In this book, Marijane Osborn translates into modern English nine lively medieval verse romances, in a form that both reflects the original and makes the romances inviting to a modern audience. All nine tales contain elements of magic: shapeshifters, powerful fairies, trees that are portals to another world, and enchanted clothing and armor. Many of the tales also feature powerful women characters, while others include representations of “Saracens.” The tales address issues of enduring interest and concern, and also address sexuality, agency, and identity formation in unexpected ways.
“The fairy legends of medieval Britain are at the very heart of romance: lightly touched, shimmering with suggestion, as hard to catch in their rhythmic dance as the elves glimpsed at twilight. They deal with otherworld lovers, enchanted hags, magic trees and magic animals, strange abductions and bold rescues. Yet they have never been well-known except to scholars, for the Middle English and Scots in which they are written is difficult enough to keep readers at bay, and in prose translation they lose much of their charm. Marijane Osborn’s rendition of nine of the best of them into modern English verse saves the situation, and opens the poems up to the wider audience they deserve. Her poetry pulses with life, like the originals, and her introductions to each poem set the originals in context with impeccable scholarship.” — Thomas Shippey, Professor Emeritus, Saint Louis University
“With characteristic erudition, wit, and grace, Professor Osborn both contextualizes and makes accessible one familiar and eight previously remote and seldom-read medieval romances. Even Chaucer’s Herry Bailey will find no ‘drasty rymyng’ here. Instead, readers will be pleased to make the acquaintance of John Gower and Thomas Chestre as well as the five anonymous authors presented so well in these pages.” — Robert E. Bjork, Arizona State University