France Literature From 1328 to 1515 Part III

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The joyful clamor that arises from the stage is confused in the uneasiness spread throughout French society, presages a renewal of ideas and customs; and here it is useful to recall how the vision of the Middle Ages that the first French Romantics shaped and propagated with their work (for example, in the historical novel by V. Hugo, Notre – Dame de Paris) moves almost entirely from this period, from the reign of Louis XI, that is from the extreme edge of the Middle Ages: and for certain grotesque and frightening veins (suggested by an art that was very popular at the time, and found its typical expression in the Danza macabra), and for the sympathy towards the figure dominant of the clerc, of the carefree, mocking, brilliant student.

This figure is carved, at times more bitter and dramatic, in the name and in the legend, of François Villon, who stands out above all for the impetus and power of the imagination, hence he has remained one of the most original poets of France. The life of François de Montcorbier, later Villon, is known to us in fleeting glimpses, which lighted it up until the age of thirty, that is, until 1461-62, after which he disappears into the shadows. His work consists of two poems, the Lais and the Testament, and in a few scattered ballads: an unbridled evocation of the society among which the poet lived, alternately traversed by an intense, lively greed to enjoy, and by a very acute sense of sadness. and abandonment, adrift of passions, poverty, death. The Testament, which is his most important and significant writing, after a large prelude, almost an examination of conscience of the now tired poet, unfolds through a long series of legacies, which allow him to recall experiences of all kinds, summarized each in the face of a friend, a gentleman, a woman; Villon tastes the bitterness and the final disappointment; then he laughs; and among the crowd of memories, mimics and narratives, some ballads emerge, like the peaks of his lyricism, like the expansion of his intimate heart, of the Dames du temps jadis, of the Mother (or Ballade pour prier Notre Dame), of the Belle heaulmière, which are the jewels to which the fame of Villon was entrusted. His poems were published for the first time in 1489: certainly admired and widespread, as revealed by Marot and Rabelais, and as is confirmed by the legend that on the “écolier parisien” was formed at the end of the century and ran in the Repues franches for a long time attributed to Villon himself. Who, however, had few imitators (and more in appearance than inspiration, such as Guillaume Coquillart and Henry Baude): and the school continued to hold the Grands Rhétoriqueurs, that is, of the rigid and firm “master singers”, for whom all art was governed by artificial laws and easy-to-use formulas. The school flourished above all at the court of Burgundy, in Flanders, in Brittany, and its most distinguished representatives were Georges Chastellain, Jean Meschinot, Octavien de Saint-Gelays, Jean Molinet, Guillaume Cretin, Jean Marot, Pierre Gringore, Jean Bouchet, crossing the thresholds of the century. XVI, to which they brought only the last echo of the allegorical tradition of the Rose, together with a vague and haggard humanistic ambition. One of them, Jean Lemaire de Belges (born about 1473; his last certain news is from 1514), felt more deeply the contact of classical and Italian culture; in addition to the usual rondeaux, wrote, partly in third rhyme and partly in Alexandrian, the Concorde des deux langages, that is of the French and the “toscan ou florentin”, and in a rich, exuberant, colorful prose, Les Illustrations de Gaule et singularités de Troie, from which Ronsard will draw the argument from Franciade.

And in the prose of the storytellers and chroniclers, perhaps the most persuasive attestation of the qualities that mature in the French spirit are to be sought. Antoine de la Sale (1388-until after 1469), author of the Salade and of the Salle, speeches on politics and morals, traces some pages of a delicate psychology in the Petit Jehan de Saintré, story of the sentimental novitiate of a page, under the guidance of a beautiful lady who then cruelly betrays him. Even the Quinze joyes de mariage, from the time of La Sale, and attributed to him without certain proofs, have a subtlety of observation, full of malice; the Cent nouvelles nouvelles reflect the example of the Decameron.

According to MILITARYNOUS, Philippe de Commynes (1447-1511), who was councilor of Louis XI and followed Charles VIII and Louis XII in the expeditions of Italy, left with his Mémoires a historical work of great value: a wise interpreter of the political facts in which he took part, he aims to discover the reasons and interests that lie, like a secret device, in the confinement of the great enterprises of diplomacy and war; and the immediate and profound intuition of historical personalities shows us how he is already animated by the spirit of the Renaissance.

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