The Dancing Monk

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My life at the friary began when I was 5 years old. My mother and father served me up as an offering as their firstborn son, to the English church to grow up to become a man of the cloth. Certainly a noble desire for two royal court entertainers specializing in Morris dancing, but a life inside the confines and strict rules of the church was something that I knew I was not meant for.

I was instructed to spend my time inside the of the churches’ kitchen, preparing meals for the older monks and friars living inside of the church walls. Fetching ingredients, boiling stews, and chopping up vegetables –it was no life for me.

Early in the mornings, I would go out into the gardens to pick from the bounty, and if I awoke early enough, I could hear music. Oh! Such sweet music, and it always came from over the garden wall of the friary.

The music came from a shepherd, and he was playing his fiddle for his flock. The joyous notes and melodies that came streaming from his bow stirred up a desire in me to move, to dance! Before I knew it, I had dropped my basket of carrots and potatoes onto the soil and was kicking up my heels, clapping my hands all the while. This exact event happened on many mornings and occasions, and it created a secret that became more and more difficult for me to hide: I had to dance.

“Patrick!” I heard a grizzly voice bark out from behind me. The fiddle suddenly stopped, and I turned to see the angry and twisted face of my Head Friar, Henry. That was the first time I was caught dancing in the garden. He scolded me, saying that never was I to dance, for it was a sin to do so, an act that encouraged the devil himself to enter into me and possess me to do his evil bidding. I pretended to believe him, and promised that I never would dance again –an empty promise that I was sure he saw right through.

I was caught dancing three more times, and after the third time I was put out of the friary and sent to another. I was sent to many churches all over England and the British Isles, and each time I was quickly expelled for being too merry and dancing. Before I knew it, I was banned from ever becoming a friar or monk in England, or any other place for that matter. I didn’t mind, for now that I was outside of the church, I was free to let myself explore what I knew I was born to do: dance.

I began traveling all across England and its many isles, searching for the joyous sounds that I heard coming from the other side of that friary wall. I traveled far and wide looking for the exact melody and notes that the shepherd always played, and finally, one day as I was making my way through a small seafaring town on the southern coast of Wales, I heard it once more.

The jingling of the bells strapped upon the dancer’s legs, the clacking together of the rods in the dancer’s hands, and the vivacious laughter of the fiddle and accordion…this was what I have been searching for. Before I knew it, I was running into the crowd surrounding the Morris dancing, taking my place at the end of the line. I didn’t even have time to put down my bag!

Prancing from my left foot and then onto my right, clapping my hands against the dancer opposite me, I knew that this was where I truly belonged. The air was filled with the sound of bells jingling, happy souls shouting, and an accordion ringing out its merry accompaniment to the fiddle that I had been searching for all this time. My feet leapt in time with theirs as if we had been rehearsing together our entire lives.

I kept up with the other dancers for their entire performance. The look upon the other’s faces was that of shock and confusion: “Who is this monk-dressed stranger?” I heard them inquire aloud. Their questions didn’t bother me, for I knew that this was exactly where I wanted to be. Needed to be.

As the song came to a close, the shepherd-dressed fiddler came up to me, placed his hand upon my shoulder and asked “Where did you learn to dance like that, lad?” I didn’t really have an explanation as to how, so I simply shrugged, and the shepherd-dressed fiddler laughed. “Keep up the dancing, boy. You’re a natural!”

The music cued up once more, and we all began to move again, each of us leaping in a precise and timely manner. As we danced, I couldn’t help but laugh and sing, for even though I only arrived into this town a few short moments ago, I already knew that I was now home.


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