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Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Eustache Deschamps

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DESCHAMPS, EUSTACHE, called MOEEL, a distin guished mediaeval poet of France, was born at Vertus, in Champagne, early in the 14th century. The date of his birth has been approximately given as 1328, 1340, and 1345, according to the interpretation put upon certain vague state ments of his own. It is certain that he lived under four kings Philip VI., John, Charles V., and Charles VI. He studied the seven liberal arts at the university of Orleans. Early in life he proceeded to the court of France, and, after first entering the service of a prelate whose name he has not recorded, for more than thirty years took an active and prominent part in the joyous society of the day. Charged with a succession of honourable offices, he served nearly all the princes his contemporaries. His life was a long and romantic series of tournaments, feasts, and battles, and he was one of the most popular persons of his time. But before settling down to this life, he had a stormy youth of vicissitude. He was an eye-witness of the English invasion in 1358; he was in the siege of Ilheims, and witnessed the march on Chartres ; he was present also at the signing of the treaty at Bretigny. In 1360, as Chatelain of Vertus, he became the vassal of the young princess Isabella, to whom he paid great poetic homage. But he was then already a travelled man ; he had visited Italy, Germany, and Hungary. Later on he took a part in the Flemish wars, and it was on this occasion that, about 1385, he received the surname, 01 nickname, of Morel, which he sometimes himself adopted in later life. He is believed, but not on very strong evidence, to have travelled in Syria and Egypt, and to have been captured and imprisoned by the Saracens. In France he lived the true life of a trouvere, wandering from castle to castle with his poems. He had a violent hatred for the English nation, fostered no doubt by the experiences of his youth ; and this he has expressed very abundantly in his writings, particularly in the famous prophecy that England would be destroyed so thoroughly that no one should be able to point to her ruins. He was huissier d armes to King Charles V., and by him appointed bailli of Senlis and governor of Fismes. It was with great reluctance that, when he felt himself growing old, he retired from public life and went into a modest seclusion, where he occupied himself in the composition of a splenetic satire against women, entitled Le Miroir de Mariage; though 12,500 lines of this exist, he left it unfinished at his death, which took place about 1420. Eustache Deschamps was an accomplished courtier, but he was extremely ugly ; he disarms criticism by calling himself " Le Roi de Laidure." His poems remained unprinted until our day, the great fount of them being a manuscript in the Royal Library at Paris, containing 1175 ballads, 171 rondeaux, 80 virelays, 14 lays, 28 farces, and various epistles and satires. This bulk of MSS. was edited and published in 4to by M. G. A. Crapelet in 1832, preceded by a literary and historical monograph. The value of his writings being recognized, another and more critical edition was brought out, in 1849, by M. Prosper Tarbe. The same editor published Le Miroir de Manage in 1865, and a long poem entitled Le Lay des douze Estats du Monde, in 1870. Deschamps excelled in the use of the ballad and chanson royal. In each of these forms of verse he was the greatest master of his time. One of his ballads is addressed to the English poet " Geoffrey Chaucier," to whom he says Tu es d amours mondains dieux en Albie Et de la Rose en la terre Angelique. In Eustache Deschamps the modern language of France first found a pure lyrical expression ; his long life seems to connect the literature of Theobald IV. with that of Charles of Orleans.