My dear Weasel,
How this recent weather has confused my flock! Droughts, followed by floods, why they are enough to convince some slow-witted parishioners the end of the world is nigh, and the even slower ones that the end of spring migration is nigh.
It has reminded me of that masterful work by Geoffroi Chancer, in which the prologue starts;
“When that Aprill with his showers swoote,
The droughte of March hath pierced to the roote,
And small fowles maken melodye,
That sleep through night with open eye,
So nature pricks them on to ramp and rage,
Then longen folk to goon bird pilgrimage.
And especially from each shire’s end,
Of Eng'land a Caunterbere they wende.”
So, even in those many years past, March was still as dry as a convent’s sleeping quarters and April as wet as a Monastic dormitory’s bedding. The Good Lord delivers us our seasons, on queue as always. We should not worry.
I was then taken to remind myself of the first of the many ‘Tales’ within Chancer's great work; The Schoolmaster’s Tale. It describes in great detail a man driven by a curse to have to repeat not only his scholastic lessons year after year, but his bird listings year after year. What a curse. I quote:
There is, at the east side of olde Caunterbere,
A swampen moraise of which men do not care,
Where typha and scirpus once grew so abundante,
lookerers of wildfowle didst finde most repugnante,
Whereto most days there is drawn, oh most so tragic,
A schoolmmafter, accurfed by strong wicker magic,
His life not his own, no chance to defift,
Accurfed by the queft for the biggeft yeare lifte.
Though he tryeth to efcape to Green Wall and Cold Harbour,
Drawn back to ramp and ferry, for, though he work harder,
To liveth the life of a God-fearing peafant,
To miss a Grove bird he findeth repellente.
Each twel’month the total that he so hard had sought,
Doth trick him at midnight and returneths to nought.
The curfe is to try again, and toil to re-see
at prefent he hunteth number one four and three.
The Tale continued in Pars seconda to follow him through the spring months as heis driven in his search for his biggest ‘yeare lifte’. Then one night, in a dream, he finds himself at the gates of Heaven, where St. Peter explained he could enter but only if he cast his list aside, for only ‘the other place' allowed field glasses and a ‘book of logges’.
The schoolmaster awakened in a cold sweat, and decided he must undertake a pilgrimage to Caunterbere to ask if he might purchase an indulgence that would allow him to keep his list after death. At first he could not find such Papal bull, but then, down a darkened alleyway, he came upon a mysterious cloaked figure who could offer him a pardon and an eternal life list- but only at a price.Dear Weasel, I take it you remember how this story ended? I recall reading the tale in my youth, and it had such an affectation upon me, even to this day. Why, even now just the thought of visiting Ramp and Ferry fills me with such dread at the chance of glimpsing that ghostly schoolmaster patrolling the footpaths each and every morning in the hour before dawn, camera obscura in case looking, as Geoffroi puts it, like some posessed 'grounde hogge'.
I fear I must have a sherry and retire forthwith(!)