restricted access Teachable Henryson, Accessible Middle Scots
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Teachable Henryson, Accessible Middle Scots
Robert Henryson: The Complete Works. Edited by David J. Parkinson. TEAMS Middle English Texts Series. Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Publications, 2010.

David Parkinson's new edition of Robert Henryson's complete works is accomplished, affordable ($20.00), and pedagogically adept. It makes a welcome contribution to the growing resources for study of this late-fifteenth-century Scottish poet.

Published in the Consortium for the Teaching of the Middle Ages (TEAMS) Middle English Texts Series, which is dedicated to making important British vernacular writings accessible to students and teachers, The Complete Works offers a number of benefits over previous editions. Parkinson builds upon the scholarship of Denton Fox's authoritative 1981 The Poems of Robert Henryson, incorporating insights from the subsequent decades of scholarship. Robert L. Kindrick's 1997 student edition (prepared with the help of Kristie A. Bixby) was also published by TEAMS and has been a serviceable version for classroom use. Parkinson's new edition, however, offers a couple of important additions. For one, The Complete Works provides a substantial general introduction to the poet (twenty-seven pages, compared with Kindrick's six). This introduction includes an efficient and helpful discussion [End Page 387] of manuscript and early-print witnesses as well as a detailed primer on Scots, the language in which Henryson wrote. This initiation into the historical, lexical, and phonetic aspects of the language of eastern Scotland will be a welcome aid in empowering students to work directly with medieval writings.

Perhaps the most important feature for classroom use is the large number of glosses that accompany each poem — roughly twice as many as are found in Kindrick's edition. Glosses appear on the same page, to the right of the verses. An explanatory notes section at the back of the volume includes individual introductions to the poems, detailed clarifications, and references to the critical conversation. It is the extensive same-page glossing that will permit students of varying levels to work directly with Henryson's Scots poetry with a minimum of frustration.

The edition's primary scholarly contribution is Orpheus and Eurydice, which departs from previous editions in using the Bannatyne Manuscript as its base text, rather than two earlier witnesses (both of which are incomplete). As Parkinson indicates in his introduction, he has chosen to edit each poem from a single manuscript or print version "selected for the completeness and consistency of its text and the clarity of its representation of Middle Scots" (25). In practice, this principle results in later witnesses serving as base texts. Because Orpheus and Eurydice is a "new" modern edition and therefore more likely to serve as a scholarly resource, its textual notes are more detailed.

TEAMS's commitment to making its Middle English Texts Series available to all students and teachers is evident in the free availability of editions online. (For a full list, see Free access to this volume renders more feasible the teaching of brief selections from Henryson's oeuvre — a single devotional lyric, a couple of the Fables, or just one of the longer poems. Individual works readily fit such classroom themes as animals in the Middle Ages, didactic poetry, "the matter of Troy," and Chaucerian legacies (as well as countless other topics, of course). Given their electronic accessibility, Henryson's poems may be incorporated piecemeal into syllabi, without demanding that students purchase the entire volume.

The Complete Works might be productively used in conjunction with other Henryson publications. For instance, the large facsimile of the Bannatyne Manuscript (Denton and Ringler 1980) would allow students to see the lyrics in their surviving form. Students might productively engage matters of paleography, mise-en-page, and editorial decision making. Similar possibilities exist for Early English Books Online (EEBO;, [End Page 388] a database of digital facsimiles. The version of the Testament of Creseyde included in William Thynne's 1532 collected edition of Chaucer's (available through EEBO) is the earliest surviving text of the poem, where it appears directly after Chaucer's Troilus. The juxtaposition of Chaucer's and Henry-son's narratives, Thynne's translation of Scots...