A visiting professor at West Virginia University has discovered a 16th-century erotic poem—written by a Catholic noblewoman to the condemned Protestant tutor of Edward VI—hidden inside an edition of works by Chaucer, leading to fevered speculation, in your head, over who will star in the movie. (Carey Mulligan, maybe? Emily Blunt?)
It's actually a pretty awesome story: Florida State University Professor Elaine Treharne was giving a lecture at WVU when she visited the university's rare book collection. She "happened to open a 1561 edition of works by Geoffrey Chaucer" and saw a "Latin poem pasted in the back of the book." (Since iPhones were not in wide usage in the 16th century, educated people would "sext" each other by writing elaborate Latin verse.) Here it is:
To Anthony Cooke
The goodbye I tried to speak but could not utter with my tongue
By my eyes I delivered back to yours.
That sad love that haunts the countenance in parting
Contained the voice that I concealed from display,
Just as Penelope, when her husband Ulysses was present,
Was speechless—the reason is that sweet love of a gaze.
Then afterwards Ovid sends greeting muses to the absent,
Just as to you, distant, I have sent my small note.
I hope then that silent Dacre will not be scorned by you
For the mind has suffered and held fast in faithfulness to you.
Believe that among servants there is not any more faithful:
As Plancus Plotinus thus will Dacre be to you.
I remain your servant Plancus, more faithful than any;
To this servant Dacre, you remain sweet Coke.
Epigram written by Martial, 'Of the girdle'
Long enough am I now; but if your shape should swell under its grateful burden, then shall I become to you a narrow girdle.
(Do you get that last bit? It's about sex. Seeeexxxxxx.)
The poem was written by Elizabeth Dacre, née Leybourne, a Catholic noblewoman, probably sometime after 1555, when she married her first husband Thomas Dacre at age 18 or 19. Its recipient, the tutor of King Edward VI (and possibly also Elizabeth's tutor), would have been significantly older than Elizabeth—and in exile, after a short stay in the Tower of London in 1553 under Mary I
Queen of Scots.
Not much more than that is known: Did the two have an affair? Did Dacre ever send the poem? Did she love Cooke, or was the poem simply an "academic exercise"? Treharne thinks Dacre's feelings were genuine: "I actually do really genuinely believe that she was really in love with her tutor," she told the WVU communications department. "It has that level of intimacy and playfulness about it. At the very least it's cheeky, and it's much more likely to be an indicator of a very, very personal and illicit—totally illicit—relationship."
In any event, we're very excited for it to be turned into one of those movies where a modern-day love story about a professor who discovers a poem parallels a period romance between a Protestant and Catholic and it's all very tasteful with swelling strings and then someone gets nominated for a "best supporting actress" Oscar. And remember: only 500 years from now, robo-professors will be visiting the "Rare Phones" room of their cyber-universities and discovering your lost erotic poems, so you may want to kick it up a notch from "girl i want 2 b all up in u rite now where u at" accompanying a picture of your anantomy.