01 April 2015

Poem of the Week bonus: #whanthataprilleday15

See here for an explanation of this holiday celebrating all old, middle, ancient, archaic, and even dead languages. For last year's entry see here. Then see below for this year's entry: a few lines from Silence, an Old French Arthurian romance about a girl raised as a boy. She is named Silence, because her true nature must be kept in silence until the king reverses his decree against women inheriting property. Among her various adventures, she wanders the land in the company of two minstrels. They have trained her in their art, but she so surpasses them that they feel their livelihood is threatened. They plan to kill her. She overhears their plot and saves herself by refusing to leave with them, in a dialogue tense with danger and double-meanings.

Interlined with the original Old French I've put the translation by Sarah Roche-Mahdi, who newly edited and translated this fascinating work. The work's opening line attributes it to the otherwise unknown and probably pseudonymous Master Heldris of Cornwall. The unique manuscript was only rediscovered in 1911, in a British manor house in a box marked "old papers – no value."

"Amis," font il, "ne vos cremés.
"Friend," they said, "don't worry.
Nos amons vos, vus nos amés.
We are loyal to you, as you are to us.
Quant dites qu'estes si haïs,
When you say you feel threatened,
Cremons que ne soiés traïs.
we, too, are afraid you might be in danger.
Se li malfaitor sont a destre,
If the criminals are on the right,
Acuellons la voie a senestre.
we will take the path to the left.
Ses encontrons par aventure
And if we should happen to encounter them,
Et faire nos voelent rancure,
and if they want to attack us,
Por nos meïsmes i serons.
we will all be there to help each other.
S'il i fierent, nos i ferrons."
If they strike, we strike, too."
"Dirai vos," fait il, "une rien:
"I have something to say to you," said Silence.
Je ne cuic pas, ains le sai bien
"I think, or rather, I know very well,
Que vos i ferrés volentiers.
that you will be only too happy to strike.
Et cil se guart endementiers,
In the meantime, the one who has to protect himself
Se il violt, qui a garder s'a,
had better be on his guard, if he wants to defend himself;
U s'il nel fait que fols fera.
And if he doesn't do this, he is a fool.
Segnor, jo que vos celeroie?
Gentlemen, why should I not speak openly?
Mes enemis enconterroie
Se jo aloie o vos en France,
Cho sachiés vos tolt a fiänce;
You know very well indeed
that I would encounter my enemies
whether I went with you to France
U s'o vos aloie en Espagne,
or whether I went with you to Spain
En Alvergne, u en Alemagne.
or Auvergne or Germany.
Si me vient chi miols remanoir,
Therefore, it would be much better for me to stay here
Qu'aler allors por pis avoir.
than to go somewhere else and be worse off.
Jo remanrai, cho est la some,
In short, I'm staying here.
Et vos end irés com prodome
And you will go off, like upright
Et bone gent, bien le savés.
and honest men, make no mistake about that.
Si com vos viers moi fait avés,
As you have done to me,
Vos rendie Dex le gueredon;
may God do to you in return;
Por tel deserte altretel don.
may you receive your just deserts.
Moult m'avés fait, plus eüsciés
You have done much for me,
Se moi faire le peüssciés.
and would have done more if you could have.
En vos servir ai jo perdu."
I haven't been able to do quite enough for you."
Li jogleör sont esperdu.
The minstrels were undone.
Aportent le gaäig avant,
They took out the earnings
Se li ont dit par avenant:
and graciously said to him,
"Sire, amis chiers, prendés vo part."
"Dear friend, good sir, take your share."
Et l'enfes .c. mars en depart./
Then the youth took a hundred marks as his portion,
A çals en lasce plus de .c.,
and left them more than a hundred,
Et cil s'en vont hastivement.
and they took off in a hurry.

Silence, ll 3437 - 3476, translated and edited by Sarah Roche-Mahdi

In line 3466 of the translation I've corrected just desserts to just deserts.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I know you haven't seen Game of Thrones yet, but this poem's translation reminded me very much of many scenes from it...that danger and sense that anything could happen, and the smart character talking in double meanings that the others don't catch on to. Making me look forward to next Sunday.