Mark (this week’s guest star) was telling me about the wild English branch of his family. They lived in a row house in Dudley, a few doors down from a High Anglican church. On Sunday mornings, the Smiths liked to stick their arses out the window and moon the High Anglicans. It was a weekly event, like the hymns.
This image prompted me to trawl for Chaucer’s Miller’s Tale. Alisoun is an inspired heroine. She loves Nicholas, but lovelorn Absolon stalks her. He sighs and moans under their window all night. Eventually, she promises him a kiss if only he will go away.
- ‘Thanne make thee redy, quod she, I come anon.
And unto nicholas she seyde stille,
Now hust, and thou shalt laughen al thy fille.’
I picture her rolling her eyes at Nicholas as, outside, Absolon gets down on his knees, closes his eyes and puckers up. She throws the window open and tells him to get on with it.
- Have do, quod she, com of, and speed the faste,
Lest that oure neighebores thee espie.
This absolon gan wype his mouth ful drie.
Derk was the nyght as pich, or as the cole,
And at the wyndow out she putte hir hole,
And absolon, hym fil no bet ne wers,
But with his mouth he kiste hir naked ers
Ful savourly, er he were war of this.
Abak he stirte, and thoughte it was amys,
For wel he wiste a womman hath no berd.
He felte a thyng al rough and long yherd,
And seyde, fy! allas! what have I do?
Tehee! quod she, and clapte the wyndow to.
That last wicked chortle is one of my favorite lines of poetry. I wish Chaucer were a terrific friend of mine and I could call him up on the phone whenever I felt like it.