All hail the best new bard of the Middle Ages, one Richard Heege (or possibly Heeg), whose long-overlooked 15th century manuscript captures on paper the stories told by a bawdy minstrel at some drunken revelry hundreds of years ago in Olde England. A real cracker of a night, by the looks.
Scholar James Wade, PhD, a professor at Cambridge University, came across the manuscripts while rifling through the National Library of Scotland. The author’s note was what grabbed him, he told Sci Tech Daily, which reported on his work, now published in The Review of English Studies. The texts were ascribed as follows:
By me, Richard Heege, because I was at that feast and did not have a drink.
Some five hundred years before Caity Weaver would order the world’s worst Shirley Temple in the King’s woods while similarly in pursuit of a worthy story, Heege wrote down three tales: a “burlesque romance The Hunting of the Hare; a mock sermon in prose; and The Battle of Brackonwet, an alliterative nonsense verse.”
You know the Brits do a nonsense verse better than anyone.
Wade said the works are shimmering examples of live performance, with gibes for the audience to drink up, and roasts of kings, priests, and the common man. Essentially, shit-talking as high art, which we have already established Chaucer and Shakespeare embedded into the soul of the British tradition.
To wit, in one of the stories, the kings eat so much that oxen burst out of their bellies and commence a battle (of oxen; very Monty Python). Likewise, “The Hunting of the Hare” wastes no time getting down to business:
Jack Wade was never so sad
As when the hare trod on his head
In case she would have ripped out his throat.
Wade told Sci Tech Daily that: “Most medieval poetry, song, and storytelling has been lost … Manuscripts often preserve relics of high art. This is something else. It’s mad and offensive, but just as valuable. Stand-up comedy has always involved taking risks and these texts are risky! They poke fun at everyone, high and low.”
Are you ‘aving a larf? You can view the manuscript here (if you’re able to read Old English).