Page images

forts. Hence we find in their works no trace of that emulous striving with the giants of earlier days, which we discover in every page of Latin authors. The architects, the painters, the sculptors of Greece copied neither pictures, statues, nor temples. They drew, they modelled, from nature itself-from nature exuberant and young, before her wonders had palled on sated artists, and before she had become tired, as it were, of being too often portrayed. In the same manner during the middle ages, the Troubadours in their artless lays, the Chroniclers in their unstudied tales, obeyed only the inspiration of their genius. Free from the thraldom of precepts, from the dread of criticism, they consulted, as living archives, their own remembrance of events, the memory of aged chiefs, or that of time-worn minstrels.

In periods of declining civilisation, a master-mind, without a precursor, and destined to pass away without a kindred progeny, may rise, domineering in solitary majesty over degenerate contemporaries, as an aged oak is sometimes seen to flourish amidst dwarf trees, obtaining nutriment by striking its roots deep into ground not impoverished, like that of the surface, by overculture. Not so, in days approximating a revival. Then, both in literature and the arts, an inspired voice, when it speaks, proclaims to nations the coming tide of re-awakened genius. Thus, when Dante wrote that divine drama, the themes of which, in proud disdain of the earth, such as barbarians had made it, he sought in heaven and in hell, Chaucer had arrived at the age of manhood, Petrarch had reached his twenty-third year, Boccacio was already a child of eleven, and Froissart, a youth of seventeen, sang in erotic verses, a prelude to the great work, which, as to Milton in latter times, a prophetic vision revealed to him that posterity would not willingly let die.

Froissart wrote verses in early youth; but the fame of the chronicler has so eclipsed that of the poet, that we candidly confess having never read any of his poems, until we met with Buchon's splendid edition of the Chronicles. In the last volume some of these (autobiographic in part) have been inserted by the editor as illustrative of the author's adventurous and romantic life. In perusing them we were surprised to

find so early a sway exercised by his genius over a young dialect as yet untamed by grammarians, untaught by the precepts of criticism.

The lyric muse whom Froissart forsook, enticed away by her no less beauteous, but austere sister, bore him no grudge for his infidelity. Nay, she often visited the truant lover, smiled over his graver pages, and, unbidden, threw over them the enchantments of the early inspiration.

In a future article on Villihardouin, Joinville, and Chatelain, we intend to give some extracts of Froissart's "Epinnettes Amoureuses," commending it for translation to our Bryants, Whittiers, Longfellows, Hallecks, Lowells, Willises, Benjamins,—nay, to some of the fair poets whose contributions have graced the pages of this Review (among whom it may not be invidious to name the fair authoress of the "Song of the Wave"), that the renown of the bard may revive, in our country, together with that of the chronicler, by the kindred genius of American poets, as well as through the enterprise of American publishers.

Before we close the portion of our article that relates to Froissart's style, to his manner, and to the authenticity which his conscientious inquiries after truth ought to affix to "the Chronicles," we are called upon, by a sense of justice, to refute the ungenerous accusation of partiality to the English so often charged on him by most French historians. We commenced the perusal of the Chronicles, we confess, with that prejudice deeply impressed on our minds; but we gladly acknowledge that we have not found. any trace of this imputed bias to the side of England. True it is, that Edward and his son the Black Prince are the heroes of the annals; but who can deny that they were the heroes of the age? It were indeed a puerile weakness to deny that those illustrious princes were the only generals of the fourteenth century who waged war in accordance with the principles laid down by the great commanders of ancient days. They kept their forces united, always ready, either to resist or to assail, and made no detachments on the eve of battle.

In the bold marches of the Prince of Wales, from Calais and Bordeaux, to the very gates of Paris, he paid no at

tention to what vulgar commanders have before and since called "lines of communication," "bases of operations." Like Hannibal in Italy, Alexander in Asia, Cæsar in Gaul, in Spain, in Africa, he trusted to his own genius, the tried valor of his troops, and the fame of his arms, to keep in awe hostile populations. He always carried with him subsistence for more than three weeks. He had a regular corps of pontoniers well provided with materials to build bridges-nay, he had even among his troops a large body of experienced miners from Wales. Instead of battering the walls of fortified cities with the military engines then in use, the Black Prince was wont to throw them down by undermining their foundations. His miners had become so expert in those operations, that on several occasions whole bastions were seen sinking suddenly to the level of the ground, opening large breaches to let in the besiegers.

Du Guesclin, the two Clissons, were undoubtedly distinguished officers, but they wanted the higher inspirations of In the campaigns of France

the art.

and Spain, when they contended against the Black Prince, they appear in the same light as Pompey and Labienus, Fabius and Marcellus, Memnon and Porus, when those commanders stood opposed to Cæsar, Hannibal, Alexander. Besides, the long-bow was unquestionably the master-arm of the age, and no people in Europe, except the English, knew how to handle that dread weapon. The bolts discharged from the crossbow, in the use of which the Genoese were thought skilful, proved puerile missiles, when compared with the cloth-yard arrows, which at Crecy, at Poictiers, showered, with deadly effect, on the ill-armed yeomanry of France, and went clear through the best tempered armor of knights and men-at-arms.

The slaughter of those fatal fields reminds the classic reader of those terrible Parthian shafts that destroyed the veteran legions of Crassus; compelled Anthony, the most renowned of the lieutenants of Cæsar, to retreat hastily from Armenia; and, in latter days, brought to an early close, both the conquests and the life of the eloquent, the learned, the valiant Julian.

We have adopted the common modern orthography of this famous name, though it does not correctly represent the sound with which it was so often thundered in battle. The French pronunciation of the name drops the s, giving it the sound Du Gayclin. How the 7 has been transposed from its proper place we do not know, for Froissart always gives the name as Du Clayquin; and in the 70th chapter of the Third Book, he relates an entertaining discourse between himself and a Breton knight named Messire Guillaume d'Ancenis, in which the latter gives him the history of the origin of the family and name. They were derived from a certain Moorish king named Aquin who had led an invading force from Africa into Bretagne, where he established himself and built a fortress, to which was given the name Glay. He was at last defeated, and driven out by Charlemagne; and in the evacuation of Glay, under the pressure of hot pursuit, his infant child was left behind in its cradle. The child was brought to the Emperor who received him with pleasure and favor, and had him baptized (the two famous paladins Roland, and Olivier his cousin, holding him at the font) by the name compounded of that of his father and his birth-place, Olivier du Glay-Aquin. This foundling, who grew to a stout and valiant knight, was the ancestor of the great Constable, whom modern history calls Bertrand Du Guesclin. The "doux et courtois" Breton knight assured Froissart that the name was properly, and ought to be pronounced Du Glayaquin, as always desired and contended by its owner, though he admits that the vulgar pronunciation (Clayquin) "falls more agreeably from the mouth of those who use it."

In the name of Bertrand's brother, Olivier, who was only inferior in prowess to the Constable himself, we see a reference to the tradition of the family origin; and we are told that Bertrand himself meditated the invasion and conquest of his ancestral kingdom in Barbary, from which he was only prevented by the incessant warfare in which he was kept engaged both in France and in Spain by the Black Prince.

In the church of "Saint Laurent des Jacobins du Puy, in Velay," on a cenotaph, in which the entrails of the illustrious Connétable were deposited, the following epitaph may still be read:"

"Cy gist honorable homme, et valliant Messire
Bertrand Claikin, comte de Longueville, jadis
Connétable de France, qui trépassa l'an MCCCLXXX, le
XIII. jour de juillet."

We hesitate not to say, that until the invention of the musket with the bayonet affixed to it, the long-bow, in the hands of an experienced archer, was the most formidable engine of war ever invented by man.


In conflicts between knights of the two nations in hostile fields, the French had generally the advantage. This was signally proved in the Fight of the Thirties, "le Combat des Trente," where thirty English encountered an equal number of French knights. The English were all killed or taken prisoners. It was on that occasion that the Beaumanoirs acquired the device of their arms. Bleeding and panting, Beaumanoir, the leader of the champions of France, cried out, Water, water, I die with thirst!" "Bois ton sang, Beaumanoir!" was the indignant reply of the father of the warrior. Rebuked by that stern voice, Beaumanoir rushed again into the mêlée; and after the victory, the fair hand of his lady-love inscribed on his shield the memorable words, "Bois ton sang, Beaumanoir!" Mr. Jones, erroneously, states that Froissart has taken no notice of that celebrated combat. The manuscript containing the masterly recital of that conflict is one of those to which M. Buchon had access, and which served him to make his complete edition of the Chronicles. Froissart is so particular as to mention two of the surviving victorious knights, by the side of one of whom, he says, he sat at the table of Charles the Wise. But, in pitched battles, and particularly when large armies encountered each other, the English were almost constantly victorious. That superiority they held until the Maid of Orleans, infusing religious enthusiasm into the masses, changed, at last, the fortunes of that long war.

The history of the military art proves that, either the invention of a more perfect organization (as that of the legion, for example, which the Romans believed to have been taught them by a god), or that of a weapon of greater power than those used by antagonist armies, may, for ages, establish the

superiority in arms of a nation over all others. The phalanx of the Greeks, improved by Philip, prostrated Asia at the feet of Alexander, and preserved the dismembered monarchies founded by the lieutenants of that hero, against all the efforts of the subdued nations, until the better array of the Roman legions broke the spell of Macedonian invincibility. It was the unmatched skill and vigor of Arabian cavalry, more than the fanaticism inspired by Mahomet, that spread Saracen dominion so rapidly over the fairest regions of the earth. The effeminate legionaries whose sloth had thrown away their defensive armor, could neither endure, at a distance, the arrows of the Arabs, nor withstand, in hand-to-hand conflicts, the keenness of their welltempered cimeters, which cut the Roman swords like twigs of greenwood.

We have already alluded to the frightful slaughter of Poictiers and Crecy, wrought by huge shafts discharged from rigid bows, made flexible only by the skill and vigor of wellpractised archers. The Swiss peasants, assailed by the Burgundians, found, behind the impervious array of their serried pikes, safer ramparts than those which nature, by piling mountain over mountain, had formed, as though to secure an asylum to freedom, exiled from the plains, where feudal violence reigned uncontrolled. From the day when the slaughtered chivalry of Charles the Bold strewed the field of Morat,* to that when the impetuous valor of Condé broke through the ranks of the Spanish infantry at Rocroy, the pike, which Montecuculli has termed


the queen of arms," decided the fortune of every well-fought field. was the pike that made Gustavus the arbiter of Europe. It was the pike which maintained, during thirty years, the fame of Swedish arms, under the guidance of the generals to whom that great man had taught the science of


After Vauban, one hundred and sixty years since, had added the bayonet to the musket, that arm, combining the power of the bow with that of the pike,

The Ossuary of Morat, a pyramid built with the bones of the Burgundians killed in the battle in which Charles le Teméraire fell, was shown to Napoleon when he passed through Switzerland. "The Frenchmen of this day," said he, "would have crowned the tops of the surrounding hills, instead of crowding their cavalry in a narrow vale where they had no space to deploy and charge."

may be said to be the most formidable manual weapon ever invented by man. Since all European armies have adopted it, the ascendency in war has been obtained, either by the superior valor of the troops, or the genius of their commanders. A slight improvement made in that arm gave, for years, a decided advantage to a third-rate power over the three most warlike and powerful nations of Europe-we allude to the use of the iron ram-rod instead of that made of wood. A great military writer, Bulow (him who, at Waterloo, turned the vibrating scales of fortune adversely to Napoleon), tells us that, against the incessant rapidity of firing which it enabled the Prussians to maintain, the discipline of the Austrians, the steadiness of the Russians, and the impetuous charges of the French, were alike unavailing.

Again, at New Orleans, the unerring rifle (improved as it had been by the American hunters, it may be said to have become a new weapon) astonished the veterans of Vittoria, Talavera, and Toulouse. They staggered under its deadly volleys, the impetus of their assault was checked, and, in less than an hour's conflict, one-third of the assailants lay on the field, dead or wounded, while the victorious army lost only twenty


It is not the purpose of this article, however desultory its themes, to examine, even cursorily, the origin of feudality; and yet it is impossible to read the Chronicles-the vast panorama of an epoch, when that form of government, having reached its extreme height, stood still for awhile, before it began its fatal decline and fall-without casting a retrospective glance over the state of the Roman world, previous to the establishment of that new social system.

All over Europe, save that portion of it embraced within the continually receding limits of the Eastern empire, which still felt the slow pulsation of a political life, beating feebly even at Constantinople, society strove in convulsive agonies against the destructive strength of barbarism encroaching daily on an expiring civilisation. Ferocious tribes, hitherto unknown, even by name, to the Romans, issuing from distant regions, came like successive waves, each billow overwhelming some province of the Empire-each

surge sweeping away some parts of the vast edifice of polytheist society. The great Roman unity was broken asunder; the guardian genius of the Empire had fled on the very first day that incense ceased to burn on the altar of victory. In the west, barbarians trod on the spot where once stood the capitol. In the east, a Grecian Constantinople usurped the sovereignty of the Eternal City! Yet it was at the very period of the most abject degradation of all temporal power, when Attila was approaching Rome, by hasty marches, at the head of an army, which, though defeated near Chalons, in a battle where "God only could count the slain," preserved undepressed their martial spirit, that a spectacle of unsurpassed moral sublimity was presented to the admiration of mankind. The degenerate Romans, instead of raising six legions, in six days, as their glorious ancestors did after Cannæ, to meet the Scythian Hannibal, relying only on spiritual aid, delegated Leo the Great, their aged and infirm Pontiff, to appease Attila's wrath: to stay the tide of conquest.The monarch had reined the steed that had borne him victorious from the banks of the Volga, to those of the Mincio; not far from the Mantuan Lake. Unawed by the savage majesty of the conqueror, undepressed by the associations which crowded on his mind at the sight of grounds on which the Scythian cavalry, drawn in battle array round the tents of their leader, trampled on fields where Virgil had preluded in rural lays to the loftiest strains of his deathless epic-where Catullus tuned the lyre that charmed Rome when Rome ruled the world-Leo, old, infirm, and helpless, as he seemed to mortal eyes, appeared before the king, dressed in his sacerdotal vestments, bold and erect, in the proud consciousness that he stood in the sight of God, immoveable upon the stone where rests the church against which the gates of hell shall never prevail. With prophetic voice, and all the authority of a divine mission, the Pontiff warned the haughty king to beware of the fate of Alaric, who expiated by a premature death the profanation of Rome. Awed by the majesty of the Pontiff, dreading the wrath of an unknown God, Attila listened with unwonted attention to the persuasive accents of the holy ambassador. The ardor of the chase, when the hunted prey

lay panting before him-the promptings of kingly ambition-alike urged him to pursue his career of conquest: while a superstitious fear, an unwilling dread, inspired by words which seemed oracles of the future, counselled him not to tempt the anger of the God, whose oracles the priest had revealed. But while the warring passions thus contended for mastery in the monarch's breast, the two apostles Peter and Paul, it is said, stood before him, stern and menacing, denouncing instant death if he advanced one step nearer the Holy City. Attila obeyed the divine mandate, and commanded the torrent of invasion to roll on other regions.

The historian of declining Rome, struck with the awful grandeur, both of the vision itself, and of the scene on which it impressed a character of sacred sublimity, terms this miracle" the noblest legend of ecclesiastical tradition," and yet, as if his scepticism were suddenly checked by veneration for Rome, the loved theme of his undying history, he adds: "the safety of Rome might deserve the interposition of celestial beings." Now that ecclesiastical traditions are again received with becoming respect, even by the ministers of a church which, in bygone days of error and incredulity, made it a boast to reject them with simulated contempt, we will offer no apology for the credulity of the many learned Christian writers who have recorded this tradition. It would ill become a layman to decide a question on which pious and enlightened divines have disagreed-but, believing the authenticity of miracles wrought long after the death of Christ, we must be allowed to say, that, though possessing some knowledge of human laws prescribing legal actions, we have yet to learn what divine law limits to any given epoch the special action of Providence on human events. Perhaps, the propensity natural to man to yield belief to what strikes it deeply as marvellous (a tendency from which we have not the pride to be thought exempt) was strengthened by having beheld on the walls of the Vatican, among the master-works which adorn that venerable edifice, a glowing page where Raphael has represented with all the poetic inspiration of genius, the scene we have translated in humble prose.

Thus, at the very moment when Rome, the Niobe of nations, after

mourning over her slaughtered daughters, stood trembling for her own existence before a ruthless conqueror, in accomplishment of mysterious decrees of Providence, commenced for that holy city a new era of spiritual domination, a new life of intellectual supremacy. The veneration of the sovereign Pontiff of which Attila set the first example to the barbarian invaders of Italy, made Rome a sanctuary where the annals of nations, the records of science, the master-works of arts which Greece, and the Rome of the Kings, of the Consuls, and of the Emperors, had bequeathed to posterity for the emulation of genius in future ages, were preserved sacred and inviolate.

Leo the Great had turned from Italy, for awhile, the tide of invasion : but it continued to flow over Europe, till all rules, both for civil and political life, enacted by the nation of the toga, were effaced by the stern conquerors: not only from the twelve tables, where the Decemvirs had engraved the written reason of Greece, but also from the records on which an improved civilisation had successively inscribed the whole body of the civil law. The level of victory was laid on all alike; the haughty patrician bending so low under its presence, that his head rose not above that of the humblest proletarian,-a common bondage mingling all classes together. In the meantime, all over what had once been the western empire, were swept away even the vestiges of that domestic slavery undermined before by the principles of universal love and brotherhood, promulgated in the Gospels.

Awful problems were then presented for solution to the leaders who intended to govern in peace, the nations they had subdued by war. In what manrer was permanent order to spring from the universal chaos? whence would arise a power sufficient to harmonize so many discordant and jarring elements? What hand strong enough to compel such diversity of warring interests and passions, to unite round a central reconstructive mind? What potent moral principle would the lawgiver evoke, to combine and harmonize what remained vital of the past, with the new-born elements of the present, into the regularity and order of an organized society?

That power, that plastic spirit, ex

« PreviousContinue »