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THE Chandos Herald’s Life of the Black Prince is preserved in one manuscript only, the property of Worcester College, Oxford. It has been twice published: first in 1862 by Bodley’s Librarian, H. O. Coxe, for the Roxburghe Club,1 and, secondly, in 1883 by Francisque Michel.2 Coxe’s edition now out of print, gives a careful reproduction of the manuscript. No correction is attempted, even where the text is unintelligible, and the accompanying translation is very faulty. Michel aimed at constructing a ‘critical’ text. The numerous emendations, inspired by his ‘long familiarity and intimate acquaintance with the language of the period’, are unfortunately based on no preliminary study of the Herald’s own usage, and therefore render his edition valueless for linguistic purposes, while its historical worth is gravely diminished by the blunders of the translation and the incompleteness and inaccuracies of the notes.

In more recent time the poem has been made the subject of a doctor’s dissertation by Johannes Kötteritz,3 who gives a careful account of Michel’s alterations and the orthographical peculiarities of the manuscript as reproduced by Coxe.


[This is a summary of the original language of the manuscript, Middle French and Old French, including phonetics, morphology, syntax, rhyme forms, and prosody of the poem which is not here yet. I don’t speak French (yet) but will do this if anybody else is interested. Just contact me and rely on my benevolence.

I have given a few excerpts that are of interest to me, for the insight into the mysterious world of interpretation, emendation, and translation of old manuscripts and its difficulties:

p. x-xi:

In the extant copy of the poem unstressed vowels are added and omitted in the haphazard fashion usual in A. N. [Anglo-Norman] manuscripts. If, for the moment, we disregard orthography and assume syllabic correctness of metre5 we find that this irregularity of treatment is only apparent. Given correct octosyllabic lines, the values that must be attributed to the unstressed vowels are those that obtain in ordinary fourteenth-century continental French.

p. xiv:

This summary [of the Herald’s treatment of unstressed vowels] corresponds in every particular with the description given by Schmidt of the metrical usage of Gilles le Muisit, and with one exception, the slurring over of ∂ in the termination oient, it would serve equally well for Froissart.6 The deviations from continental usage in the Worcester MS. are entirely attributable to the scribes.

p. xviii:

[Re: Tense of the poem] The poem is a historical narrative, couched in epic style, and consequently the past definite is the predominant tense. Whether narrating or describing, the Herald hurries on from fact to fact, much as did earlier the Roland poet and all succeeding epic writers down to and including the author of ‘Baudouin de Sebourg’.7 It is only here and there that he stops to describe at length and betakes himself to the imperfect. Cf. 1606-1638.

p. xxiv-xxv:

[Re: syllabic correctness] A cursory perusal of the extant MS. would certainly lead one to form a poor opinion of the Herald’s metrical skill. On almost every page, 6-, 7-, 8-, 9-, 10-syllabled and even longer lines come near outnumbering the octosyllabic, and reduction to syllabic correctness would seem to involve re-writing the whole poem.

Appearances here, however, are entirely misleading. We have already seen that in a large number of lines the adoption of continental pronunciation and grammar brings with it rectification of the metre; and examination of the remainder supplies further and conclusive evidence of the metrical correctness of the poem in its original form. The faulty lines, whether too long or too short, are, in nearly all cases, of the type that are readily corrected by the application of the methods that ordinarily obtain in the editing of texts from A. N. manuscripts, viz.: a change of order, the adoption of one or other of the concurrent forms of a word, or the omission or addition of some entirely unimportant particle. The lines that cannot readily be reduced to regular octosyllabic form by the adoption of some such simple methods form such an insignificant proportion of the poem that they cannot fairly be taken as evidence of defective skill on the part of the poet.

p. xxviii-xxix:

[Re: the rhyme] Except for two or three assonances8 the rhymes are correct, but very commonplace. Homonyms like garde, conte, pas, france, pris, fait9, compounds like tere: Engletere, accort: recort, attendre: entendre, conte: aconte, droit: endroit, venir: avenir,10 are tiresomely often coupled together. In the beginning and end of the poem, where the diction is a little less bald, rich rhymes represent about 35 per cent., in the main narrative part they barely reach 25 per cent. and a considerable number of these are secured by often meaningless encomiums adjusted to fit each proper name11 or by tags of other kinds.12 The use of ready-made set phrases extends [xxix] even to the narrative, in which we find identical lines not infrequently repeated.13 A professional verse-writer of some technical ability, the Chandos Herald is unfortunately denied the gifts alike of copious vocabulary and of imagination.




It is very clear from the foregoing study that the Herald’s French is not of the debased fourteenth-century A.F. type. A writer who constructs ordinary octosyllabic lines correctly, who in the main uses his cases rightly, distinguishes his genders and conjugations, maintains at the continental standard the value of e, and keeps e apart from ie — to mention only the more salient traits — has certainly not learned his French at the Schole of Stratford atte Bowe. He is no Langtoft or Bozon.

The degenerate French mocked at by Chaucer was, however, not the only kind familiar to English people of his day. In the later fourteenth century, side by side with the revival of English letters, there had arisen a short-lived revival of French, and writers of undoubted English nationality and English upbringing had striven hard to free themselves from their insular forms of speech, and to model their French on standard continental forms. Carefully schooled in France as well as in England, they succeeded in producing a French relatively pure as compared with the merely technical or courier-like jargon into which the earlier A. N. was rapidly sinking. The best-known and most typical of these writers is the Kentishman Gower, and a comparison between his language and that of the Herald will best decide whether or not the Herald is to be counted among the adherents of this new school The task of comparison is much facilitated by Mr. Macaulay’s excellent edition of Gower’s Works.14

Gower successfully avoids some of the grosser insular traits. His metre is extremely regular, his verbal forms are tolerably correct, his rhymes not glaringly impossible, his syntax is not entirely destitute of guiding principle. But closer examination of his language reveals numerous anglo-normanisms . . . [examples] . . . The verbal forms are comparatively correct — . . .[examples]. . .


It, however, in his syntax and prosody that Gower betrays his insular origin most clearly. His French offers frequent examples of the solecisms to which the late A. N. writers were prone: gross blunders due to insufficiency of grammatical knowledge, and the more interesting type, wholly or partially anglicized constructions.

Mistakes of the first type occur on every page. . . [examples]. . . .

The prosody also is equally clearly moulded by English influence. ‘With all the correctness,’ says Mr. Macaulay15, ‘the verses of the Mirour have an unmistakably English rhythm and may easily be distinguished from the French verse of the continent and from that of the earlier Anglo-Norman writers. One of the reasons for this is that the verse is in a certain sense accentual as well as syllabic, the writer imposing upon himself generally the rule of the alternate beat of accents, and seldom allowing absolutely weak syllables to stand in the even place of his verse.’

Here, then, no misapprehension is possible; Gower’s French, with all its xxxi superficial appearance of correctness and metrical smoothness, has an unmistakable English ring; it is the French of a tolerably well-taught and fluent foreigner.

The Herald’s French is certainly not free from anglo-normanisms. . . [examples]. . . though, as we have seen, all of these phenomena find their parallels in fourteenth-century poems composed in the North of France.16

Beyond this, however, the Anglo-Norman influence does not go. It has indeed affected his pronunciation, but the real determining factors of a language, the morphology, the syntax, the prosody, the elements, in fact, that in the main constitute its identity, remain practically untouched.17

The contrast with Gower’s French is indeed fundamental. With the Englishman the A. N. characteristics are all-pervasive, they manifest themselves as strongly in grammar and prosody as in pronunciation and vocabulary. They are part and parcel of the French as he knows it. With the Herald, as with the twelfth-century Marie de France and Frère Angier, the anglo-normanisms are a late accretion. They indicate merely a superficial accommodation of his language to the environment of his later life, an accommodation induced, one is inclined to suspect, to no small extent by metrical exigencies and the paucity of his vocabulary. To the one writer French was obviously the painfully acquired accomplishment of late childhood or youth, to the other it was the slightly modified mother tongue. It is only the guise under which the poem is presented to us in the Worcester MS. that has hitherto obscured the recognition of this fact.18

The Herald was an alien immigrant and cannot be ranked among the English-French writers of the fourteenth century. What further evidence does the poem supply as to his birthplace?


The French in which the Life of the Black Prince is written is neither the French of Paris nor a mere congeries of different dialectal traits, picked up in reading or travelling. It is a consistent provincial speech, characterized by very definite and clearly marked local traits.


Of the linguistic phenomena described in the foregoing study, . . . [examples]. . ., and, we may add, the use of the verbs of mood as auxiliaries19, are unmistakably Northern.

Many of these traits are common to the whole North of France, but of some the extension is limited either towards the east or the west. Thus the . . .[examples]. . . characterize the Walloon dialect, while the . . . [examples]. . ., belong rather to the Picard. Their combination in one poem points clearly to the intermediate region of Hainault.20

And we may even go further. It so happens that the Herald’s language corresponds, trait for trait, with that of his most brilliant contemporary, Froissart. Careful comparison of the two shows that all the provincial characteristics enumerated above,21 and many others, find their parallels in the linguistic usage of the great chronicler, while the differences between them, apart from the anglo-normanisms, are quite insignificant.22

The few divergent traits are as follows [examples peculiar to the Herald and those peculiar to Froissart].

These differences are attributable in the main to other than local causes. The weakened use of the auxiliaries, missing in Froissart,23 is well exemplified, as we have seen, by the author of ‘Baudouin de Sebourg,’ who belonged probably to the neighbourhood of Valenciennes. . . The use of the monophthong eu, adopted in the case of ue by Froissart only in later life, 24 and the passage of ui to wi, indicate very probably that he was a younger man than the Herald, and more exposed to the influence of central French.

Discrepancies so few and a resemblance so substantial lead conclusively to the localization of the Herald’s birthplace in Valenciennes or its neighbourhood.

[Here follows a detailed comparison between words in Froissart and Harold indicative of Dialect and those indicative of Date.]

xxxiii-xxxvi§  THE MANUSCRIPT

The Worcester manuscript is an oblong octavo on vellum, containing sixty-one leaves with fifty-two lines on a page. At irregular intervals the poem is broken into sections by rubricated titles, inserted not infrequently in the middle of a sentence, and each section begins with an illuminated capital letter. Following on the poem, in the same handwriting, is a versified list of the High Officers of the Prince in xxxiv Aquitaine. Several of the English names have been underlined in a later but more faded ink.

The manuscript is assigned to the concluding years of the fourteenth century. Schum dates it C. 1397.25 Its later history is given, as far as it is known, by the first editor. It belonged at one time to Sir William le Neve, first Mowbray and then Clarencieux Herald, and his signature (Guill. and Guilliaume le Neve) stands on the first and last leaf. From him it passed to Sir Edward Walker, Garter, and to his son-in-law Sir John Clopton; later it was secured by Dr. George Clarke, Fellow of All Souls College, who bequeathed it to its present owners.

A letter from Anstis, author of the History of the Garter, to Dr. Clarke is affixed in the volume.


The handwriting of the manuscript is admirable, the letters being so well formed and so clearly distinguished that hesitation as to their significance is only possible in the case of u and n; ui, m, ni, and in, and more rarely in the case of some capital letters. Only the most ordinary abbreviations are employed, and these occur but seldom; orthographical corrections — deleting dots, marginal and interlinear alterations — are not infrequent. Four lines, omitted in the copying, are inserted out of order; three lines (120, 2585, 4000) are wanting; the space for 4000 is left blank, and beside 2585 stands the marginal note defic. hic.

The Worcester manuscript is manifestly no hastily transcribed document, but the work of a well-schooled and conscientious scribe, desirous of reproducing his original with exactitude and elegance. And yet, it must be confessed, it affords us nothing but a miserable travesty of the Herald’s poem, a version defective in metre, grammar, and sometimes in sense. For this state of things the copyist is certainly to some extent responsible. Well equipped as far as moral qualities and mechanical aptitudes are concerned, his intelligence, and, above all, his knowledge of the language he was copying, were wholly inadequate to his task. His French is of the purely insular variety, innocent of grammar and meagre in vocabulary, and so when he is confronted by an unusual word or phrase, or by any obscurity in the handwriting, he is totally at a loss and has no resource but to copy mechanically as closely as he can, or to set down at random some more familiar word bearing a vague resemblance to the one he saw before him. Thus he writes Ou Guyer for Ogier 164, assaillerent for essillierient 210, le Roy for l’aroi 296, com home deussoit for conduissoit 325, haut for baut 596, ensample for ensamble 865, ffrancois for frans 1164, [more examples] &c. Unfortunately for him, moreover, the manuscript he was copying was evidently of slovenly execution, neglectful of the slight marks that distinguish those letters of somewhat similar formation, so often confused by xxxv careless mediaeval scribes — v and b, ſ and f, l and s, t and c, n and u, iu and nt or ni — and, guided by no secure knowledge of the language, he has repeatedly made a wrong selection. Thus he writes . . . [examples]. . . and in a moment of distraction turns the abbreviation of Jesus into Johan 2220.

These and many other blunders may be set down to the count of the Worcester scribe, but it would be unfair to hold him solely to blame for the corruption of the text. A careful examination of the text and the titles shows conclusively that he must have had before him not the original manuscript, but a copy already more or less defective. The blank left for line 4000 and the remark defic. hic in the copyist’s handwriting at line 2585 indicate this, and further conclusive evidence is afforded by the rubricated titles. Their phrasing, and, above all, their faults, make it impossible to attribute them either to the Herald or to the Worcester scribe.

The Herald’s authorship of the titles is disproved both by the degradation of the language, A. N., not only in forms but also in vocabulary and construction — cf. . . [examples] — and by the kind of mistakes that occur in them. Twice over the text is incorrectly summarized, and once sheer nonsense is written. . . [examples]. . . Blunders such as these are obviously not to be ascribed to the author.

Another series of mistakes and confusions in the titles precludes all possibility of attributing their composition to the Worcester scribe. Mistakes like. . . [examples]. . . — indicate clearly a dependence on a written source, and this is conclusively corroborated by the curious discrepancies between titles and text on pages 67 and 75. In both an intelligible word or phrase is furnished by the title, a faulty or meaningless one by the text — Rouncevalle for Rainchenanus in line 2191, en le meisme temp for en trewes in 2478. Here the explanation evidently is that the composer of the titles successfully interpreted the Northern forms Rainchevaus and entreus that he found in his text, and rendered them rightly in the form of his own language, while the copyist, to whom the forms of the text were unfamiliar, contented himself with a meaningless approximation.

Neither to the Herald nor to the Worcester scribe are the rubricated titles to xxxvi be attributed. They attest, conclusively, the existence of an intermediate manuscript. At no mediaeval copyist ever succeeded in reproducing his original with complete exactitude we may be sure that the intervening transcriber left his mark on the text of the Herald’s poem. Indeed it is probably fair to lay on him the main responsibility for the present unsatisfactory condition of the text.

In the first place, the French familiar to him, though more copious than that of the copyist of the Worcester manuscript, is indubitably of the same type. This is evident not only from the language of the titles, but also from some of the corrections made in the manuscript — real Verschlimmbesserungen in which an A. N. form is found substituted for a Continental one26 — and it is this double A. N. transmission which explains the completeness of the Ango-Normanization of the language of the poem. Secondly, we may fairly premise from the inserted titles that he was both interested in the subject and also of considerable independence in his attitude to the text he was copying, and it is to him, in consequence, that we may plausibly attribute all such mistakes in the manuscript as are not due to inadvertence or ignorance on the part of the scribes, e.g. the changes of order to secure good A. N. rhymes in lines 2749/50 and 3133/4, . . . [examples]. Lastly, it is, in all probability, to this same copyist that we may ascribe the composition of the rhymed catalogue that in the manuscript stands after the poem. This production is too hopelessly A. N. to be fathered on the Herald, too correct in information and too independent to be attributed to the Worcester scribe. It does, however, accord well with the presumable character and capacity of the author of the titles, and may well serve to illustrate his conception of French prosody.


[Very technical stuff on the examples of specific words and letters which attempt to prove the textual error attributable to the scribes as opposed to the Herald - if you care, contact us and we will do it. . . maybe.]

[xlviii-xlviv]§ V. CONSTITUTION OF THE TEXT.

The poem is by a Hainault writer of the fourteenth century, copied by two A. N. scribes, the first intelligent, but independent-minded and careless, the second well-meaning, but ignorant and stupid. As a result we have extant a garbled version, sometimes unintelligible, often corrupt in metre and grammar.

How should the text be constituted?

The most logical and perhaps simplest plan would have been to attempt a restoration of the forms proper to the dialect of Hainault. The adoption of this method, however, would have entailed an almost complete disregard of the orthography of the extant manuscript, and would, in all probability, have given a text more consistently ‘Hennuyer’ than that originally set down by the Herald.

Simple reproduction of the manuscript, on the other hand, would seem to be an even more unsatisfactory way out of the difficulty. To secure intelligibility, emendation is often requisite; for the sake of the Herald’s good name, grammar and metre could hardly be left untouched, and, correction once begun, it would be hard to know where to stop.

After much hesitation the decision was taken to publish the text in double xxxviii form. In the left-hand column is printed a faithful reproduction of the manuscript with all its orthographical idiosyncrasies27; in the right-hand column, a corrected text in which the suppression of recognized A. F. traits has been combined with a restoration of such Hainault traits as are supported by the manuscript. The resulting text is too much a matter of conjectural emendation to be satisfactory, but at lest it furnishes a readable version of the poem that may fairly claim to be less of a travesty of the original than that of the Worcester manuscript.

A detailed statement of the changes introduced is appended.

[There follows a long description, four pages, of the changes or retentions of words and spelling by Hainault traits, Continental traits, Doubtful traits, and Anglo-Norman traits.]



(a) Authors and works on authors.

Baudouin de Sebourg, ed. Bocca, 1841.

Franz Blume, Die Metrik Froissarts, Greifswald, 1889 (Blume).

Heinrich Bode, Syntaktische Studien zu Eustace Deschamps. Leipzig, 1900 (Bode).

Boeve de Haumtone, ed. Stimming. Halle, 1899 (Boeve).

H. G. Breuer, Sprache and Heimat des Baldwin v. Sebourg. Bonn, 1904 (Breuer).

E. Ebering, Syntaktische Studien zu Froissart, in Zts. f. rom. Phil. v, p. 324 (Ebering).

Froissart, Chroniques, ed. Luce.

Froissart, Poésies, ed. Scheler.

Froissart, Meliador, ed. Longnon, Société des Anciens Textes Français.

Jehan de la Mote, Li Regret Guillaume, ed. Scheler, Louvain, 1882.

John Gower, French Works, ed. Macaulay. Oxford 1899.

A. Haase, Syntaktische Untersuchungen zu Villehardouin und Joinville, Oppein, 1884 (Haase).

Gustav Mann, Die Sprache Froissarts auf Grund seiner Gedichte, in Zts. f. rom. Phil, xxiii, pp. 1-46.

E. Müller, Zur Syntax der Christine de Pisan. Diss., Greifswald, 1886.

Scheler, Étude lexicologique sur les Poésies de Gillon le Muisit. Bruxelles, 1886 (Gillon le Muisit).

Scheler, La Geste de Liege, par Jehan des Preis dit d‘Outremeuse, Glossaire Philologique. Bruxelles, 1882 (Jean des Preis).

Wilhelm Schmidt, Untersuchung der Reime in den Dichtungen des Abts Gilles li Muisis. Diss. Bonn, Leipzig, 1903 (Schmidt).

Year-books of Edward II, vol. i, ed. F. W. Maitland, Selden Society, 1903.

(b) Grammars, Grammatical Dissertations, and Periodicals, all referred to in the name of the author.

Bischoff, Der Conjunctiv bei Chrestien. Halle.

F. Brunot, Historie de la Langue Français, I. Paris, 1905.

Otto Burgatzcky, Das Imperfekt und Plusquamperfekt des Futurs im Alfranzösischen. Diss., Greifswald, 1885.

Ernst Burghardt, Ueber den Einfuluss des Englischen auf das Anglonormannische. Halle, 1906 (in Studien zur Englischen Philologie, xxiv).

Th. Engwer, Ueber die Anwendung der Tempora Perfectae statt der Tempora Imperfectae Actionis. Diss., Berlin, 1884.

G. Groeber, Grundriss der romanischen Philologie. Strassburg.

Karl de Jong, Die Relativ- und Interrogativpronomina qui und qualis im Altranzösischen. Diss., Marburg, 1900.


Ludwig Krafft, Person und Numerus des Verbums im Französischen. Diss., Göttingen, 1904.

Ancus Martius, Zur Lehre von der Verwendung des Futurs im Alt- und Neufranzösischen. Diss., Göttingen, 1904.

W. Meyer-Lübke, Grammatik der romanischen Sprachen.

Kr. Nyrop, Grammaire historique de la Langue Française.

R. L. Graeme Ritchie, Recherches sur la syntaxe de la conjonction ‘Que’. Paris, 1907.

Gust. Rydberg, Geschichte des französischen ∂.

H. Suchier, Grammatik des Altfranzösischen.

Adolf Tobler, Vermischte Beiträge zur französischen Grammatik. (Tobler. V. B.)

Johan Vising, Die realen Tempora der Vergangenheit im Französischen und den übrigen romanischen Sprachen, in Französische Studien, vii. 2.

Zeitschrift für romanische Philologie, ed. Groeber.

Zeitschrift für französische Sprache und Litteratur, ed. Behrens.



1  The Black Prince. An Historical Poem, written in French, by Chandos Herald, with a translation and notes by the Rev. Henry Octavius Coxe, M. A., Sub-Librarian of the Bodleian. Printed for the Roxburghe Club. London, 1842.

2  Le Prince Noir, Poème du Héraut d’Armes Chandos, Texte critique suivi de notes par Francisque Michel. London and Paris, 1883.

3  Sprachliche und textkritische Stufien zur anglo-normannischen Reimchronik vom schwarzen Prinzen. Greifswald, 1901.

4  The following study is based entirely on the rhymes and metre of the poem, excluding all consideration of the titles and appended list of officers and all purely orthographical questions.

5  The regularity of the treatment of unstressed vowels observable on this assumption goes far to prove its validity. For further evidence cf. § D. Prosody.

6  Cf. Bode.

7  Cf. Vising, p. 17 et seq., and Meyer-Lübke, iii, § 113.

8  [Several Examples in French from the text and the line number].

9  Several examples in French from the text and the line number].

10  [Several examples in French from the text and the line numbers].

11  [Several examples in French from the text and the line numbers].

12  [Several examples in French from the text and the line numbers].

13  [Several examples in French from the text and the line numbers].

14  The complete works of John Gower, ed. G. C. Macaulay, Clarendon Press, 1899, vol. i.

15  Introduction, p. xlv.

16  See above, pp. ix and xiv.

17  We might add his vocabulary also, as the Herald makes no use of Anglo-Norman words.

18  Groeber is to our knowledge the only critic who has not been misled. See Grundriss, ii, p. 1085. He, however, assigns here a Breton origin to the Herald.

19  See above, p. xxii.

20  Cf. Suchier, Grundriss, i, § 38; Aucassin et Nicolete, p. 82.

21  We might add also the likeness of vocabulary, cf. entieu, en son venir, entreus.

22  A survey of Froissart’s language is given by Mann in the Zts. f. rom. Phil. xviii, pp. 1-46. At the end of this section will be found a tabulated list of resemblances between the two.

23  He has, however, clearer instances of the use of faire as a tense auxiliary than the Herald. Cf. Ebering, Zts. f. rom. Phil. v, pp. 375, 376.

24  Cf. Mann, p. 17. Instances are only found in the 3rd volume of his poems.

25  Grundriss, i, p. 179.

26  Cf. 387 le corrected to luy, 843 puis to Pluis, 1755 guerpir to guerper.

27  Including the confusion found occasionally between n and u.


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