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Reviews 153 Byock, Jesse L., trans., The saga of the Volsungs: the Norse epic of Sigurd the dragon slayer, Berkeley, University of Catifornia Press, 1990; paper; pp. ix, 145; 2 maps; R. R. P. US$8.95. Since Wdliam Morris first translated the medieval Norse Volsunga saga into EngUsh with Eirikur Magmisson in 1870, it has attracted new translators at increasingly shorter intervals: Margaret Schlauch in 1930, R. G. Finch in 1965, George K. Anderson in 1982, and now Jesse Byock in 1990. Morris's original and highly idiosyncratic rendition has also been reprinted a number oftimesthis century, complete with his Prologue in Verse in which he urges 'So draw ye round and hearken, English Folk,/ Unto the best tale pity ever wrought.' The version of the tale best known to English audiences nowadays is Richard Wagner's Ring of the Nibelung and it is in response to this operatic work that at least some of the reprints have been produced. In his interesting and succinct introduction, Jesse Byock discusses Wagner's use of the Saga of the Volsungs but he extends the background to the saga beyond the interests of 'Wagnerites', as he calls them, to the complex relationship between history and legend in the Middle Ages and the social context of the myths and heroes of the saga. H e also treats representations of the story in Norse art, suggesting that the popularity of Sigurd carvings on Norwegian church portals of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries may have been related to the political identification of Sigurd as a progenitor of the Norwegian royal house, whereas Saint Michael was the guardian angel of the Danes. Volsunga Saga includes quotations from a number of traditional aUiterative poems in eddic metre and it is these verses that present translators with their greatest challenge. Byock has been very successful in his adept renderings of eddic rhythm, alliterative phrasing, and kennings (poetic circumlocutions), without trying to imitate the original style of the poetry in a clumsy or pedantic way. To assure an easy rhythm and clarity of diction, he often chooses a course well clear of the jagged contours of literal meaning while still maintaining accuracy. In verse 14 for instance, he translates 'geoho[r]scari' simply as 'wiser' (compare Anderson's 'more doughty of spirit' or Morris's 'fairest-souled wight, and wisest'), and in verse 6 'brynpinga valdr' is expressed as 'Batdefield's ruler', with a note that this is a kenning for warrior (compare Anderson's 'wielder of byrnie-things'). Byock does not underestimate the poetic effect of a weU-timed kenning and turns another expression for warrior into a dramatic apostrophe 'O maple shaft of sharp weapons' ('hvassa vapna hlynr', verse 20). The translation of prose is equaUy fine, with the saga narrative proceeding in a clear and straight-forward style and the direct speech of the characters captured in a bright idiom, free of archaism. The notes to the text are informative, though concise, and the translation is supplemented by a glossary in which 154 Reviews persons (human and supernatural), groups, places, animals, and objects are listed with references to the chapters in which they appear. Byock's work wdl be of value to those both within and outside thefieldof medieval Norse studies because of both the quality of his translation and the wide-ranging erudition of his introduction. In this regard, it is unfortunate that it was considered outside the scope of the book to include references to scholarship on the saga and on the many interesting matters Byock raises in his introduction. Judy Quinn Department of EngUsh University of Sydney Condren, Conal and A. D. Cousins, eds, The political identity of Andrew Marvell, Aldershot, Scolar Press, 1990; cloth; pp. ix, 221; R. R. P. AUS$79.50 [distributed in Australia by Gower publishing]. Identity, 'sameness' etymologicaUy, is an unexpected term for the elusive and contradictory MarveU. Not surprisingly the seven contributors to this valuable book do not write about the 'same' Marvell. The editors engage in some expert dialectics to unify the coUection, eventually constituting the identity of Marvell as a Wittgensteinian family of texts. Although the book as a whole shows a many-faced Marvell...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1832-8334
Print ISSN
0313-6221
Pages
pp. 153-154
Launched on MUSE
2013-04-03
Open Access
No
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