Johannes de Hauvilla was a master of the important Rouen Cathedral school at the end of the twelfth century. His only known work is the satirical poem Architrenius [The Arch-Weeper], composed in 1184 and preserved in its entirety in twenty-six manuscripts, fourteen of which date to the thirteenth century. Divided into nine books, the Architrenius spans 4361 hexameters describing, in elaborate and often opaque Latin, the travels of the young protagonist as he searches for answers that will help him combat sin and foster moral self-discipline. His quest, “a collection of vivid tableaux,” as Winthrop Wetherbee describes it, culminates in the Arch-Weeper’s encounter with Nature, who lectures him on the order of the universe before granting him marriage with Moderation as a reward for his tribulations. Its stylistic ambitions, complex figurative language, and impressive knowledge of ancient literature and mythology made the Architrenius a classic in the Middle Ages and a canonical school text equal to the works of Bernardus Silvestris, Alan of Lille, and Walter of Châtillon.
This elegant volume is clearly a labor of love: it provides students and scholars with an eminently useful translation of an often misunderstood and misjudged twelfth-century Latin epic; it is also valuable for the improved version of [Paul Gerhard] Schmidt’s Latin text, itself not easy to find outside major research libraries. It is to be hoped that both edition and translation will change the fate of the Architrenius, bringing this distinctive, if unusual work to the attention of both Latin aficionados and the wider public. There is much to be learned from the Arch-Weeper’s complaint about the avarice and selfishness of the world!