Have A Gentil Cok Anonymous

(14th century) This medieval lyric is composed in the standard ballad stanza, a quatrain with the rhyme scheme abcb. Unlike many other ballads, however, it does not feature a consistent refrain. The first three stanzas begin with "I have a gentil cok," but the last two start with "His legges ben of asor" (l. 13) and "His eynen arn of cristal" (l. 17), respectively. It also features an interlocking stanza system, particularly among the first three. "I have a gentil cok," is, of course, repeated. As well, the third line in stanza 2— "His comb is of red corel" (l. 7)—is repeated in stanza three (l. 11). Additionally, there are structural repetitions: "Comen he is of gret" (l. 6) pairs with "Comen he is of kinde" (l. 10); "His tayel is of jet" (l. 8) matches with "His tail is of inde" (l. 12). The final two stanzas also display parallel structures, but not as overtly. Lines 13, 15, and 17 begin "His legges ben . . . ," "His spores arn . . . ," and "His eynen arn . . . ," The interlacing serves to reinforce the double entendre on which the lyric rests.

Essentially, this lyric is an extended bawdy pun, with "cok" standing for "rooster" and "penis." Every attribute and action is applicable to both cocks. Additional wordplays further enhance the effect. For instance, "tail" is a posterior appendage on an animal, but it is also slang for genitals. There are also a number of implied references to penetration. For example, the narrator describes the cock's spurs, which are used in mating. The final two lines signify consummation: "And every night he percheth him / in min ladyes cha-umber" (ll. 18-19), while also alluding to alertness— presumably the cock is there to serve as an alarm clock, thus returning to the image in the opening stanza ("He doth me risen erly," l. 3).

See also Middle English lyrics and ballads.

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