Academic journal article Medium Aevum

King Alfred's Old English Prose Translation of the First Fifty Psalms

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

King Alfred's Old English Prose Translation of the First Fifty Psalms

Article excerpt

Patrick P. O'Neill, King Alfred's Old English Prose Translation of the First Fifty Psalms, Medieval Academy Books 104 (Cambridge, Mass.: The Medieval Academy of America, 2001). vii + 362 pp. ISBN 0-915651-13-0. $50.00.

It is impossible to do justice in 500 words to this long-awaited and most important edition of a sorely - and undeservedly - neglected work by King Alfred. Thoughtful and considered use of emendations has resulted in the establishment of a far better text than that previously available and on occasion the recovery of important details of late ninth-century usage. So, for instance, the reading 'swa [thorn]er/[thorn]aer' ('like') is firmly established. (To the references in the notes to Int 10 might be added Ingvar Carlson's edition of British Library, MS Cotton Otho B.ii of Alfred's Pastoral Care, 90/20, with its reading 'sua [eth]er bieme' - though Carlson makes 'the tentative suggestion that the original reading was sua o[eth]er bieme'). A very detailed commentary is no less judicious in its selection and presentation of what might otherwise have seemed a daunting body of background material, while the glossary successfully aims at what its author describes as a 'practicable degree of completeness'. However, for me Patrick O'Neill's most important and significant contribution to scholarship is to be found in the ninety-nine-page introduction. Here he moves from an examination of the Paris Psalter as a whole - which he sees as possibly made for a wealthy lay patron - to the prose rendering of Psalms 1-50 (Ps(P)) with which it begins. Having discussed structure, sources, and method of composition of the OR introductions to the individual psalms, O'Neill then turns to the body of the text, with its combination of direct translation, paraphrase, and added explanation and interpretation. …

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