TRANSLATION AND STYLE
'Mystérieux pouvoir du goût, d'une langue saine, d'un beau style! Ce Maloryne fut qu'un traducteur, un adaptateur: sans lui pourtant, dans l'Angleterre d'aujourd'hui, ni la poésie, ni la pensée, ni l'art ne seraient tout-à-fait ce qu'ils sont.'--JOSEPH BÉDIER.
WE may question Malory's merit as a story-teller, disagree with his interpretation of the Romance, and even whittle down his claims to originality; but his Morte Darthur, whatever its failings, possesses one important and unchallengeable quality: its style. We know that Caxton was puzzled as to the form in which to give his translations, for, in his time, there was no common standard of English: 'and thus', he said, 'betwene playne and rude and curyous termes I stand abasshed; but in my judgemente, the comyn termes that be dayli used ben lyghter to be understonde than the olde an auncyent englysshe'. Doubtless Malory shared this view and indirectly helped Caxton to solve his problem. In his translation of the 'French books' he also used words which, slightly archaic though they were, sound even now as 'comyn termes that be dayli used', and for this reason his work has preserved the same appeal it had four hundred and fifty years ago, when it was first brought within the reach of 'al noble lordes and ladyes wyth al other estates, of what estate or degree they ben of'.
As far as we can judge, Malory had a good reading knowledge of contemporary and medieval French. He occasionally misread his original1; most of his errors, however, are due to carelessness, and on the whole his____________________