Cline's translation, faithful to the highly synthetic, deliberately ornate nature of medieval French, follows Perceval from his home in Wales, through his rich and raucous adventures as a member of the fraternity of knights, to his climactic meeting with the Fisher King. Paralyzed by his first glimpse of the Grail, Perceval fails to save the ailing king. Distraught, the knight begins a new quest for the Grail, a journey on the road of penitence and faith. Perceval's venture, the true test of his knighthood, ends without conclusion; the death of author Chrétien de Troyes left unsaid and undetermined the success of Perceval's quest.
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.
By remaining faithful to Chrétien's highly structured form, Cline preserves the pace, the pungency of proverbial expressions, and the work's poetical devices and word play in translating this archetypal tale of courtly love from Old French into modern English. Cline's introduction--containing a description of Arthur in history and literature, a discussion of courtly love, and an account of the continuations of the story of Lancelot and Guinevere--makes Lancelot an ideal classroom text.
An innovative poet working during a time of great literary creativity, Chrétien de Troyes wrote poems that had a lively pace, skillful structure, and vivid descriptive detail. Ruth Harwood Cline re-creates for modern audiences his irony, humor, and charm, while retaining the style and substance of the original octosyllabic couplets. Her thorough introduction includes discussions of courtly love and the Arthurian legend in history and literature, as well as a new and provocative theory about the identity of Chrétien de Troyes. This clearly presented translation, faithful in preserving the subtle expressive qualities of the original work, is accessible reading for any Arthurian legend aficionado and an ideal text for students of medieval literature.