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Bible Guiot de Provins, the Ordre de Bel-eise, the Roman de Fauvel, and especially the famous Roman du Renart. All these poems were sung from one end of the Trouvère-country to the other ; and the jongleurs, or wandering minstrels, who recited them to the accompaniment of the harp, were thus, unconsciously perhaps, leavening the mind of the people with the most revolutionary ideas. It is not astonishing that wise monarchs like Philip the Fair, Louis XI., Henry IV., and Louis XIV., should have fully appreciated the power of satire, when wielded by competent men, and especially when conveyed through the medium of a witty refrain. The first-named of these kings enlisted chansonniers in his service against both the court of Rome and the Knights of the Temple.* Under Louis XI. we find GUILLAUME COQUILLART composing his facetious Monologue du Gendarme cassé and the Ballade des États-généraux. The Satire Ménippée did, perhaps, as much to place the Béarnais on his throne as the veteran bands which won the fields of Arques and Ivry. Louis XIV., it is true, dealt severely with poets who were bold enough to question his authority, or to criticise his government, and Bussy-Rabutin was made to feel it; but he did not dislike to see others turned into ridicule and laughed at to the tune of Laire, lanlaire.
* See the Roman de Fauvel, composed by FRANÇOIS DE Rues.
We must, however, retrace our steps a little. Besides the large stock of poems of every kind and dimensions which are ascribed to the mediæval trouvères in general, we find a few choice works standing out more prominently on account of their special merits, and claiming here a distinct notice. THIBAUT DE CHAMPAGNE, FROISSART, CHARLES D'ORLÉANS are the best known French chansonniers of the Middle Ages; and their poems have a decided literary value, in addition to the purely historical interest which stamps the ballads and rhymed gazettes collected with such indefatigable industry by M. Thomas Wright and M. Leroux de Lincy.* EUSTACHE DESCHAMPS is the Béranger of the fifteenth century; OLIVIER BASSELIN is its Désaugiers : the patriotic strains of the former are supplemented, so to say, by the bacchanalian effusions of the latter.
The Reformation and the Renaissance introduced a new element into the lyric poetry of France, and opened for it a fresh channel. As soon as the great question of religious freedom had burst upon Europe, it marked popular literature with an indelible character. Translations of the Psalms, full of energy and grandeur, were sung at the Pré aux Clercs, on the battle-field, and even within the precincts of the Louvre; and it is a matter of doubt whether CLÉN ENT MAROT did not owe, amongst his contemporaries, his reputation more to his sacred poems than to his tales and his epigrams. It would have been well if both Protestants and Catholics had felt satisfied with singing, in their respective camps, the melodies of the Prophetking; but they seemed to take a pleasure in showing their zeal for the cause of truth by the most violent appeals to bloodshed and the most scurrilous abuse ;, and if the Roman Catholics freely indulged in rhymed denunciations of Coligny, Calvin, and Théodore de Bèze, we must acknowledge, with the historian Le Laboureur, that the Huguenots, in
* See the two volumes which M. Wright has published in the series of Chronicles, State-papers issued under the direction of the Master of the Rolls. Also the Chants historiques Français depuis le XIle jusqu'au XVIIIe siècle, avec des Notices et une Introduction, par M. LEROUX DE LINCY. Paris : 1841. 2 vols. 12mo.
“montrèrent que leur politique est fondée sur les plus cruels conseils et les plus tragiques exemples des Juifs, et qu'ils sont plus amoureux de la rigueur du temps de la Loy, que de la douceur du temps de la Grâce.”* The war of the League is also a very striking proof of the extraordinary mental aberration into which political and religious animosity can drive even the most cautious. The murder of Henry III. by Jacques
* Addit, aux Mémoires de Castelnau, i. p. 749.
Clément was extolled in the popular ballads of the day just as loudly as the murder of the Duke de Guise by Poltrot de Méré had been some years before ; and whilst the Huguenot captain was styled
“ Le dixiesme des preux,
Libérateur de France," the Ultramontanist Ligueurs said very devoutly of their hero, “Nous prions Dieu pour
En son trosne divin." * The effect of the Renaissance movement upon French lyric poetry referred to the style chiefly ; it was none the less extremely beneficial. A few exaggerated admirers of antiquity endeavoured at first, indeed, to Latinize and Hellenizet the grammar,
* See M. Charles NISARD's Des Chansons populaires chez les Anciens et chez les Français. Paris : 1867. 2 vols. 12mo. This excellent work has been of the greatest assistance to me.
“O cuisse-né, Archete, Hymenien,
Bassare, Roy, Rustique, Eubolien,
Nomien, Double, Hospitalier,
Lysien, Baleur, Bonime,
Gange te vit triomphant.” The ode from which the above string of epithets is taken was composed, not by Ronsard, as it has often been thought, but by Bertrand Bergier. It is printed, however, in the recent edition of Ronsard's works, vol. vi. p. 377. Paris : Franck. 1866. 18mo.
but they were soon warned of the mistake they were committing, by their own good sense and the shrewd critiques of dispassionate observers.* What a rich store of poetry can be found in the writings of the members of the Pleiad ! what a variety of treasures, whether we turn to the lofty couplets of AGRIPPA D'AUBIGNÉ, the tender stanzas of BELLEAU and DES PORTES, or the brilliant effusions of RONSARD! MALHERBE came at last (Enfin Malherbe vint), and assigned to French lyrics those strict laws which they were to preserve as far down as the beginning of the present century.
Few are the historical songs written against Richelieu during the first part of his administration ; but after the famous Journée des Dupes there was a perfect explosion of vaudevilles and squibs, which continued without interruption until Mazarin made our chansonniers forget the Bishop of Luçon. It would be difficult to select from the voluminous collection of songs composed by the enemies of the éminence rouge, one in which the rules of common decency are not glaringly set at defiance. The famous rondeau of the Maitre des Comptes Miron, beginning with the line,
“Il a passé, il a plié bagage,”
was set to music by Louis XIII. himself, if we may
* See Rabelais, Pantagruel.