Aucassin and Nicolete


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The Project Gutenberg eBook, Aucassin and Nicolete, by Andrew Lang

This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with
almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or
re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included
with this eBook or online at

Title: Aucassin and Nicolete

Author: Andrew Lang

Release Date: March 17, 2005 [eBook #1578]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-646-US (US-ASCII)


Transcribed from the 1910 David Nutt edition by David Price, email


Dedicated to the Hon. James Russell Lowell.


There is nothing in artistic poetry quite akin to "Aucassin and

By a rare piece of good fortune the one manuscript of the Song-Story has
escaped those waves of time, which have wrecked the bark of Menander, and
left of Sappho but a few floating fragments. The very form of the tale
is peculiar; we have nothing else from the twelfth or thirteenth century
in the alternate prose and verse of the _cante-fable_. {1} We have
fabliaux in verse, and prose Arthurian romances. We have _Chansons de
Geste_, heroic poems like "Roland," unrhymed assonant _laisses_, but we
have not the alternations of prose with _laisses_ in seven-syllabled
lines. It cannot be certainly known whether the form of "Aucassin and
Nicolete" was a familiar form--used by many _jogleors_, or wandering
minstrels and story-tellers such as Nicolete, in the tale, feigned
herself to be,--or whether this is a solitary experiment by "the old
captive" its author, a contemporary, as M. Gaston Paris thinks him, of
Louis VII (1130). He was original enough to have invented, or adopted
from popular tradition, a form for himself; his originality declares
itself everywhere in his one surviving masterpiece. True, he uses
certain traditional formulae, that have survived in his time, as they
survived in Homer's, from the manner of purely popular poetry, of
_Volkslieder_. Thus he repeats snatches of conversation always in the
same, or very nearly the same words. He has a stereotyped form, like
Homer, for saying that one person addressed another, "ains traist au
visconte de la vile si l'apela" [Greek text] . . . Like Homer, and like
popular song, he deals in recurrent epithets, and changeless courtesies.
To Aucassin the hideous plough-man is "Biax frere," "fair brother," just
as the treacherous Aegisthus is [Greek text] in Homer; these are
complimentary terms, with no moral sense in particular. The _jogleor_ is
not more curious than Homer, or than the poets of the old ballads, about
giving novel descriptions of his characters. As Homer's ladies are "fair-
tressed," so Nicolete and Aucassin have, each of them, close yellow
curls, eyes of vair (whatever that may mean), and red lips. War cannot
be mentioned except as war "where knights do smite and are smitten," and
so forth. The author is absolutely conventional in such matters,
according to the convention of his age and profession.

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