The Alliterative Morte Arthure: The Owl and the Nightingale, and Five Other Middle English Poems in a Modernized Version

By John Gardner | Go to book overview

Notes

TO THE POEMS

The Alliterative Morte Arthure

The modernization is from the edition of M. M. Banks ( London, 1900), with some corrections from E. Brock edition ( London, 1871) and some from the edition of E. Björkman ( Heidelberg, 1915) and from the few available studies of the text which have appeared in scholarly journals, especially the important note by J. L. N. O'Loughlin, "The Middle English Morte Arthure," Medium Ævum, 4 ( 1935), pp. 153 ff., which provides the theoretical grounds for my conservative reading of the text. I have also consulted the Everyman translation by A. Boyle ( New York, 1912). These notes are meant to serve two main purposes. First, they give literal translation of some words and phrases I have translated freely, so that students interested in using the translation as a crib may not be thoroughly discouraged. But I by no means note every minor change made. For instance, though constant tense shifting is common in alliterative Middle English verse ("He went to his tents, he awakens his barons"), and though I follow the poet's practice in a general way but not line for line, I make no note of my departures from the tense in the text. Again, I do not note every departure for alliteration, tone, or convenience, especially if the departure should be obvious to anyone checking the modernization against the original Such departures include free renderings of nonessential words, distortions for alliteration, and intrusive phrases which (a) fill out rhythm and/or (b) clarify pronoun reference or sentence structure when these, though dear in Middle English, are necessarily obscure in a modernization. (E.g., line 92, That on Lammesse daye thare be no lette founden is translated "And command that on Lammass Day you give no excuses." "And command'' is intrusive, and the idea in lette (hindrance) is rendered freely for the sake of slant alliteration on c and g.) I do not note renderings made only for alliterative convenience. Examples are kene ("bold"); beryns ("men," often rendered here as "barons"); steryne ("brave," "strong," "inflexible," sometimes rendered as "stem"); burelyche ("grand," "stately," "dignified," or, with reference to weapons, "stout," often rendered metaphorically, by "boarlike"--which I admit may seem mildly insane-but the choice preserves b alliteration, maintains the long syllables of the original, and has clear advantages over, for instance, "burly").

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The Alliterative Morte Arthure: The Owl and the Nightingale, and Five Other Middle English Poems in a Modernized Version
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Erratum vi
  • Addendum vi
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • The Alliterative Morte Arthure 1
  • Winner and Waster 115
  • The Parliament of the Three Ages 131
  • Summer Sunday 153
  • The Debate of Body and Soul 159
  • The Thrush and the Nightingale 175
  • The Owl and the Nightingale 183
  • Comments on the Poems 235
  • Notes - To Comments on the Poems 275
  • Notes - To the Poems 281
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