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The Old French Continuation of William of Tyre (Estoire d'Eracles)

It is uncertain whether William of Tyre's history has been turned into French before the composition of Ernoul, continuation ; but the probability is in favor of this hypothesis; otherwise it is difficult to see why the latter work was not at least translated into Latin at the time of its first appearance. This difficulty is removed if we imagine Ernoul's Chronicle to have been written for the purpose of carrying down to the year 1228 a narrative of the history of the Holy Land, that had already been turned from Latin into old French. Otherwise we must suppose Ernoul to have written independently, in which case some third person may have conceived the idea ot prefixing to his chronicle a Romance version of William's great work.

The French translation of William of Tyre with its continuations by Ernoul, Bernard the Treasurer, and other anonymous writers towards the middle or end of the thirteenth century, were often regarded as one work. In this form they are the Chronique d'Outremer quoted by Jouville. They are also known under the title of the Estoire d'Eracles, from the opening words of the French translation of William of Tyre, ' Les ancients Estoires dient que Eracles.'

It has seemed desirable in the selections made for this volume from the Chronique d'Outremer to distinguish the contemporary authority of Ernoul from the more legendary form his narrative has assumed in certain * remaniements ' of the Chronique d'Outremer. Accordingly, whatever is taken from Ernoul without alteration is assigned to him ; whereas the later accretions are headed Estoire d'Eracles to mark that they are by no means to be regarded as absolutely historical.

As a whole the Chronique d'Outremer (excluding the translation from William of Tyre) is one of the most charming works in the French language. Its delicious simplicity, its delight in action, the innocent credulity with which it will give two versions of the same story almost in the same page, even its undisguised partisanship all impress the reader as a far more serious history would fail to do. That perhaps which marks it out from almost all other historical literature of the century is that it is the work, not of a clerk, but of a layman. Ernoul, in this respect, if in no other, ranks with Joinville and Villehardouin and Henry of Valenciennes.


References:

Shatzmiller (M.), Crusaders and Muslims in Twelfth-Century Syria, Netherlands, 1993.

Phillips (J.), Holy Warriors, New York, 2009.

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