Chaucer on way to Canterbury
Image © 2014 By University of South Florida
Used By Permission
Text © 2014 By Bob Litton
Back in 2010, I spent several months in library archives searching microfilm reels for articles and columns I had written during my twenty-year career as a reporter and editor of community newspapers. I copied, edited, and “burned” (i.e., printed) two hundred of the ones I considered still relevant or at least interesting, on a CD-ROM.
Initially, I had planned to sell the CD’s through local stores. However, the proprietors of those stores balked at the idea of selling a “book” that people could read only on a computer’s monitor. So, after “salting” my CD in the local library and in the archive centers of the four counties where I had worked as editor/reporter, I gave away the forty-plus remainder to friends and anyone else who might be interested in reading them. Since originating this blog two years ago, I have published a bunch of the columns from that CD on my blog, usually at those times when my well of topic ideas was practically dry.
On the CD, I also included a preface and an introduction–the latter imaginatively composed by one of my favorite people, Geoffrey Chaucer. This morning, nostalgia impelled me to pull up that introduction and re-read it for the twentieth time. Then the notion occurred to me of publishing it on my blog; for, to me, it is hilarious both because of its setting and because of its ultimate conceitedness.
Please read Chaucer’s praise of my writings…and, hopefully, have a good laugh.
* * * * * *
By Seynt Thomas of Kent! What hath awaked me fro myn slepe depe?
Lo, this lode of papers som persoun dumped on myn bony breast and eke a letre wryten in spelynges moste straunge. Lat me se what the sentence of hyt myght be.
“Dere Sir Chaucer,” the letre ginnes, “wold thou tak som of thyn restyng tyme to rede tho werks by an eld gentil wight who liste us to publysh hyt. He wrote so muchel, and we han tyme so lyte. But thou hast ben ther mikel tyme on thyn bak withinne that cold crypt; so, mikle bored must thou be. Ples into tho pages loke and telle us what thou se. But mak, in any cas, a good repourt, that we can hyt sellen.”
((A FEW DAYS LATER))
Pardee! But this wast labour ageyn myn greyn! Natheless, there ys humour and sharpness, too. Thys elder wight whome som clepeth “Bob” and others “Robert”, wast born to wryt and drawe. In myn minde, y kan se the persounes and places he descryves. Noon other wordes neden he! And the variaunce of his topics the world myght belt.
Som of cours y ne wiste: what, by Seynt James, ys “Little League”? This bok nedeth a “glossary” lyk the pryntours pressen on me. Heh, heh, how lykest thou tho lyte pun? Ywis, what he seys in ther ys wel thoght and expres. For, to tellen soth, boys sholde ne be forced to compete in games ahed of kyndely tyme.
This Bob eke a repourter wast and lerned mikel about gres rote democracie, which he preysed and fostred and defended even somtymes ageyn folke who claimed hyt was theirs to chaunge in yvel ways.
Her, another enditing tells of doctors’ greed, and how they squeezed the utmoste pence from tho who were sik yit had lyte of money to pay for tho care. All this he puts in forme muchel straunge, as of a government meting where a fysiciens’ spokesman spekest in sophistryes and the doctours’ are purtreyed as cutte-purses, and cutte-pursing as an industrie out of honde. O, hyt is a werk that wold warm myn herte…had I still oon…for I love satyre and the humouryst’s art.
So, selle this bok, boksellers alle, forwhy hyt be wryten by the best writer in the Englysh tongue since…since…why, since me!
— Geoffrey Chaucer
“You well know that all women by nature desire six things as well as I do; they would have their husbands brave and wise and rich, and generous too, and obedient to their wives, and lively in bed.”
—Excerpt from the merchant’s wife’s comments to the horny monk in “The Shipman’s Tale”, Canterbury Tales.