Roman de Fauvel

An extended medieval poem in two books, of which the second at least was written by Gervès du Bus, presenting an elaborate allegory of royal governance and the state in France in the second decade of the 14th century. The Roman de Fauvel is partly cast in the long tradition of admonitio regum, of advice to kings; it also finds satirical targets in the church and in contemporary society more generally. Two versions of the text survive. The shorter and earlier, a poem of 3280 lines completed in 1314, survives in 14 manuscripts (including excerpts). The longer, which includes extensive interpolated additions of poetry, prose, music and pictures, survives only in F-Pn fr.146 (though other, possibly different, interpolated versions have been lost) and was completed probably in 1317 or 1318. The richly varied and largely anonymous musical contents of the interpolated Fauvel of fr.146 include the single most important collection of polyphony from the early 14th century, marking the inception of the French Ars Nova and having far-reaching significance in the history of music. The most recent musical items were almost certainly written for this collection, but all of the interpolated material is harnessed to serve the political and allegorical messages of the work. Both versions appear to have originated in royal and higher noble circles, close to the chancery and other organs of central government.

Date and authorship

The short ‘Fauvel’
Book 1 (1226 lines) of the short Roman de Fauvel ends with a couplet assigning its completion to 1310 (‘Qui fut complectement edis/En l'an mil e trois e dis’). Book 2 (2054 lines) is similarly ascribed in the text of the Roman to 6 December 1314:
Ici fine cest second livre,Qui fu parfait l'an mil et .iiij..ccc. et .x., sans riens rabatre,Trestout droit, si com il me membre, v.3275Le .vj. jour de decembre.

This passage appears in all complete sources of the short Fauvel, though two apparent copying errors render the date as 16 December and two others give the month as September. There is no external evidence on which to dispute the date of 6 December 1314, but some scholars have argued that it may have been entered retrospectively because it marks an event – the downfall of Enguerran de Marigny – that is highly significant for the Fauvel narrative. The short Fauvel must, however, predate the interpolated version of fr.146.

In one important branch of the tradition this passage is followed by four lines naming the author of Book 2:
Ge rues doi .v. boi .v. esseLe nom et le sournom confesseDe celui qui a fet cest livre.Diex de cez pechiez le delivre. v.3280

The words doi, boi and esse are the spelt-out letter names of D, B and S: the line may thus be read as ‘Ge rues d.v. B.u.s.’, that is, Gervès du Bus. The sole source of the longer Fauvel, F-Pn fr.146, does not contain these verses, but includes a line near the end of Book 2 (f.23v b) that names the author as ‘Un clerc du Roy Gervès’ (misspelled ‘de Rues’, with a marginally indicated correction substituting ‘g’ for ‘d’). In addition, the anonymous Tombel de Chartreuse (completed between 1330 and 1339) links the Roman de Fauvel with a ‘Maistre Gervaise’. Although Gervès du Bus's explicit involvement with the Roman de Fauvel is limited to Book 2, it has been persuasively argued that he was also responsible for Book 1. Furthermore, he may have played a significant role in the redaction of the interpolated Fauvel of fr.146: if, as is generally accepted, this version of the text and its manuscript were produced in or near to the French royal chancery, where Gervès was employed as a notaire from 1313 until at least 1345, it is hard to see how he could have been ignorant of its compilation.

Gervès du Bus is first recorded in 1312, described as a chaplain of Enguerran de Marigny, which may have provided a vantage-point from which to observe the Roman's target. Gervès's move to royal service in 1313 coincided with the recruitment of a number of senior officials to whom he was attached, notably Michel de Maucondit and Philippe le Convers, whose own connections with Charles, Count of Valois (see below), provided Gervès with ready access to royal business and the political circles in which the interpolated Roman was created. A Norman by birth, he was a canon of Senlis by 1316 and is last recorded in 1345 acting as the executor of another royal notaire.

The interpolated ‘Fauvel’ of fr.146
The interpolated Roman de Fauvel, containing copious musical, literary and pictorial additions, is found only in fr.146 (ff.1–45), a sumptuous manuscript that also contains French and Latin political dits, ballades and rondeaux by Jehannot de l'Escurel and a metrical chronicle in French. This version of Fauvel cannot have been compiled before the coronation of Philip V at Reims on 9 January 1317, since a prose line among the interpolations refers to ‘Phelippe qui regne ores’ and the motet Servant regem/O Philippe (no.33) appears here in the form of this work celebrating Philip V's reign. Later in the manuscript (f.51) the Latin dit Hora rex est refers to events shortly after Easter (3 April) 1317. Most recent authors have followed the working hypothesis that fr.146 as a whole was assembled during or shortly after the early months of 1317; there is physical evidence that the plan of the manuscript was expanded at least once during the process of compilation and the book may thus have reached its present state over a period of time. The year 1316, which ran from 11 April 1316 to 2 April 1317 new style, is mentioned in the added tournament episode (v.1064), but this confirms only that the passage was included after the beginning of that year. The abrupt close of the Chronique métrique at the end of fr.146 in the autumn of 1316 is similarly inconclusive: this was a contemporaneous addition to the manuscript and in its present form may simply be what the compiler of fr.146 had to hand at the time.

A prose note placed after Book 1 credits Chaillou de Pesstain with the interpolated materials: ‘[C]i s'ensivent les addicions que mesire Chaillou de Pesstain ha mises en ce livre, oultre les choses dessus dites qui sont en chant’ (‘Here follow the additions that messire Chaillou de Pesstain has put in this book, apart from the musical pieces found above’). Chaillou still eludes definite identification, but he may be the Geoffroy Engelor dit Chalop who was a notaire in the French chancery from 1303 to 1334. He possibly composed some of the 169 musical interpolations in fr.146, but many were drawn from pre-existing repertories and the direct testimony of this manuscript discloses only his role as an interpolator or editor working in conjunction with others. Those involved in the assembly of the interpolated Fauvel very probably included the royal notaires Gervès du Bus, the author of the short Fauvel, and Jean Maillart, whose Roman du Comte d'Anjou (1316) was several times quoted in the interpolations to Book 2, and possibly those on the fringes of the royal court with ready access to this milieu, including perhaps Philippe de Vitry, the only composer to whom any polyphonic piece in the interpolated Fauvel can be attributed with even moderate confidence.

A further interpolated version of Fauvel, now lost, is described in French royal inventories of 1411–24 as ‘Un livre de torchefauvel, historié et noté, bien escript de lettre de forme. Commençant Benedicite domino. Fin vous ay dame’; still further interpolated versions may once have existed. Fr.146 was probably taken to Savoy in the early 15th century and was among the books owned by Philip II, Duke of Savoy, at his death in 1498, returning to the French royal collections during the reign of François I.

The allegory and the literary context of the original poem

The Roman de Fauvel is an extended Beast Epic, a moralizing satirical allegory in the tradition of the Renart tales of the 12th and 13th centuries. It may have been inspired directly by the Couronnement de Renart (1263–70), which it quotes, and by Jacquemart Giélée's Renart le Nouvel (completed 1289). Giélée's text was particularly influential, providing a series of narrative and allegorical models and turns of phrase for the Fauvel tale as well as a feminine precursor for its central character in the dun-coloured mule Fauvain/Fauveille ridden by Dame Guile. Gervès du Bus appears to be the first to cast the male horse Fauvel as the central character symbolic of triumphant evil, though a horse of this name is found in the late 12th- and early 13th-century chansons de geste Gaydon and Otinel. ‘Fauve’, a dark yellow intermingled with hints of red, had acquired connotations of hypocrisy and falsehood by the 12th century, possibly by association with ‘faus’; it assumed figurative expression, symbolizing treachery and deceit, in the ‘fauve ânesse’ (fallow she-ass or mare) found in the Roman de Renart (late 12th century) and later proverbially. As a symbol of heresy or hypocrisy, the ‘cheval pâle’ appears widely in medieval sources from Bede onwards. Gervès du Bus provided both a mock etymological and an acrostic explanation:

Ausi par etimologiePues savoir ce qu'il senefie v.240Fauvel est de Faus et de vel [=voile]Compost, quer il a son revelAssis sus fausseté veleeEt sus tricherie mesleeFlaterie si s'en derriveQui de nul bien n'a fons ne riveDe Fauvel descent FlaterieQui du monde a seignorieEt puis en descent AvariceQui de torchier Fauvel n'est nice v.250Vilanie et VariétéEt puis Envie et LaschetéCes siex dames qui j'ai nommeesSont par Fauvel signifiee:Se ton entendement veus mestrePren un mot de cescune letre

The short Roman de Fauvel may have been less widely read than the highly successful Roman de Renart but it proved influential nevertheless. The slightly later Roman de Fauvain by Raoul le Petit, surviving uniquely in F-Pn fr.571 (c1326), presents an adaptation of the Fauvel story in pictorial form and is now thought to have drawn on both the original and the interpolated versions of Gervès's text (in addition, two Fauvel motets – nos.12 and 33 – appear in this manuscript). The equine imagery of Gervès's text was quickly disseminated. The phrase ‘torchier [étriller] Fauvel’ appears in Renart le Contrefait (1319), a descendant of Renart le Nouvel, and quickly became proverbial, appearing in literature up to the time of Rabelais and Marot (it is the origin of the English expression ‘to curry favour’, and similar expressions survive in Dutch and in the German ‘den falben Hengst streichen’, ‘to stroke the fallow stallion’). Fauvel appears as Renart's servant in the Dit de la queue de Renart (1319–42) and alongside Fortune, an important figure in Gervès's Fauvel, in Henri de Ferrières's Livres du roy Modus et de la royne Ratio (after 1377). The Dit de Loyauté by Watriquet de Couvin (fl 1319–29), closely related to Renart le Nouvel, preserves the iconographic tradition of three estates grooming a horse, found in the Roman de Fauvel, but without naming its protagonist.

The first book describes the ascent of Fauvel, symbol of the arriviste royal minister, with the assistance of Fortune, from the stable to a position of power, where he is ‘stroked’ or flattered (torchée, estrilée) by the pope, the king and princes of church and state. He presides over a world ‘bestorné’ (inverted or reversed): the moon rises above the sun, the king is superior to the pope, the mendicant orders have become rich, and women are set over their husbands. France is thus enslaved and the era of Antichrist approaches. The second book opens with an elaborate portrayal of Fauvel's court (inhabited by Charnalité, Avarice, Envie, Haine, Paresse, Gloutonnie, Ivresse, Orgueil, Hypocrisie, Vilenie, Barat, Tricherie, Parjure, Hérésie, Sodomie and others) in the palace of Macrocosm. Fauvel decides to marry Fortune but his suit is rejected and instead he must be content with her handmaiden, Vaine Gloire (fig.1). After an elaborate wedding celebration, their union produces numerous ‘fauveaux’ who defile the world and especially the ‘fair garden of France’. The Roman concludes with a prayer that the lily of virginity might save France, but even this is uncertain and an apocalyptic vision of the future predominates.

The Roman de Fauvel drew from the language of contemporary criticisms of the church and public affairs, and from referential models in classical and biblical sources, medieval philosophy and learning more generally. Specific works from which Fauvel took phraseology and rhetorical devices include the second part of the Roman de la Rose (c1275–80) by Jean de Meun (d 1305), cited by name, and Renart le Nouvel. Its treatment of the Templars echoes that of several contemporary works. Its historical allegory, commenting on the politics of the French court and firmly located within a Parisian context, reflects both longer traditions of admonition and more contemporary political literature from Hainaut–Valois circles, including the dits of Watriquet de Couvin and Jehan de Condé.

The interpolations in ‘Fauvel’, and other works in fr.146.

The interpolations in fr.146 comprise 169 musical items, 72 high-quality pictorial images and 2877 lines of verse, the last almost doubling the length of the poem (1808 lines were published in the appendix to Långfors's edition; 1069 further lines and the texts of the musical interpolations were published by Dahnk). The most important literary interpolations appear in Book 2, expanding the scene with Fortuna to incorporate a lament by Fauvel (ff.24–8) and adding an extended account of the wedding feast for Fauvel and Vaine Gloire, a charivari and a tournament between the Virtues and Vices. The last of these draws extensively on the Tournoiement d'Antichrist by Huon le Méry, while the wedding feast quotes from Jean Maillart's Roman du Conte d'Anjou. The careful planning and positioning of all the interpolated material serves to reinforce the messages of Fauvel and to support the more directly anti-Marigny focus adopted in this version. Pictorial interpolations make an important contribution, stressing the themes of hybridity and animal transformation, depicting royal rule and its subversion and helping to locate the interpolated Fauvel more firmly in a Parisian political context. To a considerable extent, the form of the interpolated Fauvel is determined by the format and layout of fr.146; in this sense fr.146 is the interpolated Faurel. The work of the Fauvel artist appears in several other books with royal connections, including two illuminated for the French chancery. Avril (in Roesner, Avril and Regalado, 1990) tentatively identified the Fauvel artist with Geoffroy de Saint-Leger, a Parisian enlumineur documented between 1316 and 1332.

The three other main items in fr.146 present many of the themes found in the interpolated Fauvel, and their inclusion here was almost certainly intended to reflect or explain the work's allegories. Six French and two Latin dits ascribed to Geofroy de Paris deal with the royal succession and political events in 1314–17; the last describes events of late April to early May 1317 (Holford-Strevens, Fauvel Studies, 1998), thus establishing a terminus post quem for the manuscript as it survives. The lyric compositions of the otherwise unknown Jehannot de l'Escurel (no longer identifiable with the clerk hanged in 1304) deal in places with Parisian themes and use a novel musical language that is also deployed to reinforce characterization in Fauvel. Clearly related to the narratives and message of Fauvel is the anonymous Chronique métrique of events from 1300 to 1316, which is almost 8000 lines long (formerly, but no longer, attributed to Geofroy de Paris). Written from a standpoint favourable to Charles de Valois, the younger brother of Philip IV, this chronicle is a major witness to the years 1312–16, describing the Grant feste of 1313 (the model for Fauvel's wedding feast) in particular detail and culminating with the fall of Marigny. Though probably not composed specifically for fr.146, its late inclusion after the compilation of the index may have been intended to provide a historical key for the events satirized in the interpolated Fauvel. Fr.146 is the unique source of these texts and their inclusion was probably planned if not from the outset then very shortly after as the manuscript took shape. Also probably part of one early (but not final) scheme is the fragmentary Complainte d'Amours, a discarded bifolium that was re-used for the copying of the index on folio B.

Musical categories and the ‘Fauvel’ index

The music in the interpolated Fauvel comprises some 169 items of various lengths, from short snippets of chant or pseudo-chant to elaborate monophonic forms and motets. Only the last are polyphonic, ranging in date from motets and conductus of the late 12th or early 13th century to new, topical works that were probably composed specifically for this manuscript. A contemporary index, perhaps intended to facilitate musical use of the manuscript, organizes the musical items by genre and number of voices under the heading ‘En ce volume sunt contenuz le Premier et le Secont livre de fauvel. Et parmi les .ij. livres sunt escripz et notez les moteiz, lais, proses, balades, rondeaux, respons, antenes et versez qui sensuivent’. This lists 24 ‘motez a trebles et a tenures’, 10 ‘Motez a tenures sanz trebles’, 10 two-voice Latin motets, 26 ‘Proses et lays’, 14 ‘Rondeaux, balades et reffrez de Chancons’ and 52 ‘Alleluyes, antenes, respons, ygnes Et verssez’.

Of the first group of motets, 23 are for three voices with texts in Latin (16; one lacks music though staves are drawn), French (four) or both (three), and one is a four-voice Latin motet. This group includes the 11 topical motets, most of which were probably written specifically for fr.146. The ‘Motez a tenures sanz trebles’ are all two-voice Latin works. All the Fauvel motets are anonymous but some can be attributed, with different degrees of certainty, to Philippe de Vitry, and others included here are possibly also by him.

The ‘Proses et lays’ comprise 26 Latin works and four lais in French (nos.44, 46, 64, 90), but only 26 are listed in the index; nos.6, 24 and 64, added later, are omitted and no.69 is mistakenly deleted and re-entered among the ‘Rondeaux …’. The proses are of various origins, including conductus (nos.14 and 23), single voices taken from three-voice motets (nos.28 and 36, the latter possibly by Vitry), a Latin contrafactum of a French lai (no.52), a sequence (no.85), a prosula (no.87) and some apparently new pieces.

Under ‘Rondeaux …’ the index lists only 14 items, including four rondeaux, six ballades, some pieces in virelai form (reflecting the still fluid identity of virelai and ballade) and a ‘Fauvelized’ prose or conductus, but no refrains. Omitted are 12 fragments of sottes chancons (nine on f.34v, three on f.36v) and 26 refrains (of which one, no.14, lacks music). 11 of the refrains are successive segments of a single French motetus found in the three-voice Trahunt/An diex/Displicebat (in B-Br 19606 only, but the music appears again, re-texted, in the four-voice Latin motet, no.21), here interspersed with couplets of text in a single section of the courtship ‘addicion’ (f.26v).

The Latin chant genres in Fauvel include one alleluia, one liturgical blessing (altered), nine antiphons, ten Office responsories and 32 new compositions (the ‘verssez’), effectively pseudo-chant dynamically related to the Fauvel narrative, whose texts and music are largely adapted from existing liturgical and biblical sources. The index omits two pieces (no.114 and the added no.121) and, perhaps in error, includes the closing refrain of the Roman.

The interpolation of the music.

The interpolated Fauvel can be regarded as the last and most extravagant example of the 13th-century tradition of lyric insertions within larger poetic works (e.g. Guillaume de Dole, Renart le Nouvel, the Ludus de Anticlaudiano and the Miracles by Gautier de Coincy). But it also transcends this genre: nowhere else is found the extraordinary richness, structure and depth of allusion here present, and in no other collection is the additional material so tightly focussed and integrated within the main theme of the literary work. The large body of interpolated material, when not specifically composed for this version of Fauvel, was brilliantly adapted, shaped and positioned – textually, musically and pictorially – to amplify Gervès's work or to turn its messages to the interpolators' new purposes. The musical compositions are emphatically not marginal but vital to the interpolated Fauvel.

About two-thirds of the 34 polyphonic items were drawn from earlier repertories, and many of these were adapted to their new use in Fauvel. The techniques employed, many of which were current in 13th-century repertories, include adding new music and/or texts to relate existing pieces more closely to the theme of Fauvel, recasting single voices from conductus and motets, and migrating works from one polyphonic genre to another. Several texts are ‘Fauvelized’ to render their texts and music more apposite or to parody the message of the original: in no.80 the words ‘Falvellum dolorem inferni’ are substituted for the original ‘cum peccatorem’ of Psalm cviii.6; no.13, commenting on Fauvel's evil kingship, is based on the Notre Dame conductus Redit etas aurea whose subject is the virtuous rule of Richard the Lionheart. Notations are updated, frequently assimilating the rhythmic idiom even of monophonic items to that of more contemporary motets. Plainchant items and secular songs are also adapted, or partly or wholly recomposed, to produce works no less tied to Fauvel allegory than the polyphonic interpolations.
New compositions intended specifically for Fauvel include the large body of pseudo-chant pieces, at least one of the French secular lyrics, and, probably, many of an important group of 11 topical motets. The texts of these works describe political events in the second decade of the 14th century, including the suppression of the Templars (no.27), the death of the Emperor Henry VII in 1313 (no.5), the royal adultery scandal in 1314 (no.32), the kingship of Philip IV, Louis X and Philip V (nos.9, 32 and 33) and most spectacularly the downfall of Enguerran de Marigny, represented by a group of three motets strategically placed in the Fauvel narrative (nos.71, 120, shown in fig.2, and 129), of which two if not three are attributable to Philippe de Vitry. (No.12 may be a further Marigny motet.) The topical motets clearly represent recent compositional styles and, on the presumption that they were written contemporaneously with events they describe, they have been used as the basis of stylistic chronologies for the motet and the work of Philippe de Vitry in particular and for the compilation of the interpolated Fauvel (Sanders, 1975; Leech-Wilkinson, 1982–3, 1995). More recently (Bent, 1997; Bent and Wathey, 1998) it has been argued that many were written especially for Fauvel and that they historicize the events they report for the purpose of the Fauvel narratives. Other motets possibly intended for Fauvel but not eventually included (Floret/Florens/Neuma, triplum only re-texted as no.36; Trahunt/An diex/Displicebat, see above) survive in the closely related B-Br 19606. The placing of each interpolated item is carefully calculated and many comment on or gloss the Roman on several levels. The ‘royal’ motets articulate an expository crux in its admonition on f.10v–11, accompanied by a parodistic depiction of the king in majesty (for illustrations see Fauvel Studies, 1990, fig.13.5 and pl.IV). The three Marigny motets present real events in reverse order as a counterpoint to the fictive events of the Roman. Other items illustrate specific events described in the literary text (e.g. no.27, on the Templars), focus the narrative in groups of a single genre or articulate its main structural divisions.

The interpolated Fauvel is a remarkable and unique Gesamtkunstwerk, of outstanding importance in its own right as well as for contemporary repertories. It is by far the most significant motet source from the early 14th century, spanning the gap between the late 13th-century D-BAs Lit.115 and F-MOf H196 and the mid-14th-century F-Pn n.a.fr.23190 (Trem). With I-IV 115, it is the principal source of works attributable to Philippe de Vitry, the only identifiable composer in the collection. It is a vital witness to the newly emerging Formes fixes, to crucial early 14th-century transformations in several musical and poetic genres, and to the continued currency of earlier repertories. The newest motets in Fauvel appear in several contemporary and even 15th-century sources (including B-Br 19606, F-CA 1328 and GB-Ob Bodley 271; there is no overlap with I-IV 115) and a number are also cited in the Ars Nova group of treatises (including Wolf anon. 3) and elsewhere up to the mid century.

The political context of the ‘Fauvel’ allegory.

The relevance of the Fauvel allegories to contemporary politics was first recognized by Langlois, who cast the short Fauvel as a royal admonitio; it was considerably extended and deepened by Dahnk, and also by Becker who first identified Marigny as a key focus in the interpolated text. More recent work (Roesner, Mühlethaler) has viewed both versions of Fauvel as elaborate admonitions, collections of advice and carefully couched criticism, warnings against evil counsellors and injunctions to rule wisely addressed directly or indirectly to the king. The addressee of the short Fauvel, containing some criticism of Philip IV and his policies, has been identified as Louis X, though Philip IV is not ruled out. That of the interpolated text, and by extension the whole of fr.146, is more clearly intended to be Philip V, the early years of whose reign were blighted by the succession crisis of 1316 and by the court factionalism it engendered. It is doubtful perhaps whether either version led a truly clandestine existence, even if the dates cited in the short Fauvel are taken at face value, but either or both may have been circulated initially within distinct political groups at court.

The interpolated Fauvel retains the biting anti-clerical satire of the short version, but its main political exemplum was Enguerran de Marigny, a minor Norman noble who rose to dominate the French government as royal chamberlain at the end of Philip IV's reign, usurping the royal princes. Marigny lost his political protection on Philip's death in 1314 and was swiftly indicted for financial mismanagement and then for necromancy. After a brief show trial he was executed at Montfaucon on 30 April 1315. The chief architect of Marigny's downfall was Charles, Count of Valois, and it has been suggested that he is also the most plausible instigator both of the interpolated Fauvel and of fr.146 more generally. Charles's own links with the French royal chancery were strong and, while serving as a clerk in the French royal chancery, Gervès du Bus worked directly for Valois supporters among the higher echelons of the royal administration. The Chronique métrique included in fr.146 expresses views highly favourable to the count and almost certainly originated in Valois circles. Though Marigny, two years dead, could no longer present a real danger, he was a plausible allegory for any new threat to the integrity of royal rule. After Philip V's accession in 1316, Charles de Valois was temporarily displaced at court by his half-brother Louis, Count of Evreux, who thus emerges as one (of several, perhaps) whom Valois might have wished to present to the king as a potential usurper, through the allegory, chronicle, music and images in fr.146.

The manuscript F-Pn fr.146 was created in or near the royal chancery in Paris and the authorial origin of much of its contents, including the interpolated Roman de Fauvel, probably lies close to if not within these circles. Three chancery clerks (Gervès du Bus, Maillart, Chaillon de Pesstain) and one other close to this milieu (Vitry) have been linked with the compilation of this version of the text. The Fauvel of fr.146 (unusually for a literary work) was copied in a chancery hand normally used for documents and illuminated by an identifiable artist who had worked on other chancery books. It is unclear who might have read or otherwise used this sumptuously prepared manuscript: the interpolated Fauvel is in many ways its own performance and there is no evidence for or against a spoken or sung performance from beginning to end. But this and other lost interpolations of Fauvel may well have played a part in assuring the popularity of the short Fauvel, which appears to have achieved a wide readership quickly and whose popularity endured well into the 15th century.


ANDREW WATHEY



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