Friday, June 18, 2004

"Merdre en France"

We had nothing to do with this. Especially not W. Le Monde reports:
A shocking scene in the capital toward noon of an early June day on the sidewalk by the square Saint-Médard, opposite a fancy caterer and a cable's length, for those unfamiliar with Parisian topography, from the main offices of Le Monde: a man crouched between two parked cars, a man who clearly qualifies as a bum, ass bared and turned toward the public thoroughfare, in the process of defecating shamelessly.

He was taking his time, tearing off a page of newsprint which he would make use of, sighing with ease, all with an attitude that conveyed a certain nobility. His friends, settled a bit further off, paid him no attention and the passersby, who were numerous at that time of day, pretended not to notice this all out assault on modesty which can't have failed to disturb them.

In his supreme indifference, this modern Diogenes erased with a single stroke centuries of civilization and education in personal comportment and projected his unwilling spectators into a distant era when such a scene would have been common and shocked no one. A time when, in brief, shit was an object of humor and defecation could occur in common, if not in public, without causing offense.

Aristophanes had a character shit on stage who claimed he'd eaten too many green pears and that this had rendered him a bit peaky, though this defecation added nothing to the intrigue; the audience delighted in it, no doubt. Rabelais wrote at length on the many ways of wiping oneself and the downy neck of a gosling seemed best to him for this operation. It is less well known that in the 17th and 18th centuries existed an entire branch of literature known by the equally ugly as erudite word "scatalogical" and which was hidden by historians of letters and which appears in no textbook: one of its greatest works was indisputably Caquire, a parody of the undigested play Zaïre, a tragedy by Voltaire, in which the characters' names Cucumane and Pupartout are themselves worthy of a dissertation and are due to the fecund imagination of one M. de Comble [clearly a pseudonym! — D].

But there can be no equal to the ode entitled The Royal Turd, written by Piron in 1744 to celebrate the convalescence of Louis XV; since the King had regained his health, it was fitting that the restoration of his natural functions be celebrated publicly and without malice. Here is a stanza, with a wit that is very much "Merde in France," and which allows us to measure how much our mores have changed:
O heavens, what do I see!
It is a turd...
How its substance is praiseworthy!
It is fat like a sausage;
It would well adorn a dinner table.
It is the work of the greatest of kings.
Its smell, its taste have the odor of the throne
And never could a bourgeois anus have delivered
One such as this without a stout matron.
Olivier Houdart

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