- L’Épopée perdue de l’occitan (1983) by Jean-Claude Dinguirard
L’Épopée perdue de l’occitan was first published in 1983 in the journal Via Domitia, not long after the untimely death of the author, Jean-Claude Dinguirard, the editor-in-chief of the journal. Seeking a wider audience for this book, Pierre Escudé has edited Dinguirard’s text, taking advantage of the original manuscript on which the journal version was based, notes found among Dinguirard’s papers, and an annotated typescript sent to the journal Romania in 1982 (16). The seven appendices contain a note submitted to Romania in 1982 (237), Escudé’s explanation of Dinguirard’s approach to research (163–194) and reprints of the following: articles by Gaston Paris (195–202), Antoine Thomas (203–205), and Rita Lejeune (207–231), Blandine Longhi’s summary of the Chanson de Guillaume (233–234), and Dinguirard’s review of Joël Grisward’s Archéologie de l’épopée médiévale (235–236). In addition, Escudé has completed the bibliography supplied by Dinguirard (149–156). The appendices and Escudé’s footnotes all serve to help us understand Dinguirard’s text.
Dinguirard does not claim to have given us a definitive study of the relationship between the lost Occitan epics and their French counterparts. Instead, in his Conclusion, he proposes for discussion the hypothesis that “le cycle de Guillaume d’Orange, dans sa totalité ou seulement en partie, mais à coup sûr dans ce qui touche à l’épisode d’Aliscans-Larchant, fut à l’origine écrit en occitan, et de là mis en français” (144).
In the preceding chapters, Dinguirard presents the relevant arguments made by other scholars and his own additions to these. The following points had already been made: the presence of olive trees in northern France (Claude Fauriel, 3: 84), Naimeri for Aimeri and similar cases of the Occitan honorific particle attached to a personal name beginning with a vowel (Gaston Paris, 349–357), the reference to Ghigelmo Alcorbitunas (or Alcorbitanas) in the Nota Emilianense, which dates from 1050 to 1075 (Ramón Menéndez Pidal, 384–447), [End Page 135] the use of the Occitan verb descunorted in vv. 15, 41, and 963 of the Chanson de Guillaume (Rita Lejeune, 49–50), and, in the Prise de Cordres et de Sebille, balais in the sense of ‘delay’ (v. 1153) and clardor for clarté (vv. 9, 834) according to the editor, Ovide Densusianu (CXXXIX, n. 2).
Dinguirard’s own claims of Occitan origin are thought-provoking but not always well-founded. In his view, jovens has the same meaning as vasselage ‘valor’ in Old French (109) and is rendered by juventus in the Hague Fragment (112), transcribed between 980 and 1030. This prose version of a Latin epic poem that deals with various members of William’s fictitious Narbonnese family tells how the juventus of William’s brother Bernard bears great fruit in the battle. Since Bernard’s son Bertram is also one of the combatants, the term simply refers to the vigor that characterizes youthfulness, and Hermann Suchier, the text’s editor, chose ‘virility’ to translate the word (2: 172). It is, therefore, possible that this use of juventus corresponds to jovens in a lost Occitan epic belonging to the William Cycle. However, the word jovens represents a cluster of virtues that includes courtliness, kindness, generosity, and prowess, and proeza may mean ‘excellence’ rather than ‘valor.’ Dinguirard was familiar with Moshé Lazar’s lengthy analysis of jovens (33–46) but rejects it out of hand.
According to Dinguirard, the portrayal of Guibourc in the Old French epics could only have been conceived of by an Occitan poet from western Occitania where women were held in much higher esteem and given more power than east of the Rhône in Provence (61–62, 65), and Dinguirard also calls attention to the fact that Guibourc gives all her possessions...