(reminding one of the adjective's double meaning) had been written before his time in the vulgar tongue,— such verses as remain inviolably sacred in the volumes of specimens, looked at with distant reverence by the pious, and with far other feelings by the profane reader.
There were cycles of poems in which the physical conflict between Christianity and Paganism1
furnished the subject, but in which the theological views of the authors, whether doctrinal or historical, could hardly be reconciled with any system of religion ancient or modern.
There were Church legends of saints and martyrs versified, fit certainly to make any other form of martyrdom seem amiable to those who heard them, and to suggest palliative thoughts about Diocletian.
Finally, there were the romances of Arthur
and his knights, which later, by means of allegory, contrived to be both entertaining and edifying; every one who listened to them paying the minstrel his money, and having his choice whether he would take them as song or sermon.
In the heroes of some of these certain Christian virtues were typified, and around a few of them, as the Holy Grail
, a perfume yet lingers of cloistered piety and withdrawal.
Wolfram von Eschenbach
, indeed, has divided his Parzival
into three books, of Simplicity, Doubt, and Healing, which has led Gervinus
to trace a not altogether fanciful analogy between that poem and the Divina Commedia
. The doughty old poet, who says of himself,—
Of song I have some slight control,
But deem her of a feeble soul
That doth not love my naked sword
Above my sweetest lyric word,
tells us that his subject is the choice between good and evil;