by Keira Borrill
The Online Froissart (OFP) includes my entirely new translation into modern English of carefully selected episodes from the Chroniques, based on Besançon mss. 864 and 865. They are intended to provide students of history, or any interested individual lacking the advanced linguistic skills needed to read Froissart’s original Middle French text, with improved access to key chapters. It is my hope, also, that a still wider audience of scholars and enthusiasts will enjoy reading these. Where possible, consecutive sequences of episodes have been provided, to disrupt the narrative thread as little as possible.
To translate Froissart it is an inevitable requirement that one become immersed in the events of the period, from the greatest of pitched battles to fly-on-the-wall accounts of intimate conversations between some of the most powerful figures of the age. The enthusiasm and vitality of the chronicler's prose will not allow a completely detached perspective.
Froissart’s Chroniques have been translated into English several times since Lord Berners undertook the task in the early 16th Century. His translation is widely regarded as a successful exemplar because, while it is not always the most linguistically accurate, his style closely reproduces the colour and rhythms of the source text. I have taken inspiration for my own approach from his energetic style, enthusiasm and cultural understanding, which in turn convey Froissart’s own commitment to his subject. I have found that emotional investment in the text ultimately makes for a more readable, accessible and enjoyable translation.
There has been a persistent tension between the requirement to create a new, up-to-date translation whilst retaining Froissart’s characteristic register, but without slipping into an archaic form of speech or, even worse, a mock-medieval sociolect. This was especially difficult to resolve when I found myself faced with formulaic speeches and introductions such as those encountered in the prologues: these are particularly hard to render in modern English as we rarely, if ever, use such forms today. The key objective for this translator was to create prose that would be readily comprehensible to the readership envisaged, without either dumbing down or indulging in archaic lexis or syntax.
The most evident new dimension is that the translations, where they are provided, can be viewed side-by-side with the corresponding manuscript text. As such, ‘translation equivalence’ carries more weight than it normally would. I have tried to avoid significant differences in style and language between translation and source text; however, this has occasionally been inevitable and syntax has had to be altered to prevent confusion. For example, I have sometimes seen fit to split very long sentences into two to make the sense of a passage more transparent to the reader. Wherever possible I have attempted to retain the rhythms and cadences of Froissart’s prose, and accurately to render his use of language.
The translations are also comprehensively searchable for personal and place names. Developing a naming policy for the translation was a thorny issue. In the end I opted for ‘foreignisation’, by which I mean that names are traced back to their source language or at least a contemporary equivalent thereof, wherever possible. This is not as black-and-white a method as it might first appear and there will be instances where this approach has failed, although I hope at least to have been consistent. Anglicisation did not present a viable option as it is only possible for certain personal names across the various languages encompassed by the texts. Intervention from source text to translation has been kept to a minimum; instead, footnotes have been provided to elucidate some unfamiliar terms and to explain specific lexical choices I have made. The canonical name forms are those found in the Middle French transcriptions, and searches are therefore best executed via these.
This translation was produced in an environment where I had access to an impressive array of resources which have, I trust, enhanced the result. They include online dictionaries, especially the ATILF Dictionnaire du Moyen Français and Jacqueline Picoche’s Froissart lexique, plus scholarly editions of various Froissart manuscripts which include indexes and glossaries, to aid consistency in rendering personal and place names as well as language specific to Froissart. I have also consulted other literature to seek out correct terminology for armour, weaponry, horses and types of fur, among other items. I have also had the benefit of being able to pick the brains of the Froissart scholars working on the project.
Notwithstanding all the advantages and resources described above, I remain responsible for the translations offered here, and for any errors they may contain. The AHRC funding allowed us to offer readers a broad selection of episodes, but some readers will inevitably be disappointed not to find a particular text or chapter included. Future funding may yet allow the Online Froissart to include additional translations of important or appealing episodes from this vast work.