Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

He said that Arthur's end should be

And truly saith, that still his fame
Should last, and foemen dread his name."

Although, in point of spirited description, the "Brut d'Angleterre" falls greatly below his other work, battles, which are almost as graphic as those of the

romance of" Kynge Alysaundre:"

"So each his good steed took, and then
Returned deliverly agen;
With shield at neck, and lance poized low,
No farewell took they of the foe,
But onward rushed amid the crowd.
And then the emperor cried aloud,
'What mean ye thus? behold them near;
Seize, seize your foemen.' Ye might hear
The vassal's cry,' Arm ye, arm ye !j
To horse, to horse! mount speedily;
Swift, swift, come all! ride on, ride on!
Strike, strike ere that the day be won.'
All lost in tumult was; and ye
Might in the wide confusion see,
Steeds seizing, saddles placing, then
Spears snatching, swords on-girding,
Men calling aloud, driving about:
The count, amid that furious route,
Pressed boldly on; and when he saw
These men, against all martial law,
Riding about by two and three,

De la viendra, encore poet vivre,
Meistre Wace ki fist ceste livre,
N'en volt plus dire de sa fin,
Ki en dist li prophete Merlin."

Indeed the caution which Maistre Wace displays on this and similar occasions, is quite edifying, and doubtless went far to prove him a great "philosofre" among his all-believing hearers at the court of Plantagenet.

For aye enwrapt in mystery;

there are yet some

[graphic]
[graphic]

Instead of all one company,
He clenched his fist, for wroth was he,—
And cried aloud, 4 Stay here, knights, stay!
Base churl is he who turns away/,;

Encouraged by the patronage he received, Wace, in the year 1160, set about his second work, which, it appears, was patronized by Plantagenet,—the Chronicle of the Dukes of Normandy, from the invasion of Rollo to the thirty-fourth year of Beauclerc, and which has been handed down to us under the title of the " Roman du Rou."* In this work, Wace affords us so many characteristic traits, and picturesque details, that it seems rather a collection of spirited ballads, than a metrical chronicle. The first part is composed in the fourteen syllable, or what may be called ballad measure; and ten, twenty, sometimes even a greater number of lines, present the same termination. In the following extracts, while the rhythm has been preserved, the writer has found it impossible to adopt the other peculiarity, and has therefore rhymed in couplets.

The following account, how William Long Espee was scolded into valour, is curious. He is besieged in Rouen by Rioulf:—

"Then Duke William was right sorrowful, and strenglhand power had none,

For he thought that in the battel he should well nigh stand alone; He knew not who would fight for him, or who would prove a foe: 'Why should we linger here,' quoth he, c I into France will go.'

• Some readers may probably wonder how a chronicle of past events could be called a romance. It is, therefore, as well to remark, that, at this period, the name had reference to the language in which the work was composed; the "langue Romaine," as this branch of the ancient French dialect was frequently called, and not to the subject. The poem under review is the only one of the list that has ever been printed: it was edited by M. Pluquet, and published at Rouen, in 1825.

Then said Boten—' Duke William, thou hast spoke a coward's word,
What, fly away at once? ere thou hast wielded lance or sword!
Think'st thou I ere will see thee fly? thou talk'st quite childishly,
Summon thy men, prepare for fight, and have good heart in thee;
Perjured thy foemen are, and they shall surely vanquished be/
*Boten,' said William, 6 how can I prepare me for the fight?
Rioulf can bring four well armed men, for every single wight
I can command—I sure shall die, if I against him go/
iThat thou'rt a coward,' said Boten, " St. Fiacre well doth know;
But, by the faith which firm I hold to the Son of God, I say,
Whoe'er should do as thou, deserves sound beating in the fray,
For thou wilt neither arm nor fight, but only run away.'
'Mercie!' cried William, 4 see ye not how Rioulf me sieges here?

And my perjured knights are all with him; must it not cost me dear?

And they all hate me unto death, and round encompass me;

I never can, by my soul I swear, drive them from this countrie;

I must forsake it, and to France right speedily I'll flee.'

Then spake Bernart—\Duke, know this well, we will not follow thee.

Too much of ill these men have wrought, but a day will surely come

For payment, and we'll pay them well. When erst we left our home

In Denmark, and to this land came, we gained it by our might;

But thou to arm thee art afraid, and darest not wage the fight.

Go then to France, enjoy thyself, a wretched caitiff wight;

No love of honest praise hast thou, no prayer will ere avail thee;

O wicked one! why should'st thou fear that Gcd will ever fail thee? Rollo, like bold and hardy chief, this land by his good sword won; And thou would'st do even as he did, wert thou indeed his son!'

"e Bernard/ said William, 'well methinks thou hast reviled me,
Offence enow to me hast given, enow of villainye;
But thou shalt see me bear myself even as a man right wode,
Whoe'er will come and fight with me shall see my will is good.
Boten, good friend,' said he, 6 Bernart, now list to me, I pray,
No longer hold me evil one, nor coward, from this day;
Call my men unto the battle field, I pledge my word, and know
That henceforth, for the strife of swords, ye shall not find me slow.'

"Then all did rush to arms, and all with equal spirit came;
And fully armed, thrice haughtily defiance did proclaim
To Rioulf and his vassals, who the challenge heard with glee,
And flung it back to William, who returned it joyfully.
Full harnessed was he now, and toward his foemen blithe he ran,

1God be our aid,' he shouted, and rush'd on like a giant man.— Ye never saw such heavy blows as Duke William gave that day, For when the sword was in his grasp, scant need of leech had they

Who felt its edge, and vain were lance and brand 'gainst him, I trow,
For when Duke William struck them down, joy had they never moe;
Twas blithe to see how he bore himself, like a wild bull mid the fight,
And drove his foemen left and right, all flying with sore affright,
For truly he did pay them off, and with a right good will."

The following description of the prowess of duke Richard reads not unlike some of the episodes in the venerable Chronicle of the Cid.

"Now at Rouen Richard was, and thro'the town set watch and ward, Then to the minster he repaired, and solemn service heard, When by a byeway hastily, a spy came driving on ;— Who cried to him aloud, for time for whispering it was none— 'Behold, behold, they're coming on with all their chivalry, The Germans too, in order due, all armed right gallantly, As tho' not only Rouen they'd take, but e'en all Normandie, Already are they at the walls, to withstand them quickly bown.' The Duke when he this message heard, right meekly kneeled down, And prayed the Lord our God, the son of Lady Marie, That he would guard his life, and fame, and grant him victory, And he would found at his own cost, a rich and fair abbaye— Then all his nobles rushed to arms, and cried aloud ' Dex aie.'

"The Duke had knights the very best that were in all Bretagne, And gallant ones from Paris too, and also Hugh le Maigne, And these he bad go forth against the knights of Germany, And one of his most loved barons, he bade their leader be, Who bore aloft the gonfanon, 'twas of scarlet cloth of Spain, And on their destreres bold they sat, while downward to the plain The Germans from the mountain came, with gallant speed amain (Ay, if the Germans give them fight, they will not there remain,) But many a shield will pierced be, and many a tough lance broken, And on many who blithe to the melee came, will their vengeance be ywroken.

For in warfare still the usage is, and in other things also,
Who in one fight is vanquished, from the next may victor go."Now these German knights were evermore most gallant and most
proud,

To give defiance blithe were they, tho' ne'er in vaunting loud.
And toward Rouen they drest themselves by force to enter there,
For the city seemed right good to them, and the country round most
fair,

But the Normans could not this endure, and swore with burning zeal,
That their good town theywould defend, with stout iron and with steel."Now with the Normans there came forth full many a gallant knight,
Well armed, and firm on his destrere, in readiness for the fight;
And glad were they, when in fair array the foe appeared in view,
And oft they set a turneying; but the Germans backward drew,
For turneying was not their way of fight, to them 'twas new;
So close together o'er the plain, towards the gates they prancing went.
The Normans then fled backwards, as with sore astonishment,
As they would fly away they seemed, and made a goodly feint ;—
Then those who in Rouen remained, now hurried boldly out,
And hailed their brethren in the fight with many a gladsome shout,
And flung abroad their ensigns, that their foemen might them know,
Of all the host that rushed out, not one for the fight was slow,
Then might ye see the gallant press of the Norman chivalry,
And many a shivered lance, and many a glittering brand ye'd see
Ybroke, and many a shining helm, and shields both red and brown,
And many a foaming steed rush by, with reins all trailing down;
And in the fields and highways too, lay many a brave knight dying,
Struck down by axes, and by clubs of peasant churls when flying,
For all the common folk came forth, their ready aid supplying."

The second part is in the octo-syllabic measure,—that most favourite metre of the AngloNorman trouvferes. Many portions are very spirited; the following will afford a fair specimen of the minute touches of nature which Wace so frequently gives.

"At Rouen in his park, e'en now
Duke William in his hand his bow
Already strung and bended, stood,
Taking the pastimes of the wood,
When lo! a sergeant hastily,
Who straight had come across the sea,
Drew nigh the duke. Then swiftly he
Flung to a youth who stood beside,
His bow, and led the man aside;
(For there were many folk about,
And knights and squires a numerous route),
So therefore led he him apart;—
And then the man with heavy heart,

« AnteriorContinuar »