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For DECEMBER, 1846.
Art. I. The History of Provençal Poetry. By M. Fauriel. 3 vols.
8vo. Paris : 1846. An historian of the old Troubadours has wisely remarked, that no spectacle is more sublime than that of a barbarous people struggling successfully to attain a state of civilization. Such a struggle he calls a chaos in ferment, producing a new world.*
All the finer faculties which distinguish reasonable beings, are then seen in gradual display, so far as the circumstances of such a people permit their development. All obstacles to progress yield to the energy with which those faculties are exercised; and notwithstanding the fluctuations to which human things are subject, civilization has in the main, so steady a tendency onward, as to justify our confidence in the good prospects of every race. Though, therefore, reverses too often follow the most prosperous conditions of society, it is not irrational to suppose, that the career of great nations at least might, by a wiser policy, be moulded into a system, capable of producing better and lasting results.
The subject which suggested the foregoing remark to M. Millot,—the history of the Troubadours,—has since his time been deeply investigated ; and successive spectacles like that contemplated by him, occurring at long intervals in a period of at least two thousand years, have been presented in the history of the South of France, the original scene of Troubadour refinement, which, in its cradle, extended from the Alps to the Pyrenees. This period ranges from the sixth century, before
suthe history acted'; and succlong intervalsented in the
the Christian era, until the fourteenth century afterwards; and although at no portion of that time did a high degree of civiliz. ation utterly extinguish barbarism there in any class, still two epochs in particular have occurred at which extraordinary progress was made. The first connects the days of Cicero with those of Tacitus, and even of Lucian. During this time, Marseilles, one of the chief cities of the region in question, was not only the seat of a flourishing commerce, but also that of the fine arts, and of literature, spread by her example far and wide throughout Gaul, Spain, and probably Britain.* The success of Marseilles in architecture, for instance, is attested by ruins which are still the admiration of the enlightened inquirer; and the influence of her literature is even now perceptible in the language of the people, after seventeen centuries of political revolutions. The second example is that of the Provençals; who after resisting the power of the northern barbarians perhaps longer than any other nation of the west, created in the eleventh century by their poetry a new form of refinement, long the model of polite letters to every country of Europe.
Among the numerous writers who have examined the history of this period in various lights, there is one who deserves our continued and most attentive study. Endowed with great powers of discrimination, a prodigious extent of learning, and highly enlightened views, he has proved himself capable of unravelling almost all the perplexities of that eventful history.
This writer is M. Claude Fauriel, late professor of foreign literature in the faculty of letters in Paris, whose extraordinary capacity is here mentioned with a slight qualification, only in order the more correctly to open an application of his most admirable works to their best purpose—the universal spread of that civilization of which he appears to be the ablest commentator of our time.t
The numerous productions of M. Fauriel's pen attest how well he was prepared to be the historian of all civilization; and it is deeply to be regretted that the circumstances of his life, which, to the great honour of his character, compelled a distraction ruinous to his powers, did not permit him to devote those powers exclusively to the task he was so well fitted to discharge.
In his ' History of Provençal Poetry' he has traced the ele. ments of that delightful and important subject with unwearied patience, and with inexhaustible learning, to the Greeks, to the Romans, to the Arabs, to the Jews, and even to the several aboriginal races of Gaul, the Aquitanians, and Celts. But he has rendered a far greater service to the student and to the statesman, in disclosing, in this work, the great sources of European civilization, whilst appearing to be only busied in a deep literary inquiry. His explanation of the motives which led to the adoption of the History of Provençal Poetry,' as the commencement of his proposed examination of all foreign literature, places this point in a striking light.
* Agricola was educated in Marseilles; and one of his best acts in Britain was to establish schools for the natives.
+ There are points, as, for instance, the influence of laws, upon which M. Fauriel is inferior to Herder. On other points he is superior to the great German.
Our love of the sublime,' says he, encouraged as it is by polite letters and the fine arts, is developed like our other faculties, according to fixed laws, and under the influence of circumstances, generally difficult, and often impossible to be analyzed, but wbich it is of great importance to scrutinize with care.
The intellectual pursuits of all nations having their common origin in the wants and feelings implanted in us by nature, share our common tendency towards improvement—the progress of the child to youth, that of the youth to manhood, and so on from one step to another in the scale of humanity. But this general tendency is diversly affected by different influences, being quickened by some, and checked by others. Climate, soil, the social condition of nations, their religion, commercial relations, wars, conquests, and many other things, modify the original foundations of every literature, so as to create in each a peculiar character, and give to each beauties or defects which settle its rank in the scale of art.
This fact connects the history of the literature of a country with that of its civilization; in which point of view chiefly I propose to trace the history of Provençal poetry.
I cannot hope to take an adequately minute survey of the whole of so vast a field ; but I shall be at liberty to select certain portions of it, upon which I may be able to throw a new and satisfactory light. I may perhaps also be able to illustrate the subject with the aid of inquiries into the character of one or two systems of literature hitherto known only to a few scholars; or, if favoured with the public approbation, I may attempt to collect the grand characteristics of the literature of all nations into one compact body of observations, so as to offer a sketch of the general history of the human mind.
•In reference to these objects, peculiar circumstances have directed my attention in the first instance to the history of Provençal poetry.
This literature is not only in itself the first in date of all others in modern Europe, but it is that which, from the earliest point of time, and for the longest period, most influenced the character of all other European literature ; consequently, none of the others could be traced without leading directly to this. The study of the early German, Italian, and Spanish writers would have been incomplete, except by the frequent use of those of Provence, from whom they all borrowed so largely ; so that upon several occasions I should of necessity have had to give an obscure and broken bistory of Provençal literature itself, which, therefore, it appeared to me to be wiser to draw up at once in a complete and connected form.
• This conclusion was adopted by me the more readily, inasmuch as Proven al literature has been of late much studied throughout Europe. M. Raynouard's collection of the Provençal poets has given them a new renown. His valuable works upon their language and style have produced analogous works of great merit in other countries, as in Italy, from the pen of Galvani of the Count Perticari, and of Monti, bimself a distinguished poet; and in Germany, from Wilhelm Schlegel, and M. Diez, who have published a history of Provençal poetry.”*
M. Fauriel's lectures do not in form realise this spirited sketch; but it will not be difficult from his rich materials, to give an analysis of his views in rigorous conformity to his own account of them. He sets out with a description of the Provençal literature in itself, and of its influence, and then returns to the history of Greek and Roman civilization in the south of Gaul, in order to explain the elevated character of that literature. It may be more useful to trace directly the history of all the various phases of the same period, from our earlier knowledge of it, so as to demonstrate how that Greek and Roman civilization happened not to have had a better issue, than each of them to become what must be called an awful ruin, however splendidly it revived in the middle ages.
The Greek colony of Marseilles was founded 600 years before our era; and during nearly 400 years it was engaged in a series of struggles and wars with the neighbouring tribes, and also with the Carthaginians and Etruscans; and in raising that vast commerce which placed it on a par with the most powerful nations of antiquity. About two centuries more passed in an intimate alliance with Rome, when Marseilles and its own colonies enjoyed the greatest prosperity. Those colonies extended along the Mediterranean into Spain, and into the interior of Gaul far beyond Arles and Nismes. The coins and statues of the Greeks attest their influence in these regions ;t and their language, which was certainly known there in very remote
• Preface to the History of Provençal Poetry, vol. 1, p. vi. viji.
† At Toulouse a coin which has a Greek inscription, and the mark of Greek worship, is common. It is found in no other place. Yet it is known that the people of Toulouse were barbarians. At Frejus there was found in the time of the learned Peiresc, in the ruins of a Massilian temple, a cameo, with a sort of parody of the gathering of the olives—a very common subject of Greek art. Young girls are represented in the trees beating down, not the fruit, but little cupids perched upon the branches.
times, may be familiarly recognised in some words used by the people to this day. The religious festivals of the Greeks were remarkable for the poetical and graceful character of the songs, and dances with which they were celebrated ; and the adoption of this popular mode of worship by the Gauls, is proved by architectural remains on the one hand, and on the other by the length of time during which the people of the south of Gaul clung to those songs and dances. It is certain that the use of them survived for ages the regular establishment of Christianity by the state, and they thus became mingled with its observances, in defiance of the opposition of the clergy. In Limoges the people used to assemble in their church at the anniversary of their patron saint; and at the end of every psalm they chanted in the vulgar tongue the words, "Saint Martial pray for us, and we will dance to you;' whereupon they danced together in a body within the very walls of the church itself. Upon Ascension day, the same thing occurred; but on that occasion the dance took place in an adjoining meadow. At Chalons the people long followed a similar practice; being the remains of paganism, which they preserved from their Greek and Roman forefathers besides other usages derived from the Celts.
Another instance is very remarkable. At Rome the goddess Flora was worshipped, in honour of the fruitfulness of the earth in Spring. In that season, therefore, her games were celebrated by a race of naked women, among whom prizes were distributed by the magistrates as in the other public games. Incredible as it may appear, it is, nevertheless, certain that in the south of France, and late in Christian times, those very sports of Flora were exhibited at the same season. At Arles they were long known, and they consisted of gymnastic sports, of wrestling, and leaping; and they closed with the races of naked women for prizes. These prizes were always given by the public authorities, and at the public expense. The whole of these ceremonies were regulated by law, and they were not abolished until the sixteenth century, through the influence of a sermon preached by a Capucin monk.
In 1551, a provincial council, at Narbonne, denounced these pagan usages, as they had been condemned by another council nine centuries before ; and in 1645 a friend of the celebrated Gassendi Capucin published a similar announcement in a pamphlet, entitled 'A Complaint of the unchristian manners of the people of Provence,' which entered into a long detail of the exhibition of dances, and theatrical lays, upon the Feast of St. Lazarus, as if the days of paganism were revived. Nothing proves more satisfactorily the deep traces the Greeks and Romans had left in the south;—of which parallels exist in England.