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[Transcriber's Notes: To improve readability, dashes between entries
in the Table of Contents and in chapter subheadings have been
converted to periods. The Anglo-Saxon yogh symbol is here represented
by [y].]




Periods of European Literature


EDITED BY

PROFESSOR SAINTSBURY


II.

THE TWELFTH AND THIRTEENTH CENTURIES




PERIODS OF EUROPEAN LITERATURE.

EDITED BY PROFESSOR SAINTSBURY.


"_The criticism which alone can much help us for the future
is a criticism which regards Europe as being, for
intellectual and spiritual purposes, one great
confederation, bound to a joint action and working to a
common result._"

--MATTHEW ARNOLD.


In 12 Crown 8vo Volumes. Price 5s. net each.

The DARK AGES Professor W.P. KER.
The FLOURISHING OF ROMANCE
AND THE RISE OF ALLEGORY THE EDITOR.
The FOURTEENTH CENTURY F.J. SNELL.
The TRANSITION PERIOD
The EARLIER RENAISSANCE
The LATER RENAISSANCE DAVID HANNAY.
The FIRST HALF OF 17TH CENTURY
The AUGUSTAN AGES OLIVER ELTON.
The MID-EIGHTEENTH CENTURY
The ROMANTIC REVOLT EDMUND GOSSE.
The ROMANTIC TRIUMPH WALTER H. POLLOCK.
The LATER NINETEENTH CENTURY THE EDITOR.

WILLIAM BLACKWOOD & SONS, EDINBURGH AND LONDON.




THE

FLOURISHING OF ROMANCE

AND THE

RISE OF ALLEGORY


BY

GEORGE SAINTSBURY, M.A.

PROFESSOR OF RHETORIC AND ENGLISH LITERATURE IN THE UNIVERSITY OF
EDINBURGH


WILLIAM BLACKWOOD AND SONS
EDINBURGH AND LONDON
MDCCCXCVII




PREFACE.


As this volume, although not the first in chronological order, is
likely to be the first to appear in the Series of which it forms part,
and of which the author has the honour to be editor, it may be well to
say a few words here as to the scheme of this Series generally. When
that scheme was first sketched, it was necessarily objected that it
would be difficult, if not impossible, to obtain contributors who
could boast intimate and equal knowledge of all the branches of
European literature at any given time. To meet this by a simple denial
was, of course, not to be thought of. Even universal linguists, though
not unknown, are not very common; and universal linguists have not
usually been good critics of any, much less of all, literature. But it
could be answered that if the main principle of the scheme was
sound--that is to say, if it was really desirable not to supplant but
to supplement the histories of separate literatures, such as now exist
in great numbers, by something like a new "Hallam," which should take
account of all the simultaneous and contemporary developments and
their interaction--some sacrifice in point of specialist knowledge of
individual literatures not only must be made, but might be made with
little damage. And it could be further urged that this sacrifice might
be reduced to a minimum by selecting in each case writers thoroughly
acquainted with the literature which happened to be of greatest
prominence in the special period, provided always that their general
literary knowledge and critical habits were such as to render them
capable of giving a fit account of the rest.

In the carrying out of such a scheme occasional deficiencies of
specialist dealing, or even of specialist knowledge, must be held to
be compensated by range of handling and width of view. And though it
is in all such cases hopeless to appease what has been called "the
rage of the specialist" himself--though a Mezzofanti doubled with a
Sainte-Beuve could never, in any general history of European
literature, hope to satisfy the special devotees of Roumansch or of
Platt-Deutsch, not to mention those of the greater languages--yet
there may, I hope, be a sufficient public who, recognising the
advantage of the end, will make a fair allowance for necessary
shortcomings in the means.

As, however, it is quite certain that there will be some critics, if
not some readers, who will not make this allowance, it seemed only
just that the Editor should bear the brunt in this new Passage
Perilous. I shall state very frankly the qualifications which I think
I may advance in regard to this volume. I believe I have read most of
the French and English literature proper of the period that is in
print, and much, if not most, of the German. I know somewhat less of
Icelandic and Provençal; less still of Spanish and Italian as regards
this period, but something also of them: Welsh and Irish I know only
in translations. Now it so happens that--for the period--French is,
more than at any other time, the capital literature of Europe. Very
much of the rest is directly translated from it; still more is
imitated in form. All the great subjects, the great _matières_, are
French in their early treatment, with the exception of the national
work of Spain, Iceland, and in part Germany. All the forms, except
those of the prose saga and its kinsman the German verse folk-epic,
are found first in French. Whosoever knows the French literature of
the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, knows not merely the best
literature in form, and all but the best in matter, of the time, but
that which all the time was imitating, or shortly about to imitate,
both in form and matter.

Again, England presents during this time, though no great English work
written "in the English tongue for English men," yet the spectacle,
unique in history, of a language and a literature undergoing a
sea-change from which it was to emerge with incomparably greater
beauty and strength than it had before, and in condition to vie
with--some would say to outstrip--all actual or possible rivals.
German, if not quite supreme in any way, gives an interesting and
fairly representative example of a chapter of national literary
history, less brilliant and original in performance than the French,
less momentous and unique in promise than the English, but more normal
than either, and furnishing in the epics, of which the _Nibelungenlied_
and _Kudrun_ are the chief examples, and in the best work of the
Minnesingers, things not only of historical but of intrinsic value in
all but the highest degree.

Provençal and Icelandic literature at this time are both of them of
far greater intrinsic interest than English, if not than German, and
they are infinitely more original. But it so happens that the
prominent qualities of form in the first, of matter and spirit in the
second, though intense and delightful, are not very complicated,
various, or wide-ranging. If monotony were not by association a
question-begging word, it might be applied with much justice to both:
and it is consequently not necessary to have read every Icelandic saga
in the original, every Provençal lyric with a strictly philological
competence, in order to appreciate the literary value of the
contributions which these two charming isolations made to European
history.

Yet again, the production of Spain during this time is of the
smallest, containing, perhaps, nothing save the _Poem of the Cid_,
which is at once certain in point of time and distinguished in point
of merit; while that of Italy is not merely dependent to a great
extent on Provençal, but can be better handled in connection with
Dante, who falls to the province of the writer of the next volume. The
Celtic tongues were either past or not come to their chief
performance; and it so happens that, by the confession of the most
ardent Celticists who speak as scholars, no Welsh or Irish _texts_
affecting the capital question of the Arthurian legends can be
certainly attributed to the twelfth or early thirteenth centuries. It
seemed to me, therefore, that I might, without presumption, undertake
the volume. Of the execution as apart from the undertaking others must
judge. I will only mention (to show that the book is not a mere
compilation) that the chapter on the Arthurian Romances summarises,
for the first time in print, the result of twenty years' independent
study of the subject, and that the views on prosody given in chapter
v. are not borrowed from any one.

I have dwelt on this less as a matter of personal explanation, which
is generally superfluous to friends and never disarms foes, than in
order to explain and illustrate the principle of the Series. All its
volumes have been or will be allotted on the same principle--that of
occasionally postponing or antedating detailed attention to the
literary production of countries which were not at the moment of the
first consequence, while giving greater prominence to those that were:
but at the same time never losing sight of the _general_ literary
drift of the whole of Europe during the whole period in each case. It
is to guard against such loss of sight that the plan of committing
each period to a single writer, instead of strapping together bundles
of independent essays by specialists, has been adopted. For a survey
of each time is what is aimed at, and a survey is not to be
satisfactorily made but by one pair of eyes. As the individual study
of different literatures deepens and widens, these surveys may be more
and more difficult: they may have to be made more and more "by
allowance." But they are also more and more useful, not to say more
and more necessary, lest a deeper and wider ignorance should accompany
the deeper and wider knowledge.

The dangers of this ignorance will hardly be denied, and it would be
invidious to produce examples of them from writings of the present
day. But there can be nothing ungenerous in referring--_honoris_, not
_invidiæ causa_--to one of the very best literary histories of this or
any century, Mr Ticknor's _Spanish Literature_. There was perhaps no
man of his time who was more widely read, or who used his reading with
a steadier industry and a better judgment, than Mr Ticknor. Yet the
remarks on assonance, and on long mono-rhymed or single-assonanced
tirades, in his note on Berceo (_History of Spanish Literature_, vol.
i. p. 27), show almost entire ignorance of the whole prosody of the
_chansons de geste_, which give such an indispensable light in
reference to the subject, and which, even at the time of his first
edition (1849), if not quite so well known as they are to-day,
existed in print in fair numbers, and had been repeatedly handled by
scholars.



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