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John of Hauteville
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Moralist and satirical poet of the twelfth century (flourished about 1184). Little is known of his life. There is not much probability in the opinion that he was born in England, and he was not a Benedictine monk. The only work that can be attributed to him with certainty has for its title the name of its hero "Archithrenius" (The Prince of Lamentations). It is a Latin poem in eight cantos. In a prose prologue the hero deplores the unmerited woes of men, beginning with his own, and announces that he is going to Nature to seek the remedy for them. He begins by entering the palace of Venus and describes the beauty of one of the members of the goddess's retinue (I). Thence he passes to the Land of Gorging, inhabited by the Belly-worshippers ( Ventricoloe ), and to the prevailing sensuality he opposes the sobriety of the "White Brothers" (II). He comes to Paris and delivers a pompous eulogy of that city, describing, in contrast, the wretchedness of the students -- a valuable piece of first-hand evidence in regard to the period when the University of Paris was laboriously developing itself (III). Archithrenius then visits the Mountain of Ambition, which is situated in Macedon, near Pella, the birthplace of Alexander, greatest of conquerors, and is crowned with the palaces of kings (IV). The Mountain of Presumption forms a pendant to this, and is inhabited mostly by ecclesiastics and monks. A eulogy of Henry II, King of England and Duke of Normandy, is here dragged in clumsily. But the hero discovers a gigantic monster, Cupidity, and the encounter calls forth a picture of the greediness of prelates. In another digression the hero contrives to relate the fabulous history of the Kings of Britain, in the main following Geoffrey of Monmouth (V). In the next canto we come to Thule, the abode of the philosophers and sages of ancient Greece, and they vie with each other in declaiming against vices (VI-VIII). Lastly, Archithrenius meets Nature on a flowery plain, surrounded by a brilliant throng of attendants. He falls at her feet. She begins with a complete course of cosmography and astronomy in five hundred lines, and ends by listening to the request of Archithrenius. For remedy, she prescribed for him marriage with a young girl whose physical beauty is minutely described. In the prologue this damsel was Moderation, but here there is nothing abstract about her, and Nature instructs her disciple in his conjugal duties (IX). These and other passages in the work exhibit a certain degree of sensuality. The imitation of the Latin poets is betrayed in the plagiarizing of whole verses at a time. John of Hauteville dedicated his work to Gautier de Coutances just when the latter had left the See of Lincoln for that of Rouen (1184). The poem had a great success. It was frequently copied and commented before being published in 1517, at Paris, by Jodocus Badius Ascencius. The latest edition is that of Th. Wright in "Latin Satirical Poets of the Twelfth Century" (Rolls Series, London, 1872).
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