Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Mots D'Heures: Gousse Rames

A colleague of mine brought in a delightful tome to work today. It purports to be some kind of collection of medieval French poems (complete with scholarly footnotes) but, if one reads it aloud, one immediately recognises that the French poems are actually English nursery rhymes cunningly disguised. Who would think up something like that (much less publish it)? Fantastic!

Below is one example (which I hope I can reproduce without breach of copyright):

Chacun Gille
Houer ne taupe de hile
Tôt-fait, j'appelle au boiteur
Chaque fêle dans un broc, est-ce crosne?
Un Gille qu'aime tant berline à fêtard.
(Luis van Rooten, Mots D'Heures: Gousses Rames, Penguin Books, 1980)

The author/editor interprets this to be a short tale about a country bumpkin (a Gille), who adores carriages and other such pleasures and who, having uncovered part of a seed while hoeing, calls to a limping man something about cracks in pitchers and Chinese cabbages (the editor conjectures there might be some moral implicit here which is lost on the modern reader). What becomes immediately apparent upon reading the thing aloud, however, is that it is actually 'Jack and Jill'!

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