(Also known as Charles the Great, Charles I, Karl der Grosse, and Carolus Magnus.) King of the Franks (768-814) and Emperor of the Western World (800-14).
Beloved ruler of western Europe, Charlemagne brought forth a rebirth in learning at a time when few of his subjects could even write their own names. A patron of literature and the arts and the founder of many schools, Charlemagne through his leadership encouraged and inspired others to read, write, and learn, bringing forth what has been called the Carolingian Renaissance. Charlemagne, already a legend in his own time, became a prominent character in the body of literature known as the Carolingian cycle or the Matter of France, and through these chansons de geste, he continued to influence millions of people in numerous countries for centuries.
Charlemagne was born to Pepin the Short and Bertrade in northern Europe; his exact birthplace is unknown. He inherited half the kingdom of the Franks upon the death of his father in 768. Three years later, upon the death of his brother Carloman II, who had shared the Frankish empire, he became King of all the Franks. Skilled in strategy and tactics (his work on these subjects was later to be studied by Napoleon Bonaparte), Charlemagne set forth to Christianize the land. He battled the pagan Saxons for more than three decades, finally conquering them in 804. In 773-74 he conquered Lombardy, restoring the land to the Pope. He waged dozens of campaigns, including expeditions against the Saracens in northeastern Spain in 778. It was in a surprise attack against Charlemagne’s rear forces that the Basques killed one of his nobles, Roland—the hero of the Chanson de Roland. By the end of the century Charlemagne ruled most of western Europe, uniting much of the land once under the Roman empire. Pope Leo III crowned him Emperor of the Western World in 800. Charlemagne improved conditions for the common people to an extent never before accomplished through reforms in government, the military, commerce, farming, and education. The latter was available for peasants as well as nobles; he went so far as to consider universal free schooling. Charlemagne died in 814, leaving his only surviving son, Louis, as ruler. Louis lacked the command or organizational skills of his father and the empire was quickly invaded.
Charlemagne himself did not write any literary works; indeed he could not write at all until his old age, and then only barely. He could, however, read Latin and some Greek. Thus, it is not as author but as a character that Charlemagne is known in literature. Of mythical, legendary proportions, he is featured in a great body of work which includes the epic Chanson de Roland. For centuries after Charlemagne’s death, many common folk refused to believe that he was dead, even envisioning him as leading the Crusades. Others believed him always ready to protect the land, resting in a cave until such a time as he was needed. By the middle of the century of his death, this devotion was expressed through making him the subject of many songs and tales, the practice continuing through the next two centuries. The Chanson de Roland was written by an anonymous French poet (some believe him to have been the Norman poet Turold) sometime between the Norman Conquest and the first Crusade in 1096. The epic of four thousand lines is an embellished conflation of many lesser tales about Charlemagne. Fighting for the King (considered French by the poet), Roland is vanquished by overwhelming numbers but does not lose his honor. Charlemagne finds the slain Roland, prays over his body, and the newly-inspired French chase the Saracens into a river where they drown. For more than five centuries, until the Renaissance, the Chanson de Roland remained popular and is still France’s most famous poem. In Le Pèlerinage de Charlemagne, another classic poem of nearly 900 lines, Charlemagne seeks out Hugo the Strong of Constantinople. In Jerusalem, on their way, Charlemagne and his fellow travelers are given relics. When they eventually meet up with Hugo they make extravagant claims which Hugo calls on them to perform. Charlemagne and his men accomplish their tasks with the help of God. In what is assumed to be a joke at the end of the poem, the assertion is made that Charlemagne is a greater man than Hugo because Charlemagne is the taller of the two. No doubt the popularity of works which feature Charlemagne can be credited in no little part to the public’s adoration of the King, who was adopted as one of their own by France, Germany, Scandinavia, Poland, and Spain.
SOURCE: “The Revival of Learning” and “The Ecclesiastical Work of Charles” in Charlemagne, E. & J. B. Young and Co., 1882, pp. 306-36.
[In the following excerpt, Cutts explores Charlemagne’s encouragement of learning and examines his religious policy, edicts, and controversial theological decisions.]
THE REVIVAL OF LEARNING
The feature of Charles’s character and work to which the historian naturally turns with the greatest sympathy is his love of learning and the wise and strenuous encouragement of it from which dates the revival of letters in Europe.
The elegant culture of which the letters of Sidonius have given us so charming a glimpse, had long since died out of the countries between the Alps and the English Channel. The Imperial schools, which we have seen still existed in the towns of Gaul in the time of the grandsons of Clovis, had fallen into neglect and decay. If the Frank conquerors had gradually progressed from their original barbarism, the civilization of the conquered race had gradually deteriorated in the midst of perpetual war, until at last, about the time of Charles Martel, the whole people had reached the lowest point of civilization to which Gaul had sunk since it learnt the language and the manners of Rome.
Letters had taken refuge in the monasteries; but the monastic schools did not fulfil the place of the...
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SOURCE: “Famous Men.—Literature.—Libraries.—Architecture.—Public Works” in A History of Charles the Great (Charlemagne), D. Appleton & Co, 1888, pp. 253-79.
[In the following excerpt, Mombert profiles noteworthy men in Charlemagne’s circle and discusses Charlemagne’s interest in astronomy and architecture, particularly the Rhine bridge at Mayence.]
Besides Alcuin other men of note, already mentioned by name, stood in near personal relations to Charles.
Perhaps the oldest and most intimate of his friends was Adalhard, a son of count Bernhard, a grandson of Charles Martel, and cousin-german of Charles. Early in life he chose the monastic calling, and was abbot of Corbie, and founder of the abbey of Corvey in the Saxon country, where he died in 826. He wrote several works, but the most celebrated of them, his “Treatise of the Order and State of the Palace throughout the Frankish Realm,” exists only in the reproduction of Hincmar, archbishop of Rheims. Charles consulted him on important matters and employed him in positions of the highest trust, such as imperial missus, administrator and baiulus of Bernhard, King of Italy, etc. He was a man of singular purity and strength, and one of the brightest ornaments of this reign.
Angilbert had been brought up with Charles and was essentially a man of the Court. His taste and habits were...
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SOURCE: “Results” in Charles the Great, Macmillan and Co., Limited, 1914, pp. 232-51.
[In the following excerpt, originally published in 1897, Hodgkin summarizes Charlemagne’s accomplishments in the fields of the Church, literature, science, law, and the state-system of Europe.]
No ruler for many centuries so powerfully impressed the imagination of western Europe as the first Frankish Emperor of Rome. The vast cycle of romantic epic poetry which gathered round the name of Charlemagne, the stories of his wars with the Infidels, his expeditions to Constantinople and Jerusalem, his Twelve Peers of France, the friendship of Roland and Oliver and the treachery of Ganelon—all this is of matchless interest in the history of the development of mediæval literature, but of course adds nothing to our knowledge of the real Charles of history, since these romances were confessedly the work of wandering minstrels and took no definite shape till at least three centuries after the death of Charlemagne.
In this concluding chapter I propose very briefly to enumerate some of the chief traces of the great emperor’s forming hand on the western church, on Literature, on Laws, and on the State-system of Europe.
Theologically, Charles’s chief performances were the condemnation of the Adoptianist heresy of Felix of Urgel by the Council of Frankfurt...
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SOURCE: “Legislation—Religious Policy—The Renaissance; 774-800 a.d.” and “Fate of the Franks—The Legend of Charlemagne” in Charlemagne (Charles the Great): The Hero of Two Nations, 1899, pp. 155-86; 312-31.
[In the following excerpt, Davis describes the missi, Charlemagne’s agents in many matters of law; Alcuin and his Palatine school; and Charlemagne’s own scholarly interests and achievements. He also explains the demise of the Frankish empire and the development of the Charlemagne legends and song cycle.]
LEGISLATION—RELIGIOUS POLICY—THE RENAISSANCE 774-800 A.D.
The influence of the Church moulded the career of Charles as a conqueror; the same influence is equally conspicuous when we turn to his legislation. We have seen that his first capitulary was ecclesiastical in matter; when, after ten years, he again takes up the pen, the constitution and discipline of the Frankish Church are still his usual themes. More secretly and indirectly the Church affected his secular legislation; very many of his injunctions to the laity bear reference to offences against morality and the canons; others dealing with commerce, education, the administration of justice seem to be inspired by contact with Rome. Each visit to Italy was followed by important reforms in Church or State. Sometimes the King returns with artists, teachers, theologians in his train; more often...
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SOURCE: “The Charlemagne Romances” in The Romance Cycle of Charlemagne and His Peers, David Nutt, 1905, pp. 5-45.
[In the following essay Weston describes how the Arthur and Charlemagne cycles differ in their characteristics and asserts that the Charlemagne stories, while superior in content, are stylistically inferior to those about Arthur.]
“Ne sont que trois matières à nul home entendant De France, de Bretagne, et de Rome le grant.”
The Middle Ages were, as we know, the ages of Romance; Romance embodied in Prose—pseudo-historic chronicles, pseudo-biographical accounts of noted heroes; in Poetry—short lais, longer poems (metrical romances as we call them), some independent, the greater number falling into groups round some one central figure, and in their entirety forming what we call cycles of Romance. To the mind of a writer of the twelfth century, whose words are quoted above (Jean Bodel, author of La Chanson des Saisnes), there were three of such cycles, and to them alone might the attention of a poet of that day be worthily directed; and of these cycles the respective centres were Charlemagne, Arthur, and Alexander.
Today this seems a somewhat inadequate method of classification, ignoring as it does the great mass of Northern tradition (Siegfried is surely a hero worthy of attention), yet it provides those who pursue the study of...
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SOURCE: “Arthur and Charlemagne,” Englische Studien, No. 36, 1906, pp. 337-69.
[In the following essay Webster compares and contrasts certain aspects of the ballad of King Arthur and King Cornwall with the Pilgrimage of Charlemagne.]
In the following sketch1, after a few suggestions toward the reconstruction of the fascinating and puzzling ballad of King Arthur and King Cornwall, I shall attempt to explain the relation of Queen Guinevere, not only to King Cornwall, but also to several other still more important personages. These are certain of those remarkable characters in Old French and Middle High German romance who dispute Arthur’s right to his queen. The claimant, as a rule, makes the apparently preposterous statement that he is an accepted suitor, or even the rightful husband of Guinevere, and finally he carries her off. This person’s claims, I hope to show, are much better founded than they appear to be. Then, inevitably led from the Arthur and Cornwall to the Pilgrimage of Charlemagne, I shall venture to propose what I believe to be a new explanation for that entertaining poem, namely, that it is at bottom an other-world visit, of a kind not so very unlike that in the English ballad-romance of the Turk and Gawain. This tentative article I shall consider to have accomplished its object if it serves to call the attention of more competent scholars to...
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SOURCE: “The Use of the Written Word in Charlemagne’s Administration” in The Carolingians and the Frankish Monarchy: Studies in Carolingian History, translated by Janet Sondheimer, Cornell University Press, 1971, pp. 125-42.
[In the following essay, first published in French in 1951, Ganshof describes some of the types of written documents that Charlemagne caused to be used—including agendas, minutes, instructions, authorizations, circulars, mobilization orders, reports, and descriptions—in order to foster clarity and efficiency in his realm.]
It is known that the use of the written word for administrative purposes survived, in at least some parts of the territory ruled by the Frankish monarch, as a debased legacy from the Later Empire. In the formulary of Marculf, which was compiled in the Paris region during the first half of the seventh century, documents used in administrative practice are given some prominence.1 If we turn to the Lex Ribuaria, we find that it contains provisions which mention a cancellarius, who seems to have been a scribe attached to the county court and qualified to draw up charters. Some of these provisions may belong to the oldest part of the text, in which case they date from the second quarter of the seventh century; they show traces of borrowings from the Burgundian law, and through this intermediary from Roman institutions.2 It...
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SOURCE: “The World of Culture” in Charlemagne: From the Hammer to the Cross, The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc., 1954, pp. 138-55.
[In the following excerpt, Winston examines the accomplishments of two of Charlemagne’s greatest scholars: Alcuin, who was charged with improving literacy and who initiated a teacher-training program, and Paul, a natural scientist and historian who wrote the History of the Lombards.]
A recent French historian has disdainfully dismissed the Carolingian revival of learning in a few words: “What possible point can there be in trying to rehabilitate this gloomy age, to glorify this abortive renaissance? Neither Charlemagne nor his companions were responsible for its failure. They were too close to their barbaric past, and were not ripe for civilization.”1
Monsieur Sedillot has fallen into the trap that awaits historical tourists who pay only the briefest of visits to a past civilization and then flit on to the next point of interest. Like the American in Europe who sees only the inadequacy of local plumbing, he has judged and found wanting a culture that does not meet the standards of urban industrialism. Is it not obvious that our contemporary concern with schools of existentialism, say, or with the distinctions among capitalism, communism and socialism, will seem a thousand years hence as incomprehensible to historians of his temper as the...
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SOURCE: “Growth of a Legend” in Charlemagne: The Legend and the Man, Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1954, pp. 282-311.
[In the following excerpt, Lamb narrates the final months of the aged and ailing Charlemagne through his death and its aftermath, and explains how and why his legend grew even while his kingdom was being invaded.]
It came first in quiet voices from the land. A boy picked herbs for medicine in a garden close. Bending low, he drew in the fragrance of hyssop and thyme, and he thought how when he carried the herb basket to the door where the old Benedictine waited, he would add his words, although he could not make much of a poem as yet. “Such a little gift, my father, for so great a scholar—if you were sitting here in this green darkened garden, all your boys of the school would be playing here under the apple growth. All your laughing boys of the happy school. Will you, my father, who can make a book out of thoughts, prune and shape these my words so they can be a poem?”
This boy grew up to attend the school, and he did make a poem which he called About Gardening and explained that it was a very poor gift from Walafrid Strabo to the venerable abbot of St. Gall.
Then, walking by the sandy bank of the Loire, Fredugis, who had taken Alcuin’s place, tried to bring back the thoughts of his master, of “the field flowers yielding herbs that...
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SOURCE: “Humor in the Chansons de Geste,” Symposium Vol. XV, No. 3, Fall, 1961, pp. 185-97.
[In the following essay, Susskind explores the various types of comedy employed in the chansons de geste, considers the butts of the jokes and ridicule, and speculates that one of humor’s functions was to inject some realism into the depiction of events and characters.]
The mood of the chanson de geste was never unremittingly sombre. Curtius has remarked that from late antiquity the epic, considered on a level with pleasures of the table and the performance of mimes, contained a mixture of the comic and the serious: “When the medieval Latin, the earliest French, and the earliest Spanish epic conform in this, we may conclude that a comic element had always been part of the stock of medieval epic and was not introduced by corrupt minstrels.”1
To be sure, instances of humor in the Chanson de Roland are few and far between, but from this no generalization should be derived concerning the genre as a whole, for the oldest and finest of Old French epics is also decidedly atypical. Even from the point of view that most of the extant poems represent a corruption of earlier, nobler, more serious works such as the Roland, it must be admitted that the chanson de geste, as we know it, is much better exemplified by some epics of the Guillaume cycle than by that of...
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SOURCE: “Epilogue. The Heritage of Charlemagne: Legend and Reality” in The Age of Charlemagne, Elek Books Limited, 1965, pp. 201-07.
[In the following excerpt, Bullough discusses how Charlemagne’s legendary status has, at times, threatened to overshadow the reality of his accomplishments.]
Sometime during the reign of the Emperor Louis—known to posterity as ‘the Pious’—a monk of Bobbio, where Irish traditions died hard, wrote a Lament for the dead Charles. A solis ortu usque ad occidua Littora maris planctus pulsat pectora; Heu mihi misero ‘From the rising of the sun to the shores of the sea where the sun sets breasts are beaten in lamentation; Woe is me’, he began. ‘Franks, Romans and all Christian folk are plunged into mourning and overwhelmed with sorrow’; ‘he was the common father of all orphans, pilgrims, widows and virgins’; ‘Francia which has suffered such dread misfortunes, has never borne a sorrow so great as when it committed the august eloquent Charles to earth at Aachen’; ‘receive the pious Charles, O Christ, into thy holy seat with thine apostles’. The idea of a Carolingian Golden Age was already formed.
When Einhard wrote his ‘Life of Charles’ against whom his successors were being measured and found wanting, this age seemed long past. The quarrels within the Carolingian family had taken a serious turn; the Frankish episcopacy...
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SOURCE: “The Renaissance of Literature” in The Civilization of Charlemagne, translated by Frances Partridge, McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1968, pp. 118-56.
[In the following excerpt, Boussard describes the state of culture at the time Charlemagne began his reign and the educational program he ordered as a remedy. He discusses the results—evident in the Church, civil law, the writing of history and poetry, and the birth of philosophical argument.]
A GUIDED MOVEMENT
The end of the eighth century and the whole of the ninth saw a remarkable advance in all branches of culture, which has been described as the Carolingian Renaissance. The sovereigns took an active part in this movement, which was inspired and directed by the Church.
It was indeed a kind of renaissance, for the whole of the seventh century and the first half of the eighth had been a period of almost complete barbarism in the regnum Francorum. Of course a few scattered centres of culture still existed and remained active. Without them, and the tradition they preserved, and without certain intellectual currents whose manifestations can now and again be traced, this renaissance would have been impossible. The secrets of ancient culture were not discovered afresh, nor were literature and the arts reinvented all at once. A long period of preparation, in one or two monasteries where a few books had...
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SOURCE: An introduction to Carolingian Chronicles: Royal Frankish Annals and Nithard’s Histories, translated by Bernhard Walter Scholz with Barbara Rogers, The University of Michigan Press, 1970, pp. 1-33.
[In the following essay Scholz describes and discusses the importance of two Carolingian works: the Royal Frankish Annals (740-829), which reflects the King’s interest in keeping a record for posterity, and Nithard’s Histories, a mostly contemporary (840-43) and more objective history which includes an account of Charlemagne’s death.]
One of the perennial obsessions of medieval authors was the suspicion that the past was superior to the present. In the preface to his Life of Charlemagne, Einhard of Seligenstadt expressed the fear that his work might offend the minds of those who despise everything modern. Yet he managed to overcome his scruples because he also knew of many “who do not consider everything done today as unworthy of mention and deserving to be given over to silence and oblivion.” The vigorous government of the Carolingians and the regeneration of society in their time were indeed a great impulse to historical writing. Charles Martel, Pepin, and Charlemagne and his descendants provided great deeds for the historian. These rulers also dispensed patronage, and their reform of the Church provided a measure of literacy and learning; as a consequence, the...
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SOURCE: “In Search of the Real Theme of the Song of Roland,” Romance Notes, Vol. XIV, No. 1, Autumn, 1972, pp. 179-83.
[In the following essay, Eisner contends that inconsistencies in the characterization of Charlemagne in the Song of Roland reflect the change of values which occurred between the century of Charlemagne’s rule and the century in which the poet who wrote the work lived.]
The central contention of this essay is that traditional preoccupation with the origin and unity of the Song of Roland has obscured the main theme of the poem.1 The key problem to be considered is the apparent inconsistency in the portrait of Charlemagne: why is he represented as both strong and weak, authoritarian and impotent?
In the first council, which Charles calls to decide what answer should be given to Marsilion’s offer of peace, he is decidedly peremptory. Shortly thereafter Roland and Oliver argue about which one of them should go as ambassador to Marsilion; the king tells them in no uncertain terms that neither they nor any others of the twelve peers will go on the mission. Nevertheless, despite his evident power, Charles demands that the council assume the responsibility of choosing an ambassador. When Roland nominates his father-in-law, Ganelon, Charles does not demur. Either he is content with the choice or he is unwilling or unable to alter it....
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SOURCE: “The Ideal Depiction of Charlemagne in La Chanson de Roland,”Viator, Vol. 7, 1976, pp. 123-39.
[In the following essay, Niles argues that Charlemagne, not Roland, is the chief hero of La Chanson de Rolandand that Charlemagne’s seeming passivity actually “represents power in the pure majesty of its potentiality.”]
The Charlemagne of La Chanson de Roland has seemed to many an enigmatic figure. On the one hand he is consistently praised. On the other hand he does fairly little. He seeks out the advice of his lords and accepts it when it is given. He appears to be duped by Marsile and Ganelon. For the greater part of the poem he seems little more than a figurehead, while the attention of the audience is commanded by the high drama of Ganelon’s treason and Roland’s death. Only once does he enter fully into action, to put Marsile to flight and to crush the army of the Saracen emir Baligant. As soon as his victory is complete he reverts to the relative inactivity which had marked his role from the beginning. The last part of the poem is dominated by the duel between Thierry and Pinable which determines Ganelon’s guilt, and when we last see Charlemagne it is in a pose of anguished contemplation:1
“Deus,” dist li reis, “si penuse est ma vie!” Pluret des oilz, sa barbe blanche tiret.
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SOURCE: “Narrative Interventions: The Key to the Jest of the Pèlerinage de Charlemagne” in Études de Philologie Romane et d’Histoire Littéraire, edited by Jean Marie D’Heur and Nicoletta Cherubini, Belgium, 1980, pp. 47-55.
[In the following essay, Caulkins contends that properly interpreting the Pèlerinage de Charlemagne requires understanding the interventions of the narrator and recognizing the juxtaposition of the serious and the ludicrous.]
Nothing makes the Middle Ages more lovable than its humor.
Ronald N. Walpole1
The fundamental problem is to recognize signs wherever they are.
Seldom in the history of medieval literary criticism has there been such a divergence of opinion over a fundamental interpretation of a work as brief as the Pèlerinage de Charlemagne, which numbers less than nine hundred lines. Among the diverse categories in which it has been placed are those of “serious,” (Nyrop, etc.)3, “humorous,” (P. Paris, etc.)4, “Parisian in spirit,” (G. Paris, etc.)5, “English at heart,” (Holmes)6, “a reflection of Celtic Ireland,” (Loomis7, Cross8, etc.), “a covert political...
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SOURCE: “The Character of Character in the Chansons de Geste” in The Craft of Fiction: Essays in Medieval Poetics, edited by Leigh A. Arrathoon, Solaris Press, Inc., 1984, pp. 475-98.
[In the following essay Kay investigates the interaction of character and plot in various chansons de geste, particularly in Raoul de Cambrai, and argues that neither aspect holds a simple priority over the other.]
The relationship between character and plot confronts the literary critic with a chicken and egg problem of ostrich proportions. How far can we dissociate what a literary character is from what he does, and supposing such dissociation to be operable, which is the proper, primary level of description in any text? Should we say, for instance, that Othello is a character liable to violent jealousy, and so can be set up to kill his ever-loving wife, or do we say that the killing of an unjustly suspected wife leads us to perceive her murderous husband as violently jealous? Do texts differ in this regard? As with Shakespeare plays, some chansons de geste are assigned titles featuring a principal character (Chanson de Roland, Aiol, Gaydon, Chanson de Willame), others an aspect of the action (Charroi de Nîmes, Prise d’Orange, Siège de Barbastre, Aliscans). The prologues of some, like the Couronnement de Louis, announce the matter that is to follow as centered primarily on...
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SOURCE: “The Matter of France” in English Medieval Romance, Longman Group UK Limited, 1987, pp. 89-108.
[In the following excerpt, Barron considers the relationship between the French and the English romance through the exploration of key works including the Chanson de Roland,Otuel and Roland, The Sege of Melayne, The Sowdon of Babylon, and Fierabras.]
The dual effect of the Norman Conquest in severing the Germanic roots of English culture and importing a dialect of romanz which exposed England to the cultural influence of France in the age of its ascendancy was ultimately to have profound consequences. The Matter of England romances show how slow the roots were to wither and how readily they became entwined with elements of the imported culture to produce narrative literature equally appealing to English and Anglo-Norman audiences. Not all such elements were equally assimilable: the dominant form of secular literature in the century following the Conquest, the epics of the Matter of France, might have been expected to appeal to a society whose native tradition had long included heroic poetry of a similar character, yet they are represented in English by only a handful of texts, late in date and largely unrepresentative of the genre. There is evidence that the chansons de geste were popular with the French-speaking rulers of England, where three of the earliest texts have...
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SOURCE: Introduction to The Pilgrimage of Charlemagne (Le Pèlerinage de Charlemagne), edited and translated by Glyn S. Burgess, Garland Publishing, Inc., 1988, pp. 1-27.
[In the following essay, Cobby discusses The Pilgrimage of Charlemagne, including arguments regarding the date of the text; difficulties in classifying the work; its artistic merit and use of humor; and its sources and influences.]
AUTHOR AND DATE
Few medieval works have given rise to as much disagreement as the Pèlerinage de Charlemagne. The difficulties begin with the question of its origin and date. The text is known from a single manuscript (Royal 16 E VIII of the British Library) which went missing on 7 June 1879 (see George F. Warner and Julius P. Gilson. Catalogue of Western Manuscripts in the Old Royal and King’s Collections. 4 vols, London: British Museum, 1921, II, p. 196). The manuscript probably dates from the thirteenth century (Warner and Gilson, p. 196, Michel, p. xxii, Koschwitz, 1875-77, p. 2, I. de Riquer, p. 23), though the fourteenth has also been suggested (Koschwitz, 1907, p. i, Favati, p. 120, Picherit, 1984, p. ix).
If the date of the manuscript is relatively uncontentious, the same cannot be said for that of the text it contains. Suggestions have ranged from the late eleventh century (e.g. Koschwitz, 1875-77, p. 60) to the late thirteenth...
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SOURCE: “The Emergence of Carolingian Latin Literature and the Court of Charlemagne (780-814)” in Carolingian Culture: Emulation and Innovation, edited by Rosamond McKitterick, Cambridge University Press, 1994, pp. 111-40.
[In the following essay, Garrison considers factors that enabled the creation and survival of Carolingian verse. She also contrasts the perspectives of genteel coterie poetry, written by the court elite, with those of less-censured contemporary victory poems.]
Inter caenandum aut aliquod acroama aut lectorem audiebat. Legabantur ei historiae et antiquorum res gestae.1
While dining he used to listen to some entertainment or to a reader; stories and the deeds of the ancients were read to him.
If history has traditionally belonged to those who tell the stories, or leave records, then literary history has, even more problematically, been the domain of those whose tales and poetry were written down and survived. For the early Middle Ages, the implications of this fact are far-reaching. Thus we learn about the enemies of the Carolingian Empire chiefly through Carolingian historical sources; the extant Carolingian literature records the concerns and diversions of a small elite. Other types of composition (such as songs and stories in the vernacular or texts expressing the...
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Farrier, Susan E. The Medieval Charlemagne Legend: An Annotated Bibliography, New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1993, 646 p.
Divides its study into three broad groupings: The Historical Charlemagne, Between History and Legend (Medieval Biography and Chronicle), and Charlemagne Literature, and further into twenty-seven subcategories to aid scholars.
Almedingen, E. M. Charlemagne: A Study, London: The Bodley Head, 1968, 252 p.
Biography considers Frankish history, the country as Charlemagne found it, and Charlemagne’s faith in God and allegiance to Christ’s Church.
Cabaniss, Allen. Charlemagne. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1972, 176 p.
Biography incorporates many Latin sources.
Chamberlin, Russell. Charlemagne: Emperor of the Western World. London: Grafton Books, 1986, 245 p.
Biography in three parts: “The Cauldron of Europe,” “The Road to Rome,” and “Imperium.”
Einhard. The Life of Charlemagne, Circa 830-33. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1960, 74 p.
Classic work is the first medieval biography of a lay figure; originally written in Latin.
Ganshof, François L. “Charlemagne,” Speculum XXIV,...
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