And Jeanne d’Arc, the good Lorraine,
Whom the English burned at Rouen!
Where are they, Virgin Queen?
But where are the snows of spring?
Between the death of William of Lorris and the advent of John of Meung, a short half-century (1250-1300), the Woman and the Rose became bankrupt. Satire took the place of worship. Man, with his usual monkey-like malice, took pleasure in pulling down what he had built up. The Frenchman had made what he called “fausse route.” William of Lorris was first to see it, and say it, with more sadness and less bitterness than Villon showed; he won immortality by telling how he, and the thirteenth century in him, had lost himself in pursuing his Rose, and how he had lost the Rose, too, waking up at last to the dull memory of pain and sorrow and death, that “tout porrist.” The world had still a long march to make from the Rose of Queen Blanche to the guillotine of Madame du Barry; but the “Roman de la Rose” made epoch. For the first time since Constantine proclaimed the reign of Christ, a thousand years, or so, before Philip the Fair dethroned Him, the deepest expression of social feeling ended with the word: Despair.
LES MIRACLES DE NOTRE DAME
Vergine Madre, figlia del tuo figlio,
Umile ed alta piu che creatura,
Termine fisso d’eterno consiglio,
Tu sei colei che l’umana natura
Nobilitasti si, che il suo fattore
Non disdegno di farsi sua fattura....
La tua benignita non pur soccorre
A chi dimanda, ma molte fiate
Liberamente al dimandar precorre.
In te misericordia, in te pietate,
In te magnificenza, in te s’aduna
Quantunque in creatura e di bontate.
Vergine bella, che di sol vestita,
Coronata di stelle, al sommo sole
Piacesti si che’n te sua luce ascose;
Amor mi spinge a dir di te parole;
Ma non so ’ncominciar senza tu aita,
E di colui ch’amando in te si pose.
Invoco lei che ben sempre rispose
Chi la chiamo con fede.
Vergine, s’a mercede
Miseria estrema dell’ umane cose
Giammai ti volse, al mio prego t’inchina!
Soccorri alia mia guerra,
Bench’i sia terra, e tu del del regina!
Dante composed one of these prayers; Petrarch the other. Chaucer translated Dante’s prayer in the “Second Nonnes Tale.” He who will may undertake to translate either;—not I! The Virgin, in whom is united whatever goodness is in created being, might possibly, in her infinite grace, forgive the sacrilege; but her power has limits, if not her grace; and the whole Trinity, with the Virgin to aid, had not the power to pardon him who should translate Dante and Petrarch. The prayers come in here, not merely for their beauty,—although the Virgin knows how beautiful they are, whether man knows it or not; but chiefly to show the good faith, the depth of feeling, the intensity of conviction, with which society adored its ideal of human perfection.