'Fierabras' in Ireland : the transmission and cultural setting of a French epic in the medieval Irish literary tradition
Davies, Michael Howard
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Thirteenth-century France saw the construction of the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris to house the Crown of Thorns and other Relics of the Passion which had been purchased by King Louis IX. As a result, a fictitious history that explained how Charlemagne had rescued these Relics from the Saracens and brought them to Paris gained widespread popularity in later medieval France. This history was in the form of an epic poem entitled the Chanson de Fierabras, of which English translations were also made. The history was, in addition, taken to Ireland, where the Irish translation, Sdair Fortibrais developed a wide circulation. However, the Irish text had as its source a Latin translation of the French epic poem. This Latin text is preserved only partially in a unique Irish manuscript of the fifteenth century. It is assumed to be the work of an Irish cleric due to the non-appearance of this version of the story outside Ireland. Hitherto unedited, the principal aim of this project is to provide an edition of the Latin text that lies between the French epic and the Irish text, and then to discuss the position of the story in the Irish literary tradition.The first part of this thesis is entitled 'The Irish Fierabras- the Historical and Literary Framework', divided into five chapters. The first chapter asks why a certain selection of literary texts were translated into Irish during the later Middle Ages, and how they were representing the literary tastes of contemporary France. A comparison is then made with the translation literature of English, Welsh and Old Norse, leading to the conclusion that the history of the Relics of the Passion was the major reason for the interest in the Fierabras story in Ireland as in England. The second chapter outlines the spread of the Fierabras story in France, England and Ireland from the thirteenth to the fifteenth century, noting any political reasons as to why the story may have been popular at any one time. The third chapter considers how the subjects of the Fierabras story were used elsewhere in the Irish tradition in order to see if any political interpretations may be applied. The results are inconclusive. The fourth chapter demonstrates that the Irish text is a close translation of the Latin, which is itself an economical translation of the French poem. The final chapter notes how the Latin text can be considered a scholastic text of the early fourteenth century, and asks if it was the work of one particular author, by comparison with another datable text.The second part, 'Manuscript, Text and Translation', is centred upon the edition of the Latin text. The edition presents the text as it is written in the manuscript, with appropriate emendations - an 'editio princeps'. The title of the text in the manuscript, Gesta Karoli Magni, is preserved. The edition is prefaced by a description of the manuscript, along with the editorial principles. It is noted how the text is preserved on one quire that would probably have been followed by a similar quire, now lost. The edition is followed by a textual apparatus, in which the editorial corrections are explained, and some further notes. A reasonably literal translation lies at the end, in which the difficulties in the Latin text are clarified as far as possible.