09 March 2014

Fleas, Flies, and Friars

Walter of Bibbesworth, 1240s

When a woman's time is near
That her infant will appear,
Let her find a midwife, wise
To assist her and advise.
When the child is born at last,
Tie it up with swathings fast,
In a cradle lay it softly
With a nurse to rock it oftly.

Babies first may only crawl
For they cannot walk at all
And they dribble quite a bit,
Making messes on their kit,
So the nurs, the clothes to spar,
Should provide a bib to wear.

When they start to walk, beware!
Dirts and hurts are everywhere,
So, for safety, please emply
A small servant girl or boy
To attend them and ensure
That they don't fall on the floor.

[School exercise book, 15th C]

      Hey, hey, hey, hey,
      I will have the whetstone if I may.      [prize for the best lie]

I saw a dog cooking sowse,                       [pickled pork]
And an ape thatching a house,
And a pudding eating a mouse:
      I will have the whetstone if I may.

I saw an urchin shape and sew,                [hedgehog]
And another bake and brew,
Scour the pots as they were new:
      I will have the whetstone if I may.

I saw a codfish corn sow.
And a worm a whistle blow
And a pie treading a crow:                       [magpie]
I will have the whetstone if I may.
. . . . .
I saw a sow her kerchiefs was
The second sow had a hedge to plash,    [plait together]
The third sow went to the barn to thresh:
      I will have the whetstone if I may.

I saw an egg eating a pie,
Give me drink, my mouth is dry;
It is not long since I told a lie:
      I will have the whetstone if I may.

[From a handbook on hunting by a woman for her son, 15th C]

Wheresoever you far, by frith or by fell,
My dear child, take heed how Tristram doth you tell
How many beasts of venery there were,
Listen to your dame and then you shal hear.
Four manners of beasts of venery there are:
The first of them is the hart, the second is the hare
The others are the boar,
The wolf and no more.

And where that you come in plain or in place,
I shall tell you which be the beasts of the chase:
One of them is the buck, another is the doe,
The fox and the marten, and the wild roe,
And my dear child, you shall other beasts all
Wheresoever you find them, 'rascal' them call,
In frith or in fell, or in forest as I tell
. . . . . .

And for to speak of the hart, if you will it hear,
You shall call him a calf at the first year,
The second year a brocket, so shall you him call,
The third year a spayad: learn these words all;
The fourth year a stag, call him by any way,
The fifth year a great stag, your dame bidgs you say.
The sixth year, call you him a hart;
Do so, my child, while you be alert.

My child, talk of 'herds' of hart and of hind
And of buck and of doe where you shall them find,
And a 'bevy' of roes, what place they be in,
And call it a 'sounder' of the wild swine.
And a 'rout' of wolves wherever you come in;
These beasts all,
Thus shall you them call.

From Fleas, Flies, and Friars: Children's Poetry from the Middle Ages
Nicholas Orme, Cornell University Press, 2011.

No comments:

Post a Comment

No Anonymous comments, please.