Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Eustache Deschamps: Selected Poems

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Eustache Deschamps: Selected Poems

Article excerpt

Eustache Deschamps: Selected Poems, ed. Ian S. Laurie and Deborah M. Sinnreich-Levi, trans. David Curzon and Jeffrey Fiskin, Routledge Medieval Texts (New York: Routledge, 2003). 253 pp. ISBN 0-415-94243-8. £65.00.

There is much to recommend this new selection of Deschamps's works, which is part of a Routledge series, medieval texts with translations into modern colloquial English, aimed at readers with inadequate knowledge of the original language. It is indeed a laudable enterprise to introduce Deschamps to those who cannot read this extraordinarily idiosyncratic poet in the original fourteenth-century French. For the most part, the editors have fulfilled the general aims of the series very successfully. Occasionally, it is true, the modernization is not entirely felicitous. Anachronisms are often used most effectively in the text of the poems, for example the feisty young Parisian girl remarking, 'My hips are good, it seems to me; / good back, good Paris butt on me'; but it is rather a different matter to refer in the introduction to Deschamps not 'completing his degree', and to 'waiters' who pour the wine.

The judicious selection of poems showcases, quite rightly, the quirkily original aspects of Deschamps's work rather than the preponderantly historical/moralistic aspects favoured by the editors of the 1997 anthology Eustache Deschamps en son temps. One might nevertheless question the decision to give the poems simply in the order in which they appear in the manuscript and the old SATF edition, rather than attempt any thematic or generic grouping; all the more so as there is no index of first lines or refrains. But the French text has been carefully edited by two recognized Deschamps scholars, and the apparatus provided is often exemplary, Ian Laurie drawing on his earlier studies of Deschamps's life, and Deborah Sinnreich-Levi on her edition of his Art de dictier. …

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