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Mut unt este noble Barun
Marie de France.
Brittany, the ancient Armorica, retains perhaps as pure a Celtic population as any part of Europe. Its language is, however, like the Welsh and the other Celtic dialects, greatly affected by the Latiu and Teutonic.
The ancient intercourse kept up with Wales and Cornwall by the Bretons, who were in a great measure colonists from these parts of Britain, caused the traditions and poetry of the latter to be current and familiar in Little Britain, that try was then called. To poetry and music, indeed, the whole Celtic race seem to have been strongly addicted; and, independently of the materials which Brittany supplied for the history of Geoffrey of Monmouth, many other true or romantic adventures were narrated by the Breton poets in their Lais.
Several of these Lais were translated into French verse in the thirteenth century by a poetess named Marie de France, resident at the court of the Anglo-Norman monarchs, to one of whom, probably Henry III., her Lais are dedicated.
This circumstance may account for the Lais being better known in England than in France. The only manuscript containing any number of them is in the Harleian Library. The manuscripts of France contain but five Lais. The Lai du Fresne was translated into English ; and from the Lai de Lanval and Lai de Graelent-which last is not in the Harleian MS.-Chestre made his “Launfal Miles,” or “Sir Launfalt." Chaucer perhaps took the concluding circumstance of his Dream from the Lai de Eliduc.
* Poesies de Marie de France, par De Roquefort. Paris, 1820.
+ M. de Roquefort is mistaken in supposing the Nightingale in the Cottonian Library, Caligula A. II., to be a translation of the Lai du Laustic. It is a poem on quite a different subject.
We very much doubt if the English poets knew of any Breton Lais but those of Marie. Chaucer's Frankelein, in. deed, says, of the Breton Lais,
And on of hem have I in remembrance,
Which I shall sayn with good wille as I can. But his tale is from Boccaccio, who, however, it may be said, took it from a Trouverre, who took it from a Lai. The author of Orfeo and Heurodis also mentions the Breton Lais.
In some of these Lais we meet what we may call Fairy machinery. The word Fée, indeed, occurs but once, in a comparison ; but in the Lais de Gugemer, de Lanval, d’Ywenec, and de Graelent, we meet personages differing in nothing from the Fays of Romance, and who, like them, appear to be human beings endowed with superior powers.
The origin of the Breton Fairies, as they are called, has been sought, and not improbably, in the Gallicenæ or Barigenæ * of ancient Gaul, of whom Pomponius Mela thus writes :
“ Senat; in the British sea, opposite the Ofismician coast, is remarkable for an oracle of the Gallic God. Its priestesses, holy in perpetual virginity, are said to be nine in number. They are called Gallicenæ, and are thought to be endowed with singular powers, so as to raise by their charms the winds and seas, to turn themselves into what aninals they will, to cure wounds and diseases incurable by others, to know and predict the future; but this they do only to navigators who go thither purposely to consult them f."
We have here certainly all the attributes of the Damoiselles of the Lais of Marie de France. The doe whom Gugemer wounds speaks with a human voice. The lady who loved Lanval took him away into an island, and Graelent and his mistress crossed a deep and broad river to arrive at her country, which perhaps was also an island in the original Breton Lai. The part most difficult of explanation is the secret manner in which these dames used to visit their lovers; but perhaps the key is to be found in the Lai d’Ywenec, of which, chiefly on that account, we give an analysis. The hero of that Lai differs not in point of power from these ladies, and as he is a real man, with the power of assuming at will the shape of a bird, so it is likely they were real women, and that it was in the bird-shape they entered the chambers of their lovers. Graelent's mistress says to him,
* This last is the reading of Vossius.
+ Sena is supposed to be L'Isle des Saints, nearly opposite Brest.
# Pomp. Mela, 1. 3, c. 6.
I shall love you truëly;
Take care now that you do not boast
The lady says to Lanval,
When you would speak to me of ought-
She also had previously imposed on the knight the obligation of secrecy.
I have in thought and purpose too,
THERE formerly lived in Britain a man who was rich and old. He was Avoez or governor of