The Borrower and His Tale (eBook .pdf)
When we had been a day upon the Canterbury way
And would reach our bourne on a swiftly approaching day,
A strange sort of fellow joined our lot,
His reason for coming, “Better late than not.”
I say he was strange from some distinctive traits
Attributed to this newcomer of which I will try to relate.
He gave not many facts about his life,
Though he did say the plague had taken both child and wife.
He was dressed quite humbly for one of his bearing,
But if he were a noble, of that he had no caring.
Still, he was a light-footed sire, nimble and loose,
Howbeit, his fingers were lighter, as you will deduce.
But that comes later on in the game.
The stranger gave “The Borrower” as his name.
It just so happened, after the Borrower’s appearance,
The wealthy of our group began to note a disappearance
Of valuables, costly, and of every sort,
From the guildsmen’s silver tools to the Pardoner’s pardons from the Pope’s Court.
But during this abundance of crime, it was plain to see,
The Plowman and the Parson the swindler let be.
It did not take us long to put together two and two,
But to accuse a man of thievery without proof, now that wouldn’t do.
So we kept our suspicions to ourselves as the goods fell to the pawnor.
We could not do a thing, held helpless by our honor.
In the dead of the night, a great noise filled the air.
An intruder had been caught in a foreign lair.
“Aha!” cried the Miller. “I’ve caught you red-handed!”
We all ran to see what fish he had landed.
From the ends of camp we raced as fast as we could
Thinking that maybe he had caught the thieving hood.
A gasp arose from the group gathered around
For in the lantern’s dim light, the Borrower could be found
With the Miller grasping him firmly by the scruff.
The Miller growled, “Now this has gone far enough.
Tell us, dear thief, just exactly your plan
For stealing our valuables, quickly, as fast you can!”
The Borrower replied quite calmly for one in his plight
(I have never seen anyone calmer with his wrongs in the light).
Answered he to the pilgrims gathered around his table,
“I will tell you my reason with an ancient fable;
‘Once, long ago, in an ancient time,
When great beasts roamed this world divine,
Devouring Man in his puny state,
An age before the genesis of great
Heroes, who slew these dragon-kings,
Gaining their hordes of ancient gold and runic rings,
There lived a particular loathsome worm,
A dragon lying in shadows undiscerned.
Dark mists gathered around his domain.
Ancient cobwebs clung to his great mane.
One thought only drifted in this lizard’s mind.
In the depths of his being a dark light shined,
To collect as much treasure as his lair could hold,
Ancient armor and weapons of twisted gold.
So this great dragon traveled far and wide,
Seeking gilded vessels of war to abide
Within the rocky walls of his palace of stone.
He had one great sword he loved alone
Above all the other treasures in his hoard.
It had been the death-bringer of many an ancient lord.
As you know, a dragon has no enemies, including time,
And this one was no different. He continued to seek and find
Wealth and precious stones which in his palace he laid.
One night, the dragon returned from a long escapade.
He stumbled with fatigue through his temple’s gate
And fell upon his pile of treasure so his tiredness could abate.
The battle-scarred sword, studded with gems and finely garbed,
Pricked its master through his greedy heart,
Draining his life-blood o’er his precious things,
And of these from his favorite, he felt Death’s sting.’
With this, the Borrower to the wealthy pilgrims turned.
They shrank back, for in his eyes a fiery light burned.
“I tell this story to you,” he whispered. “You alone,
For the hearts of the Parson and the Plowman are not like stone.
You make great vows and promises, maybe none.
Whether you do or do not, they are not kept, not a one.
Your love of money overshadows all other thought.
What of the poor and destitute who have naught?
Yes, I borrowed your valuables and should have sold
Them to help the poor, the sick and the old.
But I did not. No, I will not commit a wrong.
However just the deed, I will not go along.
They are lying in my tent, every one,
Where you can find them again when I am gone,
But I should have, I say, given them away.
They are no good to you but to adorn and lay
In your large mansions and spacious halls
Though plenty you still have wasting in your vaults.
A truth comes to your lips though you think it a lie,
‘Avarice is indeed the root of all evil.’ Now good-bye!”
And with that, the Borrower pulled from the Miller’s grasp
And walked calmly away amidst a hushed gasp,
For the pilgrims of money stood still, astounded,
As the words of the Borrower sank in, resounded!
Written for a high school assignment (1984)