A Medieval Greek Arthurian Poem: The Old Knight

I’m in Greece right now, enjoying the sea, and pistachios (my parents have pistachio trees in their orchard), and watermelon, and figs, and all the lovely summer things. And I thought this would be a good moment to share a little recording in Greek!

A project that came to fruition recently (after MANY years of working on it, on and off!) is a new edition and translation of a little-known medieval Arthurian poem (mid-15th century) – the only known example in Greek! I worked on the translation of this 307-line poem in collaboration with Thomas Crofts of East Tennessee State University, so I’m credited as co-translator (Thomas did all the hard work of editing, introduction, commentary, notes, etc.) The conventional title of the poem is “Ιππότης ο Πρεσβύτης” (The Old Knight) and the venue is the (very well-respected) journal Arthurian Literature. The story is a loose translation into Greek of the first part of the first episode of Rustichello da Pisa’s 13th-century French prose Compilazione (Rustichello is best known for “The Travels of Marco Polo.”)

In his introduction, Thomas notes

All other western-style, political-verse romances… are in ‘vulgar’ Greek (also called ‘impure Greek’ by the grammatikoi), reflecting the language as spoken in everyday life. But The Old Knight is composed in the high-literary ‘Atticizing’ register of the intellectual, professor or grammarian. Within this rarefied idiom, furthermore, the poem contains a rhetorical performance only the trained ear could have appreciated: that is, a chivalric romance – with a good deal of comedy – narrated with an epic fullness of expression, complete with Homeric syntax and diction. (p. 167)

To give a flavour of the language of the poem, I’ve recorded the first 16 lines (well, strictly speaking lines 2-16 as the first one is incomplete and I omitted it). Try to listen for the metre (the decapentasyllabic line still used today in Modern Greek folk poetry), and for the “Homeric” extended simile (lines 12-14).

 

Here’s a link to the press release about this publication by East Tenessee State University: http://www.etsu.edu/news/2017/04-apr/nr_crofts_thomas_old_knight.aspx

You can read a preview of this edition and translation here: https://www.academia.edu/31492424/The_Old_Knight_An_edition_of_the_Greek_Arthurian_poem_of_Vat._gr._1822_preview_

 

Reference:

Crofts, Thomas H. (2016) ‘Ιππότης ο Πρεσβύτης: The Old Knight: An Edition of the Greek Arthurian Poem of Vat. Gr. 1822, by Thomas H. Crofts, with a translation by Thomas H. Crofts and Dimitra Fimi’, Arthurian Literature XXXIII, pp. 158-218.

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