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Wednesday, November 25, 2009


The Monk of Montaudon: touchy twelfth-century French bloke, ‘always going off on one’, as a student once described Sylvia Plath to me. Hereunder a version from my vaults, my vaults, of his enueg (Beckettian genre!) ‘Fort m’enoia, si auzes dire...

What gets my goat, if you don’t mind,
is the sort whose promises are all wind,
the armchair ‘up-and-at-’em’ kind,
or riding a horse with one foot lamed.
As big a drag, so help me God,
is an upstart buckler-carrying cod
who’s never had to face a sword,
chaplains and monks who wear a beard,
and hook-beaked yes-men bought for a word.

‘Poor but honest’ gets up my nose
in a wench, no whit less than does
a man who fawns too much on his spouse,
even if she’s from Toulouse,
without forgetting the lordly knight
who keeps his airs and graces quiet
till he’s abroad and out of sight
of folk back home who hire the sot
to grind the pepper or watch the pot.

Another thing that gets my back up
is coward Blimps all storm in a teacup,
hawks that never pick your swag up,
and pots as bare of meat as a hiccup,
and, while I’m at it, by Saint Martin,
I hate wine watered by some cretin,
and the sort of misbegotten
blind or spastic cripple that button-
holes his prey on roads two ‘shorten’.

Being made wait at table’s a bore
or getting your joint too tough or raw,
having to sit through liar priests’ jaw,
or being stuck with a stubborn old whore,
and by Saint Delman, given the choice
I’d pass, on fool civilities,
having to travel when there’s ice,
or trying to ride with greaves for trews,
or sauciness from churls playing dice.

And then there are taverns out on their own
for serving salads in a snowstorm,
or trying to make it with a crone
who fires off tap-room farts till dawn –
fun, eh? Or having to call the varlet
out at night to drain the piss-pot,
or seeing a beauty tie the knot
with an ape who stops her doing what
she’s there for (to give me my bit).

You needn’t think I’ve two good words
for fiddle-scrapers in good courts,
for will-grubbing farmers’ brats,
or partners who don’t back your cards.
All of which, by Saint Marcel,
applies to coats lined double as well,
to heirs-in-waiting to a castle,
the stuffed-shirt’s party (called a ‘social’),
or the tourney’s sweaty jostle.

But, God, tableclothes are a pest
that miss your place but cover the rest,
and scab-handed lads to cut the roast,
or a poor fit in a chain-mail vest.
Not much better’s being kept at the door
if what you’re kept in is a downpour,
or having to listen while your friends score
points off each other, and ignore
they’re both wrong in this hot-air war.

Another thing that I can’t bear
is past-it hags in tarty gear,
or any old strumpet who puts on an air,
or wants me to ogle her legs if I dare,
though, by Saint Avon, what could touch
the fat dame with too tight a snatch,
the lord who bleeds his serfs too much,
or trying to sleep but keeping watch?
Forget the wenches – there’s your bitch.

And that’s not all that gives me the pip:
riding through rain without a cape,
pigs that catch my nag asleep
and guzzle a troughful of his slop,
or what it feels like on his back
once the harness comes unstuck,
or dinner invites from the bloke
whose larder you find chock-a-block
(while he remembers he can’t cook).

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