The Oxford Book of French Verse: XIIIth - XIXth Century

The Oxford Book of French Verse: XIIIth - XIXth Century

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The Oxford Book of French Verse: XIIIth - XIXth Century

The Oxford Book of French Verse: XIIIth - XIXth Century

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Excerpt

THE first poem in this book was written in France some time in the twelfth century; it dates, therefore, from the epoch when French lyric poetry may fairly be said to begin. It is true that the song of Sainte Eulalie, which is older by two centuries, is lyrical in form; but it is composed in the old, uncouth lingua romana ; the dry bones, as it were, of Latin, which afterwards became quickened to new and wonderful life in French, Italian, and Spanish. An Englishman who glanced casually at the Song of Eulalie would imagine it to be written in a mixture of Dutch and Italian, and it has more interest for the archaeologist in language than for the lover of poetry.

The Chansons de Geste, dreary and monotonous enough to our impatient modern sense, yet often redeemed by a sudden note of rugged pathos, as when Berthe aux grands pieds is lost in the woods, or the Belle Aude dies of grief at the feet of Charlemagne, drag their slow length along through the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Their language, so full of the rough gutturals of the North, must have been the despair of the would-be lyric poet; but farther South, where the sun was kind and life more gay and leisured, the lingua romana developed rapidly, and Provence probably had a flourishing school of poetry . . .

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