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But whence was the work of Guido derived? was the next question. A few months ago1 the writer would have been constrained to leave this matter in the doubt and uncertainty in which it was left by Warton and his annotators, simply from the difficulty, if not impossibility, of getting a copy or transcript of a sufficiently large portion of the Roman de Troie to compare with Guido's Bellum Trojanum. That difficulty, or impossibility, exists no longer. Thanks to the admirable edition of Monsieur A. Joly, Doyen de la Faculté des Lettres, of Caen, we have now a complete text of the Roman accessible, from which it is evident that Benoit de SainteMaure is the originator of that great mass of romantic literature respecting the siege and destruction of Troy, so widely diffused, and so popular during the Middle Ages.
From the exhaustive reasonings and proofs of Mons. Joly as to the person and age and country of his author, it is sufficiently manifest that the Roman de Troie appeared between the years 1175 and 1185. The translation, or version, of the Roman by Guido de Colonna was finished, as he tells us at the end of his Historia Troiana, in 1287. From one or other, or both, of these works the various Histories, Chronicles, Romances, Gestes, and Plays of The Destruction of Troy, The Prowess and Death of Hector, The Treason of the Greeks, &c., were translated, adapted, or amplified, in almost every language of Europe.
The Stately Poem now printed is, in all probability, the very first or earliest version of Benoit and Guido in our language. The poet Barbour executed perhaps the second, of which the fragments only are now extant in two MS. copies of the more modern version of Lydgate--his well-known Troy Book. The MS. Folio, or "Prodigious Folio" (Laud K: 76) in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, described by Warton, and erroneously ascribed to Lydgate, is a fourth version. Another Oxford MS. (Rawl. MS. Misc. 82) com
"Here begynneth the Sege of Troye,"
is a prose adaptation from the same sources. The best-known prose version, however, of the story of old Troy is that of Caxton. His
1 Written in 1870.
Destruction of Troy, which has been often reprinted, is partly derived and translated from the Recueil of Histories by Lefevre, but the Third Book is a very close translation of the corresponding portion of Guido de Colonna. There are other more modern poetical versions, more or less condensed, such as "The Life and Death of Hector, One and the First of the most puissant, Valiant, and Renowned Monarches of the World called the Nyne Worthies," by Thomas Heywood, a copy of which I possess, as also another work of his, The Iron Age, from the same prolific materials. This last is a drama in two parts-the first "Contayning the Rape of Hellen: The Siege of Troy: The Combate betwixt Hector and Ajax: Hector and Troilus Slayne," &c. The second part "Contayneth the Death of Penthesilea, Paris, Priam, and Hecuba: The Burning of Troy: The Deaths of Agamemnon, Menelaus," &c.
From the pages of Brunet we may see how often and how variously it was reproduced in the different countries throughout Europe; and yet his enumeration by no means exhausts all the versions of the Fall of Troy. I possess, or I have examined, copies of several others in English, French, Spanish, and Italian, of which he has taken no notice.
The old story, as elsewhere, appears to have been very popular in Scotland, and for a long period too. The MS. (MSS. Cat., vol. v. 600, Kk. 5. 30) in Cambridge University Library, which is a copy principally of Lydgate's Troy Book, was written in Scotland, probably by the same copyist who executed the Douce MS. 148 in the Bodleian, Oxford, at the end of which we are told
"Here endis ye Sege of Troye written and mendit at ye Instance of ane honorable chaplane Ser Thomas ewyn in Edinburgh."
In the first of these MSS., a Scotch one, formerly in the Duke of Lauderdale's collection, when examined by Mr Bradshaw, Librarian of the University, to ascertain the changes made in the author's language by the Scottish copyist, were discovered the remarkable remains of Barbour's version. Mr Bradshaw thus describes his interesting and most valuable discovery:
"It was on the 11th of this month (April, 1866) that I took down from the shelf in the University Library a copy of Lydgate's Troy
Book. I only knew that it was a Scotch manuscript, formerly in the Duke of Lauderdale's collection, which was sold by auction in 1692, and that it had been bought with several others from the same library by Bishop Moore, and transferred with the rest of his books to the University by the munificence of King George in 1715. My immediate object was to see how far Lydgate's southern English had been modified in the process of transcription by a Scottish scribe. The original volume was mutilated both at beginning and end, and the missing parts had been supplied in writing, from the printed edition of 1555, by one Sir James Murray of Tibbermure, who owned the book in 1612. However, on turning over a few leaves near the end of the original scribe's work, I was struck with a line in larger handwriting (that used throughout the volume for rubrics), running as follows:
'Her endis the monk ande begynnis barbour;'
and on turning back, I found a similar rubric near the beginning:
It was further apparent that the lines before this note at the beginning,
"P.S. My conjecture has been verified to some extent.
I have since
had the good fortune to discover in the Douce Collection a copy which furnishes about 1200 additional lines towards the close of the poem. Being at Oxford for some weeks this summer, I was enabled, thanks to the unequalled kindness of Mr Coxe, to explore at my leisure whole departments of the Bodleian Library. I was searching for printed books; but seeing a MS. of Lydgate's Troy Book in an adjoining book-case, I was tempted to take it down, although I knew that all the Bodleian Lydgates had been just recently examined with great care for the committee of the Early English Text Society. It is a Scotch MS., and was probably copied from the Cambridge MS. before ours was so much mutilated. The beginning is Lydgate, the volume closes1 with the last few lines of Lydgate's poem, and the rubrics about Barbour and the Monk are omitted; so that it is not to be wondered at that even Mr. Douce himself should have overlooked it, to say nothing of more recent investigators."
That the two MSS. may have had a common origin, and been written and "mendit," at the end at least, by the same chaplain that executed the Douce copy, is very probable and likely, but that the one was copied from the other is disproved, I think, by the various differences existing between them, as shown by parallel extracts, which I have had taken from both. The Douce MS., for example, has not the concluding portion, if indeed it has any, of the first 600 lines of Barbour, which are found in the other. In the Cambridge MS. these lines conclude thus :
"And thus of Medea fynd I
So Soueranly scho was subtill
That thar was neuer nane hyr lyk
Her endis Barbour and begynis the monk
Of dyuerse Cercles and reuolutions
Which causen ws for to failen oft."
From an extract, now before me, from this MS., the case really stands thus: Folio 336 and last commences with four lines of Barbour, then follow 32 lines of Lydgate; the long episodical address to Henry V., in which he describes himself, mentions Chaucer, &c., consisting of 235 lines, is omitted, and then the "mendit" poem concludes with the last five lines of Lydgate.
The corresponding passage in the Douce MS., fol. 25b., is as follows:
"1Quhen he movis onder eliptike lyne
The clipse mought follow as auctoures list dissyne
Of boith twayn full coniunctioun
As by nature yan It may nought fale
In syndry bukes lyke as ye may reid
Because of certane Intersecatiouns
Quhilk causis ws for to fale oft."
[fol. 26 a.]
The first ten lines of this extract are Lydgate's, modified in spelling by the Scottish copyist, and it is very manifest that the last two were not copied from the corresponding lines of the Cambridge MS. Perhaps were the two MSS. themselves examined and compared together, the real truth of the matter regarding their connection and production might be ascertained exactly. Failing such comparison, a satisfactory conclusion might be arrived at by a careful examination of sufficiently copious extracts taken from both-if photographed, all the better.
I had not gone over much of the Stately Poem in proof before I was struck with the number not only of words, but of expressions and phrases occurring in it, that are still in common use in Scotland. This had also struck the transcriber; and when it was ascertained that the work was not a translation from Joseph of Exeter, or from the historians Dares and Dictys, more attention was paid to these words and phrases than heretofore; and as the proofs, when collated with the MS., were read aloud, the Scottish or Northern peculiarity became every day more manifest. Indeed, whole lines of the poem, and even passages of some length, would be intelligible to the common people in many parts of this country at the present day,
1 In Marsh, 1555, these two lines are
"Whan so he meueth under the Clyptik lyne,
Evidently a mistake for cercles.