When Isidore Starts Horsing around, His is a Slow but Steady Gait [12:40-42] (Latin)

Abstract
Translation
Recordings
Etymology Dashes Straight from the Gate
A Nagging End
Closing

{This horse must be gritting its teeth because it’s been captured standing still. Image from the National Library of the Netherlands Medieval Illuminated Manuscript Collection.}

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Abstract

As quickly as a horse runs, Isidore speeds through entries on Arcadian asses and two kinds of horses.

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Translation

[40] “They are called Arcadian asses, those that are ridden from Arcadia, these are big and tall. But small asses are very necessary for agriculture, as they do not refuse to take hard labour and near indifference.

[41] “Horses (equi) they are called, those which are yoked in teams of four, made equal (aequabantur), joined with a like form and share of running.

[42] “Nags (caballus) were formerly called hacks (cabo), because that they press an imprint of their hoof into the ground when walking, which the other animals do no leave/do.”
(St. Isidore of Seville, Etymologiae 12:40-42)

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Recordings

Latin:

Modern English:

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Etymology Dashes Straight from the Gate

The Arcadian ass is the first instance of an animal being named because of its geographic location, at least in this section of the Etymologies. In fact, the etymology that’s given for the horse is also pretty straightforward.

The horse’s name in Latin, “equi,” sounds like the Latin word for “equal” since horses, when yoked to a chariot are made equal in terms of their load of the work to pull that chariot (12:41).

This is an etymology that might not stand up to the scrutiny of modern physics, but it’s a nice thought. Though, it doesn’t quite elevate horses to the realm of humanity in the same way that lambs, cattle, and deer have been raised to that level. After all, the horses don’t divvy up the work themselves, they’re yoked to the chariot in such a way that they are made to be equal, or so St. Isidore asserts in that entry.

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A Nagging End

The last entry in this section of the bishop’s work doesn’t offer such a direction etymological connection–at least not to a non-native Latin reader.

The connection between “caballus” and “cabo” is clear enough (12:42), but, left to a guess, something about Highland games and the caber toss might have gotten involved. At any rate nags must really be heavy hoofed animals if a clause about them being the only animal to leave such an imprint closes off their entry.

Though as older horses, maybe nags are a bit more worldly and experienced, maybe they’ve picked up some computer programming skills. Maybe, the impression that they leave is just their own small way of ‘hack’-ing the earth.

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Closing

That’s all that Isidore wrote for this week (he’s saving himself for next, just wait). But part two of the tale of Wiglaf’s armor (check out part one here) is still in store for Thursday’s entry, so be sure to come check it out.

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Ruminating on Donkey Lore [12:37-39] (Latin)

{A curious depiction of the donkey from a medieval manuscript. Image from the National Libary of the Netherlands Medieval Illuminated Manuscripts Collection.}

Introduction
Translation
Recordings
The Medieval Bizarre
Under Early Riders
Closing

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Introduction

After a brief explanation of just how the cud is chewed, Isidore moves on to talk about donkeys. Goats might be lusty, but donkeys might just be kinda kinky.

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Translation

[37] “Indeed chewing the cud, rumination, is so called from the ruma, the part of the throat that is most eminent, by which these animals send back up their food from the fixed point of no return in their throats.

[38] “Ass and young donkey (asinus et asellus) are so called from “to be seated” (sedendo), like a seat: but this name, which is fitting for large horses, is given to the ass for the reason that this animal was used before horses to carry people, indeed these presided over the beginning. Since this animal is slow and holds no reason, it stands so that it can be put to people’s service by its own will.

[39] “Onager means wild ass. For in fact, the Greeks call asses onon: agrion for the wild ones. These Africa has in large numbers and untamed they wander through the deserts. On the other hand, the female alone is in herds. Males are born jealous and they pull down their testicles by biting, which they hide in secret locations and keep from their mothers.”
(St. Isidore of Seville, Etymologiae 12:37-39)

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Recordings

Latin:

Modern English:

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The Medieval Bizarre

St. Isidore might have named his encyclopedia the “Etymologies” since it’s all about the origins of things, but along for the ride are some absolutely wild bits of lore.

Up there with the idea that cranes feed their chicks with their own blood and beavers gnaw off their testicles to distract prey while they escape, is Isidore’s bizarre explanation of why male donkeys do not run in packs. What’s unclear – even in this loose translation – is why the donkeys pull their testicles down in the first place.

Are they the prototypical males that are incredibly insecure about the size of their manhood and practicing an early form of animal enhancement?

Or is this just the result of somebody observing a few donkeys over eagerly cleaning their crotches? This last question raises another question, can horses do the same? Or are quadrupeds not quite that flexible? Since dogs are able to, maybe horses are just more private about it, whereas all of the donkeys running around 7th century Africa were constantly “pulling down their testicles by biting” (“testiculos eorum morsu detruncant” 12:39).

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{Looking pretty humble, but is it a dog or a donkey? The little creature near the donkey’s back leg looks curiously like some kind of miniature. Image from the National Libary of the Netherlands Medieval Illuminated Manuscripts Collection.}

Under Early Riders

Donkeys being the first animal ridden by people is another curious fact, though much less bizarre than that discussed above.

Of course, this kind of a fact is going to be geographically sensitive – people will ride what’s around as long as it’s occurred to them. If there were an island somewhere where the dogs were big enough and the people small enough, chances are, by the time this island were discovered, its people would be found riding its dogs.

Still, for the Mediterranean part of the world of which Isidore wrote, this is a curious fact since it suggests that there might be something more to Christ’s riding into Jerusalem on a donkey than his being humbled and whatnot.

Maybe riding into a major city on the oldest known mode of transportation referred to some long lost mystery rite, or cult, or religion?

Or maybe it was a display of some kind popularized among the people or in the place that Jesus was during those years of his life that are not chronicled.

Or, perhaps the donkey is a reference to the possibly well-known contemporary idea that the donkey was the first mode of transportation and suggests that it’s still a reliable one – thereby alluding to the connection that Christians still mention between Christ and the Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah. Of course, this would also depend on whether or not the donkey could represent the contemporary idea of the original Jewish religion as laid down in the Pentateuch.

Isidore definitely leaves some food for thought with this one, and just the kind of stuff that you can swallow, regurgitate, and chew up again – stuff so juicy you can really ruminate on it.

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Closing

On Thursday check out this blog for the continuing description of Wiglaf and his pedigree.

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Mostly About Lovely Camel Lumps [12:34-36] (Latin)

Abstract
Translation
Recordings
Two Theories on and One Reason Why Camels are so Special
Closing

{A humble looking animal, indeed. Image from the National Library of the Netherlands Illuminated Manuscript Collection.}

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Abstract

This week Isidore moves hastily from buffalo to camels by way of a certain kind of wild cow.

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Translation

[34] “These are from Africa. Uri, a breed of wild cattle, are in Germania, they have horns that extend so that they signify a royal capacity able to carry their load. They call uri apoton oreon, that is, a mountain.

[35] “Camels are given the name either because when loaded, they are made to be low and humble in their laying down, which the Greeks call chamai, humble and low, or those which are of curved backs. For truly the Greek word kamour denotes a curve. These they sell and send to other regions, but mostly to Arabia. On the other hand, these are different; for Arabian camels have two lumps on their backs, those that remain in home regions have one.

[36] “Dromedary is a kind of camel, which has a smaller stature, but is faster. From whence it has its name, for dromos is what the Greeks call curved and fast. Truly, they can usually go for one hundred and more miles in a day. The which animal, like the cattle and the sheep and the other camels, chews the cud.”
(St Isidore of Seville Etymologiae 12:34-36)

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Recordings

Latin:

Modern English:

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Two Theories on and One Reason Why Camels are so Special

What makes the camel so great that not only does Isidore just run right through a section on cattle with super long horns but he also uses it to segue into a section all about the cud and its purpose?

Perhaps camels were so much more impressive than horses because of their ability to be so laden with stuff – they were perhaps seen as a pack animal that’s more agreeable than a mule.

Or maybe it’s that they, like cattle and lambs before them, display a trait that humanity is meant to relate to: their humility and lowness when put into service and quite literally have an “onus” (related to the verb used in paragraph 35 for “loaded” – “onerantur” from “onerare”) put upon them.

Though, maybe these two reasons are just excuses, and the real reason that St. Isidore spends so much time on camels is because they’re the Ferraris of the seventh century. Clocking “one hundred miles and more a day,” (“centum enim et amplius milia uno die” 12:36) they can probably rev from Seville to Toledo (about 250 miles) in less than three days when the average might be 8-14.

Even a bishop has a need for speed, right?

In fact, perhaps that’s why bishops can move diagonally on chess boards – one of the fastest ways to aggravate an unwary opponent.

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Closing

Check back here on Thursday for the shift from Beowulf to his thanes and what ensues.

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All About Three Things on Four Legs [12:31-33] (Latin)

Translation
Recordings
Cattle-trot Strut
On Calves
A Buffalo Re-Buff?
Closing

{Buffalo: so wild that they don’t even keep within manuscript borders. Image from the National Library of the Netherlands Medieval Illuminated Manuscript Collection.}

St. Isidore moves pretty quickly through the next three types of animals, so let’s get right to it.

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Translation

[31] “Cow it is called, like cattle. In fact, it is a name from the quality of their movement, just as leonine comes from lion and draconic comes from dragon.

[32] Calves are so called from the Latin for greenness, that is the green age, just like a maiden. Thus the calf is small and does not have the power of generation: for only the bullock or cow has the power of generation.

[33] Buffalo they are called by derivation, which are like cattle; though they are wild so that they will not take the burden of a yoke upon their necks.”
(St. Isidore of Seville, Etymologiae 12:31-33)

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Recordings

Latin:

Modern English:

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Cattle-trot Strut

Cow and cattle – the relationship in English is as clear as the relationship in Latin, that is, between “vacca” (the “v” is pronounced like a “w”) and “boacca” (12:31).

What’s not clear though is just what is meant by “cattle” coming from “the quality of their movement,” (“Est enim ex qualitate mobilium nominum” (12:31)), it’s just plain bizarre.

Maybe English has a word for the same sort of movement already, or maybe there just wasn’t a need for a word for that kind of movement. What sort of movement marks a cow, anyway? Slow, steady, and sturdy? This is a relatively simple passage to translate, but the precise meaning of it is rather puzzling.

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On Calves

Calves (“vitulus et vitula” (12:32)) being so named because of the Latin words’ relation to the Latin for “green” (“viriditate”) is much clearer.

Calves are young, prefer to frolic in the field, and, if pagan religious rites are any indication, iconic of the innocence associated with youth. Likewise, the propensity to sacrifice bullocks also makes sense since those are the male cattle that have just gained the power of generation, having gone through bovine puberty.

Paragraph 32 definitely deserves a medal of some sort for being so forthright and direct. But maybe it’s like that because there’s so little to say about the calf – cattle have already been likened to humans in that they seem to show compassion and so all that’s needed here is an analogy to a maiden, one without any sort of blemish or lack in its purity. In fact, the word translated into “maiden,” (“virgo” (12:32)), also could be translated as “virgin.”

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A Buffalo Re-Buff?

Then, we have the buffalo.

Isidore must mean that they’re like cattle in appearance and maybe in the way that they move, but otherwise they’re not given much of a chance. In fact, the mere note that they’re too wild to be yoked suggests, through negation, that they’re nothing at all like cattle in their character.

After all, the yoke is very much symbolic of cattle in this period. The yoke could even be used as a metonymy for them with no real problem in understanding whatsoever. So the buffalo’s refusal of the yoke seems to be Isidore’s way of making clear that they look like cattle, but lordy, they ain’t no cattle.

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Closing

Check back here on Thursday for Beowulf’s reaction to his sword that “bit less strongly” than necessary in last week’s entry (Beowulf l.2578).

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Isidore of Seville on the Nobility of Cattle [12:30] (Latin)

Introduction
Translation
Recordings
A Word on “Plows”
Oh, Noble Cattle
Closing

{With a dewlap like that, this cow’s royalty. Image from FithFath.}

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Introduction

Today’s is a short extract from the Etymology, and, with an ending that concentrates on the camaraderie between cattle, a sweet one.

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Translation

[30] “The Greeks call cattle Boun. These the Latins call plows, those which turn the earth, as the plow. Naevius (trag. 62):

The plow is the governor of the countryside.

The width of whose hide from chin to legs is called a dewlap, from the skin itself, like dewlap hide; which in cattle signifies nobility. Cattle are exceptionally dutiful in groups; for one checks with another when they are usually lead together at the plow, and they will frequently make their affection clear by lowing if the other begins to fail.”

(St. Isidore of Seville, Etymologiae 12:30)

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Recordings

Latin:

Modern English:

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A Word on “Plows”

Maybe English just isn’t as poetic as Latin (it is the root of French, Spanish, and Portuguese after all), but anything called a “plow” just brings to mind a plow. The word doesn’t exactly stir ideas of some cherished thing or animal.

Nonetheless, “plow” is the best translation that could be found for the Latin “trionem” (the simple “trio” being nonsensical in this context).

The word “trionem” might not be the greatest term of endearment, but a rolling “r” has to stand for something. Or maybe the Latin farmers were all about using metonymy.

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Oh, Noble Cattle

At any rate, the nobility attributed to cattle, working cattle in particular here, does suggest a certain fondness for the animal. What’s curious about this fondness though is that there’s no real mention of milk or the meat taken from these animals.

Maybe these extras are simply seen as a given part of cattle’s nobility (their magnanimity, if you will) since true nobility includes true generosity. Yet there’s no comparison of cattle to Christ, so maybe the milk and meat offered by cattle simply weren’t as highly prized as the labor they could undertake.

Besides, like the lambs that can recognize their parents, cattle that apparently encourage each other while at the plow are one step closer to being human. That may just be the highest praise a 7th century church man can offer. Being called the “governor of the countryside” (12:30) must count for something, too.

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Closing

On Thursday check back here for a look at the first exchange of blows in Beowulf’s fight with the dragon.

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Quietly Boar-ish about Bulls [12:27-29] (Latin)

Introduction
Translation
Recordings
Persistent Etymologizing
Bull on Bulls?
Closing

{One of today’s featured animals, looking very much like its hide will ‘refuse all weapons.’ Image from the National Library of the Netherlands Illuminated Manuscript Collection.}

Introduction

In this special weekend make-up edition of Tongues in Jars, St. Isidore talks boars and bulls:

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Translation

“[27] The boar is named for its savagery, take away the letter F and replace it with a P. From whence and cloely the Greek Saugros, that is, wild, by which it’s called. Truly all, that are wild and irritable, we call wild marauders.
[28] A bullock it is called, which began as a help to men in cultivating the earth, or which the pagans always and everywhere sacrifice to Zeus/Jupiter, never a bull. For the age of the sacrifice is considered. Taurus is the name in Greek, as it is here.
[29] A dun colour indicates the bull, agility of a bird, its hair in opposing rows; the head they flexibly turn any way they wish; their back is quite hardy, refusing all weapons brought to bear against it.”
(St. Isidore of Seville, Etymology 12:27-29)

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Recordings

Latin:

Modern English:

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Persistent Etymologizing

Sticking true to his work’s name (Etymology, the origin of words), St. Isidore tries his darndest to relate the word “aper” (boar) to “feritate” (savagery) by replacing the “F” with a “P.” Words starting with the letter “f” could logically begin to start with “p” so maybe “aper” broke off from “feritate” at some point. Nonetheless, the connection isn’t quite as strong as some of Isidore’s other efforts.

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Bull on Bulls?

What’s really curious in this passage is Isidore’s description of the bull. Its agility would definitely be impressive given its size and its weight, but the description of its hair and flexible neck is quite odd.

Do the opposing rows of hair suggest curliness? Is the flexible neck considered something to prize – a sort of flexibility in being commanded? These are both things that we’re left to wonder, as St. Isidore does not elaborate.

The toughness of leather (being a cow’s skin, even on its back, after all) is also mentioned here, though the fact (likely the exaggeration) that it “refus[es] all weapons brought to bear against it” (“omne telum respuunt inmiti feritate” (12:29)) suggests that bulls just aren’t made like they used to be. The drying process must make the cow hide too stiff, and thus unable to be flexible enough to turn weapons any which way it pleases.

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Closing

Though he doesn’t do much of it here, St. Isidore does elaborate on cattle in this week’s regular Tuesday entry. And Beowulf strikes a blow against the dragon on Thursday, don’t miss it!

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Pigging Out on Early Medieval Animal Notions [12:23-26] (Latin)

Translation
Recordings
First Thoughts
On Connections
On Pigs
Closing

{A curious scene for a curious animal. Image from the Medieval Illuminated Manuscript Collection at the National Library of the Netherlands}

Translation

This week, Isidore’s focus is on names. Quite a bit more than usual:

[23] “The hare (lepus), from light-footed (levipes), are those that run quickly. And they are called from the Greek for running “Lagos”; truly, fast is this animal, and very timid.
[24] The rabbit is a type of wild animal as is the wild dog, that which dogs entrap to capture or that they draw out from their warrens.
[25] Sows they are called, which root in the pastures, they dig in the earth in search of food. Boars (verres), those that have power (vires) when older. Pigs (porcus), since they are as filth (spurcus). Truly they pour in their own filth, they immerse in mires, they cover themselves with mud. As per Horace (Letters 1.2.26):

And the friend of filth, pigs.

[26] This is also smut or foulness. Pigs’ hair is called bristly and hair of the sow: it is called this especially by shoemakers, the likes of which hair and hide they are used to, that is accustomed to, working with.”
(St Isidore of Seville, Etymologiae 12:23-26)

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Recordings

Latin:

Modern English:

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First Thoughts

So, what we have here is a quick write up about the hare and its habits, launching into the pig and its thorough association with filth. Knowing that these sorts of medieval encyclopedias were a mash-up of original and “borrowed” material does something to explain the order in which Isidore is treating animals, but it remains curious.

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On Connections

The connection between deer and rabbits is their timidity. This makes good sense, as the end of the passage on deer is indeed a quotation about that very quality.

But, then what’s the connection between the rabbit and the sow or pig? Is it that the pig roots around in the ground for food as the dog does for the rabbit? It seems like that’s the case – unless the connection (if there even is one) is based on the fact that both animals live quite a bit of their lives in the dirt.

What’s also curious is that only the pig’s skin is mentioned as something used by a profession. Rabbits would’ve been fairly plentiful in Isidore’s part of the world, but it seems the fur didn’t have much value. Certainly, no one was “accustomed to” (“suant” or “consuant” (12:26)) using it.

I guess pigskin wasn’t so much what was kicked in those days as it was that with which you kicked.

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On Pigs

The association between pigs and filth, mud, and smut is something that St. Isidore seems particularly intent on getting across. Why exactly is unclear. Though, if the animal itself is so filthy, then why is its skin so commonly used for leather?

Inhering in his entry on pigs is there some kind of commentary on the commoner’s choice of footwear material? Or is it just that St. Isidore is emphasizing the pig’s uncleanliness in order to make it more obvious that all creatures have a purpose when he reveals that the pig is what the shoemaker is used to using?

It’s a curious question, but one that can’t be grasped if we look only at the words of the Etymologiae. Nonetheless, a guess is that St. Isidore is just reporting what he’s found here, perhaps trying to make people remember their humble connections to this humble animal.

What’s most surprising, though, is that he doesn’t even mention how tasty the pig can be. Ah well, probably not a lot of room in the life of a bishop to have copious amounts of an animal sliced into strips and fried up to celebrate the birth of a savior.

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Closing

Check back here Thursday evening for the telling of Beowulf’s rousing the dragon (Ch.XXXV, ll.2542-2553).

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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.”

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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)

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Recording

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

And in Modern English:

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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.

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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?

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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.

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Closing

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

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St. Isidore’s En-deer-ing Take on a Natural Pharmacist [12:16-18] (Latin)

Translation
Spoken Versions
Thoughts on Deer
An Unexpected Discovery
Closing

{It’s true – things were bigger in the past. Image from the National Library of the Netherlands Medieval Illuminated Manuscripts Collection}

St. Isidore wastes no time shifting to a new class of animal, so let’s not waste any time getting to what he’s got to say:

Translation

[16] “Likewise the deer; also ibexes, avice as it were, those that appear as the birds amidst the hills and hold to heights and live in the acme of the mountains, so that they are rarely open to the human gaze.
[17] “From whence they are called bird ibexes in the southern parts, [birds] that live by the Nile river. This animal also, so called, dwells in the high rocks; and if they sense danger by human or by chase, they escape unhurt to the high mountains where they sharpen their own horns beforehand.
[18] “Deer are called “Apo Ton Keraton,” he is of horn; “Kerata” is truly what the Greeks call horns. This animal has the serpent as an enemy yet it can anticipate the severe injury from it, but it draws the spirit out from its nostrils in its caves, they overcome this terrible venom by their food. For dittany is known to them; that they use while in the field to shake off that poison. Moreover they wonderfully hiss as panpipes do.”
(St. Isidore of Seville, Etymologiae 12:16-18)

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Spoken Versions

In an effort to bring these dead languages new life, here’s the above in spoken Latin:

And in spoken English:

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Thoughts on Deer

Now, unfortunately there’s not as much lore in this passage as there’s been in recent weeks.

But, there’s at least an implication that deer are revered as quasi-sacred animals since the height of their homes is emphasized.

The fact that they also know of the curative properties of wild marjoram (“dittany,” or the Latin “dictamnum”) also suggests that they’ve got a measure of intelligence that goes beyond that of most other animals. Underwriting this implication about deer is Isidore’s use of “ipsi” “self, himself, herself, etc.” in the sentence about dittany being “known to them” (“prodiderunt”). This wording makes it plain that the deer have figured this out on their own.

And then there’s the strange mention of the deer’s hissing sounding like panpipes (“fistularum,” or “bagpipes, tubes, panpipes”). Maybe such a high pitched sound is supposed to further highlight the deer’s harmonious state in its natural place. Or maybe it’s supposed to gently disprove pagan belief in satyrs, since there’s a natural explanation within the bounds of Christian creation.

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An Unexpected Discovery

Fairly unrelated to all this talk of deer is a discovery made away from the translated page.

The word “avices” wasn’t turning anything up in the Collins Gem Latin Dictionary used for reference, so the words around where it should be were poked at. Among these words is “Avernus,” which refers to a lake that was “believed to be an entrance to the lower world” (according to the Dictionary’s definition).

It doesn’t seem to be related to the hall of Grendel and Grendel’s mother in Beowulf, but the idea that a lake and not just a cave could lead to the lower world suggests a Roman precedent for the underwater hall of the epic. Undoubtedly there are also precedents in Germanic myth and lore, but this one from the Romans (Virgil uses it as this in the Aeneid) is indeed curious.

Perhaps the Romans spread this story amongst the Britons and those living in the Roman-occupied British Isles?

Perhaps those stories were then passed around and eventually picked up by a Briton poet or scop ([shaw-op] Old English for “poet”) savvy enough to know that underwater halls were already popular with/known to his new patrons?

Tracking that sort of historical progression is tricky – but that’s just what makes it so fascinating.

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Closing

Like that hypothetical scop, Beowulf also minds his words in this week’s passage from the poem as he makes the bulk of his war-boast before at last going into the barrow. Check back on Thursday for it!

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Edible Kids, Lust-Eyed He-Goats, and Eccentric She-Goats [12:13-15] (Latin)

Translation
On Kids
He-Goats
She-Goats
Conclusion

Goats and she goats are St. Isidore’s topic this week, and there are, as with last week’s section on lambs and sheep, some curious bits of lore thrown in with his definitions.

{Can’t you just see the lust in those eyes? Image from the CR4 article “Is Going Green Getting Your Goat?”}

Translation

[13]”Kids {“haedus”} are so named for eating {“edulare”}. For the small are the fattest and of a delightful taste, from whence [and to eat, from whence] comes the word for edible.

[14]”The he-goat is a truly lascivious animal and a butter and always eager for sex; and we can see lust lying across its eye, from whence its name {“hircus”} is drawn. For the eyes of the he-goat are angular as it is in the second book of Suetonius (Prat 171); whose nature is indeed the hottest like diamond stone, material which neither fire nor iron is able to break into, and which blood alone can dissolve. Many he-goats are called Cinyphri for the river Cinyphrus in Libya, where many were born.

[15] “We call she-goats and she-goats* {capra} for their nibbling {carpo}
of thickets. Others are caught bitterly. Some rattle the blood, from which they can be called rattlers; which are wild she goats, which for the Greeks are sharp to look upon, they are called by them ‘Oksuderkesteron durka.’ In fact, they are seen in the height of mountains, and ever so of those in the distance, however all come that far nevertheless.”
(Book 12:13-15 of St. Isidore of Seville’s Etymologiae)
(*This phrase caused me difficulty since the Latin is “capros et capras,” which suggests male and female “she-goats.”)

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On Kids

“Kid’s are so named for eating.” Out of context, this could be a terrifying statement. And even in context, it’s not entirely clear automatically.

On the one hand, it makes sense that you would want to fatten an animal up before eating it. On the other, if you’re eating all of the young of an animal (the textbook definition of “kid”), then how are you to get more of the adults? A certain degree of moderation must’ve been practiced by people of that age.

Or maybe, since the kids are also known to have a “pleasing/delightful taste” they were saved for special occasions only.

But alas, St. Isidore doesn’t pause to give us such a detail. Instead, he plunges ahead into the realm of lust and cheap casinos. Or, well, maybe just lust.

Yes, he moves onto he-goats (“hircus”).

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He-Goats

One question that comes up immediately on reading this passage is, why does lust live laying across the eye? Or, if you translate “transversus” differently, the corner of the eye? This could be a reference to the slitted pupil of the goat, or perhaps to an idea that lust wasn’t something generally conveyed with a direct look, but instead a glance out of the corner of an eye.

Maybe, in such a situation, if such a glance went unchecked by the glancer and the glancer turned to get a full look of what lust had pulled his or her attention to, then it would become full blown desire.

In the ancient world there was also a belief that a person’s gaze was more of a beam than a passive receiver of information, so maybe such a direct look was also associated with things like Cupid’s arrows. They could be pulled from a quiver (the sidelong glance) and then fired at the victim (the object of the full on look) and maybe there’d be return fire or the shot would just be deflected and all for naught. It’d be great if there’s some love poetry that uses such warlike imagery. A find like that would really cement this connection.

When St. Isidore compares the goat’s fiery nature to the impenetrable nature of diamonds a few more questions might be raised.

Why compare something like an animal’s nature to a diamond in terms of hardness?

Did having a “hard nature” carry the same meaning that it does today, stubborn and wanton, difficult to really get along with?

That “fire and iron” represent the greatest forces that St. Isidore can describe in single words is also curious, since the martial influence is again visible. And that sort of influence is quite clear in the verb “domare” (meaning to tame, break into, conquer). It’s interesting how even 1300 years ago sex and violence were associated with each other.

And speaking of sex, the characteristics that St. Isidore attributes to she goats are also intriguing (partially because the Latin seems especially dense here).

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She-Goats

The fact that they “rattle” is definitely something lost in translation – much like how “kids are so named for eating.” A good guess is that she-goats are noisy, in that they rattle their voices, or bleat, frequently.

What’s out and out weird, is the way that St. Isidore describes she-goats as being seen in the high and far mountains but only by those who bother to look. What does this even mean? That the wild she goats are so plentiful in Greece that they just go unnoticed? Or are she-goats taking on a more spiritual meaning here?

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Conclusion

If you’ve got some ideas about what St. Isidore is talking about when it comes to she-goats’ travel habits, or if you know of any warlike love poetry from the 7th century or earlier, simply let me know in a comment.

And check back Thursday for the continuation of Beowulf’s boasting about his deeds and for a clear statement about what he’s going to do with his sword and the dragon’s hoard.

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