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apophthegms are always better attended to than mere prosaic crumbs of comfort; and we trust that the “Songs of France,” which we are about to publish for the patriotic purpose above mentioned, may have the desired effect.
“Carmina vel cælo possunt deducere lunam ;
Carmine Dî superi placantur, carmine manes :
Ducite ab urbe domum, mea carmina, ducite Daphnim !" When Saul went mad, the songs of the poet David were the only effectual sedatives; and in one of that admirable series of homilies on Job, St. Chrysostom, to fix the attention of his auditory, breaks out in fine style: Dege ouv, ayam πητε, της Δαβιδκης κιθαρας ανακρουσωμεν το ψαλμικον μελος, και την ανθρωπινην γοοντες ταλαιπωριαν ειπωμεν, και τ. λ. (Serm. ΙΙΙ. in Job.) These French Canticles are, in Prout's manuscript, given with accompaniment of introductory and explanatory observations, in which they swim like water-fowl on the bosom of a placid and pellucid lake; and to each song there is underwritten an English translation, like the liquid reflection of the floating bird in the water beneath, so as to recall the beautiful image of the swan, which, according to the father of "lake poetry,"
“Floats doubleswan and shadow." Vale et fruere !
OLIVER YORKE. Regent Street, 1st Oct. 1834.
Watergrasshill, Oct. 1833, I HAVE lived among the French : in the freshest dawn of early youth, in the meridian hour of manhood's maturity, my
lot was cast and my lines fell on the pleasant places of that once-happy land. Full gladly have I strayed among her gay hamlets and her hospitable châteaux, anon breaking the brown loaf of the peasant, and anon seated at the board of her noblemen and her pontiffs. I have mixed industriously with every rank and every denomination of her people, tracing as I went along the peculiar indications of the Celt and the Frank, the Normand and the Breton, the langue d'oui and the langue d'oc; not at the same time overlooking the endemic features of unrivalled Gascony. The manufacturing industry of Lyons, the Gothic reminiscences of Tours, the historic associations of Orleans, the mercantile enterprise and opulence of Bordeaux, Marseilles, the emporium of the Levant, each claimed my wonder in its turn. It was a goodly scene! and, compared to the ignoble and debased generation that now usurps the soil, my recollections of ante-revolutionary France are like dreams of an antediluvian world. And in those days arose the voice of song. The characteristic cheerfulness of the country found a vent for its superabundant joy in jocund carols, and music was at once the offspring and the parent of gaiety. Sterne, in his “Sentimental Journey," had seen the peasantry whom he so graphically describes in that passage concerning a marriagefeast- å generous flagon, grace after meat, and a dance on the green turf under the canopy of approving Heaven. Nor did the Irish heart of Goldsmith (who, like myself, rambled on the banks of the Loire and the Garonne with true pedestrian philosophy) fail to enter into the spirit of joyous exuberance which animated the inhabitants of each village through which we passed, poor and penniless, but a poet; and he himself tells us that, with his flute in his pocket, he might not fear to quarter himself on any district in the south of France,—such was the charm of music to the ear of the natives in those happy days. It surely was not of France that the poetic tourist spoke when he opened his “ Traveller” by those sweet verses that tell of a loneliness little experienced on the banks of the Loire, however felt elsewhere
“Remote, unfriended, solitary, slow ;
Or by the lazy Scheldt, or wandering Po,” &c. For Goldy, the village maiden lit up her brightest smiles; for him the tidy housewife, “ on hospitable cares intent," brought forth the wheaten loaf and the well-seasoned sau. sage : to welcome the foreign troubadour, the master of the cottage and of the vineyard produced his best can of wine, never loath for an excuse to drain a cheerful cup with an honest fellow; for,
“Si benè commemini, causæ sunt quinque bibendi :
All this buoyancy of spirits, all this plentiful gladness, found expression and utterance in the national music and songs of that period; which are animated and lively to excess, and bear testirnony to the brisk current of feeling and the exhilarating influence from which they sprung. Each season of the happy year, each incident of primitive and rural life, each occurrence in village history, was chronicled in uncouth rhythm, and chanted with choral glee. The baptismal bolyday, the marriage epoch, the soldier's return, the
patron saint,” the harvest and the vintage, “ le jour des rois,” and “le jour de Noël,” each was ushered in with the merry chime of parish bells and the extemporaneous outbreak of the rustic muse. And when mellow autumn gave place to hoary winter, the genial source of musical inspiration was not frozen up in the hearts of the young, nor was there any lack of traditionary ballads derived from the memory of the old.
“ Ici le chanvre préparé
Chante la mort du 'Balafré'
Singeth yonder withered crone ;
Many a war-tale past and gone." This characteristic of the inhabitants of Gaul, this constitutional attachment to music and melody, has been early noticed by the writers of the middle ages, and remarked on by her historians and philosophers. The eloquent Salvian of Marseilles (A.D. 440), in his book on Providence (“ de Gubernatione Dei"), says that his fellow-countrymen had a habit of drowning care and banishing melancholy with songs : “ Cantilenis infortunia sua solantur.” In the old jurisprudence of the Gallic code we are told, by lawyer de Marchangy, in his work, “la Gaule Poétique,” that all the goods and chattels of a debtor could be seized by the creditor, with the positive exception of any musical instrument, lyre,
bagpipe, or flute, which nappened to be in the house of misfortune; the lawgivers wisely and humanely providing a source of consolation for the poor devil when all was gone. We have still some enactments of Charlemagne interwoven in the labyrinthine intricacies of the capitularian law, having reference to the minstrels of that period ; and the song of Roland, who fell at Roncesvaux with the flower of Gallic chivalry, is still sung by the grenadiers of France :
“Soldats François, chantons Roland,
L'honneur de la chevalerie,” &c., &c. Or, as Sir Walter Scott will have it,
“O! for a blast of that wild horn,
On Fontarabia's echoes borne," &c. During the crusades, the minstrelsy of France attained a high degree of refinement, delicacy, and vigour. Never were love-adventures, broken hearts, and broken heads, so plentiful. The novelty of the scene, the excitement of departure, the lover's farewell, the rapture of return, the pilgrim's tale, the jumble of war and devotion, laurels and palm-trees—all these matters inflamed the imagination of the troubadour, and ennobled the effusions of genius. Oriental landscape added a new charm to the creations of poetry, and the bard of chivalrous Europe, transported into the scenes of voluptuous Asia, acquired a new stock of imagery; an additional chord would vibrate on his lyre. Thiébault, comte de Champagne, who swayed the destinies of the kingdom under Queen Blanche, while St. Louis was in Palestine, distinguished himself not only by his patronage of the tuneful tribe, but by his own original compositions ; many of which I have overhauled among the MSS. of the King's Library, when I was in Paris.
Richard Cæur de Lion, whose language, habits, and character, belonged to Normandy, was almost as clever at a ballad as at the battle axe: his faithful troubadour, Blondel, acknowledges his master's competency in things poetical. But it was reserved for the immortal René d'Anjou, called by the people of Provence le bon roy René, to confer splendour and éclat on the gentle craft, during a reign of singular usefulness and popularity. He was, in truth, a rare personage, and well deserved to leave his memory embalmed in the recollection of his fellow-country. men. After having fought in his youth under Joan of Arc, in rescuing the territory of France from the grasp of her invaders, and subsequently in the wars of Scander Beg and Ferdinand of Arragon, he spent the latter part of his eventful life in diffusing happiness among his subjects, and inaking his court the centre of refined and classic enjoyment. Aix in Provence was then the seat of civilisation, and the haunt of the Muses. While to René is ascribed the introduction and culture of the mulberry, and the consequent development of the silk-trade along the Rhone, to his fostering care the poetry of France is indebted for many of her best and simplest productions, the rondeau, the madrigal, the triolet, the lay, the virelai, and other measures equally melodious. His own ditties (chiefly church hymns) are preserved in the Bibliothèque du Roi, in his own handwriting, adorned by his royal pencil with sundry curious enluminations and allegorical emblems.
A rival settlement for the “sacred sisters" was established at the neighbouring court of Avignon, where the temporary residence of the popes attracted the learning of Italy and of the ecclesiastical world. The combined talents of church. men and of poets shone with concentrated effulgence in that most picturesque and romantic of cities, fit cradle for the muse of Petrarca, and the appropriate resort of every contemporary excellence. The pontific presence shed a lustre over this crowd of meritorious men, and excited a spirit of emulation in all the walks of science, unknown in any
other European capital: and to Avignon in those days might be applied the observation of a Latin poet concerning that small town of Italy which the residence of a single important personage sufficed to illustrate :
“ Veios habitante Camillo, Illic Roma fuit."
The immortal sonnets of Laura's lover, written in the polished and elegant idiom of Lombardy, had a perceptible effect in softening what was harsh, and refining what was uncouth, in the love songs of the Troubadors, whose language (not altogether obsolete in Provence at the present time) bears a