Manuscripts and Special Collections

WLC/LM/6, f. 339v: Gautier le Leu, ‘La Veuve’ (early 13th century, French)


Dont na ele soing dereponre
Il nelestuet mie semonre
Son fait nueces quele ni soit
Ele na mais ne fain ne soit
Or ne li faut plus que li rains
Qui lemal li cache des rains
Celui porquiert bien et porcace
Ses enfans ensus deli cace
Et beke ausi con li geline
Qui dales le coc sa geline
Nuituns deuint sis escaucire
Souent fait candelles decire
Quele ofre par us et par nonbre
Que dex des enfans les descombre
Et que li male mors les prenge
Ie ne truis qui por aus me prenge
Nus nesi oseroit embatre
Puis se reua aels conbatre
Ses hurte et fiert et grate et mort
Et maudist de le male mort
Adont faut li amors del pere
Puis que li enfes le conpere


Now, she has no worries nor anyone to answer to. She feasts and celebrates wherever and whenever she likes and so suffers from neither hunger nor thirst. Now, there is only one thing that she needs: the rod1 (that) searched out the pain and ache in her loins, which is why she persists in chasing after what she desires. As for her children, she drives them away and pecks at them just like a hen when it's ready to crouch down for the cock. At night she became one of those creatures of the dark (or hobgoblin) and once again chases the children away. She often makes beeswax candles that she offers up, not just once but again and again, (asking) that God should rid her of the children and that a plague2 should descend upon them. 'I can find no-one that will take me. No-one would dare to throw themselves in with me'.3 Then she turned upon her own children once more. She slaps them and whacks them and scratches and bites and curses to bring down a scourge upon them, and all because of the lack of the attentions4 of a lover the children pay the price.

1. An alternative here could be 'shaft'.

2. Mort mal is usually glossed as a type of skin disease, sometimes perhaps allied to leprosy. It could be something like 'gangrene', which would no doubt have resulted in death. Skin disease could be considered to be a plague or scourge, which 'came out of nowhere' or was brought about by divine power.

3. A variation esbatre, in the Anglo-Norman Dictionary, means to have sexual intercourse.

4. Amours can mean 'sexual attentions'; however it can also mean 'regards or compliments'.

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