The Legend of Anseis of Metz

The legend of Anseis of Metz, also called Anseis of Cologne, (but not to be confused with Anseis of Carthage) is to be found in the following versions:

A chanson de geste in alliterative decasyllables. Found in two redactions in four MSS.

The prose of Philippe de Vigneulles, who renames the hero “Yon” but follows the story of Anseis.

David Aubert’s History of Charles Martel, volume 4.

Another prose rendering, Arsenal 3346.

LA CHANSON D’ANSEIS DE METZ

Anseis de Metz, a chanson in alliterative decasyllables, can be divided into three parts (by editors and by internal coherence. They are not thus marked in any MS). Parts Two and Three are essentially the same in all MSS. The first part is very different in N than in LSU. Also, N is only 15,000 lines, whereas LSU reaches 25,000, owing to interpolations.

PART ONE – FIRST REDACTION – N

Gerbert, Gerin, and Mauvoisin, having seen to Fromondin’s burial, return to Bordeaux, where they find Hernaut le Poitevin and his wife Ludie. They tell them the whole story, and the Lorrainers rejoice. Ludie, meanwhile, urges her son Louis to avenge his slaughtered uncle Fromondin and grandfather Fromont by killing Gerbert. Louis, however, is inclined to side with the Lorrainers, and leaves his mother alone in her despair. All go to their homes peacefully.

Hernault takes his son Louis to Lens in Artois to be dubbed and to receive that city in fief. (He has inherited it through Ludie from Fromont). Gerbert and his twelve-year-old son Anseis are invited to the ceremony. Anseis and Louis go hunting together, quarrel, and fight. Louis returns to Lens, bleeding and angry. He finds Gerbert playing chess, siezes a chessboard, and smashes Gerbert over the head, killing him.

Hernault is perfectly willing to hand Louis and Ludie over to Anseis to be executed, but his barons insist that this cannot be done without their consent. Knowing they will never consent, Hernault tries to appease Anseis with money and fiefs. Anseis proudly rejects the offer, and declares war on his uncle. To his aid come his godfather King Anseis of Cologne (Gerin’s son) and his cousin Amauri of Dijon. On Hernault’s side are the rest of the Lorrainers and all the Bordelais, unwilling allies united by their common kinship to Louis. In the ensuing siege of Lens, Gerin frequently threatens to kill Ludie, despite being technically on her side. Anseis of Cologne and Amauri of Dijon are slain, Hernault and Mauvoisin are severely wounded, and Anseis of Metz survives only because of his magic helmet. Finally, Gerin persuades Louis to humble himself before Anseis, and peace is made. All the heroes escort King Anseis’ corpse back to Cologne, where his grieving widow becomes a nun and leaves her lands to the young Anseis.

Hernault and Louis return from Lens to Gironville, and Hernault asks Louis if he has repented his crimes. Louis answers that he’s only sorry that he couldn’t kill Anseis. Hernault and Louis quarrel, then fight, and Hernault has his son hanged and orders Ludie burnt.

PART ONE – SECOND REDACTION – LSU

Gerbert, Gerin, and Mauvoisin, having seen to Fromondin’s burial, return to Bordeaux, where they find Hernaut le Poitevin and his wife Ludie. They tell them the whole story, offering any compensation the Bordelais may desire. Ludie will not be appeased, and declares she is no more Hernault’s wife. She moves to her own bedroom. Gerbert has a nightmare, where he is confronted by the ghosts of Fromont, Fromondin, Aimon of Bordeaux, Bernard de Naisil, Guillaume de Blancafort, and Guillaume de Monclin. He cries for aid, but no one comes. Upon awakening, he tells his dream to Hernault, who tries vainly to comfort him. Hernault rides out hunting, but Gerbert stays home. Ludie, meanwhile, tells her two sons, Louis and Manessier, the whole story of the feud, and tells them it is their duty to avenge their slaughtered uncle Fromondin and grandfather Fromont. Louis and Manessier, however, are inclined to side with the Lorrainers, and leave Ludie alone in her despair. Gerbert comes to see her and try again to make amends. She refuses, they quarrel, and he strikes her. Now her sons are ready to take vengeance. As Gerbert plays chess in the hall, Manessier smashes him over the head with the chessboard and Louis plunges his dagger into his heart. The brothers flee Bordeaux with their mother, and take refuge in Gironville. Hernaut returns from hunting to find his cousin dead. He summons the Lorrainers, and the war resumes.

Gerbert is buried at Saint-Seurin in Bordeaux, alongside Begon. Gerin comes to Bordeaux, and visits the great church where the Lorrainers are all buried: his own father Begon; Thierri of Alsace; Mauvoisin’s father Doon the Hunter; Auberi le Bourguignon; Rigaut de Plessis; and now, Gerbert. He weeps in front of Gerbert’s tomb and swears vengeance. After a long siege of Gironville, Hernaut captures his son Louis, and Manessier is captured a few days later. Mauvoisin is captured by the Bordelais. Hernault and Ludie discuss the exchange of prisoners, but neither will abandon their family’s honor, and their sons are sentenced to die. Hernault orders the Mayor of Bordeaux to hang his sons, but he refuses, saying he is the King’s man, not Hernault’s. Hernault is obliged to hang them himself.

Now comes a clearly interpolated episode of 3,500 lines, in which Anseis’ kinsman King Tuille of Arles, a nigromancer, comes to the aid of the Lorrainers. Unfortunately, his apprentice Jorin is a Bordelais, and the two wizards’ skills are nearly equal, resulting in a stalemate. Finally, the two are reconciled and go home, leaving the war exactly where it started.

PART TWO

After the execution of Louis (and Manessier), all four MSS are in close agreement:

Ludie, however, sends word to her mother Helissent’s kinsmen, the lords of Flanders. A new set of characters now arrive who include Count Berenger the Grey of Boulogne; Count Bauche the Short of Flanders, who is fifteen feet tall; Count Gautier of Artois; Guillaume de Monclin’s son Berault; and Guillaume de Blancafort’s son Forquerés the Little. They rescue Ludie and force Hernault to flee. His allies come to succor him, however, and a bloody battle ensues, which the Bordelais win. The Lorrainers appeal to Pepin, who takes their side, and orders the Bordelais to surrender every fief they hold. The Bordelais refuse, and a grand war breaks out. On the side of the King and Lorraine are Girart of Roussillon (nephew of the more famous Girart) Rome, Apulia, Poitou, Lombardy, Champagne, and Spain. On the side of the Bordelais are Bernard de Naisil’s son Roger, King Samson of England, King David of Scotland, and Ireland, Wales, Denmark, Hungary, and Brittany. Saint Léger goes throughout France trying to prevent the war and preaching peace. Count Bauche is pleased, but Pepin has the holy man arrested. Bauche and Berenger marry the two daughters of Servais of Ireland. From Berenger’s line will come Godfrey of Boulogne. As the two immense forces prepare for battle, even the women of the Bordelais are mustered, into a troop of 20,000, led by Ludie. On the eve of the battle, a dragon flies over the battlefield, causing fire and earthquakes. The queen is killed by a falling beam in the palace. Bauche offers to surrender, and for the ruling generation of Bordelais to all give thir fiefs to their children and spend the rest of their lives in the Holy Land. Nonetheless, Gerin will not accept this offer, and Pepin is sworn to uphold him.

The battle is joined. Berenger kills Mauvoisin. Hernais of Orleans and Girart of Roussillon are slain. The Bordelais are winning, but refuse to press their advantage, and fall back to give King Pepin’s men a chance to escape without further loss of life. The Lorrainers, however, think the Bordelais are retreating, and attack them. The Bordelais are about to be routed when their women folk arrive and win the day. Hernault kills Ludie without recognizing her. Gerin is so badly wounded he will never ride again. Though the Bordelais are victors, almost everyone on both sides is killed, and that is why the different peoples of France and Europe hate each other to this day, because of the losses in that battle. That battle, and the dragon, so weakened France that the Admiral Carfenaon was later able to ravage the whole country, until the Pope united all Christendom against him. Carfenaon’s son, Germon, later ravaged France alongside Ysembars [Gormont and Isembard].

That is in the future, however, and now Saint Léger finally makes peace. Gerin becomes a monk. Only Anseis refuses to be reconciled.

PART THREE

Ten years after the war, Bauche becomes a hermit, leaving Flanders to his son Bauduin. Fourteen years after he enters the hermitage, Anseis gathers a small gang to kill him. When he sees his holy life, however, he abandons this plan. Unfortunately, his man Alori kills Bauche anyway. Bauche is buried where he fell, and works miracles there. Anseis and his companions, except Alori, go to Cambrai where they are welcomed by Count Hugh. Alori, against Anseis’ wishes, goes to Bordeaux and presents Bauche’s heart to Berengerm who hangs him. Berenger goes to Flanders to speak with Bauduin, but Bauduin is living a life of luxurious debauchery with Ludie’s twin sons Richart and Garin. Berenger is tempted to kill his nephew, but settles for persuading him to swear to avenge his father. The Bordelais complain to Pepin, who banishes Hugh of Cambrai for ten years, and gives the Bordelais full authority to do whatever they wish to Anseis. The war thus resumes, and nearly everyone on both sides dies. Anseis kills Richart, the last of Ludie’s sons. Anseis himself is slain by a sergeant who lifts up his armor and stabs him through the lungs. Berenger now dictates the terms of peace: Forquerés is to marry Anseis’ widowed mother Clarisse and become King of Bordeaux. So it is done, and peace is established. King Pepin marries Berthain, and from them were born six children, the eldest of whom was Charles the Bald, who established many markets in France[!]

PROSE ANSEIS – ARSENAL

Follows the version in S. No significant changes.

YONNET DE MEZ – PHILIPPE DE VIGNEULLES

A close translation of the First Redaction of Part I of Anseis, but with the hero’s name changed to “Yon.” Louis stabs Gerbert to death. King Anseis of Cologne is buried in Lens. After Gerin reconciles Louis with Yon, Philippe’s story diverges. Gerin retires to a hermitage, and Yon becomes lord of Cologne. One night, Gerin dreams that an eagle orders him to visit Cologne incognito. At the same time, Louis decides to pay Yon a friendly visit. Unfortunately, as he enters Cologne, his men quarrel with the locals, and a fight breaks out. Yon and Louis take part in the fray, and Louis’ squire kills Yon. Louis flees to Metz, where he takes lodging without being recognized.

Gerin arrives at Cologne to find his cousin dead. Yon is buried in St. Peter’s in Cologne; his murderer is hanged. Gerin travels to Metz, finds Louis, kills him, explains the situation to the horrified crowd, and leaves. Louis is buried in St. Arnoul’s near Hervis and “Gilbert” [Gerbert]. Gerin returns to his hermitage and is never heard from again. Thus ended the two lineages of Hervis and Hardré.

Philippe ends with a brief epilogue, recapitulating the story which he drew out of verse and put into prose, and asks for the reader’s prayers.

DAVID AUBERT

Aubert begins his fourth volume of the History of Charles Martel with the death of Fromondin in the monastery, and continues through the story of Anseis, in the Second Redaction, all the way to the end. I can find no information on whether he makes any significant changes. He ends with the wedding of Forquerés and Clarisse, and the return home of all the surviving knights. I do not think he ever mentions the wedding of Pepin and Bertha Broadfoot.

ORIGINS AND INFLUENCE

It would appear that both versions of Part One are reworkings of Yon. The Second Redaction of Part One, and all of Parts Two and Three, are clearly on the side of the Bordelais while the First Redaction is still on the side of the Lorrainers. The Second Redaction and Parts Two and Three are written in a Picard-Walloon dialect, and were likely written by some patriotic Fleming(s) or other poet(s) who either wished to curry favor with the Counts of Flanders or else simply disliked Lorraine. Some scholars think all three parts had different authors. Others disagree.

Saint Léger, or Leodegarius, 615-679, was bishop of Autun, martyred by Ebroin, Mayor of the Palace of Neustria. Read more about him here.

So do the French tell the story of Gerbert and Gerin’s sons, but the Dutch tell it in another fashion, to which we must now turn.

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