QZ qz thoughts
a blog from Eli the Bearded


I've read Cuckolds, Clerics, and Countrymen. Translations by John DuVal, commentary by Raymond Eichmann. It has a selection of ten fabliaux that Eichmann feels are most representative.

The introduction defines "fabliaux" as "verse meant for laughter". These are bawdy, often involving seductions, but the sex is precursory. Only one of the ten would meet a more modern idea of erotica (material "to stimulate sexual desire"). In "The Lady-Leech" ("De la Saineresse"), a woman sneaks a lover past her husband by having him cross-dress and pose as a doctor (or more specifically a bloodletter) and then uses double-entendre to describe the treatment.

That aside, I didn't feel like I had wasted my time with the book. The tales were for the most part amusing, if very dated in parts. Husbands beating wives, or cuckolds caught, to an inch of their lives for trangressions are the norm here. Several involve the wrong person being beaten. "The Wife of Orleans" ("De la Borgoise d'Orliens") has a husband trying to catch his wife cheating by posing as her lover. She knows what's going on and plays along only to have the household staff beat him pretending it was her trap for the would be lover.

They really began to pound.
They were not bashful with the sticks.
He couldn't have gotten better licks
If he had paid them ten sous apiece.
But after all, it did him good,
And put him out of his bad mood
To know his wife was free from stain.

Which of course, she isn't. I'll probably hunt down some more fabliaux to read.

Final thought: could do without the rhyming couplets, though