The Legend of Yon, or the Vengeance for Fromondin

The legend of Yon of Metz is to be found in the following versions:

Yon, or, the Vengeance for Fromondin. A chanson de geste in alliterative decasyllables. Found in only MS M.

YON, OU LA VENJANCE FROMONDIN

Fromondin’s kinsmen, after all the wars, are currently masters of Flanders and Artois. Led by Doon the Grey, son of Isoré the Grey, they make war on the Lorrainers, and ravage Cologne, Hainault, and Picardy. King Pepin dubs Gerbert’s sons knights, and at the feast a minstrel sings the lay of Chevrefoil, that Tristan made for love of Isolde. Queen Blanchefleur finally brings about a reconciliation. During the peace, Count Eude of Flanders says that Fromondin was killed because he tried to treacherously ambush Gerbert and Gerin. Count Mauvoisin of Saint-Gilles strikes him in the face. The peace is still made, but Eude festers. Seventeen years later, he lays siege to Cambrai to avenge this injury. The son of the lord of Cambrai, a certain Raoul, has a squire named Bernier, and some episodes from of Raoul of Cambrai are here worked into the poem. Bernier is a kinsman of the Bordelais, but he is Raoul’s faithful vassal. When Raoul is laying siege to Origny, Bernier begs him to spare his (Bernier’s) mother, who is a nun in an abbey which Raoul is engaged in burning down. Raoul strikes Bernier in the face, an act which eventually leads to Bernier killing Raoul. After Raoul is dead and this war is over, the Lorrainers and Bordelais are reconciled at Gironville by Ludie. Shortly afterwards, however, Gerbert’s son Yon is out hunting with Hernault and Ludie’s son, who is nameless. Hernault’s son injures Yon by accident. Yon slaps him on purpose. The son complains to his mother, who tells him to kill Gerbert. He smashes his uncles’ head open with a chessboard and flees. Gerbert leaves behind two sons: the aforesaid Yon, and Garin. This Garin is identified with Garin of Monglane, and said to be the father of Hernault de Beauland (father of Aymeri of Narbonne), Renier de Gennes (father of Oliver and Aude), Miles de Pouille (father of Simon de Pouille), and Girart de Vienne.

Yon swears vengeance on his cousin, and is crowned king of Gascony. The poet foretells a long and bloody war, but the MS ends here.

Origins and Influence

Those who have read this poem agree that structurally it is a mess. The combats are interminable, and the incidents are mostly recycled from Gerbert. The interpolated retelling of Raoul of Cambrai is apropos of nothing. However, there are some excellent lyrical passages describing festivities in peacetime, and the thrill and excitement of battle, besides which the author presents a valuable picture of feudal life in the 1200’s.

Let thus much suffice for the legend of Yon, and let us now turn to the legend of Anseis of Metz, that some call Anseis of Cologne.

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