Fragments from a sexed-up medieval poem, which researchers are calling the “50 Shades of Grey” of its day, were just rediscovered after more than 700 years.
The manuscript pages dating from sometime after 1280 were found being used as binding for another document in the archives of the Diocese of Worcester in the Worcester Record Office. And newly unearthed lines from the popular French poem titled “Le Roman de la Rose” (“The Romance of the Rose”) deliver quite the raunchy read.
“ ’Le Roman de la Rose’ really was the blockbuster of its day,” Marianne Ailes, a medievalist at the University of Bristol in the UK who discovered the new fragments of the manuscript, said in a statement.
“We know how popular it was from the number of surviving manuscripts and fragments, a picture our fragment adds to, and from the number of allusions to the text in other medieval writings.”
The Rabelais-esque passages in question — a randy episode from the 22,000-line tale of a courtier wooing a woman — have been left out of virtually all translations of the poem or left untranslated — perhaps to preserve the modesty of prim medievalists.
However, what they describe might make Geoffrey Chaucer proud. (Yes, the bawdy English poet once completed a partial translation of the poem, Live Science reports.)
The salacious scene is a drawn-out religious metaphor, in which a prurient pilgrim stands before a religious reliquary to discuss his durable walking stick, which, of course, is “stiff and strong.” He describes “sticking it into those ditches” (wink, wink) and kneeling before a relic “full of agility and vigour, between the two fair pillars . . . consumed with desire to worship.”
OK, so maybe it wouldn’t steam Henry Miller’s clams, but the standard modern edition of the poem by publisher Livre de Poche stills censors this section. (We expected more from the French.)
Alas, “ ’The Roman de la Rose’ was at the center of a late medieval row between intellectuals about the status of women, so we have the possibility that these specific pages were taken out of their original bindings and recycled by someone who was offended by these scenes,” Ailes said.