Middle French Translation Help Needed
Posted: 20 April 2018 06:12 AM   [ Ignore ]
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I’m trying to translate the following, but my Middle French (all my French really) is lacking. It’s from Eloy d’Amerval’s 1508 poem Le Livre de la Deablerie:

Houlier, putier, macquereau infame
De maint homme et de mainte fame,
Poisson d’apvril, vien tost a moy!

(Procurers, whores, infamous pimps
Of many men and much fame,
Fish of April, come back to me!)

That’s how I’ve translated it so far, but any suggestions for improving it would be welcome.

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Posted: 20 April 2018 06:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I’m not sure why you’re making it all plural. It’s just a mock invocation to a singular devil, isn’t it? I don’t think there’s any semantic difference between the three phrases for ‘procurer’ in the first line, and I think it’s ‘come’ rather than ‘come back’. ‘Poisson d’avril’ nowadays means an April Fool joke, but there’s some doubt as to what it means here, as I suspect you’re aware.

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Posted: 20 April 2018 06:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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A better translation suggested by someone who knows Middle French much better than I:

Debauched man, base man, infamous pimp
Of many men and many women,
Fish of April, soon to be mine!

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Posted: 20 April 2018 11:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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"poisson d’avril” as Kurwamac says, can be translated to “April Fool”.  But ATILF only has this sense from the 1760’s. Up till then it meant a “go-between”.

However, I understand this is a play on words. “Maquereau” is also the fish “mackerel”, and known as the April Fish due to bigger catches during the spring migrations.  This poem is apparently the earliest example of using the two meanings like this.

In addition one possible/suggested etymology links the two meanings, either due to the frantic spawning activity or apparently they are found amongst spawning herring and thought to be playing a part in that activity! (both “folk” or unsupported). And the term for the fish ( as makerel) can be dated to 1140, much earlier than “macquereau” as “pimp” (late 1200’s).

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Posted: 21 April 2018 05:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Ha, I said “April Fool” on Facebook, not realizing it was a much later sense.  And the mackerel = fish thing didn’t even occur to me!

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