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REVIEWS Burrow is careful to underscore the difficulties implicit in discussing what is preserved in Old English as against the much richer corpus of Middle English texts, but there is so little Old English secularliterature extant that to contrast earlier with later attitudes towards age in this case is essentially to contrast religious with secular ideas. If Burrow had adopted a somewhat broader comparative approach and taken into account the incomparably rich portraits of men and women at various ages in the fslendingas9gur, his generalizations about earlier English and Germanic literature would seem to me more securely based. Alternatively, if he had limited himself to Old French and Middle English literature, his argument would have been based on a more coherent corpus of literature, although he would have had to alter and modify the case he makes for change and development. There are also some omissions and debatable points of detail. In discuss­ ing the age of thirty as the age of the general resurrection, Burrow should have given more emphasis to the Biblical texts which underlie this idea (see particularly Numbers 4:3, 23, 30, 35, etc.). On page 114, footnote 59, the citation should include the exact reference to Bree etEmde (i.e., a reference to lines 231-33), if Burrow thinks this passage enough of a parallel to cite at all. It is misleading to give only the PL references to works such as Augustine's De civitate Dei which have appeared in modern eitions; PL references to Jerome (p. 106, note 37) are particularly confusing since Migne reprinted two different texts of the works ofJerome with different pagination. For a startling claim such as the one that Christ lived through all the ages of man (p. 142), one wishes for references to the primary sources, not just one reference to a secondary source. In conclusion, however, I wish to emphasize the merits of this book.J. A. Burrow is one of the best living critics of medieval English literature, and this book is a rich and informative literary history of an important topic. THOMAS D. HILL Cornell University GEOFFREY CHAUCER. The Canterbury Tales. Verse trans. with Intro. and notes by David Wright. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1985. Pp. xxviii, 482. $24.95, £15.00. This is a handsomely produced book which has cost its makers a good deal of care. David Wright has translated all the verse of The Canterbury Tales 199 STUDIES IN THE AGE OF CHAUCER (that is, excluding The Tale ofMe/ibee and The Parson's Tale) into his own pentameters, using a variety offorms ofrhyme, halfrhyme, and assonance to create an imitation of the Chaucerian couplet and stanza.The transla­ tion is sound and respectable: it goes for the communication ofsense rather than the communication ofeffect, though there are some good moments in the comic tales and some good special effects, like the version of the students' Northern dialect in The Reeve's Tale and the imitation of the stanza of The Tale ofSir Thopas. The briefintroduction gives little offense, though there are odd errors (The Book ofthe Duchess is said to have been composed in 1368, p.xxvi, a year before the Duchess Blanche died), and extreme brevity occasionally produces that familiar "1066 and All That" effect, as in the mention of the battles of Crecy and Poitiers, "in which English bowmen destroyed the chivalry ofFrance, and in so doing helped to end the feudal system" (p.xi).The criticalcommentary on the Ta/es, in which William Blake figures large, could well have been written a hundred or more years ago; it trots out some familiar half-truths (the Manciple's is one of the "comparatively unsuccessful stories... not related to their tell­ ers," p.xx) and ventures a few of its own. The translation is, as I say, respectable, but there is no good reason for its existence.DavidWright argues in his introduction that Chaucer's language is more difficult than it is often made out to be,nuancesand idioms having changed, as well as the meanings ofwords, and he claims that his transla­ tion is not in any case a substitute but an "introductory prolusion to...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1949-0755
Print ISSN
0190-2407
Pages
pp. 199-203
Launched on MUSE
2018-01-03
Open Access
No
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