23 JULY 1927, Page 35

Mediaeval Matters

Trails-of the Troubadours. By Raimon de Loi. Illustrated by Giovanni Petrina. (John Long. 12s. Cd.)

The. Renaissance of the Twelfth Century. By C. H. Haskins: (Harvard University Press. Also Oxford University Press. 21s.)

AMONG the close-pressed pointed houses the mighty Gothic cathedrals are rising, taking heaven by storm, with a rush as of wings and lances, vibrating mysteriously with the daring tensions of their aspirations, concluding their beautiful order at last with a building all flower and flame. On the great fair heights of serener Chartres and Amiens and Rheims, calm figures of saints and kings, in gracious fluted raiment, rival the purity and sweetness of archaic Greek statues ; and angels, flowing and curving shapes, with thickly serried curls and a smiling air at once wild and sophisticated, speak softly to Virgins delicate as the §arrasine Nicolete, or, as if in secret Mirth, bend before some grave bishop, while gryphons and stryges lean out to salute the Prince of the powers of the air. Within, between the soaring arches, upon the windows fused of burning sapphire and srnouklering rose, the pale pearl faces of the saints are seen lost in some conflagration of unearthly business. Deep .in the choir the murmur of " holy Latin immemorial " adds one more mystical epithet to the litanies ; and the liturgical antiphonies of &tater pass dreamily into the mystery-play. In the garden enclosed of the high French castle, or out in the flowering orchard, the lady with golden hair and eyes of vair listens to her own litanies, to which one more mystical epithet has been given; sung by her recognized .poet- lover whose " amour courtois," perhaps, is dreamily changing into some passion-play. In the exquisite French ivory mirror- cases you can see them, their angular pointed attitudes, naive

and subtle. Meanwhile in many a quiet scriptorium the patient monks are illuminating great initials, sumptuous and fine, with all the fierce fantasy of repressed desire. In the young universities, such as that noisily gathering at Paris, the schoolmen debate their subtle points, while the students sing the love-songs of that audacious clerk Abelard, under the windows of the house where the supreme heart of Helotise is burning against his own. The great roads wind to Rome and

Compostella, thronged with pilgrims, jongleurs, vagrant scholars, weary kings, all meet Eg in the monks' hostels, and unconsciously piecing together the great stories of the world. Saint Bernard is preaching at VeSzelay, Saint Louis is embarking at Aigues-Mortes, King Richard will weep over Jerusalem unredeemed. The Countess of Champagne has decided in a Court of Love that love in marriage is impossible. (But so decide the novelists to-day.) Jaufre Rudel sails dying, to see his Princess of Tripoli. Aristotle returns to the scholars, but hand in hand with Averrees, the Arabian heretic. Virgil, disguised as a sweet magician and a Christian symbolist, goes ghostly, maintaining through feverish chivalric war and feverish chivalric love the tradition of his pure Latinity. Ovid is another ghost, fragrant as dead roses, solicited especially in luxurious heretical Toulouse. But these hardly prevail against the Oriental contagion. The sandalwood, emerald, and frankincense of the East softly invade the castles. Pantheisms and dualisms that began in Persia drift like pagan pollen over the South of France till the Albigensian massacres involve the lords of Provence, who suffer nobly for the sake of tolerance and friendship ; and the dreadful wrath of Simon de Montfort destroys troubadours and heretics alike.

This recollection of some mediaeval images is caused by the perusal of two very different books. Both are concerned with the Middle Ages and both with France, for in France all the qualities of that excessive period are most manifest. In Trails of the Troubadours RainCon de Loi tries to convey some notions of the great mediaeval doctrine of Romantic Love, and of the peculiar and elaborate kind of poetry it inspired. Since the writer seems temperamentally in sympathy with his subject, it seems a pity that some kind of false literary shame drives him frequently to be slangy and even Mark Twainish in his style. For it is a theme deserving a fine analysis. When Aude was brought into the stern company of paladins to fall dead at the feet of Charlemagne, her mute and passionate interpolation began a change by which French poetry became subject to the lady of the knight's allegiance. The theory of romantic love develops through many exotic and exquisite people, through Intricate and beautiful verse ; and it is indeed caught into fame when Petrarch one April day sees Laura's golden hair and dark eyes by the cathedral door, and into heaven when Dante follows the red robe of Beatrice through the lilies of the Vita Nuora. The writer does not linger over the charming and slightly perverse distinctions of the code ; but the names of places like Carcassonne, Beziers, Narbonne, Les Baux, Aigues-Mortes are in themselves incantations, to which he does justice when he is serious.

The Renaissance of the Twelfth Century deals with a distinct part of the Middle Ages, and with only one aspect of that. It is a lucid and temperate book, dwelling, with accurate scholarship and width of vision, on the hard thinking and minute work on which mediaevalism reared its poetic super- structure like fantasy and fable. The work of the hymn- makers and scholars at courts, abbeys, universities, cathedral schools, is described with much sympathy and insight. That there was a kind of pre-Renaissance in the twelfth century has been admitted by others. When Nicolete walks among the daisies her beauty is her holiness, and Aucassin's speech about hell is a pretty piece of paganism ; the story of Amis and Amite quivers with that ideal of intense and perfect friendship that is the Renaissance platonic equivalent of romantic love. Nor did what we call the Italian Renaissance deny its debt. The lonely horn of Roncesvalles sounded through the debates at the Milanese 'court ; and the matters of France and Spain became the .substance of new Italian poetry. In full Cinquecento, Michelangelo would theorize over the Virgin's immortal youth like DUDS Feotus ; and even Leonardo was versed both in its science and its theology.