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Burnel or Brunellus the Ass

If two heads are better than one
How much better is three.
For the time has come 
When Translators cannot agree.

Nigel wrote the words in Latin script
And much time has passed 
With many Learned Ones pen’s dipt
In deciding what the story of the Ass encripted.

It is not a simple tract
Written in riddles true
For the reader to go forth and back,
Trying to decide if the Ass is you.

Such it is as we begin with the translation
Of Graydon W. Regenos of Speculum stultorum
by Nigellus Wireker who
May not have been Himself, it’s true.

Followed up in short order 
By J. H. Mozley
Who retitled the text 
As “A Mirror for Fools”

Now Regenos, as scholars are bent to do
Translated words and phrases to
Sometimes missing the meaning
Of the text as it was demeaning.
Trying to be accurate in the sense
That a Dictionary presents.

Then along comes Mozley with good intent
(With passing criticism of Regenos sent.)
Thinking he knew to the letter
And tried to make the rhymes better.

To both we are grateful for their efforts
Which nevertheless come up short.
So with a quirky pen and pencil to the test
Mahtrow seeks to bring life to the beast.

So call him Burnel the Ass if you choose
Or Daun Brunellus while somewhat loose,
By Nigel Longcamp or Nigellus Wireker 
The name of the Ass is just a moniker.

¿And perhaps the “Ass” is you?


Nigellus Wireker (aka Nigel Longchamp)*

 Nigellus Wireker is the author of the Speculum stultorum (A Mirror of Fools, written about 1000), a satire in Latin elegiac verse on the clergy and society in general. 

The hero is Burnellus, or Brunellus, a foolish ass, who goes in search of a means of lengthening his tail. Brunellus first visits Salernum to obtain drugs for this purpose. However, he loses these when attacked by a Cistercian monk with dogs. (And loses whatever he had as a tail as well)

He then goes to Paris to study, but makes no progress there, being unable to remember the city's name after eight years of study. (And when called upon, answers with a “bray”.)

He then decides to join a religious order, but instead founds a new one by taking the easiest parts from the rules of other orders. Finally, his master recaptures him.

The poem was immensely popular for centuries. Under the title "Daun Burnel the Asse" it is quoted by Chaucer in line 15328 of the "Nun's Priest's Tale."

(parenthesis added to add to the internet’s mention of the book and its author.)

Copyright © Joe Wortham | Year Posted 2018


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