Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Margery Kempe

This piece of joy was brought to my attention the other day - Margery Kempe goes to the MLA, done throughout in beautifully-sustained Middle English. Poor Margery. Medieval England's holy housewife and globe-trotting hysteric is transported unexpectedly to modern-day Baltimore and the conference of the Modern Languages Association. The mutterings of Medievalist PhD students strike her as black magic and necromancy - the 'eke' in 'and eke sum to seynt blume' is hilarious.

Than sche askid the clerkes to which seyntes thei prayid, and nat oon seyde a holy cristen seynt. For sum seyd thei prayid to Seynt Agamben, and sum to Seynt Schischek, sum to Seynt Foucauld and sum to Seyntes Deleuse & Wauttaure, and sum to Seyntes Jamison and Egleton and eek sum to Seynt Blume. And lo thys creatur had gret feere and terror for thes weren nat holy cristen seyntes. Hir names weren al straunge and were nat writ in ony legendes of seyntez and thus thei weren assuredly the names of devylles and feendes of helle. And thes clerkes seyd thes devils gave hem grete powers for to undirstonden textes and to gloss hem, and also gave hem poweres to deconstructen thinges and to unpacken thinges and to see the privee menynges of wordes. Than the creatur knewe that al the semynge holiness of thes yonge clerkes was but devocioun to ower goostly enemy, and hir gret piles of papir were but devylles writtes and hir gret tomes weren but grimoyrez and bokes of necromancie. She tok hede to listen to the murmuringez of the clerkes, and thei al spak of “My dissertation addresses the pressing question of...” the which ys nat a prayer but an incantacioun. And than she fled doun-stayres to get a frappucino for she was so soore adraad so sche cam to the elevatours.

Whoever wrote this is a clever bugger.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great stuff!

Especially in the middle of all the quotes in Eamon Duffy's book. There's something wonderful about the sound of a 'grisly goost' that makes you want to chew on it like a toffee mantra.


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