Ich and the Perle Poete, on Mont Dorse-Quasse
Lordynges, by Goddes grace ich yow biseche that ye forgyven me myn tardinesse yn updatinge myn blogge. In this droughty march, the customes house is unusualie bisy.
Ther ys one of the demaundes for myn advyce column that I am looth to lette passen unanswerede, yet also looth to answeren, so hevy are the paynes it driveth thurgh myn herte.
It's my (in all probability fruitless) ambition in life to discover the identity of one of your contemporaries, the so-called Pearl/Gawain-Poet. I've been casually researching identity theories for the past couple years now, but they just seem to go in circles. I recently stumbled across an article, however, entitled "Was the Pearl Poet in Aquitaine with Chaucer?" I eagerly await its arrival via ILL. In the meantime, I thought I'd assuage my curiosity by asking: was the Pearl-Poet in Aquitaine with you? And furthermore, why can't we find out who the talented (no offense to you, of course) bastard is?
Lost in Transcription
Deere Loste in Transcripcioun,
O, thatte olde colde tyme on the montayne, when we ownede the worlde and nothynge semed wronge! Indede – the makere of Perle was “wyth” me.
Whenne y was butte X and VI yeeres, aftir mony a daye of kervinng at table for myn lorde Erle of Ulstere, I wente wyth myn lorde to werre in Fraunce.
In our compaigyne was anothir younge valet lyke myselfe, who likede all the beste songes by Machaut and Deschamps and evene boughte the importe single of ‘ma fin est mon commencement.’ He hadde a high-arched nose, and narwe face – possesede of a lene and powirful bodie wel suited for the jouste and the clashe of armes. We did swere ful depe to be brotheres, eche of us til other. And oure bloode was hotte for werre – & eke, as eftsoones we lernede, for othir thynges.
Fyghten togeder we dide, this valet and ich, in Rethel-toune whanne the Frensshe layde waste to yt to letten the Prince Noir from crossinge, and in the melee we were scatterede from the hoste, and we two dide runne like eye makeupe on a televangelistes wyf. We coude spyen no banneres of oure lorde, and yn the welken ronge the trumpours of the Frensshe in their victorie.
Fer from the toune, we cam at dawne to a mountayne ycleped Dorce-quasse. The sootie masse of the montaigne palede slowlie vntil yt was a colore lyke thatte of the smoke from the stille-burnynge towne. We hidde us undir a spreadinge tre. He loughe, and oped a gourde filled with a draught of wyn, and sayde, “Wel, syn we hath scaped togedre, I rekne tis tyme we starte to dryken togedre.”
The wyn was prettie nastie, yet pauperes non possunt electores esse. Y tolde hym of myne balades, and he dide recyte severale pieces in the alliterative style. He sayde vnto me “Thou sholdst endite on englisshe tonge, for yt ys relie the waye of the future.” “But I kan not rim, ram, ruf lyke thou kanst,” y tolde hym. “Wel, do thyne owne thynge.”
Depe did we stepe ourselves in drinke. Thenne – and by the waye ich assume thou wilt kepe this knowledge from dere Philippa! – we dide thynges that wolde make Alanus of Lille his hede explode. We dide thynges that wolde make Peter Damyan spontaneouslie combuste. We dide thynges that are notte even listede in Burchard of Worms. Rim, ram, ruf!
At morwe-tyde, he sayde me, “Thou knowst I am not of the scole of Edwarde II.”
“Me neithere,” quod I “‘Tis nobodies privitee but oures.”
Eftsoones, the frensshe dide fynde us ther, and cleppid us in irones and ledid vs ech fro othir. Y dide usen a smal mirour to regarde hym as y was takene awaye. Y was ransoumed for XVI pounde! A bargaine, I saye.
Whan passid hadde foure yeres, and y was made esquier, ich lernede that thys valet now was the stewarde of a manoure in Kent: he had bicom a fayre reeve and a merye. By lettre one lusti Mai he wrot me that he was ycomen Londonwardes for bisiness in the eschequer.
He pullede up outsyde of Westminstere on a dapple mare wyth gold rims. We sesede eche othir, and sodainely oure mouthes came togethir harde – myn litel hatte fallinge to the floore, and the doore openyng and Katharine Swynforde myn soon-to-be sistere-in-law lookinge out for a fewe secondes at myn straiyninge shoulderes seeinge us and sayinge nothynge unto me until aftirwardes -- for she ys a bundel of trouble.
Y mad a tokne excuse of goinge for to buyen salte-herringe, and the houre of vesperes did fynde the fayre reeve and ich post-coitale yn a geste roome at the Tabard. In the aftirglowe, he dide recyte vnto me a tale of Gawaine and the Grene knighte, of whiche he hadde two fitts ywritten. “Ywis,” quod I, “Shal Gavvaine swyve the wyf of Bertilak? And yf so, ergo, shal Gawayne paraunter swyve Bertilak?”
“Certes,” he sayd, “t’wolde plesen Kynge Richarde!”
“But forto speke of thygnes sadde and trewe. Come away with me! Thou knowst, it coude be like this, just like this, for ay.”
“Nay,” quod he, “Sholde this thynge seise us, ynne the wronge place, such as for ensaumple mass, thenne we sholde ben lit uppe lyke lollardes. If thou canst not hele yt, thou muste stande it.”
“I WOLDE I KNEWE HOW OF THEE I MIGHT BE QUITTEN!”
Whanne y did retourne, Katharine said vnto me, “Thou didst not buye salt herringe!” I hadde to proffren her al of my yearly tun of wyn just to get her to keepe it mum.
Y nevere saw the young man againe. Aenaes del Mar sans doute stil dwelleth somewhere in Kente, and I have herde fame of hym that he dide make a rime of Gawaine where Gawaine resisteth the ladye. And he dide make a rime of a Perle thatte was loste. And manye otheres. And I dide marrye myne darlinge Philippa, and dide sette up shop at the customes hous.
So yes, I knewe this makere of which thou spekest. I knewe hym wel. And for some resoun, whenevere myn thoghtes turne vnto hym I here some maner of softe chords playede on a giterne, and y se a smal, goldene statue recedyng awaye from me, which I tokne to be myn loste vertu. Love kan be a righte Lombarde, sometimes.
May love not be a Lombarde unto thee.
-Le Vostre G
(recopyed with manye a teere from March XVI, MMVI)