Imagens da página
PDF
ePub

enemies and the exaygerated praises of her partizans Lave left undisputed. These in truth are few, and we shall shortly state them. Joanna, who inherited her crown from her grandfather Robert, had been espoused, while yet a child, to her cousin Andrew, son of Carobert, king of Hungary, who was educated with her at the Neapolitan court,-a union which, contrived as it was to silence a subsisting claim upon the kingdom, proved eventually the source of civil war and calamity for one hundred and fifty years. She is therefore called by an Italian historian, the Pandora of her country. Andrew was barbarous in his manners, and gave

himself

up

to the society of Hungarians, who taught him to insist on his paramount hereditary right to a crown which he held only by virtue of his marriage. He was actually urging the papal court at Avignon to permit his coronation, which would have placed in great hazard the rights of his queen, when, one night, he was seized and strangled. The guilt of this mysterious assassination, hy all historians except Costanzo and Giannone (Neapolitan writers), and the Abbé de Sade*, whose vindication does her more harm than good, has been imputed to Joanna. No doubt, the suspicion prevailed very recently after Andrew's death, whatever her advocates, among whom the anonymous Author of this work is not the least strenuous, may say to the contrary. His brother Louis, king of Hungary, a just and stern prince, invaded Naples, for the avowed purpose of avenging his death. After her second marriage, with Louis of Tarento, she fled to Provence with her husband, where a solemn, if not impartial investigation was instituted into the case, and sentence of acquittal was pronounced by Clement VI. Joanna soon recovered her crown, and reigned for thirty years without molestation. At length Charles, duke of Durazzo, the presumptive heir of her crown, (for she was childless by four husbands,) invaded the kingdom with an Hungarian army, got the queen into his power, and took possession of the throne. In this project, he was aided by Urban VI, for Joanna had unfortunately taken part against that pontiff in the great schism of the Church. She was smothered with a pillow in prison, by Durazzo's order. Whether guilty of her husband's murder or not, her after life had been irreproachable. Dissolute manners have been laid to her charge, but upon no specific proof or contemporary evidence. These leading features of Joanna's public and private history, we will venture to say, are nearly all that the utmost diligence of research can collect

* l'ie ile Pétrarque, t. II.

concerning this unfortunate queen ; and the two volumes before us, comprehending her life and the events connected with it, if stripped of their correlative inatter, would be found to corroborate our assertion. The controversial reasoning with which it is interspersed, belongs not to history. It is the application of mere ingenuity to a doubtful question, the testimony which could alone decide it being irrevocably lost. In like manner, the advocates for the problematical innocence of Mary, queen of Scots, who reason upon a particular side, and as it were from a brief drawn up in her favour, occupy themselves with watching all the ambiguities and contradictions of her case, and manifest their zeal for their royal client, by giving undue emphasis to every thing that can be fairly urged in her defence, and suppressing or wresting to their own purposes, all that tends to a contrary conclusion. A chivalrous gallantry enters not a little into this posthumous enthusiasm; and the beauty of Mary, and the personal charms of Joanna, which, according to Boccaccio, were irresistible, have had no slight share in animating the pens and warming the hearts of their historical combatants. Many a princess of coarser features,

, • cheeks of sorry grain,' and inelegant manners, though equally ill-treated and oppressed, has been left to moulder in the quiet oblivion of the tomb, without calling forth one adventurous knight to redress her wrongs, to refute the charge of her supposed crimes, or to defend her injured virtue. Such is the power of beauty even in the grave! As a work, however, of this description, whatever its title-page may promise, is intended for general amusement, by bringing together a variety of interesting matter connected with the main subject only by a slight and often an invisible thread, we shall proceed to lay before our readers a few passages as specimens of its style and its execution, as well as of the materials which compose it.

A book written with such aims and in such a spirit, must not be rigidly confined either in point of time or of incident ; and the Author of the life of Joanna has by no means hesitated to make use of his privilege. The birth of this princess is supposed to have taken place in the year 1327 ; but he begins with the early civilization of Florence; (in which, we would humbly suggest, his heroine could have had no share ;) the inheritance of the fiefs constituting that country by Beatrice, daughter of Berenger; her marriage in 1245 with Charles of France, afterwards called Charles of Anjou ; the deposition of Frederic II., of Suabia; the crusade under St. Louis in 1250; the usurpation of the Neapolitan crown by Manfred ; the papal investiture of Naples in Charles of Anjou; and ali the intermediate events of Neapolitan and Provençal history,

a

till the death of Robert the Wise, the grandfather of Joanna. These preliminary subjects occupy a considerable portion of the first volume. As for Joanna, we may say with Ovid,' pars minima ipsa puella sui.' Yet, the introductory and miscellaneous topics are far from being uninteresting, and they are, for the most part, expressed in a pleasing, though not always, an unaffected manner. The following account of Provençal literature, is a strong testimony to the Author's knowledge of the subject, and of the writers who have treated of the science gaie.'

• At the close of the eleventh century, the marriage of the heiress of Provence united her territories with those of the Count of Catalonia, and various portions of Northern Spain, and Southern France, were, during the middle ages, ruled by the same lords. The courts of their Spanish lords were constantly frequented by the minstrels of Provence, and from the Arabian settlers of the Peninsula they derived the ornament of rhyme, the form of their verses, the character of their poetry, and that superior intellectual cultivation, which for three successive centuries rendered their language and their poetry the admiration of Christian Europe.

• The gallant knight and the gay Troubadour are in our minds closely associated, and not without reason. They flourished and declined much about the same period. The Troubadour, like the knight, was required to be courteous and frank, true and faithful in word and deed. “ Like the knight, he selected the lady of his heart towards whom all his thoughts were continually to be directed, whom he invoked without ceasing, whose favour he was to win by his poetic triumphs, as the knight by his feats in the field or tournament. Religion, renown, and love, were alike the sacred objects of their worship: neither ever separated three things closely united in their hearts, God, honour, and the ladies.”_" The knight vowed to consecrate his sword to the defence of the weak and oppressed, the Troubadour devoted his lyre to the same sacred purpose. The knight acquired his rank after long probation as a squire, the Troubadour acquired his title in some renowned court, where he at first appeared in the service of an elder bard, as a jongleur. The feudal hall was the resort of both, they were hailed with the same welcome, received the same rewards, and were retained in the service of the same lord.”

• These closely assimilating characters were often united in the same noble or royal personage. The compositions of William IX. count of Poitou and duke of Aquitaine, who died in 1107, furnish the most ancient specimens of Troubadour poetry extant. Alphonso II. and Peter III. of Arragon, Richard Coeur de Lion, Frederic III. of Sicily, a dauphin of Auvergne, a count of Foix, some of the princes of Orange, and many other of the bravest sons of chivalry, were also known to fame as professors of the art of jonglerie. But this art, as the profession of the Troubadour was originally called, was principally cultivated by the poor and low-born, as the sure road to riches and honours. Pierre Vidal was the son of a furrier, Perdigon of a fisherman, and Bertrand Ventadour, the favoured lover of Eleanor of Guyenne, wife of Henry II. of England, was the offspring of a menial servant.'

There was no little empiricism in the art of the troubadour.

Vice,' says Pierre Vidal, • has passed from kings and nobles to their vassals-sense or knowledge are no longer to be found in either_knights, formerly loyal and valiant, are become cowardly and deceitful. There is but one remedy for these evils, it is jonglerie : this profession requires spirit, frankness, gentleness, and prudence. Let us not imitate those insipid jongleurs who cloy their hearers with amorous and plaintive lays. We must vary our strains-proportion them to the sadness or gayety of the auditors, and avoid rendering ourselves despicable by mean or ignoble recitals.

• Pierre de Corbian, in his somewhat vain enumeration of his own acquirements in a sirvente entitled his Treasure, gives a high idea of the knowledge possessed by the eminent amongst the troubadours.

6Though I have not,” says he, “ castles or bourgs or vast domains, I am nevertheless richer than many a one with a thousand ounces of gold; my revenue is but small, but my courtesy and genius are not so. I walk as erect as he whom power and fortune have loaded with their favours. I possess a treasure more precious than diamonds or silver, a treasure which cannot perish nor be taken from me by thieves it is knowledge

As the jongleur confesses all knowledge to be derived from God himself, as the first and principal part of his treasure, he rapidly ruus through the Old and New Testament, beginning with the fall of Adam, and ending with a description of the day of judgment from the Revelation. The second and minor part of his treasure comprehends all the liberal arts in the following order-grammar, the Latin language (of which he is master), logic, rhetoric, the science and practice of music in an emineŋt degree, arithmetic, geography, astrodomy, a little of medicine and surgery, magic and all that relates to it!

• 6 I know," continued he, “ Mythology better than the ingenious Ovid and the lying Thales. I know, by heart, the history of Thebes, of Troy, and of Rome. I know the exploits of Cæsar, of Pompey, and of Augustus. I am not ignorant of who Vespasian and Titus, who destroyed Jerusalem, were; I can speak of all the Casars, up to Constantine.

"“ Grecian history is as familiar to me as that of France, froin the time of Clovis, consecrated by St. Remy, to the good king Louis, who fell in battle, and who was the most equitable of kings, having never gained or lost any territory but according to justice.”

· Pierre de Corbian, after having declared himself equally well acquainted with the history of England, and all other kingdoms, finishes by displaying his knowledge of poetry, enumerates the various sorts of verse he is able to write, and says he is equally successful in pleas.

[ocr errors]

ing both knights and ladies. “Behold my treasure and my pleasure ! behold my wealth! it causes me no inquietude, and nothing hinders me from being gay every day of the week.” Happy man!'

* • The troubadour, properly so called, rarely recited his own compositions ; they were generally chaunted by the attendant jongleurs, one or more of whom always followed in his train. The jongleurs were required to play on some of the following instruments-the barp, the lute, the guitar, the manichord (a sort of spinette), the gigue (a sort of bagpipe), the rebec or viol with three strings, the psaltery (a stringed instrument), and a wheel with seventeen strings, now unknown as a musical instrument, as the moderns have been une able to divine its construction, or the manner in which it was played. To these imperfect instruments, the harsher din of drums, cymbals, bells, and castanets, was not unfrequently added. The airs of this period are not thought to have possessed much excellence or beauty; and we may observe, that the balance between music and poetry is never equally preserved in their union : as music improves, the verses that are sung to it become gradually worse, and the effect of music on the human mind, however paradoxical it may sound, has consequently almost always been in the inverse ratio of its excellence.

• In addition to music, the jongleurs, in the decline of their art, called in the assistance of tricks of sleight of hand for the amusement of their patrons; hence the modern terin jugglers. They also imitated the song of birds, displayed the tricks of apes and other ani. nals, which were trained to various feats of agility or dexterity, amongst others, to jump in and out of a number of hoops in succession. Sometimes similar exercises of agility were performed by groupes of children, whose flexible forms displayed a thousand grace. ful attitudes. But all these · appliances and means to boot,' were not resorted to until the noble art of jonglerie' had fallen from its original dignity and estimation.

Pierre Vidal holds the first rank amongst troubadours for genius and extravagance. He flourished about the middle of the thirteenth century, and excelled all his contemporaries, in harmony of verse and beauty of expression. His happy talents were, however, alloyed by an unfortunate propensity to fall in love with every fair and noble lady whom he saw, whilst his vanity prompted him to believe that he was in return beloved by all ; and his indiscreet boasting caused one indignant husband to pierce his tongue with a bot iron. This severe lesson had, however, so little effect on him, that he shortly after had the presumption to kiss the beautiful Adelaïde of Roque Martine, when she once accidentally fell asleep in his presence. Banished by her from Marseilles, he joined the crusade under Frederic II., to the Holy Land, and became at once the jest and the admiration of the assembled crusaders. Imagining himself a hero, he boasted of his own feats of arms in sirveutes, whose more than poetic fictions exposed him to universal ridicule. The nobles encouraged bis folly to she utmost, and induced him, at Cyprus, to marry a Grecian woman

[ocr errors]

a

« AnteriorContinuar »