Academic journal article Medium Aevum

The Deeds of the Normans in Ireland/La Geste Des Engleis En Yrlande

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

The Deeds of the Normans in Ireland/La Geste Des Engleis En Yrlande

Article excerpt

The Deeds of the Normans in Ireland/La Geste des Engleis en Yrlande, ed. and trans. Evelyn Mullally (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2002). 179 pp. ISBN 1-85182-643-2. euro55.00.

First edited in 1837 as The Conquest of Ireland, then in 1892 as the Song of Dermot and the Earl, the late twelfth-century Anglo-Norman history in verse ('poem' would be too kind a description) now presented to us as The Deeds of the Normans in Ireland is a work of considerable historical, and certain linguistic, importance. A modern critical edition has been long awaited; but the text is not necessarily an easy one to tackle, as Denis Conlon's unfortunate attempt in 1992 showed. Has Evelyn Mullally risen to the expectations of Anglo-Normanists and historians of medieval Ireland?

The answer must surely be yes. In the first place, the edition itself is extremely scholarly and intelligent; the notes, both textual and historical (together with maps, a chronology, and a useful genealogical table), are copious; and the introduction, forty pages long, is exhaustive. The summary of the text is less successful: at seven pages of dense print, it simply gives too much undigested information. The editor would no doubt point out - with some justice - that the text itself is such a meandering and shapeless mass that any attempt to reduce it to order is bound to fail; but it would probably have been better cut drastically and presented in short paragraphs giving the basic events and major figures only.

Translations of such texts are always problematic: readability and closeness to the original are almost diametrically opposed - particularly, as Mullally herself points out, when the original habitually contorts the syntax for the sake of the rhyme. …

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