Smorchen Not Mi Blwe Shoon

In these turbulent times, the more placid sciences are often overlooked. Among these dozy kine of wisdom, one finds the study of medieval literature. This research is considered uncommonly dull, a bovine science. It can be found in the field of language, ingurgitating its favored iron-galled textual strands, ruminating on them, then upchucking the resulting bolus—so bland as would strip the patience from Job at his most perseverant—into whatever scholarly organ agrees to publish the results.

My own efforts in this discipline have been rejected on more than one occasion (two). I attribute this mostly to the petty, conniving nature of scholars who think a man without credentials can have no good thoughts. Another, lesser factor in these rejections is that my submissions were patent bullshit. Apparently this is where the cow analogy worked against me.

This has all changed. I have scaled a mountain in the field which few noticed before, possibly because it was behind a tree; at its summit I discovered a document that links irrefutably the past and present with a single bright skein. A skein of words! Not that low-value hay I mentioned earlier, but immortal lines. While most such documents were set in a ferment of gallotanic acid and iron sulfate, these few stanzas I found were writ in the undistilled juice of pure genius.

I discovered, scribbled on the flyleaf of a 12th-century book of toastmaster jokes, a fragmentary poem. It appears to have been intended to be set to music. When I found it, there was immediately the thrill of the familiar. I knew these word—or at least, recognized the sentiments they expressed, for they were written in Middle English: 

Connen knokken me adoun, trappen min ouen visure
Sclaundre min name-couthhede thoruhout thys place
Do whatso you wishe,
Mes nay, nay honiful, smorchen not mi shoon
Do whatso you wishe, ac
Smorchen not mi blwe shoon, of rouhe kidd leder fashount.

A translation of these words gives us this:

Well, you can knock me down, step in my face
Slander my name all over the place
Do anything that you want to do
But uh-uh honey, lay off of my shoes
Well you can do anything but
Lay off of my blue suede shoes

This can’t be coincidence. I call on all of my fellow ruminants engaged in the study of medieval literature to examine these words and find the truth of how they made their way from an obscure book in a private library in Skaneateles, N.Y., to the lips of Elvis Presley. Was Cal Perkins, who ostensibly wrote Blue Suede Shoes, also a medieval scholar? Why did he not offer any attribution? I feel that there is a great mystery here that demands to be unlocked, or at least be lustily tugged upon to see if the latch will give way.

There isn’t much excitement in the verdant sward of ancient doggerel, but it seems to me a cat has been set among the pigeons, and somehow this metaphor connects back to cows. It is time we figured this thing out.

Ben Tripp is America’s leading pseudo-intellectual. His most recent book is The Fifth House of the Heart.