Jacques Maritain Center : Greatest of Centuries


Anyone who has studied even perfunctorily the Books of the Arts and of the Deeds of the Thirteenth Century, who has realized its accomplishments in enduring artistic creations, sublime and exemplary models and inspirations for all after time, who has appreciated what it succeeded in doing for the education of the classes and of the masses, the higher education being provided for at least as large a proportion of the people as in our present century, while the creation of what were practically great technical schools that culled out of the masses the latent geniuses who could accomplish supreme artistic results in the arts and crafts and did more and better for the masses than any subsequent generation, can scarcely help but turn with interest to read the Book of the Words of the period and to find out what forms of literature interested this surprising people. One is almost sure to think at the first moment of consideration that the literature will not be found worthy of the other achievements of the times. In most men's minds the Thirteenth Century does not readily call up the idea of a series of great works in literature, whose influence has been at all as profound and enduring as that of the universities in the educational order, or of the Cathedrals in the artistic order.

This false impression, however, is due only to the fact that the literary creations of the Thirteenth Century are so diverse in subject and in origin, that they are very seldom associated with each other, unless there has been actual recognition of their contemporaneousness from deliberate calling to mind of the dates at which certain basic works in our modern literatures were composed. It is not the least surprise that comes to the student of the Thirteenth Century, to find that the great origins of what well deserves the name of classic modern literature, comprising a series of immortal works in prose and poetry, were initiated by the contemporaries of the makers of the universities and the builders of the Cathedrals. If we stop to think for a moment it must be realized, that generations who succeeded in expressing themselves so effectively in other departments of esthetics could scarcely be expected to fail in literature alone, and they did not. From the Cid in Spain, through the Arthur Legends in England, the Nibelungen in Germany, the Minnesingers and the Meistersingers in the southern part of what is now the German Empire, the Trouvères in North France, the Troubadours in South France and in Italy, down to Dante, who was 35 before the century closed, there has never been such a mass of undying literature written within a little more than a single hundred years, as came during the period from shortly before 1200 down to 1300. Great as was the Fifth Century before Christ in this matter it did not surpass the Thirteenth Century after Christ in its influence on subsequent generations. We have already pointed out in discussing the Cathedrals that one of the most characteristic features of the Gothic architecture was the marvelous ease with which it lent itself to the expression of national peculiarities. Norman Gothic is something quite distinct from German Gothic which arose in almost contiguous provinces, but so it is also from English Gothic; these two were very closely related in origin and undoubtedly the English Cathedrals owe much to the Norman influence so prevalent in England at the end of the Twelfth Century, and the beginning of the Thirteenth Century. Italian Gothic has the principal characteristic peculiarities of the architectural style which passes under the name developed to a remarkable degree, and yet its finished product is far distant from any of the three other national forms that have been mentioned, yet is not lacking in a similar interest. Spanish Gothic has an identity of its own that has always had a special appeal for the traveler. Any one who has ever visited the shores of the Baltic sea and has seen what was accomplished in such places as Stralsund, Greifswald, Lübeck, and others of the old Hansa towns, will appreciate still more the power of Gothic to lend itself to the feelings of the people and to the materials that they had at hand, Here in the distant North they were far away from any sources of the stone that would ordinarily be deemed absolutely necessary for Gothic construction. How effectively they used brick for ecclesiastical edifices can only be realized by those who have seen the remains of the Gothic monuments of this portion of Europe.

The distinguishing mark of all these different styles is the eminent opportunity for the expression of nationality which they afford. It might be expected that since they were all Gothic, most of them would be little better than servile copies, or at best scarce more than good imitations of the great originals of the North of France. As a matter of fact, the assertion of national characteristics, far from destroying the effectiveness of Gothic, rather added new beauties to this style of architecture. This was true even occasionally when mistakes were made by architects and designers. As Ferguson has said in his History of Architecture, St. Stephen's at Vienna is full of architectural errors and yet the attractiveness of the Cathedral remains. It was a poet who designed it and something of his poetic soul gleams out of the material structure after the lapse of centuries.

In nearly this same way the literatures of the different countries during the Thirteenth Century are eminently national and mirror with quite wonderful appropriateness the characteristics of the various people. This is true even when similar subjects, as for instance the Graal stories, are treated from nearly the same standpoint by the two Teutonic nations, the Germans and the English. Parsifal and Galahad are national as well as poetic heroes with a distinction of character all their own. As we shall see, practically every nation finds in this century some fundamental expression of its national feeling that has been among its most cherished classics ever since.

The first of these in time is the Cid, which was written in Spain during the latter half of the Twelfth Century, but probably took its definite form just about the beginning of the Thirteenth. It might well be considered that this old-fashioned Spanish ballad would have very little of interest for modern readers, and yet there are very few scholars of the past century who have not been interested in this literary treasure. Critics of all nations have been unstinted in their praise of it. Since the Schlegels recalled world attention to Spanish literature, it has been considered almost as unpardonable for anyone who pretended to literary culture not to have read the Cid, as it would be not to have read Don Quixote.

As is true of all the national epics founded upon a series of ballads which had been collecting in the mouth of the people for several centuries before a great poetic genius came to give them their supreme expression, there has been some doubt expressed as to the single authorship of Cid. We shall find the same problem to be considered when we come to discuss the Nibelungen Lied. A half a century ago or more the fashion of the critics for insisting on the divided authorship of such poems was much more prevalent than it is at present. At that time a great many scholars, following the initiative of Wolf and the German separatist critics, declared even that the Homeric poems, were due to more than one mind. There are still some who cling to this idea with regard to many of these primal national epics, but at the present time most literary men are quite content to accept the idea of a single authorship. With regard to the Cid in this matter Mr. Fitzmaurice Kelly, in his Short History of Spanish Literature in the Literatures of the World Series, says very simply:

"There is a unity of conception and of language which forbids our accepting the Poema (del Cid) as the work of several hands; and the division of the poem into several cantares is managed with a discretion which argues a single artistic intelligence. The first part closes with the marriage of the hero's daughters; the second with the shame of the Infantes de Carrion, and the proud announcement that the Kings of Spain are sprung from the Cid's loins. In both the singer rises to the level of his subject, but his chiefest gust is in the recital of some brilliant deed of arms."

The Spanish ballad epic is a characteristic example of the epics formed by the earliest poetic genius of a country, on the basis of the patriotic stories of national origin that had been accumulating for centuries. Of course the Cid had to be the Christian hero who did most in his time against the Moslem in Spain. So interesting has his story been made, and so glorious have been his deeds as recorded by the poets, that there has been even some doubt of his existence expressed, but that he was a genuine historical character seems to be clear. Many people will recall the Canons' argument in the forty-ninth chapter of Don Quixote in which Cervantes, evidently speaking for himself, says: "That there was a Cid no one will deny and likewise a Bernardo Del Carpio, but that they performed all the exploits ascribed to them, I believe there is good reason to doubt." The Cid derives his name from the Arabic Seid which means Lord and owes his usual epithet, El Campeador (chain. pion), to the fact that he was the actual champion of the Christians against the Moors at the end of the Eleventh Century. How gloriously his warlike exploits have been described may be best appreciated from the following description of his charge at Alcocer

"With bucklers braced before their breasts, with lances pointing low,
With stooping crests and heads bent down above the saddlebow,
All firm of hand and high of heart they roll upon the foe.
And he that in good hour was born, his clarion voice rings out,
And clear above the clang of arms is heard his battle-shout,
'Among them, gentlemen! Strike home for the love of charity!
The Champion of Bivar is here -- Ruy Diaz -- I am he!'
Then bearing where Bermuez still maintains unequal fight,
Three hundred lances down they come, their pennons flickering white;
Down go three hundred Moors to earth, a man to every blow;
And, when they wheel, three hundred more, as charging back they go,
It was a sight to see the lances rise and fall that day;
The shivered shields and riven mail, to see how thick they lay;
The pennons that went in snow-white come out a gory red;
The horses running riderless, the riders lying dead;
While Moors call on Muhamed, and 'St. James!' the Christians cry."

While the martial interest of such early poems would be generally conceded, it would usually be considered that they would be little likely to have significant domestic, and even what might be called romantic, interests. The Cid's marriage is the result of not what would exactly be called a romance nowadays, though in ruder times there may have been a certain sense of sentimental reparation in it at least. He had killed in fair fight the father of a young woman, who being thus left without a protector appealed to the king to appoint one for her. In the troublous Middle Ages an heiress was as likely to be snapped up by some unsuitable suitor, more literally but with quite as much haste, as in a more cultured epoch. The king knew no one whom he could trust so well with the guardianship of the rich and fair young orphan than the Cid, of whose bravery and honor he had had many proofs. Accordingly he suggested him as a protector and the Cid himself generously realizing how much the fair Jimena had lost by the death of her father consented, and in a famous passage of the poem, a little shocking to modern ideas, it must be confessed, frankly states his feelings in the matter:

"And now before the altar the bride and bridegroom stand,
And when to fair Jimena the Cid stretched forth his hand,
He spake in great confusion: 'Thy father have I slain
Not treacherously, but face to face, my just revenge to gain
For cruel wrong; a man I slew, a man I give to thee;
In place of thy dead father, a husband find in me.'
And all who heard well liked the man, approving what he said;
Thus Rodrigo the Castilian his stately bride did wed."

There are tender domestic scenes between the Cid and his wife and his daughters, which serve to show how sincere was his affection and with what sympathetic humanity a great poet knew how to depict the tender natural relations which have an interest for all times. Some of these domestic scenes are not unworthy to be placed beside Homer's picture of the parting of Hector and Andromache, though there is more naive self-consciousness in the work of the Spanish bard, than in that of his more artistic colleague of the Grecian olden times. There is particularly a famous picture of the duties of noble ladies in Spain of this time and of the tender solicitude of a father for his daughters' innocence, that is quite beyond expectation at the hands of a poet whose forte was evidently war and its alarms, rather than the expression of the ethical qualities of home life. The following passage, descriptive of the Cid's parting from his wife, will give some idea of these qualities better than could be conveyed in any other way:

"Thou knowest well, señora, he said before he went,
To parting from each other our love doth not consent;
But love and joyance never may stand in duty's way,
And when the king commandeth the noble must obey.
Now let discretion guide thee, thou art of worthy name;
While I am parted from thee, let none in thee find blame.
Employ thy hours full wisely, and tend thy household well,
Be never slothful, woe and death with idleness do dwell.
Lay by thy costly dresses until I come again.
For in the husband's absence let wives in dress be plain;
And look well to thy daughters, nor let them be aware,
Lest they comprehend the danger because they see thy care,
And lose unconscious innocence. At home they must abide,
For the safety of the daughter is at the mother's side.

Be serious with thy servants, with strangers on thy guard,
With friends be kind and friendly, and well thy household ward,
To no one show my letters, thy best friends may not see,
Lest reading them they also may guess of thine to me.
And if good news they bring thee, and woman-like dost seek
The sympathy of others, with thy daughters only speak.

* * * *

Farewell, farewell, Jimena, the trumpet's call I hear!
One last embrace, and then he mounts the steed without a peer."

The touch of paternal solicitude and prudence in the passage we have put in italics is so apparently modern, that it can scarcely fail to be a source of surprise, coming as it does from that crude period at the end of the Twelfth Century when such minute psychological observation as to young folks' ways would be little expected, and least of all in the rough warrior hero or his poet creator, whose notions of right and wrong are, to judge from many passages of the poem, so much coarser than those of our time.

After the Cid in point of time, the next enduring poetic work that was destined to have an influence on all succeeding generations, was the series of the Arthur Legends as completed in England. As in the case of the Cid these stories of King Arthur's Court, his Knights and his Round Table, had been for a long time the favorite subject of ballad poets among the English people. Just where they originated is not very clear, though it seems most likely that the original inspiration came from Celtic sources. These old ballads, however, had very little of literary form and it was not until the end of the Twelfth and the beginning of the Thirteenth Century that they were cast in their present mold, after having passed through the alembic of the mind of a great poetic and literary genius, which refined away the dross and left only the pure gold of supremely sympathetic human stories. To whom we owe this transformation is not known with absolute certainty, though the literary and historical criticism of the last quarter of a century seems to have made it clear that the work must be attributed to Walter Map or Mapes, an English clergyman who died during the first decade of the Thirteenth Century.

His claims to the authorship of the Graal legend in its artistic completeness and to the invention of the character of Lancelot, which is one of the great triumphs of the Arthur legends as they were told at this time, have been much discussed by French and English critics. This discussion has perhaps been best summarized by Mr. Henry Morley, the late Professor of Literature at the University of London, whose third volume of English writers contains an immense amount of valuable information with regard to the literary history, not alone of England at this time but practically of all the countries of Europe. Mr. Morley's plan was conceived with a breath of view that makes his work a very interesting and authoritative guide in the literary matters of the time. His summation of the position of critical opinion with regard to the authorship of the Arthur Legends deserves to be quoted in its entirety:

"The Arthurian Romances were, according to this opinion, all perfectly detached tales, till in the Twelfth Century Robert de Borron (let us add, at Map's suggestion) translated the first Romance of the St. Graal as an introduction to the series, and shortly afterwards Walter Map added his Quest of the Graal, Lancelot, and Mort Artus. The way for such work had been prepared by Geoffrey of Monmouth's bold setting forward of King Arthur as a personage of history, in a book that was much sought and discussed, and that made the Arthurian Romances a fresh subject of interest to educated men.

"But M. Paulin Paris, whose opinions, founded upon a wide acquaintance with the contents of old MSS. I am now sketching, and in part adopting, looked upon Walter Map as the soul of this work of Christian spiritualisation. Was the romance of the St. Graal Latin. before it was French? He does not doubt that it was. He sees in it the mysticism of the subtlest theologian. It was not a knight or a jongleur who was so well read in the apocryphal gospels, the legends of the first Christian centuries, rabbinical fancies, and old Greek mythology; and there is all this in the St. Graal. There is a theory, too, of the sacrifice of the mass, an explanation of the Saviour's presence in the Eucharist, that is the work, he says, of the loftiest and the most brilliant imagination. These were not matters that a knight of the Twelfth Century would dare to touch. They came from an ecclesiastic and a man of genius. But if so, why should we refuse credit to the assertion, repeated in every MS. that they were first written in Latin? The earliest MSS. are of a date not long subsequent to the death of Walter Map, Latinist, theologian, wit, and Chaplain to King Henry II., who himself took the liveliest interest in Breton legends. King Henry, M. Paris supposes, wished them to be collected, but how? Some would prefer one method, some another; Map reconciled all. He satisfied the clergy, pleased the scholar, filled the chasms in the popular tales, reconciled contradictions, or rejected inconsistencies, and by him also the introductory tale of the Graal was first written in Latin for Robert de Borron to translate into French."

The best literary appreciation of Map's genius, apart, of course, from the fact that all generations ever since have acknowledged the supreme human interest and eminently sympathetic quality of his work, is perhaps to be found in certain remarks of the modern critics who have made special studies in these earlier literary periods. Prof. George Saintsbury, of the University of Edinburgh, for instance, in the second volume of Periods of English Literature,{1} has been quite unstinted in his praise of this early English wrter. He has not hesitated even to say in a striking passage that Map, or at least the original author of the Launcelot story. was one of the greatest of literary men and deserves a place only next to Dante in the century so preciously full of artistic initiative.

"Whether it was Walter Map, or Chrestien de Troyes, or both, or neither to whom the glory of at once completing and exalting the story is due, I at least have no pretension to decide. Whoever did it, if he did it by himself, was a great man indeed -- a man second to Dante among the men of the Middle Age. Even if it was done by an irregular company of men, each patching and piecing the other's efforts, the result shows a marvelous 'wind of the spirit' abroad and blowing on that company."

Prof. Saintsbury then proceeds to show how much even readers of Mallory miss of the greatness and especially of the sympathetic humanity of the original poem, and in a further passage states his firm conviction that the man who created Lancelot was one of the greatest literary inventors and sympathetic geniuses of all times, and that his work is destined, because the wellsprings of its action are so deep down in the human heart, to be of interest to generations of men for as long as our present form of civilization lasts.

"Perhaps the great artistic stroke in the whole legend, and one of the greatest in all literature, is the concoction of a hero who should be not only 'Like Paris handsome, and like Hector brave,' but more heroic than Paris and more interesting than Hector -- not only a 'greatest knight,' but at once the sinful lover of his queen and the champion who should himself all but achieve and in the person of his son actually achieve, the sacred adventure of the Holy Graal. If, as there seems no valid reason to disbelieve, the hitting upon this idea, and the invention or adoption of Lancelot to carry it out, be the work of Walter Mapes (or Map), then Walter Mapes is one of the great novelists of the world, and one of the greatest of them. If it was some unknown person (it could hardly be Chrestien, for in Chrestien's form the Graal interest belongs to Percevale, not to Lancelot or Galahad), then the same compliment must be paid to that person unknown. Meanwhile the conception and execution of Lancelot, to whomsoever they may be due, are things most happy. Entirely free from the faultlessness which is the curse of the classical hero; his unequaled valor not seldom rewarded only by reverses: his merits redeemed from mawkishness by his one great fault, yet including all virtues that are themselves most amiable, and deformed by no vice that is actually loathsome; the soul of goodness in him always warring with his human frailty -- Sir Lancelot fully deserves the noble funeral eulogy pronounced over his grave, felt by all the elect to be, in both senses, one of the first of all extant pieces of perfect English prose.

To appreciate fully how much Walter Map accomplished by his series of stories with regard to King Arthur's Court, it should be remembered that poets and painters have in many generations ever since found subjects for their inspiration within the bounds of the work which he created. After all, the main interest of succeeding poets who have put the legends into later forms, has centered more in the depth of humanity that there is in the stories, than in the poetic details for which they themselves have been responsible. In succeeding generations poets have often felt that these stories were so beautiful that they deserved to be retold in terms readily comprehensible to their own generation. Hence Malory wrote his Morte D'Arthur for the Fifteenth Century, Spenser used certain portions of the old myths for the Sixteenth, and the late Poet-laureate set himself once more to retell the Idyls of the King for the Nineteenth Century. Each of these was adding little but new literary form, to a work that genius had drawn from sources so close to the heart of human nature, that the stories were always to remain of enduring interest.

For the treasure of poesy with which humanity was enriched when he conceived the idea of setting the old ballads of King Arthur into literary form, more must be considered as due to the literary original writer than to any of his great successors. This is precisely the merit of Walter Map. Of some of his less ambitious literary work we have many examples that show us how thoroughly interested he was in all the details of human existence, even the most trivial. He had his likes and dislikes, he seems to have had some disappointed ambition that made him rather bitter towards ecclesiastics, he seems to have had some unfortunate experiences, especially with the Cistercians, though how much of this is assumed rather than genuine, is hard to determine at this modern day. Many of the extremely bitter things he says with regard to the Cistercians might well be considered as examples of that exaggeration, which in certain minds constitutes one modality of humor, rather than as serious expressions of actual thought. It is hard, for instance, to take such an expression as the following as more than an example of this form of jesting by exaggeration. Map heard that a Cistercian had become a Jew. His comment was: "If he wanted to get far from the Cistercians why didn't he become a Christian."

From England the transition to Germany is easy. Exactly contemporary with the rise of the Arthur Legends in England to that standard of literary excellence that was to give them their enduring poetic value, there came also the definite arrangement and literary transformation of the old ballads of the German people, into that form in which they were to exert a lasting influence upon the German language and national feeling. The date of the Nibelungen Lied has been set down somewhat indefinitely as between 1190 and 1220. Most of the work was undoubtedly accomplished after the beginning of the Thirteenth Century and in the form in which we have it at present, there seems to be no doubt that much was done after the famous meeting of the Meistersingers on the Wartburg -- the subject of song and story and music drama ever since, which took place very probably in the year 1207. With regard to the Nibelungen Lied, as in the case of the other great literary arrangements of folk-ballads, there has been question as to the singleness of authorship. Here, however, as with regard to Homer and the Cid, the trend of modern criticism has all been towards the attribution of the poem to one writer, and the internal evidence of similarity of expression constantly maintained, a certain simplicity of feeling and naivete of repetition seems to leave no doubt in the matter.

As regards the merits of the Nibelungen Lied as a great work of literature, there has been very little doubt in the English-speaking world at least, because of the enthusiastic recognition accorded it by German critics and the influence of German criticism in all branches of literature over the whole Teutonic race during the Nineteenth Century. English admiration for the poem began after Carlyle's introduction of it to the English reading public in his essays. Since this time it has come to be very well known and yet, notwithstanding all that has been said about it no English critic has expressed more fully the place of the great German poem in world literature, than did this enthusiastic pro-German of the first half of the Nineteenth Century.

For those for whom Carlyle's Essays are a sealed book because of loss of interest in him with the passage of time, the citation of some of his appreciative critical expressions may be necessary.

"Here in the old Frankish (Oberdeutsch) dialect of the Nibelungen, we have a clear decisive utterance, and in a real system of verse, not without essential regularity, great liveliness and now and then even harmony of rhythm. Doubtless we must often call it a diffuse diluted utterance; at the same time it is genuine, with a certain antique garrulous heartiness, and has a rhythm in the thoughts as well as the words. The simplicity is never silly; even in that perpetual recurrence of epithets, sometimes of rhymes, as where two words, for instance lip (body), hf (leib) and wip (woman), weib (wife) are indissolubly wedded together, and the one never shows itself without the other following -- there is something which reminds us not so much of poverty, as of trustfulness and childlike innocence. Indeed a strange charm 1ies in those old tones, where, in gay dancing melodies, the sternest tidings are sung to us; and deep floods of sadness and strife play lightly in little purling billows, like seas in summer. It is as a meek smile, in whose still, thoughtful depths a whole infinitude of patience, and love, and heroic strength lie revealed. But in other cases too, we have seen this outward sport and inward earnestness offer grateful contrasts, and cunning excitement; for example, in Tasso; of whom, though otherwise different enough, this old Northern Singer has more than once reminded us. There too, as here, we have a dark solemn meaning in light guise; deeds of high temper, harsh self-denial, daring and death, stand embodied in that soft, quick-flowing joyfully-modulated verse. Nay farther, as if the implement, much more than we might fancy, had influenced the work done, these two poems, could we trust our individual feeling, have in one respect the same poetical result for us; in the Nibelungen as in the Gerusalemme, the persons and their story are indeed brought vividly before us, yet not near and palpably present; it is rather as if we looked on that scene through an inverted telescope, whereby the whole was carried far away into the distance, the life-large figures compressed into brilliant miniatures, so clear, so real, yet tiny, elf-like and beautiful as well as lessened, their colors being now closer and brighter, the shadows and trivial features no longer visible. This, as we partly apprehend, comes of singing epic poems; most part of which only pretend to be sung. Tasso's rich melody still lives among the Italian people; the Nibelungen also is what it professes to be, a song."

The story of the Nibelungen would ordinarily be supposed to be so distant from the interests of modern life, as scarcely to hold the, attention of a reader unless he were interested in it from a scholarly or more or less antiquarian standpoint. For those who think thus, however, there is only one thing that will correct such a false impression and that is to read the Nibelungen itself. It has a depth of simplicity and a sympathetic human interest all its own but that reminds one more of Homer than of anything else in literature, and Homer has faults but lack of interest is not one of them. From the very beginning the story of the young man who does not think he will marry, and whose mother does not think that any one is good enough for him, and of the young woman who is sure that no one will come that will attract enough of her attention so as to compel her to subject herself to the yoke of marriage, are types of what is so permanent in humanity, that the readers' attention is at once caught. After this the fighting parts of the story become the center of interest and hold the attention in spite of the refining influences that later centuries are supposed to have brought to humanity.

Hence it is that Prof. Saintsbury in the second volume of his Periods of European Literature, already quoted from, is able to say much of the modern interest in the story. "There may be," as he says, "too many episodic personages -- Deitrich of Bern, for instance, has extremely little to do in this galley. But the strength, thoroughness, and in its own savage way, charm of Kriemhild's character, and the incomparable series of battles between the Burgundian princes and Etzel's men in the later cantos -- cantos which contain the very best poetical fighting in the history of the world -- far more than redeem this. The Nibelungen Lied is a very great poem; and with Beowulf (the oldest but the least interesting on the whole), Roland (the most artistically finished in form), and the poem of the Cid (the cheerfullest and perhaps the fullest of character), composes a quartette of epics with which the literary story of the great European literary nations most appropriately begins. In bulk, dramatic completeness, and a certain furia, the Nibelungen Lied, though the youngest and probably the least original is the greatest of the four."

Less need be said of the Nibelungen than of the Cid or Walter Map's work because it is much more familiar, and even ordinary readers of literature have been brought more closely in touch with it because of its relation to the Wagnerian operas. Even those who know the fine old German poems only passingly, will yet realize the supreme genius of their author, and those who need to have the opinions of distinguished critics to back them before they form an estimate for themselves, will not need to seek far in our modern literature to find lofty praises of the old German epic.

With even this brief treatment no reader will doubt that there is in these three epics, typical products of the literary spirit of three great European nations whose literatures rising high above these deep firm substructures, were to be of the greatest influence in the development of the human mind, and yet were to remain practically always within the limits of thought and feeling that had been traced by these old founders of literature of the early Thirteenth Century, whose work, like that of their contemporaries in every other form of artistic expression, was to be the model and the source of inspiration for future generations.

{1} The Flourishing of Romance and the Rise of Allegory, by George Saintsbury, Professor of Rhetoric and English Literature in the University of Edinburgh (New York, Charles Scribuer & Sons, 1897).

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