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ROMANCE OF THE ROSE CONTINUED. - SATIRE
UPON THE MENDICANTS.
THE part of the Roman de la Rose which was written by John de Meun is much more miscellaneous, and has infinitely less of the poetical spirit, than the part written by his predecessor.
It is however by no means destitute of merit. The author has admitted into it an unbounded variety of matter, and made it the vehicle of all his satire, of all his observation upon life and manners, and perhaps of all his learning. Many classical stories are interspersed ; and several of them, as the editor of 1735 has justly re
marked, " are introduced in so unconnected CHAP. and extraordinary a manner, that any other place in the poem would have suited them as well, as that in which they are inserteda.”
One of the individuals in the army of the False-sem. God of Love is False-semblant, the offspring tire upon of Guile, begotten upon Hypocrisy. From dicant the introduction of this personage John de Meun takes occasion in more than a thou. sand verses to pour out his spleen against the mendicant friars. False-semblant is made to give an account of himself to his commander, and in this account the poet has interwoven his satire upon religious imposture. He digresses into the history of William de St. Amour a distinguished polemical champion, and of all the principal controversies occasioned by the institution and promi ceedings of the mendicant orders. As this
Preface: Economie et Ordre de ce Roman.
Revival of learning in the twelfth
CHAP: history strongly tends to illustrate the man
ners and sentiments of these early ages, and
of this work cannot be more profitably spent than in illustrating it.
“ The revival of learning” is a phrase
which for a considerable time past has been century. almost exclusively appropriated to the period
of the taking of Constantinople, and the age
of Leo X. It has already appeared that the same phrase might without any striking impropriety be applied to the twelfth century. It was then that the night which threatened to bury all Europe in barbarism began to be dissipated; it was then that certain literary adventurers imported from the Saracens science, the investigation of nature, and the Aristotelian philosophy; it was then that romance was invented, and poetry seemed to be new created; and it was this period which was illustrated by. the labours of Abelard, William,of Malmesbury, Peter of Blois, John of Salisbury and
Joseph of Exeter ; as well as of Turpin, Geof- CHAP: frey of Monmouth, Benoit and Wace.
This revival of learning however seemed. Its effects at first to bear no favourable aspect upon the church cause of religion, at least of the species of mens. religion at that time established in Europe. During the period so justly distinguished by the appellation of the dark
usurpation of the Roman pontiffs, and the dissoluteness of the clergy, particularly of the monks, had been without limits and without shane. While ignorance universally prevailed, the most imperious insolence was regarded with terror and veneration, and the most transparent veil of hypocrisy and affectation was sufficient to deceive the superstitious multitude. But, when the light of the twelfth century, however to us it may appear but a glimmering of intellect, broke in
the church, it produced an effect similar to that of a brilliant lamp suddenly introduced into an assembly of persons the most disorderly and licentious, who had thought to practise their orgies with impunity under the friendly
Rise of the mendicant orders,
CHAP. cover of the night. If the usurpations and
the vices of the church had proceeded with any degree of moderation, habit would have reconciled her members and subjects to the deformity; but the trial had been made in too deep a spirit of security, and the enchantment broke. There was considerable reason to expect that a violent disgrace and overthrow of the church would follow in no long time.
In this crisis a remedy presented itself, exactly adapted to the nature of the evil, and the character of the times. Serious and conscientious men had reflected with anguish and despondency upon the dissolution of manners, and the progress of a scoffing spirit of irreligion. Multitudes were anxious for the revival of a practical sense of religious impressions, to raise again the drooping spirit of the church, and to recal Europe at large to the obedience of her spiritual father. As to the usurpations of the sovereign pontiff, that was a question to be settled by mutual accommodation, and a crafty and temporising