How to Talk To Your Dragon ... in Middle English

Initial of St Margaret, British Library Burney 345 fol. 86v.

My department is a great place to work. For example, yesterday I got to play a dragon for a colleague. Simon Gatrell is teaching a course on Harry Potter, and he needed faculty "dragons" to guard dragon eggs (a scene you might remember from The Goblet of Fire). Students could win the eggs from us "dragons" if they answered our questions correctly and petitioned us with sufficient aplomb and abasement.

The students who came to my lair were very well prepared for my medieval tests, bravely reading the first 14 lines of the Canterbury Tales aloud (and with proper pronunciation) upon command. But one of my actual Chaucer students from this semester who is also taking Dr Gatrell's course was very disappointed that her team did not get me for their dragon. (It's hard to be a Hufflepuff.) She had prepared a beautiful Middle English begging-poem for the second half of the "test," and it seemed a shame to let her efforts go to waste.

So, if you ever need to petition a Middle English dragon, I highly recommend following Gretchen Hauser's lead by trying something like this.

Plea to a Drakken

 

O drakke, that swich furour hadde noon,
And verray canstow brenne us to goon,
Er that he fyr been breathed, I axe yow bold:
For sight of oon bright egg lyk Midas gold
And eek that grete tresour ye kan yeve
To Hufflepuff, who soothly stand hir leve.
We humblee beg succour from you y-wis
A gentil drake that oure freende ys.

 

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