Tuesday, August 09, 2016



Eustache Deschamps (1340-1406), "Balade sur les différentes manières de manger" (tr. David Curzon and Jeremy Fiskin):
I was dispirited, saddened, troubled, by
the spiteful gossip, all the malice, I
was hearing at a royal reception where
I banqueted with many people nearby.
I'd never seen such grimaces as played        5
across the faces of those eating there.
When I saw them, joy came to my aid:
I never saw such faces as these people made.

One looked just like a pig, a roadside sow,
so vigorously did he chomp his lips;        10
one used his teeth to saw his food in strips,
another moved his forehead and his brow;
one scowled; one twisted up his face somehow,
another managed to get his beard splayed;
one acted like a sheep, another like a cow;        15
I never saw such faces as these people made.

As I kept looking at them I became
awe-struck, since they seemed demons as they chewed;
I didn't see two people eat the same:
one chew was like a mouse, another lewd.        20
It gave more laughs than any other game
to watch the ways in which they stuffed down food.
Take a good look! I swear the joy won't fade.
I never saw such faces as these people made.

Prince, a man who's sad won't find a thing to beat        25
watching a group of people as they eat.
He won't find better ways to overcome dull care;
he'll be astonished at the grimaces displayed,
of which I got a generous helping there:
I never saw such faces as these people made.        30

Tristes, pensis, mas et mornes estoye
Par mesdisance et rappors de faulx dis
A une court royal ou je dinoye,
Ou pluseurs gens furent a table assis;
Maiz oncques mais tant de nices ne vis        5
Que ceulx firent que l'en veoit mengier.
D'eulx regarder fu de joye ravis:
Oncques ne vis gens ainsi requinier.

Li uns sembloit truie enmi une voye,
Tant mouvoit fort ses baulifres toudiz;        10
L'autre faisoit de ses dens une soye,
L'autre mouvoit le front et les sourcis;
L'un requignoit, l'autre torcoit son vis,
L'autre faisoit sa barbe baloier,
L'un fait le veel, l'autre fait la brebis:        15
Oncques ne vis gens ainsi requignier.

D'eulx regarder trop fort me merveilloye,
Car en machant sembloient ennemiz;
Faire autel l'un com l'autre ne veoie,
L'un machoit gros, l'autre comme souriz;        20
Je n'oy oncques tant de joye ne ris
Que de veoir leurs morceaulx ensacher.
Or y gardez, je vous le jure et diz:
Oncques ne vis gens ainsi requignier.

Princes, qui est courroussez et pensis        25
Voist gens veoir qui sont a table mis:
Mieulx ne porra sa tristesse laissier;
Des grimaces sera tous esbahis
Que chascun fait; j'en fu la bien servis:
Oncques ne vis gens ainsi requignier.        30

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