Amys and Amylion

Amys and Amylion

Nicolas Jacobs

This is in many respects a welcome new edition of a romance of considerable thematic interest. The standard edition, MacEdward Leach’s of 1937, used as its base the earliest and arguably the best, though incomplete, Auchinleck version. Dr Saux prints the late fifteenth-century text in Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Douce 326, on the grounds that it alone preserves the whole poem, and has not been edited in extenso before; and it provides a coherent and readable text. At the same time, the editor makes a rod for her own back by such a choice. It is always possible to reproduce a late and derivative version as it stands in usum editorum, but that is not an option where the edition, as here, is intended for students. The editor must edit, but between a diplomatic text and a full critical edition it is hard to determine where to stop editing. Le Saux confines herself to correcting a fairly small number of errors of transcription. This evades the question of those readings which, while not obvious slips of the pen, are in some sense clearly incorrect, whether because they are clearly unidiomatic or because they are identificable as derivatives of a superior reading through some familiar process of scribal error. Her minimalist procedure certainly saves much editorial heart-searching, but leaves many unsatisfactory readings in the text and gives the general reader an unfair impression of the romance as a slipshod piece of writing. Thus, a few altered readings are noted but left untouched: 11.2, 71.12, 94.12, 181.9–12. Others are not noticed at all: 7.4 serued for samned, 12.3 in fere for to fede, 13.8 woo for work, and so on. In other cases a bad reading is excused by special pleading: 8.10 (an impossible translation), 28.9 All that him gate and bere translated ‘all who looked upon him and mixed with him’: read Pat euer him gate …, sc. ‘his parents’. Still more disturbing is her capacity for actual misinterpretation. At 42.3 to hunt on holtys hare ‘to hunt the hare in the woods’ is not just less likely than the idiomatic reading, it is unbelievable: a wood is a strange place to hunt the hare, and bows and arrows unlikely equipment for doing so. 173.12 gan need not be referred to an unspecified (and probably non-existent) verb related to ON gegna and meaning ‘help’, but is presumably from ginne in the sense ‘found’, hence ‘create’. Le Saux is a respectable comparativist, as demonstrated by her study in the introduction of the development of the story, as well as her work on La3amon; but her foray into editing demanded more circumspection. [Nicolas Jacobs!

COPYRIGHT 1994 Society for the Study of Mediaeval Languages and Literature

COPYRIGHT 2008 Gale, Cengage Learning