The Fables of 'Walter of England'
Wright, Aaron Eugene
. Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies , Published for the Centre for Medieval Studies by the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies . Toronto, Ont., Canada
Language note: Latin
PA8445.W35 F34 1997 (Carlson Fable Collection, BIC bldg)
Language note: Latin
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Edited from Wolfenbüttel, Herzog August Bibliothek, Codex Guelferbytanus 185 Helmstadiensis. Here is a very helpful book giving the sixty fables of Walter of England. These sixty fables are seemingly contrived to exhibit as many of the tricks of Latin verse as a set of poems can. Added to the text of the fables here is Wright's typical area of research, commentary on the vocabulary, grammar, and meaning. This involves a difficult printing job of adding superscript glosses to the verse texts, as well as a prose narrative after each text. This book was something of a bible of mine during the summer of 2009 as I worked my way through the texts that Ulrich Boner transformed for his Edelstein in the 1300's. Wright's introduction offers a helpful road into this text. Avianus' fables were a favorite school text in the early middle ages, but there was increasing -- and well grounded -- dissatisfaction with this text for teaching Latin. A number of Novi Aviani -- the best known that of Alexander Neckam -- competed for teachers' use, but none became very popular. What did take the field was the verse text of Gualterus Anglicus. This took as its base Romulus, a prose paraphrase of Phaedrus' first four books from shortly after the time of Avianus. In the fourteenth and fifteenth century, Walter was by far the most widely transmitted of all fable collections. It was reprinted up until 1610, when Neveleti's Mythologia Aesopica gave it its alternative name of Anonymous Neveleti. Walter's immediate source was the Recensio Gallicana of Romulus, unsophisticated prose from the fifth or sixth century. Walter's collection comes a step closer to Avianus and has the same elegiac distichs. The most distinctive aspect of Walter's collection, in which the Englishman exceeds even Avianus, is its unrelenting demonstration of verbal brilliance; every fable is ornamented by a different, and often outlandish, combination of rhetorical figures (3). The codex Wright chooses to present is an excellent example of a good presentation of the texts themselves along with glosses and a prose commentary. The glosses are lexical and grammatical but almost never rhetorical. Apparently they were meant for fairly elementary students of Latin. Wright's thesis, developed in later work like Hie Lehrt Uns der Meister, is that subsequent adaptations like Boner's depended heavily on the commentaries rather than the fables themselves for their intepretations.