Monday, 3 May 2010

Ding donge


J. produced some new soap the other day, a brand called Donge. I didn't see the pack, so I didn't know where it came from. Living in deepest European Union, the possibilities are legion.

If it was French, it would be pronounced 'dawn-zhuh'. If it was German it would be 'donger' to rhyme with 'longer'. Spanish? 'don-hey'. Italian? 'don-jay'.

And English? 'donj' , 'donjy', 'dongy' or just 'dong'?

'Dong?' J. said. 'That's a colloquial American word for--'

But that's neither here nor there.

'However you pronounce it,' I said, 'I've seen that word before.'

And so I had. With me it was the work of a moment to speed downstairs - this conversation having taken place in the upstairs bathroom - to the bookshelves.

Eng. Lit.

Chaucer, Geoffrey: The Canterbury Tales

The Nun's Priest's Tale, ll 190 ff

(A man dreams that his friend is about to be murdered and is calling for help. He wakes, dismisses his friend's SOS as a nightmare, goes back to sleep. It happens again. The third time he dreams his friend says:

"...I am now slawe;
Bihold my blody woundes, depe and wyde!
Arys up erly in the morwe-tyde
And at the west gate of the toun ," quod he,
"A carte ful of DONG ther shaltow see,
In which my body is hid ful prively..."

(GLOSSARY: slawe = slain, killed: Arys = arise, get up: quod = quoth, said: DONG = dung, manure: shaltow = shalt thou, shall you: prively = secretly.)

In the morning the man does as his friend's ghost has told him.

And forth he goth...
Unto the west gate of the toun, and fond
A DONG-carte, as it was to DONGE lond

(GLOSSARY: goth = goes: fond = found: DONGE = to spread manure: lond = land.)

And guess what? He calls on what passes for the constabulary in 14th century England, the people rally round, upset the cart-

And in the middel of the DONG they founde
The dede man, that mordred was al newe.

(GLOSSARY: mordred = murdered: newe = newly, freshly.)

Completely vindicated, satisfied that in Chaucer's day few soap-boilers would have called their product DONGE, I went back upstairs and completed my toilet.

* * *

No donge here, but compost instead. I'm now digging in all last year's compost. I see the compost box is home to a lively population of worms, grubs and creepy-crawlies, which is as it should be, but goodness knows what these 1½-inch maggots are:


Now and again I come to curious lumps about the size of a haggis. I poke and prod: what are these things that haven't broken down into a rich grainy compost and which even the most omnivorous larvae eschew?

I remember: last September Patroclus and Mr Blue Cat and the Blue Kitten came to stay. The Blue Kitten's disposable nappies, supposedly entirely composed of natural fibres, went into the compost. Bio-degradable? Erm...no.

After all this I washed my hands. With DONGE, of course.

(GLOSSARY for the benefit of the legions of US Chaucerians who come here : nappies = diapers)

20 comments:

moreidlethoughts said...

A couple of minor points.
Your preposition "with" should, I think, have been "of."
And those grubs look very like grass grub larvae.Or maybe (you're in the south, right?)cicada (cigale) larvae.

All the same, I'd stay away from dong soap.

ziGGi said...

I 'did' the pardoner's tale for O'level. The Nun's Priest's obviously had more fun.

I think it was Mrs Donge that tried to bump off Mr Donge by poisoning him. I'd watch your back if I were you Chris.

Dave said...

If you've been putting used nappies in your compost, I trust you're not now spreading it in the vegetable garden.

The Donge is a river in the Netherlands. It's also a province in China.

Wasn't there a French film (based on a Simenon novel?): 'La Vérité sur Bébé Donge'?

Christopher said...

MIT: Yes, 'with' and 'of'. Quite right.

I'm not certain what grass grubs are, and the cicada possibility crossed my mind, but they're not really big enough. Cicada grubs (yes, we do live in cicada country, in the Deep South) measure about 5cm and are almost always found in the earth beneath the trees from which the eggs have been dropped by the dying adult. I think these may be donge beetles.

Zigs: So did I, with the Nun's Priest's Tale as well. Lusty lads that we were, we would all have preferred The Miller's Tale.

Dave, aka Rev. Google: I would have done, if I hadn't had to hoick them all out and dispose of them otherwise. Soft fruits adore manure (as opposed to compost). How are your strawberries doing, by the way?

Dave said...

They seem to adore their new bed. Loads of flowers. To early (and too cold now) for fruit yet.

Christopher said...

Very pleased, Dave. Last year a local market trader gave us a couple of fraise des bois plants. These are flowering mightily and will start putting out runners as soon as I allow them to after the main fruiting season. Would you like a few plants for your strawberry beds? The flavour is very fine, more delicate than ordinary varieties, but I don't know how they would do in a cooler climate.

Z said...

Whilst a gentleman taking his early morning relief on the compost heap aids the decomposition process and is harmless, humanure shouldn't go on a compost heap. Like dog or cat leavings, they should be composted separately at a very high heat until fully broken down.

I daresay you'll be all right, but I wouldn't do it again.

No idea what the grubs are, but the chickens would love them.

I'd think that fraise des bois would be fine in Dave's garden, but if there's any doubt, he could always pot them up and overwinter them in the greenhouse.

Dave said...

That's the message I was trying to give, Z.

My strawberry bed is full now, but I have, as Z suggests, plenty of pots.

I, Like The View said...

euwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww

(sorry, I'll come back when I've composed myself)(note: not composted myself)

Christopher said...

Well! I've never had the slightest compunction about putting anything organic into the compost - meal scraps, hair, tampons, fish and poultry cleanings, newspapers, frying oil, woollen socks, dead mice and birds, old medicines (admittedly, fairly anodyne ones), drain unblockings, fag-ends, wasps' nests, pond sludge, you name it, plus all the usual garden and kitchen waste. I expect I'm disgusting - and dead.

Z said...

Most of those are fine, although anything made of meat is likely to attract rats, but human waste can carry human diseases - I don't suppose your grandbaby's would but, for example, viral hepatitis is carried in human faeces and ordinary composting is not enough to break it down.

Dave said...

*tries to work out how long it was, after meeting Chris, that he went down with viral hepatitis*

Christopher said...

*remembers examining himself closely after visiting Dave, cautiously giving himself the all clear after 4 weeks' quarantine*

Z said...

I was going to come back and amend my remark to "may not" be enough...

Unless you've been eating veggies from Christopher (I don't know him well enough to call him Chris, remember that I called you David long after the Sage called you Dave) 's garden that he's only just dug the nappies into, I think that you can rely on him as not responsible. Of course, typhoid and cholera can be similarly spread. But not in this instance, I'm sure. *Cheesily reassuring grin*. Nevertheless, I'd wash veggies this year, not do as I do and just brush them off against my jeans before cramming them rawly into my mouth.

Though I tend to rely on my immune system, actually, as I glow with rude health.

If ever anyone is short of words, I seem to have found my voice again...

Christopher said...

Thank you, Z. 'Chris' is fine.

Z said...

Oh. That's charming of you. How do you do, Chris? Please call me whatever you like, I answer to most names including Snowy, Sophie, Susie, Zo, Zoë and, funnily enough, Dave (who used to be my fellow churchwarden and so was indistinguishable from me. Not *our* Dave, of course). And Zed and Zee, as well as Z.

Sarah said...

Goodness me!

I did the Wife of bath's tale.....frightful woman, always pissing on the heads of passers by....

I don't think you'll come to any harm Christopher. Rats on the other hand may be problem...?

You cam call me Sah (sounds like air and not R!!) like all my very closest friends do.LOL

Christopher said...

Snowy (!) and Sah: Sorry - been out all day in Montpellier - will report tomorrow. Meanwhile, thank you both for this very great privilege.

*bows from waist, hoping bald patch doesn't show too much*

Sarah said...

It does!
(but you know what they say about bald men ;0)...)

Christopher said...

...just an idea I coined that seems to have caught on. Better than {:-), anyway.