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The Art ofTranslation in The Romaunt ofthe Rose Caroline D. Eckhardt The Pennsylvania State University Sing unto the Lord a new song. -Psalm 98 Among his works Chaucer made a tran�ation of the Roman de la Rose, that thirteenth-century French dream-vision allegory which exerted such a profound influence upon later medi­ eval culture and upon the poetry of Chaucer himself. We know that Chaucer translated the Roman because he has told us so (three times) in the Prologue to The Legend ofGood Women. 1 It is not certain, however, that the extant fourteenth-century English trans­ lation of theRoman de laRose-which is called TheRomaunt ofthe Rose-is the translation that Chaucer made, since the Romaunt abounds, especially in its central section, with non-Chaucerian rhymes and Northern forms. Opinion on the authenticity of the Romaunt in the Chaucer canon has ranged from one extreme to the other.2 The text is now conventionally divided into three sections, 1 See the Gtext ofthe Prologue to TheLegend ofGood Women, lines 255-57, 344, 459-60, in F. N. Robinson, ed., The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, 2d ed. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1957), pp. 489-93. Quotations from Chaucer are from this edition. 2 Thynne, followed by Tyrwhitt and others, believed that the Romaunt is Chaucer's; Bradshaw, followed by Koch and others, argued that theRomaunt is not Chaucer's. For brief summaries of the ebb and flow of opinion, see Robinson's comments in ibid., p. 872; and Ronald Sutherland, ed., The Romaunt ofthe Rose andLe Roman de la Rose; A Parallel-Text Edition (Oxford: Blackwell, 1967), pp. ix-xii. Among the important studies are Max Kaluza, Chaucer und der Rosen­ roman (Berlin: E. Felber, 1893); Thomas R. Lounsbury, Studies in Chaucer: His 41 STUDIES IN THE AGE OF CHAUCER fragments A (lines 1-1705), B (lines 1706-5810), and C (lines 5811-7696). Recent editors have hesitated to accept as Chaucer's more than the A fragment, and even that only with caution. 3 This viewpoint seems to me right, though if it should eventually be determined that more-or less-than this section is attributable to Chaucer, then the name or range of the translator, though not necessarily the assessment of the achievement, will need reconsideration. The problems ofauthorship ofand textual unity in the Romaunt have deflected attention from the poem itself; most critical investi­ gations have been related to the controversy about attribution.4 Life and Writings (1892; reprint, New York:Russell &Russell,1962), 2:3-166; W. W. Skeat, The Chaucer Canon (1900; reprint, New York: Haskell, 1965), pp. 57-93; and Aage Brusendorff, The Chaucer Tradition (London: Oxford University Press, 1925), pp. 296-425. Brusendorff, who remarked that "everybody seems to have a different opinion about theRomance oftheRose" (p. 49), proposed that the extant text represents Chaucer's translation, but recorded from memory by a Northern scribe whose recollection ofhis original was uneven (pp. 379-83). 3 Robinson, for example, prints the whole, thoughremarking that "ofthe three fragments only the first andmost inoffensive can with any probability be ascribedto Chaucer" (Works, p. 565). The Romaunt is also included in the latest collected edition of Chaucer, John H. Fisher, ed., The Complete Poetry and Prose of Geoffrey Chaucer(New York: Holt,Rinehart, and Winston, 1977). Fisher reflects a cautious or mixed opinion on the attribution, stating in his preface that "little or none of it can have been written by Chaucer" (p. vii) but later agreeing with Sutherland that the A fragment "meets all the requirements ofChaucer's dialect, prosody, and style" (p. 711). As noted above, I cite the Romaunt from Robinson's edition, given Alfred David's criticisms of Sutherland's version("The Romaunt of the Rose andLe Roman de La Rose" [review], Speculum 44[1960]: 666-70), as well as the likelihood that Thynne's text, which Sutherland uses, was based on the Glasgow manuscript, whichRobinson uses (seeJames E. Blodgett, "Some Printer's Copy for William Thynne's 1532 Edition of Chaucer," The Library, 6th ser., 1[1979]:97-113). I have, however, cited the Roman from Sutherland's edition, which provides, as Fisher puts it, "the only adequate French parallel" (Complete...


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