contributor.author: Ruthmarie H. Mitsch, Ohio State University

title.none: Terry, The honeysuckle and the Hazel Tree

identifier.other: baj9928.9612.012 96.12.12

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Ruthmarie H. Mitsch, Ohio State University, rmitsch@magnus.acs.ohio-state.edu

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 1996

identifier.citation: Terry, Patricia, trans. The Honeysuckle and the Hazel Tree: Medieval Stories of Men and Women. Berkeley \ Los Angeles \ London: University of California Press, 1995. Pp. x, 219. $35.0062295130062. ISBN: ISBN 0-520-08378-4 (hardback) \ 0-520-08379-2 (paperback).

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: Bryn Mawr Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 96.12.12

Terry, Patricia, trans. The Honeysuckle and the Hazel Tree: Medieval Stories of Men and Women. Berkeley \ Los Angeles \ London: University of California Press, 1995. Pp. x, 219. $35.0062295130062. ISBN: ISBN 0-520-08378-4 (hardback) \ 0-520-08379-2 (paperback).

Reviewed by:

Ruthmarie H. Mitsch, Ohio State University
rmitsch@magnus.acs.ohio-state.edu

Three decades have passed since the appearance of Patricia Terry's Lays of Courtly Love in 1963. That work opened with an introduction written by Charles W. Dunn of New York University, and featured Terry's verse translations of three lays by Marie de France, Jean Renart's The Reflection, and the anonymous Chatelaine of Vergi. Stylized drawings by Antony Groves-Raines were a beautiful addition to that slim volume. Only one of the poems, The Reflection, carried notes, and those notes numbered only four. The Honeysuckle and the Hazel Tree presents Terry's translations under a new title to which has been added a subtitle, "Medieval Stories of Men and Women," revealing much about the change in scholarship on the medieval period. That change is also reflected in the new book's inclusion of the medieval Philomena, attributed to Chretien de Troyes. In fact, its position as the lead poem in the collection speaks volumes about current directions in scholarship and about the poems' relevance to our times. A slight change in the order of the poems also hints at a change in focus: in the earlier edition The Two Lovers followed Honeysuckle, whereas in the new version The Two Lovers precedes the episode related to the Tristan story. Likewise, endnotes are now appended for every poem, although here as before The Reflection receives more attention than The Chatelaine or Marie de France's lays. As might be expected, Philomena is also given more detailed treatment through notes.

Terry provides her own introduction to this volume, observing that in the intervening years, the taste in criticism of medieval literature has shifted away from a focus on philology to more literary matters, with a penchant for close textual analysis as well as for feminist and historical readings. The addition of Philomena, translated into verse for the first time here, is certainly a factor in the change of the book's title from Lays of Courtly Love, for beneath the "courtly" veneer in Philomena there is not romantic love, but violence in the form of rape and vengeance, and Terry's collection of lays reveals not a single outlook but several perspectives on male-female relationships. The title change to The Honeysuckle and the Hazel Tree clearly refers to the ties that bind male and female, but it hints not only at the shared love we see in the Tristan story, and in Tristan's reminder to Iseut, "My love, we're like that vine and tree; / I'll die without you, you without me," but also at perverted bonds and what men and women do to each other, as in the baron's entrapment of his wife by affixing nets and glue to the trees in the orchard, including the hazel tree that is called to our attention, in order to catch the avian messenger that brings together his wife and her admirer. "Kill! Kill!" calls the nightingale in Philomena, and in The Nightingale, the bird itself is killed.

Terry's new additions and rearrangement offer a fairly gloomy optic on these male-female entanglements, where earlier we would have, I think, looked at them through the rose-colored glasses of courtly love, focusing on the passions of "romantic" love, "jouissance," "amour lointain." Here, we move from responses of brutal violence in Philomena to a figuration of emasculation and impotence in The Nightingale and then to the double death in The Two Lovers that is almost a parody of the Tristan story that follows it in the collection, before we then move on to other ambiguities and ironies in "courtly" relationships. Terry's selection reflects the current, and important, ways of investigating the body of literature from which these short pieces come, and to drive home her point, she arranges work to emphasize linkages; in her introduction she contrasts the poems clearly, describing how Philomena is a story of male violence responded to by female violence, while The Nightingale presents a husband's violence that is not answered by the woman or the lover -- leading to questions about the power of love. Lanval and Eliduc dramatize male transgressions -- a "forced" sin in Lanval and willful deceit (in the form of a sin of omission) in Eliduc -- answered by the virtues of forgiveness and generosity on the part of the female. Other interesting pairs are also established. The juxtaposition of The Two Lovers with Honeysuckle compels consideration of a Liebestod that resulted from the obstinate rejection of a saving potion against the more well-known story of Tristan and Iseut's Liebestod that is linked to doom through the supernatural, dooming philter they drank at sea.

The changes in literary criticism, Terry says, inspired her to revise her translations. Readers who remember her earlier work will not find shocking alterations and will be pleased that the grace and ease has not been lost but increased. By way of example, a comparison of the two presentations of The Nightingale will reveal added punctuation meant to clarify -- as indeed it does -- the sequence of statements and ideas; a switch in social terminology, such as "knight" for "baron"; and revised wording, such as from "Thus he came to understand" to "Her lover came to understand" or from "Breton poets rhymed the tale / Calling it The Nightingale" to "Breton poets made of the tale / A lai they called The Nightingale." There are, naturally, more extensive reworkings, but the overall impression is one of clarity and elegance, meeting Terry's goal to "reproduce the literary experience of reading the poems," an experience that would have been aural for medieval men and women. As she points out, these translations should be read aloud. Octosyllabic couplets, even in the hands of the most experienced translators, can become sing-songish, but one rarely hears such intrusive halts because Terry's translations are indeed smooth. Marie's style in particular can be difficult for translators, for its apparent simplicity, that is, its often straightforward appearance, could quite easily lead to a flat and lackluster presentation, but that is not at all the situation with Terry. For the study of Marie de France alone, I have long valued both the translation and the critical apparatus in Robert Hanning and Joan Ferrante's The Lais of Marie de France (New York: Dutton, 1978). But a different, broader need is satisfied by Terry's book; an obvious advantage of her text is that with five of Marie's lays in her collection, one has a fairly sure sense of the style and themes of her lays and these can then be read with and against works by other authors.

Terry's updating is based on significant new rereadings of medieval literature, such as the work of Jane Burns and Kathryn Gravdal, but the majority of her references are to "standards" of the '70s and '80s, such as Meg Bogin on women troubadours and William Calin, and Ferrante and Hanning. With this in mind, the already initiated may find that Terry's introduction provides significant and critical insights while the novice remains unschooled about the literary form and the historical context of these translated works. While Terry does date the literary works presented in her collection, she does not do so with some significant historical events, such as the marriage of Eleanor to Louis VII and then to Henry II, and even with some important milestones in medieval writing -- Andreas Capellanus' De Arte Honeste Amandi (given in its Latin title), Geoffrey's History of the Kings of Britain (given in its translated English title), and Le Roman de la rose are undated. Chretien's Erec and Yvain are likewise not dated. Terry provides a valuable analysis of the differences between the Ovidian version of the story of Philomela and the story attributed to Chretien, yet given his influence in the Middle Ages, further discussion of Ovidian themes and imagery would have been helpful to the general reader. These are quibbles, perhaps, but pertain to the question of the text's audience.

More in-depth analysis, including the discussion of a theme such as the rash boon, a convention such as the alba, a literary antecedent such as Potiphar's wife would benefit the general reader or the novice medievalist. Likewise, Terry's four-sentence paragraph on the sources of fin'amor gives short shrift to an essential topic; her brief words beg for amplification. Thus, the questions of the text's intended audience must be addressed. Who is the intended reader? Those not able to read Old French or Modern French might not be expected to bring to the book a sufficient background in the development of "courtly" literature, on the question of the origins of "courtly love," or on the significance of women troubadours, Eleanor of Aquitaine, or Marie de Champagne, for example. Notes such as #15 and #16 on male-female roles and marriage in Roman antiquity and early Germanic societies, and #18 on women's influence on the creation of courtly literature would work much better incorporated into the introduction itself. The discussion of note #31, on the other hand, coming from an unpublished manuscript, strikes me as rather precieux in its emphasis on the thread of significance in Philomena's name (fil/fille/phil-/mener, etc.). While provocative, certainly, its relegation to the endnotes only reinforces my awareness of other, more crucial information that is missing. Additionally, a listing of primary and secondary sources as well as standard editions of the works in a bibliography rather than in scattered references in endnotes would have been a plus.

Finally, this reader, for one, regrets the loss of Grove- Raines' illustrations, which added charm to Terry's earlier book. A plate from Le remede de la fortune et Le dit du Lion, however, now graces the cover and is repeated on the inside page, and the new book's design is attractive, with a crisp typeface that is easy to read.

Terry's accomplishment, beyond the considerable achievement of her work as translator, clearly resides in her judicious selection and arrangement of the medieval poems, an organization that is particularly suitable for classroom study. A wide variety of readers will be stimulated by her choice of works, her perspective on the stories and storytelling, and her translation of these works -- not only students of medieval literature of the Western world but students and scholars of other medieval fields, and of broader fields such as gender studies and narrative studies.