The Northern Way

Song and Legend From the Middle Ages

French Literature

Page 9

The rose on thee its bloom bestowed,

The lily gave its white,

And nature, when it planned thy form

A model framed of fair and bright.

For nothing, sure, that could be given,

To thee hath been denied;

That there each thought of love and joy

In bright perfection might reside.

-----Tr. by Taylor

Guiraut de Borneilh.

End Thirteenth Century.

Companion dear! or sleeping or awaking,

Sleep not again! for, lo! the morn is night,

And in the east that early star is breaking,

The day's forerunner, known unto mine eye.

The morn, the morn is near.

Companion dear! with carols sweet I'll call thee;

Sleep not again! I hear the birds' blithe song

Loud in the woodlands; evil may befall thee,

And jealous eyes awaken, tarrying long,

Now that the morn is near.

Companion dear! forth from the window looking,

Attentive mark the signs of yonder heaven;

Judge if aright I read what they betoken:

Thine all the loss, if vain the warning given.

The morn, the morn is near.

Companion dear! since thou from hence went straying,

Nor sleep nor rest these eyes have visited;

My prayers unceasing to the Virgin paying,

That thou in peace thy backward way might tread.

The morn, the morn, is near.

Companion dear! hence to the fields with me!

Me thou forbad'st to slumber through the night,

And I have watched that livelong night for thee;

But thou in song or me hast no delight,

And now the morn is near.


Companion dear! so happily sojourning,

So blest am I, I care not forth to speed:

Here brightest beauty reigns, her smiles adorning

Her dwelling-place,---then wherefore should I heed

The morn or jealous eyes?

----Tr. by Taylor



A large and popular class of writing of the French Middle Ages was that of Fabliaux or Fables. A Fable is "a recital, for the most part comic, of a real or possible event occuring in the ordinary affairs of human life." (6) We possess some two hundred of these fables, varying in length from twenty to five hundred lines. They are generally mocking, jocular, free-spoken, half satirical stories of familiar people, and incidents in ordinary life. The follies of the clergy are especially exposed, thought the peasants, knights, and even kings furnish frequent subjects. They are commonly very free and often licentious in language. The following is an example of the simpler kind of Fables.

The Priest Who Ate Mulberries.

Ye lordlings all, come lend an ear;

It boots ye naught to chafe or fleer,

As overgrown with pride:

Ye needs must hear Dan Guerin tell

What once a certain priest befell,

To market bent to ride.

The morn began to shine so bright,

When up this priest did leap full light

And called his folk around:

He bade them straight bring out his mare,

For he would presently repair

Unto the market-ground.

So bent he was on timely speed,

So pressing seemed his worldly need,

He weened 't were little wrong

If pater-nosters he delayed,

And cast for once they should be said

E'en as he rode along.

And now with tower and turret near

Behold the city's walls appear,

When, as he turned aside,

He chanced in evil hour to see

All hard at hand a mulberry-tree

That spread both far and wide.

Its berries shone so glossy black,

The priest his lips began to smack,


6. Quoted by Saintsbury from M. de Montaigion, editor of the latest collection of Fabliaux (Paris 1872-88).  (back)

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