Wacky Swimmers and Shaggy Shoulders [12:19-22] (Latin)

Introduction
Translation
Recording
First Thoughts
Physical Traits
The Martial
Closing

{A stag testing the depths. Image from The Gutenberg Project eBook of Aesop’s Fables}

Introduction

St. Isidore talks more of deer today. His differentiation between them gets so fine, in fact, that their Modern English equivalent is simply “deer.”

Back To Top
Translation

[19]”Their upright ears miss no sound, no matter how low. And when they swim over vast rivers or seas they feel no extra labour, they put their head in first and then alternately dip it and then their buttocks into the water.
[20]”Tragelaphi is the Greek name for them, which, although they are like hinds, have shaggy shoulders like the he-goat, and from their chin a long beard, which no other around the river of Colchis have.
[21]”Fawns (hinnuleus) are the sons of these deer (called such from “to give a nod to” (innuere), referring to the tottering that they leave behind at maturity).
[22]”Deer they are called which flee from hands: a timid and non-warlike animal; from which Martial:
“Why oh deer, who defends by horn, do you all fear the boar’s tusk, take no prey?”
(St. Isidore of Seville, Etymologiae 12:19-22)

Back To Top
Recording

Here’s the above section of the Etymologiae in Latin:

And in Modern English:

Back To Top
First Thoughts

So, much like Beowulf’s speech in last Thursday’s entry, this description of the deer is quite straightforward. The two things that stick out are the description of the deer’s long-range swimming style, and Isidore’s quotation of Martial.

Back To Top
Physical Traits

The description of their swimming style is curious for its vividness. Literally, he says that they alternate between dipping their head and their buttocks in the water, as if they propel themselves by an extreme alternating motion.

In fact, it’s a very vivid description of swimming not just by moving the hind and fore legs, but instead by moving the whole body. It comes across as a kind of undulation that would give the animals more propulsion through the water.

Their comparison with he-goats is also interesting, but sadly nothing more is said than that they share the shagginess of their shoulders. Perhaps there was a significance to this that was common place and well known, maybe shaggy shoulders signified stubbornness or that an animal possessed hidden strength?

Back To Top
The Martial

And then we come to the quotation of Martial. Perhaps this is included because to the medieval mind the deer’s horns, though thinner, were multiple, and so the deer itself was regarded as stronger than a boar (with it’s mere two tusks).

But, it seems that the deer’s fear of the boar in spite of its antlers is another aspect of the animal that adds to its aura of grace and greatness.

For the deer is perceived as an animal that, despite being so heavily armed, prefers to flee than to fight – but not in a clumsy way (they outgrow that, after all). When described as “alternately dip[ing] [their head] and then their buttocks into the water,” (“capita clunibus praecedentium superponunt sibique invicem succedentes” 12:19) these graceful deer may sound a little goofy, but to contemporary ears, it perhaps suggested that the deer had a greater understanding of how to move its body in the most effective way possible.

Back To Top
Closing

On Thursday check back for Beowulf’s commands to his men, and the first few steps towards the fight with the dragon.

Back To Top

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s