AUCASSIN AND NICOLETTE, one of the earliest and by far the best of the efforts of French creative fancy to imitate the Oriental and Latin tales that had won public favor in translations, belongs probably to the 12th cen tury and illustrates a type of story-telling that grew in favor up to the 15th century, with pro gressive elimination of the lively verses that are here interspersed in the prose. The story re counts the fresh, though not altogether inno cent, love of Aucassin, son of the French Count of Beaucaire, for Nicolette, captive daughter of a king of Carthage. The author who is un known seems to have had democratic sym pathies that distinguish him from his fellow raconteurs and associate him politically with such writers of the 13th century as Rutebceuf and Jean de Meung. The pitiful lot of serfs under landlord oppression stirs him to a palpi tating sympathy. On the other hand there is a daintiness in the description of Nicolette as, greatly daring in her girlish love, she makes her way by an improvised cord from her chamber window, through darkness and brambles, to the tower where Aucassin lay prisoner. felt
that the old woman who was with her slept. She put on a dress of silk cloth that she had, very good. She took sheets and towels and knotted them together and made a cord as long as she could and she tied it to the pillar of the window and on it slid down toward the garden. She held her robe with one hand before and the other behind. And she tore herself on the brambles that were great over the grass and she went along the garden. Her blond hair was in little curls and her eyes were bright and smil ing, her face regular, her nose slender and well placed, her lips redder than cherry or rose in summer and teeth small and white. . . . And she had a slender waist that you could clasp in your two hands, and the daisy flowers that she bent with the toes of her feet so that they lay low under the daintiness of her feet were just black beside her feet and her legs, so pure white was that girl.'" There is no other French prose to rival this for more than two centuries. There is a beautiful translation by A. Lang.