St Eustace [R 23 Oct]

If, based on Saint Eustace alone, you were required to develop a description of the genre of the saint’s life, what features would you include? Given your encounter with romance, the other long narrative form popular in the Middle Ages, what seems to distinguish the saint’s life? And what does it share with the romance/Breton lai?

4 thoughts on “St Eustace [R 23 Oct]

  1. Obviously, as the other blog question even illustrates to us, there is a strong connection between Guigemar and St. Eustace’s tale. Although that connection between Guigemar was not the tale that I recalled the most when reading St. Eustace. The lay of Sir Cleges seemed to be most similar. In both, there have been strong religious connections and connotations in most of the plot. That is not to say that all Breton lays are religious, but many of them have revealed religious undertones. In Sir Cleges for example the cherries are given religious meaning by Cleges’ wife, who sees them as a divine gift. On the other hand in the genre of a saint’s life, the religious aspect is the soul of the entire work. The miraculous apperance of an object/thing (such as the unseasonable cherries in Sir Cleges) in a saint’s life, here being the stag goes on a speech, starting with “Jhesu Cryst onne crosse iwys, / That hath thee broght in all thys blys, / Thous huntys after thys tyde” (lines 40-43). The piece has an overt religious plot, where things are not hinted to but stated.

  2. Eustace’s life –the model life of the “saint genre” in this instance could be characterized by a man (in this case of wealthy and noble roots) who meets with a divine spirit. Eustace was a knight so he finds this divine spirit in a hart during a noble hunt. This seems to be a classic way that men meet with divine spirits in medieval lais. The saint must then sacrifice, such as Eustace does through the loss of his life and children which means that he must pray for solace. He is visited by multiple angels which would be included in the saint genre as well.

    The saint’s life is distinguished through a positive prospect to be a saint, divine interaction with an object that brings him sainthood, christening, sacrifice, prayer, and a modest life punctuated by meetings with angels. This is similar to the romance genre in many way, in the romance genre a man with prospect to be a lover or a desire for love meets with a divine or magical spirit acting as a mediative force towards love. Later in a romance lai, after the initial romantic joy, there is sacrifice.

  3. What most distinguishes St Eustace from the lais we have read so far is the ending. Since this is a saint’s life (entailing the end of the saint’s life) it was not surprising that he and his family were boiled alive as martyrs, but the ending seems to me to be presented as a happy conclusion to the story. With a lais or romance I think the story would have probably ended at the reunion of the family. The fall of the knight into poverty and sorrow and his coping and overcoming of this is something that this saint’s life shares with many lais. The talking hart, though it is reminiscent of Guigemar’s hind, is here only a divine instrument: “It is Jhesu Cryst of heven/ That spekys to thee with myld steven” (55-6). Though we have seen many christian elements in other readings, the other plots did not revolve around Christianity so much as they did around love — Eliduc for instance, though it has a very christian ending, is about love. Saint Eustace did not turn out as I expected it too because, once I saw that it was modeled on the story of Job, I assumed it would be all pain and suffering for Eustace. The happy reunion caught me off guard, and I am not really sure why it is there unless it is to make Eustace’s whole family participate in the martyrdom.

  4. While the St. Eustace story is much like Sir Cleges, but from what the notes at the back of A36, the story of St. Eustace is an combination of history, mythology, and the Bible. In many ways I feel that St. Eustace is Sir Guigmar crossed with Emare, where a white, speaking hind gives the character a message that transforms the character, as well the character being seperated from their signifgant other by water and by someone who finds the signifgant of desirable. While, much like Emare, it’s a family that is seperated, and then reunited by the forces of God. Saint tales seem to be mix of different genres but shaping to about of the gift of God’s glory.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.