Thursday, December 26, 2013

Because I Would Like To Believe

Because I Would Like To Believe- that our world is not run by liars, murderers and deceivers after the Truth-
Because I Would Like To Believe- that there is a hope for the human race, after Fukushima-
Because I Would Like To Believe- that Democracy is not yet Dead in the United States of America, or anyplace else where it has taken root and sprung up-
Because I Would Like To Believe- that people would rather live in peace than fight over 6 billion names for God and the policies of 196 governments
Because I Would Like To Believe- that there is a force for Good on this Earth and that all people of Goodwill are doing their best to bring about a Better World for all
Because I Would Like To Believe- I will refuse to give in to Fear.

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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A Stick In the Eye

     A momentous decision, the first of its kind in quite a long whiles, to go in the direction of the public interest and common good, on the surveillance state issue, was made this past week in Federal Court. The presiding judge ruled that the NSA program “Prism” had very likely overstepped its authority under the Constitution with its “collect-it-all” telephony records gathering. The judge hearkens back to the case under which all state spying in the USA has proceeded since 1975, Smith vs. Maryland, and declares that the technology which now addresses the nation’s communications has evolved to such a point that the precedent set under Smith no longer applies, and that it is time for a new one, and a reconsideration of the abuse of the powers which Smith had previously allowed government to proceed on.
     The judge stops short, however, of calling the program “Orwellian,” and terms it “almost Orwellian.” This allows some wiggle room, for anyone who has actually read Orwell’s 1984 realizes full well that the police state powers the author described are a definite corollary to the current practices of the NSA. Further, it lays even more responsibility at the feet of the executive branch of government, how these powers are being put to use. And once again, Hif Majeftie, Barack Obama, has weighed in on the side of totalitarianism, all the while, washing his hands, and refusing to address the idea that his national intelligence officers have violated their privilege of office, and contravened the Constitution.
     Of course, this is no surprise to those of us who have been watching Hif Majeftie since his 180-turnabout on the idea of holding the Bush administration responsible for its torture and war crimes. Indeed, to keep blaming Bush for the policies which this particular president now has continued unabated (and ramped up!) on the issue of total surveillance, drone murder, indefinite detention &  assassination without due process, and indefatigable imperialism in Afghanistan and northeast Africa, is to overlook the bald fact that this president has been in office quite long enough to “own it”all- and own up.
     The ruling states that “Congress may not hang a cloak of secrecy over the Constitution” and  “Of course, the public has no interest in freeing the government from the burdens of complying with the Constitution!”[exclamation point in original].  This is strong language from a federal judge, appointed by G.W.Bush, the man most knee-jerk “liberals” would love to carry the weight and the blame for all of this as a means of letting themselves off the hook for being ever-decreasingly vigilant as regards to the totalitarian excesses of their own Dear Leader. It rather points up the fact that in this society, individuals are expected to think (and judges to rule) from their own conscience, not simply to parrot the endeavor of the people who appoint them. It is a good thing that someone recognizes- finally! that the Constitution itself is what matters here, not the government’s power and ability to intimidate the public. If there ever were a time when protest were truly needed in America, it would be now, when the most complacent of Democratic partisans only see the issues before the nation as “investing ObamaCare” and the “need for more gun control.”

     There are a lot of reasons that this ruling is well-timed and is a stick in the eye of the Cyclopean police state over which Barack Obama presides. It is high time that rights were returned to the people of this nation- rights which are inalienable and which the Founders of this country could never have foreseen would be brought into such imminent danger as that posed by the very agencies which have been tasked to ensure its freedom. Freedom no longer means what it used to, but only if people forget what freedom has truly meant in the past, and could mean once again. Especially if we the people, with the power of the vote, can prevent some of these people responsible for this state of affairs from ever once again holding public office.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Rule of Law in a Free Society

     I read with some bemused interest today John McCain’s latest umbrage with the policies of Hif Majeftie, Barack Obama. This concerns the well-hoped-for release of the Congressional Report on Torture, which Mr. McCain (and many concerned Americans) would like to see, for themselves. How far the USA is willing to go to forego its own regulations (or international obligations) and Constitutional guarantees to citizen and non-citizen alike has become a bellwether for indications of how close or how far America comes to upholding the principles upon which it was founded, and attests to still adhere to (with ever-less visual confirmations).
     Senator McCain “does not mourn the death of any terrorist” he says, last of all, Bin Laden. Neither do I necessarily, however I add my own caveats to all that. The killing of Osama Bin Laden, while welcomed by most all Americans, took place outside of the theater of due process. Granted this- that Bin Laden at least received the notice of any official indictment (something which neither Anwar Awlaki, Al Qaeda propagandist, nor his son Abdulrahman, a youth with no connection whatsoever  to AQ except his own “attainted” blood-relationship to his father) happened to get- but yet, Bin Laden was not arrested, by the forces sent to apprehend him. Nor was he brought to the scene of his crime, to answer for it. Although he had admitted it. Instead, lynch mob justice prevailed, shoot-to-kill orders were invoked, and he was granted his most fervent wish- to become a martyr at the hands of the US Government. Here again, another indication of how little those charged with directing our military have had to do with the common sense compiled in Sun Tzu’s Art of War. But I digress.
     Terrorists are criminals. Do not legitimize them by arguing “we are at war”... We are NOT at war unless we receive a CONGRESSIONAL DECLARATION OF WAR. All other use of representative force is nothing but a run-around of the Constitution. Apparently, for the past seventy years, Congress has been too lazy to invoke this, or (more likely) the “threats” the nation faces have been truly unworthy of such a measure. Which is my own suspicion. Do not lend the cause of terrorists legitimacy by invoking them as a state enemy, even if their propaganda itself declares “jihad” against a certain society. Defining them as military opponents lends them a legitimacy they do not deserve. For in just such ways we have noted how little of the freedoms we claim they reject actually still hold sway in our own Republic.
      Nor by our surrendering the protections guaranteed by our Fourth and Fifth Amendments do we protect “our cherished values,” but we actually achieve the stated goals, OF those terrorists that oppose us, by our becoming a super-totalitarian police state under which all citizens become terror suspects as the targets of brain-dead “collect it all” surveillance.
     Something else which flies under the same flag, is the notion of the “Warrior Policeman-Hero.” This idea gains momentum through popular culture easily, spread by prolefeed programs such as “Homeland” (the very word of which echoes the Nazi concept of “Heimat”). Higher standards of bravery are needed for a culture of policemen so threatened by a family’s PETS that deadly force is often applied. The number of dead-by-cop dogs (and even birds!) is adding up. Obviously more bullies and chickenshit-enforcers are being recruited by law enforcement nationwide, to an extent that one begins to think perhaps such a profile has become a matter of hiring policy for too many police departments. The police state’s fear-mongering propaganda (which again, plays out in programs like “Homeland”) is a sure means of reinforcing the idea that it is necessary for the members of a free society to hunker down like sheep, while the wolves hired to protect them go about winnowing their own flock of truth-tellers and “malcontent elements” and “radicalizers.” As persons who defend the Constitution are increasingly derided as “radicals” or “potential terrorists” rather than the “true believers” in American justice which they are, yet opposed to what they rightly see as ever-increasing totalitarian encroachment, one wonders what will be left of “Freedom” —when the wolves have finished feeding.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

By What, Your Stars? (Excerpt, If I Should Live So Long, 12-13)

We set out for Saint Albans, then, at the first light. The abbots (though not Vincebus!) had provided us with bread, and ales, and some fruit for the next day’s travels. We would on toward Oxford once we had stopped.

In Reedly Hump, though, I met once more Asmodel who I had done the short horoscope for. But now Porcull was with me! And while Porcull might still have need for the almanack, he might fashion a better horoscope than I for the man, and provide him a better glimpse of his present and future estate. So I passed along the problem, actually.
And in fact, Porcull proceeded to do just that. Asmodel was quick to draw from his pouch my humble beginnings of a chart, and he took it, and made annotations and changes to it. For one thing, he was able to ascertain the man’s other great planets better than I, and insinuate the degree of separation between Mercury and Venus. He gave Asmodel back the annotated chart. Bemused wonderment was about the only way I might describe the look upon his face.

“And now, could you tell me, sire Astrologer, what does it all MEAN?”
“Certainly.” And Porcull waked him through it planet by planet.
“You have a trine between Mars and Jupiter. Your Saturn is occluded in Scorpio and that is not good for your house of marriage. Perhaps you will and perhaps you will not. You seem to have escaped something rather recently, as noted here by the recent crossing of Jupiter to your natal house of Aries. It is possible that you will meet up with more troubles by the end of the year, when your Saturn is conjunct with it, once again. Anyway, you seem to be a bright sort of man otherwise, none of this could interest you in the least.”
“And how is that?”
“I do not know. Perhaps, you tell me?”
Their banter went on in this manner for some quarter of an hour more, when Richard came over to Porcull and mentioned he would like him to rejoin our group.
“So dear sir, you will excuse me, will you? My companions beckon.”
The man Asmodel continued poring over the chart, now and then shaking his head, gesturing at it to a small number of his friends, and I could see them from the corner of my eye.
But Richard wanted Porcull near so he could lead him into the conversation he was about to engage in with me.
“Again, Master Julian, please, what say you of this band of highwaymen we may encounter?”
“False taffy!” I told him. “False Taffy and his Erstwhile- er, Intemperate Monks.”
“Intemperate Monks?”
“Something like that. They roam ‘tween here and Oxford. Should we encounter them, however, we have his word, he shall give me ‘scape. So he said, at least. It is a payment for an errand I did him.”
“You deal with highwaymen?”
“Richard, I deal with whomever it is I must. Circumstance was such on my first journey to London, that it lumped me in with him. There is another group to the north toward Birmingham as well, it would do well we avoid, for I have no such promises of passage from them. They are known as Wigley and His Raveners..”
“And you have been there, yet, they did not rob you either.”
“No, Sire Richard, but ‘twas only by mere chance as they harried others as I went along with them. Perhaps it is best to have the protection of these types, than it is to go without? And be at their mercy?”
“Yet, we cannot allow for loss of goods nor coin, you know. We must all make it back safely to Chester!”
“Yes, indeed, we must.”
The taverner came over to me and requested a song of me. So I gave them the Lay of Arthur and the Round Table, and the Quest of the Grail. All of the local men were quite happy by it, and I found my memory quickened easily with the addition of a little more of the liquid lubrication passed round about our table. Richard bought us bed for the night at the inn, and then we slept all, until the light was fair high in morning’s sky.
And that morning was fine, fair, yet we departed a bit late, once more, Richard paying for more food which could be carried off such as boiled eggs, more cheese, even a jug of milk that only went as far as the next town. Along the roads we kept eye out for other roving purser gangs.
And inevitably, we were taken upon by False Taffy. He rode straight up to Richard at the cart, and gazed up and down, round about it.
“And what have we here? A merchant, on his way out of London! And fair full of fattening, is he not, as London be such a great place for profit?”
“I’ll do not by you but ride right by,” said Richard. I could feel the tension mounting.
“False Taffy!” spoke I. “False Taffy, remember me? I am Julian, of Chester!”
He looked me over and then something in his mind finally registered my face.
“Ah! The young minstrel I charged to take message to Squire Dover at Court! Well lad, stand and deliver, what said he to my message?”
“I shall give you fair word only that you allow my companions - all of us- to return wither we have come, and leave your robbing to men of higher degree than we.”
“Men of higher degree? And what mean you by that? How often do princes rule this road?”
“I mean what I said. We are all prepared to give thee blow for blow, if that be the choice!”
This little bit of bravado was pure and simple, a bluff on my part, but having had a bit of this on the way before, I knew that bluff sometimes worked better than blunder. And so it did!
“Well, well, I suppose me and me boys should have better pickings off others. But you must now tell me. I will give you safe passage, such as I promised, indeed, when last met. Hear now, tell me what the law man said!”
“If I remember rightly, said Squire Dover that your case is familiar to him and he was in sympathy. He said he holds you innocent of the murder of which you are charged, and wishes that it be taken to the King, himself. But for doing so, you must give up thievery. For it be on him to judge, whether your later doings shall not acquit you of your earlier matter. And he said little more, truly, because I was there on other matters...”
“Other matters?”
“Why yes, now we are just returning to Chester from attending to them. It is really a paltry thing. Some man said I stole his song. But his song is an old song of the people, and it could not have been his to own, so said our judge, in other words. And I was charged to return with my six friends here, and well I should hope we all may make it all home safe and sound. I have your word, do I not?”
“Indeed. We who live outside the laws must of necessity be honest among each other, no less.”
“And the men who live by the laws must be free to apply them where they must,” I replied.
He rubbed his chin and squinted at me.
“But then, Julian, what do you suppose I ought to do on this matter? Even the law cannot bring me back the life of my wife.”
“Nor will it the life of Lew Grimspittle. Maybe the best thing you can do is return to London and the Esquire, and at least, allow him to plead your innocence to the king.”
“Bah! This king is no man to trust! Did he not starve Richard in his tower? Did he not win his crown by stealth, just as a clever roadman takes account of some fool gentleman’s saddlebags?
Ach. This has no savor to my taste, lad. But I shall think on all this.”
“That I should say you well ought to do. And perhaps, find some other occupation, that you might well earn the esteem of the men who will hear of your travails.”
He looked at me again, squinting. He looked to Richard, and then to Roger, and then to Porcull, and everyone in the cart.
“I do suppose there would be little to gain from hindering honest folk. Truly, my trouble is best spent on the rich and the noble. Alright, Julian, you must continue on your way. Yet I beg you, stay with us one night in the hideaway! We will offer you spit meats and cask ale!”
Richard shot me a look and a frown that said “no’. I hid my knowledge of that and answered.
“No, we hope to reach Chester as soon as Lord allows. The days have been upon us nine since we left to begin this journey, and our people will be expecting us, we dare not tarry.”
“Alright. Go then hence! And dare you return, know that our odds have been evened!”
Richard took this as the signal to begin the carthorses again, and we were soon rolling on, past False Taffy and his Ignobly Erstwhile Monks, mounted on their Ignobly Erstwhile Steeds, and headed again on our way homeward. Our next destination was Oxford, and the Bear Inn of Mr. Pope...
Along the way to Oxford, Porcull engaged me in a most strange discussion about music. He wanted to be certain I learned something, he said was quite important. But his concept was grand and I admit it was something beyond my ken. But it was something as such:
Every place on Earth has its cosmic music. This is music which remains purely and simply to itself, nestled into the landscape. It is the summa of all the human experience there, and of all of nature and her ways, and it is always present, when one comes to that place. Surely he noted to me, that when I made a visit to the great cathedral of Chester, that there was a certain sense of mood I encountered upon entry?
Yes, I admitted, there was indeed. But in my mind it was fraught up with the injunctions of friars and priests and the tones of the incense burners swinging them round at Mass.
No, no, he said. He meant, the mood and the music of the place, absent all other people? He told me he had such an experience when he visited and prayed alone. There in the cathedral, with the sunlight coming through the glass of many colors, he could almost hear, as he termed it, voices of angels, which would only be felt in that deep silence of the holy space.
But, I argued, weren’t all places holy?
“Precisely, Julian! And each place’s holiness has a music apart and unto itself! Your duty as a minstrel should be to attune yourself to these... vibrations, such as they are. They are of our world and yet they are of a higher one. And note you well, when you come to a place, seek out the men of good nature, not those as we have recently passed. Those who have innocence and laughter of their childhood written in their eyes and on their faces. They are the seekers and the children of God! Not the hard, care burdened and case hardened souls such as Vincebus Eruptum, a monk of dubious intent and just as dubious desires. In each one of these honest people is a spark that the Lord has kindled which nothing can put out, not even misfortune, not even the death of their kinsmen by plague or sword, not even the hardships of famine can wrench from them the happiness that eternally springs from within them, in response to the call of the music.. of their place. Mark it well! For these are lessons few learn. Love the neighbor as yourself! For in he is the quality and value of the friend, and none profit but that they do well by their neighbor in the exchange.”
Richard had been listening, and agreed with the last comment.
“Aye, 'tis true, Master Porcull. If you give a man shoddy goods, and charge him more than a farthing for them, soon he will be back at your door, complaining the loss of his farthing, and the wretchedness of your estate.”
“You said there is music in very place. How shall I find it?”
“Ah, Master Julian. You ask such wonderful questions! For this is something only you can learn of yourself. I can talk and talk and talk until the sun turn blue in the sky, and yet, if you have no sense of what you are seeking, you may not find it, ever! But you are clever, I grant, and you are also one blessed by the Lord for your muse. You will KNOW when you have found it. But to get there, I should tell you—if it can even help a little!— When you come to a town, listen. Listen to the sounds of the nature around it. Take note the song of the birds, and their type. Take note of the trees, and their type. Take note of the run of the land, its rivers, streams, the stones with which men have built it, and the fields and what they contain. Keep your ears, and more importantly, your heart! Open in all ways. In such a manner you shall find each place and town revealing that hidden music to you Also take well to note the position of the planets, if you can, and think upon the work of the heavenly spheres, as they reflect in the common life of men. In such a way, the angels may learn to grace you, and you may learn to rely upon them for inspiration! For so it comes to those who seek, or so it was written.”
Indeed, there was so much in what he said that I kept silent all the rest of the day, pondering. When we passed by towns, I looked around me at the landscape and looked deep into the eyes of strangers, who saw in me only a passing face. I looked at the life taking place- the people at their work, men in the fields, women hauling out washing and cutting out firewood. All these different activities seemed to me to have a music of their own! Perhaps this was what he had been speaking of! But I kept silent, because soon we’d be at another inn, and it might well be time I would be called upon to play Luisa once more, and yet... hearing what had been said, keeping it keen in mind, I found the music I played that evening took me even farther along that inner road than I had ever expected.

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Monday, December 2, 2013

Julian to the Inns of Court (Excerpt, If I Should Live So Long - 12-13)

By the time showed myself at Mary’s door in Chester, much apparently had been going on. Master Carpenter had been granted a contract (“a devil’s due” he termed it) to build casks and barrels for the Prince, Henry the younger, in advance of his father’s soon-to-be-renewed campaign against the Welsh.
“They are granting me the sum of one hundred pounds in order that I provide them some hundred-and-thirty barrels- including butts, kilderkins, and firkins. I only need to build them eight butts, but then, some forty kilderkins and eighty firkins. These, they say, will be used over and over, but it is necessary to build them, as their messenger told me that the old bunch have half rotted now. At least they did not ask me to create tuns! I would have noplace to store them. All the same, it’s money due me, right? But then I must procure the wood. So I drove the best bargain I could, right through His Majesty’s treasury.”
“That’s not quite so bad...”
“But seeing as the profit to the brewers and the wine sellers will be much more (and we won’t, don’t you know, provide them any of the Lady’s brew!) than I should make, and when I consider the raw wood will nigh run me close to half that sum, then this is rather short on the supply line, to me, anyway. A curse on this wretch of a King! Would that there was truly an honest man on the throne, who would see to it that all craftspeople were respected. I don’t know where they get the idea that we would just as soon hand things over in the name of the honor or the glory of the King himself, seeing as that he’s such a cheap.”
“But yet, even to have one hundred pounds is more than many merchants along this street might make in the course of a year...”
“That is true, Julian, but then as I said- I must supply the wood, and then I must pay a tax on what I was granted out of this hundred pounds, also! Never will it do, just, never. But I told the Lady I should try at least to save some... lest we need pay more than that off to our own landlord!”
“Your landlord?”
“Yes! While we lease this home and we make many improvements to it, it is still a shop, and I must pay the Guildsmen their fee for licensing it, and pay little old Mister Landlord what I owe in our yearly rents, all that by the first day of July. It is never easy, never.”
Mary had come down the stairs into the shop as I spoke with her father. I bowed to her, and she was happy to see I had actually made it back.
“And London was?”
“And London was, yes.”
“Not more, not less?”
“It was a disappointment. And I have to go back, as well, for they have a man there who is suing me to court!”
“What of?”
“What of... well, I wrote lyrics to a melody he says he owns, which I heard from another busker in the street. It is a pretty tune, and it is a good one. So I borrowed it, but lent words to it. Words that are, actually, about you, dear heart!”
“You will sing me this song in the evening. Today, mother and I work on our ale. You are welcome to a cup, you know.”
“It would be well met. But I need still to find my six hands! Whom should I ask? I cannot and dare not ask your father here...”
Her father continued working, pounding on planks, pretending he barely heard anything, although I could see he was half-hiding the fact he had an ear cocked.
“I need to visit Stephen. I need to ask him of those there on the manor who might help. I will also ask of his father. I don’t know if I can make it, but I shall try. The sooner I leave for London the sooner all this shall be over with and the more sure I will be that our nest egg is secure from more takers than I wish to allow.”
“Nothing has changed my plan, we are still on to marry in August.”
“Indeed we are.” And she leaned over to kiss me, despite her father’s blushing, half-hidden grin.
I sat with him another hour as I drank the ale, and as Mary was gone from presence, he opened up a little to me.
“Julian, you are a prospective son in law. Well it might be that you do have my daughter’s heart, and that I can see, right off. I want no better than to have her happiness, you know. But the life of a minstrel is such...”
I could pretty well foresee where he wanted to take this direction in talk.
“Yes, Sire Carpenter, ‘tis a rough lot, at times. But there is little she is unwilling to share, be that as it may, either the uncertainty of the sleeping chamber or the hazards of road and weather. She and I plan to combine our talents. I will write songs and perform for the people, she will create her poppets and we will make plays for people, together. This, anyway, is much our plan. If only I had not had this problem come up at court, and did not have to return to London! All we plan could go into effect this very week! But I must return. If I do not, then they will send collectors and possibly even send swordmen to track me down, and take me in my sleep. I put nothing beyond these persons that make a business out of robbing minstrels of their music!”
“It does sound as though it is a matter best attended to. And of course, you will do so, before you take my daughter’s hand.”
“Absolutely, Sire Carpenter! That is why I had to rush here as fast as I might. Because we do wish to get on with our new life.”
“Well then, I would suggest you go with all speed to your friends at the manor. I am sure there you will find a few more to help in this situation.”
That was such a good suggestion, I had not thought to think of what others there were in the manor! Stephen, most definitely, but of course, but there were those other persons who made my friendship, I could at least— I was actually beholden to ask, since there were few in the town of Chester I trusted well enough as it was.
The easiest, of course, was Stephen. And along with Stephen came Richard, who saw it as a good opportunity to make sales of cloth and trade for other things. Roger, of course, would accompany them both, and Giles the Woodward.
It was not hard to convince the Woodward to come along. I had had some dealings with him  in the three years I had been a familiar at the manor. When I first encountered him, I had been fishing in the stream- much as I had done the day Porcull became my friend. And he was quite suspicious, in fact, so much so that he crept up behind me unawares, and grabbed my cloak at the shoulder, and frightened me beyond words! But I remembered to pull out the seal that Richard had given me, and explained myself, and he stood back, impressed. He had then, he admitted, made a mistake, but that I was welcome to whatever I wished to take, then, as it was his duty to troll the grounds for poachers, and he had badly mistaken me as one of these. For a man like Giles, a trip to the great City of London was as much the adventure as it was for myself! But all the others had been there on numerous trips- Richard and his son, of course, Porcull in his early years, and Roger on his own. And then there was the last of the six, Garthson the Haywain. He was such a simpleton, he spent the entire trip in a stupor, hardly noticing a bit, and had to be prodded in and out of the cart.
We set out in Richard’s cart with two horses drawing us. By the time we arrived at Stafford, the sun was falling low on the horizon, and the sky was pink and streaks of cloud painted a merry face on nightfall. Such a merry face! When we took to the inn there after drawing up the cart, and Richard paid for our beds for the night, there were many at their cups who wanted a song. And I did not disappoint! I was paid in food and coin- not so much as usual, but then, the merry company there were such as to not cause me any grumble. I was going to try and be as tight as I could, if I could, with my purse, since everything I might gain was to become the common fortune to Mary and myself.
In the morning of our second day from Chester, Richard stopped at the Inn at Peatspit. He bought us all a fine lunch, and bought more provisions, that we need not stop again for a day or two more- but for my attempts to fish. He bought four large loaves of bread, one for each of us, and stored them in a cupboard behind the driving seat of his cart. As well in there he put two large wheels of cheese, and in the body of the cart, a nice cask of good ale, the best the keeper would part with.  Besides us all riding in the back of the cart, and he and Roger up front, he had many large bolts of cloth which were stood on end on the bottom, and lain flat over the top. These he hoped to sell at Smithfield, where they would surely be in demand, and they would, he said he hoped, pay for our trip quite in full, and leave him with some profit.
On the day after the stop at Peatspit we were parked outside another town, Snakesbury, and there two small children I found at my shoes as I was not yet waking. They were tugging and pulling on them to get them free of me! They laughed and made mockery of me, and ran away when I threw a stone at them.
While I managed to keep my shoes, Stephen was not quite so lucky. I went back to sleep, but I was awoken again to hear Stephen cursing. The children it seems had returned, and they had actually been able to take one of his shoes! Now he must need either go one-shod or barefoot, until such time as  Richard could get him to a cobbler. The children laughed and yelled and we could hear them as they lingered near one of the houses, and they threw stones back at us. But we were lucky- it was summer, and the roads were not muddy, and all Stephen had to suffer was a little nip in the night time. Richard did buy him a new pair of shoes at our next stop, Coleback.
Stephen, myself, Porcull, and the Woodward and Haywain rode all together in the back of the cart, sitting on bolts of cloth. It was not so bad- not so bad as an empty cart would have been, when we could feel all the jolts and bumps of stones and pits in the roadway. Porcull kept us all amused by launching Springer off once in a while, and Springer would return with a fat hare, or some other type of bird, that we would roast when we camped. As I said I did try to fish in some places, but we were never quite off the road well enough that I felt assured some landsman might not catch me out, and force me into paying some type of fine. Most of the while we could live on the loaves and the cheese and the ale itself, for it was strong ale, and we measured each of us but four cups per day. By the time we reached London the cask was done, however, we were all in the jolliest spirits.
When we came to Bentlea Priory, it was time for Porcull to come to grips with Vincebus. I was half expecting some horrible sort of scene, although that did not happen at all. What did happen was, within minutes of our arrival, Vincebus began a nasty running argument with Porcull that did not stop until we left for the market (and I for court) the next day.  Many of the bolts of linen that Richard had brought, Vincebus allowed him to store for a time at the Priory, so there was never much need to put a guard on the cart when we came to Smithfield. For that, just having Garthson along was a worthwhile thing.
But Vincebus insisted that he must come to the Court with us.
“The Songgemonger has chosen me to represent him upon your return, Sire Plectrum. Permit me to ride along with you and your company to the Court.”
Richard stared at him.
“You are expecting a ride back, no doubt as well?”
“Mercy, no, but perhaps...”
“Let us see once the matter is attended to. You do none of us well by insisting on your presence.”
“Yes, but then, Julian might never have met the Songgemonger either, had I not directed him.”
“And whether that be a good or foul thing, is up to Julian to decide. It would seem this man has cost him a fair amount of trouble, no less, the trouble and time we are taking to speak up in his favor. Perhaps this was something that he had not counted upon- that Julian actually has friends.” Porcull had managed to get the last word in.
Vincebus said nothing more, but when Richard took the cart and room had been made for large Vincebus to ride along in the back with us, he drove off down the Edgeware Road with most of us laughing and jesting. Even with Vincebus’s sour face and mirthlessness, we were determined to enjoy the city if we might.
Many sights along the way. Of course on my trip before I had noticed much, but then again I guess I had missed just as much, my mind having been on my hunger, and the chicken leg I had brought which was my only meal (until I had come to the Lame Ox). And of the sights on the way, none was more stirring nor pathetic than the several beggars who reached arms outstretched from the roadside, asking for alms. Vincebus even turned his head aside at the countenance of some, a most un-manly act, Porcull noticed.

And so I with all the companions, I came to the court buildings, looking for Squire Dover, and having done so, reported myself to the magistrates.

“Julian Plectrum, Crofter’s son, of Cheshire. We thank you for your speedy return. We do see you have come, as we requested, sixhanded. Pray tell us the names and the duties of your six hands, and allow them to attest to your character.”
The first to speak up was Stephen.
“Your Honor I am Stephen Westchester, the son of my father here, Richard Westchester. We are merchants of Chester who came today to London in order we might help our friend Julian  escape the penalties, such as they might be, forced upon him by the bad circumstance he has reported to us, of the jealous man, Songgemonger, who says that Julian stole”—
“Silence now! we will judge on the terms of the charge later. Attest you your knowledge of Julian, and whereof the type of sire he is.”
“Julian, my dear solicitors, is a fine man- Julian actually saved my life- three summers ago! He pulled me from the river as I was drowning. He is a free man, for he left his father’s house and is now his own squire. He travels up and down from Chester to Penzance making music at taverns, and in the courts of noble gentlemen. He is talented and he is intelligent. He also helps us each year to bring the harvest in.”
“Well said, lad. Next?”
The Woodward Giles stepped up, and held his cap in his hands as he spoke.
“Squire Julian is a fair young man, sirs. He is honest and has been granted the goods of the manor of which I am woodward. He amuses himself by fishing and by helping his tutor here, Porcull, with harvesting the garden he keeps round his hut. He is good, and I have never known him to shoot arrows at harts or to poach the king’s game. He is my friend, and I despise the idea that he may have “stolen” some song...”
Again, the Woodward too was stopped in mid sentence by the judge.
Next was Roger Wirral’s turn.
“I am Roger of Wirral, the attendant of Squire Richard Westchester’s business affairs. I accompany him on his travels to France, and help with the drayage of the ships he boards upon the way. I have known Julian three summers now also. He accompanied us at least once as far as Penzance, where he oft times keeps a small room in the city. he writes many songs and lays of his own, and plays quite well the lute, in a most fine and original manner, I might add. If you think that he stole”—
Once again, the judge lifted his hand to cease the chatter. Now it was Porcull’s turn.
“Your Honors, I am Porcull of Cheshire. I am the tutor of Julian Plectrum. To me, he comes for lessons in history, astronomy, medicine, and gardening. He has stayed with me at my cottage these past several summers. Richard here granted him the use of the lands, the stream, and of the game. Julian has been quite helpful to me in allowing me to bring in my herb crops, that I can pay Richard fair rent, and he is certainly no thief.”
The judge banged the gavel. “Come now, all of you. all I need is to hear what you do and how you know him! I will deal with the charge on my own, as I have told you!” The judge reached down below the bar and poured himself a glass of brandy from a jug he kept nearby. It was obvious the judge had been busy in this manner most of the morning before we had arrived, for he smiled as he did so, and swilled down the whole cup in one swallow. With a belch he filled it again.
Garthson the Haywain was next, but merely nodded when the judge asked him if he knew me. The judge could see, perhaps, that Garthson was a little thick in the brains.
“I cuts down the wheat. Julian helps. He is good folk, magister.”
That seemed to satisfy the judge, who again, punctuated each interrogation with a big swig of whatever sort of wondrous brandy poured from that jug he kept beneath the bar.
“And you, sire? I have left you for last. Richard Westchester, is it?”
“Yes.” Richard stood up straight and tall. The court clerk wrote everything down on a scroll as he delivered his own message.
“Julian saved my son’s life, Your Honor. For this, I gave him my seal and the right to all passage through my lands, the right to catch any fair game he could, and to come and sup with my son and I at any time he likes. In return, he comes to us each year and helps harvest all the grain in August, the hay in June, and helps Master Porcull in July. He is a good chessman, and you would be hard pressed to take a victory on him should you be so pressed”—
“Enough!” said the judge. “I HATE CHESS. I prefer bowls, myself, and boards, and checkers. Give me a game which is simple and I am well put!” He snickered, pouring himself yet another cup of brandy, and once more, tossing it all down at a dash.
“SO!” he continued, when he had finished with the cup and stored it back on its shelf beneath the bar,  “This minstrel, Julian Crofter, was accused by one Julius “Songgemonger” Defult of having stolen his song, She Moved Through the Faire. We have heard his claim of not guilty, for in our first session with him, Julian did explain his belief that melodies belong to the people, not to any one person, and that melodies such as “She Moved Through the Fair”, being works of the public, should be exempt from the privileges of a certain one or two who make their money off of broadsheets- melody or words, it does not matter. We are familiar with Mr. Songgemonger. Indeed, he has won several cases at this court to date, which mainly come from his offering funds to minstrels coming here, to London, writing out their lyric or their melody, and offering them up to him for sale. He then takes these words and music and publishes them under his imprint, “Songgemonger Tunes, Limited” and sells these both himself and to his subscribers, who pay an annual fee for their delivery into their salons and inns.
“And we see here as well the monk Vincebus Eruptum, his presence at Court duly noted, as he has been here once before on the behalf of the Songgemonger, and thus, I suppose, once more called to speak in his patron’s behalf. Well, lest I recall the matter in error, this is the second time that Mr. Julius Defult  has neglected to speak on his own behalf in this complaint. His absence is noted and noted with prejudice. Now, speak, Sire Monk, and make it brief and pointly.”
“Your Honor, I regret that Master Julius cannot be here, but I only yesterday had occasion to find Sire Plectrum at the doors of our Priory, and allowed himself and his companions due hospitality of the evening, and they have all shared in the food of the abbots as breakfast as well.
“Mr. Julius is not able to attend, being this is all such short notice, but...”
            “If you could come, “ interrupted the judge, “and he is himself, in even nearer proximity than your priory, why could he not be here now? I am extremely irritated by this.” He once again swigged off his brandy cup, and I began to feel as if things were headed my way, finally.
“But Your Honor, Master Julius is a very busy man...”
“As are we all. I see that as no reason to waste MY time, if a man has not the temper to bring before me his own pressing matters!” Clearly now the judge was rather angry.
“But he did want me to tell the court that the use of his song...”
“HIS song?”
“Yes, your Honor. The song was brought to him by another minstrel, and offered freely at a price.”
“It seems to me that a song so long on the tongues of the people of England cannot be the property of just one man.”
“It was legally sold and so is now his property.”
“But my dear monk, this song, as I recently learned, is actually older than any of us now sitting here today. It goes back a great way longer than some young singer bad on their luck recently arrived in London. It’s not even an English song at all, in its original.”
Vincebus was clearly dumbstruck. The judge had actually done some reading on the case! I knew now that I was clearly the winner. And what he said next made it clear to everyone.
“It is my opinion, Mr. Julian, that while you made a bad decision in attempting to take a melody already extant and fit to it your own words, that you did not, in fact, steal the song, but you had composed an original song of your own, that only fit the similar melody. Therefore, you did not steal the song. I am finding you not guilty and instead, will order a punitive fine for Mr. Songgemonger. This will be, perhaps, the last time he tries to take advantage of some green honest minstrel, ignorant in the ways of the big city and the perfidy of the old and crafty.”
The judge sat back.
I was floored. Actually, it took me some moments to catch my breath to think- they ruled in MY favor over the old Songgemonger! I was free to leave! No fine would I need to pay- I had carried half my fortune with me, hiding it all along, but fearing as well that I could very well need to pay great geld to the Songgemonger. I beat him!
Stephen and I left, with Richard, Porcull, Roger and the Woodward, and Garthson the simpleton Haywain all, out of the Inns of Court, and back onto the street.  Vincebus hurriedly scurried off in his own direction, presumably, to take the news to Songgemonger. Immediately I took them to the Inn called the Lame Ox where I had stayed before, and Richard bought all of us large tankards of best ale. Celebrated! I took off Luisa from my back, and played the song they said I stole. I played the Lay of Arthur, the Lay of Robin Hood, and the Lay of Ulysses, to everyone’s joy, and when I was done with those, my song for Mary, and then I extemporized alone on the lute, taking all of them on a journey through my mind’s back door, into the green valleys of my muse. It was one of the best nights of my life, and the taverner- gave me not one, not two, but THREE groats for my performance.

Apparently, however, the word traveled fast. From Inns of Court to the home of old Songgemonger went Vincebus, and from Songgemonger’s Vincebus hurried his way back to the Priory, where he not only kept up his sparks with Porcull, but had me on the floor of it as well, when we made our way (finally, after many tankards) back there ourselves.
“So, so, the Great Julian Plectrum of Cheshire! Has won the better over London’s finest maker and seller of songs! What will young Julian do, in order he might safely carry on his ways, back to Cheshire, perchance?”
I had no idea what he meant.
“You see, young Sire, the old and established are never humored to be had by insolent lads like yourself. You are but a stripling, barely green off the hills, a Cheese-eater, and wet behind the ears. Do you know what will happen to you next you travel to London?”
“You will more than likely be met by some of Songgemonger’s friends. These are not fair and kind people, my lad. No. They have scoured their own penny the hard way themselves, here on the streets of London. They are well likely to have your sweet Lute all strung up and sold for pawn in an hour! Yes!”
“Who laid this tale to you? What makes you think I have the slightest notion ever returning to this crazy, madhouse of a city, e’er again?”
“Well you might consider it, lad, then, to keep to that plan. For London has its ways of punishing those who flaunt its custom and fashion.”
At that, Vincebus went silent, at least, toward me. As Porcull was nearby, and listening to all this with a cocked ear and a curious expression, Vincebus then laid into him again.
“Now! Porkle! Again, you insist that I owe you these eighty pounds over our old dart-game at Exeter.”
“I do indeed, Vincebus. Taking oaths and donning the cloak does not retire one from their worldly debts, you know,.” said Porcull. His eyebrows were narrowing and his expression grew dire.
“I would have your eighty pounds by the day we leave, which shall be soon, no doubt, or I shall bring the matter to the Prior himself!”
“Now, now, Porkle. You know I have taken a vow of poverty. And what about forgiving our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us? It was years ago- yea, three decades ago, since you beat me on those bulls-eyes and made me squint hard lest I lose all I had wagered and all I had. In fact, it was losing your bet drove me to the cloth! Yes! Or I should have been a bankrupt.”
“You are a stupid, foul oxen, Vincebus. Vincebus Eruptum agitus est. Have a little tantrum. It shall not do you a bit of good! For are not all debts meant to be settled, and sins confessed, ere you take the oath that brought you your clabbered tonsure and your pendacious rosary? I shall indeed speak to the Prior, and go right now!”
And Porcull strode off. Richard, Roger, Stephen and the Woodward were all at the back of the Priory, loading the bolts of finished cloth up into the cart. Richard said we would sell them in the towns on the return, what was not sold at the market. He had earned a good price for all that he sold, and was well into his profit margin, he declared.
Porcull emerged from the office of the Prior with a very red, and very angry expression on his face. Obviously he did not get his eighty pounds.
“Technicalities, Vincebus, technicalities! You are a foul swine, not worth the mash they fed you this morning! If I were you, I would confess all sins to my God and pray that the lightning did not strike me blind!”
“Hard words,” laughed Vincebus, "from the heretic!”
“Heretic? You call me a heretic, when you fit the very bill we depreciate by your disgusting sloth and indolent disregard of a debt of honor? Me, the heretic?”
“Yes, you, you simple Lollard son of a snake! Mass for the people, in English, you say!”
“Might as well. What good is it to they, when they cannot understand the words you spout over them, as though you are the only ones in touch with the Lord! Would that the Lord wipe his arse with the lot the like of you, Vincebus! For I now if there indeed is a heaven, you will pay high indulgence to Peter for your turn to walk the streets of gold!”
“You are a foul, fetid ingrate, Porkle. Ever since I met you, you were always the one who claimed his place was to sit by the side of the Masters, for you had read all you needed to read, you mastered the syllabus, the trivium and quadrivium, you knew the history of the kings and queens, and of the Normans and the Scots and the Welsh and the Saxon and the Dane alike. You knew them all so much better! Then why did you give up your seat at the college for a little hut in the woods, and the company of a stupid beast or two?”
He had obviously listened to me with interest at our first meeting, when I had described to him the manner in which Porcull kept his house.
“How I live is in every way more in harmony with the Master than is yours, where you lazy lie about the abbey with your nuns to amuse you and your sheep to satisfy you and your bowl ever full of pottage and your cheeks ever full of wine! Had I but half the debt you owe, I could finish some of the things I set out to do, yet never could, in part, because it never behooved me to take up a cross I had no real means of bearing, nor even the inclination to be true to the vows! You are a HYPOCRITE, Vincebus! A hypocrite, and a cheat, and a man who cannot be trusted! Fie!”
Porcull left the room, and walked completely out of the abbey. I followed him.
“Don’t mind me, Julian, I will sleep under the stars tonight, and be all the better for it. That I might share the roof of that pole cat one night longer- nay! He is fit for no less than Dunghill Dan.
“We will leave tomorrow, Porcull, I promise.”
“Yes, I know, and you can find me out here, out along the pathway to Watling Street. I wish to be alone, and commune with my own Lord.”
I left Porcull as he asked, and returned to Squire Richard and Stephen and the others. Richard nodded. “Yes, my plan is to leave in the morning as well. We will go to Saint Albans  and then to Oxford and of course we will try to sell my goods all the way.”
“I want you to be aware, Richard, there are highwaymen...”
“Yes, I met a band or two of them on my first trip here. I have been lucky not to encounter any of them yet, but it could happen on this return. Be watchful! I will help you deal with any of it, if that is the case.”
While Porcull slept in the field outside the Priory, the rest of us spent the night inside the stone walls of the Priory, in much the same place as I had spent my first evenings there with the beggars and widows. Only now there were none of them, and we were all the guests they had. I walked with Vincebus into his cell and there had a short discussion about my plans, my learning from Porcull (he still called him “Porkle”) and he countered with his own judgments against “astrologers and soothsayers.”
“But you yourself use the guts of birds to make judgments of future events! What makes your method any better than Porcull’s?”
“Because it at least has the sanction of the church.”
“Does it really? How - even Saint Augustine recanted his pagan past. You are splitting hairs and see nothing that is not what you want to see, and say nothing that is not what you think the church says.”
“So. Has Master Porkle been infecting you with his heresies?”
“I don’t know what you mean. He is helping me to become a man who thinks for himself, not parroting some gibberish out of a book nobody understands. Except you and yours.”
This must have hurt him to the quick, for he was fast on me with a defense of all the orders of Monks, such as there are, numerous by my own count, anyway. Bitcher the parrot, hearing the word “parrot”, set himself off on a foul stream of curse words that made Vincebus blush in embarrassment.
“As I told you he came to me by way of other owners.”
“Ha! He seems to have a fair judgment of this place.”
I looked around the little cell. It was, in fact, humble, and there were far less objects of the world than there were at Porcull’s hut, but still, I felt that much of Vincebus’ assumed poverty was a pose. Somehow, he profits just as much in all the doings of the Priory as anyone. He herds the sheep, when he wishes to. Other times he leaves it to a younger monk, to whom the dog Rambeaux has a greater affection. He partakes of the dining and all the masses, but he is also gone as often as not on missions for friends like Songgemonger, and others whom he knows inside the city.
Everything about him made me feel miserable. And what I suppose he wanted most from me, but would not get, was a confession that I shared many of the heresies of Porcull, and that I ought to be punished by some penance for my impudence.
I told him that my own rational mind would determine for me the validation of doctrines, not any formal policy of man or God, or Man As God, or of God on Earth as the Man the Pope.

“Aha!” he grasped on to it. “You do hold grudge against the Pope and the holy Word of God!”
“If it is God’s word, truly, then it should be no problem for the common tongue to teach it,” I said, remembering one of Porcull’s most fervent arguments- that the Bible should be printed in English that normal folk can spread the Good News.
“Lollardy! Lollardy pure and simple. Well, Wycliffe burned, and maybe one day you shall, too, lad. Best for you to have off to bed, I am afraid should I inspect your mind much farther, true demons there I might find. Please, be gone from my cell.”

And at that, his hospitality took leave, and I was now (as were my companions) at the mercy of the Prior. But the night passed with no further incident.

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