[UPDATE: As of January 2010, information on purchasing or downloading The Tale of Charlemagne and Ralph the Collier can be found here.]
Last December, I posted a PDF of “The Tale of Charlemagne and Ralph the Collier,” a translation of a 972-line Middle Scots romance from the 15th century. This translation was, in part, an attempt to prove to myself that I could turn 75 of those complex, thirteen-line, rhyming, alliterative stanzas into modern English poetry.
Sharp-eyed readers sent me useful comments, and although I hadn’t expected anyone to be looking for a translation of this obscure poem, quite a few people do regularly search for it and find it via Google. As a result, I’ve corrected two typos, made minor edits, and posted a second revision of the text. You can download the new low-res PDF (for free!) from this page.
For students of medieval literature, “Ralph the Collier” has much to recommend it: combat, class warfare, burlesque humor, inclement weather, Yuletide feasts, politically incorrect proselytizing—plus it rhymes and alliterates. As another Christmas hero named Ralph observed, “sometimes, at the height of our revelries, when our joy is at its zenith, when all is most right with the world, the most unthinkable disasters descend upon us.” The hard-earned but ultimately comic lessons learned by Charlemagne and Ralph the Collier suggest that sometimes, a sad tale’s not best for winter after all.