Victor Marie Hugo (18021885). Notre Dame de Paris.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction. 1917.
III. The Cardinal
ALAS, poor Gringoire! The noise of the double petards let off on Saint-Johns Day, a salvo of twenty arque-buses, the thunder of the famous culverin of the Tour de Billy, which on September 29, 1465, during the siege of Paris, killed seven Burgundians at a blow, the explosion of the whole stock of gunpowder stored at the Temple Gate would have assailed his ears less rudely at this solemn and dramatic moment than those few words from the lips of the usher: His Eminence the Cardinal de Bourbon!
Not that Pierre Gringoire either feared the Cardinal or despised him; he was neither so weak nor so presumptuous. A true eclectic, as nowadays he would be called, Gringoire was of those firm and elevated spirits, moderate and calm, who ever maintain an even balancestare in dimidio rerumand who are full of sense and liberal philosophy, to whom Wisdom, like another Ariadne, seems to have given a ball of thread which they have gone on unwinding since the beginning of all things through the labyrinthine paths of human affairs. One comes upon them in all ages and ever the same; that is to say, ever conforming to the times. And without counting our Pierre Gringoire, who would represent them in the fifteenth century if we could succeed in conferring on him the distinction he merits, it was certainly their spirit which inspired Father de Bruel in the sixteenth century, when he wrote the following sublimely naïve words, worthy of all ages: I am Parisian by nation, and parrhisian by speech, since parrhisia in Greek signifies freedom of speech, which freedom I have used even towards Messeigneurs the Cardinals, uncle and brother to Monseigneur the Prince de Conty: albeit with due respect for their high degree and without offending any one of their train, which is saying much.
There was therefore neither dislike of the Cardinal nor contemptuous indifference to his presence in the unpleasing impression made on Gringoire. Quite the contrary; for our poet had too much common sense and too threadbare a doublet not to attach particular value to the fact that many an allusion in his prologue, and more especially the glorification of the dolphin, son of the Lion of France, would fall upon the ear of an Eminentissime. But self-interest is not the predominating quality in the noble nature of the poet. Supposing the entity of the poet to be expressed by the number ten, it is certain that a chemist in analyzing and pharmacopizing it, as Rabelais terms it, would find it to be composed of one part self-interest to nine parts of self-esteem. Now, at the moment when the door opened for the Cardinals entry, Gringoires nine parts of self-esteem, swollen and inflated by the breath of popular admiration, were in a state of prodigious enlargement, obliterating that almost imperceptible molecule of self-interest which we just now pointed out as a component part of the poets constitutiona priceless ingredient, be it said, the ballast of common sense and humanity, without which they would forever wander in the clouds. Gringoire was revelling in the delights of seeing, of, so to speak, touching, an entire assemblage (common folk, it is true, but what of that?) stunned, petrified, suffocated almost by the inexhaustible flow of words which poured down upon them from every point of his epithalamium.
I affirm that he shared in the general beatitude, and that, unlike La Fontaine, who, at the performance of his comedy Florentin, inquired, What bungler wrote this balderdash? Gringoire would gladly have asked his neighbours, Who is the author of this master-piece? Judge, therefore, of the effect produced on him by the abrupt and ill-timed arrival of the Cardinal.
And his worst fears were but too fully realized. The entry of his Eminence set the whole audience in commotion. Every head was turned towards the gallery. You could not hear yourself speak. The Cardinal! The Cardinal! resounded from every mouth. For the second time the unfortunate prologue came to an abrupt stop.
The Cardinal halted for a moment on the threshold of the platform, and while he cast a glance of indifference over the crowd the uproar increased. Each one wanted a good view, and strained to raise his head above his neighbours.
And in truth he was a very exalted personage, the sight of whom was worth any amount of Mysteries. Charles, Cardinal de Bourbon, Archbishop and Count of Lyons, Primate of all Gaul was related to Louis XI through his brother, Pierre, Lord of Beaujeu, who had married the Kings eldest daughter, and to Charles the Bold through his mother, Agnes of Burgundy. The dominant trait, the prevailing and most striking feature in the character of the Primate of Gaul, was his courtier spirit and unswerving devotion to the powers that be. One may imagine the innumerable perplexities in which these two relationships involved him, and through what temporal shoals he had to steer his spiritual bark in order to avoid being wrecked either on Louis or on Charles, that Scylla and Charybdis which had swallowed up both the Duke of Nemours and the Constable of Saint-Pol. Heaven be praised, however, he had managed the voyage well, and had come safely to anchor in Rome without mishap. Yet, although he was in port, and precisely because he was in port, he never recalled without a qualm of uneasiness the many changes and chances of his long and stormy political voyage, and he often said that the year 1476 had been for him both black and white; meaning that in that year he had lost his mother, the Duchess of Bourbonnais, and his cousin, the Duke of Burgundy, and that the one death had consoled him for the other.
For the rest, he was a proper gentleman; led the pleasant life befitting a cardinal, was ever willing to make merry on the royal vintage of Chaillot, had no objection to Richarde de la Garmoise and Thomasse la Saillarde, would rather give alms to a pretty girl than an old woman, for all of which reasons he was high in favour with the populace of Paris. He was always surrounded by a little court of bishops and abbots of high degree, gay and sociable gentlemen, never averse to a thorough good dinner; and many a time had the pious gossips of Saint-Germain dAuxerre been scandalized in passing at night under the lighted windows of the Hôtel de Bourbon, to hear the selfsame voices which erstwhile had chanted vespers for them now trolling out, to the jingle of glasses, the bacchanalian verses of Benedict XII (the Pope who added the third crown to the tiara) beginning Bibamus papaliter (Let us drink like Popes).
Without doubt it was this well-earned popularity which saved him from any demonstration of ill-will on the part of the crowd, so dissatisfied but a moment before, and but little disposed to evince respect towards a Cardinal on the very day they were going to elect a Pope of their own. But the Parisians bear very little malice; besides, having forced the performance to commence of their own authority, they had worsted the Cardinal, and their victory sufficed them. Moreover, Monseigneur was a handsome man, and he wore his handsome red robe excellently well; which is equivalent to saying that he had all the women, and consequently the greater part of the audience, on his side. Decidedly it would have shown great want both of justice and of good taste to hoot a Cardinal for coming late to the play, when he is a handsome man and wears his red robe with so handsome an air.
He entered then, greeted the audience with that smile which the great instinctively bestow upon the people, and slowly directed his steps towards his chair of scarlet velvet, his mind obviously preoccupied by some very different matter. His train, or what we should now call his staff, of bishops and abbots, streamed after him on to the platform, greatly increasing the disturbance and the curiosity down among the spectators. Each one was anxious to point them out or name them, to show that he knew at least one of them; some pointing to the Bishop of MarseillesAlaudet, if I remember rightsome to the Dean of Saint-Denis, other again to Robert de Lespinasse, Abbot of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, the dissolute brother of a mistress of Louis XI, all with much ribald laughter and scurrilous jesting.
As for the scholars, they swore like troopers. This was their own especial day, their Feast of Fools, their Saturnalia, the annual orgy of the Basoche1 and the Universityno turpitude, no foulness of language but was right and proper to that day. Besides, there was many a madcap light o love down in the crowd to spur them onSimone Quatrelivres, Agnès la Gadine, Robine Piédebou. It was the least that could be expected, that they should be allowed to curse at their ease and blaspheme a little on so joyful an occasion and in such good companychurchmen and courtesans. Nor did they hesitate to take full advantage thereof, and into the midst of the all-prevailing hubbub there poured an appalling torrent of blasphemies and enormities of every description from these clerks and scholars, tongue-tied all the rest of the year through fear of the branding-iron of Saint-Louis. Poor Saint-Louis, they were snapping their fingers at him in his own Palais de Justice. Each one of them had singled out among the new arrivals some cassockblack or gray, white or violetJoannes Frollo de Molendino, as brother to an archdeacon, having audaciously assailed the red robe, fixing his bold eyes on the Cardinal and yelling at the pitch of his voice, Cappa repleta mero! Oh, cassock full of wine.
But all these details which we thus lay bare for the edification of the reader were so overborne by the general clamour that they failed altogether to reach the reserved platform. In any case the Cardinal would have taken but little heed of them, such license being entirely in keeping with the manners of the day. Besides, his mind was full of something else, as was evident by his preoccupied air; a cause of concern which followed close upon his heels and entered almost at the time with him on to the platform. This was the Flemish Embassy.
Not that he was a profound politician and thus concerned for the possible consequences of the marriage between his one cousin, Madame Marguerite of Burgundy, and his other cousin, the Dauphin Charles; little he cared how long the patched-up friendship between the Duke of Austria and the King of France would last, nor how the King of England would regard this slight offered to his daughter, and he drank freely each evening of the royal vintage of Chaillot, never dreaming that a few flagons of this same wine (somewhat revised and corrected, it is true), cordially presented to Edward IV by Louis XI, would serve one fine day to rid Louis XI of Edward IV. No, the most honourable Embassy of Monsieur the Duke of Austria brought none of these anxieties to the Cardinals mind; the annoyance came from another quarter. In truth, it was no small hardship, as we have already hinted at the beginning of this book, that he, Charles of Bourbon, should be forced to offer a courteous welcome and entertainment to a squad of unknown burghers; he, the Cardinal, receive mere sheriffs; he, the Frenchman, a polished bon-viveur, and these beer-drinking Flemish boorsand all this in public too! Faith, it was one of the most irksome parts he had ever had to play at the good pleasure of the King.
However, he had studied that part so well, that when the usher announced in sonorous tones, Messieurs, the Envoys of Monsieur the Duke of Austria, he turned towards the door with the most courteous grace in the world. Needless to say, every head in the Hall turned in the same direction.
Thereupon there entered, walking two and two, and with a gravity of demeanour which contrasted strongly with the flippant manner of the Cardinals ecclesiastical following, the forty-eight ambassadors of Maximilian of Austria, led by the Reverend Father in God, Jehan, Abbot of Saint-Bertin, Chancellor of the Golden Fleece, and Jacques de Goy, Sieur Dauby, baillie of Ghent. Deep silence fell upon the assemblage, only broken by suppressed titters at the uncouth names and bourgeois qualifications which each of these persons transmitted with imperturbable gravity to the usher who proceeded to hurl name and title unrecognisably mixed and mutilated, at the crowd below. There was Master Loys Roelof, Sheriff of the City of Louvain; Messire Clays dEtuelde, Sheriff of Brussels; Messire Paul de Baeust, Sieur of Voirmizelle, President of Flanders; Master Jehan Coleghens, Burgomaster of the City of Antwerp; Master George de la Moere, High Sheriff of the Court of Law of the City of Ghent; Master Gheldolf van der Hage, High Sheriff to the Parchons, or Succession Offices of the same city; and the Sieur de Bierbecque, and Jehan Pinnock, and Jehan Dymaerzelle, and so on and so on; baillies, sheriffs, burgomasters; burgomasters, sheriffs, baillies; wooden, formal figures, stiff with velvet and damask, their heads covered by birettas of black velvet with great tassels of gold thread of Cyprusgood Flemish heads, nevertheless, dignified and sober faces, akin to those which stand out so strong and earnest from the dark background of Rembrandts Night Round; faces which all bore witness to the perspicacity of Maximilian of Austria in confiding to the full, as his manifesto ran, in their good sense, valour, experience, loyalty, and high principles.
There was one exception, however, a subtle, intelligent, crafty face, a curious mixture of the ape and the diplomatist, towards whom the Cardinal advanced three paces and bowed profoundly, but who, nevertheless, was simply named Guillaume Rym, Councillor and Pensionary2 of the City of Ghent. Few people at that time recognised the true significance of Guillaume Rym. A rare genius who, in revolutionary times, would have appeared upon the surface of events, the fifteenth century compelled him to expend his fine capacities on underground intrigueto live in the saps, as Saint-Simon expresses it. For the rest, he found full appreciation with the first sapper of Europe, being intimately associated with Louis XI in his plots, and often had a hand in the secret machinations of the King. All of which things were entirely beyond the ken of the multitude, who were much astonished at the deferential politeness of the Cardinal towards this insignificant-looking little Flemish functionary.