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The first English translation of this famous poem in the original meter, handsomely illustrated with 15th century woodcuts.
Around 1237 Guillaume de Lorris wrote the first 4,000 lines of the Romance of the Rose: an allegorical poem which was intended to be a model and summary of all love affairs. A man has a dream that he is out for a walk on a spring morning and comes upon a beautiful garden. Inside the garden, he sees a beautiful rose. Straightaway, Cupid pierces his heart with an arrow and fills him with the desire to pluck the rose. But the Rose is surrounded by a hedge of thorns, and guarded by Danger, Jealousy, Shame, and Fear. With the help of Fair-Welcome, the Lover kisses the Rose, but then the guardians drive him away, build a palisade around the Rose, and lock Fair-Welcome in a tower. Guillaume de Lorris died before finishing his work, and the world was left to wonder if the lover, trembling with bliss, had ever done more than kiss the rose.
Forty years later, however, Jean Clopinel de Meun decided to finish the book. He wrote an 18,000 line continuation into which he poured his Rabelaisian humor, his vast learning, his anticlericalism, and his complete and utter contempt of romance. The resulting work, uniting the Middle Ages' most beautiful love story and their heartiest satire, was one of the most widely read books in Europe for centuries. Despite the Romance's popularity and influence, it is little known in English. Chaucer translated Guillaume de Lorris' portion of the poem, but only completed a thousand lines of Jean's. A complete translation, in the original meter, was made in 1900 by F. S. Ellis, the friend of the pre-Raphaelites and of William Morris.
Mr. Ellis' translation is faithful and lively, capturing all the varied moods of the original, from tenderness to broad humor. However, he altered the ending of the book, as it was too bawdy for the tastes of his day. The original Old French text is given in an appendix, and we believe that those who can read it will agree that Mr. Ellis was justified in leaving it thus obscure.
This edition is illustrated with 87 woodcuts from a copy printed in 1487.
The cover image is from the Kelmscott Chaucer and does not appear in the book.
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