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"Awen yn codi o'r cudd ac yn cydio'r cwbl"
- Waldo Williams
(Awen arising from hiding and everything binding)

Heaney's Henryson

Ezra Pound once recommended those unable to read Virgil’s Aeneid in Latin to read it in Gavin Douglas’ translation instead. Douglas wrote in Scots and published his translation (Eneados) in 1513. Was this an example of Pound’s quirkiness or was it a tongue-in-cheek remark? Personally I have a liking for writing in Scots, finding it sinewy and engaged, and for medieval literature too. I cannot pretend to have read the whole of Douglas’ Aeneid. But I have dipped into it with much pleasure.

So it was with a little diffidence that I decided to buy a copy of Seamus Heaney’s recent translation of Robert Henryson’s The Testament of Cresseid & Seven Fables to take with me on holiday. Why do I need Heaney to translate Henryson? I don’t. But I do value the process of translation and it will be interesting to see what Heaney does with these texts. And easy to compare them too as this is a parallel text edition with the Scots facing the modern English. I may well be reporting my thoughts when I resume this blog in August. In the meantime, here’s a sample from an initial browse, which fits well enough with my holiday plans:

In Middis of June, that sweit seasoun,
Quhen that fair Phebus with his bemis bricht
Had dryit up the dew fra daill and doun,
And all the land maid with his lemis licht,
In ane mornynge betuix mid day and nicht
I rais and put all sleuth and sleip aside,
And to ane wod I went alone but gyde.

It was in that Sweet Season, middle June,
When Phoebus with his fair beams shining bright
Had dried the dew off every dale and down
And clad the land in raiment made of light:
One morning as the Sun climbed to its height
I rose and cast all sloth and sleep aside
And wandered on my own out to a wood.

1 comment:

  1. Got this too, and I concur about Scots. Lovely, breathy, stony. good old Heaney. Have a good holiday!


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