Gawain and Gough

In a 1990 seminar Derek Pearsall made a passing reference to the Gough Map, in a discussion of the journey Gawain makes across the realm of Logres, in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

The Gough Map is the oldest surviving road map of Great Britain, dating from around 1360. It’s roughly oblong in shape, made of two pieces of vellem, and is half map and half sketch. Not much is known about its provenance; the map was given to the Bodleian library in 1809 by its owner, Richard Gough. The dating is based on the inks and materials used to make the map, and on the place names.

691. Now rideȝ þis renk þurȝ þe ryalme of Logres,
692. Sir Gauan, on Godeȝ halue, þaȝ hym no gomen þoȝt.
693. Oft leudleȝ alone he lengez on nyȝtez
694. Þer he fonde noȝt hym byfore þe fare þat he lyked.
695. Hade he no fere bot his fole bi fryþez and dounez,
696. Ne no gome bot God bi gate wyþ to karp,
697. Til þat he neȝed ful neghe into þe Norþe Walez.
698. Alle þe iles of Anglesay on lyft half he haldez,
699. And farez; ouer þe fordez by þe forlondez,
700. Ouer at þe Holy Hede, til he hade eft bonk
701. In þe wyldrenesse of Wyrale; wonde þer bot lyte
702. Þat auþer God oþer gome wyþ goud hert louied.
703. And ay he frayned, as he ferde, at frekez þat he met,
704. If þay hade herde any karp of a knyȝt grene,
705. In any grounde þeraboute, of þe grene chapel;
706. And al nykked hym wyþ nay, þat neuer in her lyue
707. Þay seȝe neuer no segge þat watz of suche hwez

Thanks to the exceedingly excellent S. Worthen, I know about the exceedingly excellent interactive version of the Gough map.

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New Texts Added to the Corpus of Middle English

The University of Michigan’s Corpus of Middle English Texts is one of the most useful text depositories on the Internet. It’s right up there with CELT, in my book. And it’s now even better; they’ve added another 85 texts to the 65 that were already up there. Now, these texts are all searchable, and many of them are linked to pull page images of the books from which the texts are derived.

The complete list of 145 texts is here. There are gems that you won’t find in a surprising number of academic libraries, like The babees book, Aristotle’s A B C, Urbanitatis, Stans puer ad mensam, The lvtille childrenes lvtil boke, The bokes of nurture of Hugh Rhodes and John Russell, Wynkyn de Worde’s Boke of keruynge, The booke of demeanor, The boke of curtasye, Seager’s Schoole of vertue, &c.; &c;, edited by Frederick J. Furnivall for the EETS. In it you may find “A fest for a franklen” from John Russell’s Boke of Nurture:

“A Franklen may make a feste Improberabille,
brawne with mustard is concordable,
bakon serued with peson,
beef or moton stewed seruysable,
Boyled Chykon or capon agreable,
convenyent for þe seson;
Rosted goose & pygge fulle profitable,
Capon / Bakemete, or Custade Costable,
when eggis & crayme be geson.
Þerfore stuffe of household is behoveable,
Mortrowes or Iusselle ar delectable
for þe second course by reson.
Than veel, lambe, kyd, or cony,
Chykon or pigeon rosted tendurly,
bakemetes or dowcettes with alle.
Þen followynge, frytowrs & a leche lovely;
Suche seruyse in sesoun is fulle semely
To serue with bothe chambur & halle.

I’m pleased to see that the Tolkien, Gordon and Davis 1967 edition of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is available (even if it is just the text, not the notes or glossary). I’m also very glad to see all eight of the Chaucer Society single mss. (all the main mss.) of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales are now available.

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Philological Public Service Announcement

Beowulf is in Old English. Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales is in Middle English.

Every fall, and then again every spring, as various colleges and universities begin their semesters, I see a dramatic increase in the number of people visiting my site after using search phrases like:

  • canterbury tales in old english
  • general prologue old english
  • chaucer old english
  • chaucer angled saxon
  • chaucer anglo-saxon

Old English requires some special effort to read and understand; it really is a different language. Middle English is much closer to our own Modern English, albeit with funny spelling. You can get a good idea of how different Old and Middle English are by looking at the Lord’s Prayer in Middle and Old English. You can hear some Chaucer read in Middle English here, and some Beowulf in Old English (or Anglo-Saxon) here. If you’re curious about learning Old English, take a look at Michael Drout’s nicely done King Alfred’s Grammar Book, and Catherine Ball’s Old English Pages. For those interested in learning more about Middle English and Chaucer, take a look at Larry Benson’s site.

But remember: Chaucer wrote in Middle English.

Saynt Valentyn, that art ful hy on-lofte

Thanks to Andy Kelly; I know it’s not really Valentines day yet. But a lot of people still think it’s today that Chaucer had in mind when he wrote:

“Saynt Valentyn, that art ful hy on-lofte;—
Thus singen smale foules for thy sake—
Now welcom somer, with thy sonne softe,
That hast this wintres weders over-shake.

“Wel han they cause for to gladen ofte,
Sith ech of hem recovered hath his make;
Ful blisful may they singen whan they wake;
Now welcom somer, with thy sonne softe,
That hast this wintres weders over-shake,
And driven away the longe nightes blake.”

And with the showting, whan hir song was do,
That foules maden at hir flight a-way,
I wook, and other bokes took me to
To rede upon, and yet I rede alway;
In hope, y-wis, to rede so som day
That I shal mete som thing for to fare
The bet; and thus to rede I nil not spare.
(Chaucer Parlement of Foulys ll. 683–699)

Ryse, hyrd-men heynd

Angelus cantat «Gloria in excelsis»; postea dicat:

BL Add. Ms 34294, f.91Sforza Hours Annunciation to the Shepherds

Image f. 91 The Sforza Hours. British Library

A n g e l u s

920 Ryse, hyrd-men heynd,
For now is he borne
That shall take fro the feynd
That Adam had lorne;
That warloo to sheynd,
925 This nyght is he borne.
God is made youre freynd
Now at this morne,
He behestys.

At Bedlem go se
930 Ther lygys that fre
In a cryb full poorely,
Betwyx two bestys.

ll. 920–932. Secunda Pastorum. The Wakefield Master.
MS. HM 1, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California. c. 1450.

Medieval Unicode and Word Processing

I’ve been using Mellel for about a month now for the dreaded dissertation. Mellel is a different kind of word processor; the theoretical model seems to be of text in “streams” rather than in an endless scrolling page. So far Mellel has been quite easy to use, and has super support for scholarly writing and Unicode, including yoghs, thorns, and even medieval Irish and Welsh. I’ve yet to see if Mellel supports the very specific dissertation layout requirements, particularly in terms of footnotes and headers. Mellel also supports Bookends a bibliographic database that “hooks” into various word processors. I’m not very interested in the bibliography/footnote generation features of Bookends, but I’m trying it out as a bibliographic database.

Meanwhile, Nisus Writer Express promises to have footnote and endnote support in its next major update. Nisus Writer Express has a nifty language palette, which makes using multiple languages in one document dead easy, and I quite like the interface (one of the best Cocoa implementations of Apple’s HIG I’ve seen). But much as I like Nisus Writer Express, it strikes me as more appropriate for non-academic writing, as least thus far.

More on the Yogh

You’d be amazed at how hard it is to find information about the yogh. First, I’ve managed to learn that Unicode 4.0 Latin Extended B does indeed have both an upper and a lower case yogh, a yogh is that not an ezh. Take a look, if your browser supports Unicode 4.0 characters: an uppercase yogh Ȝ or U+021C and a lower case yogh ȝ or U+021D. And there are even Mac OS X fonts that support yogh as part of the Unicode character set (I particularly like Junicode). That’s the good news.

The problem is that the only word processor (versus text editor) for Mac OS X that supports the complete Unicode character set, and by “supports” I mean I can use Insert from the Character Palette, or hex encode the character, is Nisus Writer Express. Microsoft Word X does not, since the character is a Unicode character; neither MarinerWrite nor AppleWorks 6.x support Unicode only characters. The problem with Nisus Writer Express is that it doesn’t support footnotes, and the more esoteric formatting dissertations require. Mellel looks promising though, and I have hopes for true Unicode support in Microsoft Word 11. My ultimate plan is to create a custom keyboard layout, so I can easily access the characters I need. But I’m still going to check out LaTex.

I want my Yogh

There is a glyph in Middle English called the yogh.You can see a manuscript version of a yogh here. The yogh was used almost exclusively for Middle English in England, but it lingered through the eighteenth century in Scotland. The yogh, along with the thorn, another of the four special medieval English characters, is used in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Sir Orfeo, two core texts for my dissertation.

Unfortunately, there is no yogh in Unicode. There should be; the other Medieval English characters are represented in Unicode. I’m not sure why there isn’t yogh, but there’s a very good discussion of why there should be a yogh in Unicode by Michael Everson.

I’m not alone in my desperate craving for a proper Unicode yogh; you can see some of the efforts others dealing with manuscripts on the web have had to make in order to substitute for the yogh. Here’s a scholar trying to present an edition of the Ormulum, and here’s the wonderful online edition and facsimile of the Auchinleck manuscript. Both of these examples (and I could give many more) are substituting other characters for the yogh. This sort of substitution is really not a long-term solution.

We need a yogh, in Unicode.

Phallic Poultry in Middle English, for the Price of a Song

Excited by the news that Apple today added 1,000 new Classical albums to the iTunes Store, and the fact that I’ve a $20.00 iTunes gift certificate, I spent some time browsing in the store. I found new versions of King Orfeo and Tam Lin, both of which I’m writing about in the dreaded dissertation, and then I spotted this:

I Have a Gentil C**K.

I was a little amused by the **; the song, based on the fifteenth century Middle English lyric from British Library MS Sloane 2393, is, after all, about a rooster. Even though people with Middle English and dirty minds (like me) will read it as something quite other, the poem ostensibly describes a medieval English rooster, complete with blue legs. You can hear a .wav sample of the song here, though you will likely regret it, unless you’re a true fan of “authentic” medieval music. The song is from the album The Chaucer Songbook: Celtic Music and Early Music for Harp and Voice (the album is halfway down the linked page), from Carol Wood et al.

Why Apple felt the two ** were necessary is beyond me. The poem is quite short so you can read it yourself, and take advantage of the helpful annotations by Eve Salisbury
here (scroll all the way to the bottom of the page; it’s the last poem). Personally, I’m pretty sure Chaucer had the lyric in mind when he had the Nun’s Priest describe Chantecleer; the effictio is specific enough that antique poultry afficienados have identified the breed of chicken. But, yes, it’s a very phallic sort of rooster, what with him being all night “in my lady’s chamber,” and all.

But it’s not worth two asterisks. Really. Dare I hope that a new generation of medievalists will download the song, then learn Middle English in order to understand the bawdy joke, consequently developing a life-long love of Chaucer?

If you’re curious, you can get iTunes yourself, Mac OS X or Windows, the software’s free. Download iTunes