I’m not the only defrocked medievalist around here. Jim Macdonald just posted this souvenir of his student days to one of the open threads. What the hey. We could all use a good laugh just now; and the more you know about English metrical romances, the funnier this gets.
O Mary Quene ond Nicholas seinte
Patron lord of clerkes quente
Mercy to us sende.
Ther was to once a noble knight
That Lancelot du Lak was hight
Yet was there ane mo hende.
His nam was Syr Agri Colie
I sey the sooth and wol nat lie
Also may God him spede.
He was a wight of muckle lor
And lik to ben a professour
In romance as we rede.
He was as doughty as Horn Childe,
As mighty as Gawain the mild
Or Havelok the Dane.
Of Orfeo or Syr Launfal
Sir Ageri he bet hem al
As paynims wot wtih payne.
Now to the tale I wol begin—
Ance on a day as did Turpin
He fought the Saracen.
And bolder than Octavian
He rode into the press again
And slaugh x thousand men.
And as he rode as the Sowdan
Sir Agre, bold and doughty man,
Was smote down from behind.
The swerd cut down unto his brain,
“Alas,” quod he, “An hedious peyn!
That was a stroke unkind.”
And from his steed he tumbled off
That made the Sowdan for to loff
That Sir Agre was lorn.
Than said the Sowdan with great gle,
“Bring him bounden unto me
He’ll wish he ne was born.
We’ll make him read of Gamelyn
And Parceval and al his kin
Until his teres shal run
Ond he shal rede of Geofferey
That with his quil pen maked fre,
Thus shal we have our fun.
If of al this he may not choke
We will bring ut another boke
Ywritten by Iohn Gower,
And he shall red the Pearl-rime
Ond therewith shall he spend his tyme,
Thus shal he know oor power.
If from al this he be nat ded
We’ll feed the bugges on his hed
Until he be ner wode.
And then tak yow a broad-swerd blak
And stik him swiftly in the bak
That shal be for the gode.”
Sir Agre, when he herd al this,
He was wonder sad, iwiss,
And wished he had ben slo.
And lik Cressid he wept ful fast
As if his hert had ben tobrast
And thus he mad his wo.
Then said Syr Agre unto him,
That saracen that was so grim,
“How kan I win me fre?”
Then spoke the wicked saracin
That was come of Caines kin,
“Ye must pass ordels thre.
First ye must go into a tent,
I sey yow soothe, for verrament,
There is a noble grail,
And iv gallons of clary win
There is that god cuppe within
Exactly like a pail.
And ye maun drink it from the top
And drain it to the lastest drop
And never lose a bit
And aye may never take a breath
To do so it would mean your death
There is no help for it.
Then you maun go without delay
And nowhere may you stop nor stay
Unto another tent.
Within that tent, enchained ther,
Stands a grisly groaning ber,
Our hunters have him hent.
His fangs are long, his look is fell,
There is one thing, the sooth to tell
And maken no mistake;
You maun go unto him there
And with both your handes bare
Cure him of tooth-ake.
Ye maun pull out his aching tooth;
When this is done, I sey you sooth,
A thrid task ye maun do.
There is another tent here madye,
And therein is a lusty ladye
Ye maun go her to.
Ther never was a lusty knight
Could satisfy her in a night
Had he the strength of x,
For when she swyves, she swyves for keeps
And layes the bodies up in heaps
She hath slain xc men.
If yoe can satisfy her lust
I wol do what thing is just
I wol give you a steed
Ond I wol sent you back again
To your lord and to his men
Dressd in your battle weed.
“Alas then,” said Syr Agaree
What a thing to fall to mee
That I must needs me do.
Had he offred to play Slap right
Or ‘What’s the Colour of My Knight?’
I would have end to wo.
But I maun rede on Athelstan
Until I be a dede man
Or do his ordels well:
To drink his win and ese his ber,
And also ese his dame, I swer,
Though she look lik Dame Ragnel.”
They went unto the firstest tentThe tale is done, par charitay,
And ther the cupp of win he hent
His hert it did nat quaile.
He set it up al to his lip
And backwards then his hed gone tip,
So seys the Ffrensch Tale.
Then from the tent he gan to go
And wild he shouted as wodwo,
“Now bring me to the ber!”
He saw the ber so ferse and grim
The sight did nat now trouble him
His brains so turned wer.
He went the foul ber there into
And whispered softly, “Sleepest thou,
Min leeve brother dare?”
“I wot we’ve seen the last of him,”
Then upspoke the Sowdan grim.
Said the others, “Right yow are.”
They saw the tent shak to and fro
For ii hours and some mo
Almest unto the night.
The fur flew fast frae ut the tent
And clothes too, par verrament,
That was a frightful fight.
At last there cam a dreadful still
The Sowdan’s blud al for to chill
And ther was Syr Agri.
Clothes al to-rent
Iccumen ut of the tent
Covered in blude-wrack.
Then saide the knight with steven slurrd,
He spake nat pleynly ony word,
“Wheresh th’ dam wi th’ tooth-ack?”
O lord, graunt to him an ‘A’
That hath these wordes wrot.
Or if nat that, then graunt a ‘B’
Or even graunt a ii-point ‘C’
So that yow fail him nat.