Tag Archives: Chrétien de Troyes

Ruth Harwood Cline — Chrétien de Troyes

 

 

‘Ruth Harwood Cline – Chretien de Troyes’

 

 

Au jor de Pasque, au tans novel,
a Quaradigan, son chastel,
ot li rois Artus cort tenue.
Einz si riche ne fu veüe,
que mout i ot boens chevaliers,
hardiz et conbatanz et fiers,
et riches dames et puceles,
filles de rois, gentes et beles.
Mes einçois que la corz fausist,
li rois a ses chevaliers dist
qu’il voloit le blanc cerf chacier
por la costume ressaucier.
Monseignor Gauvain ne plot mie,
quant il ot la parole oïe.
« Sire, fet il, de ceste chace
n’avroiz vos ja ne gré ne grace.
Nos savomes bien tuit piece a
quel costume li blans cers a :
qui le blanc cerf ocirre puet
par reison beisier li estuet
des puceles de vostre cort
la plus bele, a que que il tort.
Maus an puet avenir mout granz,
qu’ancor a il ceanz .v.c.
dameiseles de hauz paraiges,
filles de rois, gentes et sages ;
n’i a nule qui n’ait ami
chevalier vaillant et hardi,
don chascuns desresnier voldroit,
ou fust a tort ou fust a droit,
que cele qui li atalante
est la plus bele et la plus gente. »
Li rois respont : « Ce sai ge bien ,
mes por ce n’an lerai ge rien,
car parole que rois a dite
ne doit puis estre contredite.
Demain matin a grant deduit
irons chacier le blanc cerf tuit
an la forest avantureuse ;
ceste chace iert mout mervelleuse. »

— Chrétien de Troyes, Erec et Enide (c. 1170)

 

 

In spring, when Easter Day began,
in his walled town of Cardigan,
King Arthur held a lavish court,
with none more splendid to report.
He gathered many valiant knights,
tough, stalwart, feisty men in fights,
and maids and ladies, rich and fair,
kings’ daughters, nobly born, were there.
The king, before the courtiers went,
informed his knights of his intent
to hunt the white stag, to restore
the custom of the days of yore.
To hear this royal proclamation
filled Sir Gawain with consternation.
He said: “Sire, this hunt would preclude
your ever winning gratitude.
The custom of the white male deer
To all of us has long been dear.
The custom of the hunt is this:
the slayer of the stag must kiss
the maid at court whom he selects
as fairest, come what may come next.
Great harm may come of it, I fear,
with some five hundred maidens here.
These maidens are of noble birth,
kings’ daughters, wise and great in worth,
and not a one without a friend,
a bold brave knight, who will contend,
each speaking for himself headstrong,
and whether he is right or wrong,
the maiden he has most desired
is loveliest and most admired.”
“I know it well,” the king replied,
“but will not put my plan aside,
for words a king has said aloud
ought never to be disavowed.
Tomorrow morning, with delight,
we all will hunt the stag that’s white
within the forest of adventure;
this hunt will be a wondrous venture.”

— Chrétien de Troyes, Erec and Enide, translated by Ruth Harwood Cline

 

 

*****************************************************

 

 

Eric and Enide is the earliest of Chrétien de Troyes’ Arthurian romances.

“Chrétien de Troyes was the creator of the Arthurian romance as a literary genre: he was the first known writer in Western Europe to put the Celtic legends of King Arthur and his knights into the long romance form in order to illustrate themes from the twelfth-century codes of love and chivalry. His five romances, Erec and Enide, Cligès, Lancelot, Yvain, and Perceval, were written between 1160 and 1190. … he wrote Erec and Enide, the oldest Arthurian romance, around 1160. … Probably he returned to Troyes soon afterward, where he entered the service of Countess Marie of Champagne (daughter of Louis VII and Eleanor of Aquitaine). There he composed Cligès, a romance with Byzantine overtones which reflects the Tristan legend, and, around 1172, Lancelot, with its theme of the adulterous love between Lancelot and Queen Guinevere which was suggested by Countess Marie herself. Between 1173 and 1176 he completed Yvain and possibly Guillaume d’Angleterre; his authorship of the latter work is heavily disputed. In 1181 Chrétien left the service of the widowed Countess Marie and entered the service of Count Philippe of Flanders, at whose bidding in 1182 he began his last and longest romance, Perceval or The Story of the Grail. He died before Perceval was completed.” — Ruth Harwood Cline, Introduction,  Chrétien de Troyes, Yvain, Or the Knight with the Lion, translated by Ruth Harwood Cline (The University of Georgia Press, 1975), pp. xi-xii

 

“The original works of Chretien de Troyes were written in Old French octosyllabic verse. Old French is a language that encompasses several dialects used between the ninth and late fifteenth centuries. It retained from Latin a two-case declension system (subject/object) and flexible word order. It had not undergone the enrichment in vocabulary that occurred in the sixteenth century. Thus Chretien expresses sophisticated ideas with a relatively limited choice of words. The verse form he chose, octosyllabic rhymed couplets, was an intrinsic part of his creative process. Verse shaped the expression of his thoughts, encouraged his word­play, and established the forward movement of his poem. Verse allowed him to halt that movement for emphasis by repeating a key phrase without wearying his listeners by redundancy.” — Ruth Harwood Cline, Introduction, Chrétien de Troyes, Erec and Enide, translated by Ruth Harwood Cline (The University of Georgia Press, 2000), pg. xxiv

 

*****************************************************

 

“Ruth Harwood Cline’s translation is a remarkable literary achievement. She has not only understood Chretien’s difficult and subtle text-­which is no small matter, but she frequently succeeds in re-creating his witty style, his irony, his playfulness, his masterful use of octosyllabic couplets which, in his hands, can gallop or meander or creep, depending upon the matter being treated. Sometimes her version even suggests his varied and effortless use of rhymes–now rich, now mere vowel rhyme, now an arresting use of homonyms, now a play on words. And she has studiously avoided archaisms, which are the bane of so many translators. In a word she has made much of the quality of Chretien’s masterpiece available in present-day English.” — Julian Harris, Forewrod, Chrétien de Troyes, Yvain, Or the Knight with the Lion, translated by Ruth Harwood Cline (The University of Georgia Press, 1975), pg. viii

 

“First of all, Chrétien de Troyes is a wonderful poet, who practically singlehandedly invented the Arthurian legend. Secondly — but actually, most importantly — Ruth Harwood Cline is a SUPERB translator. She does total justice to the original text, does not mangle it, and manages to translate into rhymed verse (the original French is rhymed) that totally “works” while never sacrificing meaning. To put it simply, there is magic in this translation. It is totally readable, it carries you along, and you don’t want to stop until the end.” — Roger W. Smith, Amazon.com review of Chrétien de Troyes, Lancelot Or the Knight of the Cart, translated by Ruth Harwood Cline (The University of Georgia Press, 1990)

 

 

*****************************************************

 

 

I have read all five of Cline’s Chrétien translations. You won’t find a better translator of medieval literature anywhere — well, practically anywhere. Two other books (translations) that are brilliant:

Poems of the Elder Edda: Revised Edition, translated by Patricia Terry (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1990)

 

Lyrics of the French Renaissance: Marot Du Bellay, Ronsard; bilingual edition; English versions by Norman R. Shapiro (Yale University Press, 2002)

 

I have read all of the books the images of which are shown below, except for not having read Lyrics of the French Renaissance from cover to cover.

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

   November 2020

 

 

*****************************************************

 

 

 

Chrétien de Troyes, Yvain, Or the Knight with the Lion, translated by Ruth Harwood Cline (The University of Georgia Press, 1975)

 

 

Chrétien de Troyes, Perceval: Or the Story of the Grail, translated by Ruth Harwood Cline (The University of Georgia Press, 1983)

 

 

Chrétien de Troyes, Lancelot; Or the Knight of the Cart, translated by Ruth Harwood Cline (The University of Georgia Press, 1990)

 

 

Chrétien de Troyes, Cligès, translated by Ruth Harwood Cline (The University of Georgia Press, 2000)

 

 

Chrétien de Troyes, Erec and Enide, translated by Ruth Harwood Cline (The University of Georgia Press, 2000)

 

 

Poems of the Elder Edda: Revised Edition, translated by Patricia Terry (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1990)

 

 

Lyrics of the French Renaissance: Marot Du Bellay, Ronsard; bilingual edition; English versions by Norman R. Shapiro (Yale University Press, 2002)