19 MAY 1900, Page 21

by English-speaking scholars, though, as the excellent biblio- graphy prefixed

to Professor Justin Smith's book proves, it is in no danger of neglect. It has not escaped the Germans, and the French, who begin to outdo their neighbours in thorough- ness, have made it peculiarly their own. But for the Anglo- Saxon world Professor Smith is something of a pioneer in that magnificent province,—one of the most romantic regions in literature. All the more honour to him ; and we can testify from our examination of his work (as well as from the verdict of a highly competent Provencal scholar) that he has gone with great thoroughness into his task. At the same time, in the interests of scholarship his method is to be deplored,- the-method of imaginative biography. He goes through the list of the troubadours, some thirty or forty of them, describes the town, valley, and castle with which each may be specially associated, gives some outline of the troubadour's life, some sketch of his work, and as a rule a vivid picture of his (or her) personal appearance. This would be admirable if there only were material; but as many of the writers are represented by a few compositions in the most conventional of manners, and

beyond this there is no source except the very scrappy traditional Lives, Mr. Smith is obliged to construct a picture for himself and -then set it before us. For example, the fifth chapter opens with a very taking description of Corthezon —and let us say at once that Mr. Smith has strayed every- where in this delightful country, following up the traces of the troubadours with that enthusiasm of antiquarian research in which Monkbarns himself could scarcely rival the Ameri-

cans--and from the town passes to its most notable figure, Raimbaut d'Aurenga, who divided with his brother the earldom of Orange and had Corth4zon for his chief town. Then comes a general criticism of Raimbaut as a poet, one of the pioneers of technical Perfection, and against this nothing can be said. Then Mr. Smith continues :—

" As a personality, however, I find him vastly entertaining. Young-hearted, fresh, and in perfect health,' he describes him- self; and nobody can resist the contagion of his animal spirits when he bids the joglar strike up a lively air and begins his latest song :—

`With wits refreshed and fresh desire, With knowledge fresh and freshened fire, In fine fresh style that ne'er will tire,

A good fresh poem PH begin My fresh new verses will inspire Fresh life In every knight and 'squire. And freshen pulses old and thin."

All this is excellent and perfectly legitimate; the version, like most of Mr. Smith's versions, is capitally done; and what is more, a note gives a reference to the book and page where the original may be found. But unhappily Mr. Smith has thrown the reins on the neck of his fancy and he must go on :—

" His full round throat delivers the words proudly, as he would release a lady's hand. His well-filled body gives a sounding resonance to every tone. The bright pink of his plump cheeks deepens to an actual red, glowing warmly down into a soft brown beard. The hair, thick and short, and set with rotary cow-licks all over his big head, seems waltzing electrically. And when each stanza is concluded he reinforces the interlude with amorous looks or jocund laugh, his bright eyes roving from side to side meanwhile to gather in the largess of smiles and applause."

Before a passage like this one pulls up and asks oneself in amazement what is the Provencal (and what is the English) for "rotary cow-licks." A numeral refers us to the notes ; we turn them up and read : "We have no data as to the personal appearance of Raimbant." Of course, this is perfect candour, and it may be hypercritical to object; but we could well have spared the cow-licks.

In short, the book offends our taste not unfrequently,—the chapter on Ugo de Sain Circ, for instance, is a much bolder

example of the imaginative biographer's daring; when he has no details, as with Raimbaut d'Aurenga, his flights are short; but give him two or three facts to go on, and he soars on wings gummed together with "I take it" and "He must have done." Nevertheless there is a great deal in it that is very good reading ; troubadour history is full of crude, violent romance, like the story of Guilhem de Cabestaing, the Lady Marp,arida, and the song that she made him make, choosing

• The Trinaculours at home: their Lives and Personalities, their Songs and their World. By Justin H. Smith, Professor of Modern History in Iktrunouth College. 2 rats:. With 178 Illustrations. London : Putnam's Sons. [235. net )

fame in verse rather than security in silence. The song was made and was sung; Ramian de Rossillon, Margarida's hus- band, heard it, and that night at dinner he asked her if she

knew what she had eaten. No, eseept that it was good and savoury.' Then he told her that she had certainly eaten the heart of Guilhem de Cabestaing. • And see,' he added calling a servant from the next room, 'see, this is his head.' Margarida when she heard that lost for an instant the power to see and hear, but recovering herself replied : • You have given me meat so good, my lord, that I will never taste other." Ramian was seized with double fury then, and sprang for a sword to strike her with, but she fled to the balcony, and pausing there an instant for one desperate resolve she threw herself down and so died." What a subject for Webster!

But the essential interest of the book lies in the picture which it gives of the mind of medieeval Europe in transition from barbarism to the arts of peace. In his " Tesaur " (Treasury), a poem of eight hundred and forty Alexandrines composed on a single rhyme, Peire de Cabiac tells us exactly what he knows; the ten arts and the ten orders of angels; Biblical history, including much that is not in the Bible ; grammar, rhetoric, and law; music, arithmetic, and geometry; but chiefly astronomy and the planetary powers; medicine (but not surgery,—" he was never apprenticed to cutting and sewing ") ; mythology and history down to the con- quest of Britain by Brutus of Troy. It is, as Pro- fessor Smith says, "a head, not a book," and very curious to look into. The doctrine of love and loving service, too, an the troubadours preached it, is of strange interest, and like monasticism, though it flew in the face of Nature not with impunity, yet was of use to the world, as are all ideals till the world outgrows them. One illusion Professor Smith shatters; there were never such things as Courts of Love; no mention is found of them in the literature of that day, and they are the invention of a later period, looking back on a time when love and the duties and niceties of love were so much the recog- nised theme of discourse that it seemed as if constituted assemblies fairly sat and pronounced decisions. But the troubadours were not writers of love songs only. Satire— personal and general, political and social—came within the scope of their sirventes. Controversies raged in verse, and the troubadour was fully as potent to annoy as the Press of to- day. There was at least one troubadour—Robert the Dalfin, of Auvergne—who encountered in song no less an antagonist than Richard Coeur de Lion; and Bertran de Born (whom Professor Smith from some occult reason generally speaks of as Born, tout court) played no small part in the troubles between the sons of Henry IL, and, as readers of Dante know, walked headless in Hell because he "gave to the young King the ill encouragements." Indeed, the whole story brings to our mind what is scarce vividly realised by many of us, that strange story of England's hold on Southern France. Richard was a troubadour, his mother Eleanor a singer, who had for lover one of the most interesting figures in all the list, Bernart de Ventadorn, and Eleanor's grandfather. Guilhem IX., Duke of Aquitane, stands at the very opening of this line of singers. But the whole subject is too large to be treated adequately here, even had we competence to treat it. It may suffice to say that Mr. Smith's book is well worth reading if only as a historical guide to one of the most interesting regions in Europe—for he dwells lovingly on the charms of valleys and mountains, cities and villages—and for the literature it treats may at least open the way to a real treasure-house of beauty.