My name is Simon Kellow-Bingham. I am a writer of poetry, short stories and plays. I read Medieval Lit at both Middlesex and Bristol Universities at the turn of the 21st Century but I have always had an intense interest in the earliest English poetry.
The work began as an investigation of the process of writing an extended narrative poem in rhyming couplets. It was really an attempt at understanding the form and its discipline and trying to discover the method by which some of the medieval poets made their work. Quite soon I became engrossed with the narrative flow, iambic pentameter seemingly a natural form for the English language; my only fear was feet of clay. What I discovered was the sheer labour of counting and of rhyming while making sense. It put into perspective for me the efforts not only of Chaucer and his contemporary Ricardian poets but also the work of the translators that followed and made accessible these ancient masterpieces.
In the early years of the English language there was no standard lexicography and meaning was often mixed. The sense of a single word could be changed by its context many times in the same text. The Pearl-Poet was a master at this kind of literary fireworks. Chaucer’s vocabulary was so vast that his works provide the modern student with a veritable lexicon for the Fourteenth Century.
The language that I have used within The Stonecutter’s Tale is archaic without being wholly historically accurate. This poem was not written in the Fourteenth Century and so this rendering in modern English is likely to owe more to the work of Coghill, Finch, Gollancz, Tolkein et al than Ricardian practitioners of the art.
While working on the poem I heard a radio discussion in which Octavio Paz was credited with the idea that ‘poetry fixes words and meaning while translation liberates words to live in a new culture’. I am certain that this is true. And more; that ideas and forms can be transmitted too. The vast canon of Human Literature stands witness to genius for thousands of years. What I have learned as I have gazed at the long view is that I will never have enough years of my own to read it all. So I must enjoy a little a lot.
It is my hope as a writer that you will enjoy the poem not for its accomplishment, accuracy to whims of style or historicity but for the tale the Stonecutter tells.