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January 08, 1967 - Image 9

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Ten Sixty-Six and All This



The Norman Conquest: Its Setting
and Impact, by Dorothy Whitelock,
David C. Douglas, Lt.-Co. Charles
H. Lemmon, Frank Barlow. Compil-
ed by the Battle and District His-
torical Society. Charles Scribner's
Sons. $4.50.
In the year 1066 occurred the
other memorable date in English
History, viz. William the Con-
queror, Ten Sixty-Six. This is also
called The Battle of Hastings,
and was when William 1 (1066)
conquered England at the Battle
of Senlac (Ten Sixty-six).
That, say the authors of 1066 and
All That, is what Englishmen re-
member about the last foreign con-
quest of England. It is suggestive
that even those frivolous commenta-
tors grant to the Conquest one of
the two "memorable" English dates.
Since the eleventh century, the Nor-
man Conquest has been considered
a turning-point of sorts in English
history; the nature of the change in
English society has been the matter
of innumerable scholarly discus-
sions and the focal point of much
research. Even amid the welter of
anniversaries (won't some fire de-
partment bring out a book comme-
morating the Great Fire of London,
1666?) the Conquest is worth re-
membering. To celebrate its nine-
hundredth anniversary the local so-
ciety concerned with the history of
the Hastings area has compiled a
short and lively collection of essays
by distinguished experts in Anglo-
Saxon and Anglo-Norman history.
The Norman Conquest: Its Set-
ting and Impact is in effect a struc-
tured series of excellent lectures on
the background, history and effects
of William the Conqueror's cam-
paign. Although the authors dis-
agree in interpretation and empha-
sis, the story they jointly tell is co-
herent and c o m p 1 e t e. Dorothy
Whitelock discusses the Anglo-
Saxon achievement of six centuries;
David Douglas writes a perceptive
political biography of the Conquer-
or himself; Colonel Charles H. Lem-
mon, chairman of the Battle Society
and a military historian, describes
the strategy and tactics of the con-
quest; and Frank Barlow's conclud-
ing essay analyzes the effects of
Norman role on eleventh- and ear-
ly twelfth-century English govern-
ment and society.
Professor Whitelock's summary
of Anglo-Saxon civilization is bril-
liant. Her style is lucid and allusive,
if occasionally coy. Her organiza-
tion is clear and her interpretations
perceptive. The essay is nonetheless
disappointing. Professor W h i t e-
lock's major concern seems to be
proving precisely that which she
maintains needs no proof: that the
Anglo-Saxons had an exceedingly
rich culture and a tradition of six
centuries of development which
could not but compare favorably
with the achievement of the upstart
Normans. She details in profusion
the literary and scholarly wealth of
Anglo-Saxon civilization-but activ-

ity in these areas was slight during
the eleventh century.
Anglo-Saxon monastic fervor had
been great and productive in the
eight and tenth centuries. Anglo-
Saxon unification had been thor-
ough and the power of the English
king was great-but the mid-
eleventh century saw the growth of
strong earldoms to rival that power
(Professor Whitelock's implied sug-
gestion that royal redistribution of
the earls' territory was counteract-
ing this tendency is not entirely
convincing). In short, Professor
Whitelock reminds the reader that
Anglo-Saxon civiilzation had been a
flourishing one, but she uninten-
tionally leaves the impression that
the eleventh century was a period
more influenced by memory of
achievement than by achievement
Certainly the development of
English kingship in the eleventh
century is worth specific attention
(that development may be attribut-
ed in part to Scandinavian influence
which Professor Whitelock all but
omits from her discussion). And a
point-by-point analysis of the specif-
ic condition of eleventh-century
England seems in order in any book
concerned primarily with the Con-
quest. Professor Whitelock's discus-
sion of the eleventh-century church
of "royal priests" is very persua-
sive. She might also have discussed
such specific problems as feudaliza-
tion, agricultural organization and
land-holding in pre-Conquest Eng-
land, all of which are mentioned in
most discussions of Anglo-Norman
Professor Whitelock also has an
annoying tendency to expect either
too much prior ignorance or too
much prior information from her
readers. It is difficult for me to be-

lieve that any reader familiar with
the careers of Boniface, Dunstan
and King Offa of Mercia would be
completely ignorant of the plot of
Professor Douglas' summary of
the Conqueror's career is more sat-
isfying. It is his thesis that Wil-
liam's experience in strengthening
the ducal power in Normandy in-
fluenced greatly the methods used
by William to unite England under
his rule. In Normandy William had
utilized the rise of a new aristocra-
cy and a movement for ecclesiasti-
cial reform to weld nobles, church
and ducal power into an cohesive
structure capable of giving real uni-
fied strength to Normandy and its
ruler. The .union of Norman Eng-
land was achieved through the de-
velopment of interdependent aristo-
cratic, ecclesiastical, and royal pow-
er. And throughout his career Wil-
liam stayed almost constantly at
war. Neither achievement would
have been possible had not William
possessed enormous personal mag-
netism and an amazing ability to
command the loyalty of his follow-
ers and subordinates, as well as a
genius for adapting existing custom
to his own ends.
Professor Douglas' essay is a
tightly argued interpretation of
William's accomplishments. It is
perhaps most inadequate in its sug-
gestion regarding William's motive
for conquering England: I doubt the
Conquest can best be explained as
part of a Norman "self-asserted
Christian mission," although ;Wil-
liam's campaign cannot be separat-
ed from Norman- e x p an s i o n
throughout the rest of the medieval
Mediterranean world.
Colonel Lemmon's description of
the conquest's purely military as-
pects is lively and refreshing. His

examination of the ground of the
campaign, his familiarity with mod-
emn buildings and roads on the site
of the decisive battle, his detailed
account of movements before, dur-
ing and after the battle-enlivened
by descriptions of relevant portions
of the Bayeux Tapestry-all provide
a coherent, believeable and interest-
ing story. And Colonel Lemmon
provides the reader with that most
invaluable of aids, a clear map of
the battlefield.
S o m e of Lemmon's statistical
techniques, however, seem ques-
tionable to me. I fail to see why
losses in a reportedly b 1 o o d y
medieval battle must be of the
same o r d e r (after adjustments
are made for the lack of firearms,
the long duration of the fighting,
and the combatants' armor) as the
losses of two bloody modern battles.
Colonel Lemmon also uses the in-
genious - device of a "spoliation
unit" (the difference between the
value of certain manors at the death
of Edward the Confessor and their
value at the time of the Domesday
survey) to trace troop movements
after Hastings. While he is probably
right about the general path taken
by William's armies, his precise
classification of major and minor
troop movements by degrees of spo-
liation seems to leave other factors
out of account.
. The last of the four essays, Pro-
fessor Barlow's considered evalua-
tion of the effects of the Conquest,
is a brilliant summary of an ex-
traordinarily c o mpl e x problem.
Barlow is in agreement with Profes-
sors Whitelock and Douglas that the
Anglo-Norman creation of William
and his sons draws heavily upon
Anglo-Saxon methods of govern.
ment and on Anglo-Saxon law, cus
toms and culture. "The parvenu
Normans were appropriating Old
English history," he says in his as-
sessment of Anglo-Norman king-
ship. He firmly asserts that the Nor-
mans did not merely impose Nor-
man custom on English society, but
created institutions according to
English circumstances benefiting
from rather than repeating the du.-
cal achievement in Normandy.
The 'Norman Conquest: Its Set-
ting and Impact would be of im-
mense value to any reader unfamil-
iar with the history and historiogra-
phy of William's conquest of Eng-
land. The four essayists briefly and
intelligently discuss in one way or
another most of the problems of his-
torical interpretation of the Con-
quest within the context of a well-
written consecutive (and varied)
survey of the background, events,
and aftermath of William's expedi-
tion. There is, appended also a brief
list of basic books in the field. The
scholar will find little new in the
book, but the general reader will be
stimulated by its concise and enjoy-
able account of the Conquest.
Rosalind C. Hays
Mrs. Has is assistant professor of
History at Rosary College.

The Censor This Side of Moscow

Yevtushenko Poems, by Yevgeny
Yevtushenko. Bilingual E d i t i o n,
translated by Herbert Marshall. E.
P. Dutton and Company. $4.50.
Any good poem unites so many
elements that it is impossible for a
translator to convey them all. A
translation, therefore, can never be
"complete," and any critical judge-
ment of its success must include an
evaluation of its incompleteness. At
least two related qualities need to
be assessed-the translation's bias
and range.
A translator is always selective,
for at every point he is forced to
decide which elements are to be
kept and which disregarded. Bias,
then, is the translator's decision
concerning the relative importance
of these elements-that rhythm is
more i m p o r t a n t than syntactic
structure, for example, or that sym-
bolism is to be rendered even at the
expense of rhythm. The bias of a
translator, of course, may vary with
the poet and the poem-perhaps
even within a poem. But one meas-
ure of the aptness of a translation
will be the suitability of the bias to
the particular work.
Depending on his skill, the trans-
lator will also be able to convey a
certain number of what he consid-
ers "secondary" elements: this de-
fines a translation's range. Given
the bias, the greater the range. the
more complete the translation. The
work of a translator biased in favor
of rhythm, for example, will be im-
proved if he is able to transmit the
imagery as well.
With respect to both these fac-
tors, Herbert Marshall's new trans-
lation of Yevtushenko's poems clear-
ly fails. To begin with, his bias----a
commitment to preserve rhyme--is
inadequate for three reasons.
First, rhyme is by nature un-
translatable. Words have "equiva-
lents" to the extent that there are
words in other languages with simi-
lar meanings. But rhyme is a rela-
t i o n s h i p of sound, not of
meaning-and there are no such
sound equivalents. Marshall, who
feels obliged to toss in a rhyme (any
rhyme) more or less wherever
Yevtushenko puts one (although he
frequently distorts the patterns of
the original), assumes that all
rhymes are equal-that a Russian
rhyme can be translated by no mat-
ter what English rhyme. This be-
trays fundamental insensitivity to
the purely sonic elI e m e n t s of
poetry-as if there were no differ-
ence between the rhymes of Shake-
speare, Pushkin and Ogden Nash.

The second objection to Mar-
shall's bias is that rhyme is not the
primary feature of Yevtushenko's
poetry. True, in the introduction to
the present volume, the poet men-
tions that rhyme is the most consist-
ent characteristic of his art-but
this is hardly reason to think it the
most important. Yevtushenko ex-
plains that he uses rhyme primarily
as a self-imposed check on the free-
dom of his verse, and as an aid in
memorization. But since Marshall
already has well-defined limits to
his freedom (that is, the original
poems), and since no one is likely to
want to memorize his translations,
neither of these arguments applies
to him.
Finally, as a poet Marshall has
virtually no sense of rhyme. In the
poem which he calls "A Russian
Toy--Roly-Poly", you stub your
ears on the following odd couples:
arrows/morose, extinct/sick, recal-
led/at all, order/horses, and felled/
unskilled. Compared with disso-
nances such as this, even his rhyme
of "down" with "down" rings out as
a stroke of verbal genius.
Oddly enough, the inadequacy of
Marshall's range is just the opposite
of what one expects of a rhyming
translation. Most such attempts are


my e
bol o:
in ti
As ir
ing I



so constricted by the rigid pattern
to which they must adhere that vast
portions of the original-often
whole lines at a time-remain unin-
corporated in the translation. Mar-
shall avoids this problem by making
his versions so much longer than
Yevtushenko's that, even with the
relative verbosity of English, he has
ample room to maneuver. As a re-
sult, there are very few words or
images in the Yevtushenko poems
which are not represented by an
English equivalent.
Unfortunately, he always has too
much room left over; and padding
gives his translations their greatest
inaccuracy., One expects a fair num-
ber of uninvited "quites," "thuses"
and "indeeds" to show up, but Mar-
shall, perhaps a frustrated poet
himself, is unable to restrict him-
self simply to filler words-he ex-
pands images, often elaborating
Yevtushenko's sparse verse to the
point where it becomes unrecogniz-
able. It is bad enough that "waves"
becomes, in Marshall's rendition,
"white waves," or that a simple
"she whispered" is raped, filling
out into a poetically pregnant "she
whispered tumultant." But Marshall
also creates totally new visual pic-
tures: "The storekeeper pressing





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