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So must I likewise take some time to view
ANCIENT FRENCH ROMANCES.
FROM THE FRENCH OF PAULINE PARIS.
The very name of Queen Bertha carries They have successively imagined it to be Clous back to the remotest period of the good old tilde, wife of Clovis, Brunehault, and Frédétimes. Many an ancient romance records the gonde. The Abbé Lebeuf, however, supposes praises of her unspotted virtue; and, if we it to be the Queen of Sheba ; though it is no may rely upon the testimony of a song-writer easy matter to devise why the Abbé Lebæuf, of the nineteenth century, it was she who generally so very considerate, should thus founded the monastery of Sainte-Avelle, dedi have felt himself obliged to call in question cated to Our Lady of the Woods. I know not the beauty of the Oriental princess and the whether you have ever observed, among the practised taste of Solomon, the wisest of men. statues that look down upon us from the por He remarks, in his learned dissertation, that tals of our Gothic churches, the figure known the Masorites, who were great admirers of the throughout France by the name of la Reine hands of the Queen of Sheba, have maintained Pédauque, Queen Goose-Foot. She is the her the most scrupulous silence in regard to her oine of our romance; and, be it said with all feet : — there is, however, a vast distance bethe veracity of an bistorian, for this oppro tween the silence of Biblical commentators brious surname she must thank her own feet, and the conjecture he allows himself. whose vast dimensions are revealed to us by Now both the historians and the poets, who the indiscretion of the statuary. During her make mention of Queen Bertha, affirm that lifetime she was surnamed Bertha of the she had large feet; and this is the first point Great Feet; after her death, she was neither of analogy between her and the celebrated more nor less than Bertha of the Goose Feet. statue. Moreover, the inhabitants of TouSo true is it that the origin of the custom of louse, according to the author of the “Contes flattering the great while living, and reviling d'Eutrapel,” are in the habit of swearing by them when dead, is lost in the night of ages. the distaff of Queen Pédauque, - par la queThe story of Queen Pédauque reminds me of nouille de la reine Pédauque ; while we speak poor Midas; perhaps the ears of the Phrygian proverbially of the time when Bertha span monarch, who fell a victim to the malevolence
du temps que Berthe filait; and the Italians of his barber, were in truth only somewhat say, in nearly the same signification, “ The long.
days when Bertha span have gone by,” — Non This statue of Queen Pédauque has long è più il tempo che Berta filava. After all this, exercised the imagination of the antiquaries. and especially after the direct testimony of the
1 A Letter to M. de Monmerqué prefixed to Li sac's Bulletin Universel, from which this translation was Romans de Berte aus Grans Pies, and reprinted in Férus made.
poem which I now present you, how can any one doubt the perfect identity of Bertha of the Great Feet, and the Queen of the Goose Feet? I entertain a high respect for the Abbé Lebauf, but a higher for the truth; and I cannot refrain from expressing my opinion, that he would have done better to look to the court of Pepin-le-Bref for the model of the statue which he saw at the church of Saint-Bénigne in Dijon, at the cathedral of Nevers, at the priory of Saint-Pourçain, and at the abbey of Nesle.
Bertha, the wife of Pepin, has been often named by the most respectable historians. She died in 783, and until the revolution of 1793 her tomb was still to be seen in the vaults of Saint-Denis. It bore this beautiful inscription : Berta mater Caroli Magni.
Eginhart speaks of the respectful deference which the hero of the West generally paid to the virtues of his mother. All historians coincide in regard to the time of her coronation and her death; but in regard to the name of her father, some difference of opinion prevails. According to the “ Annals of Metz," she was the daughter of Caribert, Count of Laon ; but unfortunately for this hypothesis, the city of Laon was not at that time governed by a count. Some trace her origin to the court of Constantinople, and others to the kingdom of Germany. You will perceive that our poet has embraced this last opinion. In the romance, Flores, king of Hungary, is father of Bertha of the Great Feet. This Flores himself and his wife Blanchefleurs are the hero and heroine of another celebrated poem of the Middle Ages, and their adventures, badly enough analyzed in one of the numbers of the “ Bibliothèque des Romans,” seem to have been put into rhyme before those of Queen Bertha their daughter.
Thus it appears that Bertha can boast her statuaries as well as her poets; but whilst the former have given to her countenance a marked and striking character, the latter, by recording her touching misfortunes, have only followed the beaten path, and added another delicate flower to that poetic wreath which was woven in the heroic ages of our history. The poem
of Bertha is one of the series of
“ Romances of the Twelve Peers.” It belongs to the number of those great epic compositions whose origin is incontestably linked to the cradle of the modern languages, and whose subjects are always borrowed from our old national traditions.
Until the present day, both critics and antiquaries have neglected to examine these singular creations of the human mind. Even those who have been wise enough to avail themselves of them in the composition of their learned works have gone no farther than to make such extracts as would throw light upon the subjects of heraldry or philology, hardly bestowing a passing glance upon those questions of manners and literature which they might suggest, enlighten, and perhaps resolve. It is strange that the press should have been so busy in giving to the world the “ Fabliaux," which lay buried in our vast libraries, and yet should never have preserved from the most unmerited oblivion a single one of these ancient epics! If by a catastrophe, improbable, yet not impossible, the Royal Cabinet of Manuscripts should be destroyed, nothing of our old heroic poetry would remain but a few shreds scattered here and there through the “Glossary” of Ducange and the “ History of Lorraine" by Dom Calmet. Such a loss would indeed be immense and irreparable to those who wish, even at this distant period, to study the manners and customs of our ancestors.
Perhaps, then, I may justly claim some right to the thanks of the friends of letters for this attempt to preserve and perpetuate the “Romances of the Twelve Peers of France." I now commence the series of these publications with “ Berte aus Grans Piés.” In selecting this poem of the minstrel-king Adenès, I have been guided by the consideration, that, in order to gain readers for our ancient poets, it would be necessary to commence, not with the most beautiful, but with the shortest and the least incumbered with philological difficulties. And again, the romance of Bertha, however inferior it may be to some of the longer romances of the twelfth century, as, for example, “ Raoul de Cambrai," "Guillaume au Court Nez,” or “Garin de Loherain," nevertheless possesses the most lively interest for readers of the present