There's a letter to the editor in this week's New Yorker criticizing an interpretation of Geoffrey Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales." At issue is whether a passage in "The Miller's Tale" refers to unintended cunnilingus, or just some guy getting duped into kissing a woman's behind.
The letter goes on to describe all the terms Chaucer used as synonyms for lady-parts: “queynte,” “bele chose,” “quoniam” and “chambre of Venus." (Chaucer appears to have steered clear of "vajayjay.")
This got me thinking: If Chaucer has a modern counterpart in the category of "filthy troubadour," it would have to be R. Kelly.
The similarities are striking. Both men are creative geniuses, idiosyncratic, verbose, bibulous...and complete pervs.
They both embraced innovative rhyming schemes and meters, and long-form poetry. "The Canterbury Tales" can top out at more than 500 pages — depending on the edition — while R. Kelly's "Trapped in the Closet" contains at least 22 chapters. To Chaucer's credit, though, he never attempted to rhyme "midget" with "Bridget."
The question is, who's dirtier?
Let's do a test. The following are passages from Chaucer and R. Kelly. To level the playing field, I'll use a Modern English translation of Chaucer and then a Middle English translation of R. Kelly.
And at the window out she put her hole,
And Absolon, to him it happened no better nor worse,
But with his mouth he kissed her naked ass
With great relish, before he was aware of this.
Back he jumped, and thought it was amiss,
For well he knew a woman has no beard.
He felt a thing all rough and long haired,
And said, "Fie! alas! what have I done?"
"Tee hee!" said she, and clapped the window to,
And Absolon goes forth walking sadly.
This Nicholas was risen to piss,
And thought he would make the joke even better;
He should kiss his ass before he escapes.
And he opened up the window hastily,
And he puts out his ass stealthily
Over the buttock, to the thigh;
And then spoke this clerk, this Absolon,
"Speak, sweet bird, I know not where thou art."
This Nicholas immediately let fly a fart
As great as if it had been a thunder-bolt,
So that with the stroke he was almost blinded;
And he was ready with his hot iron,
And he smote Nicholas in the middle of the ass.
Beholde, thy bodie is kitte lyk jewelrie
We may open Cris' in the jacuzzie
Thou dresse up and down
To the left, and the right
Thou goth in and out
And worke hit like a real freake sholde
Now the valet may be ful
But a cat lyk me hath pul
VIP'n hit at the clubbe
Hite hit from the ers, spanke thy cheeks
Pulle her hair, pushed it deep
Pounde thy meat, sound aslepe
Foond a beach, grinde and freake
Manage a trois, rolle with R.
Posed the part lyk a porno sterre
Dooth shit nevere doon er.
Hmm...okay. I'm not sure that comparison totally cleared up the matter.
I guess I would have to give a slight edge to Chaucer. I'm pretty sure no one in an R. Kelly song has ever been stuck in the butt with a hot poker. (But could this be an upcoming chapter of the still-unfinished "Trapped in the Closet" series?)
Bonus points to Chaucer for having the woman say, "Tee hee." You just don't hear that enough anymore.