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قراءة كتاب Sketches of Travel in Normandy and Maine

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‏اللغة: English
Sketches of Travel in Normandy and Maine

Sketches of Travel in Normandy and Maine

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
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no sort of kindred, but a mere political connexion which chanced to be convenient for both sides. The Gascons, to this day, have not wholly forgotten the advantages of English connexion, but neither then nor now is any likeness to England the result. So, in our own time, we may hold Malta for ever, but we shall never make Maltese so like Englishmen as our Danish kinsmen still are without any political connexion more recent than the days of Earl Waltheof.

For the antiquary, nothing can be more fascinating than a Norman tour. Less curious, less instructive, because much more like English buildings, than those of Aquitaine, the architectural remains of the province are incomparably finer in themselves. Caen is a town well nigh without a rival. It shares with Oxford the peculiarity of having no one predominant object. At Amiens, at Peterborough—we may add at Cambridge—one single gigantic building lords it over everything. Caen and Oxford throw up a forest of towers and spires, without any one building being conspicuously predominant. It is a town which never was a Bishop's see, but which contains four or five churches each fit to have been a cathedral. There is the stern and massive pile which owes its being to the Conqueror of England, and where a life which never knew defeat was followed by a posthumous history which is only a long series of misfortunes. There is the smaller but richer minster, part of which at least is the genuine work of the Conqueror's Queen.[8] Around the town are a group of smaller churches such as not even Somerset or Northamptonshire can surpass. Then there is Bayeux, with its cathedral, its tapestry, its exquisite seminary chapel; Cerisy, with its mutilated but almost unaltered Norman abbey; Bernay, with a minster so shattered and desecrated that the traveller might pass it by without notice, but withal retaining the massive piers and arches of the first half of the eleventh century. There is Evreux, with its Norman naves, its tall slender Gothic choir, its strange Italian western tower, and almost more fantastic central spire. All these are noble churches, sharing with those of our own land a certain sobriety and architectural good sense which is often wanting in the churches of France proper. In Normandy as in England, you do not see piles, like Beauvais, begun on too vast a scale for man's labour ever to finish; you do not see piles like Amiens, where all external proportion is sacrificed to grandeur of internal effect.[9] A Norman minster, like an English one, is satisfied with a comparatively moderate height, but with its three towers and full cruciform shape, it seems a perfection of outline to which no purely French building ever attains.


FALAISE

1867

The beginnings of the Norman Conquest, in its more personal and picturesque point of view, are to be found in the Castle of Falaise. There, as Sir Francis Palgrave sums up the story, "Arletta's pretty feet twinkling in the brook made her the mother of William the Bastard." And certainly, if great events depend upon great men, and if great men are in any way influenced by the places of their birth, there is no place which seems more distinctly designed by nature to be the cradle of great events. The spot is one which history would have dealt with unfairly if it had not contrived to find its way into her most striking pages. And certainly in this respect Falaise has nothing to complain of. Except one or two of the great cities of the province, no place is brought more constantly under our notice during five centuries of Norman history. And Norman history, we must not forget, includes in this case some of the most memorable scenes in the history of England, France, and Scotland. The siege by Henry the Fourth was in a manner local; it was part of a warfare within the kingdom of France. But that warfare was one in which all the Powers of Europe felt themselves to be closely interested; it was a warfare in which one at least of them directly partook; it was one in which the two great religions of Western Europe felt that their own fates were to be in a manner decided. In the earlier warfare of the fifteenth century Falaise plays a prominent part. Town and castle were taken and retaken, and the ancient fortress itself received a lasting and remarkable addition from the hand of one of the greatest of English captains. The tall round tower of Talbot, a model of the military masonry of its time, goes far to share the attention of the visitor with the massive keep of the ancient Dukes. Thence we leap back to the earliest great historical event which we can connect, with any certainty, with any part of the existing building. It was here, in a land beyond the borders of the Isle of Britain, but in a comparatively neighbouring portion of the wide dominions of the House of Anjou, that the fullest homage was paid which ever was paid by a King of Scots to a King of England. Here William the Lion, the captive of Alnwick, became most effectually the "man" of Henry Fitz-Empress, and burdened his kingdom with new and onerous engagements from which his next overlord found it convenient to relieve him. Earlier in the twelfth century, and in the eleventh, Falaise plays its part in the troubled politics of the Norman Duchy, in the wars of Henry the First and in the wars of his father. Still going back through a political and military history spread over so many ages, the culminating interest of Falaise continues to centre round its first historic mention. Henry of Navarre, our own Talbot, William the Lion, Robert of Bellême, all fail to kindle the same emotions as are aroused by the spot which was the favourite dwelling-place of the pilgrim of Jerusalem, the birthplace of the Conqueror of England.

Falaise CastleFalaise Castle

Local tradition of course affirms the existing building to be the scene of William's birth. The window is shown from which Duke Robert first beheld the tanner's daughter, and the room in which William first saw what, if it really be the spot, must certainly have been light of an artificial kind. A pompous inscription in the modern French style calls on us to reverence the spot where the "legislator of ancient England" "fut engendré et naquit." The odd notion of William being the legislator of England calls forth a passing smile, and another somewhat longer train of thought is suggested. William, early in his reign, tried to learn English. He proved no very apt scholar, and he presently gave up his studies; but we may fairly believe that he learned enough to understand the simple formulæ of his own English charters. This leads one to ask the question: Would he not have been as likely to understand his own praises in the tongue of the conquered English as in what is supposed to represent his own native speech? Have we, after all, departed any further from the tongue of the oldest Charter of London than the Imperial dialect of abstractions and antitheses has departed from the simple and vigorous speech of the Roman de Rou? And, if he could spell it out in either tongue, he would find it somewhat faint praise to be told that, judged by the standard of the

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