The Romanesque Lyric: Studies in Its Background and Development from Petronius to the Cambridge Songs, 50-1050

Excerpt

While many recent scholars agree with Osborn in believing that the creative sources of French and Spanish character lie far back in prehistoric times, it is sufficient for the purposes of this book that when the investigator arrives at the threshold of literary and artistic history in Northern Europe, he finds in Gaul the relatively firm ground of a splendid civilization that synchronizes with the flourishing of Greece and early Rome. It is with the study of the possible factors in this civilization that the volume opens; that is to say, two of the earliest chapters are devoted to the portrayal of Gallic and Gallo-Romanic culture previous to the seventh century of our era. It may seem to the reader that the presentation of Romanesque lyric poetry in its unfolding is unnecessarily postponed; if he feels this to be the case I beg him to remember certain matters of the gravest historical importance. Whatever may have been the organization and expansion of Teutonic society from Clovis, say, to the reappearance of the antique empire under Charles the Great, and however we may picture the exact nature of the barbarian "invasions," all available evidence witnesses to the enormous cultural superiority of the Celts over the Germans down to, and including, the days of Merovingian occupation of Gaul; and witnesses no less to the fact that the victorious German tribes respected and assimilated this superior Gallo-Roman culture as they did the equally transcendent Roman civilization in Italy.

Moreover, criticism is agreed that there is a constant element in Latin poetry which is not Roman and not Greek but something else; an element to which (as Garrod contends) Latin verse owes what it has of fire, sensibility, and romance. The ethnic presence of a magic which cannot be defined and cannot be neglected at any moment during the whole sombre progression of that poetry may perhaps be called the primitive Italian contribution. It is not my province to discuss this contribution in my book. But we . . .

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