YOU CAN see why Chaucer invented his Dramatic Naturae about St Valentine and the Bird Parliament.
He was drawing on all his knowledge of both countryside and people. The latter infuriated him.
He had been a civil servant, a diplomat and a courtier under the governments of three English Kings: Edward III, Richard II and Henry IV. He had had enough of the lies, deceits, corruptions, bribes, criminal behaviour and negligence of rulers and their lackeys.
But he could see the same sort of thing going on in the woods and the fields outside. Of course it all started with the general hubbub of the dawn chorus that went on much of the day and again in the dusk. And that all started on Valentine’s Day which in those day was February 28 before the calendar changed and lost 14 days, in 1752.
These days the global warming the birds probably start a fortnight earlier than they did anyway.
Just like humans then: how many cuckoos are there in our own society?
All of them just wanting fun with no responsibility.
Then there were the geese, cackling a great deal, enjoying the sound of their own voice above any others yet having little of importance to say.
The turtle doves seemed perfect partners, showing total loyalty to one another whatever life’s problems.
Hawks talked of the noble path they had to pursue to the heights of existence, and the need for honour and quick decisions.
Eagles had little need to say much for parliament seemed satisfied that they had an unwritten kingly grace.
Every species argued its case. In some witness statements, a proposer thought he should win his mate because his plans for her future were so remarkably selfless and noble. Another, because it was obvious to all that he alone was telling the truth.
A third because of the time he had taken over courtship.
The noise was deafening.
The females were asked to decide the fate of each; which she would accept.
The formel (female eagle) was adjudicator and was asked to seal the final decision with application to Nature’s envoi, St Valentine. “Ye know wel how, seynt Valentyne, by my statut and thorgh my governaunce, ye come for to cheese (choose) and fle (fly) youre wey youre makes (mates) as I pryke yow with pleasaunce”. When I was at infant school in Norfolk, our teacher let us tots perform Chaucer’s drama as part of our history/culture/nature/public speaking education. We had to make our own costume with help from siblings and parents.
I recall that I insisted on being the eagle, mainly because I had access to turkey feathers that could almost pass as native North American eagle head dress feathers, which mother sewed onto a piece of sacking I put around my head.
One clever, thoughtful boy was a rook, the parliament’s lawyer.
He later became a solicitor.
A very pleasant girl who made herself a nest of hay in which she stood as a robin, had a lovely family of six children. I make no claims for myself.
My brother said I was just a turkey.