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Chanson de geste

Chanson de geste

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The chansons de geste, Old French
Old French
Old French was the Romance dialect continuum spoken in territories that span roughly the northern half of modern France and parts of modern Belgium and Switzerland from the 9th century to the 14th century...

 for "songs of hero
Hero
A hero , in Greek mythology and folklore, was originally a demigod, their cult being one of the most distinctive features of ancient Greek religion...

ic deeds", are the epic poems
Epic poetry
An epic is a lengthy narrative poem, ordinarily concerning a serious subject containing details of heroic deeds and events significant to a culture or nation. Oral poetry may qualify as an epic, and Albert Lord and Milman Parry have argued that classical epics were fundamentally an oral poetic form...

 that appear at the dawn of French literature
French literature
French literature is, generally speaking, literature written in the French language, particularly by citizens of France; it may also refer to literature written by people living in France who speak traditional languages of France other than French. Literature written in French language, by citizens...

. The earliest known examples date from the late eleventh and early twelfth centuries, nearly a hundred years before the emergence of the lyric poetry
Lyric poetry
Lyric poetry is a genre of poetry that expresses personal and emotional feelings. In the ancient world, lyric poems were those which were sung to the lyre. Lyric poems do not have to rhyme, and today do not need to be set to music or a beat...

 of the trouvères (troubadour
Troubadour
A troubadour was a composer and performer of Old Occitan lyric poetry during the High Middle Ages . Since the word "troubadour" is etymologically masculine, a female troubadour is usually called a trobairitz....

s) and the earliest verse romances
Romance (genre)
As a literary genre of high culture, romance or chivalric romance is a style of heroic prose and verse narrative that was popular in the aristocratic circles of High Medieval and Early Modern Europe. They were fantastic stories about marvel-filled adventures, often of a knight errant portrayed as...

. The French chanson gave rise to the Old Spanish tradition of the cantar de gesta
Cantar de gesta
A cantar de gesta is the Spanish equivalent of the Old French medieval chanson de geste or "songs of heroic deeds".The most important cantares de gesta of Castile were:...

.

Subjects


Composed in Old French
Old French
Old French was the Romance dialect continuum spoken in territories that span roughly the northern half of modern France and parts of modern Belgium and Switzerland from the 9th century to the 14th century...

 and apparently intended for oral performance by jongleurs
Minstrel
A minstrel was a medieval European bard who performed songs whose lyrics told stories of distant places or of existing or imaginary historical events. Although minstrels created their own tales, often they would memorize and embellish the works of others. Frequently they were retained by royalty...

, the chansons de geste narrate legendary incidents (sometimes based on real events) in the history of France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 during the eighth and ninth centuries, the age of Charles Martel
Charles Martel
Charles Martel , also known as Charles the Hammer, was a Frankish military and political leader, who served as Mayor of the Palace under the Merovingian kings and ruled de facto during an interregnum at the end of his life, using the title Duke and Prince of the Franks. In 739 he was offered the...

, Charlemagne
Charlemagne
Charlemagne was King of the Franks from 768 and Emperor of the Romans from 800 to his death in 814. He expanded the Frankish kingdom into an empire that incorporated much of Western and Central Europe. During his reign, he conquered Italy and was crowned by Pope Leo III on 25 December 800...

 and Louis the Pious
Louis the Pious
Louis the Pious , also called the Fair, and the Debonaire, was the King of Aquitaine from 781. He was also King of the Franks and co-Emperor with his father, Charlemagne, from 813...

, with emphasis on their conflicts with the Moors
Moors
The description Moors has referred to several historic and modern populations of the Maghreb region who are predominately of Berber and Arab descent. They came to conquer and rule the Iberian Peninsula for nearly 800 years. At that time they were Muslim, although earlier the people had followed...

 and Saracen
Saracen
Saracen was a term used by the ancient Romans to refer to a people who lived in desert areas in and around the Roman province of Arabia, and who were distinguished from Arabs. In Europe during the Middle Ages the term was expanded to include Arabs, and then all who professed the religion of Islam...

s. To these historical legends, fantasy
Fantasy
Fantasy is a genre of fiction that commonly uses magic and other supernatural phenomena as a primary element of plot, theme, or setting. Many works within the genre take place in imaginary worlds where magic is common...

 is gradually added; giants
Giant (mythology)
The mythology and legends of many different cultures include monsters of human appearance but prodigious size and strength. "Giant" is the English word commonly used for such beings, derived from one of the most famed examples: the gigantes of Greek mythology.In various Indo-European mythologies,...

, magic
Magic (paranormal)
Magic is the claimed art of manipulating aspects of reality either by supernatural means or through knowledge of occult laws unknown to science. It is in contrast to science, in that science does not accept anything not subject to either direct or indirect observation, and subject to logical...

, and monster
Monster
A monster is any fictional creature, usually found in legends or horror fiction, that is somewhat hideous and may produce physical harm or mental fear by either its appearance or its actions...

s increasingly appear among the foes along with Muslims
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

. There is also an increasing dose of Eastern adventure, drawing on contemporary experiences in the Crusades
Crusades
The Crusades were a series of religious wars, blessed by the Pope and the Catholic Church with the main goal of restoring Christian access to the holy places in and near Jerusalem...

; in addition, one series of chansons retells the events of the First Crusade
First Crusade
The First Crusade was a military expedition by Western Christianity to regain the Holy Lands taken in the Muslim conquest of the Levant, ultimately resulting in the recapture of Jerusalem...

 and the first years of the Kingdom of Jerusalem
Kingdom of Jerusalem
The Kingdom of Jerusalem was a Catholic kingdom established in the Levant in 1099 after the First Crusade. The kingdom lasted nearly two hundred years, from 1099 until 1291 when the last remaining possession, Acre, was destroyed by the Mamluks, but its history is divided into two distinct periods....

. Finally, in chansons of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the historical and military aspects wane, and the fantastic elements in the stories dominate.

The traditional subject matter of the chansons de geste became known as the Matter of France
Matter of France
The Matter of France, also known as the Carolingian cycle, is a body of literature and legendary material associated with the history of France, in particular involving Charlemagne and his associates. The cycle springs from the Old French chansons de geste, and was later adapted into a variety of...

. This distinguished them from romances
Romance (genre)
As a literary genre of high culture, romance or chivalric romance is a style of heroic prose and verse narrative that was popular in the aristocratic circles of High Medieval and Early Modern Europe. They were fantastic stories about marvel-filled adventures, often of a knight errant portrayed as...

 concerned with the Matter of Britain
Matter of Britain
The Matter of Britain is a name given collectively to the body of literature and legendary material associated with Great Britain and its legendary kings, particularly King Arthur...

, that is, King Arthur
King Arthur
King Arthur is a legendary British leader of the late 5th and early 6th centuries, who, according to Medieval histories and romances, led the defence of Britain against Saxon invaders in the early 6th century. The details of Arthur's story are mainly composed of folklore and literary invention, and...

 and his knight
Knight
A knight was a member of a class of lower nobility in the High Middle Ages.By the Late Middle Ages, the rank had become associated with the ideals of chivalry, a code of conduct for the perfect courtly Christian warrior....

s; and with the so-called Matter of Rome
Matter of Rome
According to the medieval poet Jean Bodel, the Matter of Rome was the literary cycle made up of Greek and Roman mythology, together with episodes from the history of classical antiquity, focusing on military heroes like Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar...

, covering the Trojan War
Trojan War
In Greek mythology, the Trojan War was waged against the city of Troy by the Achaeans after Paris of Troy took Helen from her husband Menelaus, the king of Sparta. The war is among the most important events in Greek mythology and was narrated in many works of Greek literature, including the Iliad...

, the conquests of Alexander the Great, the life of Julius Cæsar
Julius Caesar
Gaius Julius Caesar was a Roman general and statesman and a distinguished writer of Latin prose. He played a critical role in the gradual transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire....

 and some of his Imperial
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

 successors, who were given medieval makeovers as exemplars of chivalry
Chivalry
Chivalry is a term related to the medieval institution of knighthood which has an aristocratic military origin of individual training and service to others. Chivalry was also the term used to refer to a group of mounted men-at-arms as well as to martial valour...

.

The poems contain a small and unvarying assortment of character types
Fictional character
A character is the representation of a person in a narrative work of art . Derived from the ancient Greek word kharaktêr , the earliest use in English, in this sense, dates from the Restoration, although it became widely used after its appearance in Tom Jones in 1749. From this, the sense of...

; the repertoire of valiant hero, brave traitor, shifty or cowardly traitor, Saracen
Saracen
Saracen was a term used by the ancient Romans to refer to a people who lived in desert areas in and around the Roman province of Arabia, and who were distinguished from Arabs. In Europe during the Middle Ages the term was expanded to include Arabs, and then all who professed the religion of Islam...

 giant, beautiful Saracen princess, and so forth is one that is easily exhausted. As the genre matured, fantasy elements were introduced. Some of the characters that were devised by the poets in this manner include the fairy
Fairy
A fairy is a type of mythical being or legendary creature, a form of spirit, often described as metaphysical, supernatural or preternatural.Fairies resemble various beings of other mythologies, though even folklore that uses the term...

 Oberon, who made his literary debut in Huon de Bordeaux; and the magic horse
Horse
The horse is one of two extant subspecies of Equus ferus, or the wild horse. It is a single-hooved mammal belonging to the taxonomic family Equidae. The horse has evolved over the past 45 to 55 million years from a small multi-toed creature into the large, single-toed animal of today...

 Bayard, who first appears in Renaud de Montauban
Renaud de Montauban
Renaud de Montauban, was a fictional hero who was introduced to literature in a 12th century Old French chanson de geste also known as Les Quatre Fils Aymon . His exploits form part of the Doon de Mayence cycle of chansons...

. Quite soon an element of self-parody
Parody
A parody , in current usage, is an imitative work created to mock, comment on, or trivialise an original work, its subject, author, style, or some other target, by means of humorous, satiric or ironic imitation...

 appears; even the august Charlemagne was not above gentle mockery in the Pèlerinage de Charlemagne
Pèlerinage de Charlemagne
Le Pèlerinage de Charlemagne or Voyage de Charlemagne à Jérusalem et à Constantinople is an Old French chanson de geste dealing with a fictional expedition by Charlemagne and his knights. The oldest known written version was probably composed around 1140...

.

Versification


Early chansons de geste are composed in ten-syllable lines grouped in assonance
Assonance
Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds to create internal rhyming within phrases or sentences, and together with alliteration and consonance serves as one of the building blocks of verse. For example, in the phrase "Do you like blue?", the is repeated within the sentence and is...

d stanza
Stanza
In poetry, a stanza is a unit within a larger poem. In modern poetry, the term is often equivalent with strophe; in popular vocal music, a stanza is typically referred to as a "verse"...

s (meaning that the last stressed vowel is the same in each line throughout the stanza, but the last consonant differs from line to line). These stanzas are typically called laisse
Laisse
A laisse is a type of stanza, of varying length, found in medieval French literature, specifically medieval French epic poetry , such as The Song of Roland. In early works, each laisse was made up of assonanced verses, although the appearance of rhymed laisses was increasingly common in later...

s. Stanzas are of variable length. An example from the Chanson de Roland illustrates the technique. The assonance in this stanza is on e:
Desuz un pin, delez un eglanter
Un faldestoed i unt, fait tout d'or mer:
La siet li reis ki dulce France tient.
Blanche ad la barbe et tut flurit le chef,
Gent ad le cors et le cuntenant fier.
S'est kil demandet, ne l'estoet enseigner.

Under a pine tree, by a rosebush,
there is a throne made entirely of gold.
There sits the king who rules sweet France;
his beard is white, with a full head of hair.
He is noble in carriage, and proud of bearing.
If anyone is looking for the King, he doesn't need to be pointed out.


Later chansons are composed in monorhyme stanzas, in which the last syllable of each line rhymes fully throughout the stanza. A second change is that each line now contains twelve syllables instead of ten. The following example is from the opening lines of Les Chétifs, a chanson in the Crusade cycle
Crusade cycle
The Crusade cycle is an Old French cycle of chansons de geste concerning the First Crusade and its aftermath.-History:The cycle contains a number of initially unrelated texts, collated into interconnected narratives by later redactors...

. The rhyme is on ie:
Or s'en fuit Corbarans tos les plains de Surie,
N'enmaine que .ii. rois ens en sa conpaignie.
S'enporte Brohadas, fis Soudan de Persie;
En l'estor l'avoit mort a l'espee forbie
Li bons dus Godefrois a le chiere hardie
Tres devant Anthioce ens en la prairie.

So Corbaran escaped across the plains of Syria;
He took only two kings in his company.
He carried away Brohadas, son of the Sultan of Persia,
Who had been killed in the battle by the clean sword
Of the brave-spirited good duke Godfrey
Right in front of Antioch, down in the meadow.

Performance


The songs were recited (sometimes to casual audiences, sometimes possibly in a more formal setting) by jongleurs, who would sometimes accompany themselves, or be accompanied, on the vielle
Vielle
The vielle is a European bowed stringed instrument used in the Medieval period, similar to a modern violin but with a somewhat longer and deeper body, five gut strings, and a leaf-shaped pegbox with frontal tuning pegs. The instrument was also known as a fidel or a viuola, although the French...

, a mediæval fiddle
Fiddle
The term fiddle may refer to any bowed string musical instrument, most often the violin. It is also a colloquial term for the instrument used by players in all genres, including classical music...

 played with a bow. Several manuscript texts include lines in which the jongleur demands attention, threatens to stop singing, promises to continue the next day, and asks for money or gifts. Since paper was extremely expensive and not all poets could read, it seems likely that even after the chansons had begun to be written down, many performances continued to depend on oral transmission. As an indication of the role played by orality in the tradition of the chanson de geste, lines and sometimes whole stanzas (especially in the earlier examples) are noticeably formulaic
Oral poetry
Oral poetry can be defined in various ways. A strict definition would include only poetry that is composed and transmitted without any aid of writing. However, the complex relationships between written and spoken literature in some societies can make this definition hard to maintain, and oral...

 in nature, making it possible both for the poet to construct a poem in performance and for the audience to grasp a new theme with ease.

The poems themselves


Approximately eighty chansons de geste survive, in manuscript
Manuscript
A manuscript or handwrite is written information that has been manually created by someone or some people, such as a hand-written letter, as opposed to being printed or reproduced some other way...

s that date from the 12th to the 15th century. Several popular chansons were written down more than once in varying forms. The earliest chansons are all (more or less) anonymous; many later ones have named authors.

About 1215 Bertrand de Bar-sur-Aube
Bertrand de Bar-sur-Aube
Bertrand de Bar-sur-Aube was an Old French poet from the Champagne region of France who wrote a number of chansons de geste. He is the author of Girard de Vienne, and it is likely that he also wrote Aymeri de Narbonne...

, in the introductory lines to his Girart de Vienne, subdivided the Matter of France, the usual subject area of the chansons de geste, into three cycle
Literature cycle
Literary cycles are groups of stories grouped around common figures, often based on mythical figures or loosely on historic ones. Cycles which deal with an entire country are sometimes referred to as matters...

s, which revolved around three main characters (see quotation at Matter of France
Matter of France
The Matter of France, also known as the Carolingian cycle, is a body of literature and legendary material associated with the history of France, in particular involving Charlemagne and his associates. The cycle springs from the Old French chansons de geste, and was later adapted into a variety of...

). There are several other less formal lists of chansons, or of the legends they incorporate. One can be found in the fabliau
Fabliau
A fabliau is a comic, often anonymous tale written by jongleurs in northeast France between ca. 1150 and 1400. They are generally characterized by an excessiveness of sexual and scatological obscenity. Several of them were reworked by Giovanni Boccaccio for the Decamerone and by Geoffrey Chaucer...

 entitled Des Deux Bordeors Ribauz, a humorous tale of the second half of the 13th century, in which a jongleur lists the stories he knows. Another is included by the Catalan troubadour Guiraut de Cabrera in his humorous poem Ensenhamen
Ensenhamen
An ensenhamen was an Occitan didactic poem associated with the troubadours. As a genre of Occitan literature, its limits have been open to debate since it was first defined in the 19th century...

, better known from its first words as "Cabra juglar": this is addressed to a juglar (jongleur) and purports to instruct him on the poems he ought to know but doesn't.

The listing below is arranged according to Bertrand de Bar-sur-Aube's cycles, extended with two additional groupings and with a final list of chansons that fit into no cycle. There are numerous differences of opinion about the categorization of individual chansons.

Geste du roi


The chief character is usually Charlemagne or one of his immediate successors. A pervasive theme is the King's role as champion of Christianity. This cycle contains the first of the chansons to be written down, the Chanson de Roland or "Song of Roland".
  • Chanson de Roland (c. 1100 for the Oxford text, the earliest written version); several other versions exist, including the Occitan Ronsasvals, the Middle High German
    Middle High German
    Middle High German , abbreviated MHG , is the term used for the period in the history of the German language between 1050 and 1350. It is preceded by Old High German and followed by Early New High German...

     Ruolandsliet and the Latin Carmen de Prodicione Guenonis
    Carmen de Prodicione Guenonis
    Carmen de Prodicione Guenonis is an anonymous poem in medieval Latin, written in the first half of the 12th century. Composed in elegiac couplets by an unskilled versifier, it is a version of the legendary history of the Battle of Roncevaux Pass...

    .
  • Entrée d'Espagne
  • Galiens li Restorés
    Galiens li Restorés
    Galiens li Restorés or Galien le Restoré or Galien rhétoré , is an Old French chanson de geste which borrows heavily from chivalric romance. Its composition dates anywhere from the end of the twelfth century to the middle of the fourteenth century...

    known from a single manuscript of about 1490
  • Anseïs de Carthage (c. 1200)
  • Pèlerinage de Charlemagne
    Pèlerinage de Charlemagne
    Le Pèlerinage de Charlemagne or Voyage de Charlemagne à Jérusalem et à Constantinople is an Old French chanson de geste dealing with a fictional expedition by Charlemagne and his knights. The oldest known written version was probably composed around 1140...

    or Voyage de Charlemagne à Jérusalem et à Constantinople dealing with a fictional expedition by Charlemagne and his knights (c. 1140; two 15th century reworkings)
  • Fierabras
    Fierabras
    Fiërabras or Ferumbras is a Saracen knight appearing in several chansons de geste and other material relating to the Matter of France...

    (c. 1170)
  • Aspremont
    Aspremont (chanson de geste)
    Aspremont is a 12th century Old French chanson de geste . The poem comprises 11, 376 verses , grouped into rhymed laisses. The verses are decasyllables mixed with alexandrines....

    (c. 1190); a later version formed the basis of Aspramonte by Andrea da Barberino
    Andrea da Barberino
    Andrea Mangiabotti, called Andrea da Barberino was an Italian writer and cantastorie of the Quattrocento Renaissance. He was born in Barberino di Val d'Elsa and lived in Florence...

  • Aiquin or Acquin
  • Chanson de Saisnes or "Song of the Saxons", by Jean Bodel
    Jean Bodel
    Jean Bodel, who lived in the late twelfth century, was an Old French poet who wrote a number of chansons de geste as well as many fabliaux. He lived in Arras....

     (c. 1200)
  • Otuel or Otinel
  • Berthe aux Grands Pieds by Adenet le Roi (c. 1275), and a later Franco-Italian reworking
  • Mainet
  • Basin
    Basin (chanson de geste)
    Basin is a chanson de geste about Charlemagne's childhood. While the Old French epic poem has been lost, the story has come down to us via a 13th century Norse prose version in the Karlamagnús saga.-Plot:...

  • Les Enfances Ogier by Adenet le Roi (c. 1275)
  • Ogier le Danois
    Ogier the Dane
    Ogier the Dane is a legendary character who first appears in an Old French chanson de geste, in the cycle of poems Geste de Doon de Mayence....

    by Raimbert de Paris
  • Jehan de Lanson (before 1239)
  • Gui de Bourgogne
  • Gaydon
    Gaydon
    Gaydon is a parish and village in Warwickshire, England, close to Leamington Spa. In the 2001 census, the parish had a population of 376.The village is at the junction of the B4100 and B4451 roads, a mile from Junction 12 of the M40 motorway, and is two miles north-east of Kineton.-Motor...

    (c. 1230)
  • Macaire
    Macaire
    The name "Macaire" was first documented as an Irish Saint in the Bible. It appears to have several claims of origin. It was a male name and currently is considered a male or female name...

    or La Chanson de la Reine Sebile
  • Huon de Bordeaux originally c. 1215-1240, known from slightly later manuscripts. A "prequel" and four sequels were later added:
    • Auberon
      Auberon
      -Real people:* Auberon Herbert* Auberon Waugh* Auberon Herbert, 9th Baron Lucas* Auberon Herbert * Auberon is also the name used by Neil Perry in the movie Dead Poets Society-Fictional characters:...

    • Chanson d'Esclarmonde
    • Clarisse et Florent
    • Yde et Olive
      Yde et Olive
      Yde et Olive is an Old French chanson de geste. It is a sequel to Huon de Bordeaux and follows the Chanson d'Esclarmonde, the story of Huon's wife, and Clarisse et Florent, the story of Yde's parents, in the cycle. It is perhaps the earliest Old French adaptation of the myth of Iphis...

    • Godin
      Godin
      Godin is a French surname, one that is especially common in French Canada.-People with the surname Godin:* Carel Godin de Beaufort, racing driver* Christophe Godin, musician* Dave Godin* Diego Godín, Uruguayan football player* Eddy Godin...

  • Hugues Capet (c. 1360)
  • Huon d'Auvergne, a lost chanson known from a 16th century retelling. The hero is mentioned among epic heroes in the Ensenhamen of Guiraut de Cabrera, and figures as a character in Mainet

Geste de Garin de Monglane



The central character is not Garin de Monglane
Garin de Monglane
Garin de Monglane, or Montglane, the creation of Conrad von Stöffler in 1280, is a fictional aristocrat who gives his name to the second cycle of Old French chansons de geste, La Geste de Garin de Monglane...

 but his supposed great-grandson, Guillaume d'Orange
William of Gellone
Saint William of Gellone was the second Count of Toulouse from 790 until his replacement in 811. His Occitan name is Guilhem, and he is known in French as Guillaume d'Orange, Guillaume Fierabrace, and the Marquis au court nez.He is the hero of the Chanson de Guillaume, an early chanson de geste,...

. These chansons deal with knights who were typically younger sons, not heirs, who seek land and glory through combat with the Infidel (in practice, Muslim) enemy.
  • Chanson de Guillaume
    Chanson de Guillaume
    The Chanson de Guillaume or Chançun de Willame is a chanson de geste from the first half of the twelfth-century The Chanson de Guillaume or Chançun de Willame (English: "Song of William") is a chanson de geste from the first half of the twelfth-century The Chanson de Guillaume or Chançun de...

    (c. 1100)
  • Couronnement de Louis (c. 1130)
  • Le Charroi de Nîmes (c. 1140)
  • La Prise d'Orange (c. 1150), reworking of a lost version from before 1122
  • Aliscans
    Aliscans
    Aliscans is a chanson de geste of the late twelfth century. It recounts the story of the disastrous but fictional battle of Aliscans in France, between Christian and pagan armies. The name 'Aliscans' presumably refers to the Alyscamps in Arles...

    (c. 1180), with several later versions
  • La Bataille Loquifer by Graindor de Brie (fl.
    Floruit
    Floruit , abbreviated fl. , is a Latin verb meaning "flourished", denoting the period of time during which something was active...

     1170)
  • Le Moniage Rainouart by Graindor de Brie (fl. 1170)
  • Foulques de Candie, by Herbert le Duc of Dammartin (fl. 1170)
  • Simon de Pouille or "Simon of Apulia", fictional eastern adventures; the hero is said to be a grandson of Garin de Monglane
  • Floovant (late 12th); the hero is a son of Merovingian King Clovis I
    Clovis I
    Clovis Leuthwig was the first King of the Franks to unite all the Frankish tribes under one ruler, changing the leadership from a group of royal chieftains, to rule by kings, ensuring that the kingship was held by his heirs. He was also the first Catholic King to rule over Gaul . He was the son...

  • Aymeri de Narbonne
    Aymeri de Narbonne
    Aymeri de Narbonne is a legendary hero of Old French chansons de geste and the Matter of France. In the legendary material, as elaborated and expanded in various medieval texts, Aymeri is a knight in the time of Charlemagne's wars with the Saracens after the Battle of Roncevaux Pass. He is son of...

    by Bertrand de Bar-sur-Aube
    Bertrand de Bar-sur-Aube
    Bertrand de Bar-sur-Aube was an Old French poet from the Champagne region of France who wrote a number of chansons de geste. He is the author of Girard de Vienne, and it is likely that he also wrote Aymeri de Narbonne...

     (late 12th/early 13th)
  • Girart de Vienne
    Girart de Vienne
    Girart de Vienne is a late twelfth-century Old French chanson de geste by Bertrand de Bar-sur-Aube. The work tells the story of the sons of Garin de Monglane and their battles with the Emperor Charlemagne and it establishes the friendship of the epic heroes Olivier and Roland.The poem comprises...

    by Bertrand de Bar-sur-Aube
    Bertrand de Bar-sur-Aube
    Bertrand de Bar-sur-Aube was an Old French poet from the Champagne region of France who wrote a number of chansons de geste. He is the author of Girard de Vienne, and it is likely that he also wrote Aymeri de Narbonne...

     (late 12th/early 13th); also found in a later shorter version alongside Hernaut de Beaulande and Renier de Gennes
  • Les Enfances Garin de Monglane (15th century)
  • Garin de Monglane
    Garin de Monglane
    Garin de Monglane, or Montglane, the creation of Conrad von Stöffler in 1280, is a fictional aristocrat who gives his name to the second cycle of Old French chansons de geste, La Geste de Garin de Monglane...

    (13th century)
  • Hernaut de Beaulande; a fragment of the 14th century and a later version
  • Renier de Gennes
  • Les Enfances Guillaume (before 1250)
  • Les Narbonnais (c. 1205), in two parts, known as Le département des enfants Aymeri, Le siège de Narbonne
  • Les Enfances Vivien (c. 1205)
  • Le Covenant Vivien or La Chevalerie Vivien
  • Le Siège de Barbastre (c. 1180)
  • Bovon de Commarchis (c. 1275), reworking by Adenet le Roi of the Siege de Barbastre
  • Guibert d'Andrenas (13th century)
  • La Prise de Cordres (13th century)
  • La Mort Aymeri de Narbonne (c. 1180)
  • Les Enfances Renier
  • Le Moniage Guillaume (1160–1180)

Geste de Doon de Mayence



This cycle concerns traitors and rebels against royal authority. In each case the revolt ends with the defeat of the rebels and their eventual repentance.
  • Gormond et Isembart
    Gormond et Isembart
    Gormont et Isembart or Gormond et Isembart or Gormund et Isembard is an Old French chanson de geste from the second half of the eleventh or first half of the twelfth century...

  • Girart de Roussillon
    Girart de Roussillon
    Girart de Roussillon, also called Girard, Gérard II, Gyrart de Vienne, and Girart de Fraite, was a Burgundian chief who became Count of Paris in 837, and embraced the cause of Lothair I against Charles the Bald...

    (1160–1170). The hero Girart de Roussillon also figures in Girart de Vienne, in which he is identified as a son of Garin de Monglane. There is a later sequel:
    • Auberi le Bourgoing
  • Renaud de Montauban
    Renaud de Montauban
    Renaud de Montauban, was a fictional hero who was introduced to literature in a 12th century Old French chanson de geste also known as Les Quatre Fils Aymon . His exploits form part of the Doon de Mayence cycle of chansons...

    or Les Quatre Fils Aymon (end of the 12th century)
  • Raoul de Cambrai
    Raoul de Cambrai
    Raoul de Cambrai is a 12th -13th century French epic poem concerning the eponymous hero's battles to take possession of his fief and of the repercussions from these battles...

    , apparently begun by Bertholais; existing version from end of 12th century
  • Doön de Mayence
    Doon de Mayence
    Doon de Mayence was a fictional hero of the Old French chansons de geste, who gives his name to the third cycle of the Charlemagne romances dealing with the feudal revolts.There is no single unifying theme in the geste of Doon de Mayence...

    (mid 13th century)
  • Gaufrey
  • Doon de Nanteuil current in the second half of the 12th century, now known only in fragments which derive from a 13th century version. To this several sequels were attached:
    • Aye d'Avignon, probably composed between 1195 and 1205. The fictional heroine is first married to Garnier de Nanteuil, who is son of Doon de Nanteuil and grandson of Doon de Mayence. After Garnier’s death she marries the Saracen Ganor
    • Gui de Nanteuil, evidently popular around 1207 when the troubadour Raimbaut de Vaqueiras
      Raimbaut de Vaqueiras
      Raimbaut de Vaqueiras was a Provençal troubadour and, later in his life, knight. His life was spent mainly in Italian courts until 1203, when he joined the Fourth Crusade....

       mentions the story. The fictional hero is son of the heroine of Aye d'Avignon (to which Gui de Nanteuil forms a sequel)
    • Tristan de Nanteuil. The fictional hero is son of the hero of Gui de Nanteuil
    • Parise la Duchesse. The fictional heroine is daughter of the heroine of Aye d'Avignon. Exiled from France, she gives birth to a son, Hugues, who becomes king of Hungary
  • Maugis d'Aigremont
  • Vivien l'Amachour de Monbranc

Lorraine cycle



This local cycle of epics of Lorraine traditional history, in the late form in which it is now known, includes details evidently drawn from Huon de Bordeaux and Ogier le Danois.
  • Garin le Loherain
    Garin le Loherain
    The 12th century chanson de geste of Garin le Loherain is one of the fiercest and most sanguinary narratives left by the trouvères. This local cycle of Lorraine, which is completed by Hervis de Metz, Girbers de Metz, Ansis, fils de Girbert, and Von, appears to have an historical basis...

  • Hervis de Metz
  • Gerbert de Metz
  • Anseïs fils de Girbert

Crusade cycle



Not listed by Bertrand de Bar-sur-Aube, this cycle deals with the First Crusade
First Crusade
The First Crusade was a military expedition by Western Christianity to regain the Holy Lands taken in the Muslim conquest of the Levant, ultimately resulting in the recapture of Jerusalem...

 and its immediate aftermath.
  • Chanson d'Antioche
    Chanson d'Antioche
    The Chanson d'Antioche is a chanson de geste in 9000 lines of alexandrines in stanzas called laisses, now known in a version composed about 1180 for a courtly French audience and embedded in a quasi-historical cycle of epic poems inspired by the events of 1097 – 1099, the climax of the First...

    , apparently begun by Richard le Pèlerin c. 1100; earliest surviving text by Graindor de Douai c. 1180; expanded version 14th century
  • Les Chétifs telling the adventures (mostly fictional) of the poor crusaders led by Peter the Hermit
    Peter the Hermit
    Peter the Hermit was a priest of Amiens and a key figure during the First Crusade.-Before 1096:According to Anna Comnena, he had attempted to go on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem before 1096, but was prevented by the Seljuk Turks from reaching his goal and was tortured.Sources differ as to whether he...

    ; the hero is Harpin de Bourges. The episode was eventually incorporated, c. 1180, by Graindor de Douai in his reworking of the Chanson d'Antioche
  • Matabrune tells the story of old Matabrune and of the great-grandfather of Godefroi de Bouillon
  • Le Chevalier au Cigne tells the story of Elias, grandfather of Godefroi de Bouillon. Originally composed around 1192, it was afterwards extended and divided into several branches
  • Les Enfances Godefroi or "Childhood exploits of Godefroi" tells the story of the youth of Godefroi de Bouillon and his three brothers
  • Chanson de Jérusalem
  • La Mort de Godefroi de Bouillon, quite unhistorical, narrates Godefroi’s poisoning by the Patriarch of Jerusalem
  • Baudouin de Sebourg (early 14th century)
  • Le Bâtard de Bouillon (early 14th century)

Others

  • Gormont et Isembart
  • Ami et Amile
    Amis et Amiles
    Amis et Amiles is an old French romance based on a widespread legend of friendship and sacrifice. In its earlier and simpler form it is the story of two friends, one of whom, Amis, was sick with leprosy because he had committed perjury to save his friend. A vision informed him that he could only be...

    , followed by a sequel:
    • Jourdain de Blaye
  • Beuve de Hanstonne, and a related poem:
    • Daurel et Beton, whose putative Old French version is lost; the story is known from an Occitan version of c. 1200
  • Aigar et Maurin
  • Aïmer le Chétif, a lost chanson
  • Aiol (13th century)
  • Théséus de Cologne, possibly a romance

Legacy and adaptations


The chansons de geste created a body of mythology
Mythology
The term mythology can refer either to the study of myths, or to a body or collection of myths. As examples, comparative mythology is the study of connections between myths from different cultures, whereas Greek mythology is the body of myths from ancient Greece...

 that lived on well after the creative force of the genre itself was spent. The Italian
Italian language
Italian is a Romance language spoken mainly in Europe: Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City, by minorities in Malta, Monaco, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Libya, Eritrea, and Somalia, and by immigrant communities in the Americas and Australia...

 epics of Torquato Tasso
Torquato Tasso
Torquato Tasso was an Italian poet of the 16th century, best known for his poem La Gerusalemme liberata , in which he depicts a highly imaginative version of the combats between Christians and Muslims at the end of the First Crusade, during the siege of Jerusalem...

 (Rinaldo), Orlando innamorato
Orlando Innamorato
Orlando Innamorato is an epic poem written by the Italian Renaissance author Matteo Maria Boiardo. The poem is a romance concerning the heroic knight Orlando .-Composition and publication:...

(1495) by Matteo Boiardo, and Orlando furioso
Orlando Furioso
Orlando Furioso is an Italian epic poem by Ludovico Ariosto which has exerted a wide influence on later culture. The earliest version appeared in 1516, although the poem was not published in its complete form until 1532...

by Ludovico Ariosto
Ludovico Ariosto
Ludovico Ariosto was an Italian poet. He is best known as the author of the romance epic Orlando Furioso . The poem, a continuation of Matteo Maria Boiardo's Orlando Innamorato, describes the adventures of Charlemagne, Orlando, and the Franks as they battle against the Saracens with diversions...

 are all founded on the legends of the paladins of Charlemagne that first appeared in the chansons de geste. As such, their incidents and plot devices later became central to works of English literature such as Edmund Spenser
Edmund Spenser
Edmund Spenser was an English poet best known for The Faerie Queene, an epic poem and fantastical allegory celebrating the Tudor dynasty and Elizabeth I. He is recognised as one of the premier craftsmen of Modern English verse in its infancy, and one of the greatest poets in the English...

's The Faerie Queene
The Faerie Queene
The Faerie Queene is an incomplete English epic poem by Edmund Spenser. The first half was published in 1590, and a second installment was published in 1596. The Faerie Queene is notable for its form: it was the first work written in Spenserian stanza and is one of the longest poems in the English...

; Spenser attempted to adapt the form devised to tell the tale of the triumph of Christianity
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 over Islam
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

 to tell instead of the triumph of Protestantism
Protestantism
Protestantism is one of the three major groupings within Christianity. It is a movement that began in Germany in the early 16th century as a reaction against medieval Roman Catholic doctrines and practices, especially in regards to salvation, justification, and ecclesiology.The doctrines of the...

 over Roman Catholicism. The German poet Wolfram von Eschenbach
Wolfram von Eschenbach
Wolfram von Eschenbach was a German knight and poet, regarded as one of the greatest epic poets of his time. As a Minnesinger, he also wrote lyric poetry.-Life:...

 based his (incomplete) 13th century epic Willehalm, consisting of seventy-eight manuscripts, on the life of William of Orange
William of Gellone
Saint William of Gellone was the second Count of Toulouse from 790 until his replacement in 811. His Occitan name is Guilhem, and he is known in French as Guillaume d'Orange, Guillaume Fierabrace, and the Marquis au court nez.He is the hero of the Chanson de Guillaume, an early chanson de geste,...

. The chansons were also recorded in the Iceland
Iceland
Iceland , described as the Republic of Iceland, is a Nordic and European island country in the North Atlantic Ocean, on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Iceland also refers to the main island of the country, which contains almost all the population and almost all the land area. The country has a population...

ic saga, Karlamagnús.

Indeed, until the 19th century, the tales of Roland and Charlemagne were as important as the tales of King Arthur and the Holy Grail
Holy Grail
The Holy Grail is a sacred object figuring in literature and certain Christian traditions, most often identified with the dish, plate, or cup used by Jesus at the Last Supper and said to possess miraculous powers...

, and the Italian epics on these themes were still accounted major works of literature.

Narrative structure


The narrative structure
Narrative structure
Narrative structure is generally described as the structural framework that underlies the order and manner in which a narrative is presented to a reader, listener, or viewer....

 of the chanson de geste has been compared to the one in the Nibelungenlied
Nibelungenlied
The Nibelungenlied, translated as The Song of the Nibelungs, is an epic poem in Middle High German. The story tells of dragon-slayer Siegfried at the court of the Burgundians, how he was murdered, and of his wife Kriemhild's revenge....

 and in creole
Creole language
A creole language, or simply a creole, is a stable natural language developed from the mixing of parent languages; creoles differ from pidgins in that they have been nativized by children as their primary language, making them have features of natural languages that are normally missing from...

 legend
Legend
A legend is a narrative of human actions that are perceived both by teller and listeners to take place within human history and to possess certain qualities that give the tale verisimilitude...

s by Henri Wittmann
Henri Wittmann
Henri Wittmann is a Canadian linguist from Quebec. He is best known for his work on Quebec French.-Biography:Henri Wittmann was born in Alsace in 1937...

 on the basis of common narreme
Narreme
Narreme is the basic unit of narrative structure. According to Helmut Bonheim , the concept of narreme was developed three decades ago by Eugene Dorfman and expanded by Henri Wittmann, The narreme is to narratology what the morpheme is to morphology and the phoneme to phonology. The narreme,...

 structure as first developed in the work of Eugene Dorfman and Jean-Pierre Tusseau

External links