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Excerpt 4: Lady Reason Justifies Her Use of Shameful Language1

Folio 60rb
Et quant tu d'autre part obices
Que lez et vilain sunt li mot
Je te di devant dieu qui m'ot
Se2 ie, quant mis les nons aus choses,
Que si reprendre et blasmer oses,3
Coilles reliques apelasse
Et reliques coilles clamasse,4
Tu, qui si m’en morz et depiques,
Me redeïsses de reliques
Que ce fust lez moz et vilains.
Coilles est biaus nons et si l'ains.
Si sont par foi coillon et vit.
Onc nus plus biaus gaires ne vit.5
And when, in addition, you object that the words are ugly and base, I say to you before God who hears me: if, when I put names to things that you dare to criticize thus and blame, I had called balls relics and had declared relics to be balls, then you, who here bite and chagrin me on account of them, would reply that 'relics' was an ugly, base word. 'Balls' is a good name and I like it. And so, in faith, are 'testicles' and 'penis.' I have hardly ever seen any more beautiful.
Folio 60va
Je fis les moz et sui certaine
Quonques ne fis chose vilaine,
Et dex, qui est sages6 et fis,
Tient a bien fet quanque je fis,
Comment? Par le cors seinte Homer,
N'osere ie mie nomer
Proprement les euvres mon pere?
Convient il que ie le compere?
Nons convenoit ils qu'ils eUussent,
Ou genz nomer ne les seüssent,
Et pour ce tels7 nons leur meïsmes
Que8 les nomast par cels meïsmes.
Se fames ne9 noment en France
Ce n'est fors desacoutumance,
Car li propres nons leur pleüst
Qui acoutumé leur eüst;
Et se proprement les nomassent,
Ja certes de riens n'i pechassent.

Acoutumance est trop poissanz,

Et se bien la sui connoissanz,
Mainte chose desplest novele
Qui par acoustumance est bele.
Chascune qui les va nomant
Les apele ne sai commant:
Borses, harnais, riens, piches, pines,
Ausic com se fussent espines;
Mes quant les sentent bien ioignanz,
Eles nes es tienent pas a poignanz.
Or les noment si comme el seulent
Quant10 autrement nomer nes veulent!
I made the words, and I am certain that I never made anything base. And God, who is wise and sure, considers whatever I made well done. How, by the body of Saint Homer, would I not dare name the works of my father properly? Must I atone for him? There had to be names, or people would not know to name them, and specifically such names so that you might name them with these names. If women in France do not name them, it is only that they are not in the habit of doing so, for the right names would have been pleasing to those who were accustomed to them. And if they named them correctly, they would commit no sin in doing so.
Custom is very powerful, and, if I know it well, many a thing is displeasing when new that becomes beautiful by custom. Every woman who goes around naming them calls them I do not know what: purses, harness, things, testicles or prickles, as if they were thorns. But when they feel them close to them, they do not consider them piercing. When they do not want to name them differently, then they name them as they are accustomed to do.
Folio 60vb
Je ne leur en ferai ja force,
Mes a riens nule ne m'efforce
Quant riens veill dire apertement
Tant comme a parler proprement.

Si dit l’en11 bien en noz escoles

Maintes choses par paraboles,
Qui moult sunt beles a entendre.
Si ne doit l'en12 mie tout prendre
A la letre quanque l'en ot.
En ma parole autre sen ot,
Au mains quant des coillons parloie,
Dont si briefment parler voloie,
Que celui que tu i veuz metre.
Et qui bien entendroit la letre
Le sen verroit en l'escriture
Qui esclarcist la fable occure.
La verité dedenz reposte
Seroit clere,13 s'el iert esposte:
Bien l’entendras se tu repetes
Les integumanz aus poetes.
La verras une grant partie
Des secrez de philosophie,
Ou moult te vodras deliter
Et si porras moult profiter:
En delitant profiteras,
En profitant deliteras,
Car en leur geus et en leur fables
Gisent deliz moult profitables,
Seuz, cui leur pensees covrirent
Quant le voir des fables vestirent.
I shall never attach too much importance to them, but I do not go out of my way for anyone to speak properly when I want to say something openly.
In our schools indeed many things are said in parables that are very beautiful to hear. However, one should not take whatever one hears literally. In my speech there is another meaning, at least when I was speaking of balls, of which I wanted to speak briefly, than that which you want to give to the word. He who understood the letter would see in the writing the meaning which clarifies the obscure fable. The truth hidden within would be clear if it were exposed. You will understand it well if you review the poets’ allegorical arguments. There you will see a large part of the secrets of philosophy. There you will want to take your great delight, and you will thus be able to profit much. You will profit in delight and delight in profit, for in their [word]play and their fables lie very profitable delights beneath which they cover their thoughts when they clothe the truth in fables.
Folio 61ra
Si te convendroit a ce tendre,
Se bien veuz la parole entendre.

Mes puis t’ai tex ·ij· moz renduz

Se tu les as bien entenduz,
Qui pris doivent estre a la letre
Tout proprement sanz glose metre.
If you want to understand my speech well, you will have to pay attention to this.
Further on, I pronounced two words. If you understood them well: they must be taken literally, according to their proper meaning, without a gloss.


1This passage refers to lines 7102 to 7186 in Armand Strubel’s edition and to Vol. I, lines 7076 to 7154 in Félix Lecoy’s edition.


3m' is missing.


5nus plus biaus gaires ne vit. These lines are almost illegible and have been copied from Strubel's edition.

Et quant pour reliques m’oïsses
Coilles nommer, le mot prisses
Pour si bel et tant le prissasses
Que partout coilles aorasses
Et les baisasses en eglises
En or et en argent assises.

This entire passage is missing.

6qui sages est




10Puis k'