Professor Barlow must have been a wonderful man and an inspirational teacher. His former students - now leading classicists and professors themselves - are very loyal. Even so, I have to believe that deference to academic precedent and received authority, without recognition that much of it was fanciful, are not the best way to gain an insight into the Carmen or tell its story.
Five hours with the Barlow Carmen at the British Library was enough to convince me that I have not wasted my time in re-translating the Carmen. I am sure I have made many mistakes in my translation. My Latin is not perfect and I am an inexperienced translator, but at least I am doing the work myself - and I make corrections as I recognise my errors. I don't accept received translation errors, or cling to errors I have made rather than emending them to more accurately reflect the original text.
The things I considered inaccurate in the M&M Carmen were all there repeated in the Barlow Carmen:
- William is among the four who kill Harold;
- The army is at Canterbury for a month rather than Dover;
- A dude with a bad kidney and game leg ruled London.
Here's Barlow on the most important lines in dispute, lines 681-688:
In the city was a man, crippled by kidney trouble and hampered in his walk because he had suffered many wounds while serving his country. As he lacked mobility he was carried in a litter; but it was he ruled over the city fathers and it was with his help that the city's business was done. To this man the king, through an envoy, covertly unveiled another way out, and secretly asked to view it with favour.
No way does the Latin say this. It doesn't even make sense. How could "the city's business" be "done" with the aid of itinerant and ignorant provincial staller? Why would the aldermen and portreeve tolerate his sudden interference? Where was the Witanagemot, which had appointed Edgar to be king of the City, in allowing the staller to usurp authority over the City? How could a rural staller be an expert on urban defenses? Why would the City's citizens take orders from a wounded, incontinent interloper? None of this makes any sense, either in the context of the Carmen or in the context of known history about the medieval administration of the City of London.
This is silliness, and that it is persistent silliness that has endured since the first transcriptions makes it more unfortunate but not more credible. In 1066 you might eat a kidney from an animal, but you would be unlikely to diagnose a kidney complaint in a living human. To think anyone would be diagnosed and then described in text as having "kidney trouble" is far-fetched. At that time you were much more likely to be described as "elf shot" if you had a mysterious, debilitating condition.
I have now written to the Royal Library of Belgium to ask for a digital photograph of the relevant lines of the manuscript. I want to know once and for all whether the word is renum - kidney - or regnum - kingdom. Even if the word on the vellum is renum, as indicated by my 1837 and 1840 transcriptions, that doesn't change my view that regnum was intended. It would, however, establish whether the transcription error occured in the 12th century when the Brussels Carmen was copied by some cleric, or in the 19th century when the manuscript Carmen was transcribed into modern text.
Worse than the received translation is the determination to justify it. There is no record of any Ansgar having any authority in 1066 London. There are no documents which identify this mythical ruler of the weak kidney and war wounds. That hasn't stopped Barlow and others looking around for any Ansgar they could find and transplanting him to London, and even interlacing his name in the Carmen in the English narrative out of context. There was only one Ansgar they could identify, a Sussex staller, and so they say he must have travelled to London to lead the revolt there after receiving his wounds at Hastings.
This mythologising is inconsistent with everything we know about London in 1066. London in 1066, like London today, was a corporate jurisdiction ruled by its burgesses (citizens) through elected aldermen. Its most important officials were the bishop of London and the portreeve: the bishop for its sacred offices and the portreeve for the secular administration and taxation of commerce.
Ansgar the staller ruling London is even inconsistent with the Carmen itself, which makes clear that London's great men rule it by consensus and democratic voting. The Carmen describes their deliberations and records their votes, not once but twice. First it describes their deliberation and voting to open negotiations with King William on the basis of the 1066 charter. Second it describes their deliberations and voting to approve his coronation as king.
It seems obvious to me that Ansgardus is a corruption of Edgar. London did have a king in 1066, and the Carmen would name the boy king. As there is no other name for the boy king mentioned in the Carmen, it must be Ansgardus. Also, the Latin makes perfect sense both times the name is used if it references the boy king. More telling still, line 726 says Quicquid ab Ansgardo nuncius attulerat - whatever the envoy brought from Edgar. Envoys are always characterised by the authority of the ruler they speak for, and since London had a king, only the king could send an envoy to William.
My Carmen is supported by a much closer alignment between Latin and English, known facts and contemporary documents as well as common sense. William is turned from razing London and subjugating its citizenry by a bishop's disclosure of the church of Rome's protection of the City as a livery port originally ceded by King Offa to St Denis in 790. There is plenty of factual support for this interpretation:
- William the Norman was bishop of London in 1066. With a name like that, he might have been nervous about having an anti-Norman king with a history of genocides in church port liveries ruling England.
- Saint-Denis dominated all international trade between Paris and all other medieval ports from the 7th century onwards, building itself into a huge monopoly on trade that rivalled anything Rome had achieved under the era of empire. Saint-Denis was the most influential church in France, where all but two French kings are buried. King William would no more thwart Saint-Denis than he would the pope;
- Saint-Denis cartularies include copies of the King Offa 790 port livery charter that endowed port liveries at Londonwick, Hastings and Pevensey to the Abbey of Saint-Denis along with generous immunities and privileges in connection with trade and commerce, and later royal charters by later Saxon kings that confirmed the port liveries up to the time of Edward the Confessor;
- Duke William had sworn to restore the church liveries seized by Godwin of Wessex and the young Harold before setting out for England, as recorded at Steyning in respect of Fecamp Abbey liveries, so ceding London to Saint-Denis would be entirely consistent with his known respect for church liveries, especially those belonging to French and Norman churches;
- It was customary in medieval England - and medieval France too - to allow civil (as opposed to feudal) government in church livery boroughs, with burgesses/citizens electing aldermen on democratic principles, and independent laws and courts;
- The Corporation of London retains the 1066 charter for London which accords with my interpretation of the Carmen. The 1066 charter is addressed to William, the bishop of London, Godfrey, the portreeve, and the burgesses of London - both French and English. Addressing Frankish (or more accurately Anglo-Norman) citizens of London indicates that trade and emigration from France were significant drivers of the City's prosperity, which would be expected after 24 years of Edward the Confessor's pro-Norman administration. The charter assures the Frankish and English citizens of London that they will remain "law-worthy" - meaning they can make and enforce their own laws, consistent with urban civil rule in both France and England;
- In 1067 King William restored Hastings, Rye, Old Winchelsea, the Manor of Rameslie (including the port at Petit Iham), and Steyning to Fecamp Abbey in a royal charter that cited earlier charters of Edward and his Saxon predecessors, confirming the importance of the livery ports seized by Godwin and Harold as a casus belli for the conquest and demonstrating William's determination to generously provide for the church as king of England.
184 years of silliness is enough. It is time the Carmen was given meaning that makes sense in the context of real history and not made up fantasy.
Earlier post: What's Wrong With the Barlow Carmen?
Update: What's Wrong With the Barlow Carmen? Part III (9 July 2013)
It just isn't publicly available! I've been waiting four weeks for an inter-library loan of a Barlow Carmen through my local library. The email came Friday advising it was ready to collect. It wasn't. They said come back Tuesday as the emails sometimes go ahead of the books. So I went again today.
It's not the Barlow Carmen. It's Morton and Muntz again. Despite my carefully specifying Barlow's name as translator and the OMT ISBN number for the 1999 edition, they could only get a Morton and Muntz 1972 Carmen. Instead of "kidney trouble" the dude who rules London at line 682 is "crippled by a weakness of the loins".
This is hugely irritating as I was planning to complete a line by line comparison of my translation to Barlow's before the Battle Conference in two weeks' time.
Well, at least the British Library is reasonably convenient. I've ordered the Barlow Carmen (offsite storage so 48 hours delay!) to be available in the reading room Thursday morning. I'll take my laptop and transcribe it onsite.
The Carmen is a consitutional original source document about the creation of England as a Christian nation in Europe. It is unconscionable that it should be so difficult for the public to get a look at it.
Did I mention my Carmen is available globally? And affordable? 'Nuf said.