A Pyrates Lyf for Chaucer
Or at leest so ich was ‘til yestermorne, whanne ich did a-laste returne to my litel hous in Kente aftir a manye a daye. Ich hadde but scarcelie opnede the dore, yet right anon Philippa did seise me and remoue my ear-ringes and dide commaunde me to sitte yn the tubbe un til the smelle of the salt-see and rum had departed fro me. She hath taken my parrot and putte it in a cage, the which newe settlement pleseth the bridde right nat. She did telle me that ich maye nevir ayein weare myn eye-patch if evir ich wisshe to lay by her.
How did this hap? Ich shal tell yow.
My journeiinge dide commence yn the accustomed maner, wyth muche planninge and manye lettres of passage from My Lorde Kyng Richarde. Ich was sente wyth my Lord Sir Edward de Berkeley to Lumbardye, ther to make negociacioun wyth Lord Bernabo about aide for Engelond in the grete werres with Fraunce. Our companie dide trauel by shippe along the costes, and dide reche fayre Milan. Al thogh trauelinge ys a payne in my butte, and my luggage was y-lost IV tymes along the weye, yt was all prettie okaye. By Seynt Isidore, ther ys a grand librarie and a fayre at Milan – thos tyrantz do loue their bookes. Ich red muche of the werke of Petrak and Boccace, and took notez this tyme to avoide charges of plagiarisme.
But by my feith, plagiarisme sholde haue yben the leeste of my worries. On the waye home, yn the greye morwenynge, the shipman espyede two blakke sayles at the horizon. “Alak!” quod he “We al shal be yslawe! For ich do see the blakke sayles of the DREDE PYRATE ROBERTSON his two shippes, the Caritas and the Cupiditas. And the Drede Pyrate Robertson never leveth captives!”
Up wente the trompe, and wyth grysely soun out wente the grete gonnes, and heterly ower shippes dide hurtelene al togedir at oones. In goth the grapplinge-hooke, and the pyrates dide crye “arrrgh!” and shake ther pegge-legges at us, and dide swash ther buckles ovir and cutte our rigginge. And ich was dazed and fel doun.
Whanne ich woke, ich sawe IV faces peeringe a-doun at me, and yet they hadde but IV eyen betwene hem, for thei were pyrates alle. In sum wise, my feres and my Lord Sir Berkeley had scapede, and yet ich hadde ben ytaken by the pyratez for ransoum and putte on to ther shippe.
“Arrrgh,” seyde a pyrate, “Wel mayst thou feere for thy lyf, for the Drede Pyrate Robertson cometh to thee, and he shal take thy kernele from thy huske.”
"Aye matey," seyde an othir pyrate, "Thou spekest troth. Robertsones exegesis shal leve thee yn pieces!"
And ther he came, terrible for to looke vpon, wyth a parrot on his shouldre and a wide hatte wyth a skulle and bones y-crossede and a pegge leg and a copye of the De Doctrina Christiana by Seynt Augustine.
“Plese sire, plese spare my lyf!” ich dide crye.
“Yt beth nat yn my power to maken excepciouns," the Drede Pyrate dide shrugge hys brode sholdres and the parrot dide moue accordinglie, "Oones worde doth leke out that a pyrate hath goon softe, peple beginne to disobeye. And then it beth no thinge but werke, werke, werke, al the tyme.”
“Plese sir, plese, ich nede to lyve!”
“For what reson?”
“For ich haue begun to wryte sum Tales of Canterburye, and thei are but barelye bigonne. My name ys Chaucer, Geoffrey Chaucer, and Kyng Richard shal paye a pretti bountee for my hede, for whanne ich was yonge ich was y-ransoumed for XVI pounde, and now ich am at leeste thries as hevy a manne as ich was in thos dayes of yore whanne ich dide serue as valet!”
He dide pause yn thoghte, and also dide consulte hys boke of Christian Allegorie, “Al righte, Geoffreye. Ich haue neuer hadde a valet. Thou kanst trye yt for tonighte. Yt most likely shal happe that yn the morninge ich shal slaye thee.”
For manye dayes he dide saye the same ech night, “Good nighte, Geoffrey. Thou hast done wel. Maye slepe be swete to thee. Yt most likely shal happe that yn the morninge ich shal slaye thee.”
The pyrates dide take me as oon of ther companie, and dide yive me ear-ringes (ouche!) and a parrot the whiche was a hand-me-downe from an oothir pyrate who hadde acquirede a moore colourful and impressive birde.
Ich dide lerne of the arte of spekynge lyk a pyrate, and dide swabbe the deckes wyth grete relishe. For ich was so gladde of my lyf and my breeth that ich wolde probablie haue enjoyede watchinge Ishtar yf thei hadde made me do so.
And thus al was wel, until we dide redie to ouertake a Frensshe vessel. Thanne my legges dide aquaken and shiveren lyk two trees yn a storme. Ich felle ydoun and blakeness coverede myn eyen. And aftir, the pyrates hadde muche disdayne and scorne of me, and the Drede Pyrate Robertson dide threten that ich wolde walke the planke if ich dide nat pulle my weighte.
But what coud ich do? Ich am nat a manne of fightinge – manye longe yeeres haue ypassid syn ich dide handle a weapne.
“Ich kan nat fighte, nor take plunder and bootie. I nam a man of werre, ich am a manne of ale and poetrie.”
“Ywis, Mayster Chaucer, why shaltow nat walke of the planke? Shaltow ete of ower foode and drinke of ower rum and do nat a thynge for vs? Yf thou kanst nat fighte, what kanst thou do?” And the pyrates all rounde me rattlede ther saberes.
“Ich kan...” and thanne my minde did seise vpon it, “Ich kan kepe accountez, and enrolle custoumes.”
Yt took a litel convincinge, but ich dide do muche for the crewes of the Drede Pyrate Robertson. Bifor my cominge, thei hadde knowne no thynge of kepinge of recordes and accounting, and thus muche had been poorlye spente and ther was muche waste and corrupcioun. But with my litel quille and my accounte boke (and my litel woolen hatte, the whiche doth helpe me to thinke), ich did sette the shippes straighte.
Ich dide divide accountez in to plunder (commoditees ytaken from holdes of shippes, viz. wyn or wexe), bootie (goodes ytaken from passengers, viz. jewelerie, bokes, and incidentale items) and ransoum (self-explanatorie) and kepte thre columnes. Ech takere of income wolde bringe me a slippe detailynge yt, and ich wolde yive a recepite and kepe the accountes. Ich dide employe II clerkes, Barnacle Bille and Edward the Blakke-Sworde, who dide produce recordes and sende memoranda to Captayne Robertson. We dide balaunce the in-take of bootie/plundere/ransoum wyth the outlaye of wenchinge, parrote-keepinge, and replacemente of bodye partes.
Ich was full proude of my systeme! In no tyme, ich was doynge complicated pyrate calculaciouns:
II de Juillet – ytaken, the frennshe shipe ‘Zidane,’ XX lbs golde (plunder) + II locketes wyth jeweles (bootie) = L eye patches + VII cutlasses + III hookes for handes.
IV de Juillet – ytaken, the flandrishe shipe ‘Hennepin,’ XVI lbs woole (plundere) + xx lbs emeraldes (bootie) + IV yonge fleminges (ransoum) = iv parrotes, iii legges of woode, xii nights of ale and fayre wenches
And thus the dayes were fulle of accountes and the nightes were fulle of songe and rum, and ich was, in my weye, verye happye. Yt was, ich trowe, the beste vacacioun ich haue ever taken.
And yet as Boethius doth knowe, all goode thinges must come to an ende. Oon foule daye, we sawe the shippes of the FEEREDE BUCCANEER DONALDSON, who dide seise ower shippes and capture the Drede Pyrate Robertson and dide putte me ashore som where near Dover. And thus, wyth my parrot and my eye patch and my ear-ringes, stinkinge of rum and of see watir, ich did come home. And thogh in sum regard ich wolde fayne be on the fayre shippe Cupiditas on the rollinge see, yt ys still a thinge of muche sweteness to haue children to talke to, and a wyf to painfullye remoue ear-ringes from my ears, and a blogge to write vpon. So welcome me home, ye land lubberz. And thre cheeres for my fayre and noble suster-in-lawe who did mynde my blogge the while ich was offe havynge aventurez. And nowe, to bedde and to dreme of the see.