Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Marie Borroff, RIP

From Stephanie Mann:
The penultimate work on our Christendom Academy reading list is Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Since I still have my two volume Norton anthology of English literature, I am reading the Marie Borroff translation. J.R.R. Tolkien also translated this poem from its Middle English Midlands dialect. The British Library has the only manuscript that survives (as far as we know now), which also includes three other poems: Patience, Pearl, and Cleanness. Simon Armitage, another recent translator, describes the provenance of this manuscript in the British Library collection:
We know next to nothing about the author of the poem which has come to be called Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. It was probably written around 1400. In the early 17th century the manuscript was recorded as belonging to a Yorkshireman, Henry Saville of Bank. It was later acquired by Sir Robert Cotton, whose collection also included the Lindisfarne Gospels and the only surviving manuscript of Beowulf . The poem then lay dormant for over 200 years, not coming to light until Queen Victoria was on the throne, thus leapfrogging the attentions of some of our greatest writers and critics. The manuscript, a small, unprepossessing thing, would fit comfortably into an average-size hand, were anyone actually allowed to touch it. Now referred to as Cotton Nero A X, it is considered not only a most brilliant example of Middle English poetry but also as one of the jewels in the crown of English Literature; it now sits in the British Library under conditions of high security and controlled humidity.
(Read more.)

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