Betith The Maidin, Thakketh The Wench

I get the most amazing emails from my readers. Today’s scholarly missive comes from Stingingpleasur, who’s found an ancient reference to spanking play. Stingingpleasur writes:

Hello. Since you like finding spanking trivia, here’s the oldest clear reference to spanking play that I’ve ever come across. (Especially old since the word “spank” is only from the early 18th century.)

The poem is “The Land of Cokaygne” from Anglo-Irish poems of the Middle Ages: The Kildare Poems. (Author: [unknown]). This poem survives in only one manuscript, London, British Library, Harley MS 913. It was probably compiled in Ireland in the early 1330s.

The original middle English runs:

Whan the abbot seeth ham flee,
That he holt for moch glee.
Ak natheles al ther amang,
He biddeth ham light to euesang.
The monkes lightith noght adun
Ak furre fleeth in o randun.
Whan the abbot him iseeth
That is monkes fram him fleeth,
He taketh maidin of the route
And turnith vp hir white toute,
And betith the taburs with is hond
To make is monkes light to lond.
Whan is monkes that iseeth,
To the maid dun hi fleeth
And geth the wench al abute,
And thakketh al hir white toute.
And sith aftir her swinke
Wendith meklich hom to drink,
And geth to har collacione,
A wel fair processione.

A translation:

When the abbot sees them fly,
Their antics make his spirits high;
But still he calls the busy throng
Down from the sky for Evensong.

The monks, reluctant to obey,
In headlong flight swoop far away.
When the abbot sees this sight,
His monks refusing to alight,
He takes a maiden standing near,
And upon her snow-white rear
Beats a tattoo with open hand
To make his monks come down to land.

When his young monks see that sight,
By the maiden they alight,
Round about her they career,
And each one pats her snow-white rear,
And then, with all their labour done,
Soberly they walk, each one,
Home for a drink at their collation,
In file according to their station.

It’s worth studying the Middle English, which despite some unfamiliar words is not that obscure when you’ve got a modern translation to hand. I especially like the way our spanked heroine goes from “maidin” to “wench” in one short stanza, courtesy of a good hand spanking.

Hmm, I think I know someone who can do that.

  1. unicorn-catcher commented on April 20th, 2006:

    I love this. I’m a fan of anglo saxon/irish/english literature and this is great.
    I’ve been haunting your blog for almost a year and I have enjoyed it very much. I read yours and Bethie’s blog on a regular basis. Keep up the good work!

  2. Mija commented on April 21st, 2006:

    Wonderful find! :)

    I do read Middle English, but can’t say I’ve ever find that sort of gem. That one is definitely worth dusting off the books for. Thanks for the pointer.

  3. Bethie commented on May 1st, 2006:

    Oh reallly? I wonder who that could be…;-)

  4. SpankBoss commented on May 1st, 2006:

    No you don’t…

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