A Pyrates Lyf for Chaucer

Arrrrrgh, ye scurvie swabbes. Yt ys ich, Geoffrey Chaucer, Drede Pyrate and Scourge of the Ocean See.

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:

Exempli gratia

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.

21 comment "A Pyrates Lyf for Chaucer"

  1. Welcome home, Wesle...Chaucer. A most affecting tale. I was reduced to tears, especially at the thought of a hand-me-down parrot. Arrgh.

  2. A fine tale, Cap'n (if'n I may be so bold as to address ye thus). As a member o' the crew behind International Talk Like A Pirate Day, I be empowered t' offer ye a position on our ship, The Festering Boil, which be in sore need o' a Ship's Poet. Should yer fortunes on land go amiss, be in touch.

    Arrrrrr (not "arrrgh," which be the sound ye make when yer struck with a touch o' th' catarrrrrrh).

    Webwench to the Pirate Guys

  3. Glad ich be that yow yskayped the evyl sey, but .i. question--whatte be these ear-ringes? Cantirbirie bellis? Ich knowe litel of frenshe fashioune.

    Goddes sckoll, myn suster is cryinge ayain. Nonnes!

  4. Thart moste welcome ayein in owre reaulme, Maistre Chavcer, and wee haue little doute that thou hast monie a tale to telle of life opon the see and the hard trade of piracie. Yt cometh to Owre mynde, however, that wee have forbidden alle piracie and swichlyke knaverie on peyne of deeth.

    Yet wee knowe that thart a fine teller of tales, and do moost eagerlie awaiten the tayles of caunterburrie. We woolde therefore moste urgentlie urgen thee to scrybe moore swich tayles, else Owre serjeantes-atte-armes might untoe kente goon forto binden thee and bringen thee bifore oure coorte of assise.

    In the words of owre boone compagnon, the drede pyrate Flashmanne, aaaaaaaaaaaargh.

  5. Maistre Chaucer, yt giveth me grete pleasaunce that yow hav retorned saufly from your piratyng!

    Ich am but a povre scholere sekyng hir maisteres degre in study of Englysshe, and Ich am consideryng piracye as a career opcioun. Now that yow hav lived hir lyf for a tyme, what thynk yow?

    Youres, wyth gretteste affecioun.

  6. Fortunately, the Universal Translator can just about understand Olde English.

  7. Merci pour la bonne blague!

  8. It be Myddle Englysshe, Picard!
    How queynte that thou seemest to have alway such topicalle aventures, maistre Chaucer.

  9. Ich be gladde that yow did natte run afoule of The Blacke Perle and her captaune Jack Sparrowe for ich do herre that his crewe doth often bring manye a straynge happenynge upon othirs, sych as attaques of the undeade and the forsyng upon othirs of muchel kohl eye mayke-uppe. But yow haue returnyd home sayfe and sownd, for th'wich wee alle are moste plaised.

  10. To Geoffrey Chaucer,

    Wytty syr, I greete you and recommend me vnto your opynyoune. Ryght so I shal tellen you that I haue grete ioy of youre blogge, and your tale of this ydreden pyrat Robertson.

    I haue oft herde eek of this pyrat of ylke renoumee that hyght Iak Sparwe and menn speken of a romaunt that is of him and of his deedes, and of his compayny, Wyl Tornere and Elysabeth Swann. And the romaunt is entytled Pyrates of the Carybben: Ded Mannes Chest. And sondry yong and fayre damoyselles speken of this Iak Sperwe with grete merueyl and lust, and wolden soffre moche for to ly by him. And, syr, I aske you whether ye haue knowlegge of this Iak Sperwe, and where menn myghten him finden, for I wolde him asken how hit be that mycchel damoyselles louen him, forwhy I am a lusty bacchlere knyght and seke counseyl to meten soche fayre damoyselles, for I dele euer in curtoysy and gentylnesse, but I mete of damoyselles noone and myn herte is heuy.

    Syr Percyual of Wales

  11. Ich see that thyn grande-dauchter is doeing well for hirselv: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mymuk/196376127/

  12. Good to have you back Master Chaucer. My greetings to your Sister-in-Law who entertained us well.

    I have been struggling in the 21C trying to understand the intricacies of WiFi Hotspots and Home Hubs for communicating more comfortably and effortlessly.

    Talking of hubs, moving quickly onto hubbies, what chance his the Welshman Sir Percival if a) he stays in Wales and b) he comments anonymously. If he is seriously seeking damsels or even 21C ladies, let him show himself bravely and take the consequences.

    What a wonderful sojourn you have had on the ocean waves ... I have no doubt that if it were not for your fair Lady Philippa and your offspring, you would have settled into an excellent life as a Piratical Accountant.

    It just goes to show that not all Accountants are like my ex hubby, a boring pedantic who(allegedly) assists his clients to avoid corporation tax and enables rich men to manage their estates such that their children are kept poor.

    I hope we continue to have your company, and trust that your Lady Philippa keeps you on dry land but allows you a little rum occasionally.

  13. I thought it was true love, not poetry....

  14. "And nowe, to bedde and to dreme of the see. "
    Aye, its been a time r twoo been meaning to drop in to
    say Chaucer my dear Chaucer we New it allong

  15. Ryght Worsshypful Sally,

    I marke wel your rede, and I recommend me vnto your opynyoune, for methynketh ye been passyng grete of wysdome and of maystery. Yett wyt ye wel that I abyde noone lenger in Wales. And I hadde eek noone wyl to hyllen my persoune vnder the couerture [i]anonymous[/i], but by euyl happe and recchlessnesse I sette my messagge to that sele. Now I vnderstonde my faute, and I wol assayen to kepen my persoune bewrayed from thys daye lest euerych me demen cowerde knyght.

    Syr Percyuel of Wales

  16. Lol. I've not laughed as hard in a long time.

  17. A fine tale, Cap'n (if'n I may be so bold as to address ye thus). As a member o' the crew behind International Talk Like A Pirate Day, I be empowered t' offer ye a position on our ship, The Festering Boil, which be in sore need o' a Ship's Poet. Should yer fortunes on land go amiss, be in touch.

    Ma Chere Jesebelle,

    Plese accepte my apologies for swich a tardie response. Ich wolde glad be the shippes poete of the festeringe boyle, and am honourede that swich fyne folke as thos who did starte the 'Daye of Spekynge Lyk a Pyrate' do rede of my litel blogge. Peraventure ich shalle write a balade or roundelaye for the next pyrate daye, the which doth telle of the deedes of pyrates on the Englisshe Channele yn my dayes.

    As for 'argh,' knowe that forme of speche is chaunge along the yeeres and also accordinge to place. Yn my launde, we spelle the sounde of pyrates as 'arrrgh' with a g.

    Le Vostre

  18. Ich am but a povre scholere sekyng hir maisteres degre in study of Englysshe, and Ich am consideryng piracye as a career opcioun. Now that yow hav lived hir lyf for a tyme, what thynk yow?

    Ma Chere Elissa,

    The difference bitwene pyracie and academicks ys so smalle that eyther opcioun shalle haue for yow the same resultes. Yn both cases, ye werke yn cramped condiciouns, and vndir tyme constrayntes, and do face manye folke who wolde fayne nat haue yow ther, and yet ye haue felaweshipe, and a grete deale of strong drinke, and eek a specialisede vocabularie the whiche othir peple vndirstonden nat. Al thogh fewe academicks weare eye-patches.

    Le Vostre

  19. Didst thou taketh the Vytamine C caplettes when thou returnned or ete the neuest fruitte "oranggesse?" Ye mot hath the moste terybel Scurvvy and be seeke.
    The lyfe of a pyrate souns blisful. Why goon pilgrimages when ye cannst have a fayre wenche and rum licour?

  20. Heloe Geoffrey Chaucer,
    Ich fynd yowr blog to be very ynterestyng. Fore my colege clase, reedyng yowr blog ys whate Ich haav to do. Ich was a litle confusede at the ende of the entry because yow do not seeme to hold women yn hyghe regard yet yt was allrighte that yowr suster-in-lawe mynde your blog. Ich apreciated your detayls for the ryde and everything that hapenned to yow on the shippe. How dyd yow coom up wythe yowr excuus fore being an acountant? Ich thowght that was a very gode ydea. How long weer yow goon exactly and my last questionne is wowld yow ever chose to become a pyrate? Ich realy thynk that ynstead of yowr Tales of Canteburye yow showld wryte about a pyrate’s lyfe. That wowlde be really cole. Ich wowld especyaly lyke to knowe howe yow got yowr ears pyerced. Dyd yt hapen on the shyp?
    Kepe on wrytying!

  21. We really love your blog, i haven't seen you keeping the posts in in some time now. Is everything ok. You can reach me here = website traffic@simply pet supplies.com. Thanks Again Rob Dog Crates, Dog Toys ( Dog Supplies & Cat Supplies Pet Store, Dog Collars)


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