Going way, way back to a long ago time, our ancestors sat around the fire and burped and scratched themselves. The entertainment to go along with all that sitting and burping and scratching was not TV or movies or games but stories. The one doing the storytelling was called the Bard. He was a repository of the tribe’s history. Each night, after a long day at the hunt or sowing and planting, the people gathered around the fire and listened to the Bard regale his brothers and sisters with what happened in the long ago and the not-so-long ago.
How great grandpa caught a very big fish. How mama got her name. How Uncle Wilbur tamed his first horse. How Brother Beaux shot down that tiger. How Cousin Dufus died from a dinosaur attack. If he had only not burped at the wrong time and the wrong place.
Soon people looked out at the stars and began to wander. They turned to the Bard for a story or two of how the world started. In this way the Bard became the shaman of the tribe, able to communicate with the gods and bring back stories. Eventually these stories were written down and gathered into holy books.
Years past and kings conquered the land. The king needed someone to tell the world the news that he was the biggest, smartest, best-looking anywhere. That too became the Bard’s job.
Soon these stories too were collected and compiled into books called The Iliad and The Odyssey and Homer, the first official Bard, became the hero of his vocation.
Along came great teachers like Moses, the Buddha and Jesus. New Bards appeared to tell their stories. If you’ve read the Book of St. Mark in the New Testament, you’ve heard the oral storytelling of St. Peter. Mark basically was a stenographer. Peter was the Bard, the oral storyteller, for the new tribe called Christians.
In the Middle Ages, Bards like Talesin told more stories, about the chivalry of kings like Arthur. All across Europe troubadours wandered from court to court, from kingdom to kingdom, singing their tales of Arthur, Charlemagne and Roland and other great lords. Some of the Bards of the Druids held very powerful positions. Then along came the commoners’ bards. The first was Jeff Chaucer and his tales of a pilgrimage to visit the relics of St. Thomas a Becket at Canterbury.
As you can see, barding has a long and illustrious tradition. It may very well be the world’s oldest profession, though people would like to believe otherwise. And it is a universal experience. All people of all times as far back as the beginning of language have loved stories.
And barding continues up to this day. Consider the great bards of the past. William Shakespeare, Cervantes, Henry Fielding, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Tolstoy, George Eliot, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner. All Margaret Mitchell was doing was being a Bard and telling a family story.
As long as I can remember, I’ve felt the bardic call. “Go forth, and tell them there stories, matey.” From early on, I read the stories of the Old Tesatament and retold in them in my own way. My first poem and all my poems since have been stories. Stories that only I could tell. For me, storytelling is what I love to do. Anywhere, anywhen, anywhat.
As I said, my first poem was a story. I wrote it when I was nine years old and it went like this:
As sure as I’m born
I’m gonna lose a tooth
Chewing green corn
Chewing green corn
Down in the kitchen
Chewing green corn.
So here I am, barding some more. And oh, by the way, let me tell you about my Uncle Philbert….