One of the first little items was my favorite Bible verse: This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. I'd found a charming Middle English version--with the thorn (Þ) that became th.
Þis ys Þe day
Þat our lord made;
be we glad and ioyfull in hure!
Soon after came a quote from Venerable Bede. It expressed precisely how I felt about studying Chaucer. I knew many students who were content to scan the Tales in Middle English--or even to read Modern English versions instead! I already recognized what they were missing.
Bede, addressing a medieval audience, said, Reading should be slow and attentive, laborious, intent on the reward contained in the underlying meaning. This is my work-style in a nutshell, taking each word as important, with the Middle English Dictionary at my side. Bede's recommendation naturally became the perfect epigram for my first book-- Chaucer's Host.
Of course inspiration can come from less-than-serious sources. I used to refer to myself as an "intellectual bottleneck." This cartoon doesn't exactly reflect that, but it always made me laugh and renew my determination to say what needed to be said.