Diary Entry of a Minstrel


This is a diary entry of a minstrel, traveling in a group of three on their way to the town of Canterbury to perform in the upcoming carnival. Minstrels are the early form of troubadours in the Middle Ages, who usually sing and dance ballad, songs, and other type of music in public to earn money and other materials. They also perform in front of aristocrats, nobles and kings whenever they are summoned for entertainment.

First Diary Entry:

“We, the traveling trio, had surely come a long way as far as eastern Kent to set foot on this enchanted and bustling town of Canterbury. We came from the town of Dover, and headed straight here, for we heard about the upcoming carnival. And it looks like we were right; everybody seems to be as busy as they could ever be.

Big John suggested that we should take a rest for a while, and then decide things later. I may have fully agreed to his idea because I really wanted to rest my body from our tiring journey all the way here. We stayed in this little yet cozy inn at the west of the town, and maybe, will be staying for a longer time, depending whether we have to perform or not. Old Dan left for a while to learn more about the carnival so we can decide our further actions in this town. Then, Big John also left the inn to join with the leader. But I think that he went out just to flirt with all the women with all his sweet talk! He’s such a Casanova! As for me, well, I was too tired to go outside and so, I waited for their return.

It was almost dark when they went home, and surely I was bored being myself for some hours that I slept it all away. But I was awakened by their voices that I managed to get up. Then Old Dan said that due to the upcoming carnival, we would be staying here for a while. I did not know what he meant by “a while”, and so, I was thinking that maybe we would be here for a week or more. That would be great, because I didn’t want just to leave this town without a single performance. Yes, talking about performance, we would be performing for our money’s cutting short really fast, and so we would like to earn some in this carnival. But of course, we would also like to share our wondrous tales and songs we have heard and learned from various lands. I am sure that people of Canterbury would be thrilled to hear them, and I do hope we will do well for the upcoming celebration.”

Second Diary Entry:

“Many people had already gathered in the main road when we arrived, and truly everybody was having fun at different shows of various performers. Some made a puppet show, and nearly all laughed on how they were putting up silly jokes at the audience. Many danced some folk music, and almost everybody started to join the dance as well when they heard the instruments playing.

Now it was our turn, the minstrels, to perform. Old Ben started a very catchy and joyful tune with his tin flute. I really have to say that he’s really very talented in playing flutes, that he even awed the audience. Big John and I started to play as well, with his fiddle and with my harp. Then we sang a ballad, “The Painful Plough”:

‘Come, all you jolly ploughmen, of courage stout and bold,
That labour all the winter in stormy winds, and cold;
To clothe the fields with plenty, your farm-yards to renew,
To crown them with contentment, behold the painful plough!’

‘Hold! ploughman,’ said the gardener, ‘don’t count your trade with ours,
Walk through the garden, and view the early flowers;
Also the curious border and pleasant walks go view, –
There’s none such peace and plenty performed by the plough!’

‘Hold! gardener,’ said the ploughman, ‘my calling don’t despise,
Each man for his living upon his trade relies;
Were it not for the ploughman, both rich and poor would rue,
For we are all dependent upon the painful plough.

‘Adam in the garden was sent to keep it right,
But the length of time he stayed there, I believe it was one night;
Yet of his own labour, I call it not his due,
Soon he lost his garden, and went to hold the plough.

‘For Adam was a ploughman when ploughing first begun,
The next that did succeed him was Cain, the eldest son;
Some of the generation this calling now pursue;
That bread may not be wanting, remains the painful plough.

Samson was the strongest man, and Solomon was wise,
Alexander for to conquer ’twas all his daily prise;
King David was valiant, and many thousands slew,
Yet none of these brave heroes could live without the plough!

Behold the wealthy merchant, that trades in foreign seas,
And brings home gold and treasure for those who live at ease;
With fine silks and spices, and fruits also, too,
They are brought from the Indies by virtue of the plough.

‘For they must have bread, biscuit, rice pudding, flour and peas,
To feed the jolly sailors as they sail o’er the seas;
And the man that brings them will own to what is true,
He cannot sail the ocean without the painful plough!

‘I hope there’s none offended at me for singing this,
For it is not intended for anything amiss.
If you consider rightly, you’ll find what I say is true,
For all that you can mention depends upon the plough.’

After we finished the song, we might have turned deaf when everybody cheered and clapped so loudly for us. Then one of them just shouted that they wanted one more song, and so, everybody else shouted the same. Of course, we couldn’t just ignore such a request, and so we decided to perform an another ballad, “Why Should We Quarrel for Riches”:

How pleasant a sailor’s life passes,
Who roams o’er the watery main!
No treasure he ever amasses,
But cheerfully spends all his gain.
We’re strangers to party and faction,
To honour and honesty true;
And would not commit a bad action
For power or profit in view.
Then why should we quarrel for riches,
Or any such glittering toys;
A light heart, and a thin pair of breeches,
Will go through the world, my brave boys!

The world is a beautiful garden,
Enriched with the blessings of life,
The toiler with plenty rewarding,
Which plenty too often breeds strife.
When terrible tempests assail us,
And mountainous billows affright,
No grandeur or wealth can avail us,
But skilful industry steers right.
Then why, &c.

The courtier’s more subject to dangers,
Who rules at the helm of the state,
Than we that, to politics strangers,
Escape the snares laid for the great.
The various blessings of nature,
In various nations we try;
No mortals than us can be greater,
Who merrily live till we die.
Then why should, &c.

The crowd clapped for us in the second time, but this time, much louder than ever that we could hardly hear each other’s voices. We were really quite happy that our performance was a success. People gave us some coins, food and wine as a reward for our wonderful act, and of course, we thanked them for such generosity. Even the innkeeper that we checked in told us that we could stay for free until the carnival is over! I never met such wonderful people in my life, compared to our travels in the previous towns we have visited.

As for the next days, we would still be performing some more. Just then, I realized that I really love the life of a minstrel, and I am grateful that Old Dan and Big John invited me to join in their group as traveling performers.”


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