Al of Londoun ys aflame wyth newes of the grete entertaynment of 'Serpentes on a Shippe,' the which ys perfourmed ech daye by the menne of the gild of beekeeperes (and thus ys ycleped a 'b-movie'). Ich haue just nowe retourned from a trippe to see yt wyth Litel Lowys and Tommy Vske. Whan ich was ther, Tommy founde for me a copye of the romaunce in fyve chapteres on whiche the performaunce ys based, and Ich shal pooste yt heere for yower redyge. (This writer hath a verye good style - ich am reallye jealous. Oon daye, peraventure, ich shalle write sum thyng of Arthur; and yet, the matir of Troye hath alwey ben easier for me.)
Spoyler alert: If ye haue nat yet sene the performaunce of 'Serpentes on a Shippe,' rede nat of the romaunce, for it doth telle of the manye suprises and straunge eventes that happen in the course of the storye, and thus it mayhap shall lessen yower enjoiement of the performaunce yt self.
THE NOBLE TALE OF SIR NEVILLE DE FLYNN & THE SERPENTES ON THE VESSEL
maad yn to Englysshe from the Frensshe bokes by Sir Frank Malory
chapter the ist
Hit befelle uppon a day that SIR SEAN de JEHANNE, who was a yonge knight and a gentil, dide wander as adventures wolde gyde hym nere to the fayre citee of Honolulle. He lepede on his hors from manye an heigh hille yn slowe mocioun yn the maner of a goode knighte and a valyaunte. And whan it was nyghe none, Sir Sean cam to a grete bridge that was made of oold by the Romayns, and from that bridge did hange doun-ward an eremyte whos visage was ful hewn and bledde and al his clothes and the place aboute weren bloode red. And Sir Sean askede hym what he did ther and wherefor he was hanged and who had so grievousli him woundede; ‘Fle from this place, Sir Knight,’ he seyde, ‘For the man cometh who did thes woundes to me and he is a grete kynge but a felon and a traytour and hys name is KYNGE EDICHIM and he hath doon this to me by cause ich haue stood ayeinst hys grete outrages and felonies.’
Then Sir Sean did see manye knightes comynge to that place and so he hid hymself among the bushes. And Kyng Edichim ycam wyth his knightes and dide kille the eremyte. And Sir Sean made to fle but his bootes made a sounde and the knightes spyede hym and gave hym chase. And thogh he scapede from hem, thei sawe wher he rode and knew of his lodging. Therwithal Kyng Edichim sente thre of his knightes to Sir Seanes lodging for to slayen hym for he had sene hys foule deede. And thus cam aftir vespers Sir Stuntman Number Oon and Sir Stuntman Number Two, son of Expendable Extra who had done manye deedes in the dayes of Uther Pendragon, and wyth hem Sir Stuntman Number Thre.
And so the miscreant knightes wolde break ope the doore of Sir Seanes room and slaye him foullie, but that SIR NEVILLE DE FLYNN cam and seyde to Sir Sean, ‘Sir Knight, if thou shalt do my biddynge than thou shalt scape wyth thy lyf,’ and bad Sir Sean to hye hym from that place. And then Sir Neville made hym redy, wyth one spere he smote hem downe al thre over ther horses croups. This kynde of thynge was ful yn his style, for hys verye wallet hath ‘bad motherswyvere’ on it ywrit.
chapter the iinde
Then Sir Neville told Sir Sean that they must cross the see to the court of the grete King Arthur, for Arthures puissance coud bringe Kynd Eidichim to justise. For Sir Neville was yn the Feudal Bureau of Investigacioun. And so the two knightes cam to the coost of the see and ther thei sawe a rich vessel hilled over with red silk and thei cam to yt. ‘Master mariners,’ seyde Sir Neville, ‘We muste make passage yn yower firste-classe section, for I bringe a witnesse to the courte of Kynge Arthur.’ And the mariners and the maydes on the boate assentede, thogh manye a rich burgois dide grucchen much at levynge first classe for coache.
And thus the mariners made hem redye to sayle across the grete see. In first classe Sir Neville and Sir Sean talkede of matirs of prowesse and knighthode, and doun in coache, manye a stereotype did sitte and make conversacioun. Ther was a PRIORESSE, who lovede hir smalle dog, and also a SQUIRE, who mad manye songes of rappe and had TWO FAT KNIGHTES wyth him, and also a WOMAN WYTH A BABYE AND AN ACCENTE, who coud muche of plesaunte folke remedyes and TWO FOUNDLINGES who travelid all al oon, and an ANTISOCIALE ENGLISHMAN and also a gret manye EXPENDABLES.
And Kyng Edichim bethoghte hymself how Sir Neville was a man of muche power and coud nat be bestede by knightes; and so Edichim turnede hym to trecherie and sorcerie. Withinne the hulle of the shipe he had privilye yputte manye a caske fulle of serpentes and wormes and foul addres, and therto he put aboute the boate a philtre ycleped Far-Amoun by the Arabes, the which maketh serpentes to freke the helle oute and starte juste bitinge eny oon thei see. And wyth alchemy he sette the lockes of the caskes for to bursten whan the boate was yn the middel of the see. And yn this wise nat oon of the securitee gardes did knowe of the ambusshe of the serpentes that was to be, even thogh thei did make al the passengers remove her toothpickes and lettre-openeres and especiallye ther jarres of oyntmentz and sportes-drinkes. And thus the vessel departed wyth the serpentes hidden vpon it.
chapter the iiirde
So whan the ship had on the ocean saylede for two houres and was on the rollinge wawes of the see, anon the lockes of the caskes breste forth and the snakes weren loosed. Right so the hoolde of the shippe was fulle of al maner of serpentes that hisse and crawl vpon the erthe, such as amphisbanae and aspides, vipers the which aren sum tyme called berardes, and bosk-addres and cheldires whos bite causeth shakynge and sodein deeth, egges-wermes and water-naddres, slow-wormes and ophites and manye othir thinges that movede serpentli. And syn thei had brethede depe of the Far-Amoun, thei were wood as if thei weren on cracke.
Thus cam the snakes in the coache seccioun of the vessel, and ther was much noyse and screminge and manye EXPENDABLES weren eten and in the naughtye partes ybitten. The ANTISOCIALE ENGLISHMAN dide throwe the dogge of the PRIORESSE to the serpentes for to make hem delaye, and yet he too was eten by a grete wyrm. And the SQUIRE did showe that for all of his bling he was but a cowarde. And the WOMAN WYTH A BABYE AND AN ACCENT dide scape wyth her babye and her accent.
Sir Sean herde the noyse and fayne wolde haue gon doun to the coache seccioun. For neyther he nor Sir Neville had sene the snakes, but herde onnlie the cryes from below and knew nat what happede. And so Sir Sean got hym up to move but Sir Neville seyde, ‘Sir Knight, whan first we met ich toolde thee that if thou sholdst do my biddynge, thou wolde lyue, and in ower aventurez it hath happede thus that thou hast no reson to distruste me. Thou must bringe thy witnesse to Kyng Arthurez court, and thus stay thee heere the while ich figure out what the helle the noyse ys aboute. Mesemeth peraventure that the in-shippe filme ys Failure to Launch and alle folke do screme in terror at the mismatchede romantique payringe of Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew “Nat Luke nor Owen” McConaughey.’ And so Sir Sean stayede put while Sir Neville went doun to ward the noyse.
chapter the ivthe
Sir Neville cam to wher the folke of the shippe wyth the snakes yfought, and he sawe the bodyes of the dede and the sight grieved hym sore, for the battel had waxed passinge hard and the folke had little wherewithal to defend hemselves. And Sir Neville then fared wood as a lion and with his swerd he cutte in twayne the snakes that at him lept.
‘Builde a walle for to kepen out the serpentes’ he seyde, and the folk obeyed hym and piled up her luggage, the whiche did stop the onslaught of the serpentes as an othir walle had long agoon ystopped the onslaught of the Scottes. And the WOMAN WYTH A BABYE AND AN ACCENT coud sum thyng of leechcraft and so put salues and poulticez on thos who had been bitten and yet had nat perisshed. And oon of the FOUNDLINGES was bite and hys arm was sore sore.
And the SQUIRE was loosinge yt and seyd ‘O Jesu, defend us from death and horrible maims! For I see well we be in grete peril of death, for ther aren snakes on ower shippe and thei are angrie at sum thyng.’ And Sir Neville seyde to him, ‘Yes, I marvel how thei cam vnto this ship wythout wittynge of us alle. Yet nowe ther beth litel hope but to fighte hem.’
And Sir Neville and the SQUIRE and al men on the shippe alive who coud weapnes hold dide marche ayeinst the serpentes and do grete bataille and long war. But the snakes were full of ire and of venym and were still passinge y-riled-uppe and thus gave grete assaut in returne. And thus the battel stood wyth manye dede on eyther syde.
chapter the vthe and finale
Then Sir Neville and the men who with him fought did drawe togedir and Sir Neville seyde, ‘Litel it availeth us to fighte wyth thes snakes. By cause thei do not jouste as knightes do, nor do thei make fayre parlay whan thei aren captured, but rather in the nature of beestes thei bite the helle ovte of vs the whole tyme.’ And thus thei made retreat to behinde the walle.
Then ther was a crashinge grete and terribil, and the sound of the sayles droppinge on to the decke. In the winde the ship did founder. Vp staires, Sir Sean did checke wyth the mariners and finde hem all y-slawe by the snakes, and the snakes had occupyed the wheel of the shippe and the mappe of navigacioun. And Sir Sean cam doun and toold Sir Neville and Sir Neville was passinge wroth and seyde, ‘That ys ynogh. I haue hadde it wyth thes cursed by Seynt George snakes on this cursed by Seynt George shippe!’
‘What haue ye seyde?’ askede the PRIORESSE then. ‘I did curse the snakes,’ seyde Sir Neville, ‘and therwith the shippe, in the name of Seynt George who ys a patron of valour and chivalrie.’ ‘Ywis,’ seyde the PRIORESSE, ‘yower cursinge hath borne good fruyt, for methinkede whan I herde ye speke thus that the arme of man, eek even of a mighti man swich as yowerself, is but a litel thinge compared to the grete power of God the which is dispensed thorow the mediacioun of the seyntez. And thes serpentes the which do make werre ayeinst us aren figuraciouns of the sinne of ower firste parentes who weren by a serpent deceyved, and thus thei signifien that we sholde seke nat strengthe in knighthede but in prayere and devocioun. For syn we face thes foule serpentes, mesemeth we must seeke succour and aide from the gret seynt who is the enemy ysworn of al maner of serpentes.’
‘Dang, babye,’ seyde Sir Neville, ‘ye speke gret wisdam.’
And alle the crewe prayed to Seynt Patrick and thorow hys mercy the serpentes were slayne every oon of hem and the shippe came safelye to shore.
Good Lord saue us alle yn swich a maner as thou hast saved Danyhel in the liones den and Jonah in the wales bellye and saue us especiallye from Snakes on the See, in the name of Jesu ower Lord and Seynte Patrick
HEERE ENDETH THE BOKE OF SIR NEVILLE DE FLYNN AND THE SERPENTES ON THE SHIPPE