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civilization finds no difficulty in separating | lar melody in the growth of modern musics them, but to the popular mind, in all ages, from the earliest days to our own. All they have been one. "C'est le ton qui this latter part of the book is too purely fait la chanson." As the wind blows, so technical to be of much interest, except to inspiration came to those early singers, musicians — they will no doubt find it not knowing themselves as poets or musi- valuable — but the earlier chapters are cians, but only as the channel through both instructive and delightful, and few of which some absorbing interest or enthu. those who care for such matters, and into siasm of the people, some battle-fury, or whose hands the book is not very likely great sorrow, or even some event in daily to fall, will think me tiresome if í try to life, made its way into rhythmical expres- give some idea, following M. Tiersot's sion. And then these songs, air and words lead, of the varying history and character together, were handed down through cen- of popular song in France. turies, varying with the customs of the People would naturally think that the people, dying almost and living again, old narrative songs, composed by bards, often to die finally when civilization grew words and music handed down through too strong, or, at any rate, to be torn asun- generations, might be an exceedingly valder, the old air to be taken from its old uable help in the study of history. This, words, and set to something more modern however, is not the case, for the popular of spirit. It is through all this vicissitude imagination seldom troubled itself to keep of popular song in France that M. Tier- to facts, at any rate, to the greater kind of sot's book leads us, beginning with Ro-facts. Singing of their heroes, they were mans and Greeks in Gaul, and their soon carried away into the land of legend influence, as well as that of the singing and tradition. The old heroic battle barbarians who followed them, upon the songs, the epic songs, such as the “Channative lore and music of the Celtic people, son de Roland,” gradually passed from and tracing developments and variations the possession and use of the people into up to our own time, when we find without that of poets or clergy, turning themselves astonishment that “legends, stories, and into poems, into rhyming chronicles, popular songs of Celtic origin, preserved serving as models for the religious canti. by oral tradition alone, still forin, if not lènes in which, as early as the ninth centhe largest, certainly the most character. tury, the glories of Christ and the saints istic part of our peasants' répertoire." are celebrated. Such a subject, to be carefully studied,
While the Church, wisely taking an idea needs a large book, and it is a large book from human life, was thus laying the founthat M. Tiersot has written. He has done dation of the great religious side of popuvery well in dividing it into three parts. lar poetry — for these cantilènes and comThe first of these — by far the most gen- plaintes, many of them handed down, erally interesting - takes popular song on some by oral tradition only, to the present what we may call its literary, its poetical day, were not composed in Latin, but in side, though not attempting the almost the language of the people – the early impossible division between words and epic songs had been succeeded in popumusic; and gives twelve chapters to the larity by the chansons de geste, in which study of its many different aspects heroic tradition, religious history, legend rative songs, epic, legendary, historical and fancy, were carried about into castle satirical
songs, love songs, dances, lulla- and market-place by the jongleur. This bies, fête songs, labor songs, cantiques wandering minstrel of the Middle Ages and carols, religious, military and national was a very real and important person. songs. The second part takes the tech- Welcome everywhere, the twang of his pically musical side, studying the form instrument was sure to gather an eager and rhythm of popular melody, with its crowd. He had legends and heroic stories origins and its many transformations. for knights and ladies and citizens; someThe third part, still musical and scien- times he sang in more solemn style at the tific, determines the part played by popu. 'church door, these very complaintes that
some poetical clerk had made to catch the classic among popular songs, has for many ears of the people. These ears are easily centuries held a place in the hearts of the caught, as the modern successor of the people, making it quite independent of jongleur koows. Not that he attempts to any other way of preservation. Words find his way into château or large town, and music are equally simple and fine. butin fairs aod country villages he has his Que l'on me fass' vite un lit blanc, audience still; he twangs his fiddle and Pour que je m'y couche dedans. sings of crime or romance, or even of
Et quand ce vint sur le minuit, Bible history and saintly legend. Some Le beau Renaud rendit l'esprit. of his songs are old; his own imagination does not go so far back, any more than Renaud, Renaud, mon réconfort, that of his hearers. M. Tiersot gives us Te voilà donc au rang des morts. a specimen : a song on the Passion,
This is a song to rejoice the folk-lorists, handed down to this day in French Flan- for learned men have traced it back to ders, of which music and verse belong to Celtic times, and variants of it are to be the type of the oldest liturgic hymns:
found, not only in the different provinces A to c'que j'vas vous dire, of France, but in nearly all the countries C'né nié nouviau, c'né nié pou’rire, of Europe. It has been degraded, accordD'not' Seigneur Jésus c'est l'martyre. ing to Mr. Lang, having originally been
The early French songs, of course, were the legend of a king, "Le Roi Renaud," the origin of all French poetry. A great - in Brittany the Seigneur Nann - who tree grew up slowly, and was trained in all meets a fairy in the woods, and comes manner of mechanical ways; but a few home dying. Here it touches one of the wild branches escaped, and struggled up oldest of superstitions. Now the hero is in their own fashion, without any of the generally a wounded soldier. Rossetti's fine pruning and cultivation bestowed by “ John of Tours" is a translation of one courts, poets, and academicians. These of the variants. neglected offshoots – which have grown, “Germine," under many names, is the however, even more directly than their story of the knight who goes off to war, tamed and trained brethren from the great leaving his wife in the care of his mother old root of poetry - are the popular songs or brother, who treat her ill in every way of France.“ Cette chanson ... humble, till he comes back after seven years. très simple, un peu sauvage, ... se This again is one of the oldest types of cache au fond de nos provinces.” The narrative folk-song, and traces of it are to study of the first beginnings is a little be found in the earliest civilization, and in confusing; but once entered into the nearly all countries. In the French prov. wood, the paths become clearer, and we inces it bears a variety of names. gradually find our way through this fan- It would be impossible here even to tastic country, where religion and legend, give a rough list of the many old romantic history, tradition, daily life and fairyland, stories thus preserved in French popular are all to be found together in a strange song. The subjects are most of them atmosphere of mingled light and shadow. familiar to any one who has studied
Among the treasures here, the most re- legends and romances at all. They are markable, and in some ways the most valu- always sad, generally tragical. The able, are those romantic legends in the maiden, imprisoned by a cruel father, form of song of which “ La Péronelle," dies for love; or else she goes through “ La Chanson de Renaud,” “Germine” frightful dangers, and at last finds safety and others, are well-known specimens. by killing herself; or she is changed Song.collectors of earlier centuries than into a bird; or, after being seven years ours despised these old romances. It buried, she rises out of her grave at her seems that “ La Péronelle was the only mother's call. Then the cruel stepmother, one that found its way into those song- of course, has a cycle of her own. The books which were full of a livelier kind dead mother comes back to help and comof verse and music. But “ Renaud," a fort her children. But, on the whole, the
· With very
supernatural dies slowly out of these or improvisateur. Local events, even songs; and the ordinary tragedy of every- now, which take the popular fancy, are to day life, quite as striking, appealing even be heard sung about the streets, or in a more strongly to the hearts of the people, farmhouse kitchen, as old Ambroise at finds its expression in songs of a poor Mirèio's home sings of the naval hero of girl murdering her child, or in the deeply Provence, the Bailli de Suffren, and his touching complainte of “Le Déserteur." fights at sea. But truth and history beLà-bas dans le vallon
long to these songs merely as suggestion ; J'ai tué mon capitaine.
any reality they have is soon lost, soon
hidden in mists of legend. Here for there is nothing new under rare exceptions,” says M. Tiersot, “ the sun
we seem to see a forerunner of may say that popular tradition has not Sir Alfred Lyall's pathetic poem “ Amor preserved any recollection of our national in Extremis."
history." He quotes M. Renan : “ Les Some of the saddest and most solemn of célébrités du peuple sont rarement celles these songs, and those which have the de l'histoire.” It is after all such a hero most of the supernatural and fantastic as the Master Thief, or such a typical ex. element, appear to belong either to the ample of sin and remorse as the Breton north parts of France bordering on Ger-Guillaume Comte de Poitou," a personmany, or to Brittany, with all its Celtic age not to be found at all in history, but survivals. The real, genuine French dreamed and thought out perhaps, as M. spirit, as M. Tiersot points out more fully Souvestre suggests, by some sickly young later on, takes a realistic turo.
kloärek on winter evenings, to the whir. The melody of these old narrative songs ring of his mother's wheel; his imagina
M. Tiersot will not have us call them tion rejoicing in forbidden fights, till a bailads but complaintes – seems to be distant church bell, or holy words mutboth monotonous and musical, and gener- tered by his sister, bring him back to a ally of a religious character. Some ap- shrinking horror of his own thoughts, and proach a dancing measure, but the best his hero to repeniance. Such a story as and most original type belongs to the this, for instance, probably first inspired Breton guerz, which more than all pre- by country talk of the evil deeds of some serve their ancient character. In the seigneur, is a real work of popular imagBasque country too, and in the mountains ination; and this is the nature of nearly of the Lozère, the song-music is very me. all popular tradition; it becomes more or lodious. In Provence, strangely enough, less legend. Joan of Arc, M. Tiersot aswith her beautiful language, the com- sures us, has left no mark at all on French plaintes are more chanted than sung, peasant song, though some writers have though she holds her own, as one would imagined that they found her there. A imagine, in love-songs, dances, and carols. song called “ La Marquise" tells the story But the largest collections of fine old mel. of a king's favorite, poisoned by her rival. odies is to be found, it seems, in French Commentators have struggled in vain to Flanders, to the candid astonishment of fix on the exact king and the exact lady; the student, who cannot repress a shiver on this subject, each province would have at finding himself in this is pays froid et a different idea for its own version, if any brumeux, à la langue dure, d'origine ger- idea at all. Some dark shadow of a story, manique." It is not so surprising when making its way from Paris at some un. we consider how much supernatural known time, found form and name and beauty, solemnity, romance, how much music in various imaginations; but this fancy and imagination, even by M. cannot be called history, hardly even tra
Tiersot's own showing, have found their dition. To show the disappoiniments that way into France by that same gate of the may be met with in this sort of study, M. north.
Tiersot tells us that the commentators The historical value of popular narrative placed much value on a song or chant songs is a question which comes up again called " Altabiscar,” which bad been disand again in the study of this subject. covered in the Basque country, near Ron. The latest criticism, as we have already cevaux, and was supposed to belong to the seen, has come to regard it as very small. same cycle as the “Chanson de Roland." No doubt many of these songs had their The most recent researches prove that this origin in some true event, the story of song was composed in Paris, in the year some hero or heroine, battle or crime, 1834, in French, and afterwards translated which spread itself over a country-side, into Basque prose, and that only two and formed a subject for the village poet i couplets, they of the most meaningless.
have ever been popularly sung in the little lyric with music of its own. Love, Basque country, to the slow and monoto- of course -of a certain kind – is the prenous plain-song which gave the effect of vailing, inexhaustible subject - "l'amour musique des peuples primitifs.”
le plus fantaisiste, le plus imaginaire, le All this interesting part of M. Tiersot's plus chimérique, nullement passionné, study deserves much more time and space mais assurément le plus coquet du than I can give it now. To me it seems monde.” They have this in common with that the absence of any historical truth in the romantic and legendary songs, that the narrative songs of the peasants only they tell their story; but the tone and style makes them more interesting. We find are as different as a light comedy from ourselves in a country of pure imagina a solemn tragedy. Sometimes there is a tion, among specimens, many and rich, of charming grace and prettiness, as in the real creative power. In these popular “Reine d'Avril,” the “Trois Princesses," legends the free and original ideas of the or the “Trois Tambours." people have found an expression worthy The first of these, eight hundred years of them, simple, deep, lively, harmonious, old, is in the patois of Poitou, and can often strong, both in passion and in moral hardly be appreciated apart from its own feeling. The prevailing tone, especially light and dancing music; the second has in Brittany and the north, is one of sad- often been quoted; the third may be given ness, and here, too, is the highesi imag- here as a specimen of its kind :inative power; but song itself, in its
Trois jeunes tambours, s'en revenant de popular character, spreads over all the
guerre (bis). provinces.
Et ri et ran, ran pe-ta-plan-s'en revenant de It is easy, however, to understand that
guerre. these romantic and legendary songs are Le plus jeune a — dans sa bouche une not altogether the most characteristic ex. pression of the real, essential French Et ri et ran, etc. spirit, the esprit gaulois, which inspired
La fille du roi - était à sa fenêtre. such poets as Villon and Marot, and by
- Joli tambour - donne-moi va ta rose. way of Molière and La Fontaine arrived
- Fille du roi-donne-moi va ton cœur. at Voltaire and his many successors. Pop
- Joli tambour demand le à mon père,
Sire le roi - donnez-moi votre fille. ular song as a whole may, indeed, as M.
Joli tambour - tu n'es pas assez riche. Tiersot says, be dying; but its lighter - J'ai trois vaisseaux - dessus la mer variety, that of " chansons anecdotiques et jolie; satiriques,” to which he gives a chapter, L'un chargé d'or — l'autre d'argenterie; will long survive the sombre and tragical Et le troisième
pour promener ma mie. complainte. “Vive, alerte, légère — par. - Joli tambour -tu auras donc ma fille. fois plus que légère," this style of popular
Sire le roi – je vous en remercie; song is likely to last as long as the nation
Dans mon pays — y en a de plus jolies. whose prevailing temper it expresses so But, as a rule, the stories are more vividly. In early days, in the time of amusing than edifying, and the adventures Charlemagne, and later, such songs as of a Boccaccio sort. Soldiers, monks, these sometimes mingled, to the great in nuns, curés, have whole cycles of their dignation of churchmen, with the chanting own; the adventures of millers especially, of religious processions, and were even to and of shepherdesses, are very popular. be heard in the churches. There is some. In the more fanciful and fantastic songs thing curiously heathen in the idea of the animals have a large part; here La men and women dancing before the tombs Fontaine's fables cast their shadows beof saints, and singing what the Bishop of fore, for we find ourselves in those good Arles described as “chants diaboliques." old times This popular melody and its use was in
ou les bêtes parlaient, fact too strong for the Church, and she
.. Ou les hommes savaient se taire. had recourse again to her old wise ways, learnt in conflict with real heathenism; Like certain styles of the complainte, she took the popular tunes and adapted only in a different tone, these songs take them to the words of her services. Thus up events of daily life, and are capable of many of the profane airs of the Middle being as realistic as any modern novel, Ages were preserved and handed down in Domestic quarrels, miseries of married old mass-books, dating from as late as the life here find their sufficiently mocking fourteenth century.
chronicle. “Marion," a song of this kind But many specimens still exist of this well known in the south, is quoted by M. kind of song in its native state, a pleasant | Daudet in “ Numa Roumestan.” Georges
Dandin, says M. Tiersot, existed long | their way into words and melody. Songs before Molière, and we meet over and as old as this still exist and are popular, over again with the complaints of an ill. and by adding an accompaniment to the used husband. All the esprit gaulois old simple airs, M. Tièrsot justifies his comes out in making him grotesque and claim for them to be placed higher in the ridiculous. A whole class of songs, again, scale of art than their more modern sucbelongs to la Maumariée. This namecessors. In this old world of sentimental itself has come down from the Middle song the most remarkable cycle is that of Ages; and so general appears to be the the pastorals. One is at first apt to conpopular sympathy with unhappy wives - nect this name with all manner of unreality, no mockery in the French mind, we may and to see the shepherds and shepherdobserve, for them — that it is almost im. esses in court dress, or at least from a possible to count the number and variety courtly point of view. And truly, the of maumariées to be found in collections pastoral songs and poems which owed both ancient and modern. For instance, their existence to troubadours and troufrom thirty.five to fifty, gathered from vères did at last find their way to town most of the provinces of France, are to and court, and the original “Robin et be found in M. Rolland's collection alone. Marion," itself popular in the right sense One of the specimeos of which M. Tiersot even to this day, was the forerunner of gives music and words, may supply some “Tircis,” “ Aminte," " Philis," " Lisidas idea of the character of all, a kind of satir- - all the dancing throng with ribbons ical melancholy, not lightened by being and crooks which made M. Jourdain set to a lively air :
ask, “ Pourquoi toujours ces bergers ? " Mon père m'y a mariée,
These mock pastorals, as everybody J'entends le moulin taqueter.
knows, are a study in themselves. They A un vieillard il m'a donnée,
have not interfered with the old peasant Hélas ! mon Dieu, est-ce ce qu'il me faut? pastorals, any more than the ordinary J'entends le moulin tique tique taque, popular love-songs of the Middle Ages J'entends le moulin taqueter.
have disappeared because so many of Even this type of song has a touch of them, losing their way, strayed also into real pathos now and then, but more often the artificial air of courts, and thus lost the tone is of a bitter hardness, and the too their own special character. Yet they nearer the songs come to real life, the have lived a double life, like other songs, more thinly the veil of mockery and satire and linger on in their old forms among hides its real misery.
their old companions in the peasant world But it must not be thought that sentito which they really belong, and of which, ment, in its true sense, has no place in the on its sentimental side – which exists in songs of France, apart from the often spite of the esprit gaulois — they give a touching legends of Brittany and the true picture. Speaking of the popular north. Love, in its higher and real type of love-song, M. Tiersot says: meaning, is hardly to be found among the songs we have been describing. It reigns, ments de toute une psychologie populaire;
A elle seule, elle pourrait fournir les éléhowever, in a world of its own, with all par elle sont fixées les impressions insaisisthose poetic impressions which exist at sables et fugitives des paysans, gens peu hathe heart of a people long before they find bitués à s'étudier eux-mêmes; miroir fidèle their way into words. The love-songs of des sentiments du peuple, elle en représente France may be traced back to the time of l'expression souvent la plus juste, toujours la the Crusaders and chivalry, when the in- plus poétique et la plus charmante. fluence of women began to be felt in Not that the national mockery is absent, society, and they were no longer treated even from songs like these. The realistic, as inferior beings, but set up on a pedestal satiric spirit 'shows itself in an ideal of to be worshipped. The troubadours and happiness with which eating and drinking, trouvères, singing from one end of France for instance, are very much mixed up. to the other, mingled with this new culte all the beauty and romance of nature, all
Berger, mon doux berger, the love of spring, the delight in trees and
Qu'aurons-nous à manger ? flowers and nightingales, the rapture of
... Un pâté d'alouettes, etc. sunset and sunrise, the music of running In a Savoyard song of the fifteenth cenwater. Thus the eleventh century seemed tury, the lover is very indignant at being to bring a new world into being, but it was asked to dine on a piece of salt beef. only that men learned to see, and that Brutality and coarseness, as well as feelings which had always existed found realism, find their way into a good many