1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Goliard

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GOLIARD, a name applied to those wandering students (vagantes) and clerks in England, France and Germany, during the 12th and 13th centuries, who were better known for their rioting, gambling and intemperance than for their scholarship. The derivation of the word is uncertain. It may come from the Lat. gula, gluttony (Wright), but was connected by them with at mythical “ Bishop Golias,” also called “ archipoëta ” and “ palmas ”—especially in Germany—in whose name their satirical poems were mostly written. Many scholars have accepted Büdinger's suggestion (Über einige Reste der Vagantenpoesie in Österreich, Vienna, 1854) that the title of Golias goes back to the letter of St Bernard to Innocent II., in which he referred to Abelard as Goliath, thus connecting the goliards with the keen-witted student adherents of that great medieval critic. Giesebrecht and others, however, support the derivation of goliard from gailliard, a gay fellow, leaving “ Golias ” as the imaginary “ patron ” of their fraternity.

Spiegel has ingeniously disentangled something of a biography of an archipoëta who flourished mainly in Burgundy and at Salzburg from 1160 to beyond the middle of the 13th century; but the proof of the reality of this individual is not convincing. It is doubtful, too, if the jocular references to the rules of the “ gild ” of goliards should be taken too seriously, though their aping of the “ orders ” of the church, especially their contrasting them with the mendicants, was too bold for church synods. Their satires were almost uniformly directed against the church, attacking even the pope. In 1227 the council of Trèves forbade priests to permit the goliards to take part in chanting the service. In 1229 they played a conspicuous part in the disturbances at the university of Paris, in connexion with the intrigues of the papal legate. During the century which followed they formed a subject for the deliberations of several church councils, notably in 1289 when it was ordered that “ no clerks shall be jongleurs, goliards or buffoons," and in 1300 (at Cologne) when they were forbidden to preach or engage in the indulgence trafic. This legislation was only effective when the “ privileges of clergy ” were withdrawn from the goliards. Those historians who regard the middle ages as completely dominated by ascetic ideals, regard the goliard movement as a protest against the spirit of the time. But it is rather indicative of the wide diversity in temperament among those who crowded to the universities in the 13th century, and who found in the privileges of the clerk some advantage and attraction in the student life. The goliard poems are as truly “ medieval” as the monastic life which they despised; they merely voice another section of humanity. Yet their criticism was most keenly pointed, and marks a distinct step in the criticism of abuses in the church.

Along with these satires went many poems in praise of wine and riotous living. A remarkable collection of them, now at Munich, from the monastery at Benedictbeuren in Bavaria, was published by Schmeller (3rd ed., 1895) under the title Carmina Burana. Many of these, which form the main part of song-books of German students to-day, have been delicately translated by John Addington Symonds in a small volume, Wine, Women and Song (1884). As Symonds has said, they form a prelude to the Renaissance. The poems of “ Bishop Golias ” were later attributed to Walter Mapes, and have been published by Thomas Wright in The Latin Poems commonly attributed to Walter Mapes (London, 1841).

The word “ goliard ” itself outlived these turbulent bands which had given it birth, and passed over into French and English literature of the 14th century in the general meaning of jongleur or minstrel, quite apart from any clerical association. It is thus used in Piers Plowman, where, however, the goliard still rhymes in Latin, and in Chaucer.

See, besides the works quoted above, M. Haezner, Goliardendichtung und die Satire im 13ten Jahrhundert in England (Leipzig, 1905); Spiegel, Die Vaganten und ihrOrden ” (Spires, 1892); Hubatsch, Die lateinischen Vagantenlieder des Mittelalters (Görlitz, 1870); and the article in La grande Encyclopedia. All of these have bibliographical apparatus.  (J. T. S.*)