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When the chase is assembled, the yoeman puts up | city of invention, and in their more strong tendency the hare, who with little difficulty makes her escape to the marvellous. Several specimens of the Co. from the mongrel mastiffs, and breaks a ring which mic Romance are also to be found mingled with had been formed by the peasants, armed with those which are serious; and we have the best and their great clubs and bats. Greaț is the terror of the most positive authority that the recital of these seindividual over whom she ran in her retreat, and ductive fictions is at this moment an amusement as who expected fully that she would have torn his fascinating and general among the people of the throat out. The inexperienced curs and mastiffs, East, as the perusal of printed Romances and noinstead of pursuing the game, commence a battle vels among the European public. But a minute inroyal amongst themselves, - their masters take part vestigation into this particular species of Romance in the fray, and beat each other soundly. In short, would lead us from our present field, already suffthe hunting of the hare, scarce less doleful than that ciently extensive for the limits to which our plan of Cheviot, concludes like the latter, with the wo: confines it. men of the village coming to carry off the wounded The European Romance, wherever it arises, and and slain.
in whatsoever country it begins to be cultivated, had It can hardly be supposed the satire is directed its origin in some part of the real or fabulous history against the sport of hunting itself; since the
whole of that country; and of this we will produce, in the ridicule arises out of the want of the necessary sequel, abundant proofs. But the simple tale of traknowledge of its rules, incident to the ignorance dition had not passed through many mouths, ere and inexperience of the clowns, who undertook to some one, to indulge his own propensity for the wonpractise an art peculiar to gentlemen.
derful, or to secure by novelty the attention of his The ancient poetry of Scotland furnishes several audience, augments the meagre chronicle with his examples of this ludicrous style of romantic compo own apocryphal inventions. Skirmishes are elevated sition; as the Tournament at the Drum, and the into great battles; the champion of a remote age is Justing of Watson and Barbour, by Sir David exaggerated into a sort of demi-god; and the ene Lindsay. "It is probable that these mock encounters mies whom he encountered and subdued are multiwere sometimes acted in earnest; at least King plied in number and magnified in strength, in order James I. is accused of witnessing such practical to add dignity to his successes against them. Chantjests ; " sometimes presenting David Droman and led to rhythmical numbers, the songs which cele Archie Armstrong, the King's fool, on the back of brate the early valour of the fathers of the tribe beother fools, to tilt at one another till they fell toge- come its war-cry in battle, and men march to ther by the ears."-(Sir Antony Weldon's Court of conflict hymning the praises and the deeds of some King James.)
real or supposed precursor who had marshalled In hastily noticing the various divisions of the their fathers in the path of victory. No reader can Romance, we have in some degree delayed our pro- have forgotten, that, when the decisive battle of mised account of its rise and progress; an inquiry Hastings commenced, a Norman minstrel, Taillewhich we mean chiefly to confine to the Romance fer, advanced on horseback before the invading of the middle ages. It'is indeed true that this spe- host, and gave the signal for onset, by singing the cies of composition is common to almost all nations, Song of Roland, that renowned nephew of Charle and that even if we deem the Iliad and Odyssey magne, of whom Romance speaks so much, and compositions too dignified by the strain of poetry history so little; and whose fall, with the chivalry in wh they are composed to be the name of of Charles the Great in the pass of Roncesvalles, Metrical Romances; yet we have the Pastoral Ro- has given rise to such clouds of romantic fiction, mance of Daphnis and Chloe, and the Historical that its very name has been for ever associated with Romance of Theagenes and Chariclea, which are it. The remarkable passage has been often quoted sufficiently accurate specimens of that style of com- from the Brut of Wace, an Anglo-Norman metriposition. The Milesian fables and the Romances cal Chronicle. of Antonius Diogenes, described by Photius, could
Taillefer, qui moult bien chantont they be recovered, would also be found to belong to
Sur un cheval gi tost alont, the same class. It is impossible to avoid noticing that the Sybarites, whose luxurious habits seems to
De Karlemaigne et de Rollant,
Et d'Oliver et des vassaly, have been intellectual, as well as sensual, were peculiarly addicted to the perusal of the Milesian which may be thus rendered : fables; from which we may conclude that the narratives were not of that severe kind which inspired
Taillefer, who sung both well and loud,
Came mounted on a courser proud ; high thoughts and martial virtues. But there would
Before the Duke the minatrel sprung. be little advantage derived from extending our re
And loud of Charles and Roland sung, searches into the ages of classical antiquity respect
of Oliver and champions mo,
Who died at fatal Roncevaux. ing a class of compositions, which, though they existed then, as in almost every stage of society, This champion possessed the sleight-of-hand of the were neither so numerous nor of such high repute juggler, as well as the art of the minstsel. He tossas to constitute any considerable portion of that ed up his sword in the air, and caught it again as literature.
he galloped to the charge, and showed other feats Want of space also may entitle us to dismiss the of dexterity. Taillefer slew two Saxon warriors of consideration of the Oriental Romances, unless in distinction, and was himself killed by a third. Ritso far as in the course of the middle ages they came son, with less than his usual severe accuracy, supto furnish materials for enlarging and varying the posed that Taillefer sung some part of a long metri. character of the Romances of knight-errantry: cal Romance upon Roland and his history; but the That they existed early, and were highly esteemed words chanson, cantilena, and song, by which the both among the Persians and Arabians, has never composition is usually described, seems rather to apbeen disputed ; and the most interesting light has ply to a brief ballad or national song; which is also been lately thrown on the subject by the publication more consonant with our ideas of the time and of Antar, one of the most ancient, as well as most place where it was chanted. rational, if we may use the phrase, of the Oriental But neither with these romantic and metrical fictions. The Persian Romance of the Sha-Nameh chronicles did the mind long remain satisfied. More is well known to Europeans by name, and by copi- details were demanded, and were liberally added by ous extracts; and the love-tale of Mejnoun and the invention of those who undertook to cater for Leilah is also familiar to our ears, if not to our re- the public taste in such matters. The same names collections. Many of the fictions in the extraordi- of kings and champions, which had first caught the nary collection of the Arabian Tales, that of Co. national ear, were still retained, in order to secure dadad and his brethren, for example, approach attention; and the same assertions of authenticity, strictly to the character of Romances of Chivalry; and affected references to real history, were stoutly although in general they must be allowed to exceed made, both in the
commencement and in the course the more tame northern fictions in dauntless viva- 1 of the narrative. Each nation, as will presently be
Devant le Duc alont chantant
Qui morurent en Rencevals.
seen, came at length to adopt to itself a cycle of he- fore, we would gladly have seen handled with more roes like those of the Iliad; a sort of common pro- diffidence, and better temper, in proportion to their perty to all minstrels who chose to make use of uncertainty. thein, under the condition always that the general The late venerable Dr. Percy, Bishop of Dromore, character ascribed to each individual hero was pre- led the way unwarily to this dire controversy, by asserved with some degree of consistency. Thus, in cribing the composition of our ancient heroic songs the Romances of Thc Round Table, Gawain is usu- and metrical legends, in rather too liberal language, ally represented as courteous; Kay as rude and to the minstrels, that class of men by whom they boasuul; Mordred as treacherous; and Sir Launce- were generally recited. This excellent person, to lot as a true though a sinful lover, and in all other whose memory the lovers of our ancient lyre must respecis a model of chivalry. Amid the Paladins of always remain so deeply indebted, did not, on pubCharlemagne, whose cycle may be considered as pe- lishing his work nearly fifty years ago, see the rigid cularly the property of French in opposition to Nor- necessity of observing the utmost and most accunan-Anglo Romance, Gan, or Ganelon of Mayence, rate precision either in his transcripts or his definiis always represented as a faithless traitor, engaged tions. The study which he wished to introduce was in intrigues for the destruction of Christianity; Ro; a new one—it was his object to place it before the land ay brave, unsuspicious, devotedly loyal, and public in an engaging and interesting form; and, in somewhat simple in his disposition ; Renaud, or Ri- consideration of his having obtained this important naldo, who possessed the frontier fortress, is paint- point, we ought to make every allowance, not only ed with all the properties of a borderer, valiant, for slight inaccuracies, but for some hasty conclualeri, ingenious, rapacious, and unscrupulous. The sions, and even exaggerations, with which he was same conventional distinctions may be traced in the induced to garnish his labour of love. He defined history of the Nibelung, a composition of Scandi- the minstrels, to whose labours he chiefly ascribed navian origin, which has supplied matter for so the metrical compositions on which he desired to fix many Teutonic Romances. Meister Hildebrand, the attention of the public, as "an order of men in Etzel, Theodorick, and the champion Hogan, as well the middle ages, who subsisted by the arts of poetry as Chrimhilda and the females introduced, have the and music, and sung to the harp verses composed same individuality of character, which is ascribed, by themselves or others.”* In a very learned and in Homer's immortal writings, to the wise Ulysses, elegant essay upon the text thus announced, the the brave but relentless Achilles, his more gentle reverend Prelate in a great measure supported the friend Patroclus, Sarpedon the favourite of the gods, definition which he had laid down ; although it may and Hector the protector of mankind. It was not be thought that, in the first editions at least, he has permitted to the invention of a Greek poet to make been anxious to view the profession of the minstrels Ajax a dwarf, or Teucer a giant, Thersites a hero, or on their fairest and most brilliant side ; and to assign Diomedes a coward; and it seems to have been un- to them a higher station in society than a general der similar restrictions respecting consistency, that review of all the passages connected with them will the ancient romancers exercised their ingenuity up- permit us to give to a class of persons, who either on the materials supplied them by their predecessors. I lived a vagrant life, dependent on the precarious But, in other respecis, the whole store of romantic taste of the public for a hard-earned maintenance, history and tradition was free to all as a joint stock or, at best, were retained as a part of the menial rein trade, on which each had a right to draw as suit- tinue of some haughty baron, and in a great meaed his particular purposes. He was at liberty not sure identified with his musical band. only to select a hero out of known and established The late acute, industrious, and ingenious Mr. Jonames which had been the theme of others, but to seph Ritson, whose severe accuracy was connected imagine a new personage of his own pure fancy, and with an unhappy eagerness and irritability of temper, combine him with the heroes of Arthur's Table or took advantage of the exaggerations occasionally to Charlemagne's Court in the way which best suited his be found in the Bishop's Account of Ancient Minfancy. He was permitted to excite new wars against strelsy, and assailed him with terms which are anythose bulwarks of Christendom, invade them with thing but courteous. Without finding an excuse, fresh and innumerable hosts of Saracens, reduce either in the novelty of the studies in which Percy them to the last extremity, drive them from their had led the way, or in the vivacity of imagination thrones, and lead them into captivity, and again to which he did not himself share, he proceeded to ar selieve their persons, and restore their sovereignty, raign each trivial inaccuracy as a gross fraud, and by events and agents totally unknown in their form- every deduction which he considered to be erroneous er story.
as a wilful untruth, fit to be stigmatized with the In the characters thus assigned to the individual broadest appellation by which falsehood can be dispersonages of romantic fiction, it is possible there tinguished. Yet there is so little room for this exmight be some slight foundation in remote tradition, treme loss of temper, that, upon a recent perusal of as there were also probably some real grounds for both those ingenious essays, we were surprised to the existence of such persons, and perhaps for a find that the reverend Editor of the Reliques, and very few of the leading circumstances attributed to the accurate Antiquary, have differed so very little, them. But these realities only exist as the few as, in essential facts, they appear to have done. grains of wheat in the bushel of chaff, incapable of Quotations are indeed, made by both with no spabeing winnowed out, or cleared from the mass of ring hand; and hot arguments, and, on one side at fiction with which each new romancer had in his least, hard words, are unsparingly employed; while, turn overwhelmed them. So that Romance, though as is said to happen in theological polemics, the concertainly deriving its first original from the pure test grows warmer, in proportion as the ground confont of History, is supplied, during the course of cerning which it is carried on is narrower and more a very few generations with so many tributes insignificant. But notwithstanding all this ardour of from the Imagination, that at length the very controversy, their systems in reality do not essenname comes to be used to distinguish works of pure tially differ. fiction.
Rítson is chiefly offended at the gweeping concluWhen so popular a department of poetry has at- sion, in which Percy states the minstrels as subsisttained this decided character, it becomes time to in- ing by the arts of poetry and music, and reciting to quire who were the composers of these numerous, the harp verses composed by themselves and others. lengthened, and once admired narratives which are He shows very successfully that this definition is called Metrical Romances, and from whence they considerably too extensive, and that the term mindrew their authority. Both these subjects of dis- strel comprehended, of old, not merely those who cussion have been the source of great controversy recited to the harp or other instrument romances among antiquarians; a class of men who, be it said and ballads, but others who were distinguished by with their forgiveness, are apt to be both positive their skill in instrumental music only; and, moreand polemical upon the very points which are least over, that jugglers, sleight-of-hand performers, dansusceptible of proof, and which are least valuable if the truth could be ascertained ; and which, there- first volume of Bishop Percy's Reliques.
• Essay on Ancient Minstrels in England, prefixed to the
cers, tumblers and such like subordinate artists, | merous one, made poetical recitations their chief, if who were introduced to help away the tedious hours not their exclusive occupation. The memory of in an ancient feudal castle, were also comprehended these men was, in the general case, the depository under the general term of minstrel. But although he of the pieces which they recited; and hence, al. distinctly proves that Percy's definition applied only though a number of their Romances still survive, to one class of the persons termed minstrels, those very many more have doubtless fallen into oblivion. namely who sung or recited verses, and in many That the minstrels were also the authors of many cases of their own composition; the bishop's posi- of these poems, and that they altered and enlarged tion remains unassailable, in so far as relates to one others, is a matter which can scarce be doubted, general class, and those the most distinguished du- when it is proved that they were the ordinary reci. ring the middle ages. All minstrels did not use the ters of them. It was as natural for a minstrel to harp, and recite or compose romantic poetry; but it become a poet or composer of Romances, as for a cannot be denied that such was the occupation of player to be a dramatic author, or a musician a comthe most eminent of the order. This Ritson has ra- poser of music. Whatsoever individual among a ther admitted than denied; and the number of quo- class, whose trade it was to recite poetry, felt the tations which his industry has brought together, ren- least degree of poetical enthusiasm in a profession dered such an admission inevitable.
so peculiarly calculated to inspire ii, must, from that Indeed, the slightest acquaintance with ancient very impulse, have become an original author, or Romances of the metrical class, shows us that they translator at least : thus giving novelty to his rewere composed for the express purpose of being recitations, and acquiring additional profit and fame. cited, or, more properly, chanted, to some simple ---Bishop Percy, therefore, states the case fairly in tune or cadence, for the amusement of a large audi- the following passage : "It can hardly be expected, ence. Our ancestors, as they were circumscribed in that we should be able to produce regular and unknowledge, were also more limited in conversational broken annals of the minstrel art and its professors, powers than their enlightened descendants; and it or have sufficient information, whether every min seems probable, that, in their public festivals, there strel or bard composed himself, or only repeated, the was great advantage found in the presence of a min- songs he chanted. Some probably did the one, and strel, who should recite some popular composition some the other; and it would have been wonderful, on their favourite subjects of love and war, to pre- indeed, if men, whose peculiar profession it was, and vent those pauses of discourse which sometimes fall who devoted their time and talents to entertain their heavily on a company, even of the present accom-hearers with poetical compositions, were peculiariy plished age, and to supply an agreeable train of ideas deprived of all poetical genius themselves, and bad to those guests who had few of their own. It is, been under a physical incapacity of composing those therefore, almost constantly insinuated, that the Ro- common popular rhymes, which were the usual submance was to be chanted or recited to a large and jects of their recitation."* While, however, we acfestive society, and in some part or other of the quiesce in the proposition, that the minstrels compiece, generally at the opening, there is a request of at- posed many, perhaps the greater part
of the metritention on the part of the performer; and hence, the cal Romances which they sung, it is evident they perpetual "Lythe and listen, lordings free,” which in were frequently assisted in the task by others, who those, or equivalent words, forms the introduction to though not belonging to this profession, were so many Romances. As, for example, in the old prompted by leisure and inclination to enter upon poem of Guy and Colbrand, the minstrel speaks of the literary or poetical department as amateurs
. his own occupation :
These very often belonged to the clerical profession, “When meat and drink is great plentyo,
amongst whom relaxation of discipline, abundance Then lords and ladyen still will be,
of spare time, and impatience of the routine of cere
monious duties, often led individuals into worse oc Then it is time for mee to speake,
cupations than the listening to or composing metri Of kem knights and kempes greate,
cal Romances. It was in vain that both the poems Such carping for to kythe." Chaucer, also, in his Ryme of Sir Thopas, assigns tute, debarred from entering the more rigid monas
and the minstrels who recited them were, by stato the minstrels of his hero's household the same teries. Both found their way frequently to the duty, of reciting Romances of spiritual or secular refectory, and were made more welcome than bre heroes, for the good knight's pastime while arming thren of their own profession; as we may leam for battle :
from a memorable Gest, in which two poor travel * Docum," he sayd, “my minestrales,
ling priests, who had been received into a monastery And jestours for to tellen tales
with acclamation, under the mistaken idea of their Anon in min arming, of romaunces that ben reales,
being minstrels, are turned out in disgrace, when it of popes and of cardinales,
is discovered that they were indeed capable of furAnd eke of love-longing."
nishing spiritual instruction, but understood none Not to multiply quotations, we will only add one of of the entertaining arts with which the hospitality some importance, which must have escaped Rit- of their hosts might have been repaid by itinerant son's researches; for his editorial integrity was bards. such, as rendered him incapable of suppressing evi
Nay, besides a truant disposition to a forbidden dence on either side of the question. In the old Ro- task, many of the grave authors may have alleged, mance or legend of True Thomas and the Queen in their own defence, that the connexion between of Elfland, Thomas the Rhymer, himself a minstrel, history and Romance was not in their day entirely is gified by the Queen of the Faery with the facul- dissolved. Some eminent men exercised themselves ties of music and song. The answer of Thomas is in both kinds of composition; as, for example, not only conclusive as to the minstrel's custom of Maitre Wace, a canon of Caen, in Normandy, who, recitation, but shows that it was esteemed the high- besides the metrical chronicle of La Brut, containest branch of his profession and superior as such to ing the earliest history of England, and other histomere instrumental music:
rical legends, wrote in 1155, the Roman de Cheralier "To harp and carp, Thomas, wheresoover ye gon,
de Lyon, probably the same translated under the tiThomas take the these with the"
tle of Ywain and Gawain. Lambert li Cors, and Harping," he said, “ken I non,
Benoit de Saint-Maur, seem both to have been of For longe is chefe of Mynstralse."*
the clerical order; and, perhaps, Chretien de Troyes, We therefore arrive at the legitimate conclusion, that although, under the general term minstrels,
* Essay on the Ancient Minstrels, p. 30.
Another authority of ancient date, the Chronicie of Bertrand were comprehended many who probably entertained Guesclin, distinctly attributes the most renowned liomances to the public only with instrumental performances, the composition of the minstrels by whom they were sung. with ribald cales, with jugglery, or farcical represent- only say, that after enumerating Arthur. Lancelot, Guifres Ro
here ations, yet one class amongst them, and that a nu- land, and other champions, he sums up his account of them as * Jamieson's Popular Ballads, vol. II. p. 27.
being the heroes
De quoi cils minestriers font les nobles romans."
And sit and solace lythe.
a most voluminous author of Romance, was of the their highest enjoyments, yet some justification is same profession. Indeed, the extreme length of usually to be drawn from the manners of the classes many Romances being much greater than any min- who were thus lowered in public opinion. It must strel could undertake to sing at one or even many be remembered, thai, as professors of this joyous sittings, may induce us to refer them to men of a science, as it was called, the minstre's stood in dimore sedentary occupation than those wandering rect opposition to the inore severe part of the Capoets. The religious Romances were, in all proba- tholics, and to the monks in particular, whose bility, the works of such churchmen as might wish vows bound them to practise virtues of the ascetic to reconcile an agreeable occupation with their reli- order, and to look upon every thing as profane which gious profession. All which circumstances must be was connected with mere worldly pleasure. The received as exce ions from the general proposition, manners of the minstrels themselves gave but too that the Romances in metre were the compositions much room for clerical censure. They were the of the ininstrels by whom they were recited or sung, usual assistants al scenes, not merely of convivialithough they must still leave Percy's proposition to ty, but of license; and, as the companions and ena certain extent unimpeached.
couragers of revelling and excess, they became conTo explain the history of Romance, it is necessa- tempuble in the eyes, not only of ihe aged and the sery to digress a little further concerning the condition rious, but of the libertine himself, when his debauch of the minstrels by whom these compositions were palled on hie recollection. The minstrels, no doubt, often made, and, generally speaking, preserved and like their brethren of the stage, sought an apology recited. And here it must be confessed, that the ve- in the corrupted taste and manners of their audinerable Prelate has, perhaps, suffered his love of an- ence, with which they were obliged to comply, untiquity, and his desire to ennoble the productions of der the true but melancholy condition, that the middle ages, a little to overcolour the importance and respectability of the minstrel tribe; al
they who live to please must please to live. though his opponent Ritson has, on the other hand, But this very necessity, rendered more degrading by seized on all circumstances and inferences which their increasing numbers and decreasing reputation, could be adduced to prove the degradation of the only accelerated the total downfall of their order, minstrel character, without attending to the parti and the general discredit and neglect into which they culars by which these depreciating circumstances had fallen. The statute of the 39th of Queen Elizawere qualified. In fact, neither of these excellent beth, passed at the close of the sixteenth century, antiquarians has cast a general or philosophic glance ranks those dishonoured sons of song among rogues on the necessary condition of a set of men, who and vagabonds, and appoints them to be punished were by profession the instruments of the pleasure as such; and the occupation, though a vestige of it of others during a period of society such us was was long retained in the habits of iravelling ballad. presented in the middle ages.
singers and musicians, sunk into total neglect and In a very early period of civilization, çre the divi- contempt. Of this we shall have to speak hereafter; sion of ranks has been generally adopied, and while our business being at present with those Romances, each tribe may be yet considered as one great family, which, while still in the zenith of their reputation, and the nation as a union of such independent were the means by which the minstrels, at least the tribes, the poetical art, so nearly allied to that of better and higher class among them, recommended oratory or persausion, is found to ascertain to its themselves to the favour of their noble patrons, and professors a very high rank. Poets are, then, the of the audiences whom they addressed. historians and otten the priests of the society. Their It may be presumed, that, although the class of command of language, ihen in its infancy, exciles! minstrels, like all who merely depend upon gratifynot merely pleasure, but enthusiasm and admiration. I ing the public, carried in their very occupation the When separated into a distinct class, as was the evils which first infected, and finally altogether decase with the Celtic Bards, and, perhaps, with the praved, their reputation; yet, in the earlier ages, Skalds of Scandinavia, they rank bigh in the scale iheir duties were more honourably estimated, and of society, and we not only find kings and nobles some attempts were made to introduce into their listening to them with admiration, but emulous of motley body the character of a regular establishtheir art, and desirous to be enrolled among their ment, subjected to discipline and subordination. Senumbers. Several of the most renowned northern veral individuals, both of France and England, bore kings and champions valued themselves as much the title of King of Minstrels, and were invested upon their powers of poetry as on their martial ex- probably with some authority over the others. The ploits; and of the Welsh princes, the Irish kings, Serjeant of Minstrels is also mentioned; and Ed. and the Highland chiefs of Scotland, very many ward IV. scems to have attempted to form a Guild practised the arts of poetry and music. Llwarch or exclusive Corporation of Minstrels. John of Hen was a prince of the Cymraig, --Brian Boromhe, Gaunt, at an earlier period, established (between a harper and a musician, and, without resorting to jest and earnest, perhaps) a Court Baron of Min the questionable authenticity of Ossian, several in strels, to be held at Tilbury. There is no reason, stances of the same kind might be produced in the however, to suppose, that the influence of their estaHighlands.
blishments went far in restraining the license of a But, in process of time, when the classes of soci- body of artists so unruly as well as numerous. ety come to assume their usual gradation with re It is not, indeed, surprising that individuals, whose spect to each other, the rank of professional poets is talents in the arts of music, or of the stage, rise to uniformly found to sink gradually in the scale, along the highest order, shonld, in a special degree, attain with that of all others whose trade it is to contri- the reward and affection of the powerful, acquire bute to mere amusement. The professional poet, wealth, and rise to consideration ; for in such prolike the player or the musician, becomes the compa- fessions, very high prizes are assigned only to prenion and soother only of idle and convivial hours; eminent excellence; while ordinary or inferior prachis presence would be unbecoming on occasions of tisers of the same art may be said to draw in the gravity and importance; and his art is accounted lottery something worse than a mere blank. In the at besi an amusing but useless luxury. Although useful arts, a great equality subsists among the the intellectual pleasure derived from poetry, or members, and it is wealth alone which distinguishes from the exhibition of the drama, be of a different a tradesman or a mechanic from the brethren of his and much higher class than that derived from the guild; in other points their respectability is equal. accordance of sounds, or from the exhibition of The worst weaver in the craft is still a weaver, and feats of dexterity, still it will be found, that the opi- the best, to all but those who buy his web, is little nions and often the laws of society, while individu-more--as men they are entirely on a level. In what als of these classes are cherished and held in the are called the fine arts, it is different; for excellence highest estimation, have degraded the professions leads to the highest point of consideration; mediothemselves among its idle. dissolute, and useless ap- crity, and marked inferiority, are the object of nependages. Although it may be accounted ungrate- glect and utter contempt. Garrick, in his chariot, and ful in mankind thus to reward the instruments of whose company was courted for his wit and talent,
was, after all, by profession, the same with the un- | identified with those of real history, that graver hisfortunate stroller, whom the British laws condemn torians quote the actions of the former in illustration as a vagabond, and to whose dead body, other coun- of, and as a corollary to, the real events which they tries refuse even the last rites of Christianity. In narrate.** The virtues recommended in Romance the same manner it is easy to suppose, that when, were, however, only of that overstrained and extrain compliance with the taste of their age, monarchs vagant cast which consisted with the spirit of chi. entertained their domestic minstrels,' those persons valry., Great bodily strength, and perfection in all might be admitted to the most flattering intimacy martial exercises, was the universal accomplish. with their royal masters; sleep within the royal ment inalienable from the character of the bero, and chamber, t amass considerable fortunes, found hos- which each romancer had it in his power 10 confer. pitals, and receive rewards singularly over-propor. It was also easily in the composer's power to devise tioned to the perquisites of the graver professions ;s dangers, and to free his hero from them by the exerand even practise, in company with their royal mas; tion of valour equally extravagant. But it was more ters, the pleasing arts of poetry and music, which all difficult to frame a story which should illustrate the are so desirous of attaining;ll whilst, at the same manners as well as the feats of Chivalry; or to detime, those who ranked lower in the same profes- vise the means of evincing that devotion to dnty, and sion were struggling with difficulty to gain a precari- that disinterested desire to sacrifice all to faith and ous subsistence, and many of a rank still more su- honour;-that noble spirit of achievement which labordinate, were incurring all the disgrace usually boured for others more than itself-which form, perattached to a vagabond life and a dubious charac- haps, the fairest side of the system under which the ter. In the fine arts, we repeat, excellence is de noble youths of the middle ages were trained up. manded, and mere mediocrity is held contemptible; The sentiments of Chivalry, as we have explained and, while the favour with which the former is load in our article on that subjeci, were founded on the ed, sometimes seems disproportioned to the utility most pure and honourable principles, but unfortu: of the art itself, nothing can exceed the scorn pour- nately carried into hyperbole and extravagance; un. ed out on those who expose themselves by underta- til the religion of its professors approached to fanatiking arts which they are unable to practise with cism, their valour to frenzy, their ideas of honour to success; and it follows, that as excellence can only absurdity, their spirit of enterprise to extravagance, be the property of a few individuals, the profession and their respect for the female sex to a sort of idolin general must be regarded as a degraded one, atry. All these extravagant feelings, which really though these gifted persons are allowed 10 pass as existed in the society of ihe middle ages, were mageminent exceptions io the general rule. Self-con- nified and exaggerated by the writers and reciters ceit, however, love of an idle life, and a variety of of Romance; and these, given as resemblances of combined motives, never fail to recruit the lower or- actual manners, became in their turn, the glass, by ders of such idle professions with individuals, by which the youth of the age dressed themselves; whose performances, and often by their private cha- while the spirit of Chivalry and of Romance thus graracters, the art which they have rashly adopted is dually threw light upon and enhanced each other. discredited, without any corresponding advantage The Romances, therefore, exhibited the same systo themselves. It is not, therefore, surprising, that tem of manners which existed in the nobles of the while such distinguished examples of the contrary age. The character of a true son of chivalry was appeared amongst individuals, the whole body of raised to such a pitch of ideal and impossible perfecminstrels, with the Romances which they compo- tion, that those who emulated such renown were sed and sung, should be reprobated by graver histo- usually contented to stop far short of the mark. The rians in such severe terms as often occur in the most adventurous and unshaken valour, a mind monkish chronicles of the day.
capable of the highest flights of romantic generosity, Respecting the style of their composition Du a heart which was devoted to the will of some fair Cange informs us, that the minstrels sometimes de- idol, on whom his deeds were to reflect glory, and voted their strains to flatter the great, and sing the whose love was 10 reward all his toils,- these were praises of those Princes by whom they were pro- attributes which all aspired to exhibit who sought to tected; while he owns, at the same time, that they rank high in the annals of chivalry; and such were often recommended to their hearers the path of vir- the virtnes which the minstrels celebrated. But, like tue and nobleness, and pointed out the pursuits by the temper of a tamed lion, the fierce and dissolute which the heroes of Romance had rendered them- spirit of the age often showed itself through the fair selves renowned in song.IT He quotes from the varnish of this artificial system of manners. The Romance of Bertrand Guesclin, the injunction on valour of the hero was often stained by acts of cruthose who would rise to fame in arms to copy the elty, or freaks of rash desperation; his courtesy and valiant acts of the Paladins of Charles, and the munificence became soleinn foppery and wild profuKnights of the Round Table, narrated in Roman- sion; his love to his lady often demanded and receices; and it cannot be denied, that those high tales, ved a requital inconsistent with the honour of the in which the virtues of generosity, bravery, devotion object; and those who affected to found their attach: to his mistress, and zeal for the Catholic religion, ment on the purest and most delicate metaphysical were carried to the greatest height of romantic per- principles, carried on their actual intercourse with a fection in the character of the hero, united with the license altogether inconsistent with their sublime scenes passing around them, were of the utmost im- pretensions. Such were the real manners of the portance in affecting the character of the age. The middle ages, and we find them so depicted in these fabulous knights of Romance were so completely ancient legends.
* Berdic,(Regis Joculator.) the jongleur or minstrel of William instrumentis, demulcere.-Interdum etiam virorum insignium et the Conqueror, had, as opoears from the Doomsday record, thre heroum gestit, aut explicata et jucunda narratione commemoravills and five caracates of land in Gloucestershire without rent. bant, aut suavi vocis intlectione, fidibusque decantabant, quo C Henry I had a minstrel called Galfrid who received an annuity dominorum, cæterorumque qui his intererant ludicris, nohlarn from the Abbey of Hide.
animos ad yirtutem capessendam et summorum virorum imitatio + A miontrol of Edward I., during that prince's expedition to the nein accenderent: quod fuit olim apud Gallos Bardorum ministe Holy Land, slept within his tent, and came to his assistance when rium, ut auctor est Tacitus. Neque enim alios à Ministellis, ve an attempt was made to assassinate him.
terum Gallorum Bardos fuisse pluribus probat Henricus Valerius I The Priory and Hospital of St. Bartholomew, in London, was ad 15. Ammiani.-Chronicon Bertrandi Guesclini: founded in the reign of Henry I. by Royer, or Raher, a minstrel Qui reut avoir renoi des bons et des raillans of that prince.
Il doit ales souvent a la pluie et du champ. s In 1441, the monks of Maxlock, near Coventry, paid a dona Et esire en la baraille, ainsy que fu Rollans, tion of four shillings to the minstrels of Lord Clinton for songs, Les quatre fils llaimon di Charlon li plus grans, harping, and other exhibitions, while, to a doctor who preached be Li Þux Lions de Bourges, et Guion de Connans, fore the community in the same year, they assigned only sixpence, Percecal II Galois, Lancelot et Tristans,
" The noted anecdote of Blondel and his royal master, Richard Alejandres, Artus, Godefroy li sachans, Cour de Lion, will occur to every reader.
De quoy cils Menestriers font les nobles Romans. | MINISTEI LI dicti praesertim Scurra, roimi, jorulatores, quos ** Darlour, the Scottish historian, rensures a Highland ebiof
, etiamnuin vulgo Menessreut vel Menestriers, appellamus. ---Porro when, in commending the prowess of Bruce in battle, I likened ejusmodi scurrarum erat Principes non suis duntaxat ludicris oh him to the Celtic hero. Fin Mac Coul, and says he night in Dore lectare, sed et eorum aures variis avorum, adeoque ipsorum Prin mannerly fashion have compared him to Gaudifer, a champion apum laudibus, non sine assentatione, cum cantilonis ct musicis celebrated in the Romance of Alexander.