Monday, August 01, 2022


The Only Country With No Monsters

Paul Meyvaert, "Rainaldus est malus scriptor Francigenus"—Voicing National Antipathy in the Middle Ages," Speculum 66.4 (October, 1991) 743-763 (at 751, where I corrected dulcia Francia to dulci Francia):
Peter of Celle prized the sound qualities of his countrymen, engendered by the land they lived in. His contemporary Peter of Blois shared those sentiments. In a letter that expresses his horror and detestation of Sicily he exclaims:
Dear brother, here we live in sweet France (in dulci Francia), the only country, on the testimony of the blessed Jerome, that has no monsters. It is good for us to be here [Luke 3]. Let them dwell in Sicily who machinate treacheries and flatter those in high position.... I am happy to live and die here where I was born and bred.25
25 Peter of Blois, Epistola 93, in Migne, PL 207:293B: "Sumus, frater, in dulci Francia, quae sola, teste Hieronymo, monstra non habet. Bonum est nos hic esse. Vivant in Sicilia, qui proditiones et venena procurant adulationis officiarii, et qui aures magnatum vento inanis gloriae prurientes venenosa suavitate demulcent." Peter is referring to a passage of Jerome's Contra Vigilantium well suited to enkindle national pretensions: "Sola Gallia monstra non habuit, sed viris semper fortibus et eloquentissimis abundat" (Migne, PL 23:339A). Gilles Ménage, in his Observations sur la langue française (1672), declared that "our language is not only the most beautiful and the most rich of all living languages, it is also the most restrained and the modest" (cited from Wiley, The Formal French, p. 7). An anthology of similar pronouncements, drawn from a wide variety of national sources, might help to deflate national pretension and lighten the international atmosphere.

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