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A History of French Literature by Edward Dowden

Guillaume anticipates the approaching end of the world


(1265), by Dante's master, Brunetto Latini, who wrote in French in preference to his native Italian. In it science escapes not wholly from fantasy and myth, but at least from the allegorising spirit; his ethics and rhetoric are derived from Latin originals; his politics are his own. The _Somme des Vices et des Vertus_, compiled in 1279 by Friar Lorens, is a well-composed _tresor_ of religion and morals. Part of its contents has become familiar to us through the Canterbury discourse of Chaucer's parson. The moral experience of a man of the world is summed up in the prose treatise on "The Four Ages of Man," by Philippe de Novare, chancellor of Cyprus. With this edifying work may be grouped the so-called _Chastiements_, counsels on education and conduct, designed for readers in general or for some special class--women, children, persons of knightly or of humble rank; studies of the virtues of chivalry, the rules of courtesy and of manners.[1] Other writings, the _Etats du Monde_, present a view of the various classes of society from a standpoint ethical, religious, or satirical, with warnings and exhortations, which commonly conclude with a vision of the last judgment and the pains of hell. With such a scene of terror closes the interesting _Poeme Moral_ of Etienne de Fougeres, in which the life of St. Moses, the converted robber, serves as an example to monks, and that of the converted Thais to ladies who are proud of their beauty. Its temper of moderation contrasts with the bitter satire in the _Bible_ by Guiot de Provins, and with many shorter satirical pieces directed against clerical vices or the infirmities of woman. The _Besant de Dieu_, by Guillaume le Clerc, a Norman poet (1227), preaches in verse, with eloquence and imaginative power, the love of God and contempt of the world from the texts of two Scripture parables--that of the Talents and that of the Bridegroom; Guillaume anticipates the approaching end of the world, foreshown by wars, pestilence, and famine, condemns in the spirit of Christian charity the persecution of the Albigenses, and mourns over the shame that has befallen the Holy Sepulchre.

[Footnote 1: Two works of the fourteenth century, interesting in the history of manners and ideas, may here be mentioned--the _Livre du Chevalier de la Tour-Landry_ (1372), composed for the instruction of the writer's daughters, and the _Menagier de Paris_, a treatise on domestic economy, written by a Parisian bourgeois for the use of his young wife.]

Among the preacher poets of the thirteenth century the most interesting personally is the minstrel RUTEBEUF, who towards the close of his gay though ragged life turned to serious thoughts, and expressed his penitent feelings with penetrating power. Rutebeuf, indeed--the Villon of his age--deployed his vivid and ardent powers in many directions, as a writer of song and satire, of allegory, of fabliaux, of drama. On each and all he impressed his own personality; the


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