Extending Lore on Love and Passion [12:60] (Latin)

Abstract
Translation
Recordings
Repetition Leading to Implication
Word Woes: Overcome?
Closing

{Words upon words – some to be lost between languages. Image found on the blog Thoughts on Books.”}

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Abstract

Isidore further expounds on the theory and lore of good animal husbandry.

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Translation

[60] “Then are those which have the heavy mares look at no animal of deformed appearance, such as dog-headed apes and gorillas, such faces are not made visible to those looking like they are pregnant. Truly this is natural for females that is if such is seen or if the mind conceives of it in the extreme heat of passion, that is conception, such will be in the children that they create. As a matter of fact, animals in the enjoyment of Venus transfer their outside to the inside, and they seize their fill of such a figure of their types in appropriate quality. Among animals those born of diverse kind are called two-kinded/mutts such as mules from mares and donkeys; hinny from horses and female donkeys; mongrels/half-breeds from boars and pigs; sheep-goat (tityrus) from ewes and he-goats; raidos [from ram + IE *ghaidos] (musmo) from she-goats and rams. On the other hand, these are truly the leaders of the herds.”
(St. Isidore of Seville, Etymologiae 12:60)

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Recordings

Latin:

{Forthcoming}

Modern English:

{Forthcoming}

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Repetition Leading to Implication

While he repeats much of what was written in paragraphs 58 and 59 here, Isidore seems to be expanding to all women the reproductive lore from those paragraphs. Otherwise he would have gone with a different phrase than “…this is natural for females” (“Hanc enim feminarum esse naturam”) to describe the practice of keeping ugly things away from pregnant women.

Unfortunately, this is just a matter of implication, since Isidore jumps right back to the animal after he has finished getting into some titillating descriptors (the “extreme heat of passion” (“in extremo voluptatis aestu”) and the “enjoyment of Venus” (in usu Venerio) both being polite euphemisms for orgasm and sex respectively).

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Word Woes: Overcome?

When he settles back on animals, Isidore rounds off the first part of his book about animals with some of the different two-kinded and hybrid mixtures that people have come up with.

Now, either English breeders have been put to shame here, or Latin simply has a far greater depth of expression, since “burdo” translates easily enough into hinny, but “tityrus” and “musmo” remain untranslatable to varying degrees (as far as I can tell).

It’s not as satisfying as a portmanteau of the two, but sheep-goat is the result of a sheep/goat cross-breeding, though these are apparently rare in nature (and referred to as geeps when created in labs). So sheep-goat is the closest translation of “tityrus” that English has to offer.

On the other hand, “musmo” is apparently entirely untranslatable, since even a satisfactory compound English name isn’t available. Yet, if mules and hinnies are different based on the gender of the horse or donkey in the pairing, so too should the result of a she-goat and a ram and a ewe and a he-goat be different.

So, to remedy the untranslatable malady of “musmo,” a little digging was done and the word “raidos” was created. It’s a combination of “ram” and the reconstruction of the Proto-Indo-European word for sheep – *ghaidos. It sounds kind of like “Raiden,” and so is appropriate, given the sentence that Isidore ends with: “…these are truly the leaders of the herds” (“Est autem dux gregis”).

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Closing

This Thursday, Beowulf continues his speech, talking about his time as king and making a very curious statement.

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Sex, Horses, and Reproductive Lore [12:58-59] (Latin)

Abstract
Translation
Recordings
The Galen Connection
Beautiful Thoughts, Beautiful Offspring
Closing

{Jacob, showing the sheep the peeled rods. Image found in the National Library of the Netherlands’ Medieval Illuminated Manuscripts Collection.}

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Abstract

Isidore gets into the details of managing the conception and birthing of animal offspring for desired results.

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Translation

[58] “Certainly human diligence has paired many diverse animals together in sex, so too are discovered other types mingling in forged embraces; just as Jacob was able to get animals of unnatural color and likeness. For the rod was absorbed by those fertile sheep, which they would see by the water as the shadow of a ram looming over them.

[59] “Further, this itsef is done with the fertile mares of a herd, so that the birth of horses is affected by what is thrown before them while they conceive, which are able to conceive and create their likeness. For on their collars are painted in a beautiful way and placed in their presence, those that they respect, which leads to quick births of animals like those that they see.”
(St. Isidore of Seville, Etymologiae 12:58-59)

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Recordings

Latin:

{Forthcoming}

Modern English:

{Forthcoming}

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The Galen Connection

The ideas that Isidore writes about here might just be pulled from the works of the famed second century physician and philosopher, Galen. His theory of conception was that it was necessary for both a man and a woman who wanted to have a child to orgasm at the same time, thereby having their contributions to the child line up.

A failure to impregnate a woman or to become impregnated was a failure to climax at the same time in other words, and not necessarily chalked up to either partner’s having something wrong with their equipment.

Further, though, Galen also wrote about how it was important for the parents-to-be to imagine beautiful things during intercourse.

This was especially true for women, since there was a vague sense that they carried the human essence that would become a child and that men merely helped to shape and quicken this essence. So, if a man was thinking of a lovely thing, and the woman he was with was thinking of some sort of “dog-headed ape” (to borrow Isidore’s “cynocephalus” (12:60)), it was believed that her conception would result in the child being somehow deficient.

Unfortunately, the emphasis on simultaneous orgasm didn’t last too far into the medieval period since the re-discovery of Aristotle led to the adoption of his ideas on the matter. According to old Ari, only the man had to orgasm during sex; it was merely the woman’s job to catch his ejaculation properly.

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Beautiful Thoughts, Beautiful Offspring

As far as the animals that Isidore writes about here are concerned, the same principles are in play. Plus, he wisely refers to the greatest auctoritee of them all in the medieval world – Scripture.

Jacob used his own sort of animal engineering, and that lead to his prosperity, so why can’t contemporary people do the same, the reference implies.

In fact, paragraph 59, though only about mares, talks about presenting those that are fertile with beautiful things so matter of factly that the lore presented is definitely taken as pure fact.

Perhaps there is some truth to it, since a birth might not go so smoothly if a mare gets spooked in the middle of it, or is under extra duress because she’s being stared down by some cynocephalus or other.

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Closing

Check back here Thursday for Wiglaf’s washing, and the beginning of Beowulf’s rather telling speech.

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Moving from Horses to Mules [12:56-57] (Latin)

Abstract
Translation
Recordings
Moving Mules from Language to Language
The Power of the Bigenerum?
Closing

{Simply grey, but what a worker. Image from the National Library of the Netherlands’ Medieval Illuminated Manuscripts collection.}

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Abstract

Isidore’s generalization about the three kinds of horses moves into a piece about mules, their uses, origins, and habits.

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Translation

[56] “There are three kinds of horses: those apt for war and work, others to drive the commons and the herd, but are not apt to ride, the third arises from a mixture of the diverse kinds, that are truly called two-kinded (bigenerum) which from diverse sorts are born, like mules.

[57] “Moreover, the word mule is had from the Greek for “drive” (tractum). Among the Greeks, millers truly use this mule to turn the mechanism of their mills. The Jews freed those flocks when Jacob made them conceive mules in the desert by himself, made of the first born, so that the mules from there were newly and against nature born among natural animals. Wild asses to this also are added as well as donkeys: and they themselves by the same method are found in intercourse, so that very quickly are donkeys born.”
(St. Isidore of Seville, Etymologiae 12:56-57)

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Recordings

Latin:

{Forthcoming}

Modern English:

{Forthcoming}

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Moving Mules from Language to Language

Although mules are well suited to menial tasks, like powering mills, Isidore did not make them easy to translate into English. Much of paragraph 57 is understandable with some tweaks and some twists, but it all runs on contemporary shared knowledge more than anything else save for its opening sentence.

The relationship between whatever Greek word is in question and the Latin tractum is not entirely clear. The sentence could mean that the Greek is derived from the Latin, or that the Latin term and the Greek are the same, and so there’s no need for the differentiation that including both terms brings.

The quick retelling of the story of Jacob and Laban’s flocks is also altered in the original Latin. The crux of this is the phrase “Ana abnepos Esau” (12:57) Esau is a familiar name, but Ana looks off, and the combination of the two with the word for “great great grandson” makes it even more bizarre. Perhaps there’s some esoteric bit of lore about a grandson that’s at work here, but that has since been forgotten about.

Other interpretations of these passages are possible, but these are the ones that seem most likely to me, given my limited knowledge of Latin’s complexities.

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The Power of the Bigenerum?

To sum up the entirey of paragraph 57, mules are work animals.

But the question that arises from these two paragraphs is: Does this designation as a work animal come from mules’ being a perfect mixture of two types of horse – as seems to be implied by a Latin adjective describing mules – “bigenerum” (12:56)?

Given the description of mules thus far, it seems that the answer must be yes, resoundingly. After all, combine horses that can be ridden into war, and those that can be used to herd animals, and the natural result would be something hardy and used for strenuous activity.

But then, if Esau is being credited with the creation of mules, then does that mean that he did it intentionally?

According to the story in the KJV (Genesis 30:25-43), Jacob creates these mules in order to steal away Laban’s flock after he has worked for him for seven years in exchange for Laban’s daughter Rachel.

Since the idea to use the rod to scare the females into giving birth while they were drinking, resulting in mules, was his own, Isidore is definitely in the right to say that these mules were “were newly and against nature born among natural animals,” (“nova contra naturam animalia nascerentur” 12:57).

Truly intriguing in the KJV though is the mention in verse 41 of chapter 30 of Genesis that Jacob only used his trick when the strong ones among Laban’s flocks and cattle were pregnant. In other words, they weren’t just bred for necessity, they were bred for strength – something that Isidore nails here.

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Closing

Check back here on Thursday for Beowulf and Wiglaf’s brief revel, and a tragic realization.

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Isidore of Seville on Color (Pt.2) [12:53-55] (Latin)

Abstract
Translation
Recordings
The Trickiness of Translating Color (2)
High Riders and Low Riders
Closing

{A stained glass window from The Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See, also known simply as Seville Cathedral. Image from the Wikipedia.}

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Abstract

Isidore continues his descriptions of colors, and ends with an indirect description of a pony express.

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Translation

[53] “Roan is what the common folk call guaranen. Brazen itself the commons call this; which is colored in the way of bronze. On the other hand, myrtle is simply purple.

[54] “Moreover, they call it [dowry], the color that is the same as the ass’ color: that itself and ash grey are the same. They are also those colors in the wild breeds: those born, as the horse breeders say, without the ability to pass on the refinement of civilization.

[55] “Moors are black, truly the Greeks call black mauron. Gallic horses are in fact small horses, which the commons call brownish. Truly gifted the old ones call those which drive back, that is lead; or which run on public ways, going to and fro as they are accustomed to do.”
(St. Isidore of Seville, Etymologiae 12:53-55)

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Recordings

Latin:

{Forthcoming}

Modern English:

{Forthcoming}

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The Trickiness of Translating Color (2)

Some things just don’t seem to be translatable. This week’s section isn’t as bad as last week’s, but one word seems to have been left behind by Modern English: “guaranen.”

This word is indeed mysterious, but it must at the least refer to some color involving brown and white since it’s comparable to the color roan, itself the name for the color of animals whose pelts mingle brown and white closely together.

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High Riders and Low Riders

Throughout the descriptions and explanations this week, Isidore consistently refers to the commons as having a different vocabulary. Since he’s writing about horses, an animal that has many functions in human societies, this makes sense.

The common folk are likely to use horses to work and get around, whereas the wealthy are those that breed them for show and for speed – arguably less utilitarian ends. A gap between these two groups is also seen in the differing terms for copper colored: “cervinus” and “Aeranen,” (12:53). The first of these refers to the color of deer and the second to the color of a valuable metal thought to last forever.

Color terms are likely to come from things encountered in daily life, since this gives them a grounding in shared experience, and the difference in experience of the wealthy and the commons is underscored by the gap between the deer that the wealthy had time to admire and a valuable metal that the commons may well have coveted.

Curiously, this creates something of a yin-yang relationship, in that each group contains a germ of the other.

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Closing

Check back here on Thursday for the final exchange of attacks between team Beowulf and the dragon.

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Isidore of Seville on Color (Pt.1) [12:50-52] (Latin)

Abstract
Translation
Recordings
The Trickiness of Translating Color
Varieties of White: Something From Nothing?
Closing

{A simple color wheel, yet complexities hide in what it depicts. Image from the Association for Anthroposophic Medicine & Therapies in America.}

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Abstract

Although it “is especially visible,” Isidore expands on the meaning of the various colours he cited in last week’s translation.

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Translation

[50] “Bluish-gray is in fact just as painted eyes and those which are brightly dyed. On the other hand, grayish is a better color than pale yellow. Speckled it is, white dotted throughout with black.

[51] “Moreover, brilliant white and white are in turn differed from each other. For white is that which is pale, while brilliant white is in fact filled with brightness like snow and pure light. White gray it is called which comes from the colors brilliant white and black. Checked it is called because of rings which have brilliant white among purple.

[52] “Horses that are spotted have inferior colors in some ways. Those that have only hooves of true white, known as petili, and whose forehead is white, warm.”
(St. Isidore of Seville, Etymologiae 12:50-52)

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Recordings

Latin:

Modern English:

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The Trickiness of Translating Color

Just as the way in which Anglo-Saxon’s differentiated colors based on brightness, the sense of the colors that Isidore expounds upon this week isn’t entirely clear in translation.

Obviously, in paragraph 52, spotted is pointed out as an inferior color, but even then the why isn’t entirely explicit.

On the one hand it could be because spotted horses don’t live as long as solid colored horses, or it could hearken back to the appearance based judgments that went into relating rippling muscles and certain sorts of ears to a great power and speed respectively.

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Varieties of White: Something From Nothing?

Yet, the differentiation between white and brilliant white is interesting. Rather than being defined by the lack that “white” is (since paleness generally means the absence of color), brilliant white is defined simply as the presence of brilliance (new fallen snow or bright light).

Again, returning to the idea that the outside reflects the inside, it goes unsaid, but chances are a brilliant white horse would be more valued than one that is merely “white.” Projecting whiteness must have been more impressive than simply being white.

Of course, if that line of reasoning is followed, you might just find yourself with an old explanation for why some people thought that Caucasians with skin that’s white-as-a-sheet are better than everyone else. Rather than being white because of lack, they’re white because of excess. A curious reversal of the spectrum, in a way.

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Closing

Check back here Thursday to see what happens when Beowulf and Wiglaf launch their counterattack on the dragon.

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Part 2 of the Guide to a Good Horse [12:47-49] (Latin)

Abstract
Translation
Recordings
Two Notes on the Translation
Guide to a Good Horse (Part 2)
Closing

{Those are some formidable limbs, and it almost looks like they’re trembling. Image from FreeFoto.com.}

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Abstract

‎Isidore concludes the medieval guide to a good horse and discusses the Latin word for reddish/chestnut brown (“badius” 12:47).

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Translation

‎[‏47‎] “M‏erit,‭ ‬that is a bold spirit,‭ ‬brisk hooves,‭ ‬trembling limbs,‭ ‬which indicate strength:‭ ‬those who are easily roused from their stillness to their maximum speed,‭ ‬or that are not difficult to be held in their excited hurry.‭ ‬On the other hand a horse’s motion can be perceived in their ears,‭ ‬their power in the tremors of their limbs.

‎[‏48‎] ‏”Color is especially visible:‭ ‬reddish,‭ ‬golden,‭ ‬rosy,‭ ‬myrtle,‭ ‬deer brown,‭ ‬pale yellow,‭ ‬bluish gray,‭ ‬checkered,‭ ‬gray,‭ ‬white,‭ ‬speckled,‭ ‬black.‭ ‬Moreover the sequence must be ordered,‭ ‬black from reddish distinguished,‭ ‬leaving behind varied color or preventing ash gray.

‎[‏49‎] ‏”Moreover reddish was called bay (vadium) of old,‭ ‬which among the other animals made its way (vadat) through strength.‭ ‬Itself is chestnut brown (spadicus),‭ ‬as it is called by the Phoenicians, and was called the color of glory,‭ ‬which the Sicilians called spadicus.‭”
(St. Isidore of Seville, Etymologiae 12:47-49)

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Recordings

Latin:

{Forthcoming}

Modern English:

{Forthcoming}

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Two Notes on the Translation

First, there is one marked difference between last week’s translation of the guide to a good horse and this week’s.

Last week, the word “meritum” (12:45) was translated as “kindness,” but this week it was translated as “merit.” The reason for the difference is context. Initially, it seemed that translating “meritum” as “kindness” would work best since it makes sense that a horse with a generous spirit is better than one with a mean spirit.

However, the list of qualities mentioned in this week’s translation makes it clear that “meritum” should be translated as “merit.”

Second, the final paragraph is an odd tangle of nouns.

Originally, “Phoenicians” was translated simply as “phoenix” and the second clause of the second sentence read “or called phoenix,” which doesn’t make as much sense. Yet, even changing “phoenicatum” (12:49) to “Phoenician” is not entirely satisfactory, since the sentence seems to be about different names for the same colour, though both are given the same.

Of course, it is possible that this paragraph is supposed to point out some sort of weird parallel between the words that two diverse cultures use, but I don’t know enough about the early medieval Sicilians and Phoenicians to make such a call.

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Guide to a Good Horse (Part 2)

Color’s a given here, but there is a curious idea presented in the description of merit.

This is that the trembling of a horse’s limbs (when idle, it seems) suggests the horse’s power – as if the muscles are so powerful that they tremble and quaver, are simply overflowing with energy, when not in use.

This diagnostic technique for detecting a horse’s power is interesting because it feeds directly into the then popular field of deducing what’s going on inside a body from what’s going on outside of it. This way of looking at things also explains why there’s an order to the colors that are listed, but the meaning of that list is not clear.

Nonetheless, the same principle of externals pointing to internals goes for using the ears as a guide to a horse’s speed.

In a way these two things are perhaps the most secret of ways to tell if a horse is good or not – and thus the most effective – since they’re given such vague descriptions.

Should the muscles tremble when the horse is idle? When it’s just at a trot? Or a when it’s at a full gallop? And what about the ears indicates speed? If they’re kind of pulled back, as they might be when a horse runs so fast that the wind (or the horse itself) pulls them back? Maybe the ear thing is a matter of an early understanding of aerodynamics. And why not?

Though, back then, explanations of how air moves and interacts with other things would have been called something like “aerodynamikos” rather than “aerodynamics.” Ah, well.

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Closing

Check back here Thursday for the next installment of Beowulf. This time, Wiglaf has rushed to Beowulf’s aid, and shares words of support as the dragon draws in for another attack.

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More on Horses from Isidore (Part 1 of the Guide to a Good Horse) [12:44-46] (Latin)

Abstract
Translation
Recordings
Deference to Authority
Guide to a Good Horse (Part 1)
Closing

{Two horses that would definitely fit the requirements that Isidore outlines for a “good horse”. Image from Wikipedia.}

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Abstract

Isidore shares where the longest and shortest lived horses can be found. And he explains what true horsemen look for in a sturdy specimen.

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Translation

[44] “Truly either because of sadness or joy horses struggle to comprehend future events. Long lived horses are Persian, Hunnish, those of Epirus, and Sicily which can live at most to 50 years, but short lived horses are those from Spain and Numidea and Gaul, as is frequently conjectured.

[45] “Among high born horses, according to veterans, these are the four things to watch for: shape, beauty, kindness, and color. Shape is a healthy and solid body, strength matching size, a long side, a maximally tight and round buttocks, a broad chest side, a body knotted with dense muscle all over, healthy hooves, and fine curved ears.

[46] “Beauty is a small and healthy head, skin closely adhering to bones, short and graceful ears, large eyes, open nostrils, an erect neck, dense hair and tail, smooth and solid piercing hooves.”
(St. Isidore of Seville, Etymologiae 12:44-46)

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Recordings

Latin:

Modern English:

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Deference to Authority

Both of the major points in this week’s section (horses’ lifespan, and what to look for in a good one) are given as opinion. In the case of where the longest and shortest lived horses can be found, the entry is based on what is “frequently conjectured,” (“frequens opinio”) and when Isidore shifts to talk of the key qualities of a good horse, he defers to “veterans” (“veteres”).

Part of the reason for this deference is that the Etymologies isn’t entirely an original work. Rather than writing everything from scratch, Isidore compiled a lot of his entries from other sources, copying them out by hand, of course, but still copying nonetheless.

However, though this kind of copying rankles academics and writers and publishers worldwide today, it was simply how things were done in the middle ages. Not because people were less able to understand things, but, in part, because books were much more difficult to create.

After all, the longer the book, the more velum a person would need, and the more velum needed meant the more sheep or goats had to be killed to provide that velum. All the other parts of the animal would be used, but if it was an animal used for its milk or wool, but a book was something that an animal could only be used for once (though there’s got to be a medieval romance that features a magical, self-resurrecting sheep out there).

Deference to other authorities fits well into such a publishing system, since it keeps things light. Rather than having everyone explain something thoroughly and use up more and more of the time’s precious writing materials, writers could just say “as x explained in y.” Though such references were often not so explicit as to give names and titles.

How all of this relates to horses is beyond me, though horse meat is rather tasty, and this first half of the 7th century guide on how to choose a horse makes a little more sense if you keep in mind that mainland Europeans once did (and still do) raise horses for eating.

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Guide to a Good Horse (Part 1)

The two key qualities that Isidore outlines here are a horse’s “shape” (“forma”) and “beauty” (“pulchritudo”). To modern eyes the first one makes a little bit more sense than the other, but the descriptions of each make it clear why these are relevant criteria.

Shape boils down to health, and what might be known as Body Mass Index (BMI, a ratio of body fat to body mass and height) today. From the sounds of it, a truly shapely horse is one that is firmly outfitted with muscle and that has the minimum amount of fat possible. Otherwise, shape matching size, firm buttocks, and body knotted in muscle would simply be out of the question.

Beauty ties in quite closely to Shape, since it also deals with the health of the horse as well as its aesthetic appeal. Having a small head, erect neck, and skin that closely adheres to bones all suggest an animal that is healthy, and, again, has a minimum amount of fat on it. Assuming that these are horses for riding, and not for eating, this focus on qualities that relate to a low BMI makes sense, as any extra weight would slow down a horse that would already be carrying a grown man. Not to mention, a man who was likely wearing armor of some description.

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Closing

There’s very little horsing around in this week’s extract from Beowulf, as Wiglaf rushes to Beowulf’s aid, shares some words of encouragement, and then prepares to defend against the dragon as it rushes on.

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