the cycle of Queen Eleanor of England rather than to that of her daughter Mary of Troyes; but the subject was one neither of courtesy nor of France; it belonged to an age far behind the eleventh century, or even the tenth, or indeed any century within the range of French history; and it was as little fitted for Christian's way of treatment as for any avowed burlesque. The original Tristan--critics say--was not French, and neither Tristan nor Isolde had ever a drop of French blood in their veins. In their form as Christian received it, they were Celts or Scots; they came from Brittany, Wales, Ireland, the northern ocean, or farther still. Behind the Welsh Tristan, which passed probably through England to Normandy and thence to France and Champagne, critics detect a far more ancient figure living in a form of society that France could not remember ever to have known. King Marc was a tribal chief of the Stone Age whose subjects loved the forest and lived on the sea or in caves; King Marc's royal hall was a common shelter on the banks of a stream, where every one was at home, and king, queen, knights, attendants, and dwarf slept on the floor, on beds laid down where they pleased; Tristan's weapons were the bow and stone knife; he never saw a horse or a spear; his ideas of loyalty and Isolde's ideas of marriage were as vague as Marc's royal authority; and all were alike unconscious of law, chivalry, or church. The note they sang was more unlike the note of Christian, if possible, than that of Richard Wagner; it was the simplest expression of rude and primitive love, as one could perhaps find it among North American Indians, though hardly so defiant even there, and certainly in the Icelandic Sagas hardly so lawless; but it was a note of real passion, and touched the deepest chords of sympathy in the artificial society of the twelfth century, as it did in that of the nineteenth. The task of the French poet was to tone it down and give it the fashionable dress, the pointed shoes and long sleeves, of the time. "The Frenchman," says Gaston Paris, "is specially interested in making his story entertaining for the society it is meant for; he is 'social'; that is, of the world; he smiles at the adventures he tells, and delicately lets you see that he is not their dupe; he exerts himself to give to his style a constant elegance, a uniform polish, in which a few neatly turned, clever phrases sparkle here and there; above all, he wants to please, and thinks of his audience more than of his subject."

In the twelfth century he wanted chiefly to please women, as Orderic complained; Isolde came out of Brittany to meet Eleanor coming up from Guienne, and the Virgin from the east; and all united in giving law to society. In each case it was the woman, not the man, who gave the law;--it was Mary, not the Trinity; Eleanor, not Louis VII; Isolde, not Tristan. No doubt, the original Tristan had given the law like Roland or Achilles, but the twelfth-century Tristan was a comparatively poor creature. He was in his way a secondary figure in the romance, as Louis VII was to Eleanor and Abelard to Heloise. Every one knows how, about twenty years before Eleanor came to Paris, the poet-professor Abelard, the hero of the Latin Quarter, had sung to Heloise those songs which--he tells us--resounded through Europe as widely as his scholastic fame, and probably to more effect for his renown. In popular notions Heloise was Isolde, and would in a moment have done what Isolde did (Bartsch, 107-08):--

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.

At any time of her life, Heloise would have defied society or church, and would--at least in the public's fancy--have taken Abelard by the hand and gone off to the forest much more readily than she went to the cloister; but Abelard would have made a poor figure as Tristan. Abelard and Christian of Troyes were as remote as we are from the legendary Tristan; but Isolde and Heloise, Eleanor and Mary were the immortal and eternal woman. The legend of Isolde, both in the earlier and the later version, seems to have served as a sacred book to the women of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, and Christian's Isolde surely helped Mary in giving law to the Court of Troyes and decisions in the Court of Love.

Countess Mary's authority lasted from 1164 to 1198, thirty-four years, during which, at uncertain intervals, glimpses of her influence flash out in poetry rather than in prose. Christian began his "Roman de la Charette" by invoking her:--

Puisque ma dame de Chanpaigne
Vialt que romans a faire anpraigne

Si deist et jel tesmoignasse
Que ce est la dame qui passe
Totes celes qui sont vivanz
Si con li funs passe les vanz
Qui vante en Mai ou en Avril

Dirai je: tant com une jame
Vaut de pailes et de sardines
Vaut la contesse de reines?

Christian chose curious similes. His dame surpassed all living rivals as smoke passes the winds that blow in May; or as much as a gem would buy of straws and sardines is the Countess worth in queens. Louis XIV would have thought that Christian might be laughing at him, but court styles changed with their masters. Louis XIV would scarcely have written a prison-song to his sister such as Richard Coeur-de-Lion wrote to Mary of Champagne:--

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!

Richard's prison-song, one of the chief monuments of English literature, sounds to every ear, accustomed to twelfth-century verse, as charming as when it was household rhyme to

mi ome et mi baron
Englois, Normant, Poitevin et Gascon.

Not only was Richard a far greater king than any Louis ever was, but he also composed better poetry than any other king who is known to tourists, and, when he spoke to his sister in this cry of the heart altogether singular among monarchs, he made law and style, above discussion. Whether he meant to reproach his other sister, Alix of Chartres, historians may tell, if they know. If he did, the reproach answered its purpose, for the song was written in 1193; Richard was ransomed and released in 1194; and in 1198 the young Count "Loweis" of Chartres and Blois leagued with the Counts of Flanders, Le Perche, Guines, and Toulouse, against Philip Augustus, in favor of Coeur-de-Lion to whom they rendered homage. In any case, neither Mary nor Alice in 1193 was reigning Countess. Mary was a widow since 1181, and her son Henry was Count in Champagne, apparently a great favourite with his uncle Richard Coeur-de-Lion. The life of this Henry of Champagne was another twelfth-century romance, but can serve no purpose here except to recall the story that his mother, the great Countess Mary, died in 1198 of sorrow for the death of this son, who was then King of Jerusalem, and was killed, in 1197, by a fall from the window of his palace at Acre. Coeur-de-Lion died in 1199. In 1201, Mary's other son, who succeeded Henry,--Count Thibaut III,--died, leaving a posthumous heir, famous in the thirteenth century as Thibaut-le-Grand--the Thibaut of Queen Blanche.

They were all astonishing--men and women--and filled the world, for two hundred years, with their extraordinary energy and genius; but the greatest of all was old Queen Eleanor, who survived her son Coeur-de-Lion, as well as her two husbands,--Louis-le-Jeune and Henry II Plantagenet,--and was left in 1200 still struggling to repair the evils and fend off the dangers they caused. "Queen by the wrath of God," she called herself, and she knew what just claim she had to the rank. Of her two husbands and ten children, little remained except her son John, who, by the unanimous voice of his family, his friends, his enemies, and even his admirers, achieved a reputation for excelling in every form of twelfth-century crime. He was a liar and a traitor, as was not uncommon, but he was thought to be also a coward, which, in that family, was singular. Some redeeming quality he must have had, but none is recorded. His mother saw him running, in his masculine, twelfth-century recklessness, to destruction, and she made a last and a characteristic effort to save him and Guienne by a treaty of amity with the French king, to be secured by the marriage of the heir of France, Louis, to Eleanor's granddaughter, John's niece, Blanche of Castile, then twelve or thirteen years old. Eleanor herself was eighty, and yet she made the journey to Spain, brought back the child to Bordeaux, affianced her to Louis VIII as she had herself been affianced in 1137 to Louis VII, and in May, 1200, saw her married. The French had then given up their conventional trick of attributing Eleanor's acts to her want of morals; and France gave her--as to most women after sixty years old--the benefit of the convention which made women respectable after they had lost the opportunity to be vicious. In French eyes, Eleanor played out the drama according to the rules. She could not save John, but she died in 1202, before his ruin, and you can still see her lying with her husband and her son Richard at Fontevrault in her twelfth-century tomb.

In 1223, Blanche became Queen of France. She was thirty-six years old. Her husband, Louis VIII, was ambitious to rival his father, Philip Augustus, who had seized Normandy in 1203. Louis undertook to seize Toulouse and Avignon. In 1225, he set out with a large army in which, among the chief vassals, his cousin Thibaut of Champagne led a contingent. Thibaut was five-and-twenty years old, and, like Pierre de Dreux, then Duke of Brittany, was one of the most brilliant and versatile men of his time, and one of the greatest rulers. As royal vassal Thibaut owed forty days' service in the field; but his interests were at variance with the King's, and at the end of the term he marched home with his men, leaving the King to fall ill and die in Auvergne, November 8, 1226, and a child of ten years old to carry on the government as Louis IX.

Chartres Cathedral has already told the story twice, in stone and glass; but Thibaut does not appear there, although he saved the Queen. Some member of the royal family must be regent. Queen Blanche took the place, and of course the princes of the blood, who thought it was their right, united against her. At first, Blanche turned violently on Thibaut and forbade him to appear at the coronation at Rheims in his own territory, on November 29, as though she held him guilty of treason; but when the league of great vassals united to deprive her of the regency, she had no choice but to detach at any cost any member of the league, and Thibaut alone offered help. What price she paid him was best known to her; but what price she would be believed to have paid him was as well known to her as what had been said of her grandmother Eleanor when she changed her allegiance in 1152. If the scandal had concerned Thibaut alone, she might have been well content, but Blanche was obliged also to pay desperate court to the papal legate. Every member of her husband's family united against her and libelled her character with the freedom which enlivened and envenomed royal tongues.

Maintes paroles en dit en
Comme d'Iseult et de Tristan.

Had this been all, she would have cared no more than Eleanor or any other queen had cared, for in French drama, real or imaginary, such charges were not very serious and hardly uncomplimentary; but Iseult had never been accused, over and above her arbitrary views on the marriage-contract, of acting as an accomplice with Tristan in poisoning King Marc. French convention required that Thibaut should have poisoned Louis VIII for love of the Queen, and that this secret reciprocal love should control their lives. Fortunately for Blanche she was a devout ally of the Church, and the Church believed evil only of enemies. The legate and the prelates rallied to her support and after eight years of desperate struggle they crushed Pierre Mauclerc and saved Thibaut and Blanche.

For us the poetry is history, and the facts are false. French art starts not from facts, but from certain assumptions as conventional as a legendary window, and the commonest convention is the Woman. The fact, then as now, was Power, or its equivalent in exchange, but Frenchmen, while struggling for the Power, expressed it in terms of Art. They looked on life as a drama,--and on drama as a phase of life--in which the bystanders were bound to assume and accept the regular stage-plot. That the plot might be altogether untrue to real life affected in no way its interest. To them Thibaut and Blanche were bound to act Tristan and Isolde. Whatever they were when off the stage, they were lovers on it. Their loves were as real and as reasonable as the worship of the Virgin. Courteous love was avowedly a form of drama, but not the less a force of society. Illusion for illusion, courteous love, in Thibaut's hands, or in the hands of Dante and Petrarch, was as substantial as any other convention;--the balance of trade, the rights of man, or the Athanasian Creed. In that sense the illusions alone were real; if the Middle Ages had reflected only what was practical, nothing would have survived for us.

Thibaut was Tristan, and is said to have painted his verses on the walls of his chateau. If he did, he painted there, in the opinion of M. Gaston Paris, better poetry than any that was written on paper or parchment, for Thibaut was a great prince and great poet who did in both characters whatever he pleased. In modern equivalents, one would give much to see the chateau again with the poetry on its walls. Provins has lost the verses, but Troyes still keeps some churches and glass of Thibaut's time which hold their own with the best. Even of Thibaut himself, something survives, and though it were only the memories of his seneschal, the famous Sire de Joinville, history and France would be poor without him. With Joinville in hand, you may still pass an hour in the company of these astonishing thirteenth-century men and women:--crusaders who fight, hunt, make love, build churches, put up glass windows to the Virgin, buy missals, talk scholastic philosophy, compose poetry: Blanche, Thibaut, Perron, Joinville, Saint Louis, Saint Thomas, Saint Dominic, Saint Francis--you may know them as intimately as you can ever know a world that is lost; and in the case of Thibaut you may know more, for he is still alive in his poems; he even vibrates with life. One might try a few verses, to see what he meant by courtesy. Perhaps he wrote them for Queen Blanche, but, to whomever he sent them, the French were right in thinking that she ought to have returned his love (edition of 1742):--

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.

Does Thibaut's verse sound simple? It is the simplicity of the thirteenth-century glass--so refined and complicated that sensible people are mostly satisfied to feel, and not to understand. Any blunderer in verse, who will merely look at the rhymes of these three stanzas, will see that simplicity is about as much concerned there as it is with the windows of Chartres; the verses are as perfect as the colours, and the versification as elaborate. These stanzas might have been addressed to Queen Blanche; now see how Thibaut kept the same tone of courteous love in addressing the Queen of Heaven!

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.