Page:Marie de France Lays Mason.djvu/2

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The last two stories in this collection, one a tale of chivalry about the immediate ancestors of Saladin, the other a tragedy of courtly love, are by unknown authors: of the remaining fourteen, twelve are translated from the Lays attributed to Marie de France who, apart from her name, is almost equally an unknown author. She wrote in the last quarter of the twelfth century in a dialect known as the Langue d'oïl, but she may have come from any part of Northern France between Lorraine and Anjou, she may have been a Norman or a Channel Islander, an Anglo-Norman, or Norman-Welsh. After all the academic debate of the last sixty years her identity remains as misty as ever. But this lady, who seems to have composed her tales for the very sophisticated court of King Henry II, was an admirable story teller, and the justness and fineness of her sentiment in all that concerns the delicacies of the human heart are also remarkable. A more excellent writer of romances it would be hard to find. It was something of a feat alone to have written a story about a werewolf neither horrific nor disgusting.

The stories are preceded by an Introduction, the work of the translator Eugene Mason, which gives an excellent idea of the society in and for which they were composed.

Wrapper drawing by Victoria Norrington

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