Poetry

Turold: The Song of Roland

SimonMarmionWikipedia-Grandes_chroniques_RolandThe Song of Roland (French: Chanson de Roland) is an old French epic poem, probably written in the late eleventh or early twelfth century. Traditionally attributed to a poet named Turoldus or Turold, it is the most famous example of the chanson de geste genre and the earliest surviving major work of French literature.

Its subject is very loosely inspired by the death of the Frankish commander Roland at the historical battle of Roncevaux in 778, during Charlemagne's campaign against Islamic Spain. Although the actual battle was fought against the Basques, it was romanticised in the song into a tale of Muslim perfidy and Christian revenge.

The milieu of the Carolingian court and heroes such as Roland and his companion Oliver would form the core of the Matter of France, a distinct corpus of medieval poetic material contrasted with that based on classical myth, understood as the Matter of Rome, and the Arthurian legends of the Matter of Britain.

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Free online texts

English translations

Gutenberg: The Song of Roland, translated by C.K. Scott-Moncrieff. HTML, EPUB, MOBI and TXT formats.
Gutenberg: La Chanson de Roland, translated by Léonce Rabillon. HTML, EPUB, MOBI and TXT formats.
Gutenberg: The Harvard Classics, Volume 49, Epic and Saga - The Song of Roland/The Destruction of Dá Derga's Hostel. HTML, EPUB, MOBI and TXT formats.
Internet Archive: The Song of Roland, translated by C.K. Scott-Moncrieff, with an introduction by G.K. Chesterton. EPUB, MOBI, PDF and TXT formats.
Internet Archive: The Song of Roland, translated by Richard Bacon. EPUB, MOBI, PDF and TXT formats.
University of Adelaide: The Song of Roland, translated by C.K. Scott-Moncrieff. HTML, EPUB, and MOBI formats.
Wikisource: The Song of Roland, translated by C.K. Scott-Moncrieff (incomplete). HTML and other formats.

French texts
Wikisource: La Chanson de Roland. Multiple texts. HTML and other formats.

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The Nibelungenlied

Nibelungenlied_manuscript-kThe Nibelungenlied (German: Das Nibelungenlied) or Song of the Nibelungs is a middle high German epic poem whose anonymous author may have written in the early 13th century. It draws on much older oral traditions which are paralleled in Scandinavian literature, and which dimly reflects events from the 5th and 6th century.

The first half of the poem is centred on the hero Siegfried,  his wooing of the the princess Kriemhild at the court of the Burgundians, and his eventual murder. The second part takes place at the court of King Etzel, the historical Attila the Hun, where Kriemhild takes her revenge against Siegfried's killers.

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Free online texts

English translations
Gutenberg: The Nibelungenlied, translated by Daniel Bussier Shumway. HTML, EPUB, MOBI and TXT formats.
Gutenberg: The Lay of the Nibelung Men, translated by Arthur S. Way. HTML, EPUB, MOBI and TXT formats.
Gutenberg: The Nibelungenlied, translated by G.H. Needler. HTML, EPUB, MOBI and TXT formats.
Internet Archive: The Lay of the Nibelings, translated by Alice Horton, with an essay by Thomas Carlyle.  PDF, MOBI, EPUB and TCT formats.
University of Adelaide: The Nibelungenlied, translated by Daniel Bussier Shumway. HTML, EPUB, and MOBI  formats.
Wikisource: Nibelungenlied, translated by Daniel Bussier Shumway (incomplete). HTML and other formats.

German texts
Bibliotheca Augustana: Das Nibelungenlied. Multiple texts. HTML format.
Gutenberg: Das Nibelungenlied. HTML, EPUB, MOBI and TXT formats.

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Wolfram von Eschenbach: Parzival

Hermann_Hendrich_ParsifalParzival by Wolfram Von Eschenbach is a Middle High German Romance completed in the early thirteenth century. Reworking material from Chrétien de Troyes earlier Perceval, Von Eschenbach recounts Parzival's adventures at the court of King Arthur, and his pursuit of the Holy Grail, inspired by his love for Queen Condwiramurs.

Parzival was an important influence on Richard Wagner, inspiring not only his opera Parsifal, but also Lohengrin, whose title character first appears in Von Eschenbach.

Parzival at Amazon

Free online texts

English translations
Gutenberg: Parzival - a Knightly Epic - Vol 1 | Vol 2, translated by Jessie L. Weston. HTML, EPUB, MOBI and TXT formats.
University of Adelaide: Parzival - a Knightly Epic, translated by Jessie L. Weston. HTML, EPUB and MOBI formats.

German texts
Bibliotheca Augustana: Parzival. HTML format.
University of Heidelberg: Parzival. Digitised manuscript from the Bibliotheca Palatina.

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Chrétien de Troyes: Yvain, the Knight of the Lion

Yvain-dragonYvain, the Knight of the Lion (French: Yvain ou le Chevalier au Lion) is an Old French romance, composed by Chrétien de Troyes in the late twelfth century. Widely considered the greatest of his Arthurian romances, it is the only one based on a historical figure, Owain mab Urien, son of the ruler of the sixth century Welsh kingdom of Rheged. How much de Troyes drew from earlier Celtic traditions is a matter of some controversy.

De Troyes' tale begins with Owain's struggle to avenge his brother Calogrenant, against the mysterious knight, Esclados the Red. After defeating Esclados, he marries his widow Laudine, but is persuaded to return to adventuring by Gawain. Laudine extracts a promise that he will return in a year. Owain is unable to keep this pledge, and his efforts to win back Laudine, with the help of her maid Lunette, drive the latter part of the narrative.

Yvain has been interpreted as an attempt to reconcile the virtues of love and chivalry. Its early popularity is attested by the existence of several medieval adaptations into other languages.

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Free online texts

English translations
Gutenberg: Four Arthurian Romances - Erec et Enide, Cliges, Yvain, Lancelot, translated by W.W. Comfort.
Poetry in Translation: Yvain, translated by A.S. Klein (2018). HTML, EPUB, MOBI, PDF and WORD formats.
Wikisource: Yvain, the Knight of the Lion, translated by W.W. Comfort. HTML and other formats.

French texts
Internet Archive: Yvain (der Löwenritter), edited by Wendelin Foerster (1902). Romanische Bibliothek edition. Old French text with German commentary. TXT, EPUB, MOBI, PDF and other formats.
Wikisource: Yvain ou le Chevalier au Lion. HTML and other formats.

Other Resources
Librivox: Yvain, or the Knight with the Lion. Public domain audiobook.
Myths and Legends PodcastYvainglory - You're so Yvain - The Lion Knight Rises. Three episodes on the romance with transcripts and audio narrated by Jason Weiser.
University of Rochester: The Legend of Yvain, by Dongdong Han (2010).
Wikipedia: Chrétien de Troyes - Yvain, the Knight of the Lion

Further reading

The Book of Taliesin - A possible early source for poetry about Owain.
Geoffrey of Monmouth: History of the Kings of Britain.
Wace: Roman De Brut.
The Mabinogion - Owain features in the relatively late Dream of Rhonabwy.
Jocelyn of Furness: Life of St Mungo -a work contemporary with de Troyes containing similar traditions about Owain.
Owain, the Knight of the Fountain - a medieval Welsh romance whose relationship to de Troyes' version is much debated.
De Troyes: Lancelot, The Knight of the Cart - an Arthurian romance written at the same time as Yvain.
De Troyes: Percival - his final unfinished Arthurian romance.
Hartmann von Aue: Iwein - A medieval German adaptation.
Yvain and Gawain - A Middle English version of the poem.
Ívens Saga - An Old Norwegian version
Herr Ivan - Old Swedish version.
Bloom's Western Canon: Yvain is listed.


Lucan: Pharsalia

La_mort_de_Pompée (anonymous via Wikisource)The Pharsalia or On the Civil War (Latin: De Bello Civili) is an epic by the Roman poet Lucan (39-65 CE) recounting the conflict between Julius Caesar and Pompey. It consists of ten books, of which the last appears to be incomplete, breaking off during Caesar's campaign in Egypt.

Lucan strongly favours the republican side and the poem has been seen as a riposte to the Augustan propaganda of Virgil's Aeneid. Lucan's stoicism is reflected in his portrayal of Cato, and in his avoidance of divine intervention as a plot device.

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Free online texts

Bilingual editions

Loebulus. L220 - Lucan -- The Civil War (Pharsalia). PDF of public domain Loeb edition in Latin and English.

Perseus: Latin text and English translation by Edward Ridley (1896). HTML and XML formats.

English translations

Gutenberg: Pharsalia, Dramatic Episodes of the Civil Wars, edited by Douglas B. Killings (1996). HTML, EPUB, MOBI and TXT formats.

Internet Archive: The Pharsalia, translated by Henry T. Riley (1853). PDF, EPUB, TXT, and MOBI formats.

Medieval and Classical Literature Library: Pharsalia, translated by Edward Ridley (1896). HTML format.

Poetry in Translation: Pharsalia, translated by A.S. Kline (2014). Multiple formats.

University of Adelaide: The Pharsalia of Lucan, translated by Edward Ridley (1896). Multiple formats.

University of Virginia: Lucan's Pharsalia, translated by Arthur Gorges (1614). HTML format.

Latin texts

Intratext: Bellum Civile. HTML format.

Latin Library: De Bello Civili sive Pharsalia. HTML format.

Wikisource: Pharsalia (Book 1). HTML and other formats.

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Ariosto: Orlando Furioso

Jean_Auguste_Dominique_Ingres_-_Roger_Delivering_AngelicaOrlando Furioso (English: The Rage of Roland) is an Italian epic poem by Ludovico Ariosto, published between 1516 and 1532. It is a contuation of Boiardo's Orlando Innamorato, and continues its adaptation of legendary matter from the Matter of France, recounting the sturggle between Charlemagne's paladins and the saracens.  It's popularity, and wide influence in European literature, largely eclipsed that of the earlier work.

Orlando Furioso at Amazon

Free online texts

English translations

Gutenberg: Orlando Furioso, translated by William Stewart Rose. Multiple formats.

Online Medieval and Classical Library (Internet Archive): Orlando Furioso. HTML format.

University of Adelaide: Orlando Furioso, translated by William Stewart Rose. Multiple formats.

Wikisource: Orlando Furioso, translated by William Stewart Rose (currently incomplete). HTML and other formats.

Italian texts

Gutenberg: Orlando Furioso. Multiple formats.

Internet Archive: Orlando Furioso. Vol I | Vol II. | Vol. III. Multiple formats.

Libero: Orlando Furioso. HTML format.

Wikisource: Orlando Furioso. HTML and other formats.

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Torquato Tasso: Jerusalem Delivered

Charles_Errard _Renaud_abandonnant_ArmideJerusalem Delivered (Italian: Gerusalemme Liberata) by Torquato Tasso is an epic poem published in 1581, recounting a almost completely fictionalised version of the first crusade. One of the few quasi-historical characters is the knight Tancredi, who corresponds to the Italo-Norman crusader Tancred, Prince of Galilee.

The work enjoyed immediate and lasting success, in part because of its contemporary resonances at a time of conflict between Western European powers and the Ottoman Empire. It has frequently provided a subject for the visual arts and literary adaptations.

Jerusalem Delivered at Amazon

Free online texts

English translations

Gutenberg: Jerusalem Delivered, translated by Edward Fairfax (c.1635). Multiple formats. 

Internet Archive: Jerusalem Delivered, translated by Edward Fairfax. National Alumni edition. Multiple formats.

Internet Archive: Jerusalem Delivered, translated by J. H. Wiffen. Multiple formats.

Internet Archive: Jerusalem Delivered, translated by John Hoole. Multiple formats.

University of Adelaide: Jerusalem Delivered, translated by Edward Fairfax. Multiple formats.

Italian texts

Internet Archive: Gerusalemme Liberata. Multiple formats.

Wikisource: Gerusalemme Liberata. HTML and other formats.

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Matteo Maria Boiardo: Orlando Innamorato

Orlando_innamoratoOrlando Innamorato (English: Orlando in Love) by Matteo Maria Boiardo is an incomplete epic poem publish in Italian between 1483 and 1495. It chronicles the adventures of Orlando, a romanticised version of legendary Carolingian hero Roland, and particularly his pursuit of the beautiful Angelica.

The work had a powerful influence on later Italian poets, notably Ariosto, who wrote the sequel Orlando Furioso, and Tasso, who borrowed elements for his Gerusalemme Liberata. Ariosto's success overshadowed Boiardo's original to such an extent that it was almost completely lost until its rediscovery in the nineteenth century.

Orlando Innamorato at Amazon

Free online texts

English translations

Gutenberg: Orlando Innamorato. Prose translation with poetic extracts by William Stewart Rose. Multiple formats.

Internet Archive: Orlando Innamorato. Prose translation with poetic extracts by William Stewart Rose. Multiple formats.

University of Adelaide: Orlando Innamorato. Prose translation with poetic extracts by William Stewart Rose. Multiple formats.

Italian texts

Gutenberg: Orlando Innamorato. Multiple formats.

Wikisource: Orlando Innamorato. Multiple formats.

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Spenser: The Faerie Queene

800px-Etty_Britomart_1833The Faerie Queene is an epic poem by Edmund Spenser in six books, of which the first three were published in 1590, with the rest appearing in 1596. Spenser drew on Arthurian legend and contemporary Italian epic to create a poem celebrating the court of Elizabeth I, who appears in the form of the Faerie Queene herself, Gloriana, whose knights pursue a series of quests with strong allegorical elements.

The Faerie Queene at Amazon

Free online texts

Gutenberg: The Faerie Queene, Book I. HTML, EPUB, Kindle and TXT formats. See also this alternative edition.

Internet Archive: Spenser's Faerie Queene, illustrated by Walter Crane. George Allen (1895-97). EPUB, TXT, MOBI, PDF and other formats.

Internet Archive: The Faerie Queene, Vol. I | Vol. II. Clarendon Press (1909). EPUB, TXT, MOBI, PDF and other formats.

Internet Archive: The Faerie Queene, Vol. I | Vol II. Everyman's Library Edition (1910). EPUB, TXT, MOBI, PDF and other formats.

University of Adelaide: The Faerie Queene. HTML, EPUB, TXT and Kindle formats.

Wikisource: The Faerie Queene - incomplete. HTML and other formats.

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Chaucer: The Canterbury Tales

Chaucer_ellesmereThe Canterbury Tales is a collection of 24 stories by Geoffrey Chaucer written between 1387 and 1400. The frame story of a pilgrimage from London to Canterbury allows Chaucer to depict a cross-section of late feudal society through the pen-portraits of the travellers in the General Prologue. 

The Tales may be incomplete, and although 30 pilgrims are introduced, only 24 tell a tale in the course of the narrative. Among the most famous is that of the Wife of Bath, whose implications for medieval views on women has long been debated.

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Free online texts

Gutenberg: The Canterbury Tales, edited by Walter Skeat. HTML, EPUB, Kindle and TXT formats.

Internet Archive:  The Canterbury Tales, edited by Walter Skeat (1893). Oxford World's Classics edition. EPUB, MOBI, TXT and PDF formats.

Internet Archive: The Canterbury Tales, edited and modernised by Arthur Burrell (1909). Everyman's Library edition. HTML, EPUB, Kindle and TXT formats.

Internet Archive: The Canterbury Tales, Coradella Collegiate Bookshelf Editions (2004). HTML, EPUB, Kindle and TXT formats.

University of Adelaide: The Canterbury Tales, edited by Walter Skeat. | The Canterbury Tales, edited and modernised by Arthur Burrell. HTML, EPUB, TXT and Kindle formats.

Wikisource: The Canterbury Tales. HTML and other formats.

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