Early Theories of Translation
by Flora Ross Amos
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Transcriber's Note: Obvious typographical errors have been corrected in this text. For a complete list, please see the bottom of this document.

Columbia University







A Division of Farrar, Straus and Giroux New York 1973

Copyright 1920 by Columbia University Press

Reprinted 1973 by special arrangement with Columbia University Press


Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data

Amos, Flora Ross, 1881- Early theories of translation.

Original ed. issued in series: Columbia University studies in English and comparative literature.

Originally presented as the author's thesis, Columbia.

1. Translating and interpreting. I. Title. II. Series: Columbia University studies in English and comparative literature.

[PN241.A5 1973] 418'.02 73-397

ISBN 0-374-90176-7

Printed in U.S.A. by NOBLE OFFSET PRINTERS, INC. New York, N.Y. 10003



This Monograph has been approved by the Department of English and Comparative Literature in Columbia University as a contribution to knowledge worthy of publication.

A. H. THORNDIKE, Executive Officer


In the following pages I have attempted to trace certain developments in the theory of translation as it has been formulated by English writers. I have confined myself, of necessity, to such opinions as have been put into words, and avoided making use of deductions from practice other than a few obvious and generally accepted conclusions. The procedure involves, of course, the omission of some important elements in the history of the theory of translation, in that it ignores the discrepancies between precept and practice, and the influence which practice has exerted upon theory; on the other hand, however, it confines a subject, otherwise impossibly large, within measurable limits. The chief emphasis has been laid upon the sixteenth century, the period of the most enthusiastic experimentation, when, though it was still possible for the translator to rest in the comfortable medieval conception of his art, the New Learning was offering new problems and new ideals to every man who shared in the intellectual awakening of his time. In the matter of theory, however, the age was one of beginnings, of suggestions, rather than of finished, definitive results; even by the end of the century there were still translators who had not yet appreciated the immense difference between medieval and modern standards of translation. To understand their position, then, it is necessary to consider both the preceding period, with its incidental, half-unconscious comment, and the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, with their systematized, unified contribution. This last material, in especial, is included chiefly because of the light which it throws in retrospect on the views of earlier translators, and only the main course of theory, by this time fairly easy to follow, is traced.

The aim has in no case been to give bibliographical information. A number of translations, important in themselves, have received no mention because they have evoked no comment on methods. The references given are not necessarily to first editions. Generally speaking, it has been the prefaces to translations that have yielded material, and such prefaces, especially during the Elizabethan period, are likely to be included or omitted in different editions for no very clear reasons. Quotations have been modernized, except in the case of Middle English verse, where the original form has been kept for the sake of the metre.

The history of the theory of translation is by no means a record of easily distinguishable, orderly progression. It shows an odd lack of continuity. Those who give rules for translation ignore, in the great majority of cases, the contribution of their predecessors and contemporaries. Towards the beginning of Elizabeth's reign a small group of critics bring to the problems of the translator both technical scholarship and alert, original minds, but apparently the new and significant ideas which they offer have little or no effect on the general course of theory. Again, Tytler, whose Essay on the Principles on Translation, published towards the end of the eighteenth century, may with some reason claim to be the first detailed discussion of the questions involved, declares that, with a few exceptions, he has "met with nothing that has been written professedly on the subject," a statement showing a surprising disregard for the elaborate prefaces that accompanied the translations of his own century.

This lack of consecutiveness in criticism is probably partially accountable for the slowness with which translators attained the power to put into words, clearly and unmistakably, their aims and methods. Even if one were to leave aside the childishly vague comment of medieval writers and the awkward attempts of Elizabethan translators to describe their processes, there would still remain in the modern period much that is careless or misleading. The very term "translation" is long in defining itself; more difficult terms, like "faithfulness" and "accuracy," have widely different meanings with different writers. The various kinds of literature are often treated in the mass with little attempt at discrimination between them, regardless of the fact that the problems of the translator vary with the character of his original. Tytler's book, full of interesting detail as it is, turns from prose to verse, from lyric to epic, from ancient to modern, till the effect it leaves on the reader is fragmentary and confusing.

Moreover, there has never been uniformity of opinion with regard to the aims and methods of translation. Even in the age of Pope, when, if ever, it was safe to be dogmatic and when the theory of translation seemed safely on the way to become standardized, one still hears the voices of a few recalcitrants, voices which become louder and more numerous as the century advances; in the nineteenth century the most casual survey discovers conflicting views on matters of fundamental importance to the translator. Who are to be the readers, who the judges, of a translation are obviously questions of primary significance to both translator and critic, but they are questions which have never been authoritatively settled. When, for example, Caxton in the fifteenth century uses the "curious" terms which he thinks will appeal to a clerk or a noble gentleman, his critics complain because the common people cannot understand his words. A similar situation appears in modern times when Arnold lays down the law that the judges of an English version of Homer must be "scholars, because scholars alone have the means of really judging him," and Newman replies that "scholars are the tribunal of Erudition, but of Taste the educated but unlearned public must be the only rightful judge."

Again, critics have been hesitant in defining the all-important term "faithfulness." To one writer fidelity may imply a reproduction of his original as nearly as possible word for word and line for line; to another it may mean an attempt to carry over into English the spirit of the original, at the sacrifice, where necessary, not only of the exact words but of the exact substance of his source. The one extreme is likely to result in an awkward, more or less unintelligible version; the other, as illustrated, for example, by Pope's Homer, may give us a work so modified by the personality of the translator or by the prevailing taste of his time as to be almost a new creation. But while it is easy to point out the defects of the two methods, few critics have had the courage to give fair consideration to both possibilities; to treat the two aims, not as mutually exclusive, but as complementary; to realize that the spirit and the letter may be not two but one. In the sixteenth century Sir Thomas North translated from the French Amyot's wise observation: "The office of a fit translator consisteth not only in the faithful expressing of his author's meaning, but also in a certain resembling and shadowing forth of the form of his style and manner of his speaking"; but few English critics, in the period under our consideration, grasped thus firmly the essential connection between thought and style and the consequent responsibility of the translator.

Yet it is those critics who have faced all the difficulties boldly, and who have urged upon the translator both due regard for the original and due regard for English literary standards who have made the most valuable contributions to theory. It is much easier to set the standard of translation low, to settle matters as does Mr. Chesterton in his casual disposition of Fitzgerald's Omar: "It is quite clear that Fitzgerald's work is much too good to be a good translation." We can, it is true, point to few realizations of the ideal theory, but in approaching a literature which possesses the English Bible, that marvelous union of faithfulness to source with faithfulness to the genius of the English language, we can scarcely view the problem of translation thus hopelessly.

The most stimulating and suggestive criticism, indeed, has come from men who have seen in the very difficulty of the situation opportunities for achievement. While the more cautious grammarian has ever been doubtful of the quality of the translator's English, fearful of the introduction of foreign words, foreign idioms, to the men who have cared most about the destinies of the vernacular,—men like Caxton, More, or Dryden,—translation has appeared not an enemy to the mother tongue, but a means of enlarging and clarifying it. In the time of Elizabeth the translator often directed his appeal more especially to those who loved their country's language and wished to see it become a more adequate medium of expression. That he should, then, look upon translation as a promising experiment, rather than a doubtful compromise, is an essential characteristic of the good critic.

The necessity for open-mindedness, indeed, in some degree accounts for the tentative quality in so much of the theory of translation. Translation fills too large a place, is too closely connected with the whole course of literary development, to be disposed of easily. As each succeeding period has revealed new fashions in literature, new avenues of approach to the reader, there have been new translations and the theorist has had to reverse or revise the opinions bequeathed to him from a previous period. The theory of translation cannot be reduced to a rule of thumb; it must again and again be modified to include new facts. Thus regarded it becomes a vital part of our literary history, and has significance both for those who love the English language and for those who love English literature.

In conclusion, it remains only to mention a few of my many obligations. To the libraries of Princeton and Harvard as well as Columbia University I owe access to much useful material. It is a pleasure to acknowledge my indebtedness to Professors Ashley H. Thorndike and William W. Lawrence and to Professor William H. Hulme of Western Reserve University for helpful criticism and suggestions. In especial I am deeply grateful to Professor George Philip Krapp, who first suggested this study and who has given me constant encouragement and guidance throughout its course.

April, 1919.












From the comment of Anglo-Saxon writers one may derive a not inadequate idea of the attitude generally prevailing in the medieval period with regard to the treatment of material from foreign sources. Suggestive statements appear in the prefaces to the works associated with the name of Alfred. One method of translation is employed in producing an English version of Pope Gregory's Pastoral Care. "I began," runs the preface, "among other various and manifold troubles of this kingdom, to translate into English the book which is called in Latin Pastoralis, and in English Shepherd's Book, sometimes word by word, and sometimes according to the sense."[1] A similar practice is described in the Proem to The Consolation of Philosophy of Boethius. "King Alfred was the interpreter of this book, and turned it from book Latin into English, as it is now done. Now he set forth word by word, now sense from sense, as clearly and intelligently as he was able."[2] The preface to St. Augustine's Soliloquies, the beginning of which, unfortunately, seems to be lacking, suggests another possible treatment of borrowed material. "I gathered for myself," writes the author, "cudgels, and stud-shafts, and horizontal shafts, and helves for each of the tools that I could work with, and bow-timbers and bolt-timbers for every work that I could perform, the comeliest trees, as many as I could carry. Neither came I with a burden home, for it did not please me to bring all the wood back, even if I could bear it. In each tree I saw something that I needed at home; therefore I advise each one who can, and has many wains, that he direct his steps to the same wood where I cut the stud-shafts. Let him fetch more for himself, and load his wains with fair beams, that he may wind many a neat wall, and erect many a rare house, and build a fair town, and therein may dwell merrily and softly both winter and summer, as I have not yet done."[3]

Aelfric, writing a century later, develops his theories in greater detail. Except in the Preface to Genesis, they are expressed in Latin, the language of the lettered, a fact which suggests that, unlike the translations themselves, the prefaces were addressed to readers who were, for the most part, opposed to translation into the vernacular and who, in addition to this, were in all probability especially suspicious of the methods employed by Aelfric. These methods were strongly in the direction of popularization. Aelfric's general practice is like that of Alfred. He declares repeatedly[4] that he translates sense for sense, not always word for word. Furthermore, he desires rather to be clear and simple than to adorn his style with rhetorical ornament.[5] Instead of unfamiliar terms, he uses "the pure and open words of the language of this people."[6] In connection with the translation of the Bible he lays down the principle that Latin must give way to English idiom.[7] For all these things Aelfric has definite reasons. Keeping always in mind a clear conception of the nature of his audience, he does whatever seems to him necessary to make his work attractive and, consequently, profitable. Preparing his Grammar for "tender youths," though he knows that words may be interpreted in many ways, he follows a simple method of interpretation in order that the book may not become tiresome.[8] The Homilies, intended for simple people, are put into simple English, that they may more easily reach the hearts of those who read or hear.[9] This popularization is extended even farther. Aelfric explains[10] that he has abbreviated both the Homilies[11] and the Lives of the Saints,[12] again of deliberate purpose, as appears in his preface to the latter: "Hoc sciendum etiam quod prolixiores passiones breuiamus verbis non adeo sensu, ne fastidiosis ingeratur tedium si tanta prolixitas erit in propria lingua quanta est in latina."

Incidentally, however, Aelfric makes it evident that his were not the only theories of translation which the period afforded. In the preface to the first collection of Homilies he anticipates the disapproval of those who demand greater closeness in following originals. He recognizes the fact that his translation may displease some critics "quod non semper verbum ex verbo, aut quod breviorem explicationem quam tractatus auctorum habent, sive non quod per ordinem ecclesiastici ritus omnia Evangelia percurrimus." The Preface to Genesis suggests that the writer was familiar with Jerome's insistence on the necessity for unusual faithfulness in translating the Bible.[13] Such comment implies a mind surprisingly awake to the problems of translation.

The translator who left the narrow path of word for word reproduction might, in this early period, easily be led into greater deviations from source, especially if his own creative ability came into play. The preface to St. Augustine's Soliloquies quoted above carries with it a stimulus, not only to translation or compilation, but to work like that of Caedmon or Cynewulf, essentially original in many respects, though based, in the main, on material already given literary shape in other languages. Both characteristics are recognized in Anglo-Saxon comment. Caedmon, according to the famous passage in Bede, "all that he could learn by hearing meditated with himself, and, as a clean animal ruminating, turned into the sweetest verse."[14] Cynewulf in his Elene, gives us a remarkable piece of author's comment[15] which describes the action of his own mind upon material already committed to writing by others. On the other hand, it may be noted that the Andreas, based like the Elene on a single written source, contains no hint that the author owes anything to a version of the story in another language.[16]

In the English literature which developed in course of time after the Conquest the methods of handling borrowed material were similar in their variety to those we have observed in Anglo-Saxon times. Translation, faithful except for the omission or addition of certain passages, compilation, epitome, all the gradations between the close rendering and such an individual creation as Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde, are exemplified in the works appearing from the thirteenth century on. When Lydgate, as late as the fifteenth century, describes one of the processes by which literature is produced, we are reminded of Anglo-Saxon comment. "Laurence,"[17] the poet's predecessor in translating Boccaccio's Falls of Princes, is represented as

In his Prologue affirming of reason, That artificers having exercise, May chaunge & turne by good discretion Shapes & formes, & newly them devise: As Potters whiche to that craft entende Breake & renue their vessels to amende.


And semblably these clerkes in writing Thing that was made of auctours them beforn They may of newe finde & fantasye: Out of olde chaffe trye out full fayre corne, Make it more freshe & lusty to the eye, Their subtile witte their labour apply, With their colours agreable of hue, To make olde thinges for to seme newe.[18]

The great majority of these Middle English works contain within themselves no clear statement as to which of the many possible methods have been employed in their production. As in the case of the Anglo-Saxon Andreas, a retelling in English of a story already existing in another language often presents itself as if it were an original composition. The author who puts into the vernacular of his country a French romance may call it "my tale." At the end of Launfal, a version of one of the lays of Marie de France, appears the declaration, "Thomas Chestre made this tale."[19] The terms used to characterize literary productions and literary processes often have not their modern connotation. "Translate" and "translation" are applied very loosely even as late as the sixteenth century. The Legend of Good Women names Troilus and Criseyde beside The Romance of the Rose as "translated" work.[20] Osbern Bokenam, writing in the next century, explains that he obtained the material for his legend of St. Margaret "the last time I was in Italy, both by scripture and eke by mouth," but he still calls the work a "translation."[21] Henry Bradshaw, purposing in 1513 to "translate" into English the life of St. Werburge of Chester, declares,

Unto this rude werke myne auctours these shalbe: Fyrst the true legende and the venerable Bede, Mayster Alfrydus and Wyllyam Malusburye, Gyrarde, Polychronicon, and other mo in deed.[22]

Lydgate is requested to translate the legend of St. Giles "after the tenor only"; he presents his work as a kind of "brief compilation," but he takes no exception to the word "translate."[23] That he should designate his St. Margaret, a fairly close following of one source, a "compilation,"[24] merely strengthens the belief that the terms "translate" and "translation" were used synonymously with various other words. Osbern Bokenam speaks of the "translator" who "compiled" the legend of St. Christiana in English;[25] Chaucer, one remembers, "translated" Boethius and "made" the life of St. Cecilia.[26]

To select from this large body of literature, "made," "compiled," "translated," only such works as can claim to be called, in the modern sense of the word, "translations" would be a difficult and unprofitable task. Rather one must accept the situation as it stands and consider the whole mass of such writings as appear, either from the claims of their authors or on the authority of modern scholarship, to be of secondary origin. "Translations" of this sort are numerous. Chaucer in his own time was reckoned "grant translateur."[27] Of the books which Caxton a century later issued from his printing press a large proportion were English versions of Latin or French works. Our concern, indeed, is with the larger and by no means the least valuable part of the literature produced during the Middle English period.

The theory which accompanies this nondescript collection of translations is scattered throughout various works, and is somewhat liable to misinterpretation if taken out of its immediate context. Before proceeding to consider it, however, it is necessary to notice certain phases of the general literary situation which created peculiar difficulties for the translator or which are likely to be confusing to the present-day reader. As regards the translator, existing circumstances were not encouraging. In the early part of the period he occupied a very lowly place. As compared with Latin, or even with French, the English language, undeveloped and unstandardized, could make its appeal only to the unlearned. It had, in the words of a thirteenth-century translator of Bishop Grosseteste's Castle of Love, "no savor before a clerk."[28] Sometimes, it is true, the English writer had the stimulus of patriotism. The translator of Richard Coeur de Lion feels that Englishmen ought to be able to read in their own tongue the exploits of the English hero. The Cursor Mundi is translated

In to Inglis tong to rede For the love of Inglis lede, Inglis lede of Ingland.[29]

But beyond this there was little to encourage the translator. His audience, as compared with the learned and the refined, who read Latin and French, was ignorant and undiscriminating; his crude medium was entirely unequal to reproducing what had been written in more highly developed languages. It is little wonder that in these early days his English should be termed "dim and dark." Even after Chaucer had showed that the despised language was capable of grace and charm, the writer of less genius must often have felt that beside the more sophisticated Latin or French, English could boast but scanty resources.

There were difficulties and limitations also in the choice of material to be translated. Throughout most of the period literature existed only in manuscript; there were few large collections in any one place; travel was not easy. Priests, according to the prologue to Mirk's Festial, written in the early fifteenth century, complained of "default of books." To aspire, as did Chaucer's Clerk, to the possession of "twenty books" was to aspire high. Translators occasionally give interesting details regarding the circumstances under which they read and translated. The author of the life of St. Etheldred of Ely refers twice, with a certain pride, to a manuscript preserved in the abbey of Godstow which he himself has seen and from which he has drawn some of the facts which he presents. The translator of the alliterative romance of Alexander "borrowed" various books when he undertook his English rendering.[30] Earl Rivers, returning from the Continent, brought back a manuscript which had been lent him by a French gentleman, and set about the translation of his Dictes and Sayings of the Old Philosophers.[31] It is not improbable that there was a good deal of borrowing, with its attendant inconveniences. Even in the sixteenth century Sir Thomas Elyot, if we may believe his story, was hampered by the laws of property. He became interested in the acts and wisdom of Alexander Severus, "which book," he says, "was first written in the Greek tongue by his secretary Eucolpius and by good chance was lent unto me by a gentleman of Naples called Padericus. In reading whereof I was marvelously ravished, and as it hath ever been mine appetite, I wished that it had been published in such a tongue as more men might understand it. Wherefore with all diligence I endeavored myself whiles I had leisure to translate it into English: albeit I could not so exactly perform mine enterprise as I might have done, if the owner had not importunately called for his book, whereby I was constrained to leave some part of the work untranslated."[32] William Paris—to return to the earlier period—has left on record a situation which stirs the imagination. He translated the legend of St. Cristine while a prisoner in the Isle of Man, the only retainer of his unfortunate lord, the Earl of Warwick, whose captivity he chose to share.

He made this lyfe in ynglishe soo, As he satte in prison of stone, Ever as he myghte tent therto Whane he had his lordes service done.[33]

One is tempted to let the fancy play on the combination of circumstances that provided him with the particular manuscript from which he worked. It is easy, of course, to emphasize overmuch the scarcity and the inaccessibility of texts, but it is obvious that the translator's choice of subject was largely conditioned by opportunity. He did not select from the whole range of literature the work which most appealed to his genius. It is a far cry from the Middle Ages to the seventeenth century, with its stress on individual choice. Roscommon's advice,

Examine how your humour is inclined, And what the ruling passion of your mind; Then seek a poet who your way does bend, And choose an author as you choose a friend,

seems absurd in connection with the translator who had to choose what was within his reach, and who, in many cases, could not sit down in undisturbed possession of his source.

The element of individual choice was also diminished by the intervention of friends and patrons. In the fifteenth century, when translators were becoming communicative about their affairs, there is frequent reference to suggestion from without. Allowing for interest in the new craft of printing, there is still so much mention in Caxton's prefaces of commissions for translation as to make one feel that "ordering" an English version of some foreign book had become no uncommon thing for those who owned manuscripts and could afford such commodities as translations. Caxton's list ranges from The Fayttes of Armes, translated at the request of Henry VII from a manuscript lent by the king himself, to The Mirrour of the World, "translated ... at the request, desire, cost, and dispense of the honorable and worshipful man, Hugh Bryce, alderman and citizen of London."[34]

One wonders also how the source, thus chosen, presented itself to the translator's conception. His references to it are generally vague or confused, often positively misleading. Yet to designate with any definiteness a French or Latin text was no easy matter. When one considers the labor that, of later years, has gone to the classification and identification of old manuscripts, the awkward elaboration of nomenclature necessary to distinguish them, the complications resulting from missing pages and from the undue liberties of copyists, one realizes something of the position of the medieval translator. Even categories were not forthcoming for his convenience. The religious legend of St. Katherine of Alexandria is derived from "chronicles";[35] the moral tale of The Incestuous Daughter has its source in "romance";[36] Grosseteste's allegory, The Castle of Love, is presented as "a romance of English ... out of a romance that Sir Robert, Bishop of Lincoln, made."[37] The translator who explained "I found it written in old hand" was probably giving as adequate an account of his source as truth would permit.

Moreover, part of the confusion had often arisen before the manuscript came into the hands of the English translator. Often he was engaged in translating something that was already a translation. Most frequently it was a French version of a Latin original, but sometimes its ancestry was complicated by the existence or the tradition of Greek or Hebrew sources. The medieval Troy story, with its list of authorities, Dictys, Dares, Guido delle Colonne—to cite the favorite names—shows the situation in an aggravated form. In such cases the earlier translator's blunders and omissions in describing his source were likely to be perpetuated in the new rendering.

Such, roughly speaking, were the circumstances under which the translator did his work. Some of his peculiar difficulties are, approached from another angle, the difficulties of the present-day reader. The presence of one or more intermediary versions, a complication especially noticeable in England as a result of the French occupation after the Conquest, may easily mislead us. The originals of many of our texts are either non-extant or not yet discovered, but in cases where we do possess the actual source which the English writer used, a disconcerting situation often becomes evident. What at first seemed to be the English translator's comment on his own treatment of source is frequently only a literal rendering of a comment already present in his original. It is more convenient to discuss the details of such cases in another context, but any general approach to the theory of translation in Middle English literature must include this consideration. If we are not in possession of the exact original of a translation, our conclusions must nearly always be discounted by the possibility that not only the subject matter but the comment on that subject matter came from the French or Latin source. The pronoun of the first person must be regarded with a slight suspicion. "I" may refer to the Englishman, but it may also refer to his predecessor who made a translation or a compilation in French or Latin. "Compilation" suggests another difficulty. Sometimes an apparent reference to source is only an appeal to authority for the confirmation of a single detail, an appeal which, again, may be the work of the English translator, but may, on the other hand, be the contribution of his predecessor. A fairly common situation, for example, appears in John Capgrave's Life of St. Augustine, produced, as its author says, in answer to the request of a gentlewoman that he should "translate her truly out of Latin the life of St. Augustine, great doctor of the church." Of the work, its editor, Mr. Munro, says, "It looks at first sight as though Capgrave had merely translated an older Latin text, as he did in the Life of St. Gilbert; but no Latin life corresponding to our text has been discovered, and as Capgrave never refers to 'myn auctour,' and always alludes to himself as handling the material, I incline to conclude that he is himself the original composer, and that his reference to translation signifies his use of Augustine's books, from which he translates whole passages."[38] In a case like this it is evidently impossible to draw dogmatic conclusions. It may be that Capgrave is using the word "translate" with medieval looseness, but it is also possible that some of the comment expressed in the first person is translated comment, and the editor adds that, though the balance of probability is against it, "it is still possible that a Latin life may have been used." Occasionally, it is true, comment is stamped unmistakably as belonging to the English translator. The translator of a Canticum de Creatione declares that there were

—fro the incarnacioun of Jhesu Til this rym y telle yow Were turned in to englisch, A thousand thre hondred & seventy And fyve yere witterly. Thus in bok founden it is.[39]

Such unquestionably English additions are, unfortunately, rare and the situation remains confused.

But this is not the only difficulty which confronts the reader. He searches with disappointing results for such general and comprehensive statements of the medieval translator's theory as may aid in the interpretation of detail. Such statements are few, generally late in date, and, even when not directly translated from a predecessor, are obviously repetitions of the conventional rule associated with the name of Jerome and adopted in Anglo-Saxon times by Alfred and Aelfric. An early fifteenth-century translator of the Secreta Secretorum, for example, carries over into English the preface of the Latin translator: "I have translated with great travail into open understanding of Latin out of the language of Araby ... sometimes expounding letter by letter, and sometimes understanding of understanding, for other manner of speaking is with Arabs and other with Latin."[40] Lydgate makes a similar statement:

I wyl translate hyt sothly as I kan, After the lettre, in ordre effectuelly. Thogh I not folwe the wordes by & by, I schal not faille teuching the substance.[41]

Osbern Bokenam declares that he has translated

Not wurde for wurde—for that ne may be In no translation, aftyr Jeromys decree— But fro sentence to sentence.[42]

There is little attempt at the further analysis which would give this principle fresh significance. The translator makes scarcely any effort to define the extent to which he may diverge from the words of his original or to explain why such divergence is necessary. John de Trevisa, who translated so extensively in the later fourteenth century, does give some account of his methods, elementary, it is true, but honest and individual. His preface to his English prose version of Higden's Polychronicon explains: "In some place I shall set word for word, and active for active, and passive for passive, a-row right as it standeth, without changing of the order of words. But in some place I must change the order of words, and set active for passive and again-ward. And in some place I must set a reason for a word and tell what it meaneth. But for all such changing the meaning shall stand and not be changed."[43] An explanation like this, however, is unusual.

Possibly the fact that the translation was in prose affected Trevisa's theorizing. A prose rendering could follow its original so closely that it was possible to describe the comparatively few changes consequent on English usage. In verse, on the other hand, the changes involved were so great as to discourage definition. There are, however, a few comments on the methods to be employed in poetical renderings. According to the Proem to the Boethius, Alfred, in the Anglo-Saxon period, first translated the book "from Latin into English prose," and then "wrought it up once more into verse, as it is now done."[44] At the very beginning of the history of Middle English literature Orm attacked the problem of the verse translation very directly. He writes of his Ormulum:

Icc hafe sett her o thiss boc Amang Godspelles wordess, All thurrh me sellfenn, manig word The rime swa to fillenn.[45]

Such additions, he says, are necessary if the readers are to understand the text and if the metrical form is to be kept.

Forr whase mot to laewedd follc Larspell off Goddspell tellenn, He mot wel ekenn manig word Amang Godspelless Wordess. & icc ne mihhte nohht min ferrs Ayy withth Godspelless wordess Wel fillenn all, & all forrthi Shollde icc wel offte nede Amang Godspelless wordess don Min word, min ferrs to fillenn.[46]

Later translators, however, seldom followed his lead. There are a few comments connected with prose translations; the translator of The Book of the Knight of La Tour Landry quotes the explanation of his author that he has chosen prose rather than verse "for to abridge it, and that it might be better and more plainly to be understood";[47] the Lord in Trevisa's Dialogue prefixed to the Polychronicon desires a translation in prose, "for commonly prose is more clear than rhyme, more easy and more plain to understand";[48] but apparently the only one of Orm's successors to put into words his consciousness of the complications which accompany a metrical rendering is the author of The Romance of Partenay, whose epilogue runs:

As ny as metre can conclude sentence, Cereatly by rew in it have I go. Nerehand stafe by staf, by gret diligence, Savyng that I most metre apply to; The wourdes meve, and sett here & ther so.[49]

What follows, however, shows that he is concerned not so much with the peculiar difficulty of translation as with the general difficulty of "forging" verse. Whether a man employs Latin, French, or the vernacular, he continues,

Be it in balede, vers, Rime, or prose, He most torn and wend, metrely to close.[50]

Of explicit comment on general principles, then, there is but a small amount in connection with Middle English translations. Incidentally, however, writers let fall a good deal of information regarding their theories and methods. Such material must be interpreted with considerable caution, for although the most casual survey makes it clear that generally the translator felt bound to put into words something of his debt and his responsibility to his predecessors, yet one does not know how much significance should attach to this comment. He seldom offers clear, unmistakable information as to his difficulties and his methods of meeting them. It is peculiarly interesting to come upon such explanation of processes as appears at one point in Capgrave's Life of St. Gilbert. In telling the story of a miracle wrought upon a sick man, Capgrave writes: "One of his brethren, which was his keeper, gave him this counsel, that he should wind his head with a certain cloth of linen which St. Gilbert wore. I suppose verily," continues the translator, "it was his alb, for mine author here setteth a word 'subucula,' which is both an alb and a shirt, and in the first part of this life the same author saith that this holy man wore next his skin no hair as for the hardest, nor linen as for the softest, but he went with wool, as with the mean."[51] Such care for detail suggests the comparative methods later employed by the translators of the Bible, but whether or not it was common, it seldom found its way into words. The majority of writers acquitted themselves of the translator's duty by introducing at intervals somewhat conventional references to source, "in story as we read," "in tale as it is told," "as saith the geste," "in rhyme I read," "the prose says," "as mine author doth write," "as it tells in the book," "so saith the French tale," "as saith the Latin." Tags like these are everywhere present, especially in verse, where they must often have proved convenient in eking out the metre. Whether they are to be interpreted literally is hard to determine. The reader of English versions can seldom be certain whether variants on the more ordinary forms are merely stylistic or result from actual differences in situation; whether, for example, phrases like "as I have heard tell," "as the book says," "as I find in parchment spell" are rewordings of the same fact or represent real distinctions.

One group of doubtful references apparently question the reliability of the written source. In most cases the seeming doubt is probably the result of awkward phrasing. Statements like "as the story doth us both write and mean,"[52] "as the book says and true men tell us,"[53] "but the book us lie,"[54] need have little more significance than the slightly absurd declaration,

The gospel nul I forsake nought Thaugh it be written in parchemyn.[55]

Occasional more direct questionings incline one, however, to take the matter a little more seriously. The translator of a Canticum de Creatione, strangely fabulous in content, presents his material with the words,

—as we finden in lectrure, I not whether it be in holy scripture.[56]

The author of one of the legends of the Holy Cross says,

This tale, quether hit be il or gode, I fande hit writen of the rode. Mani tellis diverseli, For thai finde diverse stori.[57]

Capgrave, in his legend of St. Katherine, takes issue unmistakably with his source.

In this reknyng myne auctour & I are too: ffor he accordeth not wytz cronicles that ben olde, But diversyth from hem, & that in many thyngis. There he accordeth, ther I him hold; And where he diversyth in ordre of theis kyngis, I leve hym, & to oder mennys rekenyngis I geve more credens whech be-fore hym and me Sette alle these men in ordre & degre.[58]

Except when this mistrust is made a justification for divergence from the original, these comments contribute little to our knowledge of the medieval translator's methods and need concern us little. More needful of explanation is the reference which implies that the English writer is not working from a manuscript, but is reproducing something which he has heard read or recounted, or which he has read for himself at some time in the past. How is one to interpret phrases like that which introduces the story of Golagros and Gawain, "as true men me told," or that which appears at the beginning of Rauf Coilyear, "heard I tell"? One explanation, obviously true in some cases, is that such references are only conventional. The concluding lines of Ywain and Gawin,

Of them no more have I heard tell Neither in romance nor in spell,[59]

are simply a rough rendering of the French

Ne ja plus n'en orroiz conter, S'an n'i vialt manconge ajoster.[60]

On the other hand, the author of the long romance of Ipomadon, which follows its source with a closeness which precludes all possibility of reproduction from memory, has tacked on two references to hearing,[61] not only without a basis in the French but in direct contradiction to Hue de Rotelande's account of the source of his material. In Emare, "as I have heard minstrels sing in sawe" is apparently introduced as the equivalent of the more ordinary phrases "in tale as it is told" and "in romance as we read,"[62] the second of which is scarcely compatible with the theory of an oral source.

One cannot always, however, dispose of the reference to hearing so easily. Contemporary testimony shows that literature was often transmitted by word of mouth. Thomas de Cabham mentions the "ioculatores, qui cantant gesta principum et vitam sanctorum";[63] Robert of Brunne complains that those who sing or say the geste of Sir Tristram do not repeat the story exactly as Thomas made it.[64] Even though one must recognize the probability that sometimes the immediate oral source of the minstrel's tale may have been English, one cannot ignore the possibility that occasionally a "translated" saint's life or romance may have been the result of hearing a French or Latin narrative read or recited. A convincing example of reproduction from memory appears in the legend of St. Etheldred of Ely, whose author recounts certain facts,

The whiche y founde in the abbey of Godstow y-wis, In hure legent as y dude there that tyme rede,

and later presents other material,

The whiche y say at Hely y-write.[65]

Such evidence makes us regard with more attention the remark in Capgrave's St. Katherine,

—right soo dede I lere Of cronycles whiche (that) I saugh last,[66]

or the lines at the end of Roberd of Cisyle,

Al this is write withoute lyghe At Rome, to ben in memorye, At seint Petres cherche, I knowe.[67]

It is possible also that sometimes a vague phrase like "as the story says," or "in tale as it is told," may signify hearing instead of reading. But in general one turns from consideration of the references to hearing with little more than an increased respect for the superior definiteness which belongs to the mention of the "black letters," the "parchment," "the French book," or "the Latin book."

Leaving the general situation and examining individual types of literature, one finds it possible to draw conclusions which are somewhat more definite. The metrical romance—to choose one of the most popular literary forms of the period—is nearly always garnished with references to source scattered throughout its course in a manner that awakens curiosity. Sometimes they do not appear at the beginning of the romance, but are introduced in large numbers towards the end; sometimes, after a long series of pages containing nothing of the sort, we begin to come upon them frequently, perhaps in groups, one appearing every few lines, so that their presence constitutes something like a quality of style. For example, in Bevis of Hamtoun[68] and The Earl of Toulouse[69] the first references to source come between ll. 800 and 900; in Ywain and Gawin the references appear at ll. 9, 3209, and 3669;[70] in The Wars of Alexander[71] there is a perpetual harping on source, one phrase seeming to produce another.

Occasionally one can find a reason for the insertion of the phrase in a given place. Sometimes its presence suggests that the translator has come upon an unfamiliar word. In Sir Eglamour of Artois, speaking of a bird that has carried off a child, the author remarks, "a griffin, saith the book, he hight";[72] in Partenay, in an attempt to give a vessel its proper name, the writer says, "I found in scripture that it was a barge."[73] This impression of accuracy is most common in connection with geographical proper names. In Torrent of Portyngale we have the name of a forest, "of Brasill saith the book it was"; in Partonope of Blois we find "France was named those ilke days Galles, as mine author says,"[74] or "Mine author telleth this church hight the church of Albigis."[75] In this same romance the reference to source accompanies a definite bit of detail, "The French book thus doth me tell, twenty waters he passed full fell."[76] Bevis of Hamtoun kills "forty Sarracens, the French saith."[77] As in the case of the last illustration, the translator frequently needs to cite his authority because the detail he gives is somewhat difficult of belief. In The Sege of Melayne the Christian warriors recover their horses miraculously "through the prayer of St. Denys, thus will the chronicle say";[78] in The Romance of Partenay we read of a wondrous light appearing about a tomb, "the French maker saith he saw it with eye."[79] Sometimes these phrases suggest that metre and rhyme do not always flow easily for the English writer, and that in such difficulties a stock space-filler is convenient. Lines like those in Chaucer's Sir Thopas,

And so bifel upon a day, Forsothe as I you telle may Sir Thopas wolde outride,


The briddes synge, it is no nay, The sparhauke and the papejay

may easily be paralleled by passages containing references to source.

A good illustration from almost every point of view of the significance and lack of significance of the appearance of these phrases in a given context is the version of the Alexander story usually called The Wars of Alexander. The frequent references to source in this romance occur in sporadic groups. The author begins by putting them in with some regularity at the beginnings of the passus into which he divides his narrative, but, as the story progresses, he ceases to do so, perhaps forgets his first purpose. Sometimes the reference to source suggests accuracy: "And five and thirty, as I find, were in the river drowned."[80] "Rhinoceros, as I read, the book them calls."[81] The strength of some authority is necessary to support the weight of the incredible marvels which the story-teller recounts. He tells of a valley full of serpents with crowns on their heads, who fed, "as the prose tells," on pepper, cloves, and ginger;[82] of enormous crabs with backs, "as the book says," bigger and harder than any common stone or cockatrice scales;[83] of the golden image of Xerxes, which on the approach of Alexander suddenly, "as tells the text," falls to pieces.[84] He often has recourse to an authority for support when he takes proper names from the Latin. "Luctus it hight, the lettre and the line thus it calls."[85] The slayers of Darius are named Besan and Anabras, "as the book tells."[86] On the other hand, the signification of the reference in its context can be shown to be very slight. As was said before, the writer soon forgets to insert it at the beginning of the new passus; there are plenty of marvels without any citation of authority to add to their credibility; and though the proper name carries its reference to the Latin, it is usually strangely distorted from its original form. So far as bearing on the immediate context is concerned, most of the references to source have little more meaning than the ordinary tags, "as I you say," "as you may hear," or "as I understand."

Apart, however, from the matter of context, one may make a rough classification of the romances on the ground of these references. Leaving aside the few narratives (e.g. Sir Percival of Galles, King Horn) which contain no suggestion that they are of secondary origin, one may distinguish two groups. There is, in the first place, a large body of romances which refer in general terms to their originals, but do not profess any responsibility for faithful reproduction; in the second place, there are some romances whose authors do recognize the claims of the original, which is in such cases nearly always definitely described, and frequently go so far as to discuss its style or the style to be adopted in the English rendering. The first group, which includes considerably more than half the romances at present accessible in print, affords a confused mass of references. As regards the least definite of these, one finds phrases so vague as to suggest that the author himself might have had difficulty in identifying his source, phrases where the omission of the article ("in rhyme," "in romance," "in story") or the use of the plural ("as books say," "as clerks tell," "as men us told," "in stories thus as we read") deprives the words of most of their significance. Other references are more definite; the writer mentions "this book," "mine author," "the Latin book," "the French book." If these phrases are to be trusted, we may conclude that the English translator has his text before him; they aid little, however, in identification of that text. The fifty-six references in Malory's Morte d'Arthur to "the French book" give no particular clue to discovery of his sources. The common formula, "as the French book says," marks the highest degree of definiteness to which most of these romances attain.

An interesting variant from the commoner forms is the reference to Rom, generally in the phrase "the book of Rom," which appears in some of the romances. The explanation that Rom is a corruption of romance and that the book of Rom is simply the book of romance or the book written in the romance language, French, can easily be supported. In the same poem Rom alternates with romance: "In Rome this geste is chronicled," "as the romance telleth,"[87] "in the chronicles of Rome is the date," "in romance as we read."[88] Two versions of Octavian read, the one "in books of Rome," the other "in books of ryme."[89] On the other hand, there are peculiarities in the use of the word not so easy of explanation. It appears in a certain group of romances, Octavian, Le Bone Florence of Rome, Sir Eglamour of Artois, Torrent of Portyngale, The Earl of Toulouse, all of which develop in some degree the Constance story, familiar in The Man of Law's Tale. In all of them there is reference to the city of Rome, sometimes very obvious, sometimes slight, but perhaps equally significant in the latter case because it is introduced in an unexpected, unnecessary way. In Le Bone Florence of Rome the heroine is daughter of the Emperor of Rome, and, the tale of her wanderings done, the story ends happily with her reinstatement in her own city. Octavian is Emperor of Rome, and here again the happy conclusion finds place in that city. Sir Eglamour belongs to Artois, but he does betake himself to Rome to kill a dragon, an episode introduced in one manuscript of the story by the phrase "as the book of Rome says."[90] Though the scenes of Torrent of Portyngale are Portugal, Norway, and Calabria, the Emperor of Rome comes to the wedding of the hero, and Torrent himself is finally chosen Emperor, presumably of Rome. The Earl of Toulouse, in the romance of that name, disguises himself as a monk, and to aid in the illusion some one says of him during his disappearance, "Gone is he to his own land: he dwells with the Pope of Rome."[91] The Emperor in this story is Emperor of Almaigne, but his name, strangely enough, is Diocletian. Again, in Octavian, one reads in the description of a feast, "there was many a rich geste of Rome and of France,"[92] which suggests a distinction between a geste of Rome and a geste of France. In Le Bone Florence of Rome appears the peculiar statement, "Pope Symonde this story wrote. In the chronicles of Rome is the date."[93] In this case the word Rome seems to have been taken literally enough to cause attribution of the story to the Pope. It is evident, then, that whether or not Rome is a corruption of romance, at any rate one or more of the persons who had a hand in producing these narratives must have interpreted the word literally, and believed that the book of Rome was a record of occurrences in the city of Rome.[94] It is interesting to note that in The Man of Law's Tale, in speaking of Maurice, the son of Constance, Chaucer introduces a reference to the Gesta Romanorum:

In the old Romayn gestes may men fynde Maurice's lyf, I bere it not in mynde.

Such vagueness and uncertainty, if not positive misunderstanding with regard to source, are characteristic of many romances. It is not difficult to find explanations for this. The writer may, as was suggested before, be reproducing a story which he has only heard or which he has read at some earlier time. Even if he has the book before him, it does not necessarily bear its author's name and it is not easy to describe it so that it can be recognized by others. Generally speaking, his references to source are honest, so far as they go, and can be taken at their face value. Even in cases of apparent falsity explanations suggest themselves. There is nearly always the possibility that false or contradictory attributions, as, for example, the mention of "book" and "books" or "the French book" and "the Latin book" as sources of the same romance, are merely stupidly literal renderings of the original. In The Romance of Partenay, one of the few cases where we have unquestionably the French original of the English romance, more than once an apparent reference to source in the English is only a close following of the French. "I found in scripture that it was a barge" corresponds with "Je treuve que c'estoit une barge"; "as saith the scripture" with "Ainsi que dient ly escrips";

For the Cronike doth treteth (sic) this brefly, More ferther wold go, mater finde might I


Mais en brief je m'en passeray Car la cronique en brief passe. Plus deisse, se plus trouvasse.[95]

A similar situation has already been pointed out in Ywain and Gawin. The most marked example of contradictory evidence is to be found in Octavian, whose author alternates "as the French says" with "as saith the Latin."[96] Here, however, the nearest analogue to the English romance, which contains 1962 lines, is a French romance of 5371 lines, which begins by mentioning the "grans merueilles qui sont faites, et de latin en romanz traites."[97] It is not impossible that the English writer used a shorter version which emphasized this reference to the Latin, and that his too-faithful adherence to source had confusing results. But even if such contradictions cannot be explained, in the mass of undistinguished romances there is scarcely anything to suggest that the writer is trying to give his work a factitious value by misleading references to dignified sources. His faults, as in Ywain and Gawin, where the name of Chretien is not carried over from the French, are sins of omission, not commission.

No hard and fast line of division can be drawn between the romances just discussed and those of the second group, with their frequent and fairly definite references to their sources and to their methods of reproducing them. A rough chronological division between the two groups can be made about the year 1400. William of Palerne, assigned by its editor to the year 1350, contains a slight indication of the coming change in the claim which its author makes to have accomplished his task "as fully as the French fully would ask."[98] Poems like Chaucer's Knight's Tale and Franklin's Tale have only the vague references to source of the earlier period, though since they are presented as oral narratives, they belong less obviously to the present discussion. The vexed question of the signification of the references in Troilus and Criseyde is outside the scope of this discussion. Superficially considered, they are an odd mingling of the new and the old. Phrases like "as to myn auctour listeth to devise" (III, 1817), "as techen bokes olde" (III, 91), "as wryten folk thorugh which it is in minde" (IV, 18) suggest the first group. The puzzling references to Lollius have a certain definiteness, and faithfulness to source is implied in lines like:

And of his song nought only the sentence, As writ myn auctour called Lollius, But pleynly, save our tonges difference, I dar wel seyn, in al that Troilus Seyde in his song; lo! every word right thus As I shal seyn (I, 393-8)


"For as myn auctour seyde, so seye I" (II, 18).

But from the beginning of the new century, in the work of men like Lydgate and Caxton, a new habit of comment becomes noticeable.

Less distinguished translators show a similar development. The author of The Holy Grail, Harry Lonelich, a London skinner, towards the end of his work makes frequent, if perhaps mistaken, attribution of the French romance to

... myn sire Robert of Borron Whiche that this storie Al & som Owt Of the latyn In to the frensh torned he Be holy chirches Comandment sekerle,[99]

and makes some apology for the defects of his own style:

And I, As An unkonning Man trewly Into Englisch have drawen this Story; And thowgh that to yow not plesyng It be, Yit that ful Excused ye wolde haven Me Of my necligence and unkonning.[100]

The Romance of Partenay is turned into English by a writer who presents himself very modestly:

I not acqueynted of birth naturall With frenshe his very trew parfightnesse, Nor enpreyntyd is in mind cordiall; O word For other myght take by lachesse, Or peradventure by unconnyngesse.[101]

He intends, however, to be a careful translator:

As nighe as metre will conclude sentence, Folew I wil my president, Ryght as the frenshe wil yiff me evidence, Cereatly after myn entent,[102]

and he ends by declaring that in spite of the impossibility of giving an exact rendering of the French in English metre, he has kept very closely to the original. Sometimes, owing to the shortness of the French "staffes," he has reproduced in one line two lines of the French, but, except for this, comparison will show that the two versions are exactly alike.[103]

The translator of Partonope of Blois does not profess such slavish faithfulness, though he does profess great admiration for his source,

The olde booke full well I-wryted, In ffrensh also, and fayre endyted,[104]

and declares himself bound to follow it closely:

Thus seith myn auctour after whome I write. Blame not me: I moste endite As nye after hym as ever I may, Be it sothe or less I can not say.[105]

However, in the midst of his protestations of faithfulness, he confesses to divergence:

There-fore y do alle my myghthhe To saue my autor ynne sucche wyse As he that mater luste devyse, Where he makyth grete compleynte In french so fayre thatt yt to paynte In Englysche tunngge y saye for me My wyttys alle to dullet bee. He telleth hys tale of sentament I vnderstonde noghth hys entent, Ne wolle ne besy me to lere.[106]

He owns to the abbreviation of descriptive passages, which so many English translators had perpetrated in silence:

Her bewte dyscry fayne wolde I Affter the sentence off myne auctowre, Butte I pray yowe of thys grette labowre I mote at thys tyme excused be;[107]

Butte who so luste to here of hur a-raye, Lette him go to the ffrensshe bocke, That Idell mater I forsoke To telle hyt in prose or els in ryme, For me thoghte hyt taryed grette tyme. And ys a mater full nedless.[108]

One cannot but suspect that this odd mingling of respect and freedom as regards the original describes the attitude of many other translators of romances, less articulate in the expression of their theory.

To deal fairly with many of the romances of this second group, one must consider the relationship between romance and history and the uncertain division between the two. The early chronicles of England generally devoted an appreciable space to matters of romance, the stories of Troy, of Aeneas, of Arthur. As in the case of the romance proper, such chronicles were, even in the modern sense, "translated," for though the historian usually compiled his material from more than one source, his method was to put together long, consecutive passages from various authors, with little attempt at assimilating them into a whole. The distinction between history and romance was slow in arising. The Morte Arthure offers within a few lines both "romances" and "chronicles" as authorities for its statements.[109] In Caxton's preface to Godfrey of Bullogne the enumeration of the great names of history includes Arthur and Charlemagne, and the story of Godfrey is designated as "this noble history which is no fable nor feigned thing." Throughout the period the stories of Troy and of Alexander are consistently treated as history, and their redactors frequently state that their material has come from various places. Nearly all the English Troy stories are translations of Guido delle Colonne's Historia Trojana, and they take over from their original Guido's long discussion of authorities. The Alexander romances present the same effect of historical accuracy in passages like the following:

This passage destuted is In the French, well y-wis, Therefore I have, it to colour Borrowed of the Latin author;[110]

Of what kin he came can I nought find In no book that I bed when I began here The Latin to this language lelliche to turn.[111]

The assumption of the historian's attitude was probably the largest factor in the development of the habit of expressing responsibility for following the source or for noting divergence from it. Less easy of explanation is the fact that comment on style so frequently appears in this connection. There is perhaps a touch of it even in Layamon's account of his originals, when he approaches his French source: "Layamon began to journey wide over this land, and procured the noble books which he took for authority. He took the English book that Saint Bede made; another he took in Latin that Saint Albin made, and the fair Austin, who brought baptism hither; the third he took, (and) laid there in the midst, that a French clerk made, who was named Wace, who well could write.... Layamon laid before him these books, and turned the leaves ... pen he took with fingers, and wrote on book skin, and the true words set together, and the three books compressed into one."[112] Robert of Brunne, in his Chronicle of England, dated as early as 1338, combines a lengthy discussion of style with a clear statement of the extent to which he has used his sources. Wace tells in French

All that the Latyn spelles, ffro Eneas till Cadwaladre; this Mayster Wace ther leves he. And ryght as Mayster Wace says, I telle myn Inglis the same ways.[113]

Pers of Langtoft continues the history;

& as he says, than say I,[114]

writes the translator. Robert admires his predecessors, Dares, whose "Latyn is feyre to lere," Wace, who "rymed it in Frankis fyne," and Pers, of whose style he says, "feyrer language non ne redis"; but he is especially concerned with his own manner of expression. He does not aspire to an elaborate literary style; rather, he says,

I made it not forto be praysed, Bot at the lewed men were aysed.[115]

Consequently he eschews the difficult verse forms then coming into fashion, "ryme cowee," "straungere," or "enterlace." He does not write for the "disours," "seggers," and "harpours" of his own day, who tell the old stories badly.

Non tham says as thai tham wrought, & in ther sayng it semes noght.[116]

A confusion of pronouns makes it difficult to understand what he considers the fault of contemporary renderings. Possibly it is that affectation of an obsolete style to which Caxton refers in the preface to the Eneydos. In any case, he himself rejects "straunge Inglis" for "simple speche."

Unlike Robert of Brunne, Andrew of Wyntoun, writing at the beginning of the next century, delights in the ornamental style which has added a charm to ancient story.

Quharfore of sic antiquiteis Thei that set haly thare delite Gestis or storyis for to write, Flurist fairly thare purpose With quaynt and curiouse circumstance, For to raise hertis in plesance, And the heraris till excite Be wit or will to do thare delite.[117]

The "antiquiteis" which he has in mind are obviously the tales of Troy. Guido delle Colonne, Homer, and Virgil, he continues, all

Fairly formyt there tretyss, And curiously dytit there storyis.[118]

Some writers, however, did not adopt the elevated style which such subject matter deserves.

Sum usit bot in plane maner Of air done dedis thar mater To writ, as did Dares of Frigy, That wrait of Troy all the story, Bot in till plane and opin style, But curiouse wordis or subtile.[119]

Andrew does not attempt to discuss the application of his theory to English style, but he has perhaps suggested the reason why the question of style counted for so much in connection with this pseudo-historical material. In the introduction to Barbour's Bruce, though the point at issue is not translation, there is a similar idea. According to Barbour, a true story has a special claim to an attractive rendering.

Storyss to rede ar delitabill, Supposs that thai be nocht bot fabill; Than suld storyss that suthfast wer, And thai war said in gud maner, Have doubill plesance in heryng. The fyrst plesance is the carpyng, And the tothir the suthfastness, That schawys the thing rycht as it wes.[120]

Lydgate, Wyntoun's contemporary, apparently shared his views. In translating Boccaccio's Falls of Princes he dispenses with stylistic ornament.

Of freshe colours I toke no maner hede. But my processe playnly for to lede: As me semed it was to me most mete To set apart Rethorykes swete.[121]

But when it came to the Troy story, his matter demanded a different treatment. He calls upon Mars

To do socour my stile to directe, And of my penne the tracys to correcte, Whyche bareyn is of aureate licour, But in thi grace I fynde som favour For to conveye it wyth thyn influence.[122]

He also asks aid of Calliope.

Now of thy grace be helpyng unto me, And of thy golde dewe lat the lycour wete My dulled breast, that with thyn hony swete Sugrest tongis of rethoricyens, And maistresse art to musicyens.[123]

Like Wyntoun, Lydgate pays tribute to his predecessors, the clerks who have kept in memory the great deeds of the past

... thorough diligent labour, And enlumyned with many corious flour Of rethorik, to make us comprehend The trouthe of al.[124]

Of Guido in particular he writes that he

... had in writyng passynge excellence. For he enlumyneth by craft & cadence This noble story with many fresch colour Of rethorik, & many riche flour Of eloquence to make it sownde bet He in the story hath ymped in and set, That in good feyth I trowe he hath no pere.[125]

None of these men point out the relationship between the style of the original and the style to be employed in the English rendering. Caxton, the last writer to be considered in this connection, remarks in his preface to The Recuyell of the Histories of Troy on the "fair language of the French, which was in prose so well and compendiously set and written," and in the prologue to the Eneydos tells how he was attracted by the "fair and honest terms and words in French," and how, after writing a leaf or two, he noted that his English was characterized by "fair and strange terms." While it may be that both Caxton and Lydgate were trying to reproduce in English the peculiar quality of their originals, it is more probable that they beautified their own versions as best they could, without feeling it incumbent upon them to make their rhetorical devices correspond with those of their predecessors. Elsewhere Caxton expresses concern only for his own language, as it is to be judged by English readers without regard for the qualities of the French. In most cases he characterizes his renderings of romance as "simple and rude"; in the preface to Charles the Great he says that he uses "no gay terms, nor subtle, nor new eloquence"; and in the preface to Blanchardyn and Eglantine he declares that he does not know "the art of rhetoric nor of such gay terms as now be said in these days and used," and that his only desire is to be understood by his readers. The prologue to the Eneydos, however, tells a different story. According to this he has been blamed for expressing himself in "over curious terms which could not be understood of the common people" and requested to use "old and homely terms." But Caxton objects to the latter as being also unintelligible. "In my judgment," he says, "the common terms that be daily used, are lighter to be understood than the old and ancient English." He is writing, not for the ignorant man, but "only for a clerk and a noble gentleman that feeleth and understandeth in feats of arms, in love, and in noble chivalry." For this reason, he concludes, "in a mean have I reduced and translated this said book into our English, not over rude nor curious, but in such terms as shall be understood, by God's grace, according to the copy." Though Caxton does not avail himself of Wyntoun's theory that the Troy story must be told in "curious and subtle" words, it is probable that, like other translators of his century, he felt the attraction of the new aureate diction while he professed the simplicity of language which existing standards demanded of the translator.

Turning from the romance and the history and considering religious writings, the second large group of medieval productions, one finds the most significant translator's comment associated with the saint's legend, though occasionally the short pious tale or the more abstract theological treatise makes some contribution. These religious works differ from the romances in that they are more frequently based on Latin than on French originals, and in that they contain more deliberate and more repeated references to the audiences to which they have been adapted. The translator does not, like Caxton, write for "a clerk and a noble gentleman"; instead he explains repeatedly that he has striven to make his work understandable to the unlearned, for, as the author of The Child of Bristow pertinently remarks,

The beste song that ever was made Is not worth a lekys blade But men wol tende ther-tille.[126]

Since Latin enditing is "cumbrous," the translator of The Blood at Hayles presents a version in English, "for plainly this the truth will tell";[127] Osbern Bokenam will speak and write "plainly, after the language of Southfolk speech";[128] John Capgrave, finding that the earlier translator of the life of St. Katherine has made the work "full hard ... right for the strangeness of his dark language," undertakes to translate it "more openly" and "set it more plain."[129] This conception of the audience, together with the writer's consciousness that even in presenting narrative he is conveying spiritual truths of supreme importance to his readers, probably increases the tendency of the translator to incorporate into his English version such running commentary as at intervals suggests itself to him. He may add a line or two of explanation, of exhortation, or, if he recognizes a quotation from the Scriptures or from the Fathers, he may supply the authority for it. John Capgrave undertakes to translate the life of St. Gilbert "right as I find before me, save some additions will I put thereto which men of that order have told me, and eke other things that shall fall to my mind in the writing which be pertinent to the matter."[130] Nicholas Love puts into English The Mirror of the Blessed Life of Jesus Christ, "with more put to in certain parts, and also with drawing out of divers authorities and matters as it seemeth to the writer hereof most speedful and edifying to them that be of simple understanding."[131] Such incidental citation of authority is evident in St. Paula, published by Dr. Horstmann side by side with its Latin original.[132] With more simplicity and less display of learning, the translator of religious works sometimes vaguely adduces authority, as did the translator of romances, in connection with an unfamiliar name. One finds such statements as: "Manna, so it is written";[133] "Such a fiend, as the book tells us, is called Incubus";[134] "In the country of Champagne, as the book tells";[135] "Cursates, saith the book, he hight";[136]

Her body lyeth in strong castylle And Bulstene, seith the boke, it hight;[137]

In the yer of ur lord of hevene Four hundred and eke ellevene Wandaly the province tok Of Aufrike—so seith the bok.[138]

Often, however, the reference to source is introduced apparently at random. On the whole, indeed, the comment which accompanies religious writings does not differ essentially in intelligibility or significance from that associated with romances; its interest lies mainly in the fact that it brings into greater relief tendencies more or less apparent in the other form.

One of these is the large proportion of borrowed comment. The constant citation of authority in a work such as, for example, The Golden Legend was likely to be reproduced in the English with varying degrees of faithfulness. A Life of St. Augustine, to choose a few illustrations from many, reproduces the Latin as in the following examples: "as the book telleth us" replaces "dicitur enim"; "of him it is said in Glosarie," "ut dicitur in Glossario"; "in the book of his confessions the sooth is written for the nonce," "ut legitur in libro iii. confessionum."[139] Robert of Brunne's Handlyng Synne, as printed by the Early English Text Society with its French original, affords numerous examples of translated references to authority.

The tale ys wrytyn, al and sum, In a boke of Vitas Patrum

corresponds with

Car en vn liure ai troue Qe Vitas Patrum est apele;

Thus seyth seynt Anselme, that hit wrote To thys clerkys that weyl hit wote


Ceo nus ad Seint Ancelme dit Qe en la fey fut clerk parfit.

Yet there are variations in the English much more marked than in the last example. "Cum l'estorie nus ad cunte" has become "Yn the byble men mow hyt se"; while for

En ve liure qe est apelez La sume des vertuz & des pechiez

the translator has substituted

Thys same tale tellyth seynt Bede Yn hys gestys that men rede.[140]

This attempt to give the origin of a tale or of a precept more accurately than it is given in the French or the Latin leads sometimes to strange confusion, more especially when a reference to the Scriptures is involved. It was admitted that the Bible was unusually difficult of comprehension and that, if the simple were to understand it, it must be annotated in various ways. Nicholas Love says that there have been written "for lewd men and women ... devout meditations of Christ's life more plain in certain parts than is expressed in the gospels of the four evangelists."[141] With so much addition of commentary and legend, it was often hard to tell what was and what was not in Holy Scripture, and consequently while a narrative like The Birth of Jesus cites correctly enough the gospels for certain days, of which it gives a free rendering,[142] there are cases of amazing attributions, like that at the end of the legend of Ypotis:

Seynt Jon the Evangelist Ede on eorthe with Jhesu Crist, This tale he wrot in latin In holi bok in parchemin.[143]

After the fifteenth century is reached, the translator of religious works, like the translator of romances, becomes more garrulous in his comment and develops a good deal of interest in English style. As a fair representative of the period we may take Osbern Bokenam, the translator of various saint's legends, a man very much interested in the contemporary development of literary expression. Two qualities, according to Bokenam, characterize his own style; he writes "compendiously" and he avoids "gay speech." He repeatedly disclaims both prolixity and rhetorical ornament. His

... form of procedyng artificyal Is in no wyse ner poetical.[144]

He cannot emulate the "first rhetoricians," Gower, Chaucer, and Lydgate; he comes too late; they have already gathered "the most fresh flowers." Moreover the ornamental style would not become him; he does not desire

... to have swych eloquence As sum curials han, ner swych asperence In utteryng of here subtyl conceytys In wych oft-tyme ful greth dysceyt is.[145]

To covet the craft of such language would be "great dotage" for an old man like him. Yet like those of Lydgate and Caxton, Bokenam's protestations are not entirely convincing, and in them one catches glimpses of a lurking fondness for the wordiness of fine writing. Though Pallas has always refused to lead him

Of Thully Rethoryk in-to the motlyd mede, Flourys to gadryn of crafty eloquens,[146]

yet he has often prayed her to show him some favor. Elsewhere he finds it necessary to apologize for the brevity of part of his work.

Now have I shewed more compendiously Than it owt have ben this noble pedigree; But in that myn auctour I follow sothly, And also to eschew prolixite, And for my wyt is schort, as ye may se, To the second part I wyl me hye.[147]

The conventionality, indeed, of Bokenam's phraseology and of his literary standards and the self-contradictory elements in his statements leave one with the impression that he has brought little, if anything, that is fresh and individual to add to the theory of translation.

Whether or not the medieval period made progress towards the development of a more satisfactory theory is a doubtful question. While men like Lydgate, Bokenam, and Caxton generally profess to have reproduced the content of their sources and make some mention of the original writers, their comment is confused and indefinite; they do not recognize any compelling necessity for faithfulness; and one sometimes suspects that they excelled their predecessors only in articulateness. As compared with Layamon and Orm they show a development scarcely worthy of a lapse of more than two centuries. There is perhaps, as time goes on, some little advance towards the attainment of modern standards of scholarship as regards confession of divergence from sources. In the early part of the period variations from the original are only vaguely implied and become evident only when the reader can place the English beside the French or Latin. In Floris and Blancheflor, for example, a much condensed version of a descriptive passage in the French is introduced by the words, "I ne can tell you how richly the saddle was wrought."[148] The romance of Arthur ends with the statement,

He that will more look, Read in the French book, And he shall find there Things that I leete here.[149]

The Northern Passion turns from the legendary history of the Cross to something more nearly resembling the gospel narrative with the exhortation, "Forget not Jesus for this tale."[150] As compared with this, writers like Nicholas Love or John Capgrave are noticeably explicit. Love pauses at various points to explain that he is omitting large sections of the original;[151] Capgrave calls attention to his interpolations and refers them to their sources.[152] On the other hand, there are constant implications that variation from source may be a desirable thing and that explanation and apology are unnecessary. Bokenam, for example, apologizes rather because The Golden Legend does not supply enough material and he must leave out certain things "for ignorance."[153] Caxton says of his Charles the Great, "If I had been more largely informed ... I had better made it."[154]

On the whole, the greatest merit of the later medieval translators consists in the quantity of their comment. In spite of the vagueness and the absence of originality in their utterances, there is an advantage in their very garrulity. Translators needed to become more conscious and more deliberate in their work; different methods needed to be defined; and the habit of technical discussion had its value, even though the quality of the commentary was not particularly good. Apart from a few conventional formulas, this habit of comment constituted the bequest of medieval translators to their sixteenth-century successors.


[1] Trans. in Gregory's Pastoral Care, ed. Sweet, E.E.T.S., p. 7.

[2] Trans. in King Alfred's Version of the Consolations of Boethius, trans. Sedgefield, 1900.

[3] Trans. in Hargrove, King Alfred's Old English Version of St. Augustine's Soliloquies, 1902, pp. xliii-xliv.

[4] Latin Preface of the Catholic Homilies I, Latin Preface of the Lives of the Saints, Preface of Pastoral Letter for Archbishop Wulfstan. All of these are conveniently accessible in White, Aelfric, Chap. XIII.

[5] Latin Preface to Homilies II.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Preface to Genesis.

[8] Latin Preface of the Grammar.

[9] Latin Preface to Homilies I.

[10] In the selections from the Bible various passages, e.g., genealogies, are omitted without comment.

[11] Latin Preface to Homilies I.

[12] Latin Preface.

[13] For further comment, see Chapter II.

[14] Trans. in Thorpe, Caedmon's Metrical Pharaphrase, London, 1832, p. xxv.

[15] Ll. 1238 ff. For trans. see The Christ of Cynewulf, ed. Cook, pp. xlvi-xlviii.

[16] Cf. comment on l. 1, in Introduction to Andreas, ed. Krapp, 1906, p. lii: "The Poem opens with the conventional formula of the epic, citing tradition as the source of the story, though it is all plainly of literary origin."

[17] I.e. Laurent de Premierfait.

[18] Bochas' Falls of Princes, 1558.

[19] Ed. Ritson, ll. 1138-9.

[20] A version, ll. 341-4. Cf. Puttenham, "... many of his books be but bare translations out of the Latin and French ... as his books of Troilus and Cresseid, and the Romant of the Rose," Gregory Smith, Elizabethan Critical Essays, ii, 64.

[21] Osbern Bokenam's Legenden, ed. Horstmann, 1883, ll. 108-9, 124.

[22] The Life of St. Werburge, E.E.T.S., ll. 94. 127-130.

[23] Minor Poems of Lydgate, E.E.T.S., Legend of St. Gyle, ll. 9-10, 27-32.

[24] Ibid., Legend of St. Margaret, l. 74.

[25] St. Christiana, l. 1028.

[26] Legend of Good Women, ll. 425-6.

[27] See the ballade by Eustache Deschamps, quoted in Chaucer, Works, ed. Morris, vol. 1, p. 82.

[28] Minor Poems of the Vernon MS, Pt. 1, E.E.T.S., The Castle of Love, l. 72.

[29] E.E.T.S., Cotton Vesp. MS. ll. 233-5.

[30] E.E.T.S., l. 457.

[31] See Cambridge History of English Literature, v. 2, p. 313.

[32] Preface to The Image of Governance, 1549.

[33] Sammlung Altenglischer Legenden, ed. Horstmann, Christine, ll. 517-20.

[34] Preface, E.E.T.S.

[35] Capgrave, St. Katherine of Alexandria, E.E.T.S., Bk. 3, l. 21.

[36] In Altenglische Legenden, Neue Folge, l. 45.

[37] Minor Poems of the Vernon MS. Pt. 1, Appendix, p. 407.

[38] Introduction to Capgrave, Lives of St. Augustine and St. Gilbert of Sempringham, E.E.T.S.

[39] Sammlung Altenglischer Legenden, p. 138, ll. 1183-8.

[40] Three Prose Versions of Secreta Secretorum, E.E.T.S., Epistle Dedicatory to second.

[41] The Pilgrimage of the Life of Man, E.E.T.S.

[42] Osbern Bokenam's Legenden, St. Agnes, ll. 680-2.

[43] Epistle of Sir John Trevisa, in Pollard, Fifteenth Century Prose and Verse, p. 208.

[44] In Sedgefield, King Alfred's Version of Boethius.

[45] Ed. White, 1852, ll. 41-4.

[46] Ll. 55-64.

[47] E.E.T.S., Preface.

[48] Pollard, ibid., p. 208.

[49] E.E.T.S., ll. 6553-7.

[50] Ll. 6565-6.

[51] E.E.T.S., p. 125.

[52] Altenglische Sammlung, Neue Folge, St. Etheldred Eliensis, l. 162.

[53] Sammlung Altenglischer Legenden, Erasmus, l. 4.

[54] Ibid., Magdalena, l. 48.

[55] Minor Poems of the Vernon MS., Pt. 1, St. Bernard's Lamentation, ll. 21-2.

[56] Sammlung Altenglischer Legenden, Fragment of Canticum de Creatione, ll. 49-50.

[57] Legends of the Holy Rood, E.E.T.S., How the Holy Cross was found by St. Helena, ll. 684-7.

[58] E.E.T.S., Bk. 1, ll. 684-91.

[59] Ed. Ritson, ll. 4027-8.

[60] Chevalier au Lyon, ed. W. L. Holland, 1886, ll. 6805-6.

[61] Ed. Koelbing, 1889, ll. 144, 4514.

[62] E.E.T.S., ll. 319, 405, 216.

[63] See Chambers, The Medieval Stage, Appendix G.

[64] Chronicle of England, ed. Furnivall, ll. 93-104.

[65] Altenglische Legenden, Vita St. Etheldredae Eliensis, ll. 978-9, 1112.

[66] Bk. 4, ll. 129-130.

[67] Sammlung Altenglischer Legenden, ll. 435-7.

[68] E.E.T.S.

[69] Ed. Ritson.

[70] Ibid.

[71] E.E.T.S.

[72] Thornton Romances, l. 848. (Here the writer is probably confused by the two words grype and griffin.)

[73] E.E.T.S., l. 1284.

[74] E.E.T.S., l. 318.

[75] Ll. 6983-4.

[76] Ll. 688-9.

[77] L. 3643.

[78] E.E.T.S., ll. 523-4.

[79] L. 6105.

[80] E.E.T.S., l. 4734.

[81] L. 4133.

[82] L. 5425.

[83] L. 3894.

[84] L. 2997.

[85] L. 2170.

[86] L. 2428.

[87] The Earl of Toulouse, ed. Ritson, ll. 1213, 1197.

[88] Le Bone Florence of Rome, ed. Ritson, ll. 2174, 643.

[89] Ed. Sarrazin, 1885, note on l. 10 of the two versions in Northern dialect.

[90] Thornton Romances, note on l. 718.

[91] L. 1150.

[92] Ll. 1275-6.

[93] Ll. 2173-4.

[94] See Miss Rickert's comment in E.E.T.S. edition of Emare, p. xlviii.

[95] English version, ll. 1284, 2115, 5718-9; French version, Mellusine, ed. Michel, 1854, ll. 1446, 2302, 6150-2.

[96] Ll. 407, 1359.

[97] Ed. Vollmoeller, 1883, ll. 5-6.

[98] E.E.T.S., l. 5522.

[99] E.E.T.S., Chap XLVI, ll. 496-9.

[100] Chap. LVI, ll. 521-5.

[101] Ll. 8-12.

[102] Ll. 15-18.

[103] See ll. 6581 ff.

[104] Ed. E.E.T.S., ll. 500-501.

[105] Ll. 7742-6.

[106] Ll. 2340-8.

[107] Ll. 5144-8.

[108] Ll. 6170-6.

[109] Ed. E.E.T.S., ll. 3200, 3218.

[110] King Alexander, ed. Weber, 1810, ll. 2199-2202.

[111] Alliterative romance of Alisaunder, E.E.T.S., ll. 456-9.

[112] Ed. Madden, 1847.

[113] Ed. Furnivall, 1887, ll. 58-62.

[114] L. 70.

[115] Ll. 83-4.

[116] Ll. 95-6.

[117] Original Chronicle, ll. 6-13.

[118] Ll. 16-17.

[119] Ll. 18-23.

[120] Ed. E.E.T.S., ll. 1-7.

[121] Prologue.

[122] Ed. E.E.T.S., ll. 29-33.

[123] Ll. 54-8.

[124] Ll. 217-20.

[125] Ll. 361-7.

[126] In Altenglische Legenden, Neue Folge, ll. 7-9.

[127] Ibid., ll. 33, 35.

[128] Osbern Bokenam's Legenden, St. Agnes, ll. 29-30.

[129] St. Katherine of Alexandria, Prologue, ll. 61-2, 232-3, 64.

[130] Lives of St. Augustine and St. Gilbert, Prologue.

[131] Oxford, Clarendon Press, Prohemium.

[132] In Sammlung Altenglischer Legenden.

[133] Minor Poems of the Vernon MS., De Festo Corporis Christi, l. 170.

[134] Sammlung Altenglischer Legenden, St. Bernard, ll. 943-4.

[135] Ibid., Erasmus, l. 41.

[136] Altenglische Legenden, Neue Folge, St. Katherine, p. 243, l. 451.

[137] Sammlung Altenglischer Legenden, Christine, ll. 489-90.

[138] Ibid., St. Augustine, ll. 1137-40.

[139] Sammlung Altenglischer Legenden, St. Augustine, ll. 43, 57-8, 128.

[140] Ll. 169-70, 785-6, 2475-6.

[141] Op. cit., Prohemium.

[142] Altenglische Legenden, Geburt Jesu, ll. 493, 527, 715, etc.

[143] Altenglische Legenden, Neue Folge, Ypotis, ll. 613-16.

[144] Osbern Bokenam's Legenden, St. Margaret, ll. 84-5.

[145] Mary Magdalen, ll. 245-8.

[146] St. Agnes, ll. 13-14.

[147] Op. cit., St. Anne, ll. 209-14.

[148] E.E.T.S., l. 382.

[149] E.E.T.S., ll. 633-6.

[150] E.E.T.S., p. 146, l. 1.

[151] Op. cit., pp. 100, 115, 300.

[152] Life of St. Gilbert, pp. 103, 135. 141.

[153] Op. cit., St. Katherine, l. 49.

[154] Preface.




The English Bible took its shape under unusual conditions, which had their share in the excellence of the final result. Appealing, as it did, to all classes, from the scholar, alert for controversial detail, to the unlearned layman, concerned only for his soul's welfare, it had its growth in the vital atmosphere of strong intellectual and spiritual activity. It was not enough that it should bear the test of the scholar's criticism; it must also reach the understanding of Tyndale's "boy that driveth the plough," demands difficult of satisfaction, but conducive theoretically to a fine development of the art of translation. To attain scholarly accuracy combined with practical intelligibility was, then, the task of the translator.

From both angles criticism reached him. Tyndale refers to "my translation in which they affirm unto the lay people (as I have heard say) to be I wot not how many thousand heresies," and continues, "For they which in times past were wont to look on no more scripture than they found in their duns or such like devilish doctrine, have yet now so narrowly looked on my translation that there is not so much as one I therein if it lack a tittle over his head, but they have noted it, and number it unto the ignorant people for an heresy."[155] Tunstall's famous reference in his sermon at Paul's Cross to the two thousand errors in Tyndale's Testament suggests the undiscriminating criticism, addressed to the popular ear and basing its appeal largely on "numbering," of which Tyndale complains. The prohibition of "open reasoning in your open Taverns and Alehouses"[156] concerning the meaning of Scripture, included in the draft of the proclamation for the reading of the Great Bible, also implies that there must have been enough of popular oral discussion to count for something in the shaping of the English Bible. Of the serious comment of more competent judges many records remain, enough to make it clear that, although the real technical problems involved were often obscured by controversy and by the common view that the divine quality of the original made human effort negligible, nevertheless the translator did not lack the stimulus which comes from intelligent criticism and discussion.

The Bible also had an advantage over other translations in that the idea of progress towards an accurate version early arose. Unlike the translators of secular works, who frequently boast of the speed with which they have accomplished their tasks, the translators of the Bible constantly mention the long, careful labor which has gone to their undertaking. Tyndale feels in his own work the need for revision, and so far as opportunity serves, corrects and polishes his version. Later translators consciously based their renderings on those of their predecessors. St. Augustine's approval of diversity of translations was cited again and again. Tyndale urges "those that are better seen in the tongues than I" to "put to their hands to amend" any faults they may find in his work.[157] George Joye, his assistant, later his would-be rival, declares that we must learn "to depend not whole on any man's translation."[158] "Every one," says Coverdale, "doth his best to be nighest to the mark. And though they cannot all attain thereto yet shooteth one nigher than another";[159] and again, "Sure I am that there cometh more knowledge and understanding of the scripture by their sundry translations than by all our sophistical doctors. For that one translateth something obscurely in one place, the same translateth another, or else he himself, more manifestly by a more plain vocable."[160] Occasionally the number of experimenters awakened some doubts; Cromwell suggests that the bishops make a "perfect correction";[161] the patent granted him for the printing of the Bible advocates one translation since "the frailty of men is such that the diversity thereof may breed and bring forth manyfold inconveniences as when wilful and heady folks shall confer upon the diversity of the said translations";[162] the translators of the version of 1611 have to "answer a third cavil ... against us, for altering and amending our translations so oft";[163] but the conception of progress was generally accepted, and finds fit expression in the preface to the Authorized Version: "Yet for all that, as nothing is begun and perfected at the same time, and the later thoughts are thought to be wiser: so, if we building on their foundation that went before us, and being holpen by their labors, do endeavor to make that better which they left so good; no man, we are sure, hath cause to mislike us."[164]

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