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September 29th, 2003

  The Sacramento Tales

(Note: This piece first appeared September 3rd at National Review Online.)


[In the course of some renovation work at England's Canterbury Cathedral, a wall broke open to reveal a hollow cavity, in which was found a parchment manuscript, since dated to the later 14th century. It appears to be the work of the English poet Geoffrey Chaucer. However, the text is much faded and barely legible in places, so that the work of deciphering this manuscript is proceeding very slowly. The first few pages have now been transcribed, and their content is given below. Not all of the references can be understood at this distance in time, but the manuscript appears to concern a miscellaneous party of pilgrims who have come together with the common desire to reach a holy shrine at a place named "Sacramento." The front page of the manuscript, though much defaced by damp, seems to bear the title "The Sacramento Tales."]

The Prologue

Whan that Septembre with his shoures sote
Summers droghte hath percéd to the rote,
And bathéd Napas vynes with swich licour
As makéth Gallo Brothers shayre price soare;
Whan al vacacioun tyme is used and gonne
And beaches emptye lye beneath the sonne,
Whan freeways clogge with workers offys-bounde
Whyl scole-buses mak roade rage all arounde.
Whan harlots on the Strippe crye to be payd
By Englishe heart-throbbes crusyng for rough trayd
(Whom Nature hath anon depryved of braynes!)
Than longen folk to run polityckal campaygns
And pollsters for to scanne the publick moode
By telephoun and questionnaire intrude.
And specially, from every countys ende
Of Golden State, to Sacramento wende,
The Governour's fyn castel for to wyn
And dwel with powre and glorie ful therein.

INCUMBENT was ther, gilty (so they seye)
Of budgets fals. And he was clepéd Gray.
His teethe bryght capt, his heer lyk helmet fixt
Grande master was he of lowe politycks.
Non intrest grupe had he disdaynd to schmuse,
Ne ATLA, CALPERS, Latynos, ne Jewes.
At fund-raisyng ther wiste no wight so wyse,
The governourshippe than becam his pryse,
And hem that to him had obeysance mayd
Saw al hir outlays manyfold repayd.
He seith not ones "nay" when they seith "ye."
"Do this," seith they; "al redy, sire," seith he.
Whyl worthy folk of lower midel kynd
Wyth U-Haul hytched fled east and north to fynd
Som place wherin hir litel wealth might growe
Insted of into state tax coffers flowe.
Yet even swich as staid wer ful appalled
By car-tax hyk, so Gray shal be recalled.

Among us was a TERMINATOR bold,
A player who on many a stage had strold.
Ful big he was of braun, and eke of bone
A manly man, ful wyth testosteroun.
On TV he declayrd his wille to run
His candidacie than was fayr begun.
At ones began disputes upon his lyf
Wych, ere he toke a Kennedy to wyf,
Muche marred had been with lecherye and syn,
And eke was ther some matter of his kin.
His fader, in the German empyrs warres,
Had worn that emblem evry man abhorres,
The twysted cros. To wych his frends replyd:
"Lord Kennedy was eke upon that syd!"
But natheless dispute continued hotte
To knowe was he conservatyf or not.
Of policie he vauch-saifed next to nonne
Save only: "Al for children must be donne!"
Til sore complaynd those membyrs of his factioun
That first applauded this bold Man of Actioun.
And so, to soothe hir rancorous complaynts
The Terminator call'd upon two saynts:
St. Milton and St. Warren. They both blest
His enterprys, and sanctiond thus he prest
Ahead, as al perceived, on victoryes tracke.
(Or if not, reste assuréd, he'll be backe.)

Latynos had hir man, with mustache speyr
High domed his hed, with fast receding heer.
LIEUTENANT to the Governour was he
And Spanish spak ful faire and fetisly,
After the scole of Ciudad Mexico
For Spanish of Castile he did not knowe.
In Englishe ones, amid a goodlie throng,
His mynde did cruellie betray his tonge
Whan he, addressyng Moorish clerks conven'd
To glorify hir history, had seem'd
To greete hem with the N worde — wych, wel note,
Is deeth to hem that seke the publick vote.
And folies mor lay lurking in his past.
Whan clerk at Fresno he his lotte had cast
In wyth a wilde and heretickall order
Wych ful denys oure nations southren border!
And preche vil crede, wych he refused to shunne:
"For oure race al, for other races nonne!"
The Terminators fader wolde have blushd
To say swich wordes, and spinmystres all rushd
To parse hem to som softe and gentyl sens,
But whyte and blacke alyk had toke offens.
And hard-corre gilty liberalles asyd,
No non-Latyno folk colde him abyd.
And greate as Latyn votyr count maye be
It lokés lyk: Hasta la vista, babye!

A WYF was ther, of Athenes cameth she
And eke her campaygn started on TV.
Of polles and raisyng fundes she knew perchaunce
For she coude of that art the olde daunce,
Her housbonde havyng troden paths polityckal
Before he turned to lyfstyl sodomityckal
And lefte her. Yeares befor, whan she was yong
In London towne had somtyme dwelt among
Commentatours, pundittes, and swich kynd.
Wyth one of hem, a much admiréd mynd,
She lyved; but than despayrd, becaus, she said,
Her lovyere was not any gode in bedde.
Forsooth, in al oure mery companye
Ther was none fyner drest than she,
Rodeo Dryves fyn wares she knew ful wel:
Versace, Gucci, Tiffany, Chanel.
Ne fell her heer one lokke out of place
Ne wrinkel one, ne blemishe mark'd her face.
Allas, whan she did speken on TV
Ne man colde folow but one worde in thre.
 …  …

[This is as much of the manuscript as has been deciphered to date. We shall bring you further passages as they become available.]