BLTC Press Titles


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The Bhagavad Gita

Anonymous


Letters on the Aesthetical Education of Man

Friedrich Schiller


Tao Te Ching

Lao Tzu, James Legge (trans.)


Esoteric Buddhism

A. P. Sinnett


A primer of French literature

by Frederick Morris Warren

Excerpt:

1. Epic Poetry. Roland, a. 1060; Eoi Louis, XI c.; Pelerinage

de Charlemagne, XI c.; Charroi de Nimes, XII c.; Chevalerie Vivien, XII c.

2. Didactic Poetry. Vie de Saint Alexis, a. 1050; Vie de Saint

GrCgoire, XII c.; Voyage de Saint Brendan, a. 1125; Lapi. claries. Bestiaries. Philippe De Thaon, a. 1110-a. 1135.

3. Lyric Poetry. Cantique des Cantiques, XII c.; Romance;

Pastourelle; Chanson de croisade.

4. Drama. Latin plays. Sponsus, b. 1150.

5. Prose. Psalters of Oxford and Cambridge, a. 1100-a. 1120.

1. Origin of the National Epic. — " The French heroic epic is the product of the fusion of the Germanic spirit, in a Romance form, with the new Christian civilization of France" (G. Paris).—The ancient custom of the Germans to sing their heroes' deeds was turned to the advantage of the Roman Church as early as the baptism of Clovis. Throughout the Merovingian epoch the Latin chronicles are full of poetical allusions to the more

t

noted kings, which are evidently the echoes of popular songs both in German and Romance. The French poem, Floovent (XII c.), preserves, without doubt, the traditions concerning Dagobert (620) and his title (Chlodovinc). — Under the Carolingian dynasty existing songs were gradually transferred to Charles Martel, Pippin, and Charlemagne, and the epic material was vastly increased by their conquests. The reign of Charlemagne saw the greatest development of the national poetry. It diminished under Louis I. and his successors, and rose again under Charles the Bald, to celebrate victorious feudalism. By the middle of the tenth century the original epic matter was complete.

2. Spirit of the National Epic; Confusion of Subject. — Based on historical events (with a slight admixture of Teutonic mythology) and preserved by popular tradition, the epic poems tended to center about one person, Charlemagne — confused with Charles Martel and Charles the Bald — and to present a single theme, the struggle of Christian Europe against the Saracens — who finally included all the enemies of the Frankish monarchy. — Many songs, however, remained independent. These generally extol local heroes and wars, either against the sovereign or between vassals. Some are popular stories of adventure or are made up by the minstrels on epic commonplaces.

3. The Minstrels; Divisions of the National Epic. — The songs at their beginnings were by eye-witnesses of the events, and lyric. As the events receded they became more and more narrative and finally fell into the hands of professional singers, the jongleurs. Traveling from place to place, already in the ninth century they amalgamated and fused the numerous local traditions, developing and increasing their material. — The various chansons de geste they thus formed (sung to the vielle) they tried to separate into three cycles—the Cycle of the King, relating, the. deeds of the royal family and the national wars; the Cycle of Garin de Monglane, called also of Guillaume d'Orange, or of Guillaume au Court Nez, which recounts the struggle in Southern France against the Saracens; and the Cycle of Doon de Mayence, in which the vassals overcome the monarch. — Including independent poems, the total number of epic songs still extant is about one hundred, while others are preserved in translations.

4. Cycle of the King. — The three oldest epic poems (1050-1100), and the only ones in the first finished form, belong to the cycle of the King. — Roland, the earliest and most celebrated, having some four thousand decasyllabic verses grouped in assonanced tirades, is founded on the Spanish war of Charlemagne. In the year 778 his rear-guard was cut to pieces by the Basques at Roncesvalles, and Roland, count of the Breton Marches, killed. The song in his honor, expanding in true epic style, made him the nephew of Charlemagne, changed the Basques into Saracens, and explained the defeat by the treason of a Frankish ambassador, Ganelon. With Roland die his friend, Oliver, the archbishop Turpin, and the remaining Paladins. Various portents and marvels accompany the fight. Charlemagne returns to punish the enemy, and Ganelon is put to death. —The poem presents the feudal ideal in its loyalty, its sense of honor and of religious duty. Pathetic incidents are not wanting. Patriotism is seen in the invocations of "dulce France."— The epic spirit is shown in the use of dialogue, in the action before the eyes, in the frequent repetitions. The style is simple, energetic, noble, but scarcely poetical. The success of the poem was immediate and extensive, as is seen by the German translation of Konrad (a. 1133). — The Roi Louis is a fragment of some six hundred and sixty assonanced octosyllabic verses. It has its origin in the victory of Louis III. over the Normans (here Saracens), at Saucourt (881) (the German Ludwigslied). A traitor is introduced. — The Pelerinage de Charlemagne, composed of about eight hundred and seventy verses of twelve syllables, — the earliest example of the Alexandrine, — is rather mock-heroic. It is made up of separate traditions devoid of historical basis. The Teutonic love for stories (gab) is shown, and the introduction is borrowed from an Eastern tale. The object of the poem is to amuse the crowd at the Lendit fair at Saint-Denis, and to magnify the relics of the abbey. Half serious, half comic, it has little of the spirit of Roland, but much of the later gaulois fableaux.


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