Page:Marie de France Lays Mason.djvu/18

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xiv
French Legends

shade it would be difficult to imagine in the summer heat. The third room of which we hear continually in these romances is the lady's chamber. It served the purpose of a boudoir as well as that of a sleeping room, and consequently had little real privacy. It contained the marriage chest with its store of linen, and also the bed. This bed recurs eternally in mediæval tales. It was used as a seat during the day, and as a resting-place of nights. It was a magnificent erection, carved and gilded, and inlaid with ivory. Upon it was placed a mattress of feathers, and a soft pillow. The sheets were of linen or silk, and over all was spread a coverlet of some precious material. An excellent description of such a couch is given in "The Lay of Gugemar." This chamber served also as a bath room, and there the bath was taken, piping hot, in the strange vessel, fashioned somewhat like a churn, that we see in pictures of the Middle Ages.

Of the dress of the ladies who moved about the castle, seeing themselves reflected from Marie's pages as in a polished mirror, I am not competent to speak. The type of beauty preferred by the old romancers was that of a child's princess of fairy tale—blue-eyed, golden-haired, and ruddy of cheek. The lady would wear a shift of linen, "white as meadow flower." Over this was worn a garment of fur or silk, according to the season ; and, above all, a vividly coloured gown, all in one line from neck to feet, shapen closely to the figure, or else the more loosely fitting bliaut. Her girdle clipped her closely about the waist, falling to the hem of her skirt, and her feet were shod in soundless shoes, without heels. The hair was arranged in two long braids, brought forward over her shoulders; as worn by those smiling Queens wrought upon the western porch of Chartres Cathedral. Out of doors, and, indeed, frequently within, as may be proved by a reference to "The Lay of the Ash Tree," the lady was clad in a mantle and a hood. It must have taken a great deal of time and travail to appear so dainty a production. But to become poetry for others, it is necessary for a woman first to be prose to herself.