Translated into Middle English from the twelfth century octosyllabic French Guillaume de Palerne, William of Palerne was commissioned by Sir Humphrey IX de Bohun, and composed by poet William, whom we know little about (Bunt, ll. 166). The problem with reading William of Palerne lies not within the constructed alliterative long lines, but in knowing howto read it. The intended audience for the translation of William of Palernehas been a topic of debate since the early nineteenth century. William writes his poem "in ese of Englysch men in Englysch speche" as stated in his introduction (ll. 168). This sentiment is repeated at the very end of the story when the poet praises the Earl for "he let make ƿis mater in ƿis maner speche/ for hem that knowe no Frensche, ne never underston". Though seemingly trivial, the exact purpose these statements hold is unclear. Scholars such as Turville-Petre and Dunn have asserted these passages must illustrate the poem’s intention for an unlearned audience, such as a manor staff. Turville- Petre further states that the poem’s production was possibly intended to sedate Humphrey IX’s established retinue by assuring them of "the benevolent interest of their absent overlord." He also emphasizes the improbability that the composition was done "for the instruction and delight of the Earl himself". Still, others contrastingly argue the possibility that the Earl personally could not speak French and therefore ordered its translation out of necessity and private desire. This claim of linguistic ignorance seems farfetched, as many scholars such as Salter illustrate that the libraries of fourteenth century nobles were well stocked in both French and Latin texts. More likely, the reasoning behind the composition of William of Palerne is intermingled somewhere between the two schools of thought and therefore was intended for a boarder audience than what was first imagined by previous scholars.
"The Sovereign Wolf: Feudal Tension and Noble Animal Changes in William of Palerne,"
1, Article 11.