It forms part of the cycle of the chansons de geste dealing with the Crusade, and relates how Helyas, knight of the swan, is guided by the swan to the help of the duchess of Bouillon and marries her daughter Ida or Beatrix in circumstances exactly parallel to the adventures of Lohengrin and Elsa of Brabant, and with the like result.
Most important of all is A Lytell Geste of Robyn Hode, which was first printed about 1510 (see A.
812), also known as Guillaume Fierabrace, St Guillaume de Gellone, and the Marquis au court nez, was the central figure of the southern cycle of French romance, called by the trouveres the geste of Garin de Monglane.
The cycle of twenty or more chansons which form the geste of Guillaume reposes on the traditions of the Arab invasions of the south of France, from the battle of Poitiers (732) under Charles Martel onwards, and on the French conquest of Catalonia from the Saracens.
The central fact of the geste of Guillaume is the battle of the Archamp or Aliscans, in which perished Guillaume's heroic nephew, Vezian or Vivien, a second Roland.
This event is related in a Norman-French transcript of an old French chanson de geste, the Chancun de Willame - which only was brought to light in 1901 at the sale of the books of Sir Henry Hope Edwardes - in the Covenant Vivien, a recension of an older French chanson and in Aliscans.
The chansons de geste of the cycle of Guillaume are: Enfances Garin de Monglane (15th century) and Garin de Monglane (13th century), on which is founded the prose romance of Guerin de Monglane, printed in the 15th century by Jehan Trepperel and often later; Girars de Viane (13th century, by Bertrand de Barsur-Aube), ed.
Unger, Christiania, 1860) deals with the geste of Guillaume.
The conclusions arrived at by earlier writers are combated by Joseph Bedier in the first volume, "Le Cycle de Guillaume d'Orange" (1908), of his Legendes epiques, in which he constructs a theory that the cycle of Guillaume d'Orange grew up round the various shrines on the pilgrim route to Saint Gilles of Provence and Saint James of Compostella - that the chansons de geste were, in fact, the product of 11th and 12th century trouveres, exploiting local ecclesiastical traditions, and were not developed from earlier poems dating back perhaps to the lifetime of Guillaume of Toulouse, the saint of Gellone.
It is curious, for instance, to compare the scanty references to the material marvels of Constantinople which Villehardouin saw in their glory, which perished by sack and fire under his very eyes, and which live chiefly in the melancholy pages of his Greek contemporary Nicetas, with the elaborate descriptions of the scarcely greater wonders of fabulous courts at Constantinople itself, at Babylon, and elsewhere, to be found in his other contemporaries, the later chanson de geste writers and the earlier embroiderers of the Arthurian romances and romans d'aventures.
In the earlier chansons de geste he is invariably a majestic figure and represents within limitations the grandeur of the historic Charles.
The account in the Chanson de Roland of the trial of Ganelon after the battle of Roncesvalles must have been adopted almost intact from earlier poets, and provides a striking example of the value of the chansons de geste to the historian of manners and customs.
Flach, Le Compagnonnage dans les chansons de geste (Paris, 1891).
Gradually most of the chansons de geste were attached to the name of Charlemagne, whose poetical history falls into three cycles: - the geste du roi, relating his wars and the personal history of himself and his family; the southern cycle, of which Guillaume de Toulouse is the central figure; and the feudal epic, dealing with the revolts of the barons against the emperor, the rebels being invariably connected by the trouveres with the family of Doon de Mayence.
The central point of the geste du roi is the i 1 thcentury Chanson de Roland (see Roland, Legend Of), one of the greatest of medieval poems. Strangely enough the defeat of Roncesvalles, which so deeply impressed the popular mind, has not a corresponding importance in real history.
New ed., 1878, 1892, 1880, 1882) and the supplementary Bibliographie des chansons de geste (1897).
The third volume of the Epopees francaises contains an analysis and full particulars of the chansons de geste immediately connected with the history of Charlemagne.
Fauriel was biased in this work by his preconceived and somewhat fanciful theory that Provence was the cradle of the chansons de geste and even of the Round Table romances; but he gave a great stimulus to the scientific study of Old French and Provencal.
Bernardo is the hero of a cantar de gesta (chanson de geste) written to please the anarchical spirit of the nobles.
Although the diffusion of epic poetry in England did not actually inspire any new chansons de geste, it developed the taste for this class of literature, and the epic style in which the tales of Horn, of Bovon de Hampton, of Guy of Warwick (still unpublished), of Waldef (still unpublished), and of Fulk Fitz Warine are treated, is certainly partly due to this circumstance.
Although the last of these works has come down to us only in a prose version, it contains unmistakable signs of a previous poetic form, and what we possess is really only a rendering into prose similar to the transformations undergone by many of the chansons de geste (cf.
His Brut or Geste des Bretons (Le Roux de Lincy, 1836-1838, 2 vols.), written in 1155, is merely a translation of Geoffrey of Monmouth.
The proofs of this which Schultz and Gautier adduce from the Chansons de Geste might be multiplied indefinitely.
It has long been conceded that the great French national epics of the 11th and 12th centuries must have been founded on a great fund of popular poetry, and that many of the episodes of the chansons de geste refer to historical events anterior to the Carolingian period.
Rom., is by a contemporary of the pope, but nevertheless of slight importance; Leti's Vita di Sisto V (Amsterdam, 1693, translated into English by Farneworth, 1779) is a caricature, full of absurd tales, utterly untrustworthy, wanting even the saving merit of style; Tempesti's Storia della vita e geste di Sisto Quinto (Rome, 1 7541 755) is valuable for the large use it makes of the original sources, but lacks perspective and is warped by the author's blind admiration for his subject; Cesare's Vita di Sisto V (Naples, 1755) is but an 'abridgment of Tempesti.
The most instructive, perhaps the only instructive, parallel is to be found in the French " chansons de geste," of which the Chanson de Roland is the earliest and best example.
It has been held that the chansons de geste were formed by joining together " bunches " of these earlier cantilenes, and this was the view taken by Leon Gautier in the first edition of Les Epopees frangaises (1865).
Mais on peut expliquer la formation des chansons de geste par une autre hypothese " (Meyer, Recherches sur l'epopee francaise, p. 65).