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Guillaume de Machaut: The Judgment of the King of Navarre.

Le Jugement du roy de Navarre, last published in E. Hoepffner's excellent edition in 1908 (SATF), is a most welcome addition to the adventurous Garland series. It offers a useful introduction, an edition of the text with facing-page translation, and brief textual notes. It is companion to the same editor's Le Jugement dou Roy de Behaingne (1984) (reviewed in MAE, LV). The then reviewer had reservations on the editorial side which have unfortunately not been met in the present volume: still, apparently, the editor does not seem to have taken real account of codicological work more recent than that contained in Hoepffner's introduction, and still there is no evidence that he has consulted MS Vg (available on microfilm). I too focus on editorial procedures.

As before, and for editorially convincing reasons, Palmer uses MS A (Paris, Bibliotheque nationale, MS f. fr. 1584) as a base. I have, however, sampled a part of his text (lines 1442) in comparison with MS A, and am inclined to think rather that too heavy reliance on Hoepffner's edition may have precluded a careful checking of MS A: omitting several purely graphical variations (but cf. Palmer 's statement |The spellings of A have been retained', p. xlix), I find Palmer 1043j'y (cf. Hoepffner = H) as against MSje Y; 1046 tant com (H) as against MS tant que; 1081 Einsi as against MS/H eins; 1085 d'oir (H) as against MS de oir; 1161 mireoir (H indicates he has adopted this reading from FMB) as against MS miroir; 1264 sceust qu'amender (H) as against MS sceust amender; I343 j'usai (H j'usay) as against MS je usai. True, many of these emendations avoid hypermetric lines - but in that case the editor should surely show the rejected reading, and show it accurately (1395 gives as a rejected reading from MS A Levez vous yeus il, whereas the manuscript in fact reads, less compellingly, levez vos yeus). Other editorial uncertainties are evinced: to take just one example, accentuation, it is not conventional in editing Middle French texts to use the grave accent (842 procis, 992 dis, etc.), to accentuate the feminine past participle (964 esgaree, I356-7 pensee, apensee, etc.) and, conversely, it is conventional to accentuate the masculine past participle (859 quittes, 905 deffermies).

One might argue, of course, that in a collection intended for the general reader such criticisms are pernickety, but the general reader is offered 'a reliable text with a minimum of editorial intervention' (General Editor's Preface). For the same general reader, the translation offered should be - and here I adopt Palmer's own words - |literal and readable' (p. xlix). |Literal' must surety include |accurate'; it is disturbing, therefore, to find gisoient (416) translated |roamed'; pais (496, |Qui vient de pais et de deduit') translated |country'; levrier (520, 774, etc.) several times translated as |hare'. I also have occasional doubts about the readability criterion: |Car ceste ouevre tant li tardoit/ Que jour et feste n'i gardoit' (269-70) is translated awkwardly |For she began this task so late/ That she didn't reckon either weekday or holiday in this.' C'est assavoir (557) is translated - true, literally enough - as |this is to mean'. And what is the reader to make of |Einsi li plest il a mander,/ Entre le vert et le meur' (663-4) translated with understandable scare quotes as |Rather it pleases her to request,/ Somewhere between the "green" and the "ripe"'? (The expression is surely the equivalent of Mod. F. mi-figue mi-raisin 'half in jest, half in earnest': see analogues in Godefroy, VIII, 208; Huguet, V, 256-7).

It is precisely because I so much admire Garland's enterprise in publishing texts of this sort that I would plead with them to insist on the editorial and the translational. The perceptive literary introduction is belied, I fear, by somewhat inexpert handling of what is after all an essentially textual enterprise.
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Author:Taylor, Jane H.M.
Publication:Medium Aevum
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 22, 1992
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