From the Friar’s Tale, Jill Mann ed.
“Thow lixt! quod she, ‘By my savacioun,
Ne was I nevere er now, widwe ne wif,
Somoned unto youre court in al my lif,
Ne nevere I nas but of my body trewe.
Unto the devel blak and rough of hewe
Yeve I thy body, and my panne also!’
And when the devl herde hire cursen so
Upon her knees, he seide in this manere: &c.
When the devil HEARD her curse UPON HER KNEES. He heard her on her knees. Really?
I told my students to close their eyes, and I got down on my knees behind my desk and menaced them with a whispered, “Damn you all to hell!”
“So, was I on my knees or not?”
They pretended not to be sure.
How do we know if the old widow’s sincere? I mean, apart from the whole medieval culture of gesture, what kind of synaesthesia does certainty require, when the voice has to be supplemented with gesture in order to be believed? And is this tale, so much about intention vs. words, resolved with action, neo-Donatist or not?
That was tonight’s class. The secret kneeling: highly recommended. The move into demonic synaesthesia: even more recommended.