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I schal tel hit as tit
On analysing the language of this production, it will be found to form a striking contrast to the simple narrative of De Brunne, or the abrupt and costive style of Sir Tristram. It abounds in those “selcouth names” which in the fourteenth century were rapidly growing into disuse, and which were only retained by the writers in alliterative metre. Every relic of this species of versification displays the same exuberance of obsolete terms, the same attention to set phraseology and antique idioms manifested in the specimen given above; and the practice cannot be better illustrated, than by referring to the “quaint Hellenisms” which distinguish the Alexandrine school of heroic poetry. By De Brunne, who only felt such learned foppery to be a drawback upon the writer's popularity, it is merely condemned as an error in policy; by Chaucer, who saw the necessary sacrifice it involved of matter to manner, of sense to sound, it is ridiculed for its childish absurdity:
But trusteth wel I am a sotherne man,
Of the Rymer's claim to an “original property” in this story, as inferred from the language of the French fragments, Mr. Campbell has already remarked: “The whole force of this argument evidently depends upon the supposition of Mr. Douce's fragments being the work of one and the same author, —whereas they are not to all appearance by the same author. A single perusal will enable us to observe how remarkably they differ in style. They have no appearance of being parts of the same story, one of them placing the court of king Mark at Tintagail, the other at London. Only one of the fragments refers to the authority of a Thomas, and the style of that one bears very strong marks of being French of the twelfth century, a date which places it beyond the possibility of its referring to Thomas of Erceldoune.” In addition it may be observed, that the language of this fragment, so far from vesting Thomas with the character of an original writer, affirms directly the reverse:
* This stanza has been arranged ac- it is the Editor's intention to give in a cording to the practice of Anglo-Saxon future publication, which will also con
poetry. The reasons for this departure tain the whole romance from whence the from the usual disposition of the lines specimen given above has been taken.
* Seignurs cest cunte est mult divers—
* “Lordings, this tale is very differently told; I have heard it from many: I know well enough how each tells it, and what they have put in writing. But according to what I have heard, they do not tell it as Breri does, who knew the gestes and the tales of all the kings, and all the earls, who had been in Brittany, and about the whole of this story. Many
of us (minstrels) will not allow what others tell of (Tristram) the dwarf, who is said to have been in love with the wife of Kaherdin, &c. On account of the wound and this disease, Tristram sent Gouvernail into England for Ysolt. Thomas however will not admit this ; and undertakes to prove, by argument, that this could not be. He (Gonvernail)
Cist fust partut la part coneus,
It is clear from this document, that in the writer's opinion the earliest and most authentic narrative of Tristram's story was to be found in the work of Breri. From his relation later minstrels had chosen to deviate; but Thomas, who had also composed a romance upon the subject, not only accorded with Breri in the order of his events, but entered into a justification of himself and his predecessor, by proving the inconsistency and absurdity of these new-fangled variations. If therefore the romance of Thomas be in existence, it must contain this vindication; the poem in the Auchinleck MS. is entirely silent on the subject. It is not a little remarkable, that another fragment of French poetry should also mention a Thomas, the author of a translated romance on the subject of king Horn.
Seignurs of avez le vers del parchemin,
And, as if the writer had not sufficiently declared himself in this passage, we find the following repetition of his name at the conclusion:
Tomas n'en dirrat plus: tu autem chanterat,
was known all over those parts, and
Pliny (lib. i. p. 5) records a parallel piece of affectation observed by the Grecian artists, who used the imperfect tense in their inscriptions instead of the first aorist.
* “Lordings, you have heard the poem as it stands in the parchment, how Baron Aaluf came to his end. (But) Master, Thomas is unwilling the story should be closed, till he has spoken of the bold orphan Horn.”
That this Thomas was only a translator or copyist of some earlier authority, is clear from his language in the first of these extracts; and is confirmed by two passages of similar import in a subsequent part of the poem.
E Horn si a torné cum dit le parchemin.
Sir Walter Scott is disposed to interpret this mention of a Thomas, “though the opinion be only stated hypothetically,”—as another reference to the authority of Thomas of Erceldoune; and anticipates any objection that might arise from the apparent antiquity of the language, by instancing the disparity between that of Douglas and Chaucer; the former of which he asserts “we should certainly esteem” [the elder], when in fact it is nearly two centuries later. We may safely leave the discussion of this point, till it be proved that the case at issue is any way analogous to the example brought to refute it; till it be shown that the French romance of king Horn was written in some remote province of France, where the vernacular dialect had either been entirely neglected, or contained elements essentially differing from the language of the capital. In fact, the whole argument with regard to antiquity of language may be said to be perfectly beyond the grasp of contending parties on this side of the channel; such a subject can only be decided with any chance of accuracy by native authority. But the ingenious advocate of the Rhymer's fame has wholly forgotten to observe, that Mr. Ritson prudently abstained from touching on this point, and only spoke to the antiquity of the document in which the romance was found. This he affirmed “is to all appearance of the twelfth century;” and here the opinion of an English antiquary may be admitted as efficient testimony. On a review of these facts we may therefore assert, that if any conclusion is to be drawn from this collateral mention of a Thomas, it must be, that both fragments in all probability refer to the same personage. This man indisputably wrote in French; and so far from having an original property
in the fictions which he versified, we find him in both instances the follower of earlier authorities. The testimony of Godfrey of Strasburg will be found in close accordance with this opinion. Like the writer of the fragment in Mr. Douce's possession, Godfrey records the difficulty he had found in procuring an authentic narrative of Tristram's story, on account of the various modes in which it was related. At length having discovered, from his perusal of several foreign and Latin works, that Thomas of Brittany", who was well read in British books, had “told the tale aright,” he resolved upon adhering to so com
petent a guide.
Als der von Tristande seit
Of the language in which this “foreign book” was written, and which Godfrey believed to be the original tert of Thomas, Mr. Weber has supplied us with the following conclusive evidence: “At v. 220 (of Godfrey's version) we are told that
* Before this name was interpreted “Thomas of Brittain,” (i. e. Great Britain) it ought to have been shown that the German romancers ever understood this country by the term “Brittanie.” Godfrey's contemporary, Hartman von Awe, who collected materials for his romance of Iwain in England, calls it “Engellandt.” The writer of Mr. Douce's fragment also makes a distinction between Bretagne and Engleterre
—Brittany and England.