Competition - Win a bottle of champagne

No 3670 Set by John Crick

You were asked to celebrate Chaucer's 600th anniversary (a few months late - he died in 1400) with a new band of pilgrims.

Report by Ms de Meaner

Basically, you divided into two main groups: the Neville Coghillites and the Chaucerites. Clearly the latter had much more fun (hippe-hoppe star, quyze mistresse, ankore wight of chanelle foure). As Chaucer himself often had more than one spelling of the same word, I didn't get too hung up on yours. Live and let live, is what I say. Hon menshes to Paul Brummel (the wyf of Becks' tale), Peter Reeve (a computer programmer: "a verray, parfit gentil geek"), Marie-Elise Howells (Bill Clinton), Basil Ransome-Davies (a columnist), W J Webster (Charlie Dimmock: "her jolye dugges swynge aboute") and Will Bellenger (a press officer, words "strykly off the rekked"). £20 to the winners; the vouchers to Neville White.

Here bygynneth the Book of the Tales of New Labour

A Prescott ther was, a gobby man, all reed with thunder,

That nas no stranger to gaffe and blunder;

A hot heed hadde he, of swich foulness and delight,

That longen folk to goon to parlement to snigger at his plight.

Ther was nothing, nat no problem nor no cause, he said,

That could nat be solved by rennyng and brekyng it with his heed.

At Rio and The Hague smote he hard with lance,

Thogh litel goode did it avaunce;

This Prescott had a wyf, ful semely and fair

She nas nat undergrowe, I trowe, so bigge was her heer,

That she was nat able to walke in breezes soft or strong,

But riden in her car, thogh the distance be rarely long.

No wher so capable a man as he ther nas,

And yet he semed mo capable than he was.

Neville White

Ther was also a moddel, undergrowe,

Fresshe and shene, an aungel as I trowe,

Ful lene she was as a wrecched catte

But to herself she semed muche too fatte.

She was despeyred, dorste nat telle her wo

But langwisshed and wolde ete na mo

Than doth a mous or eek a litel motthe.

Her skinne was smothe and tendre, by my troth,

Her heer lyk col-blak silk, her mouthe ful smalle,

She was the fayrest meyde of hem alle.

But yet alwey she wolde woxen thinner

And wolde nat eke no bake mete for her dinner.

This povre wenche wex grisly to beholde,

Her fetis fingres drouped and were colde.

This yonge lady chaunged so - she "was"

Nat "is". I pleyned sore and seyde "allas".

Barbara Daniels

An ankore wight ther was of chanelle foure,

The which al thynkyng wommen gan adore,

And evere as he rede the newes at nyght

The studie of his tyes was hir delit.

He koude discryve the thewes of hir estaat

And sikerly kepe the trewthe of bitides faate;

He clept in cleere the conducte of the daye

And yeve ynough what wene saufly verray.

A quyze mistresse ther was of London toun,

Her wykke tonge pleyed al contestaunts doun;

Her heeres and her temperes wexen rede,

Her eye so colde fills sely wights with drede;

And eek she waite untill the rondes ende,

Then al she axe to voyden up hir friend;

And short and quyk she sclaundres hir weyes feyntyng:

"Ye been the wekest lynk, goe nowe," she singe.

M E Ault

With him ther was a gentil gardener

Ful comely, of corage and vertu rare.

Boold was her face, and feyre, and reed of hewe,

From dygginge in the gardene. Her eyen were blewe,

Her heer a wel brighte yellow shonne al golden

Ful longe it flowede, a wonder to beholden,

And henge it downe, her shuldres overspradde

Eek men praisen the lockes that she hadde;

In trewthe me thinketh that her glorie leye

Not in her heer, whateer men wulden say!

So whan that Aprill with his shoures soote

Youre gardene soke, yow put on youre boote

Nor coombe youre lockes of tangleye golden heer,

Leye eek aseyde youre modeste brassiere.

Thanne in straunge vowel sondes haply may yow mimic

That wel goode gardener, gentil Charleye Dimmock.

David Silverman

A hippe-hoppe starre ther was, ful fowle of speche;

His close cropped heer al whyted was with bleeche

And couvred with a bakke-warde batte-ball cappe:

He was the verray baddest boye of rappe.

No parfit, gentil troubadour was he:

His bitter tounge lashed everichoon, pardee.

His povre audyaunce was so confused

It lyked him mo, the mo it was abused.

The chappe-book scrybes did myghtyly abhor him,

But lerned clerkes atte Oxenford were for him

For that they hadde on good auctoritee

His rappynge was postmoderne ironee.

Peter Norman

No 3673 Set by John Crick

Can we have moving elegies for the pigeons of Trafalgar Square. All verses to be in by 29 March. Max 20 lines.


This article first appeared in the 19 March 2001 issue of the New Statesman, The New Statesman Essay - Trapped in the human zoo