Guillaume D'Orange: Four Twelfth-Century Epics

Guillaume D'Orange: Four Twelfth-Century Epics

Guillaume D'Orange: Four Twelfth-Century Epics

Guillaume D'Orange: Four Twelfth-Century Epics

Synopsis

Guillaume d'Orange is the most extensive epic cycle of the Middle Ages. Set in the ninth century, the poems on the life of William of Orange grew out of several centuries of oral composition and were written down for the first time in the twelfth century. Changing and growing through the years, the poems reflect historical events from the ninth to the twelfth century.

Joan M. Ferrante writes in the Introduction, "History tells us little of the medieval William of Orange, but legend tells us a great deal. From the legends grew the most extensive epic cycle of the Middle Ages."

Excerpt

History tells us little of the medieval William of Orange, but legend tells us a great deal. From the legends grew the most extensive epic cycle of the Middle Ages. of the historical William we know only that he was a contemporary of Charlemagne, whom he served as a military leader and provincial administrator in the south of France, and that, towards the end of his life, he retired to a monastery. the legendary hero is the devoted protector of Charlemagne's son, Louis, a lifelong defender of the Christian faith against the Moslems of Spain, the most brilliant scion of a glittering family of heroes, and a divinely guided, if somewhat impulsive, holy man.

Not only did he inspire a complete epic biography in French— seven poems that describe his exploits from glorious youth to saintly death, and seventeen others about his ancestors and relations—but he became a popular figure in other lands as well. the German poet Wolfram von Eschenbach chose William and Perceval as the two French heroes worthy of his attention, for both achieved wordly success and then devoted their lives to God. William's fame as a fighter for Christianity was so great that Dante places him in the sphere of crusaders, beside Charlemagne and Godfrey of Boulogne (Divine Comedy, Par xviii, 46). His adventures are recounted in Italian (I Nerbonesi), in Norse (Karlamagnussaga), in Latin (Orderic Vitalis includes William's story among the lives of warrior saints, in the Historia ecclesiastica).

The adventures of the epic hero were attached very early to the saint and they are mentioned with enthusiasm in the Vita Sancti Wil- helmi (c. 1125). the heroic adventures are not related in the Vita because they do not serve the edifying purpose of the holy recital, but they are well known in any case, the author suggests:

For what kingdoms, what provinces, what peoples, what cities do not
speak of the power of Duke William, the virtue of his spirit, the

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.