In this new verse translation of one of the great works of French literature, Dorothy Gilbert captures the vivacity, wit, and grace of the first known Arthurian romance. Erec and Enide is the story of the quest and coming of age of a young knight, an illustrious member of Arthur's court, who must learn to balance the demands of a masculine public life—tests of courage, skill, adaptability, and mature judgment—with the equally urgent demands of the private world of love and marriage. We see his wife, Enide, develop as an exemplar of chivalry in the female, not as an Amazon, but as a brave, resolute, and wise woman. Composed ca. 1170, Erec and Enide masterfully combines elements of Celtic legend, classical and ecclesiastical learning, and French medieval culture and ideals.
In choosing to write in rhymed octosyllabic couplets–Chrétien's prosodic pattern–Dorothy Gilbert has tried to reproduce what so often gets lost in prose or free verse translations: the precise and delicate meter; the rhyme, with its rich possibilities for emphasis, nuance, puns and jokes; and the "mantic power" implicit in proper names. The result will enable the scholar who cannot read Old French, the student of literature, and the general reader to gain a more sensitive and immediate understanding of the form and spirit of Chrétien's poetry, and to appreciate the more Chrétien's great contribution to European literature.
Dorothy Gilbert's original poetry has appeared in The New Yorker, The Nation, The Iowa Review, and other journals. An independent scholar, she has taught literature and writing since 1971. She lives in Oakland, California.
"Ms. Gilbert's couplets read beautifully, encompassing Chrétien's range of tone—from wit to elevation of sentiment—very sensitively."—Charles Muscatine, author of Chaucer and the French Tradition
"A wonderfully accurate and witty translation of Chrétien's Erec and Enide which brilliantly renders the rhymed octosyllabics of the original text in compelling, colloquial English. . . . A treat not just for students and scholars of Old French literature but, more important, for what we now call general readers—that is, all those who relish a rollicking, well-told tale."—Sandra M. Gilbert, editor of The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women
"Older translations, generally in stupefying Maloryan prose, convey little of the sense of the poetry so obvious in the original, and admirably reproduced in this translation."—Robert Harrison, translator of Gallic Salt: Eighteen Fabliaux
"One of the best English verse renderings of any poem by Chrétien."—William J. Kibler, author of An Introduction to Old French
"A union of scholarship and consummate art that affected me like the great stories I read in my formative years; a permanent vicarious experience."—Ruth Stone, poet, author of Second-Hand Coat
"This will be a standard English translation of Erec and Enide and a definitive one."—Roger J. Steiner, editor of The New College French and English Dictionary
Translation Center Award, Translation Center