Johnston, R. C., ed. and trans., Jordan Fantosme's Chronicle (Oxford. Oxford UP)
Text name(s): Chronicle; La Chronique de Jordan Fantosme; La Guerre d'Écosse; Rithmus Jordanis Fantasmis
Number of pages of primary source text: 152
Dates: 1173 - 1174
Archival Reference: Durham Cathedral Library, C. iv. 27; Lincoln Cathedral Library, 104
- Translated into English.
- Original language included.
Translation Comments: Facing page.
- British Isles
- Chronicle, Annals
- Literature - Epics, Romance
- Nobility / Gentry
- War - Military History
- Royalty / Monarchs
- War - Chivalry
Jordan Fantosme, a cleric writing in the year or two following the war he described, was likely an eyewitness to some actions in the civil war between Henry II and his eldest son Henry the Young King which forms the subject for this chronicle. Fantosme’s account focuses mostly on the war in Scotland, where King William I of Scotland, “the Lion,” in support of the Young King, broke off ties with Henry II and invaded the north of England. Other major events of the chronicle include a Flemish invasion in East Anglia, and the work culminates with both invasions successfully repelled by the English, while William the Lion was captured simultaneous to Henry II’s return to England from France and penance for the murder of Thomas Becket. Written in Anglo-Norman verse, the chronicle borrows stylistic elements, such as stock phrases, dialogue, and depictions of knightly conduct in battle, from chansons de geste. This new edition of the Anglo-Norman text also includes the first English translation of the twentieth century. Johnston’s notes contain some explanatory and historical material, but are primarily concerned with the meter and poetic organization of the poem. There is a select bibliography (2 pp.), an index of persons and places (7 pp.), and in an appendix a Latin theological poem, given without translation, attributed to Fantosme (4 pp.).
The helpful introduction (40 pp.) addresses the author’s uncertain identity, whether he was an eyewitness to events of the war, problems with the manuscripts, and the likely date of composition, as well as giving an overview of previous use of the chronicle by historians and literary scholars. However, much of the introduction (21 pp.) is a detailed analysis of the meters, rhyme schemes, and distribution of metrical forms in the poem. Under previous scholarship the poem had a reputation for “metrical uncouthness” which the editor is at pains to dispel by presenting a coherent poetic pattern and explaining all irregularities, a task which the notes also assist in.