British Academy Leverhulme/Small Grant



Applied in 2017 for 2018; did not win


The Poems of Ermoldus Nigellus (fl.828): an Annotated Translation

My research will inform an annotated translation of the poems of the Carolingian poet Ermoldus Nigellus. Around 829, he was exiled, and he wrote his verses to plead forgiveness from emperor Louis the Pious and king Pepin of Aquitaine. This work will fill a gap in Carolingian scholarship and provide students and scholars with context on the work of an underrated, imaginative poet who drew on Classical, Late Antique, and early medieval sources for inspiration. His poetry is rich in contemporary themes and references, and inspiration for further study. This translation will follow the verse format which will make side-by-side study of the original and translation more accessible. Prior translations have been either in excerpt or prose English with few annotations. The introduction and the annotations of the translation will make accessible context for early Carolingian studies and provide inspiration for further discussion on themes such as memory and commemoration, education, women, and Classical reception in the Carolingian era.

The result of this research programme will be an annotated translation of Ermoldus’s poetry. This work fills an acknowledged gap in Carolingian scholarship; its general introduction, annotated translation, and subsequent literature survey will make these poems readily available to students and scholars. A re-evaluation of the poet is overdue; this work should inspire further study on Carolingian poetry and Classical reception in this era.

Ermoldus has not been studied in detail on his own merits since Peter Godman’s work in the late ‘80s.Until T. Noble published a collection of Carolingian biographers (2009), Ermoldus’s longer verse biography of Louis the Pious was excluded from translations of early Carolingian biography (e. g. Reinhold Rau edited German translations of Charlemagne and Louis’s lives in Quellen zur karolingischen reichsgeschichte, 1962, but excluded Ermoldus). The shorter poems have not been completely translated into English before. The longer poem has not been translated in verse form except in brief excerpts. Faral’s prose translation provides cross-references to Ermoldus’s references, but none of the current translations provide substantial contextual annotation.

Translation in earnest will begin in April 2018. Revision follows as the translation is set in verse form to follow the line structure (but not meter) of the original text. I will be looking at the two extant manuscripts (in London and in Vienna), earlier Latin transcriptions (Dummler, Pertz, and Faral), and previous translations (Faral, Godman, Noble). Terms, phrases, people/events will be explicated; annotation will include identification, contextual significance, and relevant scholarship. Research will be complemented by consultation via peer review; library/archive research includes work at the BL and through interlibrary loan, as my institution does not have a research library.

A chapter that introduces the poet and context for his poetry will precede the translation. Themes here may include the Carolingian educational programme, the idea of the ‘intellectual exile,’ and the inheritance of Classical literature in the Carolingian court. The context of Ermoldus’s career will be touched on; the annotations will detail note significant references drawn from Classical, Late Antique, and contemporary poetry. An overview of influences which Ermoldus has chosen will further establish context for Carolingian court and administrative life. A chapter follows the translation that will survey Ermoldus’s historiography. This will indicate current scholarship on the intellectual culture of the Carolingian world. This section will place Ermoldus in the broader context of contemporary biography and historical consciousness, and it will consider how sources such a poetry also inform reconstruction of contemporary Carolingian history in terms of memory and deliberate shaping of the past.
Granting OrganisationsBritish Academy