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The Romance of Morien   By: (1850-1928)

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Unrepresented in Malory's "Morte d'Arthur"

No. IV.




A Middle English Romance retold in Modern Prose, with Introduction and Notes, by JESSIE L. WESTON. With Designs by M. M. CRAWFORD. 1898. 2s. net.


Rendered into English from the German of Gottfried of Strassburg by JESSIE L. WESTON. With Designs by CAROLINE WATTS. Two vols. 1899. 4s. net.


Four Lays rendered into English Prose from the French of Marie de France and others by JESSIE L. WESTON. With Designs by CAROLINE WATTS. 1900. 2s. net. [Illustration: They deemed they had seen the Foul Fiend himself]


A Metrical Romance rendered into English prose from the Mediæval Dutch by Jessie L. Weston, with designs by Caroline Watts. Preface

The metrical romance of which the following pages offer a prose translation is contained in the mediæval Dutch version of the Lancelot , where it occupies upwards of five thousand lines, forming the conclusion of the first existing volume of that compilation. So far as our present knowledge extends, it is found nowhere else.

Nor do we know the date of the original poem, or the name of the author. The Dutch MS. is of the commencement of the fourteenth century, and appears to represent a compilation similar to that with which Sir Thomas Malory has made us familiar, i.e. , a condensed rendering of a number of Arthurian romances which in their original form were independent of each other. Thus, in the Dutch Lancelot we have not only the latter portion of the Lancelot proper, the Queste , and the Morte Arthur , the ordinary component parts of the prose Lancelot in its most fully developed form, but also a portion of a Perceval romance, having for its basis a version near akin to, if not identical with, the poem of Chrétien de Troyes, and a group of episodic romances, some of considerable length, the majority of which have not yet been discovered elsewhere. [Footnote: Cf . my Legend of Sir Lancelot du Lac ; Grimm Library, vol. xii., chapter ix., where a brief summary of the contents of the Dutch Lancelot is given.]

Unfortunately, the first volume of this compilation, which was originally in four parts, has been lost; consequently we are without any of the indications, so often to be found in the opening lines of similar compositions, as to the personality of the compiler, or the material at his disposal; but judging from those sections in which comparison is possible, the Lancelot , Queste , and Morte Arthur , the entire work is a translation, and a very faithful translation, of a French original. It is quite clear that the Dutch compiler understood his text well, and though possibly somewhat hampered by the necessity of turning prose into verse (this version, contrary to the otherwise invariable rule of the later Lancelot romances, being rhymed), he renders it with remarkable fidelity. The natural inference, and that drawn by M. Gaston Paris, who, so far, appears to be the only scholar who has seriously occupied himself with this interesting version, is that those episodic romances, of which we possess no other copy, are also derived from a French source. Most probably, so far as these shorter romances are concerned, the originals would be metrical, not prose versions, as in the case of the Lancelot sections.

It is true that with regard to the romance here translated, Morien , the Dutch scholars responsible for the two editions in which it has appeared, MM. Jonckbloet and Te Winkel, the former the editor of the whole compilation, the latter of this section only, are both inclined to regard the poem as an original Dutch composition; but M. Gaston Paris, in his summary of the romance ( Histoire Litteraire , vol. xxx. p. 247) rejects this theory as based on inadequate grounds... Continue reading book >>

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