Satire The Canterbury Tale of the Professionals


The poem is inspired by Friedrich Dürrenmatt's play * Hercules and the stables of Augeas *, a splendid allegory of what is going and be showing on at Stratford-on-Avon.

See also: deathplace digging

Dürrenmatt's Swiss Elis = Stratford-on-Avon (not the author's intention but so it is). The "poem" is written after the manner (and partly the spelling) of Chaucer's * Canterbury Tales * I've given it the title 

The Canterbury Tale of the Professionals


In Switzerlond, in a deep dale y-wis

There was a canton, that was y-clept Elis.

Durrenmate hath its history sung,

The which is full of mikel dung.

A man there stand in high consideracioun,

He was the richest man of th'Elisian nacioun.

It skilleth nat that nat a king he was,

He outfamed any king, for he hight Augeas.

He had gret stables, and cows and oxen more,

But under-stable lay his gretest tresour.

            The finest lays ever a poet sung.

            But now all over hid' by oxen dung.


To Elis came from every londe,

For nearest to the lays to stonde,

And to the bard his boanes,

Which lay under a pile of stoanes,

Many people in solempn devocioun,

That nowhere solempner was known.

The guides to tourists told how many lays he writ,

And that he had so natural a wit,

As natural as the cow and oxen shit,

Under which his lays now lay hid'.

And that his works as big were as the Bible,

But that to see was stiff impossible.

            For the finest lays ever a poet sung.

            Were all over covred with oxen dung.


How many people more, Augeas speculated,

Wold cum, were not my stables so y-maculated.

But how get rid of all that dirt?

One Hercules is a specialist, I heard.

To Elis Augeas did hym invyte,

And Hercules arrived without respyte.

The problem, Hercules quoth, is not at all so small,

But I am a demi-god, and more, to wit, a professionall.

I killed the Hydra and I killed the Lion,

Hydraulics will again be my solu-scion.

I'll direct all the rivers from the mountains high,

And make a palace of this stark-stench-sty.

            The finest lays ever a poet sung,

            No longer will be hid' by oxen dung.


Alas, Elis, had long set up a committee,

For ethics, science and many other competency,

In which Hercules' contract caused mikel stir,

For in their eyes he was an amateur.

Their chairman spoke: this man once thought he was a wench,

And 'fore the quean-queen of Lydia did blench.

It's plain that his character is far from stable,

That he first clean and clear his own mental stable.

In Sparta he raped hind after hind and now and than a buck,

This is not pardonable, his methods were not scientifuck.

If this man carries out his plan, 't will be the end of morality,

Of science, and worst of all, of all professionality.

            And so the finest lays a poet ever sung,

            Are still ligging hid' under oxen dung.


One more there was, at Eliseley University

He was professor of dungo-mudo-logy.

For history of Elis he was the very best,

Therefore he had a pitchfork as his crest.

This dung, he quoth, hath grown into our heritage,

To flood it off is a cruel national sabotage.

What if our poet never a lay did writ?

Then nought we'll have, nat even bullen shit!!

These dunghills are the Chinese walls to our belief,

To tear them down, you want to pay this thief?!!

This Hercules the apples of the Hesperides did hent.

Let him not the golden glory of our Elis rend.

            And so the finest lays a poet ever sung,

            Are still all over hidden under oxen dung.


In all modesty, I think it deserves a place in old English literature. The proposal should receive serious consideration. After all, England has not so many good poets for the 14th century (* *).

© R. Detobel