Robert the Devil: The First Modern English Translation of Robert le Diable

  • Translated by Samuel N. Rosenberg
  • University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2018
  • 157 pages
  • Paperback:  ISBN 978-0-271-08016-1
  • This translation was shortlisted for the 2019 National Translation Award in Poetry.

This is the first Modern English translation of the anonymous 13th-century French story of a knight sired by Satan, driven to brutal behavior, but eventually—through the understanding and devotion of a pious hermit—brought to a life of self-sacrifice and ultimate redemption.  The legend was extraordinarily popular in the centuries following its emergence and adaptations appeared in several languages, including 16th-century retellings in English and Giacomo Meyerbeer’s eponymous French opera of 1831.

“This elegant translation makes the thirteenth-century Old French saint’s legend of  Robert le Diable available to an English-speaking audience for the first time. The poem, rendered here into vigorous free verse that captures the spirit of the original, was extremely popular (and widely translated) in the Middle Ages, but has been relatively neglected by modern scholars. Samuel Rosenberg includes an excellent introduction and bibliography. I recommend the volume highly.”

Maureen Boulton (University of Notre Dame), author of Sacred Fictions of Medieval France: Narrative Theology in the Lives of Christ and the Virgin, 1150–1500

“Samuel N. Rosenberg is one of the most accomplished and capable translators of Old French texts working today. He has now applied his admirable skills to  Robert le Diable, a fascinating romance of the thirteenth century.”

Norris J. Lacy (Pennsylvania State University), editor of Lancelot–Grail: The Old French Arthurian Vulgate and Post-Vulgate in Translation

“Rosenberg’s lively, yet faithful rendition of this classic tale is a welcome addition to the corpus of works in Old French now available to a wider audience. The legend’s vitality in the various adaptations it has assumed, along with Robert’s devilish charisma, make the text an important subject for further research in genre and character studies.”

Stacey Hahn (Oakland University—Rochester, MI), Speculum

See the 13th-century Old French manuscript

The manuscript of the underlying Old French text of Robert le Diable is in the Bibliothèque nationale de France (MS BnF fr. 25516), beginning on folio 174r. It may be consulted at

This translation uses the critical edition of the Old French text prepared by Eilert Löseth: Robert le Diable: Roman d’aventures, Société des Anciens Textes Français (Paris: Firmin Didot, 1903). Löseth’s edition may be consulted online through Google Books at’aventures%201903&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q=robert%20le%20diable:%20roman%20d’aventures%201903&f=false.