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    Ch. 11 - The Three Queens

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    Chapter 11
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    After worshipping at the shrines of Saint Michael on his Mount and
    of the Virgin at Chartres, one may wander far and wide over France,
    and seldom feel lost; all later Gothic art comes naturally, and no
    new thought disturbs the perfected form. Yet tourists of English
    blood and American training are seldom or never quite at home there.
    Commonly they feel it only as a stage-decoration. The twelfth and
    thirteenth centuries, studied in the pure light of political
    economy, are insane. The scientific mind is atrophied, and suffers
    under inherited cerebral weakness, when it comes in contact with the
    eternal woman--Astarte, Isis, Demeter, Aphrodite, and the last and
    greatest deity of all, the Virgin. Very rarely one lingers, with a
    mild sympathy, such as suits the patient student of human error,
    willing to be interested in what he cannot understand. Still more
    rarely, owing to some revival of archaic instincts, he rediscovers
    the woman. This is perhaps the mark of the artist alone, and his
    solitary privilege. The rest of us cannot feel; we can only study.
    The proper study of mankind is woman and, by common agreement since
    the time of Adam, it is the most complex and arduous. The study of
    Our Lady, as shown by the art of Chartres, leads directly back to
    Eve, and lays bare the whole subject of sex.

    If it were worth while to argue a paradox, one might maintain that
    Nature regards the female as the essential, the male as the
    superfluity of her world. Perhaps the best starting-point for study
    of the Virgin would be a practical acquaintance with bees, and
    especially with queen bees. Precisely where the French man may come
    in, on the genealogical tree of parthenogenesis, one hesitates to
    say; but certain it is that the French woman, from very early times,
    has shown qualities peculiar to herself, and that the French woman
    of the Middle Ages was a masculine character. Almost any book which
    deals with the social side of the twelfth century has something to
    say on this subject, like the following page from M. Garreau's
    volume published in 1899, on the "Social State of France during the

    A trait peculiar to this epoch is the close resemblance between the
    manners of men and women. The rule that such and such feelings or
    acts are permitted to one sex and forbidden to the other was not
    fairly settled. Men had the right to dissolve in tears, and women
    that of talking without prudery .... If we look at their
    intellectual level, the women appear distinctly superior. They are
    more serious; more subtle. With them we do not seem dealing with the
    rude state of civilization that their husbands belong to .... As a
    rule, the women seem to have the habit of weighing their acts; of
    not yielding to momentary impressions. While the sense of
    Christianity is more developed in them than in their husbands, on
    the other hand they show more perfidy and art in crime .... One
    might doubtless prove by a series of examples that the maternal
    influence when it predominated in the education of a son gave him a
    marked superiority over his contemporaries. Richard Coeur-de-Lion
    the crowned poet, artist, the king whose noble manners and refined
    mind in spite of his cruelty exercised so strong an impression on
    his age, was formed by that brilliant Eleanor of Guienne who, in her
    struggle with her husband, retained her sons as much as possible
    within her sphere of influence in order to make party chiefs of
    them. Our great Saint Louis, as all know, was brought up exclusively
    by Blanche of Castile; and Joinville, the charming writer so worthy
    of Saint Louis's friendship, and apparently so superior to his
    surroundings, was also the pupil of a widowed and regent mother.

    The superiority of the woman was not a fancy, but a fact. Man's
    business was to fight or hunt or feast or make love. The man was
    also the travelling partner in commerce, commonly absent from home
    for months together, while the woman carried on the business. The
    woman ruled the household and the workshop; cared for the economy;
    supplied the intelligence, and dictated the taste. Her ascendancy
    was secured by her alliance with the Church, into which she sent her
    most intelligent children; and a priest or clerk, for the most part,
    counted socially as a woman. Both physically and mentally the woman
    was robust, as the men often complained, and she did not greatly
    resent being treated as a man. Sometimes the husband beat her,
    dragged her about by the hair, locked her up in the house; but he
    was quite conscious that she always got even with him in the end. As
    a matter of fact, probably she got more than even. On this point,
    history, legend, poetry, romance, and especially the popular
    fabliaux--invented to amuse the gross tastes of the coarser class--
    are all agreed, and one could give scores of volumes illustrating
    it. The greatest men illustrate it best, as one might show almost at
    hazard. The greatest men of the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth
    centuries were William the Norman; his great grandson Henry II
    Plantagenet; Saint Louis of France; and, if a fourth be needed,
    Richard Coeur-de-Lion. Notoriously all these men had as much
    difficulty as Louis XIV himself with the women of their family.
    Tradition exaggerates everything it touches, but shows, at the same
    time, what is passing in the minds of the society which tradites. In
    Normandy, the people of Caen have kept a tradition, told elsewhere
    in other forms, that one day, Duke William,--the Conqueror,--
    exasperated by having his bastardy constantly thrown in his face by
    the Duchess Matilda, dragged her by the hair, tied to his horse's
    tail, as far as the suburb of Vaucelles; and this legend accounts
    for the splendour of the Abbaye-aux-Dames, because William, the
    common people believed, afterwards regretted the impropriety, and
    atoned for it by giving her money to build the abbey. The story
    betrays the man's weakness. The Abbaye-aux-Dames stands in the same
    relation to the Abbaye-aux-Hommes that Matilda took towards William.
    Inferiority there was none; on the contrary, the woman was socially
    the superior, and William was probably more afraid of her than she
    of him, if Mr. Freeman is right in insisting that he married her in
    spite of her having a husband living, and certainly two children. If
    William was the strongest man in the eleventh century, his great-
    grandson, Henry II of England, was the strongest man of the twelfth;
    but the history of the time resounds with the noise of his battles
    with Queen Eleanor whom he, at last, held in prison for fourteen
    years. Prisoner as she was, she broke him down in the end. One is
    tempted to suspect that, had her husband and children been guided by
    her, and by her policy as peacemaker for the good of Guienne, most
    of the disasters of England and France might have been postponed for
    the time; but we can never know the truth, for monks and historians
    abhor emancipated women,--with good reason, since such women are apt
    to abhor them,--and the quarrel can never be pacified. Historians
    have commonly shown fear of women without admitting it, but the man
    of the Middle Ages knew at least why he feared the woman, and told
    it openly, not to say brutally. Long after Eleanor and Blanche were
    dead, Chaucer brought the Wife of Bath on his Shakespearean stage,
    to explain the woman, and as usual he touched masculine frailty with
    caustic, while seeming to laugh at woman and man alike:--

    "My liege lady! generally," quoth he,
    "Women desiren to have soverainetee."

    The point was that the Wife of Bath, like Queen Blanche and Queen
    Eleanor, not only wanted sovereignty, but won and held it.

    That Saint Louis, even when a grown man and king, stood in awe of
    his mother, Blanche of Castile, was not only notorious but seemed to
    be thought natural. Joinville recorded it not so much to mark the
    King's weakness, as the woman's strength; for his Queen, Margaret of
    Provence, showed the courage which the King had not. Blanche and
    Margaret were exceedingly jealous of each other. "One day," said
    Joinville, "Queen Blanche went to the Queen's [Margaret] chamber
    where her son [Louis IX] had gone before to comfort her, for she was
    in great danger of death from a bad delivery; and he hid himself
    behind the Queen [Margaret] to avoid being seen; but his mother
    perceived him, and taking him by the hand said: 'Come along! you
    will do no good here!' and put him out of the chamber. Queen
    Margaret, observing this, and that she was to be separated from her
    husband, cried aloud: 'Alas! will you not allow me to see my lord
    either living or dying?'" According to Joinville, King Louis always
    hid himself when, in his wife's chamber, he heard his mother coming.

    The great period of Gothic architecture begins with the coming of
    Eleanor (1137) and ends with the passing of Blanche (1252).
    Eleanor's long life was full of energy and passion of which next to
    nothing is known; the woman was always too slippery for monks or
    soldiers to grasp.

    Eleanor came to Paris, a Queen of fifteen years old, in 1137,
    bringing Poitiers and Guienne as the greatest dowry ever offered to
    the French Crown. She brought also the tastes and manners of the
    South, little in harmony with the tastes and manners of Saint
    Bernard whose authority at court rivalled her own. The Abbe Suger
    supported her, but the King leaned toward the Abbe Bernard. What
    this puritan reaction meant is a matter to be studied by itself, if
    one can find a cloister to study in; but it bore the mark of most
    puritan reactions in its hostility to women. As long as the woman
    remained docile, she ruled, through the Church; but the man feared
    her and was jealous of her, and she of him. Bernard specially adored
    the Virgin because she was an example of docile obedience to the
    Trinity who atoned for the indocility of Eve, but Eve herself
    remained the instrument of Satan, and French society as a whole
    showed a taste for Eves.

    [Genealogical chart showing the relationships among the three

    Eleanor could hardly be called docile. Whatever else she loved, she
    certainly loved rule. She shared this passion to the full with her
    only great successor and rival on the English throne, Queen
    Elizabeth, and she happened to become Queen of France at the moment
    when society was turning from worship of its military ideal, Saint
    Michael, to worship of its social ideal, the Virgin. According to
    the monk Orderic, men had begun to throw aside their old military
    dress and manners even before the first crusade, in the days of
    William Rufus (1087-1100), and to affect feminine fashions. In all
    ages, priests and monks have denounced the growing vices of society,
    with more or less reason; but there seems to have been a real
    outbreak of display at about the time of the first crusade, which
    set a deep mark on every sort of social expression, even down to the
    shoes of the statues on the western portal of Chartres:--

    A debauched fellow named Robert [said Orderic] was the first, about
    the time of William Rufus, who introduced the practice of filling
    the long points of the shoes with tow, and of turning them up like a
    ram's horn. Hence he got the surname of Cornard; and this absurd
    fashion was speedily adopted by great numbers of the nobility as a
    proud distinction and sign of merit. At this time effeminacy was the
    prevailing vice throughout the world ... They parted their hair from
    the crown of the head on each side of the forehead, and their locks
    grew long like women, and wore long shirts and tunics, closely tied
    with points ... In our days, ancient customs are almost all changed
    for new fashions. Our wanton youths are sunk in effeminacy ... They
    insert their toes in things like serpents' tails which present to
    view the shape of scorpions. Sweeping the dusty ground with the
    prodigious trains of their robes and mantles, they cover their hands
    with gloves ...

    If you are curious to follow these monkish criticisms on your
    ancestors' habits, you can read Orderic at your leisure; but you
    want only to carry in mind the fact that the generation of warriors
    who fought at Hastings and captured Jerusalem were regarded by
    themselves as effeminate, and plunged in luxury. "Their locks are
    curled with hot irons, and instead of wearing caps, they bind their
    heads with fillets. A knight seldom appears in public with his head
    uncovered and properly shaved according to the apostolic precept."
    The effeminacy of the first crusade took artistic shape in the west
    portal of Chartres and the glass of Saint-Denis, and led instantly
    to the puritan reaction of Saint Bernard, followed by the gentle
    asceticism of Queen Blanche and Saint Louis. Whether the pilgrimages
    to Jerusalem and contact with the East were the cause or only a
    consequence of this revolution, or whether it was all one,--a result
    of converting the Northern pagans to peaceful habits and the
    consequent enrichment of northern Europe,--is indifferent; the fact
    and the date are enough. The art is French, but the ideas may have
    come from anywhere, like the game of chess which the pilgrims or
    crusaders brought home from Syria. In the Oriental game, the King
    was followed step by step by a Minister whose functions were
    personal. The crusaders freed the piece from control; gave it
    liberty to move up or down or diagonally, forwards and backwards;
    made it the most arbitrary and formidable champion on the board,
    while the King and the Knight were the most restricted in movement;
    and this piece they named Queen, and called the Virgin:--

    Li Baudrains traist sa fierge por son paon sauver,
    E cele son aufin qui cuida conquester
    La firge ou le paon, ou faire reculer.

    The aufin or dauphin became the Fou of the French game, and the
    bishop of the English. Baldwin played his Virgin to save his pawn;
    his opponent played the bishop to threaten either the Virgin or the

    For a hundred and fifty years, the Virgin and Queens ruled French
    taste and thought so successfully that the French man has never yet
    quite decided whether to be more proud or ashamed of it. Life has
    ever since seemed a little flat to him, and art a little cheap. He
    saw that the woman, in elevating herself, had made him appear
    ridiculous, and he tried to retaliate with a wit not always
    sparkling, and too often at his own expense. Sometimes in museums or
    collections of bric-a-brac, you will see, in an illuminated
    manuscript, or carved on stone, or cast in bronze, the figure of a
    man on his hands and knees, bestridden by another figure holding a
    bridle and a whip; it is Aristotle, symbol of masculine wisdom,
    bridled and driven by woman. Six hundred years afterwards, Tennyson
    revived the same motive in Merlin, enslaved not for a time but
    forever. In both cases the satire justly punished the man. Another
    version of the same story--perhaps the original--was the Mystery of
    Adam, one of the earliest Church plays. Gaston Paris says "it was
    written in England in the twelfth century, and its author had real
    poetic talent; the scene of the seduction of Eve by the serpent is
    one of the best pieces of Christian dramaturgy ... This remarkable
    work seems to have been played no longer inside the church, but
    under the porch":--

    Diabolus. Jo vi Adam mais trop est fols.

    Eva. Un poi est durs.

    Diabolus. Il serra mols.
    Il est plus durs qui n'est enfers.

    Eva. Il est mult francs.

    Diabolus. Ainz est mult sers.
    Cure ne volt prendre de sei
    Car la prenge sevals de tei.
    Tu es fieblette et tendre chose
    E es plus fresche que n'est rose.
    Tu es plus blanche que crystal
    Que neif que chiet sor glace en val.
    Mal cuple en fist li Criatur.
    Tu es trop tendre e il trop dur.
    Mais neporquant tu es plus sage
    En grant sens as mis tun corrage
    For co fait bon traire a tei.
    Parler te voil.

    Eva. Ore ja fai.

    Devil. Adam I've seen, but he's too rough.

    Eve. A little hard!

    Devil. He'll soon be soft enough!
    Harder than hell he is till now.

    Eve. He's very frank!

    Devil. Say very low!
    To help himself he does not care;
    The helping you shall be my share;
    For you are tender, gentle, true,
    The rose is not so fresh as you;
    Whiter than crystal, or than snow
    That falls from heaven on ice below.
    A sorry mixture God has brewed,
    You too tender, he too rude.
    But you have much the greater sense,
    Your will is all intelligence.
    Therefore it is I turn to you.
    I want to tell you--

    Eve. Do it now!

    The woman's greater intelligence was to blame for Adam's fall. Eve
    was justly punished because she should have known better, while
    Adam, as the Devil truly said, was a dull animal, hardly worth the
    trouble of deceiving. Adam was disloyal, too, untrue to his wife
    after being untrue to his Creator:--

    La femme que tu me donas
    Ele fist prime icest trespass
    Donat le mei e jo mangai.
    Or mest vis tornez est a gwai
    Mal acontai icest manger.
    Jo ai mesfait par ma moiller.

    The woman that you made me take
    First led me into this mistake.
    She gave the apple that I ate
    And brought me to this evil state.
    Badly for me it turned, I own,
    But all the fault is hers alone.

    The audience accepted this as natural and proper. They recognized
    the man as, of course, stupid, cowardly, and traitorous. The men of
    the baser sort revenged themselves by boorishness that passed with
    them for wit in the taverns of Arras, but the poets of the higher
    class commonly took sides with the women. Even Chaucer, who lived
    after the glamour had faded, and who satirized women to satiety,
    told their tale in his "Legend of Good Women," with evident
    sympathy. To him, also, the ordinary man was inferior,--stupid,
    brutal, and untrue. "Full brittle is the truest," he said:--

    For well I wote that Christ himself telleth
    That in Israel, as wide as is the lond,
    That so great faith in all the loud he ne fond
    As in a woman, and this is no lie;
    And as for men, look ye, such tyrannie
    They doen all day, assay hem who so list,
    The truest is full brotell for to trist.

    Neither brutality nor wit helped the man much. Even Bluebeard in the
    end fell a victim to the superior qualities of his last wife, and
    Scheherazade's wit alone has preserved the memory of her royal
    husband. The tradition of thirteenth-century society still rules the
    French stage. The struggle between two strong-willed women to control
    one weak-willed man is the usual motive of the French drama in the
    nineteenth century, as it was the whole motive of Partenopeus of
    Blois, one of the best twelfth-century romans; and Joinville
    described it, in the middle of the thirteenth, as the leading motive
    in the court of Saint Louis, with Queen Blanche and Queen Margaret
    for players, and Saint Louis himself for pawn.

    One has only to look at the common, so-called Elzevirian, volume of
    thirteenth-century nouvelles to see the Frenchman as he saw himself.
    The story of "La Comtesse de Ponthieu" is the more Shakespearean,
    but "La Belle Jehanne" is the more natural and lifelike. The plot is
    the common masculine intrigue against the woman, which was used over
    and over again before Shakespeare appropriated it in "Much Ado"; but
    its French development is rather in the line of "All's Well." The
    fair Jeanne, married to a penniless knight, not at all by her
    choice, but only because he was a favourite of her father's, was a
    woman of the true twelfth-century type. She broke the head of the
    traitor, and when he, with his masculine falseness, caused her
    husband to desert her, she disguised herself as a squire and
    followed Sir Robert to Marseilles in search of service in war, for
    the poor knight could get no other means of livelihood. Robert was
    the husband, and the wife, in entering his service as squire without
    pay, called herself John:--

    Molt fu mesire Robiers dolans cant il vint a Marselle de cou k'il
    n'oi parler de nulle chose ki fust ou pais; si dist a Jehan:

    --Ke ferons nous? Vous m'aves preste de vos deniers la vostre
    mierchi, si les vos renderai car je venderai mon palefroi et
    m'acuiterai a vous.

    --Sire, dist Jehans, crees moi se il vous plaist je vous dirai ke
    nous ferons; jou ai bien enchore c sous de tournois, s'll vous
    plaist je venderai nos ii chevaus et en ferai deniers; et je suis li
    miousdres boulengiers ke vous sacies, si ferai pain francois et je
    ne douc mie ke je ne gaagne bien et largement mon depens.

    --Jehans, dist mesire Robiers, je m'otroi del tout a faire votre

    Et lendemam vendi Jehans ses .ii. chevaux X livres de tornois, et
    achata son ble et le fist muire, et achata des corbelles et
    coumencha a faire pain francois si bon et si bien fait k'il en
    vendoit plus ke li doi melleur boulengier de la ville, et fist tant
    dedens les ii ans k'il ot bien c livres de katel. Lors dist Jehans a
    son segnour:

    --Je lo bien que nous louons une tres grant mason et jou akaterai
    del vin et hierbegerai la bonne gent

    --Jehan, dist mesire Robiers, faites a vo volente kar je l'otroi et
    si me loc molt de vous.

    Jehans loua une mason grant et bielle, et si hierbrega la bonne gent
    et gaegnoit ases a plente, et viestoit son segnour biellement et
    richement, et avoit mesire Robiers son palefroi et aloit boire et
    mengier aveukes les plus vallans de la ville, et Jehans li envoioit
    vins et viandes ke tout cil ki o lui conpagnoient s'en
    esmervelloient. Si gaegna tant ke dedens .iiii ans il gaegna plus de
    ccc livres de meuble sains son harnois qui valoit bien .L. livres.

    Much was Sir Robert grieved when he came to Marseilles and found
    that there was no talk of anything doing in the country, and he said
    to John: "What shall we do? You have lent me your money, I thank
    you, and will repay you, for I will sell my palfrey and discharge
    the debt to you."

    "Sir," said John, "trust to me, if you please, I will tell you what
    we will do, I have still a hundred sous, if you please I will sell
    our two horses and turn them into money, and I am the best baker you
    ever knew, I will make French bread, and I've no doubt I shall pay
    my expenses well and make money"

    "John," said Sir Robert, "I agree wholly to do whatever you like"

    And the next day John sold their two horse for ten pounds, and
    bought his wheat and had it ground, and bought baskets, and began to
    make French bread so good and so well made that he sold more of it
    than the two best bakers in the city, and made so much within two
    years that he had a good hundred pound property Then he said to his
    lord "I advise our hiring a very large house, and I will buy wine
    and will keep lodgings for good society

    "John," said Sir Robert, "do what you please, for I grant it, and am
    greatly pleased with you."

    John hired a large and fine house and lodged the best people and
    gained a great plenty, and dressed his master handsomely and richly,
    and Sir Robert kept his palfrey and went out to eat and drink with
    the best people of the city, and John sent them such wines and food
    that all his companions marvelled at it. He made so much that within
    four years he gained more than three hundred pounds in money besides
    clothes, etc, well worth fifty.

    The docile obedience of the man to the woman seemed as reasonable to
    the thirteenth century as the devotion of the woman to the man, not
    because she loved him, for there was no question of love, but
    because he was HER man, and she owned him as though he were child.
    The tale went on to develop her character always in the same sense.
    When she was ready, Jeanne broke up the establishment at Marseilles,
    brought her husband back to Hainault, and made him, without knowing
    her object, kill the traitor and redress her wrongs. Then after
    seven years' patient waiting, she revealed herself and resumed her

    If you care to see the same type developed to its highest capacity,
    go to the theatre the first time some ambitious actress attempts the
    part of Lady Macbeth. Shakespeare realized the thirteenth-century
    woman more vividly than the thirteenth-century poets ever did; but
    that is no new thing to say of Shakespeare. The author of "La
    Comtesse de Ponthieu" made no bad sketch of the character. These are
    fictions, but the Chronicles contain the names of women by scores
    who were the originals of the sketch. The society which Orderic
    described in Normandy--the generation of the first crusade--produced
    a great variety of Lady Macbeths. In the country of Evreux, about
    1100, Orderic says that "a worse than civil war was waged between
    two powerful brothers, and the mischief was fomented by the spiteful
    jealousy of their haughty wives. The Countess Havise of Evreux took
    offence at some taunts uttered by Isabel de Conches,--wife of Ralph,
    the Seigneur of Conches, some ten miles from Evreux,--and used all
    her influence with her husband, Count William, and his barons, to
    make trouble ... Both the ladies who stirred up these fierce
    enmities were great talkers and spirited as well as handsome; they
    ruled their husbands, oppressed their vassals, and inspired terror
    in various ways. But still their characters were very different.
    Havise had wit and eloquence, but she was cruel and avaricious.
    Isabel was generous, enterprising, and gay, so that she was beloved
    and esteemed by those about her. She rode in knight's armour when
    her vassals were called to war, and showed as much daring among men-
    at-arms and mounted knights as Camilla ..." More than three hundred
    years afterwards, far off in the Vosges, from a village never heard
    of, appeared a common peasant of seventeen years old, a girl without
    birth, education, wealth, or claim of any sort to consideration, who
    made her way to Chinon and claimed from Charles VII a commission to
    lead his army against the English. Neither the king nor the court
    had faith in her, and yet the commission was given, and the rank-
    and-file showed again that the true Frenchman had more confidence in
    the woman than in the man, no matter what the gossips might say. No
    one was surprised when Jeanne did what she promised, or when the men
    burned her for doing it. There were Jeannes in every village.
    Ridicule was powerless against them. Even Voltaire became what the
    French call frankly "bete," in trying it.

    Eleanor of Guienne was the greatest of all Frenchwomen. Her decision
    was law, whether in Bordeaux or Poitiers, in Paris or in Palestine,
    in London or in Normandy; in the court of Louis VII, or in that of
    Henry II, or in her own Court of Love. For fifteen years she was
    Queen of France; for fifty she was Queen in England; for eighty or
    thereabouts she was equivalent to Queen over Guienne. No other
    Frenchwoman ever had such rule. Unfortunately, as Queen of France,
    she struck against an authority greater than her own, that of Saint
    Bernard, and after combating it, with Suger's help, from 1137 until
    1152, the monk at last gained such mastery that Eleanor quitted the
    country and Suger died. She was not a person to accept defeat. She
    royally divorced her husband and went back to her own kingdom of
    Guienne. Neither Louis nor Bernard dared to stop her, or to hold her
    territories from her, but they put the best face they could on their
    defeat by proclaiming her as a person of irregular conduct. The
    irregularity would not have stood in their way, if they had dared to
    stand in hers, but Louis was much the weaker, and made himself
    weaker still by allowing her to leave him for the sake of Henry of
    Anjou, a story of a sort that rarely raised the respect in which
    French kings were held by French society. Probably politics had more
    to do with the matter than personal attachments, for Eleanor was a
    great ruler, the equal of any ordinary king, and more powerful than
    most kings living in 1152. If she deserted France in order to join
    the enemies of France, she had serious reasons besides love for
    young Henry of Anjou; but in any case she did, as usual, what
    pleased her, and forced Louis to pronounce the divorce at a council
    held at Beaugency, March 18, 1152, on the usual pretext of
    relationship. The humours of the twelfth century were Shakespearean.
    Eleanor, having obtained her divorce at Beaugency, to the deep
    regret of all Frenchmen, started at once for Poitiers, knowing how
    unsafe she was in any territory but her own. Beaugency is on the
    Loire, between Orleans and Blois, and Eleanor's first night was at
    Blois, or should have been; but she was told, on arriving, that
    Count Thibaut of Blois, undeterred by King Louis's experience, was
    making plans to detain her, with perfectly honourable views of
    marriage; and, as she seems at least not to have been in love with
    Thibaut, she was obliged to depart at once, in the night, to Tours.
    A night journey on horseback from Blois to Tours in the middle of
    March can have been no pleasure-trip, even in 1152; but, on arriving
    at Tours in the morning, Eleanor found that her lovers were still so
    dangerously near that she set forward at once on the road to
    Poitiers. As she approached her own territory she learned that
    Geoffrey of Anjou, the younger brother of her intended husband, was
    waiting for her at the border, with views of marriage as strictly
    honourable as those of all the others. She was driven to take
    another road, and at last got safe to Poitiers.

    About no figure in the Middle Ages, man or woman, did so many
    legends grow, and with such freedom, as about Eleanor, whose
    strength appealed to French sympathies and whose adventures appealed
    to their imagination. They never forgave Louis for letting her go.
    They delighted to be told that in Palestine she had carried on
    relations of the most improper character, now with a Saracen slave
    of great beauty; now with Raymond of Poitiers, her uncle, the
    handsomest man of his time; now with Saladin himself; and, as all
    this occurred at Antioch in 1147 or 1148, they could not explain why
    her husband should have waited until 1152 in order to express his
    unwilling disapproval; but they quoted with evident sympathy a
    remark attributed to her that she thought she had married a king,
    and found she had married a monk. To the Frenchman, Eleanor remained
    always sympathetic, which is the more significant because, in
    English tradition, her character suffered a violent and incredible
    change. Although English history has lavished on Eleanor somewhat
    more than her due share of conventional moral reproof, considering
    that, from the moment she married Henry of Anjou, May 18, 1152, she
    was never charged with a breath of scandal, it atoned for her want
    of wickedness by French standards, in the usual manner of
    historians, by inventing traits which reflected the moral standards
    of England. Tradition converted her into the fairy-book type of
    feminine jealousy and invented for her the legend of the Fair
    Rosamund and the poison of toads.

    For us, both legends are true. They reflected, not perhaps the
    character of Eleanor, but what the society liked to see acted on its
    theatre of life. Eleanor's real nature in no way concerns us. The
    single fact worth remembering was that she had two daughters by
    Louis VII, as shown in the table; who, in due time, married--Mary,
    in 1164, married Henry, the great Count of Champagne; Alix, at the
    same time, became Countess of Chartres by marriage with Thibaut, who
    had driven her mother from Blois in 1152 by his marital intentions.
    Henry and Thibaut were brothers whose sister Alix had married Louis
    VII in 1160, eight years after the divorce. The relations thus
    created were fantastic, especially for Queen Eleanor, who, besides
    her two French daughters, had eight children as Queen of England.
    Her second son, Richard Coeur-de-Lion, born in 1157, was affianced
    in 1174 to a daughter of Louis VII and Alix, a child only six years
    old, who was sent to England to be brought up as future queen. This
    was certainly Eleanor's doing, and equally certain was it that the
    child came to no good in the English court. The historians, by
    exception, have not charged this crime to Queen Eleanor; they
    charged it to Eleanor's husband, who passed most of his life in
    crossing his wife's political plans; but with politics we want as
    little as possible to do. We are concerned with the artistic and
    social side of life, and have only to notice the coincidence that
    while the Virgin was miraculously using the power of spiritual love
    to elevate and purify the people, Eleanor and her daughters were
    using the power of earthly love to discipline and refine the courts.
    Side by side with the crude realities about them, they insisted on
    teaching and enforcing an ideal that contradicted the realities, and
    had no value for them or for us except in the contradiction.

    The ideals of Eleanor and her daughter Mary of Champagne were a form
    of religion, and if you care to see its evangels, you had best go
    directly to Dante and Petrarch, or, if you like it better, to Don
    Quixote de la Mancha. The religion is dead as Demeter, and its art
    alone survives as, on the whole, the highest expression of man's
    thought or emotion; but in its day it was almost as practical as it
    now is fanciful. Eleanor and her daughter Mary and her granddaughter
    Blanche knew as well as Saint Bernard did, or Saint Francis, what a
    brute the emancipated man could be; and as though they foresaw the
    society of the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries, they used every
    terror they could invent, as well as every tenderness they could
    invoke, to tame the beasts around them. Their charge was of manners,
    and, to teach manners, they made a school which they called their
    Court of Love, with a code of law to which they gave the name of
    "courteous love." The decisions of this court were recorded, like
    the decisions of a modern bench, under the names of the great ladies
    who made them, and were enforced by the ladies of good society for
    whose guidance they were made. They are worth reading, and any one
    who likes may read them to this day, with considerable scepticism
    about their genuineness. The doubt is only ignorance. We do not, and
    never can, know the twelfth-century woman, or, for that matter, any
    other woman, but we do know the literature she created; we know the
    art she lived in, and the religion she professed. We can collect
    from them some idea why the Virgin Mary ruled, and what she was
    taken to be, by the world which worshipped her.

    Mary of Champagne created the literature of courteous love. She must
    have been about twenty years old when she married Count Henry and
    went to live at Troyes, not actually a queen in title, but certainly
    a queen in social influence. In 1164, Champagne was a powerful
    country, and Troyes a centre of taste. In Normandy, at the same
    date, William of Saint Pair and Wace were writing the poetry we
    know. In Champagne the court poet was Christian of Troyes, whose
    poems were new when the churches of Noyon and Senlis and Saint Leu
    d'Esserent, and the fleche of Chartres, and the Leaning Tower of
    Pisa, were building, at the same time with the Abbey of Vezelay, and
    before the church at Mantes. Christian died not long after 1175,
    leaving a great mass of verse, much of which has survived, and which
    you can read more easily than you can read Dante or Petrarch,
    although both are almost modern compared with Christian. The quality
    of this verse is something like the quality of the glass windows--
    conventional decoration; colours in conventional harmonies;
    refinement, restraint, and feminine delicacy of taste. Christian has
    not the grand manner of the eleventh century, and never recalls the
    masculine strength of the "Chanson de Roland" or "Raoul de Cambrai."
    Even his most charming story, "Erec et Enide," carries chiefly a
    moral of courtesy. His is poet-laureate's work, says M. Gaston
    Paris; the flower of a twelfth-century court and of twelfth-century
    French; the best example of an admirable language; but not lyric;
    neither strong, nor deep, nor deeply felt. What we call tragedy is
    unknown to it. Christian's world is sky-blue and rose, with only
    enough red to give it warmth, and so flooded with light that even
    its mysteries count only by the clearness with which they are shown.

    Among other great works, before Mary of France came to Troyes
    Christian had, toward 1160, written a "Tristan," which is lost. Mary
    herself, he says, gave him the subject of "Lancelot," with the
    request or order to make it a lesson of "courteous love," which he
    obeyed. Courtesy has lost its meaning as well as its charm, and you
    might find the "Chevalier de la Charette" even more unintelligible
    than tiresome; but its influence was great in its day, and the
    lesson of courteous love, under the authority of Mary of Champagne,
    lasted for centuries as the standard of taste. "Lancelot" was never
    finished, but later, not long after 1174, Christian wrote a
    "Perceval," or "Conte du Graal," which must also have been intended
    to please Mary, and which is interesting because, while the
    "Lancelot" gave the twelfth-century idea of courteous love, the
    "Perceval" gave the twelfth-century idea of religious mystery. Mary
    was certainly concerned with both. "It is for this same Mary," says
    Gaston Paris, "that Walter of Arras undertook his poem of 'Eracle';
    she was the object of the songs of the troubadours as well as of
    their French imitators; for her use also she caused the translations
    of books of piety like Genesis, or the paraphrase at great length,
    in verse, of the psalm 'Eructavit.'"

    With her theories of courteous love, every one is more or less
    familiar if only from the ridicule of Cervantes and the follies of
    Quixote, who, though four hundred years younger, was Lancelot's
    child; but we never can know how far she took herself and her laws
    of love seriously, and to speculate on so deep a subject as her
    seriousness is worse than useless, since she would herself have been
    as uncertain as her lovers were. Visionary as the courtesy was, the
    Holy Grail was as practical as any bric-a-brac that has survived of
    the time. The mystery of Perceval is like that of the Gothic
    cathedral, illuminated by floods of light, and enlivened by rivers
    of colour. Unfortunately Christian never told what he meant by the
    fragment, itself a mystery, in which he narrated the story of the
    knight who saw the Holy Grail, because the knight, who was warned,
    as usual, to ask no questions, for once, unlike most knights, obeyed
    the warning when he should have disregarded it. As knights-errant
    necessarily did the wrong thing in order to make their adventures
    possible, Perceval's error cannot be in itself mysterious, nor was
    the castle in any way mysterious where the miracle occurred, It
    appeared to him to be the usual castle, and he saw nothing unusual
    in the manner of his reception by the usual old lord, or in the fact
    that both seated themselves quite simply before the hall-fire with
    the usual household. Then, as though it were an everyday habit, the
    Holy Grail was brought in (Bartsch, "Chrestomathie," 183-85, ed.

    Et leans avail luminaire
    Si grant con l'an le porrait faire
    De chandoiles a un ostel.
    Que qu'il parloient d'un et d'el,
    Uns vallez d'une chambre vint
    Qui une blanche lance tint
    Ampoigniee par le mi lieu.
    Si passa par endroit le feu
    Et cil qui al feu se seoient,
    Et tuit cil de leans veoient
    La lance blanche et le fer blanc.
    S'issoit une gote de sang
    Del fer de la lance au sommet,
    Et jusqu'a la main au vaslet
    Coroit cele gote vermoille....
    A tant dui autre vaslet vindrent
    Qui chandeliers an lors mains tindrent
    De fin or ovrez a neel.
    Li vaslet estoient moult bel
    Qui les chandeliers aportoient.
    An chacun chandelier ardoient
    Dous chandoiles a tot le mains.
    Un graal antre ses dous mains
    Une demoiselle tenoit,
    Qui avec les vaslets venoit,
    Bele et gente et bien acesmee.
    Quant cle fu leans antree
    Atot le graal qu'ele tint
    Une si granz clartez i vint
    Qu'ausi perdirent les chandoiles
    Lor clarte come les estoiles
    Qant li solauz luist et la lune.
    Apres celi an revint une
    Qui tint un tailleor d'argent.

    Le graal qui aloit devant
    De fin or esmere estoit,
    Pierres precieuses avoit
    El graal de maintes menieres
    Des plus riches et des plus chieres
    Qui en mer ne en terre soient.
    Totes autres pierres passoient
    Celes del graal sanz dotance.

    Tot ainsi con passa la lance
    Par devant le lit trespasserent
    Et d'une chambre a l'autre alerent.
    Et li vaslet les vit passer,
    Ni n'osa mire demander
    Del graal cui l'an an servoit.

    And, within, the hall was bright
    As any hall could be with light
    Of candles in a house at night.
    So, while of this and that they talked,
    A squire from a chamber walked,
    Bearing a white lance in his hand,
    Grasped by the middle, like a wand;
    And, as he passed the chimney wide,
    Those seated by the fireside,
    And all the others, caught a glance
    Of the white steel and the white lance.
    As they looked, a drop of blood
    Down the lance's handle flowed;
    Down to where the youth's hand stood.
    From the lance-head at the top
    They saw run that crimson drop....
    Presently came two more squires,
    In their hands two chandeliers,
    Of fine gold in enamel wrought.
    Each squire that the candle brought
    Was a handsome chevalier.
    There burned in every chandelier
    Two lighted candles at the least.
    A damsel, graceful and well dressed,
    Behind the squires followed fast
    Who carried in her hands a graal;
    And as she came within the hall
    With the graal there came a light So brilliant that the candles all
    Lost clearness, as the stars at night
    When moon shines, or in day the sun.
    After her there followed one
    Who a dish of silver bore.

    The graal, which had gone before,
    Of gold the finest had been made,
    With precious stones had been inlaid,
    Richest and rarest of each kind
    That man in sea or earth could find.
    All other jewels far surpassed
    Those which the holy graal enchased.

    Just as before had passed the lance
    They all before the bed advance,
    Passing straightway through the hall,
    And the knight who saw them pass
    Never ventured once to ask
    For the meaning of the graal.

    The simplicity of this narration gives a certain dramatic effect to
    the mystery, like seeing a ghost in full daylight, but Christian
    carried simplicity further still. He seemed either to feel, or to
    want others to feel, the reality of the adventure and the miracle,
    and he followed up the appearance of the graal by a solid meal in
    the style of the twelfth century, such as one expects to find in
    "Ivanhoe" or the "Talisman." The knight sat down with his host to
    the best dinner that the county of Champagne afforded, and they ate
    their haunch of venison with the graal in full view. They drank
    their Champagne wine of various sorts, out of gold cups:--

    Vins clers ne raspez ne lor faut
    A copes dorees a boivre;

    they sat before the fire and talked till bedtime, when the squires
    made up the beds in the hall, and brought in supper--dates, figs,
    nutmegs, spices, pomegranates, and at last lectuaries, suspiciously
    like what we call jams; and "alexandrine gingerbread"; after which
    they drank various drinks, with or without spice or honey or pepper;
    and old moret, which is thought to be mulberry wine, but which
    generally went with clairet, a colourless grape-juice, or piment. At
    least, here are the lines, and one may translate them to suit one's

    Et li vaslet aparellierent
    Les lis et le fruit au colchier
    Que il en i ot de moult chier,
    Dates, figues, et nois mugates,
    Girofles et pomes de grenates,
    Et leituaires an la fin,
    Et gingenbret alixandrin.
    Apres ce burent de maint boivre,
    Piment ou n'ot ne miel ne poivre
    Et viez more et cler sirop.

    The twelfth century had the child's love of sweets and spices and
    preserved fruits, and drinks sweetened or spiced, whether they were
    taken for supper or for poetry; the true knight's palate was fresh
    and his appetite excellent either for sweets or verses or love; the
    world was young then; Robin Hoods lived in every forest, and Richard
    Coeur-de-Lion was not yet twenty years old. The pleasant adventures
    of Robin Hood were real, as you can read in the stories of a dozen
    outlaws, and men troubled themselves about pain and death much as
    healthy bears did, in the mountains. Life had miseries enough, but
    few shadows deeper than those of the imaginative lover, or the
    terrors of ghosts at night. Men's imaginations ran riot, but did not
    keep them awake; at least, neither the preserved fruits nor the
    mulberry wine nor the clear syrup nor the gingerbread nor the Holy
    Graal kept Perceval awake, but he slept the sound and healthy sleep
    of youth, and when he woke the next morning, he felt only a mild
    surprise to find that his host and household had disappeared,
    leaving him to ride away without farewell, breakfast, or Graal.

    Christian wrote about Perceval in 1174 in the same spirit in which
    the workmen in glass, thirty years later, told the story of
    Charlemagne. One artist worked for Mary of Champagne; the others for
    Mary of Chartres, commonly known as the Virgin; but all did their
    work in good faith, with the first, fresh, easy instinct of colour,
    light, and line. Neither of the two Maries was mystical, in a modern
    sense; none of the artists was oppressed by the burden of doubt;
    their scepticism was as childlike as faith. If one has to make an
    exception, perhaps the passion of love was more serious than that of
    religion, and gave to religion the deepest emotion, and the most
    complicated one, which society knew. Love was certainly a passion;
    and even more certainly it was, as seen in poets like Dante and
    Petrarch,--in romans like "Lancelot" and "Aucassin,"--in ideals like
    the Virgin,--complicated beyond modern conception. For this reason
    the loss of Christian's "Tristan" makes a terrible gap in art, for
    Christian's poem would have given the first and best idea of what
    led to courteous love. The "Tristan" was written before 1160, and
    belonged to the cycle of Queen Eleanor of England rather than to
    that of her daughter Mary of Troyes; but the subject was one neither
    of courtesy nor of France; it belonged to an age far behind the
    eleventh century, or even the tenth, or indeed any century within
    the range of French history; and it was as little fitted for
    Christian's way of treatment as for any avowed burlesque. The
    original Tristan--critics say--was not French, and neither Tristan
    nor Isolde had ever a drop of French blood in their veins. In their
    form as Christian received it, they were Celts or Scots; they came
    from Brittany, Wales, Ireland, the northern ocean, or farther still.
    Behind the Welsh Tristan, which passed probably through England to
    Normandy and thence to France and Champagne, critics detect a far
    more ancient figure living in a form of society that France could
    not remember ever to have known. King Marc was a tribal chief of the
    Stone Age whose subjects loved the forest and lived on the sea or in
    caves; King Marc's royal hall was a common shelter on the banks of a
    stream, where every one was at home, and king, queen, knights,
    attendants, and dwarf slept on the floor, on beds laid down where
    they pleased; Tristan's weapons were the bow and stone knife; he
    never saw a horse or a spear; his ideas of loyalty and Isolde's
    ideas of marriage were as vague as Marc's royal authority; and all
    were alike unconscious of law, chivalry, or church. The note they
    sang was more unlike the note of Christian, if possible, than that
    of Richard Wagner; it was the simplest expression of rude and
    primitive love, as one could perhaps find it among North American
    Indians, though hardly so defiant even there, and certainly in the
    Icelandic Sagas hardly so lawless; but it was a note of real
    passion, and touched the deepest chords of sympathy in the
    artificial society of the twelfth century, as it did in that of the
    nineteenth. The task of the French poet was to tone it down and give
    it the fashionable dress, the pointed shoes and long sleeves, of the
    time. "The Frenchman," says Gaston Paris, "is specially interested
    in making his story entertaining for the society it is meant for; he
    is 'social'; that is, of the world; he smiles at the adventures he
    tells, and delicately lets you see that he is not their dupe; he
    exerts himself to give to his style a constant elegance, a uniform
    polish, in which a few neatly turned, clever phrases sparkle here
    and there; above all, he wants to please, and thinks of his audience
    more than of his subject."

    In the twelfth century he wanted chiefly to please women, as Orderic
    complained; Isolde came out of Brittany to meet Eleanor coming up
    from Guienne, and the Virgin from the east; and all united in giving
    law to society. In each case it was the woman, not the man, who gave
    the law;--it was Mary, not the Trinity; Eleanor, not Louis VII;
    Isolde, not Tristan. No doubt, the original Tristan had given the
    law like Roland or Achilles, but the twelfth-century Tristan was a
    comparatively poor creature. He was in his way a secondary figure in
    the romance, as Louis VII was to Eleanor and Abelard to Heloise.
    Every one knows how, about twenty years before Eleanor came to
    Paris, the poet-professor Abelard, the hero of the Latin Quarter,
    had sung to Heloise those songs which--he tells us--resounded
    through Europe as widely as his scholastic fame, and probably to
    more effect for his renown. In popular notions Heloise was Isolde,
    and would in a moment have done what Isolde did (Bartsch, 107-08):--

    Quaint reis Marcs nus out conjeies
    E de sa curt nus out chascez,
    As mains ensemble nus preismes
    E hors de la sale en eissimes,
    A la forest puis en alasmes

    E un mult bel liu i trouvames
    E une roche, fu cavee,
    Devant ert estraite la entree,
    Dedans fu voesse ben faite,
    Tante bel cum se fust portraite.

    When King Marc had banned us both,
    And from his court had chased us forth,
    Hand in hand each clasping fast
    Straight from out the hall we passed;
    To the forest turned our face;

    Found in it a perfect place,
    Where the rock that made a cave
    Hardly more than passage gave;
    Spacious within and fit for use,
    As though it had been planned for us.

    At any time of her life, Heloise would have defied society or
    church, and would--at least in the public's fancy--have taken
    Abelard by the hand and gone off to the forest much more readily
    than she went to the cloister; but Abelard would have made a poor
    figure as Tristan. Abelard and Christian of Troyes were as remote as
    we are from the legendary Tristan; but Isolde and Heloise, Eleanor
    and Mary were the immortal and eternal woman. The legend of Isolde,
    both in the earlier and the later version, seems to have served as a
    sacred book to the women of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries,
    and Christian's Isolde surely helped Mary in giving law to the Court
    of Troyes and decisions in the Court of Love.

    Countess Mary's authority lasted from 1164 to 1198, thirty-four
    years, during which, at uncertain intervals, glimpses of her
    influence flash out in poetry rather than in prose. Christian began
    his "Roman de la Charette" by invoking her:--

    Puisque ma dame de Chanpaigne
    Vialt que romans a faire anpraigne

    Si deist et jel tesmoignasse
    Que ce est la dame qui passe
    Totes celes qui sont vivanz
    Si con li funs passe les vanz
    Qui vante en Mai ou en Avril

    Dirai je: tant com une jame
    Vaut de pailes et de sardines
    Vaut la contesse de reines?

    Christian chose curious similes. His dame surpassed all living
    rivals as smoke passes the winds that blow in May; or as much as a
    gem would buy of straws and sardines is the Countess worth in
    queens. Louis XIV would have thought that Christian might be
    laughing at him, but court styles changed with their masters. Louis
    XIV would scarcely have written a prison-song to his sister such as
    Richard Coeur-de-Lion wrote to Mary of Champagne:--

    Ja nus bons pris ne dirat sa raison
    Adroitement s'ansi com dolans non;
    Mais par confort puet il faire chanson.
    Moult ai d'amins, mais povre sont li don;
    Honte en avront se por ma reancon
    Suix ces deus yvers pris.

    Ceu sevent bien mi home et mi baron,
    Englois, Normant, Poitevin et Gascon,
    Ke je n'avoie si povre compaingnon
    Cui je laissasse por avoir au prixon.
    Je nel di pas por nulle retraison,
    Mais ancor suix je pris.

    Or sai ge bien de voir certainement
    Ke mors ne pris n'ait amin ne parent,
    Cant on me lait por or ne por argent.
    Moult m'est de moi, mais plus m'est de ma gent
    C'apres ma mort avront reprochier grant
    Se longement suix pris.

    N'est pas mervelle se j'ai lo cuer dolent
    Cant li miens sires tient ma terre en torment.
    S'or li menbroit de nostre sairement
    Ke nos feismes andui communament,
    Bien sai de voir ke ceans longement
    Ne seroie pas pris.

    Ce sevent bien Angevin et Torain,
    Cil bacheler ki or sont fort et sain,
    C'ancombreis suix long d'aus en autrui main.
    Forment m'amoient, mais or ne m'aimment grain.
    De belles armes sont ores veut cil plain,
    Por tant ke je suix pris.

    Mes compaingnons cui j'amoie et cui j'aim,
    Ces dou Caheu et ces dou Percherain,
    Me di, chanson, kil ne sont pas certain,

    C'onques vers aus n'en oi cuer faus ne vain.
    S'il me guerroient, il font moult que villain
    Tant com je serai pris.

    Comtesse suer, vostre pris soverain
    Vos saut et gart cil a cui je me claim
    Et par cui je suix pris.
    Je n'ou di pas de celi de Chartain
    La meire Loweis.

    No prisoner can tell his honest thought
    Unless he speaks as one who suffers wrong;
    But for his comfort he may make a song.
    My friends are many, but their gifts are naught.
    Shame will be theirs, if, for my ransom, here
    I lie another year.

    They know this well, my barons and my men,
    Normandy, England, Gascony, Poitou,
    That I had never follower so low
    Whom I would leave in prison to my gain.
    I say it not for a reproach to them,
    But prisoner I am!

    The ancient proverb now I know for sure:
    Death and a prison know nor kin nor tie,
    Since for mere lack of gold they let me lie.
    Much for myself I grieve; for them still more.
    After my death they will have grievous wrong
    If I am prisoner long.

    What marvel that my heart is sad and sore
    When my own lord torments my helpless lands!
    Well do I know that, if he held his hands,
    Remembering the common oath we swore,
    I should not here imprisoned with my song,
    Remain a prisoner long.

    They know this well who now are rich and strong
    Young gentlemen of Anjou and Touraine,
    That far from them, on hostile bonds I strain.
    They loved me much, but have not loved me long.
    Their plains will see no more fair lists arrayed,
    While I lie here betrayed.

    Companions, whom I loved, and still do love,
    Geoffroi du Perche and Ansel de Caleux,
    Tell them, my song, that they are friends untrue.

    Never to them did I false-hearted prove;
    But they do villainy if they war on me,
    While I lie here, unfree.

    Countess sister! your sovereign fame
    May he preserve whose help I claim,
    Victim for whom am I!
    I say not this of Chartres' dame,
    Mother of Louis!

    Richard's prison-song, one of the chief monuments of English
    literature, sounds to every ear, accustomed to twelfth-century
    verse, as charming as when it was household rhyme to

    mi ome et mi baron
    Englois, Normant, Poitevin et Gascon.

    Not only was Richard a far greater king than any Louis ever was, but
    he also composed better poetry than any other king who is known to
    tourists, and, when he spoke to his sister in this cry of the heart
    altogether singular among monarchs, he made law and style, above
    discussion. Whether he meant to reproach his other sister, Alix of
    Chartres, historians may tell, if they know. If he did, the reproach
    answered its purpose, for the song was written in 1193; Richard was
    ransomed and released in 1194; and in 1198 the young Count "Loweis"
    of Chartres and Blois leagued with the Counts of Flanders, Le
    Perche, Guines, and Toulouse, against Philip Augustus, in favor of
    Coeur-de-Lion to whom they rendered homage. In any case, neither
    Mary nor Alice in 1193 was reigning Countess. Mary was a widow since
    1181, and her son Henry was Count in Champagne, apparently a great
    favourite with his uncle Richard Coeur-de-Lion. The life of this
    Henry of Champagne was another twelfth-century romance, but can
    serve no purpose here except to recall the story that his mother,
    the great Countess Mary, died in 1198 of sorrow for the death of
    this son, who was then King of Jerusalem, and was killed, in 1197,
    by a fall from the window of his palace at Acre. Coeur-de-Lion died
    in 1199. In 1201, Mary's other son, who succeeded Henry,--Count
    Thibaut III,--died, leaving a posthumous heir, famous in the
    thirteenth century as Thibaut-le-Grand--the Thibaut of Queen

    They were all astonishing--men and women--and filled the world, for
    two hundred years, with their extraordinary energy and genius; but
    the greatest of all was old Queen Eleanor, who survived her son
    Coeur-de-Lion, as well as her two husbands,--Louis-le-Jeune and
    Henry II Plantagenet,--and was left in 1200 still struggling to
    repair the evils and fend off the dangers they caused. "Queen by the
    wrath of God," she called herself, and she knew what just claim she
    had to the rank. Of her two husbands and ten children, little
    remained except her son John, who, by the unanimous voice of his
    family, his friends, his enemies, and even his admirers, achieved a
    reputation for excelling in every form of twelfth-century crime. He
    was a liar and a traitor, as was not uncommon, but he was thought to
    be also a coward, which, in that family, was singular. Some
    redeeming quality he must have had, but none is recorded. His mother
    saw him running, in his masculine, twelfth-century recklessness, to
    destruction, and she made a last and a characteristic effort to save
    him and Guienne by a treaty of amity with the French king, to be
    secured by the marriage of the heir of France, Louis, to Eleanor's
    granddaughter, John's niece, Blanche of Castile, then twelve or
    thirteen years old. Eleanor herself was eighty, and yet she made the
    journey to Spain, brought back the child to Bordeaux, affianced her
    to Louis VIII as she had herself been affianced in 1137 to Louis
    VII, and in May, 1200, saw her married. The French had then given up
    their conventional trick of attributing Eleanor's acts to her want
    of morals; and France gave her--as to most women after sixty years
    old--the benefit of the convention which made women respectable
    after they had lost the opportunity to be vicious. In French eyes,
    Eleanor played out the drama according to the rules. She could not
    save John, but she died in 1202, before his ruin, and you can still
    see her lying with her husband and her son Richard at Fontevrault in
    her twelfth-century tomb.

    In 1223, Blanche became Queen of France. She was thirty-six years
    old. Her husband, Louis VIII, was ambitious to rival his father,
    Philip Augustus, who had seized Normandy in 1203. Louis undertook to
    seize Toulouse and Avignon. In 1225, he set out with a large army in
    which, among the chief vassals, his cousin Thibaut of Champagne led
    a contingent. Thibaut was five-and-twenty years old, and, like
    Pierre de Dreux, then Duke of Brittany, was one of the most
    brilliant and versatile men of his time, and one of the greatest
    rulers. As royal vassal Thibaut owed forty days' service in the
    field; but his interests were at variance with the King's, and at
    the end of the term he marched home with his men, leaving the King
    to fall ill and die in Auvergne, November 8, 1226, and a child of
    ten years old to carry on the government as Louis IX.

    Chartres Cathedral has already told the story twice, in stone and
    glass; but Thibaut does not appear there, although he saved the
    Queen. Some member of the royal family must be regent. Queen Blanche
    took the place, and of course the princes of the blood, who thought
    it was their right, united against her. At first, Blanche turned
    violently on Thibaut and forbade him to appear at the coronation at
    Rheims in his own territory, on November 29, as though she held him
    guilty of treason; but when the league of great vassals united to
    deprive her of the regency, she had no choice but to detach at any
    cost any member of the league, and Thibaut alone offered help. What
    price she paid him was best known to her; but what price she would
    be believed to have paid him was as well known to her as what had
    been said of her grandmother Eleanor when she changed her allegiance
    in 1152. If the scandal had concerned Thibaut alone, she might have
    been well content, but Blanche was obliged also to pay desperate
    court to the papal legate. Every member of her husband's family
    united against her and libelled her character with the freedom which
    enlivened and envenomed royal tongues.

    Maintes paroles en dit en
    Comme d'Iseult et de Tristan.

    Had this been all, she would have cared no more than Eleanor or any
    other queen had cared, for in French drama, real or imaginary, such
    charges were not very serious and hardly uncomplimentary; but Iseult
    had never been accused, over and above her arbitrary views on the
    marriage-contract, of acting as an accomplice with Tristan in
    poisoning King Marc. French convention required that Thibaut should
    have poisoned Louis VIII for love of the Queen, and that this secret
    reciprocal love should control their lives. Fortunately for Blanche
    she was a devout ally of the Church, and the Church believed evil
    only of enemies. The legate and the prelates rallied to her support
    and after eight years of desperate struggle they crushed Pierre
    Mauclerc and saved Thibaut and Blanche.

    For us the poetry is history, and the facts are false. French art
    starts not from facts, but from certain assumptions as conventional
    as a legendary window, and the commonest convention is the Woman.
    The fact, then as now, was Power, or its equivalent in exchange, but
    Frenchmen, while struggling for the Power, expressed it in terms of
    Art. They looked on life as a drama,--and on drama as a phase of
    life--in which the bystanders were bound to assume and accept the
    regular stage-plot. That the plot might be altogether untrue to real
    life affected in no way its interest. To them Thibaut and Blanche
    were bound to act Tristan and Isolde. Whatever they were when off
    the stage, they were lovers on it. Their loves were as real and as
    reasonable as the worship of the Virgin. Courteous love was avowedly
    a form of drama, but not the less a force of society. Illusion for
    illusion, courteous love, in Thibaut's hands, or in the hands of
    Dante and Petrarch, was as substantial as any other convention;--the
    balance of trade, the rights of man, or the Athanasian Creed. In
    that sense the illusions alone were real; if the Middle Ages had
    reflected only what was practical, nothing would have survived for

    Thibaut was Tristan, and is said to have painted his verses on the
    walls of his chateau. If he did, he painted there, in the opinion of
    M. Gaston Paris, better poetry than any that was written on paper or
    parchment, for Thibaut was a great prince and great poet who did in
    both characters whatever he pleased. In modern equivalents, one
    would give much to see the chateau again with the poetry on its
    walls. Provins has lost the verses, but Troyes still keeps some
    churches and glass of Thibaut's time which hold their own with the
    best. Even of Thibaut himself, something survives, and though it
    were only the memories of his seneschal, the famous Sire de
    Joinville, history and France would be poor without him. With
    Joinville in hand, you may still pass an hour in the company of
    these astonishing thirteenth-century men and women:--crusaders who
    fight, hunt, make love, build churches, put up glass windows to the
    Virgin, buy missals, talk scholastic philosophy, compose poetry:
    Blanche, Thibaut, Perron, Joinville, Saint Louis, Saint Thomas,
    Saint Dominic, Saint Francis--you may know them as intimately as you
    can ever know a world that is lost; and in the case of Thibaut you
    may know more, for he is still alive in his poems; he even vibrates
    with life. One might try a few verses, to see what he meant by
    courtesy. Perhaps he wrote them for Queen Blanche, but, to whomever
    he sent them, the French were right in thinking that she ought to
    have returned his love (edition of 1742):--

    Nus hom ne puet ami reconforter
    Se cele non ou il a son cuer mis.
    Pour ce m'estuet sovent plaindre et plourer
    Que mis confors ne me vient, ce m'est vis,
    De la ou j'ai tote ma remembrance.
    Pour bien amer ai sovent esmaiance
    A dire voir.
    Dame, merci! donez moi esperance
    De joie avoir.

    Jene puis pas sovent a li parler
    Ne remirer les biaus iex de son vis.
    Ce pois moi que je n'i puis aler
    Car ades est mes cuers ententis.

    Ho! bele riens, douce sans conoissance,
    Car me mettez en millor attendance
    De bon espoir!
    Dame, merci! donez moi esperance
    De joie avoir.

    Aucuns si sont qui me vuelent blamer
    Quant je ne di a qui je suis amis;
    Mais ja, dame, ne saura mon penser
    Nus qui soit nes fors vous cui je le dis
    Couardement a pavours a doutance
    Dont puestes vous lors bien a ma semblance
    Mon cuer savoir.
    Dame, merci! donez moi esperance
    De joie avoir.

    There is no comfort to be found for pain
    Save only where the heart has made its home.
    Therefore I can but murmur and complain
    Because no comfort to my pain has come
    From where I garnered all my happiness.
    From true love have I only earned distress
    The truth to say.
    Grace, lady! give me comfort to possess
    A hope, one day.

    Seldom the music of her voice I hear
    Or wonder at the beauty of her eyes.
    It grieves me that I may not follow there
    Where at her feet my heart attentive lies.

    Oh, gentle Beauty without consciousness,
    Let me once feel a moment's hopefulness,
    If but one ray!
    Grace, lady! give me comfort to possess
    A hope, one day.

    Certain there are who blame upon me throw
    Because I will not tell whose love I seek;
    But truly, lady, none my thought shall know,
    None that is born, save you to whom I speak
    In cowardice and awe and doubtfulness,
    That you may happily with fearlessness
    My heart essay.
    Grace, lady! give me comfort to possess
    A hope, one day.

    Does Thibaut's verse sound simple? It is the simplicity of the
    thirteenth-century glass--so refined and complicated that sensible
    people are mostly satisfied to feel, and not to understand. Any
    blunderer in verse, who will merely look at the rhymes of these
    three stanzas, will see that simplicity is about as much concerned
    there as it is with the windows of Chartres; the verses are as
    perfect as the colours, and the versification as elaborate. These
    stanzas might have been addressed to Queen Blanche; now see how
    Thibaut kept the same tone of courteous love in addressing the Queen
    of Heaven!

    De grant travail et de petit esploit
    Voi ce siegle cargie et encombre
    Que tant somes plain de maleurte
    Ke nus ne pens a faire ce qu'il doit,
    Ains avons si le Deauble trouve
    Qu'a lui servir chascuns paine et essaie
    Et Diex ki ot pour nos ja cruel plaie
    Metons arrier et sa grant dignite;
    Molt est hardis qui pour mort ne s'esmaie.

    Diex que tout set et tout puet et tout voit
    Nous auroit tost en entre-deus giete
    Se la Dame plaine de grant bonte
    Pardelez lui pour nos ne li prioit

    Si tres douc mot plaisant et savoure
    Le grant courous dou grant Signour apaie;
    Molt par est fox ki autre amor essai
    K'en cestui n'a barat ne fausete
    Ne es autres n'a ne merti ne manaie.

    La souris quiert pour son cors garandir
    Contre l'yver la noif et le forment
    Et nous chaitif nous n'alons rien querant
    Quant nous morrons ou nous puissions garir.
    Nous ne cherchons fors k'infer le puant;
    Or esgardes come beste sauvage
    Pourvoit de loin encontre son domage
    Et nous n'avons ne sens ne hardement;
    Il est avis que plain somes de rage.

    Li Deable a getey por nos ravir
    Quatre amecons aescbies de torment;
    Covoitise lance premierement
    Et puis Orguel por sa grant rois emplir
    Et Luxure va le batel trainant
    Felonie les governe et les nage.
    Ensi peschant s'en viegnent au rivage
    Dont Diex nous gart par son commandement
    En qui sains fons nous feismes homage.

    A la Dame qui tous les bien avance
    T'en va, chancon s'el te vielt escouter
    Onques ne fu nus di millor chaunce.

    With travail great, and little cargo fraught,
    See how our world is labouring in pain;
    So filled we are with love of evil gain
    That no one thinks of doing what he ought,
    But we all hustle in the Devil's train,
    And only in his service toil and pray;
    And God, who suffered for us agony,
    We set behind, and treat him with disdain;
    Hardy is he whom death does not dismay.

    God who rules all, from whom we can hide nought,
    Had quickly flung us back to nought again
    But that our gentle, gracious, Lady Queen
    Begged him to spare us, and our pardon wrought;

    Striving with words of sweetness to restrain
    Our angry Lord, and his great wrath allay.
    Felon is he who shall her love betray
    Which is pure truth, and falsehood cannot feign,
    While all the rest is lie and cheating play.

    The feeble mouse, against the winter's cold,
    Garners the nuts and grain within his cell,
    While man goes groping, without sense to tell
    Where to seek refuge against growing old.
    We seek it in the smoking mouth of Hell.
    With the poor beast our impotence compare!
    See him protect his life with utmost care,
    While us nor wit nor courage can compel
    To save our souls, so foolish mad we are.
    The Devil doth in snares our life enfold;
    Four hooks has he with torments baited well;
    And first with Greed he casts a mighty spell,
    And then, to fill his nets, has Pride enrolled,
    And Luxury steers the boat, and fills the sail,
    And Perfidy controls and sets the snare;
    Thus the poor fish are brought to land, and there
    May God preserve us and the foe repel!
    Homage to him who saves us from despair!

    To Mary Queen, who passes all compare,
    Go, little song! to her your sorrows tell!
    Nor Heaven nor Earth holds happiness so rare.
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