Saturday, January 16, 2010

Chaucer: Miller's Tale 3734

"He kiste her naked ers." This letter is already #7 on Google where I typed this line. I share it with you henceforth.

Re: All England
A letter in response to Joan Acocella’s article (December 21, 2009)
January 18, 2010

Related Links
Joan Acocella’s “All England”

Joan Acocella;
Geoffrey Chaucer;
The Miller’s Tale;
“The Canterbury Tales”;

As a long-time Chaucer scholar, I was delighted by Joan Acocella’s appreciation of Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales” and her review of a new translation (Books, December 21st & 28th). However, the Miller’s Tale does not describe “an act of involuntary cunnilingus.” Acocella may read the event the way she does because Chaucer tells us that, upon kissing Alison, Absolon felt something like a beard. However, Chaucer is very specific about the placement of the kiss: he “kiste hir naked ers” (i.e., kissed her naked ass). He had other words to use for naming her sexual organ, including “queynte,” “bele chose,” “quoniam,” and “chambre of Venus” (all used by the Wife of Bath).

Saul Brody

Professor Emeritus of English
The City College of New York
New York City

Me again: You should be able to link to Acocella's review via this URL, but given the New Yorker's rather unpredictable website as to what it offers gratis, caveat web-viator."Re: All England" (Brody's letter w/link to Acocella)

P.S. Had to add this from "Babymama" at Yahoo's "Answers" forum.

Can someone give me a detaied summary over the millers tales?
it is part of the canterbary tales.. not sure how to spell it.. this story is so hard to comprehend i really need someones help

Luckily, "Babymama" was answered two years ago with a concise SparkNotes summary. Hope she wasn't in Prof. Brody's course at CCNY. More likely my level of student, if I ever got to teach Chaucer. Which I never did after my grad school T.A. stint, alas. Still, strange to me that "modern" translations must exist. I mean, is that line so hard to parse in everyday language today? However, Guy Deutscher in "The Unfolding of Language" reckons we're about the last generation to grasp most of Shakespeare, such is the drift of our demotic from his own. I wonder. Judging from "Babymama's" orthography we are returning to an earlier stage of phonetic (or more precisely, lazily rendered, thumb-texting meets stream-of-whatever-goes) English. Perhaps the grammarians like me who lament its state might take heart. Hart.

Illustration: Using the Middle English as keywords, only two matches, one usable. A dispiriting search of images for our colloquial equivalent in today's vernacular. The literal line matched this photo, but not the actual archived entry, at "Will Type for Food," a demented, semi-erudite, half-assed Aussie blog. I add-- given the first article there compares Joyce's "Ulysses" to a train timetable's readability-- that the blogger might think as did I of "KMRIA" from Aeolus. But I couldn't use that acronym for Chaucer's swains and swivers across the Irish, or is it Celtic, Sea.

1 comment:

Bo said...

Yes, I think Deutscher's probably right enough about Shakespeare: certainly a lot of the more difficult lines of something like Coriolanus are not readily comprehensible. That said, such issues are hugely eased in performance.