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Zacour, N. P.; Hazard, H. W. (ed.) / The impact of the Crusades on Europe

III: The Epic Cycle of the Crusades,   pp. 98-115 PDF (6.7 MB)

Page 113

been the contemporary and poisoner of Godfrey of Bouillon. Finally, young
king Baldwin IV's leprosy and Reginald of Kerak's misdeeds correspond to
the historical accounts. 
D. The First Cycle: An Evaluation 
 Cycle I, as a whole, is difficult to assess. Quite apart from the fact that
it runs to well over thirty thousand lines, it suffers from having been edited
piecemeal and in incomplete form. The editor of the Ch├ęt ifs did not
attempt to give the complete text of that poem, and part three (The Kings
of Jerusalem) lies buried in the manuscripts; it is a very late addition
to Cycle I. It is different in spirit from the first two parts, which do
evince a certain amount of structural unity. Whereas part three is essentially
a rhymed chronicle, however distorted its chronology and presentation of
facts, parts one and two are epic in character; they celebrate the heroic
deeds of one man, be he the swan-knight or his grandson Godfrey of Bouillon.
It should also be noted that part one leads straight into part two. The prophecies
foreshadowing the exploits of Godfrey and his brothers during the First Crusade
are echoed in part two by reminders of the deeds of their supposed ancestor,
the swan-knight. Cornumarant, the alleged leader of the Saracens during the
siege of Jerusalem by the Christians, has already appeared as Godfrey's chief
antagonist in part one. In addition, there is hardly any change of ethos
between the two parts, at least from a medieval point of view. In part one
first the swan-knight, then his grandson Godfrey, fight to protect damsels
and ladies in distress; they are the staunch champions of rightful causes,
and miraculous occurrences accompany their progress through life. The same
struggle in behalf of a cause which enlists divine assistance is found in
part two, only here it is Christ to whom Godfrey and his companions seek
to restore his inheritance. Yet it must be admitted that part two cannot
compare with the Chanson de Roland when it comes to capturing the religious
fervor and the indomitable spirit which animated the crusaders in their struggle
with the Moslem world. 

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