Category Archives: translation

The Kingis Quair

A sneak preview of part of a work in progress, though I promise you that other blog posts will be very soon on their way (including all you might ever want to know about the caesura in Middle English poetry).  I’ve been enjoying the school holidays with my daughter and this blog has therefore been a little neglected.  I have, though, been working on a side project: a translation into Modern English prose of The Kingis Quair, an early fifteenth-century dream vision written by James I of Scotland.

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Baby Steps

It’s #WhanThatAprilleDay16 today,  a celebration of ‘oold bokes yn sondrye oold tonges’ and languages which are Old, or Middle, or Ancient, or Dead.  To learn any of those languages takes baby steps, something I’ve seen a lot of in recent years watching our daughter, and all her little cousins, learning to walk.  Once they are up on their feet, they want to run, even when their legs are still wobbly.  So the imagery in the second and third stanzas of the poem below, written in the dying days of Middle English, leapt out at me, and I hope it will leap across 500 years to you too.  Scroll down for text and translation.

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Fit for a Queen

This post is really just the story of how one thing leads to another in research.  It’s also to tell you about what I’ve been working on in the last three weeks, a sudden and unexpected digression from my poetics book.  It’s also to highlight the role of noblewomen in the commissioning of English verse in the middle of the fifteenth century.

Over New Year’s, I went to the British Library to look at a fifteenth-century manuscript with a little-known prologue to a little-known text.  The text, the Liber Proverbiorum, is a verse translation of an early fourteenth-century collection of proverbs and wise sayings by the friar and preacher Nicole Bozon.  The text as a whole had been edited in two American PhD dissertations, but these were hard to get hold of, so I went to look at it myself. Continue reading

Gleaming like glayre

The theme for this year’s United Kingdom National Poetry Day is LIGHT.  What sprung into my mind, thinking of light in Middle English poetry, was an image of jasper walls gleaming like egg white in a city which doesn’t need the light of the sun or the moon because it is lit by divinity itself: ‘The selfe God was her lambe-lyght, / The Lombe her lantyrne’ [God himself was their lamp-light, the Lamb their lantern].  It comes in what might just be the best stanza in Middle English poetry.

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May: Three Ways (Part 2)

This is part two of my experiment looking at two different Middle English poets translating a brief seasonal description from Guido of Colonna’s thirteenth-century Latin prose account of the history of the destruction of Troy: ‘the month of May was adorning the fields of the country with various flowers, and the trees, growing green with new leaves, were giving promise of fruits to come by the profusion of their blossoms…’ (trans. Meek). Part one explored John Clerk’s version in the Gest Hystoriale of the Destruction of Troy.  Scroll down to find John Lydgate’s version (with a Modern English translation) of the same description of May in his Troy Book.

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May: Three Ways (Part 1)

This week’s selection at least manages to be topical: some descriptions of May and Spring (for more lovely descriptions, see the Clerk of Oxford’s post).  This is a little test-post for an idea I had about looking at various verse translations of the same source text in order to focus on poetic praxis.  Guido of Colonna’s thirteenth-century Latin prose account of the history of the destruction of Troy was translated several times into Middle English poetry: into alliterative verse by John Clerk of Whalley (now called the Gest Hystoriale of the Destruction of Troy), into four-stress couplets (now called the Laud Troy Book), and into decasyllabic couplets by John Lydgate in his Troy Book.

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