Chanson de Guillaume

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The Chanson de Guillaume, also called Chançun de Willame (English: "Song of William"), is a chanson de geste from the first half of the twelfth-century (c.1140, [1] although the first half of the poem may date from as early as the eleventh century; [1] [2] along with The Song of Roland and Gormont et Isembart , it is considered one of three chansons de geste whose composition incontestably dates from before 1150 [3] ). The work is generally considered to have two distinct halves: the first tells of Guillaume of Orange, his nephew Vivien and the latter's young brother Gui and their various battles with Saracens at L'Archamp; in the second half of the poem (after 2000 lines), Guillaume is aided by Rainouard, a giant.

English language West Germanic language

English is a West Germanic language that was first spoken in early medieval England and eventually became a global lingua franca. It is named after the Angles, one of the Germanic tribes that migrated to the area of Great Britain that later took their name, as England. Both names derive from Anglia, a peninsula in the Baltic Sea. The language is closely related to Frisian and Low Saxon, and its vocabulary has been significantly influenced by other Germanic languages, particularly Norse, and to a greater extent by Latin and French.

<i>Chanson de geste</i> Medieval narrative in poetic form

The chanson de geste is a medieval narrative, a type of epic poem that appears at the dawn of French literature. The earliest known poems of this genre date from the late eleventh and early twelfth centuries, before the emergence of the lyric poetry of the trouvères (troubadours) and the earliest verse romances. They reached their apogee in the period 1150–1250.

<i>The Song of Roland</i> literary work

The Song of Roland is an epic poem based on the Battle of Roncevaux Pass in 778, during the reign of Charlemagne. It is the oldest surviving major work of French literature and exists in various manuscript versions, which testify to its enormous and enduring popularity in the 12th to 14th centuries.


The poem comprises 3,553 verses in assonanced laisses; most of the verses are decasyllables, but there are occasional recurring short six-syllable lines. [2] The poem exists in only one 13th-century manuscript, written in an Anglo-Norman dialect, which only was brought to light in 1901 [4] at the sale of the books of Sir Henry Hope Edwardes. The manuscript has since passed to the British Library (British Library, Additional 38663),

Assonance is a resemblance in the sounds of words/syllables either between their vowels or between their consonants. However, assonance between consonants is generally called consonance in American usage. The two types are often combined, as between the words six and switch, in which the vowels are identical, and the consonants are similar but not completely identical. If there is repetition of the same vowel or some similar vowels in literary work, especially in stressed syllables, this may be termed vowel harmony.

A laisse is a type of stanza, of varying length, found in medieval French literature, specifically medieval French epic poetry, such as The Song of Roland. In early works, each laisse was made up of (mono) assonanced verses, although the appearance of (mono) rhymed laisses was increasingly common in later poems. Within a poem, the length of each separate laisse is variable (whereas the metric length of the verses is invariable, each verse having the same syllable length, typically decasyllables or, occasionally, alexandrines.

Decasyllable is a poetic meter of ten syllables used in poetic traditions of syllabic verse. In languages with a stress accent, it is the equivalent of pentameter with iambs or trochees.

It is the only chanson de geste concerning the deeds of William of Orange that was not included in the cyclic 13th century collections of chansons de geste generally referred to as the Geste de Guillaume d'Orange .

Much of the poem's material (especially the second half) was expanded and adapted by the later chanson de geste Aliscans .

Aliscans is a chanson de geste of the late twelfth century. It recounts the story of the disastrous but fictional battle of Aliscans (Alescans) in France, between Christian and pagan armies. The name 'Aliscans' presumably refers to the Alyscamps in Arles. It belongs to the Guillaume d'Orange cycle, and in the action Guillaume's nephew Vivien is killed.

Historical sources

The chanson appears to be based on William of Gellone's battle at the Orbieu or Orbiel river near Carcassonne in 793. [1]

Orbieu river in France

The Orbieu is a 84.3-kilometre (52.4 mi) long river in the Aude département, in south central France. Its source is at Fourtou, in the Corbières. It flows generally northeast. It is a right tributary of the Aude into which it flows between Raissac-d'Aude and Marcorignan, 10 kilometres (6 mi) northwest of Narbonne.

Carcassonne Prefecture and commune in Occitanie, France

Carcassonne is a French fortified city in the department of Aude, in the region of Occitanie. A prefecture, it has a population of about 50,000.


  1. 1 2 3 Hasenohr, 520-522.
  2. 1 2 Holmes, 102-104.
  3. Hasenohr, 239.
  4. Holmes gives 1903 which is the date of its first publication.

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Urban Tigner Holmes Jr. was an American scholar focusing on medieval literature and romance philology.