The Legend of Renaud of Montauban 8: German, More Dutch, and Latin Verse

The Quatre Fils Aymon gave rise to a Dutch poem, which begot a multitude of descendents of its own, as follows.

Renout van Montalbaen, in Dutch verse. 1200’s. Only fragments survive. Editions:

Renout van Montalbaen, met inleidning en aanteekeningen door Dr. J. C. Matthes, Groningen, Wolters (Bibliotheek van middelnederlandsche letterkunde, 15), 1875. This one has six of the fragments.

Roethe, G., “Günser Bruchstück des mnl. Renout von Montalbaen”Zeitschrift für deutsches Altertum und deutsche Litteratur, 48, 1906. This one has a seventh fragment.

Vita Sancti Reinoldi Rythmice. A Latin saint’s life in verse, printed by Joseph Floss in Annalen des historischen Vereins für den Niederrhein, inbesondere das alte Erzdiöcese Köln, Volume 30, 1876, pages 185-203. Clearly from the Dutch, as evidenced by the names of the brethern, their mother being the sister of Charles, Clarice being Yon’s daughter, and Renaud’s slaying of three sultans in the Holy Land.

De Historie van den vier Heemskindern. Dutch prose adaptation, 1508. This is the ancestor of the Dutch and German chapbooks. Edition: De Historie van den vier Heemskindern editor G. S. Overdiep, 1931, available for free online from the Digitale Bibliotheek voor de Nederlandse Letteren.

In 1619 a censored edition, expunging passages considered contrary to morals and the Catholic Faith, received the imprimatur and became the standard version in the Catholic Low Countries. The Protestants continued to print the old version. The censored version was used in Dutch schools well into the twentieth century, and thus escaped the corruptions of the popular French versions.

Die vier Heymons Kinder. German prose adaptiation of 1604. The standard German edition and ancestor of the German chapbooks.

Reinolt von Montelban oder die Heimonskinder. Middle High German verse, 1450. Two manuscripts survive, complete. Edition: Reinolt von Montelban oder die Heimonskinder, edited by Fridrich Pfaff, 1885, Volume 174 of the Bibliothek des Litterarischen Vereins in Stuttgart.

Histôrie van Sent Reinolt. Short prose adaptation of the Dutch poem and other sources into Colgone-dialect German, c. 1450. Edited by Al. Reiffersheid. Zeitschrift für deutsches Philologie. Volume 5, 1874, pp. 271-293.

LATIN VERSE VITA

Adelhardus, Ritzardus, Reynoldus, and Writardus were Frenchmen, born at Dorduna to Heymon and Aya, daughter of Pipin and sister of King Charles. The four were mighty men of war. Reynoldus was a Catholic man and a great warrior who was filled with virtue and the fear of God and wished to renounce the world. He called his sons and divided his property among them and his wife Claritia, daughter of King Ivonis of Tarascon. He leaves the castle of Montalban to his son Emericus and departs for the wilderness. His father, mother and brothers pursue but cannot find him. For three years he serves God in the wilderness until he hears a voice from God telling him to go fight the infidels in Jerusalem. He does so, slaying three Sultans with only a staff. He then returns home, briefly visits Charlemagne’s court [we are not told why], and then goes to Cologne, where Agilolphus (r. 713-717) is bishop. (A medieval note in the manuscript suggests that Riolphus (r. 768-782) is the proper reading). Reynoldus lives such a holy life that he cures the blind, dumb, and possessed. The “magister claustri” [abbot] appoints him to oversee the stonemasons. He works harder than any of them, which arouses their envy, and so they kill him. This is the fourteenth of May, the year 800, according to the prose gloss. Reynoldus, now enjoying the beatific vision, appears to a paralytic woman and heals her. Some time afterward an angel shows where his body is lying, and on the third of September it is drawn out of the river and put on display in a church in Cologne, where God cures many more people through it. The people of Tremoigne wish to have the body, and their request is granted. The body is laid in a cart, which moves of its own accord to Tremoigne. The people of Tremoigne build a church for him, whither Charlemagne comes to mourn his nephew.

DUTCH PROSE

One version of the Dutch prose (my source does not specify which) has the masons kill Reinolt with a rock, instead of their hammers, as is usual in this family. The Catholic versions removed Malegys’ magical escapes from prison, and changed Turpin from a bishop to an ordinary knight. The Catholic version was used for centuries to teach children to read, and its status as a textbook preserved it from the corruptions of its French chapbook cousins.

GERMAN CHAPBOOK

The German prose of 1604 lays especial emphasis on the Catholic practices of the knights, owing to the Counter-Reformation. I cannot find whether it censored the antics of Malegys and Turpin or not. It became the standard German version, and the ancestor of the chapbooks, about which I can find no further details.

HISTORIE VAN SENT REINOLT

The story begins as a mere summary of the Dutch-German poem, omitting such details as Reinolt’s treatment of his father, with no indication of Reinolt’s eventual sanctity until his pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The death of Hugh of Dordonne is said to be in 800. The bishop of Cologne is identified as Agiliolphus. Reinolt is canonized by Pope Leo. [Pope St. Leo III r. 795-816]. This version found its way into various German copies of the Golden Legend and was translated into Latin.

ORIGIN AND DEVELOPMENT OF THIS FAMILY

A few scholars hold that the Dutch poem represents an earlier form of the legend than that preserved in the French Quatre Fils. Most however, consider it a late offshoot. Among the reasons for regarding te Dutch poem as late are: The Dutch poem is neater, and appears interested in tying up loose ends. It has been influenced by the Geste d’Orange, such as in Charles’ intention to abdicate and the appearance of William of Orange and Aymeri of Narbonne. Reinolt serves a Saracen king, an action wholly out of character for a future saint. Malegys is a mere slapstick wonder-worker, as is typical of later texts, instead of the chivalrous knight who happens to know magic of the Quatre Fils. The flight of Reinolt to “Arden” after the fall of Montauban is clearly an attempt to combine the sieges of Montessor and Tremoigne, and the poet later on (in the martyrdom section) introduces Tremoigne out of the blue as a city closely connected to Reinolt.

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