Page:A book of the Cevennes (-1907-).djvu/403

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299
GUILLAUME COURTENEZ

was grandson of Charles Martel, and he also was a hammer to smite the Saracens. In 793 he fought them at Carcassonne and drove them back; in 797 he wrested Narbonne from them. Then, pursuing them, he drove them out of Barcelona. War made him a misanthrope, and misanthropy made a monk of him. He retired to this desert, settled there with his sisters twain, Albara and Bertrara, and died there on May 28th, 812; and when he died the bellspealed of themselves. His heroic life and pious end became the theme of one of the longest and finest of the Provençal Chansons de Gestes, that of Guillaume de Courtenez—whence the honoured name of Courtenay in England. This is what Fauriel says of the romance:—


"William is the ideal of the Christian knight, fighting for the maintenance of his faith against the Saracens. The epic, in accord with history, does not always paint him as happy, as always victorious. It represents him sometimes as defeated, reduced to the most deplorable extremities, but never losing courage, and always vanquishing in the long run. No other epic of the Carlovingian cycle is so deeply impressed with a sentiment of shuddering apprehension, which one may assume to be a traditional reflection of the contemporary feelings excited by the terrible struggle that took place in the South and lasted two centuries against the Andalusian Arabs."


I think I must find place for a single episode from this poem. It relates to the parting of Guillaume and his wife Gibors, when he was about to go to Paris to ask for succour:—


"Sire Guillaume," said she, "you go into France so highly lauded, and you leave me here, sad, among people that love me not. In the honoured land of France you will meet with