PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
News and Notes
Digital Access to PN Review
Access the latest issues, plus back issues of PN Review with Exact Editions For PN Review subscribers: access the PN Review digital archive via the Exact Editions app Exactly or the Exact Editions website, you will first need to know your PN Review ID number. read more
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
Gratis Ad 1
Monthly Carcanet Books
Next Issue Thomas Kinsella in conversation Jeffrey Wainwright comes to grips with St Chad Hsien Min Toh gives us a Korean perspective Iain Bamforth on Lou and Fritz: Sensible Shoes meets Starstruck Judith Bishop on Love and Self-Understanding in an Algorythmic Age

This item is taken from PN Review 221, Volume 41 Number 3, January - February 2015.

Pictures from a Library 18: John Lydgate’s Troy Book
'All that glisters is not gold'
John Yudgate's Troy Book.
Rylands English Manuscript 1, Lydgate’s Troy Book. Reproduced by courtesy of the Director of the John Rylands Library, the University of Manchester

It is All Hallows’ Eve in the year of our Lord 2014 and on this exact day six hundred and two years ago Harry, then Prince of Wales, commissioned John Lydgate, the monk of Bury, to write a poem in Middle English on the subject of the Trojan War. Eight years later Lydgate presented his completed work to his illustrious patron who had by then ascended to the English throne as Henry V. Weighing in at some 30,000 lines of verse marshalled into 15,000 couplets, this epic poem of epic proportions has claims to being one of the most ambitious iterations of the story of the siege of Troy in any vernacular language.

Since ‘handwriting is to space what the voice is to time’ (Susan Stewart), a poem of such magnitude, fit for a king, deserves to be embodied and transmitted through a script emblazoned with colour and glowing with gold. Measuring 45 cm by 33 cm, and comprising over one hundred and seventy folios, mostly decorated with lavish illuminations, the version of the poem held in the John Rylands Library, English Manuscript 1, does not disappoint.

Exquisite tiny knights in shining armour brandish silver swords and urge their chargers into battle. Minuscule damsels, arrayed in the latest fifteenth-century fur-lined fashions in emerald, sapphire and vermilion, watch the action ...


Searching, please wait... animated waiting image