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la difficulte et l'entrelacement de leurs rimes, dans leur mots masculins et feminins pour exprimer le meme objet, enfin dans le nombre infini de leur poetes. Tout ce qui est forme dans la societe, et qui aujourd'hui est si insipide, avait alors toute la fraicheur et la saveur de la noveaute."
In the same period is to be observed the groundwork of the striking distinctions which mark the school of modern poetry, as opposed to the ancient or classic. The latter had in every respect an essentially masculine character: even in its tenderest effusions woman was treated only as subservient to the caprices and pleasures of a nobler sex. Our poetry, on the contrary, owes much of its charms to the gentler character which the different position of woman in society has necessarily infused into it. In the early ages the new feeling was wildly and extravagantly pursued: but in modern times its spirit is subdued, and it has subsided into those quieter pictures of social affection, of which classic literature contained little or nothing.
The poetry of the Troubadours has seldom been impartially dealt with, even by the very few who have sought it in the originals. The public will judge whether they ought to be dismissed with such sweeping indiscriminate obloquy as is often heaped upon them, by critics, who pretend at the same time to be in ecstasies with the rimes of Petrarch and his imitators. The German Minnesingers [love-singers], the cotemporaries of the Troubadours, are now for the first time introduced to the English reader, and must surely often succeed in winning their way to the hearts of those who are glad to recognise any where the poetry of nature and feeling.
To one objection, indeed, the charge of uniformity and want of variety, they are from their very nature subject; but on that head their eloquent countryman F. Schlegel must be suffered to plead their excuse: "The reproach of uniformity seems to be a very singular one: it is as if we should condemn the spring or a garden for the multitude of its flowers. It is perhaps true enough that ornaments of many kinds are more delightful when they occur singly than when we see them gathered together in masses. Laura herself could scarcely have read her own praises without wearisomeness, had she been presented at any one time with all the verses which Petrarch composed upon her during the period of her life. The impression of uniformity arises from our seeing these poems bound together into large collections, a fate which was probably neither the design nor the hope of those who composed them. But in truth, not only love songs but all lyric poems, if they are really true to nature and aim at nothing more than the expression of individual feelings, must necessarily be confined within a very narrow range, both of thought and sentiment. Of this we find many examples in the high species of lyrical poetry among all nations. Feeling must occupy the first place wherever it is to be powerfully and poetically represented; and when feeling is predominant, variety and richness of thought are always things of very secondary importance. The truth is, that great variety in lyric poetry is never to be found, except in those ages of imitation when men are fond of treating of all manner of subjects in all manner of forms. Then indeed we often find the tone and taste of twenty different ages and nations brought together within the same collection, and observe that the popularity of the poet is increased in proportion as he descends from his proper dignity."
The poetry of the German Minnesingers is the main object of this volume, and of course of these introductory remarks; yet in reviewing the intimate connection between the early efforts of modern poetry in different countries, the subject seems properly to open with the Troubadours of Southern France, or Provence, in the widest sense of the word, which strictly speaking however includes only a small part of this land of song.
It cannot be said that the history or literature of these minstrels (who certainly take the lead in point of time in
that art which so quickly diffused itself over Europe) has been neglected; on the contrary, no theme has been more laboriously handled, and yet the true materials for judging their character, which have hitherto been laid before the public, are exceedingly scanty. M. Schlegel very justly observes, "Tout le monde parlait des Troubadours et personne ne les connaissait." Abundance of treatises were written, and elaborate judgements pronounced, while scarcely an author thought it necessary to produce his evidence, and enable his readers to exercise their own judgement. Unfortunately the majority of French critics appear to entertain a sovereign contempt for every thing which is not in the court dressof Louis XIV., and are content to let the fine language of their ancestors rest in cheerless oblivion. All, and particularly Millot, seem studiously to keep the originals in the back ground; it is difficult to say why, unless it were felt to be most prudent to deny to the world the means of judging of the competency or fidelity of the alledged translations. Those who will take the pains to examine them will often see that this precaution was by no means impolitic.
Even M. Ginguene and M. Sismondi appear to be satisfied with conclusions drawn at second hand from the works of Millot, scarcely ever venture on a translation of their own, and furnish only here and there an original fragment, selected with no view to the illustration of the poetic talent or taste of the school whose works are under consideration, but picked up at random, as a mere specimen of the language or the structure of a verse; and certainly neither of them seems duly sensible of the beauty and force of the fine language which has so unfortunately perished. It is too much to ask us to be contented with an elaborate judgement on the merits of Provencal poetry, prefaced by an author's admission that he has read little or nothing of it, that it is contained in MSS. which he cannot or has not chosen to read, and that his acquaintance with it is almost exclusively through the medium of the Abbe' Millot *.
Much remained to be said and learned, and M. Raynouard has at last (in his Recueil des Poesies des Troubadours, 6 vols.) amply supplied the deficiency, particularly in the careful reprint of originals and the formation of a grammar of the language. In this elaborate work the early monuments of the Provencal language and poetry may be found, collected with diligence, and published with taste and critical
* M. Sismondi, in his second edition, has considerably enlarged and improved his notice of the Troubadours, as well as altered the tone of his observations, having availed himself of the intervening publication of M. Raynouard's first volume. Mr. T. Roscoe's elegant translation has added incalculably to the value of his author, by the addition of the original pieces, which M. Sismondi knew only from Millot's translations, or rather parodies.