INTRODUCTION

THE TRANSLATION

1. During the English Renaissance, there were quite various views of Chaucer, two extremes of which are attested by other texts in the Philological Museum. The first is illustrated by epigram II.13 from Charles Fitzgeoffrey’s Affaniae (1601):

AD EDMUNDUM SPENSERUM

Nostrum Maronem, Edmonde, Chaucerum vocas.
Male hercle, si tu quidpiam potes male.
Namque ille noster Ennius, sed tu Maro.

[“TO EDMUND SPENSER

Edmund, you call Chaucer our Vergil. Ill done, if you can do anything amiss. For he is our Ennius, but you our Vergil.”]

Another, more admiring (if drastically unhistorical), attitude, is shown by a passage from Thomas Campion’s Elegy XIV:

ut taceam Musas, toto quas orbe silentes
Chaucerus mira fecerat arte loqui.
ille Palaemonios varie depinxit amores,
infidamque viro Chressida Dardanio.
prodigiosa illo dictante canebat arator
ludicra, decertans cum molitore faber.
sic peregrinantum ritus perstringit aniles,
rivalemque dei devovet usque papam.
quis deus, o vates magnis erepte tenebris,
admovit capiti lumina tanta tuo?
fabula nec vulgi, nec te Romana fefellit
pompa, nec Ausonii picta theatra lupi.
imperio titubante novos sibi finxit honores
queis mundi dominos callida Roma tenet.

[“That I might remain silent about Chaucer, who by his wonderful art taught our Muses to speak throughout the world! He painted Palaemon’s loves in various colors, and Cressida, unfaithful to her Trojan husband. At his dictation the plowman sang his remarkable song of a carpenter feuding with a miller. In the same way he touched upon the rituals of pilgrimage (fit for silly old women!) and even managed to curse a God-rivalling Pope. What god, oh bard rescued from great shadows, so illuminated your great brain? Neither popular tale, nor Roman pomp, nor that Roman wolf’s painted theater escaped your notice.”]

So Chaucer could be regarded a crude and somewhat embarrassing primitive, comparable to the Roman Ennius, “whose shit Vergil turned into gold,”NOTE 1 or a great figure in the national cultural heritage. NOTE 2 The problem, of course, was that he came dangerously close to being incomprehensible, for a reason that he himself had all too accurately forecast (Troilus and Criseyde II.4.1 - 4):

Ye knowe ek, that in forme of speche is chaunge
Withinne a thousand yeer, and wordes tho
That hadden pris, now wonder nyce and straunge
Us thinketh hem; and yet thei spake hem so.

Renaissance Englishmen had a hard time reading Chaucer. The unfamiliarity of his Middle English led some to write him off, and posed a serious obstacle to those more willing to take him seriously.
2. In his introductory address to the Candid Reader, Sir Francis Kynaston states that he considered and rejected what might seem to us the obvious possibility, to rewrite Troilus and Criseyde into contemporary English verse:

Enimvero, potuissem (idque facillime) verba obsolta per totum hoc poema passim sparsa in nova mutare, et omnes phrases et dictiones desuetas verbis purioribus, et quae hodie obtinent, reddere, et ad captum praesentis aevi, non tanqum Anglice, sed etiam et metrice accommodare…Sed peccatum inexpiabile in manes Chauceri admisisse me existimarem, si vel minimum iota in eius scriptis immutassem, quae sacra et intacta in aeternum manere digna sunt.

And indeed, I could most easily have changed the obsolete words strewn thoughout this poem into modern ones, and rendered all the phrases and unaccustomed locutions with purer words, and those that are in circulation today, to the taste of the present age, not ony in English but also metrically…But I should think I had committed an inexpiable sin against Chaucer’s shade, were I to alter a single iota in his works, which are sacred and deserve being unchanged forever.

This protestation is a trifle disingenuous: in truth, the option of writing a modernized verse translation was effectively foreclosed, since approximately five years previously Jonathan Sidnam had published just such a verse translation of Books I - III, “for the satisfaction of those Who either cannot, or will not take the paines to understand The Excellent Authors Farr more Exquisite and significant Expressions Though now growen obsolete, and out of use.” NOTE 3 Nevertheless, it is doubtless true that, in Kynaston’s eyes, the Latin language appeared to offer two distinct advantages. The first, as he repeatedly states, is that a Latin translation would make this great national poet available for foreign consumption. The second is the contrast between the constant flux of modern languages and Latin’s seeming permanence and immutability. A literary work in English (or in any vernacular language) seemed doomed to eventual oblivion. One of the strengths of the Latin language appeared to be its immunity to this fate, so translation into Latin was seen as the sole vehicle that guaranteed something approaching literary immortality. Sir Francis Bacon felt the same way when, towards the end of his life, he launched on a project to bring out Latin versions of all his works, “for the modern languages will at one time or another play the bank-rowtes with books.” Such a view might strike many modern readers as whimsical and quaint, but it would be historically wrongheaded to blame Kynaston (or Bacon) for having backed the wrong horse. In an essay printed as recently as 1847, Walter Savage Landor praised Latin for these same two reasons, that it purveys both universality and longevity. NOTE 4
3. Having chosen to translate Troilus and Criseyde into Latin verse, Kynaston could have followed the course of least resistance. Using as a precedent, for example, Scipio Gentili’s partial translation of Tasso’s Gerusalemme Liberata, he could have ignored Chaucer’s articulation of the poem into seven-line stanzas, each with its ABABBCC rhyme-scheme (rhyme royal), and written the whole thing in normal quantitative dactylic hexameters or elegiac couplets. But in addressing the Candid Reader he points out that long poems divided into rhyming stanzas have have proven popular in various modern languages (he mentions Tasso and Ariosto, but is curiously silent about such English poets as Spenser) and announces that he is making the novel experiment of attempting the same in Latin. J. W. Binns has expressed his reaction to the poet’s lines: NOTE 5

At first the result is somewhat disconcerting. The lines appear to have no shape in quantitative terms, nor do they seem to have any apparent rhythmic structure. The number of syllables (11, i. e., an attempt to reproduce the Chaucerian pentameter in a Latin guise) is however fairly constant; and if the lines are read with the strong iambic rhythm of the original in mind, they work fairly well.

4. Let us look at what Kynaston did in a bit more detail. Here is the poem’s first stanza:

Dolorem Toili duplicem narrare,
Qui Priami regis Troiae fuit gnatus,
Ut primum illi contigit amare,
Ut miser, felix, et infortunatus
Erat, decessum ante sum conatus.
Tisiphone, fer opem recenscere
Hos versus, qui, dum scribo, visi flere.

Each verse indeed contains eleven syllables, but these have nothing to do with classical hendecasyllables. They are based on stress accentuation, and are more accurately described (in English metrical terminology) as iambic pentameters with feminine endings; the rhyme-scheme of the original is obviously reproduced. Kynaston’s rhyming stress-verses manage to impart an appropriately Chaucerian feeling, and in this lies their aesthetic effectiveness. Indeed, writing in The Annual Review for 1806 (V.401) Robert Southey wrote of his verses that “strange as they appear, [they] are exceedingly beautiful.” Binns’ evaluation, however, hints that not all of Kynaston’s verses are turned with equally success, and he was not wrong. It is impossible to read this translation without stumbling, because it is not always clear what one is supposed to do. Take, for example, the issue of elision, with which Kynaston played fast and free. In the following verse, for example (I.8.4), Nam ad materiam ipsam eo restus, to achieve the desired rhythm it seems that one is required to read Nam ad materi’ ipsam eo restus — elision is both ignored and employed in the same line. Another issue is that stress can be occur in very unexpected places. This is illustrated by I.15.3, Nam toto corpore et vultu rara, where corpore et is unelided and the final syllable of corpore requires accentuation. One cannot help noticing that both these problems could easily have been solved by writing Nam toto corpore atque vultu rara, and the fact that Kynaston was satisfied with corpore et vultu speaks eloquently about his limitations as a metrician. Then too, at many points there are two unstressed syllables between accented ones (very often these involve infinitives of the third conjugation). Ryan (p. 485 ad fin.) describes this phenomenon as elision; such an interpretation is correct when the two unaccented syllables are successive vowels (although synezesis or synaeresis would be more accurate terms than elision). But often the second syllables begins with a consonant, and here we are confronted with the substitution of an anapaestic foot for an iambic one. An example of this is dominas in I.27.4, Assidue urbis dominas intuentes, in which the word’s second and third syllables are unstressed. Matters are complicated when two or more of these phenomena are combined. Thus we encounter genuinely difficult lines, bound to make a reader falter, such as I.14.4, Quae indies metuens vim sibi fore latam. This line also illustrates an editor’s difficulty — one can observe how easier it would scan if sibi were eliminated, but it would be dangerously easy to cross the line between fixing mistakes in textual transmission and second-guessing Kynaston’s choices. All in all, therefore, his metrical experiment might best described as aesthetically satisfactory but sometimes problematic in detail. But, in fairness, it is no more problematic than many of the reverse experiments of writing quantitative English verse, attempted by Sir Philip Sidney, Thomas Campion, and others. Another kind of translator’s license is acknowledged by the author himself: Non inficias tamen eo, metri et symphonae casua, nominum casus et verborum tempora, et modos interdum in hac paraphrasi me commutasse… [“Yet you should not begrudge me that, for the sake of the meter and the rhyme, in this paraphrase I have sometimes changed the cases of nouns and the tenses and moods of verbs, such as fore for esse and other things of this kind…”]. Such syntactical liberties are frequently visible. Even by the standards of the Renaissance, unaware of such niceties as the rules governing the sequence of tenses in the subjunctive, or the need for subjunctives in indirect questions, Kynaston’s freedom in selecting moods and tenses frequently makes the reader blink (and, again, makes an editor a bit doubtful about distinguishing such liberties from printing and copying errors). This fast-and-free syntax also has an curious, although doubtless unintended, aesthetic effect: combined with the stress versification and rhyming, it tends to increase the translation’s “medieval” feel.
6. Renaissance ideas of translation varied considerably, and were capable of extending to the frankly paraphrastic. But Kynaston’s ideal in conveying the sense as well as the meter was to be as faithful to the original as possible, and when he bent the rules of meter and syntax it was for this purpose. The reason for this was only part the general feeling of piety to a great poet expressed in his various introductory epistles. A more specific motivation is the physical layout of his book (containing only Books I and II, but, had he printed the rest, no doubt he would have employed the same format). The Latin and the original Middle English are printed on facing pages, much in the manner of a modern Loeb Classical Library volume, and, like a Loeb, this is a book that could be used in a number of different ways. A foreign reader, or an Englishman who did not care to cope with Chaucer’s English, could simply read the Latin. A more adventurous Englishman could read the English, using the Latin as a “trot” or built-in dictionary to get over the hard bits, or even employ the book to teach himself Middle English in a more systematic way. Under such conditions, extreme accuracy is indicated: ideally, each Latin line should reproduce the contents of its English equivalent. The difficulty, however, is confessed by Kynaston to the Candid Reader — English is a language rich in monosyllables, whereas an inflected language like Latin tends heavily towards polysyllables, with the result that an English line can contain considerably more information than its Latin counterpart. Throughout his translation, Kynaston struggles heroically against this fact, usually with pleasing success, although at times he is capable of producing a line so elliptic that it would seriously strain the test of comprehensibility, were the English original not on the facing page.
6. Another distinctive feature of both his English text and Latin translation is the severe condensation to which Books IV and V are subjected (in striking contrast to Books I - III, which he left intact). In his version, Book IV contains 131 stanzas, whereas the full version as printed by modern editors has 243. Kynaston’s Book V consists of 199 stanzas, whereas modern texts contain 267. More specifically, in Book IV the following stanzas are cut out (in this list, when two stanzas are linked by a +, this indicates that the contents of two stanzas have been telescoped into a single one): 3, 6, 8+9, 12, 13+14, 17f., 21, 24f., 29f., 36-44, 48, 51f.. 56, 60f., 6f., 69-75, 82-85, 87, 89-92, 97, 100-102, 104 106, 109-111, 114, 117, 120, 124f., 131-134, 137-154, 158, 167, 169, 182-186, 188, 192-202, 208-210, 212, 216f., 224, 227, 231, and 233. Likewise, stanzas eliminated from Book V are: 15+16, 17, 19, 20, 34, 37f., 57, 67, 73, 77, 80, 83-86, 89f., 102, 112-121, 129f., 137f., 156f., 163, 168 - 172, 180f., 186f., 190-192, 195, 201f., 205, 213-216, 226, 243f., 254-257, and 263-267. It has been demonstrated that Kynaston employed the text of Troilus and Criseyde printed by Thomas Speght in 1598, NOTE 6 but Speght’s edition contains no such radical excisions. The condensation of Books IV and V, therefore, is Kynaston’s own doing. This is almost always done for the purpose of of shortening lengthy speeches (and also, the cynical reader might care to think, in order to bring the project to a swifter conclusion). Thus, most memorably, Troilus’ long monologue on free will and predestination is missing from his text of Book IV. Then too, the stanzas at the end of Book V in which Chaucer addresses his readers directly, ending on a strong note of Christian piety, are eliminated. 

THE TRANSLATOR

7. Sir Francis Kynaston (the surname is sometimes spelled Kinaston) was born in 1587, son of Sir Edward Kynaston of Otely, Shropshire. NOTE 7 He matriculated from Oriel College, Oxon., in 1601, where his tutor was John Rouse, subsequently Librarian of the Bodleian Library, to whom Book II of the present translation is dedicated. As Wood put it, he “took one degree in arts, and then left the university for a time, being then more addicted to the superficial parts of learning, poetry and orator (wherein he excell’d) than logic and philosophy. Afterwards he went to Cambridge, studied there for some time, was made master of arts, and in 1611 returned to Oxon., where he was incorporated in that degree”. In 1613 he married Margaret, daughter of Sir Humphrey Lee, fathered a son, and was knighted by James I in 1618. In 1621 - 22 he served as M. P. for his country, and as a Taxator of the University of Cambridge in 1623, and as a Proctor the following year. Upon the accession of Charles I he was made an esquire of the body to the king. In 1635 he founded an “academy of learning,” called the Musaeum Minervae, with a royal subsidy of £100 from the king, evidently designed to turn out members of the nobility and gentry broadly, though no doubt superficially, educated to the degree that they might profit from the Grand Tour, and he wrote and and published a lengthy “constitution” for this academy in 1636, a document, perhaps, of interest to historians of education. His literary efforts included, besides the present translation, a Latin translation of Henryson’s The Testament of Cresseid. He also contributed translations of Arthur Johnston’s Latin poems for Johnston’s Musae Aulicae (1635). Other items were original: a masque entitled Corona Minervae performed in the presence of Charles, Duke of York, in 1635 -6, Leonline and Syndanus, a Poetical Romance (printed 1641), and, in the same volume, Cynthiades: Sonnets to his Mistresse (the poems in question are not genuine sonnets). According to Peck’s note on Wood’s biography, “This romance contains much of the fabulous history of Mona, Wales and Ireland, and (bating that it is now and then a little obscene) is poetical enough.” Kynaston died in 1642. Little in his biographical data provides any real insight into his personality, although one is rather smitten by a tradition preserved by Wood, that “This is also the person who by experience falsified the alchymist’s report, that a hen being fed for certain days with gold, beginning when Sol was in Leo, should be converted into gold, and should lay golden eggs; but indeed became very fat.” Evidently, then, he was not lacking in humor. 

THE TEXT

9. There are two sources for the text of Kynaston’s translation. The first is a quarto volume entitled Amor Troili et Creseidae Libri Duo Priores Anglico-Latine published by John Lichfield, printer to the University of Oxford, in 1635 (Short Title Catalogue 5097, Early English Books reel 1230). This contains dedicatory epistles, gratulatory poems (not included here) by no less than sixteen men, including Arthur Johnston, Royal Physician and himself a Latin poet, William Strode, Oxford’s Public Orator and also a poet, Dudley Digges, who wrote on politics, the Catholic writer Thomas Gawen, and the playwright William Cartright. The number of these gratulatory items is unusually high, and a large majority sign themselves with their academic credentials. Evidently the purpose was to certify this work as a significant contribution to literature, and perhaps also to confer some sort of academic legitimacy on it. Then comes the Latin translation of Books I and II as well as a very imperfect reproduction of Speght’s 1598 Chaucer text, printed on facing pages. In the course of his dedicatory material, Kynaston apologized for the number of typographical errors, which occurred because his duties at Court prevented him from going up to Oxford to supervise the printing. At the same time, he promises, if the present book is well received, that he will finish the translation and also supply annotative material for the better explication of Chaucer’s poem.
10. The second textual source is the Bodleian Library ms. Add. C 287 (with a title page bearing the date 1639 — the ms. also has a censor’s imprimatur at the end dated June 1640). At one point it was owned by Dean Aldrich, and then by the Rev. J. H. Hindley, and in 1793 it came into the possession of Mr. F. G.Waldron of Drury Lane Theater, who intended to publish its contents incrementally (although he begged off printing the Latin translation), but did not get beyond the first installment, which appeared in a small volume published in 1796. Selections of the Latin translation were printed in Retrospective Review XII (1825) 106 - 23. It was acquired by purchase by the Bodleian Library in 1808. In the manuscript version Kynaston fulfilled his promise by presenting a full text and translation of Troilus and Criseyde, and he also added a text and Latin translation of Robert Henryson’s The Testament of Cresseid. This large and complex manuscript represents what clearly would have been a substantial seventeenth-century contribution to Chaucerian scholarship, that for some reason was never printed. NOTE 8
11. In the Bodleian Library card catalogue, it is described as an autograph, but the evidence of the Latin translation suffices to show that it is the work of a copyist. For Books I and II, the text of the printed version is copied verbatim with all its typographical errors intact, and with some new copying errors superadded. Only subsequently were most but not quite all of the book errors corrected, either by crossing out the original reading and adding a new one as a superscript, or by overwriting. In addition, at a number of points words, phrases, or entire lines are crossed out and replaced by new equivalents. These alterations no doubt represent Kynaston’s own corrections and alterations, but, for diagnosing the manuscript’s nature, it is important to observe that all of them were made, or at least supplied to the copyist, only after he had written out the original book text. This is hardly the working method one would expect in an autograph: it would seem far more probable that Kynaston would have marked up a printed copy of Books I and II, and then made a fair copy of the improved text. The text of Books III - V is likewise characterized by a large number of obvious mistakes, and of suspect readings where the Latin makes sense but fails to reproduce Chaucer’s English. Even if one concedes that an author making a transcription of his own work may not be entirely free from the kind of errors to which copyists are liable, both the large number of errors, and the nature of many of them, exclude the possibility that this manuscript is an autograph. It would therefore appear that the manuscript was prepared by a somewhat inept amanuensis. If so, Kynaston never got around to reading and correcting his secretary’s work (all corrections and changes in the manuscript are made in the original hand). Active editorial intervention, taking into account both textual sources, has therefore been exercised at points indicated by individual textual notes. The present edition of course takes into account the printed text of Books I and II, which sometimes presents correct readings where the manuscript goes astray, but preference is given to Kynaston’s later alterations, so that the text of these books given here is the 1639 one. Modern systematic punctuation has been silently imposed; since the manuscript punctuation is often minimal, a substantial amount of interpretation perforce involved. The copyist employed a single digraph to represent the diphthongs ae and oe, which were not distinguished in contemporary pronunciation, but for the sake of facilitating reader comprehension, I have reintroduced the distinction. In editing the text, I have made constant reference to Robert Kilburn Root’s variorum edition of Chaucer’s original (Princeton, 1945). In preparing this edition I have worked from a microfilm graciously furnished by the Bodleian Library. Even when working with a photograph reproduction of good quality (as this one was), there are inevitably points at which readings are hard to decipher; these are acknowledged in individual commentary notes.

 

NOTES

NOTE 1 Cf. the poetic line Aurum Virgilius de stercore colligit Enni, found at Jerome, Epistle 107.12; cf. Donatus, Life of Vergil p. 31 (Brummer) and Cassiodorus, Institutiones I.i.8 (ed. Mynors) [my thanks to James O’Donnell for this information].

NOTE 2 A large number of Renaissance English evaluations of Chaucer may be found in the first volume of Caroline F. E. Spurgeon, Five Hundred Years of Chaucer Criticism (New York, 1960). Cf. also the various essays in Theresa M. Krier (ed.), Refiguring Chaucer in the Renaissance (Gainesville, 1998).

NOTE 3 Quoted in the Introduction to George Philip Crapp’s edition of Troilus and Criseyde (New York, 1932), xi.

NOTE 4 Landor’s essay Quaestio Quamobrem Poetae Latini Recentiores Minus Legantur, actually written in about 1820, was reprinted in expanded form in his Poemata et Inscriptiones (1847).

NOTE 5 J. W. Binns, Intellectual Culture in Elizabethan and Jacobean England: The Latin Writings of the Age (Leeds, 1990) 255. Binn’s discussion of Kynaston’s Troilus, pp. 253 - 257, is eminently worthwhile. The only other study of Kynaston as a translator is Lawrence V. Ryan, “A Neo-Latin Version of Henryson’s Testament of Cressid,” in I. D. MacFarlane (ed.), Acta Conventus Neolatini Sanctandreani. Proceedings of the Fifth International Congress of Neo-Latin Studies (Binghamton N. Y., 1986) 481 - 91.

NOTE 6 By Denton Fox, in the Introduction to his edition of Robert Henryson’s Testament of Cresseid (Edinburgh, 1968) 12f.

NOTE 7 The principal sources for Kynaston’s life are Anthony à Wood, Athenae Oxonienses, Fasti Oxonienses, and Life of Anthony à Wood (ed. Philip Bliss, in four volumes, London, 1813 - 22, reprinted Hildesheim, 1969) III.38f., and Emily Tennyson Bradley’s article in the Dictionary of National Biography with sources cited.

NOTE 8 The manuscript and its history are described in detail by G. Gregory Smith, The Poems of Robert Henryson (Scottish Text Series, Edinburgh, 1906 - 14) I.xcvii ff. Without particular reference to features of the Latin text, Smith strongly inclined to the same conclusion I argue here, that the manuscript is not a holograph.