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A History of the French Novel, Vol. 1

But from the chansons themselves


[_Here follows the noble passage above referred to between Lancelot and King Bagdemagus after the death of Meleagraunce, whose cousin Lancelot has just slain in single combat for charging him with treason. He has kept his helm on, but doffs it at the King's request._]

And when the King saw him he ran to kiss him, and began to make such joy of him as none could overgo. But Lancelot said, "Ah, Sir! for God's sake, make no joy or feast for me. Certainly you should make none, for if you knew the evil I have done you, you would hate me above all men in the world." "Oh! Lancelot," said he, "tell it me not, for I understand[57] too well what you would say; but I will know[57] nothing of it, because it might be such a thing" as would part them for ever.

FOOTNOTES:

[14] The subdivision of the _gestes_ does not matter: they were all connected closely or loosely--except the Crusading section, and even that falls under the Christian _v._ Saracen grouping if not under the Carlovingian. The real "outside" members are few, late, and in almost every case unimportant.

[15] There are comic _episodes_ elsewhere; but almost the whole of this poem turns on the _gabz_ or burlesque boasts of the paladins.--It may be wise here to anticipate an objection which may be taken to these remarks on the _chansons_. I have been asked whether I know

M. Bedier's handling of them; and, by an odd coincidence, within a few hours of the question I saw an American statement that this excellent scholar's researches "have revised our conceptions" of the matter. No one can exceed me in respect for perhaps the foremost of recent scholars in Old French. But my "conception" of the _chansons_ was formed long before he wrote, not from that of any of his predecessors, but from the _chansons_ themselves. It is therefore not subject to "revisal" except from my own re-reading, and such re-reading has only confirmed it.

[16] It is not of course intended to be preferred to the far more widely known tale in which the heroine bears the same name, and which will be mentioned below. But if it is less beautiful such beauty as it has is free from the slightest _morbidezza_.

[17] And to this introduction our dealings with it here may be confined. The accounts of the siege itself are of much less interest, especially in connection with our special subject.

[18] A sort of companion handbook to the first part of this volume will be found in the present writer's sketch of twelfth and thirteenth century European literature, under the title of _The Flourishing of Romance and the Rise of Allegory_, in Messrs. Blackwood's _Periods of European Literature_ (Edinburgh and London, 1897), and another in his _Short History of French Literature_ (Oxford, 7th ed. at press).

[19] It is scarcely rash to say that Cressid is the first representative of this dread and delightful entity, and the ancestress of all its embodiments since in fiction, as Cleopatra seems to have been in history. No doubt "it" was of the beginning, but it lacked its _vates_. Helen was different.

[20] _Faerie Queene_, v. iv. 1-20.

[21] I hope I may be allowed to emphasise the disclaimer, which I have already made more than once elsewhere, of the very slightest disrespect to this admirable scholar. The presumption and folly of such disrespect would be only inferior to its ingratitude, for the indulgence with which M. Paris consistently treated my own somewhat rash adventures in Old French was extraordinary. But as one's word is one's word so one's opinion is one's opinion.


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