Guèrin (French fabliau, early 13th century)

The Priest Who Peeked










In what follows I want to tell you,
If you will hear me out,
A courtly little fabliau,
As Guèrin relates it and tells
About a peasant who had a fine wife --
Wise, courteous, and well bred;
She was beautiful and came from a good family.
He deeply loved her,
This peasant, and he served her well,
But she loved a priest;
To him she had given her heart completely.

The priest was so smitten by her
That one day he decided
He would go talk to her.
He proceeded to the house,
But before he arrived there,
The peasant, as I have heard,
Had sat down to dinner with his wife.

The two were all alone,
And the priest did not delay;
He came rapidly to the door,
But it was closed and locked.
When he came there, he stopped
By the door and looked it over.
He looked through a small opening and saw
That the peasant was eating and drinking
And that his wife was sitting next to him.
The eager priest was displeased
To see what a life was led by this husband
Who did not appreciate the pleasure of his wife.
And, when he had looked at everything,
Straightway he shouted these words:
"What are you doing there, good people?"

The peasant promptly replied,
"By my faith, sir, we are eating;
Come in and we will give you some of it."
"You're eating, you say! You are lying,
For it seems to me that you are screwing!"

"Hush, sir! We speak the truth;
We are eating, as you can see."

Said the priest, "I have no doubt about it;
You are screwing, for I see it clearly.
Now you are trying to trick me.
Come stand outside where I am,
And I will go sit in there,
Then you can see indeed
Whether I told the truth or lied."

The peasant quickly jumped up,
Went to the door and unlocked it,
And the priest came in;
He locked the door with a bolt,
And then he did not waste his time;
He did not pause until
He had grabbed the lady by the head
And pushed her down below him
And pulled up her dress.
And then he did that thing
That women love more than anything;
For he so battered and pounded
That she could not prevent
His doing what he wanted.

And the peasant peeked
Through the door and saw clearly
His wife's arse uncovered
And the priest on top;
And he asked, "As God may save you,"
Said the peasant, "is this a joke?"
And the priest immediately
Answered, "What do you think?
Don't you see? I have sat down
To eat at this table."

"By the heart of God, this is like a fabliau,"
Said the peasant; "I would certainly have believed --
If I had not heard you say otherwise --
That you were screwing my wife!"

"I am not, sir, hush! By my soul,
It seemed the same to me just now."
Said the peasant, "Indeed, I believe you."
Thus was the peasant tricked
And so deceived and befuddled
Both by the priest and by his own weak wit
That he never felt any pain;
And because the door had a hole in it,
It is said to this day: "One hole satisfies many fools."

Here ends the fabliau of the Priest.

Explicit. Amen.

From Larry D. Benson and Theodore M. Andersson, The Literary Context of Chaucer's Fabliaux. Indianapolis and New York, 1971. Pp. 269-73.
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Last modified: May, 12, 2000

Gold Texts on this page prepared and maintained by L. D. Benson (