Friday, May 15, 2009

Wynges, fete, and tethe

I expect there’s no-one out there any more, but hello anyway. I’ve been in a state of clear and present danger of late – my landlord is bringing some prospective tenants to look at my house tomorrow. I can’t afford to keep this house on, and am looking for somewhere smaller, and possible more remote. In the sense of being outside town. Anyway, thus: the last week has been purgatory. Clean, sweep, wipe, clean. Goshawk mutes off carpet (how?) (repaint walls) (where on earth did this come from, what is it, and where should I put it?) shit, look at the stains on this curtain. What on earth even are they? Etc.

Nature abhors a vacuum, and so do I. and it’s not been making my teaching particularly inspired. Retaining the house-cleaning mindset in a practical criticism supervision is alarming. That’s what the faces of my students appeared to suggest.

So I’ve papered the floor of Mabel’s room with extravagant swags of lining paper and I’ve masking-taped them to the skirting boards. I’m going to stuff her with food, and hood her, and wait for the inevitable bate as the tenants are shown ‘her’ room, and that mix of worry, bewilderment, and rising anger in the landlord and his mother that having her in the house will surely provoke.

Enough of my polished panic. I wanted to tell you this: found a book the other day on EEBO (Early English books online, that is) which is already embroidered on my heart. It’s a book called:

The noble lyfe and natures of man of bestes serpentys fowles and fishes that be moste knoweu.

The writer is Laurence Andrew, who sounds very like a languid painter and ne’er do well in a village murder mystery, but no. this Laurence Andrew published hisbook in 1527, and it is glorious.

It does, as they say, what it says on the tin. The title is accurate; after every species, Andrew gives the ‘operacion’, or uses of the beste or serpent or fowle or fish in question; medical, epicural, spiritual.

So as I go off to hide the last few goshawk mute stains under judiciously-placed rugs, here are a few selections. I’ve done the most minor of tinkerings to them; expanding the contractions in the original and leaving out the operacions. I am preaching to the converted I expect but if one comes up against a particularly baffling spelling, try reading the offending word/s out loud. ‘Moche’ for much, or ‘fete and tethe’ as feet and teeth.

Reading too many books like this palys merry hell with your normal spellinges, btw.

Wild dog
CHama is lyke a wolfe / But it is full of whyte spottes ouer all his body / & it is in Ethyope / he is vnderstanded moche lyke a dogge / & lyke a dogge may be lerned to all maner of games.

CIrogrillus & erinatius is all one & it is a lytelle beste lyke a pigge & his skynne is rownde aboute full of sharpe pinnes saue only onder his bely that no man may come nygh hym & it is moche lyke an vrchen / but whan it is layde in luke warme water than it is so glad that it stretcheth hym selfe a brode

ANtees or pismers be very lytell wormes and they be very wyse / they make their holes in the grounde ande bere the erth out / and they make a narowe entre into their hole & make grete prouision to leue vpon all ye yere after / the ante deuideth euery corne or or grayn that he geteth in thre partis that he caryeth into his hole / because it sholde nat shote and waxe grene in his hole or demesne / these antes cary eche other out of their holes whan they be dede / and bury them.

THe hare is a beste that is swift in ronnynge & alwaye full of feare & drede & exchewinge / it hathe longe eares / & his hinder legges be longer than his fore legges / & it hath bothe membres for as now it is the male and as than it is the female / & alwayes the lippes be waggynge vp and downe.

A Lytelle beste is the Mows and eteth gladly bred or othere thynges made of corne or such as man eteth and it is veri diligent to gete his levinge wherfore it biteth many an harde thing asonder to passe through to gete his mete / and it is veri moyste of nature / therfore yf it drinke moche it dyeth therof. In Orient be myse as great as foxes / and they be of that nature that they will kyll a man In Arabia be great myse also / & theyr fore fete be as brode as the palme of a mannes hande and theyr hinder fete be as smale as a finger ende·

Goshawk and sparrowhawk
ANcipiter is a goshawke / and he is of foure maners. The first is this / great of body and wyll be sone tamed / and hathe a lusty countenauce wt great fete and longe talentis / and it fereth nat to set agaynst no byrde. The seconde is smaller & hathe great iyen & shorte talentis / & is nat lightely tamed / the fyrst & seconde yere he is but lytell worth / but the thirde yere he is gode & dothe very well and is named Alietum. or in Englysshe a Tassell goshawke. The third is named nisus or a sparow hawke & is yet smaller / it is swift and sone tamed & made to the game. The fourth is the smalest of them & is named a musket / and they be all lyke. The goshawke is of that property yt yf he take a birde ouer night whan he brauncheth himselfe to rest / that kepeth he in his talentis all the night / & on the morning he letteth it fle agayn / and though he met wt the same birde agayn himselfe hauinge gret hunger yet of all yt daye he wyl nat touche him / & of all ye birdes that he taketh he covyteth the harte.

THe Goose is a birde as great as an egle & the wilde gese flee lyke as the cranes dothe all in ordre / and like as the wynde bloweth so they flee eastwaerde. and they rest very selden excepte it be whan they do eat / & they reioyce so sore in their fleynge yt they slepe but seldem. And contrary that nature be the tame gese for thei be heuy in fleinge gredi at their mete & diligent to theyr rest / & they crye the houres of yt night & therwith they fere ye thieues In the hillis of alpis be gese as great nere hande as an ostriche they be so heuy of body that they can nat flee & some take them with theyr hande

THe Bee is a lytell byrde yt hathe bothe wynges fete and tethe / bothe and they be gladly in swete ayres. and they be very diligent in theyr operacions. and amonge them all they chose a kinge / but nat to be subiect to him / but they dare nat flee tyll yt theyr kyng flee before theim as a leder or a gouernour And the bees haue eche a different operacion / and theyr operacion hathe no certentye / some souke the flores / some gader the dewe / of this they make hony and waxe wherewith is serued both god & man / & they be euer redy to worke in season of the yere whan it is fayre weder

THe Rauen is a cryenge byrde yt maketh moche noyse but he can crye no thynge but crascras. The female bredeth out the egges alone and he fetchet her mete & the yonges be vij. dayes olde or they ete and vpon the seuenth day begine they to be black The [...] in the [...] partyes yt feghteth against the asses & whan they put out the iyen of ye bestes to thentente that the people sholde fleye them for the skynne / & that they sholde haue the carkas and flesshe / and often tymes so geteth he his mete / and he bildeth moche about toures and steples. and he warneth of […] comyng weder bothe fayre and fowle & eche in a different maner wt his crye and he lerneth very gladly for to stele.

FAscian{us} is a wyld cocke or a fesant cocke that byde in the forestes & it is a fayre byrde with goodly feders. but he hath no combe as other cockes haue / and they be alway alone except whane they wylle be by the henne. and they that will take this bird / and in many places the byrders doth thus they paynte the figure of this fayre byrde in a cloth & holdeth it before hym / & whan this birde seeth so fayr a figure of hym selfe / he goeth nother forward nor bacwarde / but he standeth still staringe vpon his figure / & sodenly commeth another and casteth a nette ouer his hede and taketh hym Thys byrde morneth sore in fowle weder & hideth hym from the rayne vnder ye busshes Towarde ye morninge and towardes night than co~meth he out of the busshe and is oftentimes so taken / & he putteth his hede in the ground & he weneth that all his bddy is hyden / and his flessh is very light and good to disiest

THe birde Gyrfalco commeth ouer the see in company of many wilde geese. and at the nyght he taketh one in his talantys to thentent yt she shold kepe hym warm / & in ye mornyng he letteth her flee agayn wtoute any harme & in the daye he taketh one fore his repast

VEspertilio / a backe is a birde wt foure fete / and hathe a mouth & tethe lyke a mowse and no tayle / and it hath no feders / but it hath .ij. winges on the which be no feders / but thin skinnes facioned lyke a dragons winge / & therwt they flee / and it geteth his mete by night like the owle. and it bringeth forth her yonges lyke a beste with iiij. fete and it layth none egges· The blode of it is good to be enoyted vpon maydens brestes for than they shall nat waxe very grete. The braynes tempered wt hony helpeth the iyen of the water yt descendeth into them Ther be in Ynde some as moche as doues and they flye by euyn tide. they haue tethe like a man. and these be so bolde whan thei fle that they festen in the face of a man and byte the nose or eres of and shend a mannes visage.

AWaspe seketh her mete of stikin gecarion / they haue stinges like the scorpion withinforth / and the fetche theyr mete also frome the floures and frutes of the trees / they take flies and byte of their hedes and than carie them to their holes in therthe / but the moste parte of them leue by caryon flesshe.

VPapa is a birde that cryeth hop hop. & it hath a crowne of feders on his hede / but he is very onclenly. he is moche be the ordure or fylth of man and he eteth stinkinge erth. he that is enoynted with his blode and than gothe to slepe he shal thinke that the deuyll woryeth him. Phisiologus sayth that whan the hoppes be foolde yt they can fle nomore / than the yonge ones be so kynde to theyr dames that they let them laye in their neste for than their sight fayleth them also / and they plucke of their syres & dammes feders & they ouerstryke their iyen wt an herbe that they fynde be nature wherwith they se agayn / & than they sit ouer them & kepe them warme & fede them tyll yt they be fully flgged & can flye at their wyll.

DElphin{us} is a monster of the see & it hath no voyce but it singheth lyke a man / and towarde a tempest it playeth vpon the water Some say whan they be taken that they wepe The delphin hath none eares for to here / nor no nose for to smelle / yet it smelleth very well & sharpe. and it slepeth vpon the water very hartely that thei be hard ronke a farre of / and thei leue C.xl. yere. & they here gladly playnge on instrumentes as lutes / harpes / ta / bours / and pypes They loue their yonges very well and they fede them longe with the mylke of their pappes / & they haue many yonges & amonge them all be .ij. olde ones that yf it fortuned one of ye yonges to dye than these olde ones wyll burye them depe in the gorwnd of the see / because othere fisshes sholde nat ete thys dede delphyn so well they loue theyr yonges. There was ones a kinge yt had taken a delphin / whyche he caused to be bounde wt chaynes fast at a hauen where as the shippes come in at / & there was alway the pyteoust wepynge / and lamentynge that the kynge coude nat for pyte / but let hym go agayne

Sea lion
LEo marin{us} / the see lyon is lyke the lyon of the londe / but the lyon on the londe is full of pryde / & the lyon of the see is very meke / & ellis they be lyke of all condicyons and strengthe / wherfore I wryte nomore of him.


Matt Mullenix said...

Teechynge ond faulconrie hath mayde moche mess of thine cottage!

Matt Mullenix said...

Saw this: "but the thirde yere he is gode & dothe very well and is named Alietum. or in Englysshe a Tassell goshawke."

I'm sure you're familiar with the small controversy (I thought settled but maybe not) about which hawk is the "Aleto" or "Alethe" in early manuscripts?

Writers have it as the Aplomado falcon imported from Mexico, but here is a similar term used for a male gos. Maybe it was a more general term for a hawk of this size and use? Or a regional variation of the same root word? Interesting!

Helen Macdonald said...

yes, it hath made moche mess in deed.
The gos terminology is interesting. I'm inclined to think that like tiercel it is an old french/latin term - aliter - meaning alternative/another way/otherwise. i suspect it's not from the same root as alethe (which i assume is derived from the greek for truth - but god knows, there could be old english in there - i seem to recall aoel means noble or something and that could be the prefix. god, i'm procrastinating. i should be cleaning... grin x

Neil said...

The "see lyon" reference is interesting. I wonder what otariids would have been familiar to Europeans this early in the 16th C.? Perhaps Cape fur seals or southern sea lions. Andrew's terse account doesn't provide many clues. Suppose I should start with the OED, there goes my afternoon...

Helen Macdonald said...

Hi Neil! Lord, it's good to be back. I have been a bit naughty here because I suspect that this, of all the creatures excerpted, is a heraldic one - there are many others in the text (including dragons, flying snakes, and so on). something like this?

damn my broken shift sometimes works, other times refuses. Tis driving me mad!

Neil said...

Ah, now that would make more sense wouldn't it?

Oh well it wasn't a total loss for me -- OED ultimately led me to William Dampier's A New Voyage around the World. Apparently if you boil down one sea lion you get a "Hogfhead of Oil, which is very fweet and wholfome to fry Meat withal." Also, their teeth make good dice.

Good luck with the cleaning!

Moro Rogers said...

Awww...I'm glad the kynge let the poor dolphin go...

Radagast said...

Fascinating to see which animals they observed closely (and were accurate about), and which they didn't.

Best of luck with the "clear and present danger" of moving.

Helen Macdonald said...

Neil: I want sealion teeth dice! Radagast: ta for the good wishes. Much appreciated. Moro: oh I wish we could republish this book and you do the illustrations!

Radagast said...

How about a sea-lion knife?

dr. hypercube said...

Radagast - holy crap! Now I want a Sea Lion derringer.
Neil - anything that leads to Wm. Dampier gets extra credit.
Helen - hope all goes well with the [shudder] landlord.

(captcha word - scoiling - I looked it up to see if it was a 'real' word. No such luck.)

Steve Bodio said...

Helen, we never cease checking!

I endorse Dr H's Derringer.

Mutes are a good reason to own your own house (as are seven dogs...)

Moro Rogers said...

"Moro: oh I wish we could republish this book and you do the illustrations!"
Sounds fun...The giant Oriental myse are intriguing. I wonder if they were inspired by some real animal, but I can't think of any eastern critter that looks much like a man-sized mouse.

dr. hypercube said...

Moro - I think what we have here is the first reference to the Giant Rat of Sumatra! I wonder when they laid the frigate Matilda Brigg's keel? Must have been later...