Thursday, May 19, 2011
That beautiful destrier
In Charny's Questions on Tournaments, there is a case proposed to Charny's audience about a knight who brings a beautiful destrier to a tournament and decides not to ride it. An unarmed man gets on the destrier and rides out past the lists and all over the field, until some other tourneyers drag him to the goal post, knock him off, and take the destrier as a prize. The knight who brought the destrier to the tourney objects. Who is right?
At least, that's how I (and some others) think the question should be interpreted. Grammatically the question is such a puzzle that it stops learned philologists and scholars of medieval French in their tracks, and leads them to propose desperate measures, for instance, that there are words missing, either from the edition or from the original text in the manuscripts. I can well believe they are right about this, but it leaves me in an awkward position to explain how I arrived at my published translation, when I do publish one. At least I will know that had I spent my life studying Old and Middle French, I'd be in much the same situation.
I am deeply grateful to all the people who wrinkled their skulls over this problem to help me out. Generosity still reigns in medieval studies.
Image: Not exactly the destrier visualized by Charny.