It was a bit of a disappointment to find out yesterday that my research on Bovo and Boeve has not persuaded the editors of Medium Aevum that the poem is more likely to have been composed for a patron or patrons with close connection to Southampton, than for the twelfth or early thirteenth-century earls of Arundel. It always takes me a while to get over a knock-back, and I realised this afternoon this is because it’s not something I have been used to, which is not to be self-congratulatory, it just rather surprised me when I thought about it.
So where next? I still believe I have an argument to put forward, and I have to express my gratitude to my MAE reader for their comments, because I think I see how they can help strengthen that argument, when taken together with the work on the adventus, although I have not heard yet whether that has been any more persuasive. I am already wondering if I maybe need to develop the whole thing, because the Bovo and Boeve paper is already rather long – but that is a decision to be taken after Christmas.
The last few days of work on the adventus in Boeve have meant some slightly disconcerting rearrangement of paragraphs to tighten up the ideas and make the argument flow. The absence of records – not even Pipe Rolls for the crucial year – the nature of those that do exist, and the distinctive cross-over between history and poetry in twelfth-century chronicles has made for interesting reading while I pieced together such evidence as exists. One more week’s work should see the end of the restructuring. And then comes the tricky matter of submitting it.
It’s been a bit of a struggle but at last something like a research paper is beginning to emerge out of a chaos of sources and ideas as I have kept nibbling away at the material that makes up my argument for an unnoticed adventus in Boeve. Today I found Henry of Huntingdon had written a poem that also dramatises the crucial historical moment to which I think Boeve looks back. I just have to locate the right source now. It’s been lovely getting back to the essays in the METh journals too as I’ve been checking them for anything on entry ceremonies. Lots more to do, but that’s a task for another day.
The news today is that the tail of one of Southampton’s famous lions has fallen off! Or has the ghost of Bevis returned to wreak vengeance on the images of these ferocious beasts that ‘menaced’ his beloved in a cave? The official line is that the metal has succumbed after several centuries to natural deterioration. The tail is in the safe-keeping of the city archaeologist while the inevitable problem of funding makes it unlikely that restoration will take place quickly. Pictures can be found at https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-hampshire-45573884#
While the lion has been in the process of losing its appendage, the summer has given me some time to research the possibility that Boeve de Haumtone really does recollect the circumstances of a very early royal adventus. The form of these entries was very variable, and suited to many local circumstances. I believe there are grounds enough to propose the idea seriously. There are a few more translations to be done, and some further consultation of contemporary chronicles, but I hope to have a finished form of the argument in place perhaps before Christmas. However, as it is speculative, it may never get further than the Academia website where other scholars will be able to assess and take pot shots at it! My confidence in that area may increase with further research, but I am prepared for ‘savaging to take place’. If anyone remembers the exact circumstances of this quote I shall be amazed!
With the latest revisions done and dusted the next logical step was to print off the paper ready for submission – an unusual step in itself because I’m so used to just sending off documents of this kind as email attachments. However, my printer has decided it doesn’t want print off the web addresses that are an essential part of the referencing in some footnotes. Everything else prints off as it should but on a handful of pages the referencing is almost printed, but fades off very strangely. Nothing I’ve tried so far has worked. It must have been so much simpler with a quill and parchment! On the other hand, while the technical stuff awaits resolution there is time for further proof-reading, and as a wise man said recently, that’s all to the good.
Just when it felt as though there was progress towards actually submitting my Boeve paper to a journal – revisions progressing well thanks to to the wise words of the friend and colleague who has been my reader – suddenly everything came to a halt when I picked up a virus. Endless coughing and profound weariness seriously got in the way of the work and only after almost 4 weeks am I getting back to some level of normal energy. It has been so frustrating, but I have managed to do a few tweaks and hope to push on faster as my energy returns. I have at least checked out submission procedures for the journal.
After a lot of nibbling away and digging into what would previously have felt like arcane areas of research, the line through my argument seems to be getting clearer, and at present it feels defensible to say that Boeve was created for a Southampton audience. That it had one or more local patrons and that this suggestion can be justified by reference to a variety of sources, even though there is no extant record of the poem’s creation.
In addition to this, I believe the poem may indicate something significant with regard to a ceremonial greeting in a known historical context. This admittedly is a more tentative suggestion, and needs further work, but it’s hard to ignore. Although the main focus of the poem is always going to be the hero’s adventures because they are the most accessible aspect, for a contemporary audience its historical allusions and echoes would have been both relevant, and just as entertaining.