Lady Teleri the Well-Prepared
February 13, 2009
Pray come and listen, hear me well
And of a goodly act I'll tell
God loves when that Bright Star who fell
Is put forthrightly into Hell.
In Africa there was a girl
Who's very fair, with hair in curls
Quite sweet and pure and simple, too.
So what's a pious girl to do?
Our Abilech - that was her name -
Had heard that those all free from blame
Were hermits in the desert dry
So there she went, flesh to deny.
Eventually, she found a cave.
She hailed its hermit with a wave.
Now, Rustico was hermit's name;
To cave-mouth very fast he came.
So young and proud, he thought for sure
That he could prove his soul was pure
By living with this pious maid.
And so with him she finally stayed.
Resolve, it lasted one good hour
Til fleshly longings stormed the tower
Of all his good intent; instead,
He schemed to get her into bed.
"Dear Abilech, now here's the thing
That best will please the Lord our King.
Just do exactly as I do,
And let me teach you something new."
Then he knelt down and so did she,
Then tunics off; she looked to see
That he had something she did not.
"Oh Rustico, what's that you've got?"
"It is a devil," so he said,
"See how he rears his ruddy head?
He gives to me an awful pain
But we will school him, to God's gain."
"Oh blessed be!" the maiden cried
"That I am not by devils tried."
"It's true a devil you have not,"
Our hermit said, "but you have got
Instead a hell, consider that...
Come over here, to my bed-mat...
The devil should be put in hell
It's there that God wants him to dwell.
It is a holy, blessed task.
Will you do it, as I ask?"
"At once!" she cried, "if God it please!
I'm here to do such works as these!"
So down they laid, to his delight
The devil found hell fit quite tight
Quoth Abilech: "He hurts hell so!"
Quoth Rustico: "That pain will go."
And so it did, and quite a lot
Of good and saintly deeds were wrought
And so it was in days to come
That Rustico knew he'd been dumb.
For Abilech enjoyed the deed
And would him to the bed-mat lead
"Come, Rustico, now no more rest
For we must serve the Lord our best.
I think we've rested quite a spell
Let's put the devil into hell."
The hermit ate but grass and weeds
And could not satisfy her needs.
And so, despite his youthful age,
He found he could not earn his wage
In all this work she asked from him.
In fact, he's feeling pretty grim!
"My dear," he said, "we should to bed
Just when the devil raise his head"
"Oh no," she cried, "for you that's well
But I've a fire in my hell!"
And so our hero Rustico
Instead of bliss was finding woe
Until one day some men did come
To see where Abilech had run
Her home had burned and family died
And she was now a rich young bride
A man of power wished to wed.
They took her to that town she'd fled,
To Rustico's profound relief.
But Abilech wailed out her grief:
"However shall I serve God now?
I'll never take a wedding vow
It keeps the devil out of hell."
"Oh Abilech, you don't sound well,"
Said all the ladies of the town.
So she explained, with sigh and frown,
About her favorite holy work.
And all the ladies' ears did perk!
"Oh ho!" they laughed, "Well, never fear,
Your husband's saintly, so we hear
And he will make that devil go
To hell more oft than Rustico."
Well-pleased she was and tears she dried
And made an eager, willing bride.
There is the ring of wedding bell
Now go you all on out and tell
How we can all serve God so well
And put that devil into hell
This was written for the Second Annual Gyrth Oldcastle Memorial poetry competition at Kingdom Arts and Sciences, with the theme "A Fistful of Fabliaux." It is a retelling of the tenth tale told on the third day in Boccaccio's "The Decameron." Boccaccio is the first known author of this story, so I am using Italian content for an originally French verse form - but it's content of the sort that usually comprise fabliaux. (They are bawdy tales, generally featuring deception, cuckoldry, and people behaving badly.) The original French fabliaux were usually written in octosyllabic rhyming couplets, which I use as well. Since it is in English and not French, I've imposed an additional restriction of meter on myself; these are actually couplets of iambic tetrameter.
Research was perfunctory:
Pablo Wolfe. "Short Speech on the Essence of Fabliaux." Accessed 18 January 2009.
Wikipedia. "Stress (linguistics)." Accessed 28 January 2009. (For the difference between French octosyllabic couplets and anything in English.)
Fabliaux (gathering references)
Fabliaux: Putting the Devil Into Hell (first installment)
Fabliau: Versification (regularizing meter, dealing with slang)
Fabliau: Meet the Devil (second installment)
Fabliau: It seemed like a good idea at the time (third installment)
Fabliau: Now they tell me (competition rules)
Fabliau: Bridge to the home stretch (fourth installment)
Fabliau: Finale (fifth and final installment of rough draft)
Fabliau: Complete! (revised complete poem)