Graham's Magazine, Vol. XXXI, No. 6, December 1847
Vol. XXXI. August, 1847. No. 2.
Table of Contents
|Fiction, Literature and Articles|
|Love’s Last Supper|
|The Islets of the Gulf|
|The Darkened Hearth|
|The Widow and the Deformed|
|An Assiniboin Lodge|
|Review of New Books|
|Poetry and Fashion|
|Sonnet.—To Mary M. R. W.|
|The Last Tilt|
|My Loved—My Own|
|The Wayside Dream|
|Thou’rt Not Alone|
|On a Sleeping Child|
|Stanzas for Music|
|Description of the Fashion Plate|
Transcriber’s Notes can be found at the end of this eBook.
Vol. XXXI. PHILADELPHIA, DECEMBER, 1847. No. 6.
OR THE TRUE STORY OF A TROUBADOUR.
A PROVENÇAL BIOGRAPHY.
BY WM. GILMORE SIMMS, AUTHOR OF “THE YEMASSE,” “RICHARD HURDIS,” ETC.
In the first conception of the institution of chivalryit was doubtless a device of great purity, and contemplatednone but highly proper and becomingpurposes. Those very features which, in our moresophisticated era, seem to have been the most absurd,or at least fantastic, were, perhaps among itsbest securities. The sentiment of love, apart fromits passion, is what a very earnest people, in a veryselfish period, cannot so well understand; but itwas this very separation of interests, which we nowhold to be inseparable, that constituted the peculiarityof chivalry—the fanciful in its characteristicsrendering sentiment independent of passion, andrefining the crude desire by the exercise and influenceof tastes, which do not usually accompany it.Among the Provençal knights and troubadours, inthe palmy days of their progress, love was reallythe most innocent and the most elevated of sentiments.It seems to have been nursed without guile,and was professed, even when seemingly in conflictwith the rights of others, without the slightestnotion of wrong doing or offence. It did not vexthe temper, or impair the marital securities of thehusband, that the beauties of his dame were sungwith enthusiasm by the youthful poet; on the contrary,he who gloried in the possession of a jewel,was scarcely satisfied with fortune unless shebrought to a just knowledge of its splendors, thebard who alone could convey to the world a similarsense of the value of his treasure. The narrativewhich we have gathered from the ancient chroniclesof Provence, and which we take occasion tosay is drawn from the most veracious sources ofhistory, will illustrate the correctness of these particulars.
One of the most remarkable instances of the sentimentof love, warmed into passion, yet withoutevil in its objects, is to be found in the true andtouching history of Guillaume de Cabestaign, a nobleyouth of Roussillon. Though noble of birth, Guillaumewas without fortune, and it was not thoughtimproper or humiliating in those days that he shouldserve, as a page, the knight whose ancestors wereknown to his own as associates. It was in thiscapacity that he became the retainer of Raymond,Lord of Roussillon. Raymond, though a haughtybaron, was one who possessed certain generoustastes and sentiments, and who showed himselfcapable of appreciating the talents and great meritsof Guillaume de Cabestaign. His endowments, indeedwere of a character to find ready favor withall parties. The youth was not only graceful ofcarriage, and particularly handsome of face andperson, but he possessed graces of mind and mannerwhich especially commended him to knightlysympathy and admiration. He belonged to thatclass of improvisatori to whom the people of Provencegave the name of troubadour, and was quiteas ready to sing the praises of his mistress, as hewas to mount horse, and charge with sword andlance in her defence and honor. His muse, takingher moral aspect from his own, was pure andmodest in her behavior—indulging in no song orsentiment which would not fall becomingly on themost virgin ear. His verses were distinguishedequally by their delicacy and fancy, and united to aspirit of the most generous and exulting life a tasteof the utmost simplicity and purity. Not less gentlethan buoyant, he was at once timid in approach,and joy-giving in society; and while he compelledthe respect of men by his frank and fearless manhood,he won the hearts of the other sex by thosegentle graces which, always prompt and ready, arenever obtrusive, and which leave us only to thejust appreciation of their value, when they are withdrawnfrom our knowledge and enjoyment.
It happened, unfortunately for our troubadour,that he won too many hearts. Raised by the Lordof Roussillon to the rank of gentleman usher to theLady Marguerite, his young and beautiful wife,the graces and accomplishments of Guillaume deCabestaign, soon became quite as apparent andagreeable to her as to the meanest of the damselsin her train. She was never so well satisfied as inhis society; and her young and ardent soul, repelledrather than solicited by the stern nature of Raymond,her lord, was better prepared and pleased tosympathize with the more beguiling and accessiblespirit of the page. The tenderest impressions oflove, without her own knowledge, soon seizedupon her heart; and she had learned to sigh as shegazed upon the person that she favored, long beforeshe entertained the slightest consciousness that hewas at all precious to her eyes. He himself, dutifulas devoted, for a long season beheld none of theseproofs of favor on the part of his noble mistress.She called him her servant, it is true, and he assuch, sung daily in her praises the equal languageof the lover and the knight. These were words,however, of specific and conventional meaning, towhich her husband listened with indifferent ear.In those days every noble lady entertained a lover,who was called her servant. It was a prerogativeof nobility that such should be the case. It spokefor the courtliness and aristocracy of the party; andto be without a lover, though in the possession of ahusband, was to be an object of scornful sympathyin the eyes of the sex. Fashion, in other words,had taken the name of chivalry; and it was one ofher regulations that the noble lady should possessa lover, who should of necessity be other than herlord. In this capacity, Raymond of Roussillon, foundnothing of which to complain in the devotion ofGuillaume de Cabestaign to Marguerite, his wife.But the courtiers who gathered in her train werenot so indulgent, or were of keener sight. Theysoon felt the preference which she gave, over allothers, to our troubadour. They felt, and they resentedit the more readily, as they were not insensibleto his personal superiority. Guillaume himself,was exceeding slow in arriving at a similarconsciousness. Touched with a fonder sentimentfor his mistress than was compatible with hissecurity, his modesty had never suffered him tosuppose that he had been so fortunate as to inspireher with a feeling such as he now knew withinhimself. It was at a moment when he least lookedfor it, that he made the perilous discovery. It wasin the course of a discussion upon the various signsof love—such a discussion as occupied the idlehours, and the wandering fancies of chivalry—thatshe said to him, somewhat abruptly,
“Surely thou, Guillaume, thou, who canst sing oflove so tenderly, and with so much sweetness, thou,of all persons, should be the one to distinguish betweena feigned passion and a real one. Methinksthe eye of him who loves truly, could most certainlydiscover from the eye of the beloved one, whetherthe real flame were yet burning in her heart.”
And even as she spoke, the glance of her darkand lustrous eye settled upon his own with such adewy and quivering fire, that his soul at once becameenlightened with her secret. The troubadourwas necessarily an improvisatore. Guillaume deCabestaign was admitted to be one of the mostspontaneous in his utterance of all his order. Hislyre took for him the voice which he could not wellhave used at that overpowering moment. He sungwildly and triumphantly, inspired by his new andrapturous consciousness, even while her eyes wereyet fixed upon him, full still of the involuntary declarationwhich made the inspiration of his song. Theseverses, which embodied the first impulsive sentimentwhich he had ever dared to breathe from his heart ofthe passion which had long been lurking within it,have been preserved for us by the damsels of Provence.We translate them, necessarily to the greatdetriment of their melody, from the sweet South,where they had birth, to our harsher Runic region.The song of Guillaume was an apostrophe.
Touch the weeping string!
Those whose beauty fires me;
Oh! how vainly would I sing
The passion that inspires me.
This, dear heart, believe,
Were the love I’ve given,
Half as warm for Heaven as thee,
I were worthy heaven!
Ah! should I lament,
That, in evil hour,
Too much loving to repent,
I confess thy power.
Too much blessed to fly,
Yet, with shame confessing,
That I dread to meet the eye,
Where my heart finds blessing.
Such a poem is beyond analysis. It was simplya gush of enthusiasm—the lyrical overflow of sentimentand passion, such as a song should be always.The reader will easily understand that the delicacyof the tune, the epigrammatic intenseness of theexpression, is totally lost in the difficulty of subjugatingour more stubborn language to the uses ofthe poet. A faint and inferior idea of what wassaid, sung at this moment of wild and almost spasmodicalutterance, is all that we design to convey.
The spot in which this scene took place wasamid the depth of umbrageous trees, in the beautifulgarden of Chateau Roussillon. A soft and persuasivesilence hung suspended in the atmosphere.Not a leaf stirred, not a bird chirruped in the foliage;and however passionate was the sentiment expressedby the troubadour, it scarcely rose beyonda whisper—harmonizing in the subdued utterance,and the sweet delicacy of its sentiment with the exquisiterepose and languor of the scene. Carriedbeyond herself by the emotions of the moment, thefeeling of Marguerite became so far irresistible thatshe stooped ere the song of the troubadour hadsubsided from the ear, and pressed her lips uponthe forehead of her kneeling lover. He seized herhand at this moment and carried it to his ownlips, in an equally involuntary impulse. This actawakened the noble lady to a just consciousness ofher weakness. She at once recoiled from his grasp.
“Alas!” she exclaimed, with clasped hands,“what have I done?”
“Ah, lady!” was the answer of the troubadour,“it is thy goodness which has at length discoveredhow my heart is devoted to thee. It is thy truth,and thy nobleness, dear lady, which I love andworship.”
“By these shalt thou know me ever, Guillaumeof Cabestaign,” was the response; “and yet I warnthee,” she continued, “I warn and I entreat thee,dear servant, that thou approach me not so nearagain. Thou hast shown to me, and surprised fromme, a most precious but an unhappy secret. Thouhast, too, deeply found thy way into my heart.Alas! wherefore! wherefore!” and the eyes of theamiable and virtuous woman were suffused withtears, as her innocent soul trembled under thereproaches of her jealous conscience. She continued,
“I cannot help but love thee, Guillaume of Cabestaign,but it shall