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May 10, 2004

It Came From Beneath the EETS
Posted by Teresa at 12:18 AM *

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.

Syr Agricoli

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 tent
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?”

The tale is done, par charitay,
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.
Comments on It Came From Beneath the EETS:
#1 ::: Richard Parker ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2004, 02:04 AM:

Ber baiting?

That is amazing Jim.

#2 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2004, 03:10 AM:

pure genius.

#3 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2004, 03:40 AM:

That's an impossible act to follow, like unto shoures soote followed by a shower of soot, but, well, here goes anyway:

So let me put it thusly, boss, and youse
Who is the molls and goons and likewise guys
To him who is your leader. You got nix
To keep you outta French guys' speaks and joints,
But some bull from this mouthpiece Pharamond,
"In terram Salicam mulieres ne succedant,"
"No doll can get the goods in Salic land,"
Which neighborhood those Frogs make like what is
The French North Side, which this guy Pharamond,
Pulled out of his own keister, so to speak.
Yet judges bought with their own moolah say
This Salic property is German, like
Up in Detroit and on the Pittsburgh side,
Where Big Chuck having whacked the Saxon gang,
They set up shop and started making gin.
And, since they did not fancy German dolls
(Though I got no such preferences myself)
They made this regulation that no broad
Can wear no pants up in no Salic land.

[Laughter from the nobles.]

-- Harry of Five Points, Act I Scene 2

#4 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2004, 09:17 AM:


Along similar lines, I recommend the Chepe epic my friend Jeff wrote about his roommate.

#5 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2004, 10:22 AM:

Mike, that's worthy of John Myers Myers!

#6 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2004, 11:00 AM:

Damn. Somebody needs to read that aloud, and post an mp3 ... if they can keep a straight face :)

#7 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2004, 11:35 AM:

They set up shop and started making gin.
And, since they did not fancy German dolls
(Though I got no such preferences myself)
They made this regulation that no broad
Can wear no pants up in no Salic land.

[copulative gerund] beudaful (wipes away tear)

#8 ::: Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2004, 11:37 AM:

Thanks, I needed that...

#9 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2004, 11:40 AM:

As much as I loved Syr Agricoli, I believe I have a felt need for the rest of Harry of Five Points, starting, perhaps, with The Reception of the French Ambassadors.

#10 ::: Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2004, 03:34 PM:

Seconded, fidelio. I want to see the English lesson...

but in the meantime, enjoy The Skinhead Hamlet:

#11 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2004, 03:46 PM:

Ah, The Skinhead Hamlet. I've seen that before, but not online.

#12 ::: LNHammer ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2004, 04:21 PM:

<falls over helplessly in seat trying not to laugh out loud at work>


#13 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2004, 04:23 PM:

The Skinhead Hamlet is good, but I think I like Pericles, Prince of Tired Plots even better.

#14 ::: Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2004, 04:24 PM:

A remarkably faithful condensation of the original, no? :)

#16 ::: Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2004, 05:36 PM:

And read the comments under Pericles for a link to Romeo & Juliet with marshmallow peeps...

#17 ::: BethN ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2004, 12:35 PM:

I've adored that poem forever! Somewhere on my bookcase is still the well-thumbed booklet that contains it, along with a number of other ... spirited ... works of the same era. It's been many a year since I had the occasion to join a chorus of "The Twa Perverts" or "Roddy McCorley's Moonshine Pub." Ah, those were the days!

#18 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 02:49 AM:

Okay, in response to . . . well, maybe as many as two and a half requests, here is Installment Two of Will "More or Loesser" Shakespeare's classic, "Harry of Five Points." There will, shortly, be an Installment Three, y-clept "A Coupla French Chicks Sittin' Around Talking," but I promise it will be shorter. Some, anyway.

HARRY. Let's hear the guys what Dolphin-boy has sent.

[Some flunkies take a powder.]

So now we make to parley. On our feet,
Is everybody packin' proper heat?
We own that joint. They just ain't got the word.
And if they still don't, we must bust stuff up,
And run things big, like Barnum tendin' bar
In big fat France, her racetracks and her numbers,
And maybe we will blow it. Them's the breaks.
There have been lots of guys we only knew
From all the flowers at their funerals.
And if I get a daisy-patch in France
These Frogs will know that they was right messed with,
And all of Harry's guys will take the Fifth.

[The Consiglieri slouch in.]

AMBASSADOR. Bonjour, Big Henry. You is lookin' good.
But I have gotta make things understood:
You wanna sit and listen for a while,
Or shall we settle this back-alley style?

HARRY. What is not messed with, there we do not mess.
Our beer is strong, our judges paid on time,
And every jerk we whack has whacking won.
So lay it on the table from your boss
And what is up his snoot.

AMB. Let's cut the crap.
You sent a note that him what's runnin' France
Should give a wad of territory up
'Cause Crazy Eddie ran a game there once.
On this, my boss the Dolphin ain't so keen,
Says that you is a, or is smokin', dope,
An' wonders how you got in them long pants.
You risk a grabbing by the wide lapels,
And havin' your hat handed you real hard.
But hey, he pays his markers. So here is
A bunch of boodle that should square things up,
And put this stupid tsimmis in the bag:
So's all the gloves stay on. Thusly the swag.

HARRY. What ante, Uncle?

EXETER. Crooked dice, big guy.

HARRY. Dis Dolphin, he's a stand-up guy, with style.
We thank you muchly, as we like to say.
But tell youse, when we make our come-out roll
On your green felt, we're gonna hit a streak
That you are gonna pay some vig to fade.
You let him know we got a golden arm,
And he had better hock the silver now
'Cause Dolphins do not swim too good with sharks.
I guess he heard how we hung out with grinds
And welshers. But, y'know? That marker's paid.
We sniffed at our joint here, 'cause of its looks,
But then we saw the second set of books.
But, you know kids. They ain't got no respect.
And what ain't theirs, it gets it in the neck.
But you tell Fish-face that my dice are square
As is his noggin, and he can lay odds
When I step up to make my play in France
The way I knot my tie and wear my hat
May make me look a Reuben at the Ritz,
But I got me an open-fronted suit,
And when I hoof it on your bully-vards
You're gonna think I came from MGM.
And tell the welsher that his lousy dice
Will knock him over like a hick-town bank,
And he may end up short a rib or two
When dem bones roll. For Adas from Decatur
And corners and Big Reds are on the line,
He'll get the hardways, make a cocked-up toss
And find he's starin' at two bloodshot eyes
Till he can grab a boxcar out of town.
But hey, we've drawn, but we ain't seen the flop.
Your boss, he might get lucky. And he might
Get called while holdin' bupkis. Get my drift?
He's ponied up his bankroll like a mensch,
So tell him I will cover all of it.
My boys are all dressed up; can't keep 'em down
On no damn farm, when they see Paris town.
Now eighty-six these wiseguys. Toodle-oo.
But don't plug them or nothin'. We is through.

[Ambassadors make tracks.]

EXETER. Cripes, what a buncha patzers.

HARRY. Like the man said, you ain't seen nothin' yet.

#19 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 03:22 AM:

I am awestruck. That was a pure delight to read - and in some odd way I enjoyed it more than either of the originals.

It's like listening to one of those crazy remixes where someone has got Public Enemy rapping over the top of Dexy's Midnight Runners and mysteriously, it works.

#20 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 07:45 AM:

Next up: David Mamet does "Much Ado About Nothing"

BENEDICK: Love me? F***!

#21 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 03:10 AM:

Okay. After this, it's curtains . . . I mean, curtain down.

Rouen. The FRENCH KING'S resort and casino.]

[Here comes ALICE, solus, she thinks.

ALICE. Bon Dieu, achetez-moi un Mercedes-Benz,
Je travaille pour Katy --

[KATHERINE busts in.]

KATHERINE. Alice, tu as ete en Angleterre, et tu parles bien le langage.

ALICE. Un peu, madame.

KATHERINE. Je te prie, m'enseignez; il faut que j'apprenne a parler. Comment appelez-vous le café en Anglais?

ALICE. Le café? Elle est appelee de joint.
KATHERINE. De joint. Et les gentilhommes?

ALICE. Les gentilhommes? Ma foi, j'oublie les gentilhommes; mais je me souviendrai. Les gentilhommes? Je pense qu'ils sont appeles de guys; oui, de guys.

KATHERINE. La café, de joint; les gentilhommes, de guys. Je pense queje suis le bon ecolier; j'ai gagne deux mots d'Anglais vitement. Comment appelez-vous le alcool?

ALICE. Le alcool? Nous les appelons de hooch.

KATHERINE. De hooch. Ecoutez; dites-moi si je parle bien: de joint, de guys, et de hooch.

ALICE. C'est bien dit, madame; il est fort bon palaver.

KATHERINE. Dites-moi l'Anglais pour le musique.

ALICE. De boogie-woogie, madame.

KATHERINE. Et le boulevardier?

ALICE. De cheap bastard.

KATHERINE. De cheap bastard. Je m'en fais la repetition de tous les mots que vous m'avez appris des a present.

ALICE. Il est trop difficile, madame, comme je pense.

KATHERINE. Excusez-moi, Alice; ecoutez: d'hand, de fingre, de hooch, d'bookie-wookie, de cheap Bastille.

ALICE. De cheap bastard, madame.

KATHERINE. O Seigneur Dieu, je m'en oublie! De cheap bastard. Comment appelez-vous la danse?

ALICE. De Sharleston-Sharleston, madame.

KATHERINE. De Sharleston-Sharleston. Et le chevalerie?

ALICE. De made guys.

KATHERINE. De made guys. Sans peur et sans reproche?

ALICE. Peut-étre, madame.

KATHERINE. La danse, de Sharleston-Sharleston; le chevalerie, de made guys.

ALICE. Oui. Sauf votre honneur, en verite, vous prononcez les mots aussi droit que les natifs de Brooklyn..

KATHERINE. Je ne doute point d'apprendre, par la grace de Dieu, et en peu de temps.

ALICE. N'avez-vous pas deja oublie ce que je vous ai enseigne?

KATHERINE. Non, je reciterai a vous promptement: de joint, de guys, de pooch --

ALICE. De hooch, madame.

KATHERINE. De hooch, de boogie-woogie, de sheep-bastard.

ALICE. Sauf votre honneur, de cheap bastard.

KATHERINE. Ainsi dis-je; d'cheap bastard, de sharleston-sharleston, et de made guys. Comment appelez-vous les flics et la prison?

ALICE. Les cops, madame; et le joint.

KATHERINE. Le cops et le joint. Mais le joint, c’est le café aussi! O Seigneur Dieu! ils sont mots de son mauvais, corruptible, gros, et impudique, et non pour les dames d'honneur d'user: je ne voudrais prononcer ces mots devant les seigneurs de France pour tout le monde. Foh! le cops et le joint! Neanmoins, je reciterai une autre fois ma lecon ensemble: de joint, de guys, de hooch, de boogie-woogie, de cheap bastard, de Sharleston-Sharleston, de made guys, de cops, d’autre joint.

ALICE. Excellent, madame! Madame c’est prêt á la fête de soir!

KATHERINE. C'est assez pour une fois: allons-nous a Yves Saint Laurent.

#22 ::: Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 04:14 PM:

Okay, when one says "laughing out loud" one isn't always, but "sheep bastard" got me. Now I just need to wipe off this silly grin before I head to the faculty meeting! Allons-nous a Yves Saint-Laurent!

#23 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 04:29 PM:

John M. Ford, you are a genius. But I'm just stating the obvious, to anyone who read those last should rewrite the whole play in Brooklynese Blanks, and send it to Kenneth Branagh. He'd probably film it.

#24 ::: erik nelson ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 04:43 PM:

There was a 1950's MAD paperback anthology where one article "updated" the Friends, Romans, Countrymen speech into Beatnik-speak. Stuff along the lines of "For Caesar is a real cool cat... and so are they all... real cool cats" etc.

#25 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 05:00 PM:

The "I come to lay Caesar out, not to hip you to him" speech is by the utterly brilliant (and, sadly, late) Lord Buckley. It needs properly to be heard (and there's probably a Lord Buckley disc available, or at least THERE OUGHT TO BE), but it was surprisingly easy to googlificate the text:

I'm not surprised it appeared in MAD in the Fifties -- back then Gaines ran a good deal of material by well-known "outside" people (Bob & Ray, Ernie Kovacs, and so on).

#26 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 05:05 PM:

... and indeed there are such discs, in print and everything; this is on "His Royal Hipness," along with much other cool stuff (though the dimbulb house reviewer at Amazon thinks that "Cabenza de Gasca, the Gasser" is about Vasco da Gama, completely ruining the joke).

#27 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 06:34 PM:

Mike's been a genius for a while, Xopher, have you read any of his books?

#28 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 06:47 PM:

Not yet.

#29 ::: Rich ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2004, 06:49 AM:

I saw the Skinhead Hamlet ten years ago in talk.bizarre:

Note that even then its origins were obscure.

#30 ::: Lee Hauser ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2004, 05:32 PM:

Absolutely no offense to you, Mr. Ford... Harry of Five Points is hilarious, but should I be seriously concerned that I find the original Shakespeare easier to read than this Brooklynese Blank Barditry?

#31 ::: ers ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2004, 12:53 AM:

Dear Ghod, that such wonderments exist in the world...! One who can do justice to Shakespeare and Runyon simultaneously is indeed a person of many capacities and blessedness great.

Shel Silverstein also did a beatnik Hamlet -- I don't have a URL for it right handy, but I know it's out there somewhere (Google doth provide much direction for the misdirected).

And prithee, neglect not _Twisted Tales From Shakespeare_ by Richard Armour. I know not if it is still in print, but 'tis worth finding. (My 10th grade English teacher hooked us on this and on _The Princess Bride_ -- back in the mid 70's.)

#32 ::: erik nelson ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2004, 10:13 AM:

Thanks to John Ford for telling us about the Lord Buckley Julius Caesar parody. But no, it's not the same parody that was in MAD.

#33 ::: erik nelson ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2004, 10:14 AM:

Thanks to John Ford for telling us about the Lord Buckley Julius Caesar parody. But no, it's not the same parody that was in MAD.

#34 ::: Tom Whitmore: myong, smith, wright all spam ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2004, 01:52 AM:

please delete this when they're deleted.

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