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"God all doth order, all doth see,
The clerk now goes away right comforted; and with a short address, by lady Philosophy, to the readers, bidding them hold the vain glory and vain pleasures of the age in light estimation, thus concludes this very pleasing poem :—
"Nor heed ye wealth, or dignity,
Appended to this manuscript are four lines, which state that the name of the writer may be found by reference to the first twenty lines of the poem ;* and we consequently find the initial letters of those lines forming the sentence—" Simun le Fresne me fistprobably the earliest instance of the acrostic.
The foregoing specimens (in all of which closeness of translation has been sought after rather than high polish) will enable the reader to judge what was the peculiar character of the tales and poems
* " Icel ki cest romanz escrist, Sun noum en tele romanz mist,
to which our forefathers at this early day listened with such delighted attention. Often trammelled by a half-formed language, and often forced to supply its deficiencies by newly derived or newly invented words, still the singular ease and grace of their versification, the absence of all pretence and affectation, and their vivid perception of the beauties of natural scenery, and the force and spirit with which their sterner scenes are drawn, all impress upon the "romanz" of the Anglo-Norman trouveres the genuine characteristics of English poetry. Standing on the vantage ground of the 19th century, and looking back through the dim vista of almost six centuries, we may yet hail these so long forgotten bards as the poet-fathers of England.
Had the trouv&res merely awakened a love of song, and a taste for the mere pleasures of society, their claim to our gratitude had not been small; but they fulfilled a higher duty; and in the moral, and in some instances the religious, instruction which they afforded, they became indeed benefactors to their race. The work which, although not equal to some of its companions in poetical merit, was the most influential of all, the "Brut d'Angleterre," peculiarly deserves this praise; for it became the exemplar of every romance of the Round Table,*
* Numbers of these followed the appearance of "le Brutand most of them are said to have been the composition of Englishmen. Lucas de Gast, lord of the castle of Cast, near Salisbury, is said to have composed a version of " Tristrem," and "Giron le Courtois." Gautier Map translated from Latin into French the " Sangreal," for "the love of his good king Henry;" he is also said to have written "Launcelot du Lac." Robert and Ilelis du Bourron also claim the authorship of "Sangreal" and " Palamedes while Helis, at the request of young and while each succeeding poet added new and beautiful fables to the original story, the character of king Arthur remained in all unaltered; and in him, and his knights, even from this period to that of the prose romances, we behold that beautiful combination of the sterner and the gentler virtues, which the chivalrous character alone can shew.
A wild and a beautiful dream was that of Arthur and his prowess, of his fancied death, but certain existence and re-appearance, wherewith the homesick exiles of Bretagne beguiled their sorrows, as they looked toward the shores of their father-land; and a beautiful, and even influential, reality it became in the hands of the poet. Invested in its garb of fictitious splendour, the obscure king of the Silures became the arbiter of every contest in the known world, and the fabled court of Caerleon became the centre—to which not only the monarchs of Christendom, but the kings of the farthest East, with the myrrh and frankincense—of admiration and homage. And with a wiser, even a moral feeling, the poet presented his shadowy hero as the very mirror of knightly virtue; the fame of Rollo grew dim before that of Arthur, who, though the sternest on the battle field, was also " meekest to poor men and the memories of Longsword and
Henry, wrote the " Morte de Tristan." "Merlin," and " le Chevalier de Lyon," were also composed about this time, but none of all these are believed to remain in their original form. They have probably formed the ground work of the prose romances. However, one "le chevalier de Lyon," which by some has been ascribed to Wace, seems to have been handed down, in an English metrical dress, as " Ywain and Gawain." This very excellent tale is in the first volume of Ritson's " Metrical Romances."
Richard Fearnought faded away, when the deeds of the minstrel Tristrem, the courteous Gawain, and the gentlest of knights, Sir Launcelot, were sung.
But, politically considered, even more influential was "Le Brut d'Angleterre," and its host of knightly romances. From the moment that the deeds of Arthur, and his all unrivalled chivalry, were sung in the hall of the Anglo-Norman baron, the bond which attached him to Normandy was snapped asunder. Caerleon, Camelot, Tintagel, Avalon, each hallowed by the brilliant dreams of romance, became the objects of his eager worship, the scenes of his enthusiastic pilgrimage. Each spot of English ground received a consecration, unknown to the cities and plains of Normandy, and henceforth proudly boasting his British origin, the Anglo-Norman knight advanced his banner, and set lance in rest, but to maintain the glory of his adopted land, the native land of king Arthur.
ISABEL OF ANGOULESME.
Parentage of Isabel—Her Marriage with John—Her Dower—Queen's Gold—General Panic at the commencement of the Thirteenth Century —John's " Ways and Means "—Innocent's Letter—The Interdict—Its Effects—His Encouragement of the Navy—Old London Bridge— Magna Charta—Royal Treasure—Death of John—Isabel's second Marriage — Contests respecting her Dower — Treachery of de la Marche—Her Flight to Fontevraud, and Death.
INTERESTING, and most important in a political point of view, as the events of this reign must be considered,—in details relating to the progress of society, of the arts, or of literature, it will be found to be singularly deficient. Of the queen, too, whose name gives the title to this chapter, very few notices, either of the earlier or later portion of her life, can be collected; while, during the comparatively short period in which she wore the crown as queen consort, scarcely a passing notice respecting her can be found.
Isabel of Angoulesme was the only child of Aimar earl of Angoulesme, and Alix de Courtenay; and the circumstances under which, at a very early age, she became queen of England, are creditable neither to her father nor to her future husband. One of the first acts of John, on his accession, was to annul