Saturday, 17 November 2018

The opening of the Flemish epic 'Van Den Vos Reynaerde' (13th century)

Willem, die den Madoc maecte,
Daer hi dicke omme waecte,
Hem vernoyede so haerde,
Dat davonturen van Reinaerde
In Dietsce onghemaket bleven,
(Die hi hier hevet vulscreven)
Dat hi die vite dede soeken,
Ende hise naden walscen boeken
In Dietsce dus hevet begonnen.
God moete ons siere hulpe onnen! [...]

Het was in enen Sinxendaghe
Dat beide bosch ende haghe
Met groenen loveren waren bevaen:
Nobel, die coninc, hadde ghedaen
Sijn hof craieren over al,
Dat hi waende, hadde hijs gheval,
Houden te wel groten love.
Doe quamen tes coninx hove
Alle die diere, groot ende clene,
Sonder vos Reinaert allene.
Hi hadde te hove so vele mesdaen,
Dat hire niet ne dorste gaen:
Die hem besculdich kent ontsiet.
Also was Reinaerde ghesciet;
Ende hier omme scuwedi sconinx hof,
Daer hi in hadde cranken lof.
Doe al dat hof versamet was,
Was daer niemen, sonder die das,
Hine hadde te claghene over Reinaerde,
Den fellen metten roden baerde.

Willem, who did Madoc write,
often till very late at night,
was so disgruntled by the thought
that Reynard’s deeds remained unwrought
in our mother tongue to date
(for Aernout found the task too great)
that from French accounts he gleaned
what of Reynard’s life he weened
in our language folk might read.
This mighty task we wish godspeed! [...]

Whitsuntide had clothed in green
both shrub and wood, a perfect scene
for King Nobel’s summoned court
to which all subjects had to report,
it was, he thought, the perfect chance,
throughout his kingdom to enhance
his glory and his royal fame.
The animals to his court then came
great and small in a single line,
but of Reynard – not a sign.
He’d at court done so much wrong
that he was loath to come along.
He had everything to fear
and his guilt was all too clear,
so he shunned the royal court
where his standing was as nought.
When the assembly was complete
all called Reynard an evil cheat,
except for the badger, and did crave
justice for the red-bearded knave.

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