CHAPTER I. NARRATIVE RELIGIOUS POETRY—THE NATIONAL EPIC—THE EPIC OF ANTIQUITY—ROMANCES OF LOVE AND COURTESY
The literature of the Middle Ages is an expression of the spirit of feudalism and of the genius of the Church. From the union of feudalism and Christianity arose the chivalric ideals, the new courtesy, the homage to woman. Abstract ideas, ethical, theological, and those of amorous metaphysics, were rendered through allegory into art. Against these high conceptions, and the overstrained sentiment connected with them, the positive intellect and the mocking temper of France reacted; a literature of satire arose. By degrees the bourgeois spirit encroached upon and overpowered the chivalric ideals. At length the mediæval conceptions were exhausted. Literature dwindled as its sources were impoverished; ingenuities and technical formalities replaced imagination. The minds of men were prepared to accept the new influences of the Renaissance and the Reformation.