II

THE LURE OF THE HYBRID:
TRISTAN DE NANTEUIL,
CHANSON DE GESTE ARTHURIEN?

Jane H. M. Taylor

Il fait bon voer, commant le Poëte, apres auoer quelquefoes fet mancion d'une chose memorable ... la lesse la pour un tans: tenant le Lecteur suspans, desireus e hatif d'an aller voer l'euenemant. En quoe je trouue noz Rommans bien inuantiz. E dire bien ici en passant, qu'an quelques uns d'iceux bien choesiz, le Poëte Héroïque pourra trouuer à fere son profit: comme sont les auantures des Chevaliers, les amours, les voyages, les anchantemans, les combaz, e samblables choses: dequelles l'Arioste a fet amprunt de nous, pour transporter en son Liure. 1

I begin this paper with a confession of failure. I had been intending to start with one of those disingenuous preambles which go: `For the benefit of anyone to whom Tristan de Nanteuil is not immediately familiar, here is a handy synopsis ...'. To wrestle with its intractable meanders, however, is rather like going ten rounds with an octopus: Tristan de Nanteuil is not designed for synopses. Its first few pages, for instance, follow the classic pattern of late medieval epic by fragmenting the centres of interest: mother, father and child Tristan, caught by a classic tempest at sea, 2 are whisked off to different portions of the globe where each will generate yet another series of adventures by engendering yet more protagonists, so that by the time we reach line 3000 or so of a poem of about 24,000, there are no fewer

____________________
1
Jacques Peletier du Mans, L'Art poétique, ed. A. Boulanger (Paris, 1930), p. 201 (I have done some mild violence to Jacques's idiosyncratic spelling).
2
For this particularly fruitful theme, see F. Wolfzettel, `Zur Stellung und Bedeutung der Enfances in der altfranzösischen Epik', Zeitschrift für französische Sprache und Literature 83 (1973), 317—48, and ibid. 84 (1974), 1—31, and for an arch example, see François Suard, `Le développement de la Geste de Montauban en France jusqu'à la fin du moyen âge', in Romance Epic: Essays on a Medieval Literary Genre, ed. H.-E. Keller (Kalamazoo, 1987), pp. 141—61.

-77-

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