French Mediaeval Romances from the Lays of Marie de France eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 248 pages of information about French Mediaeval Romances from the Lays of Marie de France.

BY WAY OF DEDICATION

Those to whom God has given the gift of comely speech, should not hide their light beneath a bushel, but should willingly show it abroad.  If a great truth is proclaimed in the ears of men, it brings forth fruit a hundred-fold; but when the sweetness of the telling is praised of many, flowers mingle with the fruit upon the branch.

According to the witness of Priscian, it was the custom of ancient writers to express obscurely some portions of their books, so that those who came after might study with greater diligence to find the thought within their words.  The philosophers knew this well, and were the more unwearied in labour, the more subtle in distinctions, so that the truth might make them free.  They were persuaded that he who would keep himself unspotted from the world should search for knowledge, that he might understand.  To set evil from me, and to put away my grief, I purposed to commence a book.  I considered within myself what fair story in the Latin or Romance I could turn into the common tongue.  But I found that all the stories had been written, and scarcely it seemed the worth my doing, what so many had already done.  Then I called to mind those Lays I had so often heard.  I doubted nothing—­for well I know—­that our fathers fashioned them, that men should bear in remembrance the deeds of those who have gone before.  Many a one, on many a day, the minstrel has chanted to my ear.  I would not that they should perish, forgotten, by the roadside.  In my turn, therefore, I have made of them a song, rhymed as well as I am able, and often has their shaping kept me sleepless in my bed.

In your honour, most noble and courteous King, to whom joy is a handmaid, and in whose heart all gracious things are rooted, I have brought together these Lays, and told my tales in seemly rhyme.  Ere they speak for me, let me speak with my own mouth, and say, “Sire, I offer you these verses.  If you are pleased to receive them, the fairer happiness will be mine, and the more lightly I shall go all the days of my life.  Do not deem that I think more highly of myself than I ought to think, since I presume to proffer this, my gift.”  Hearken now to the commencement of the matter.

II

THE LAY OF GUGEMAR

Hearken, oh gentles, to the words of Marie.  When the minstrel tells his tale, let the folk about the fire heed him willingly.  For his part the singer must be wary not to spoil good music with unseemly words.  Listen, oh lordlings, to the words of Marie, for she pains herself grievously not to forget this thing.  The craft is hard—­then approve the more sweetly him who carols the tune.  But this is the way of the world, that when a man or woman sings more tunably than his fellows, those about the fire fall upon him, pell-mell, for reason of their envy.  They rehearse diligently the faults of his song, and steal away his praise with evil words.  I will brand these folk as they deserve.  They, and such as they, are like mad dogs—­cowardly and felon—­who traitorously bring to death men better than themselves.  Now let the japer, and the smiler with his knife, do me what harm they may.  Verily they are in their right to speak ill of me.

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French Mediaeval Romances from the Lays of Marie de France from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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