T331: Archipiades / T347: Berthe...
331: Archipiades: Aside from some
completely unsupported claims that Villon was referring to Archippa,
mistress of Sophocles, most editions claim that Archipiades is
Alcibiades. Though we all know the historical Alcibiades was not a
woman, the text and context of the ballade present a feminine or at
least a feminized individual. At the end of Villon's lesson on
post-mortem decomposition of the human body, the question the poet asks
strongly implies that the ensuing ballad will be devoted to women:
Corps feminen, qui tant est tendre,
Poly, souef, si precieux.
Te fauldra il ces maulx actendre?
Oy, ou tout vif aler es cieulx.
The focus of the second ballad in Villon's triptych (T357-84), in
contrast to the first, is famous men. Clément Marot, in
1533, underscored this contrast, giving these two ballads the titles,
"Ballade des dames du temps jadis" and Ballade des seigneurs du temps
jadis". Finally, source I (Pierre Levet) has intentionally feminized
the name, rendering it "Archipiada".
The Longnon-Foulet edition's brief identification of Archipiades is
typical: "Alcibiade, cité par Boèce comme un
modèle de beauté, ce qui le fit au M.A. prendre pour une
femme." (p. 143, in François Villon,
Oeuvres, CFMA [Paris: Champion, 1970]).
Here is a translation of the boethian passage referenced:
Athenaeum Reading Room (Boethius, Consolation of
Philosophy, Book 3)
"... But if, as Aristotle says, humans could use the eyes of Lynceus,
so that their sight might penetrate obstructions, in having looked into
the organs might not that superficially most beautiful body of
Alcibiades seem most ugly?..."
and Latin commentary on the same:
Guillelmi Wheatley, Expositio in Boethii De
consolatione Philosophiae, liber III
...Nota, quod Alcibiades mulier
fuit pulcherrima, quam videntes quidam discipuli Aristotelis duxerunt
eam ad Aristotilem ut ipsam videret: qua visa dixit: si homines lynceos
haberent ut quaeque obstantia penetrarent, introspectis visceribus,
corpus quod apparet pulcherrimum, turpissimum videretur...."
Certainly, there are more lengthy and satisfying arguments:
Louis Tuasne, ed. François Villon.
Oeuvres (Paris: A. Picard, 1923), iii, pp. 625-43.
Ernst Langlois, "Archipiada," Romania 26
Here is an interesting argument from the 43rd paragraph of Richard A.
"The Appreciation of Handmade Literature"
|"The long process by which
Francois Villon came to include one Archipiada among his list of
vanished beauties has been well charted from its origins in Carolingian
glosses on the
Consolatio.20 Boethius had cited a lost work of Aristotle’s which
said that if men had the penetrating vision of Lynceus the Argonaut,
they could see
through Alcibades' fair exterior to the vile entrails within. To tender
medieval minds, fair bodies belonged to women, and details about this
new female Alcibiades began to
accumulate in the glosses to the Boethian text. At the same time
legends were growing about the medieval Aristotle too. In the middle of
century, Henri d'Andeli wrote an iconoclastic Lai d'Aristote in which
Alexander's mistress tricks the lovesick Aristotle into submitting to
bridle and allowing her to ride him into the presence of his royal
pupil. Pierre de Paris' ingenious contribution was to identify that
mistress with Alcibiades. In Pierre’s
story, the philosopher's final quip still wins the day, but the
medieval Aristotle, down on all
fours, and his darling Alcibiades are far more engaging persons than
their austere antique incarnations, and, as a consequence, their
virtue, like that of Sir Gawain
after the Green Knight's test, is more credible because it has been
Dante Gabriel Rossetti made an intreaguing choice in "Hipparchia" (around
300 BC), a woman from from Maroneia in Thrace, who was a Cynic
347: Berte au plat pié
(grant pié) is confusing reference because of the name's
variants, the possibility of reference to both real persons, such as
Bertrada of Laon or legendary ones like Goose Footed Bertha, as this
article by Pierre Salies demonstrates.
LA REINE PEDAUQUE
For more commentary, consult:
Philippe Ménard. "'Berte au grant pié,
Bietris, Alis' ou la résurgence de la culture épique dans
la 'Ballade des dames du temps jadis," Romania 102 no.
1 (1981): 114-29.
Louis Tuasne, ed. François Villon.
Oeuvres (Paris: A. Picard, 1923), ii, pp. 151-52.
Jean Rychne et Albert Henry, éds. Le Testament Villon.
II. Commentaire (Geneva: Droz, 1974), p. 55.
In this last, it is not surprising to see the Adenet le Roy's Berthe aux Grands Pieds,
listed as a likely source
Some information for this chanson de geste is on the web
BERTHE AUX GRANDS PIEDS (Adenet le Roy)
as there is about another of similar title
BERTA DE LI GRAN PIE (part of La geste Francor)
André Lanly, tr. François Villon
Oeuvres, traduction en français moderne accompagné de
notes explicatives, tome I (Paris: Champion, 1978), p. 87.
echoes several other editions and translations in its claim that all
three females in T347 are characters in the same chanson de geste:
HERVIS DE METZ
Hervis de Metz
Lanly also points out that if Villon is referring to this epic poem,
then the women are listed in reverse chronological order, since Aliz's
son, Hervi, maries Beatrix, and Beatrix's brother is Berthe's father.