Archive for February, 2016

Welsh poet Dafydd ap Gwilym, writing here in the mid-14th century, describes what could easily pass for a scene in a contemporary romantic comedy film, such as Knocked Up (with Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl) or Date Night (with Steve Carell and Tina Fey). Reprinted below just to show that some ideas (and funny situations) are very old.

I came to a choice city with my handsome squire in my train, a place of liberal banqueting, a fine gay way of spending money, to find a public inn worthy enough, and I would have wine – I have been vain since childhood. I discovered a fair lissome maiden in the house, my sweet soul! and I set my heart wholly upon the slender, blessed girl like the sun in the east. I paid for a roast and expensive wine, not merely out of boastfulness, for myself and the fair girl yonder; and invited the modest maiden to my bench, a sport which young men love. I was bold and persistent, and whispered to her two words of magic , this is certain; and, no laggard lover, I made a pact to come to the sprightly girl, the black-browed maid, when the company should have gone to bed. When all were asleep but I and the lass I sought most skilfully to find my way to the girl’s bed – it was a miserable journey and came to grief.

I got a vexatious fall there, and made a clatter – not a good exploit; in such reckless mischief it is easier to get up awkwardly than very nimbly. I did not spring up unhurt; I struck my shin (oh, my shank!) above the ankle against the side of a silly squeaking stool, left there by the ostler. In rising where I was placed, unable to step freely but continually led astray in my frenzied struggles – my Welsh friends, it was a deplorable affair, too much eagerness is not lucky – I knocked my forehead against the end of a table, where a basin rolled freely for a while, and an echoing copper pan. The table, a bulky object, fell, and it’s two trestles and all the utensils with it. The pan gave a clang behind me which was heard far away, and the basin yelled, and the dogs began to bark at me – I was a wretched man!

Beside the big walls there lay three Englishmen in a stinking bed, fussing about their three packs, Hickin and Jenkin and Jack. One of these varlets muttered angry words to the other two, with his slobbering mouth: ‘There’s a Welshman prowling sneakily here, and some busy fraud is afoot. He’s a thief, if we allow it; look out, and be on your guard against him.’ The groom roused all the company together, and an ignominious affair began, they hunting about furiously to find me, and I, haggard and ghastly in my anguish, keeping mum in the darkness. I prayed, not fearlessly but hiding away like one terrified; and by dint of praying hard and from the heart, and by the grace of the true Jesus, I regained my former lodging in the grip of sleeplessness, and without the reward I had looked for. I escaped, for the saints stood by me; and I implore God for forgiveness.

(From A Celtic Miscellany, Trans. Kenneth Hurlstone Jackson, p.210)