Odes of Hafiz: Poetical Horoscope
Abbas Aryan pur Kashani (Translator)
Lexington, 1984

Hafiz was yet another Sufi poet, this time in the 14th Century. He wrote in the difficult ghazal form and people still do a form of bibliomancy with his ghazals wherein they randomly pick a ghazal and it is supposed to set the tone for the day, at least according to this intro. This one has the English and Farsi side by side.

Another translation of Hafiz, The Green Sea of Heaven: Fifty Ghazals from the Diwan of Hafiz by Elizabeth T. Gray got really good reviews, but I haven't had a chance to read it yet. [TbIaI]
Buy Odes of Hafiz: Poetical Horoscope
Buy The Green Sea of Heaven

Old English Poetry
Translations into Alliterative Verse with Introductions and Notes by
J. Duncan Spaeth
Princeton University Press, NJ
copyright 1921; my printing is from 1927

Without a doubt, it's out of print. I got mine when the library had a book sale (it cost me 50 cents). It was true serendipity to find it there, as I had photocopied the "Beowulf and Grendel" segment when I was in college and, foolish me, neglected to make note of the source on the photocopy. (This was before I had sense beat into me in graduate school.) The photocopy was long lost and I despaired of ever finding the original source again, when I happened on the book at the library sale. I opened it, and the words I had been telling for years jumped off the page at me. Light dawned, angels sang, and I walked on air for a week.

Why do I love it so? I know it is not the most word-for-word accurate translation, and I know the text needs some fairly hard pruning before it's fit to tell. But the sheer sound of it is so wonderful that when I tell from it, I believe. [AoF]
Buy Old English Poetry

The One Hundred New Tales
(Les Cent nouvelles nouvelles)
Judith Bruskin Diner (Translator)
Volume 30, Series B, Garland Library of Medieval Literature
Garland Publishing, Inc., 1990
ISBN 0-8240-8510-8

Les Cent nouvelles nouvelles is a collection of prose tales composed for Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, in 15th-century France. Like fabliaux, many of these stories turn on a prank or a trick. They allegedly portray recent occurences, but many of the tales explicitly refer to earlier sources (for example, Boccaccio's Decameron). Many are about conflict between men and women,and many are bawdy or scatalogical. They're all around two and a half pages, and eminently tellable just as they are, in good, clear modern English. [AoF]

Orlando Furioso
Ludovico Ariosto.

First published (in a slightly shorter form) in 1516, with the expanded version appearing in 1532. First translated into English in 1591, just squeaking into SCA period.

The setting is a war that various pagan kings have undertaken against King Charlemagne, although the multitudinous plotlines end up wandering all over the world (and beyond: there's a brief episode set on the moon!) Orlando, greatest of Charlemagne's paladins, is distracted from the war effort by his love for the beautiful Angelica. When he finds that she has married another, his Madness is, quite literally, the stuff of legend.

This is very much the late-Italian equivalent of a super-hero comic. The heroes are extremely larger-than-life, the battles are terrific, and there are giants, dragons, sorceresses, and enchanted castles lurking around almost every corner.

One of the nice features about this book is that Ariosto takes a very even-handed view of his characters. Although this is, on one level, a religious war, there are evil men to be found on the Christian side and good (if mistaken) men on the pagan. There are also some admirably strong female characters, some of whom are the equal of any of the men on the field of battle.

While the story as a whole, running about 1500 pages, is far too long for any sane person to tell all of, there are a few 'tales within tales' that are easily extractable, and many individual episodes that can be pulled out with more or less effort. Canto 28 (the tale of amorous Fiammetta) is a particular favorite. Interestingly enough, John Harrington's 1591 translation has an appendix that attempts to break out all of the "self-contained" material for the casual reader!

While the Harrington translation does have the benefit of being in period, and can be found at most major libraries, the translation that I would actually recommend the most is that of Barbara Reynolds, published by Penguin in 1973. This translation is not just accurate, but is highly readable. Reynolds is as much a poet as a linguist, which I think ought to be a requirement for translating poetry. At all costs avoid prose translations! The only ones I've seen were as dry as old wood. [AtS]
Buy Orlando Furioso: Part 1
Buy Orlando Furioso: Part 2

The Oxford Book of English Verse
How about The Oxford Book of English Verse? It starts with "Sumer is icumin in" and goes until the 20th century. There's a new edition out (The New Oxford Book of English Verse, 1250-1950) available at Amazon. As I remember each poem is attributed with author (if known) and date (at least approximately). [MW]
Buy The New Oxford Book of English Verse
Back to Table of Contents

Contents © 1999-2006 Alex Newman for the Carolingian Storytellers Guild