Friday, October 27, 2017

Who does this remind you of?

The French Duke of Bourbon spent much of the 1360s and 70s taking castles back from the English soldiers who had occupied them after defeating the French at Poitiers (1365).  The duke (known to his fans as "the Good Duke") established a reputation for both his warrior skills and his honorable behavior toward friend and foe.

In one incident the Good Duke was trying to undermine and capture the castle of Vertreuil (not so far from Poitiers) by challenging the most noble English member of the garrison to fight one-on-one in a mine (a tunnel dug as part of an attack on a strong point).  It turned out that there was no high-ranking Englishman present.  The commander was absent and his second-in-command, a man named Montferrand, did not even rank as a squire.  Montferrand took up the challenge, and found himself facing an impressive man-at-arms, who declined to give his name.  But soon the secret was out: the French, watching the fight in the mine, (which must have been rather short and shallow) cheered on their duke with cries of "Bourbon, Bourbon."  

Montferrand found himself in a quandry.  He was fighting someone who very much outranked him, and who might be inclined to execute him as a brigand once Vertreuil was taken.  ("English" soldiers in the Hundred Years War were often foreigners -- Bretons, Scots, Gascons with little standing in local society. They were hated by the French.)  Montferrand made a daring move by appealing to honor.  Montferrand said he would surrender Vertreuil to the Good Duke, if the duke would knight him.  The duke agreed and everyone was satisfied.  I'll tell the rest of the story another time.
But now that we are here, look at this passage, with the Good Duke
and Montferrand trading compliments:

Reynaud de Montferrand knelt before the duke and said to him, "My very redoubtable lord, I thank you most humbly for the benefits and honors which have come to me from you, to be a knight by the hand of so high and valiant a prince as you are; so it is an honor to me and all my lineage forever." The duke answered, "Sir Reynaud, chivalry is very strong in you for you are a valiant man of good lineage."
What does that bolded phrase remind you of?  And what does that say about the process of translation?

Image:  The castle of Vertrieul, after it was rebuilt in the 15th century.  Older castles in that part of France were rebuilt because they were destroyed in campaigns like the one described here.

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