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Beroul: The Romance of Tristan.

By Norris J. Lacy, Garland Library of Medieval Literature, Series A, 36 (New York; London: Garland: 1989). xxvi + 237 pp. ISBN 0-8240-877-1. 37.00 [pounds]

Norris Lacy's edition of Beroul's Tristran is only one of a number which have appeared in recent years and which have caused a degree of confusion amongst scholars in the field. For many years, the standard editions were the 1939 Ewert edition and the |L. M. Defourques' revision of Muret's text in the Classiques francais du moyen age series, which first appeared in 1947. Lacy's edition is thoroughly competent, and will undoubtedly fulfil the aim of the series editors in giving the general reader a greater awareness of the wealth of material in the mediaeval field, but, precisely because of this aim, it has little chance of becoming the authoritative edition.

Lacy provides a short introduction in which he considers matters such as authorship, sources and Beroul's artistic achievement. As well as a brief bibliography, he also includes a declaration of editorial policy for the edition and the translation. He makes the important point that his is the first edition to profit from the study of the text by Sven Sandqvist, published in 1984. Even though Lacy freely admits that he is not producing a full textual study, a sampling of the first and final episodes of the poem clearly indicates that his edition is thoughtfully done, based upon a careful weighing of the appropriate evidence. There is inevitably the occasional misprint (504, read creissiez, 4292, read tenir, 4366, read cele), and certainly no one is going to agree with all his editorial decisions. His refusal to consider Reid's emendation in lines 42-3 (|Qui de forches raient larron, / Ja pus nel amera nul jor') is difficult to understand, as is his insistence that lines 483-5 make

adequate sense. But he always argues his case well and, on the whole, he steers a rightly judicious and middle-of-the-road course, refusing to be overawed by Sandqvist's ultra-conservative approach and plethora of near-parallels: for example, he is surely right to argue that in line 329 ceus must be emended to cel, notwithstanding Sandqvist's protestations. Lacy's translation is also a very commendable achievement, marked above all by a good understanding of what the Old French actually means (this is not a virtue all translators of Beroul have possessed). Here, Lacy has seemingly been constrained by the format of the series and has been required to provide a more literal translation than he might otherwise have done. Once again, one can inevitably question his interpretation of certain lines. Lines 383-4, for example, even though there are difficulties with the manuscript at this point, must surely be a record of Governal's reaction and not of Tristan's, as Lacy supposes (having misread conter l'ot?). At line 4473, Sovent may refer not to the frequency but to the intensity of the action. In many instances, however, he has shown a good comprehension of the text and has produced a pleasingly laconic rendition which catches effectively the tone of the original. Certainly, what Lacy has been asked to do he has done well.
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Author:Bromiley, G.N.
Publication:Medium Aevum
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 22, 1993
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