The Chansons de geste

From The Oxford Essential Dictionary of Foreign Terms in English, Encyclopedia Brittanica, and the Columbia Encyclopedia

The Chansons de geste or “songs of deeds” are French old epic poemsdating back to the 12th through 15th centuries.

They were often constructed in lines of 10-12 syllables, and then grouped into irregular stanzas known as laisses. The length of these poems ranged anywhere from 1,500 to 18,000 lines, assonanced or rhymed. To this day, there are more than 80 chansons which have survived in manuscript form.

Specifically, the general point of each poem was largely centered on a historical heroic figure. As the plots of most of these poems dealt with events occurring in the 8th and 9th centuries, the focus was on the characters, sometimes with an influence from particular legends. Most of these poems were composed by anonymous writers, only a few of them having known authors.


The themes and styles of a chansons de geste range from the earlier to later centuries. The earliest chansons were built on largely heroic themes which focused on epic battles or feuds, and on aspects of allegiance and loyalty. Some examples include The Geste du roi, The Geste de Garin de Monglane, and The Geste de Doon de Mayence. Elements of courtly love, often reflected in medieval romance appeared in poems after the 13th century, as well as those of enfances or childhood adventures.


Medieval literary production in Europe led to the influence of the chansons de geste. Countries including Spain, Germany, and Italy all owe debts to the chansons. For instance, Spanish epic poetry, demonstrated in the 12th-century epic Cantar de mio Cid, and the 13th-century Willehalm by Wolfram von Eschenbach were based on earlier chansons.

The Matter of France and the Chansons de geste

The Matter of France, a body of legendary history stemming from Old French medieval literature was also prevalent in the time of the chansons de geste, as it served as an essential fundamental of French literature for centuries following.

Specific examples are emphasized in such poems as The Lorraine Cycle and the The Crusade Cycle. The Lorraine Cycle is a series of epics regarding Lorraine traditional history with details drawn from Huon de Bordeaux and Ogier le Danois. The Crusade Cycle deals with details about the First Crusade and its aftermath.

The influences of various French matters have been reflected in both prose and poetry long after the Middle Ages.


"Chanson de geste." Encyclopedia Britannica. 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica. 7 Apr. 2008

"Chanson de geste" The Oxford Essential Dictionary of Foreign Terms in English. Ed. Jennifer Speake. Berkley Books, 1999. Oxford Reference. Oxford University Press. John Carroll University. 8 April

Chansons de geste. (2007). In The Columbia Encyclopedia [Web]. New York: Columbia University Press. Retrieved March 30, 2008, from [1]

Snell, Melissa Medieval History. Retrieved March 30, 2008, from Chansons de geste- Old French Epic Poems Web site: [2]


You need to stay consistent in how you label centuries by either number or word. You also need to be aware of sentence structure and grammatical mistakes. You have a very interesting topic and are sometimes too general in your capacity, but your exceptional use of external links helps the reader find more specifics. Letter Grade: A-

I think this article is very informative and interesting, although quite general. Good job on using links that actually go somewhere in order to help readers further understand the subject. Letter grade: A

This is fairly thorough about the topic itself and certainly does well with the links. I agree that there needs to be internal consistency in the way you mention the centuries. A

Watch grammar in first and last sections. How can something be specific and general? Second paragraph is choppy. You can see that you did a lot of research here, just be a little more clear. B

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