minstrel: Agincourt trans. help?

Heather Senkler wl835 at victoria.tc.ca
Sun Mar 26 11:20:54 PST 2000

> From: Christopher Gregory <krummhorn at hotmail.com>
> Well, it's time I wrote in about something other than the volatile subjects
> of authenticity, tuning, or modern music in the SCA.  This time, it's about
> Medieval music, or more specifically, translation of the Agincourt Carol,
> from c. 1430.
> lyrics from them.  What better way than to as my questions verse by verse?

I am currently thrashing my way through a 3rd year university class on
Chaucer and his Comtemporaries so I thought I would see if I could help
you. I have pulled out some notes from the glosses I have. They might

> Agincourt Carol 
> 2. He sette a sege, the sothe for to say,
> To Harflu toune with ryal aray;
> That toune he wan and made a fray
> That Fraunce shal rywe tyl domesday;
> Deo gracias. 
> Did he set a siege, or a sage?  A siege would certainly tell the truth, but
> he hasn't gotten to Harflu yet.  A sage is a soothsayer, and so would say
> the sooth.

I can only find "siege" for "sege", not sage, but I also found "seat or
throne" in _Boece_. "Sette" comes up as "set, put, sit down, assign" and
in a few idioms that do not make sense here. "Sothe" is "truth" or
"truely". So, does this refer to setting up a court to make announcements?
Or is he setting himself on a throne in the sense of declareing his goal?

> 5. There dukys and erlys, lorde and barone
> Were take and slayne, and that wel sone,
> And summe were ladde into Lundone
> With joye and merthe and grete renone;
> Deo gracias. 
> Is it there or their, referring to the Dukes and Earls?  There would refer
> to Agincourt, but their would refer the the French.  And what is "wel sone?"
> Well sown?  Well done?

"There" can mean "there" or "where", also "wherein, once, at that time".
"Wel sone" is best as "very quickly", "sone" can be "quickliy,
immediately, soon". I would say they are talking about the swiftness of
the executions. You do not kill a nobleman slowly.

> 6. Now gracious God he save oure kynge,
> His peple, and alle his welwyllynge;
> Yef hym gode lyfe and gode endynge,
> That we with merth mowe savely synge;
> Deo gracias. 
> Ah, the finale.  Welwyllynge seems to be well-willing, so that's alright.
> "Yef hym gode lyfe and gode endynge" is absolutely confusing.  I think,
> "Grant him good life and good ending," but is that right?  "Mowe" seems to
> be 1430's English for "Moe" which is more, but referring to numbers rather
> than volume.  More beer, moe cattle.  But "savely?"  I just copied that
> letter for letter in my rough translation.  But is that right?

Variations of "yef, yif, yeve" are "give" or thereabouts. Since "savely"
isn't in the glosses I have but variations come up as "save, preserve,
keep" and are often used in connection with oaths to God, I hazard to
guess that "moe savely" is a reference to their souls preservation, or the
Grace of God.

> Anyway, my spell checker is having a fit with the Middle English, so I'll
> just thank you in advance, and sign off.

Through the course of this class my own spelling has suffered, and even my
spoken grammar has taken quite a blow. But the stuff is getting easier to
read. I can even get through passages of the Gawain poet without too many
checks with the gloss and he wrote in northern Middle English, in
alliterative verse even!

> Richard Crowder (the Sickly) of Burnham
> "My fingers, my fingers, my fingers are on fire!"

I hope this helps a bit. If you are going to do more translations you
might want to look at getting a "Riverside Chaucer". Try a student run
university second hand bookstore or even a regular second hand bookstore.
It is usually the required text for any class on Chaucer and it has a very
good glossary. I paid $70CAN used for mine and it is in very good shape.
It was $94CAN new.


			Ekatarina, seargent Seagirt

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