Friday, December 31, 2010

The Soothsayer

Poggio Bracciolini, Facetiae CLXIV (In Which Gonella, the Jester, Wins a Wager; tr. Anonymous):
It is told of Gonella, the clever jester, that he wagered with a man from Ferrara that he would make a soothsayer of him.

He took his companion to bed with him and, breaking wind softly, instructed him to stick his head under the covers. The other obeyed, but immediately withdrew, offended by the foul odor.

“It appears to me that you have farted,” he said. Upon which Gonella cried: “Correct! I win the bet, for you are already a soothsayer!”

Monday, December 27, 2010

Thoughts While Emptying the Cistern of Nature

Cotton Mather, Diary (July 1700):
I was once emptying the Cistern of Nature, and making Water at the Wall. At the same Time, there came a Dog, who did so too, before me. Thought I; "What mean, and vile Things are the Children of Men, in this mortal State! How much do our natural Necessities abase us, and place us in some regard, on the same Level with the very Dogs!"

My Thought proceeded. "Yett I will be a more noble Creature; and at the very Time, when my natural Necessities debase me into the Condition of the Beast, my Spirit shall (I say, at that very Time!) rise and soar, and fly up, towards the Employment of the Angel."

Accordingly, I resolved, that it should be my ordinary Practice, whenever I step to answer the one or other Necessity of Nature, to make it an Opportunity of shaping in my Mind, some holy, noble, divine Thought; usually, by way of occasional Reflection on some sensible Object which I either then have before me, or have lately had so: a Thought that may leave upon my Spirit, some further Tincture of Piety!

And I have done according to this Resolution!

Friday, December 24, 2010

I Honor Shit

Maxine Kumin, The Excrement Poem:
It is done by us all, as God disposes, from
the least cast of worm to what must have been
in the case of the brontosaur, say, spoor
of considerable heft, something awesome.

We eat, we evacuate, survivors that we are.
I think these things each morning with shovel
and rake, drawing the risen brown buns
toward me, fresh from the horse oven, as it were,

or culling the alfalfa-green ones, expelled
in a state of ooze, through the sawdust bed
to take a serviceable form, as putty does,
so as to lift out entire from the stall.

And wheeling to it, storming up the slope,
I think of the angle of repose the manure
pile assumes, how sparrows come to pick
the redelivered grain, how inky-cap

coprinous mushrooms spring up in a downpour.
I think of what drops from us and must then
be moved to make way for the next and next.
However much we stain the world, spatter

it with our leavings, make stenches, defile
the great formal oceans with what leaks down,
trundling off today's last barrowful,
I honor shit for saying: We go on.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Home Is Where the Fart Is

Ernest Hemingway, The Soul of Spain with McAlmon and Bird the Publishers:
In the rain in the rain in the rain in the rain in Spain.
Does it rain in Spain?
Oh yes my dear on the contrary and there are no bull fights.
The dancers dance in long white pants
It isn't right to yence your aunts
Come Uncle, let's go home.
Home is where the heart is, home is where the fart is.
Come let us fart in the home.
There is no art in a fart.
Still a fart may not be artless.
Let us fart an artless fart in the home.
Bill says democracy must go.
Go democracy.
Bill's father would never knowingly sit down at table with a Democrat.
Now Bill says democracy must go.
Go on democracy.
Democracy is the shit.
Relativity is the shit.
Dictators are the shit.
Menken is the shit.
Waldo Frank is the shit.
The Broom is the shit.
Dada is the shit.
Dempsey is the shit.
This is not a complete list.
They say Ezra is the shit.
But Ezra is nice.
Come let us build a monument to Ezra.
Good a very nice monument.
You did that nicely
Can you do another?
Let me try and do one.
Let us all try and do one.
Let the little girl over there on the corner try and do one.
Come on little girl.
Do one for Ezra.
You have all been successful children.
Now let us clean the mess up.
The Dial does a monument to Proust.
We have done a monument to Ezra.
A monument is a monument.
After all it is the spirit of the thing that counts.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Behaving Like a Beast

Lord Chesterfield, Letters to His Son, CC (London, November 3, O.S. 1749):
Suppose you and me alone together; I believe you will allow that I have as good a right to unlimited freedom in your company, as either you or I can possibly have in any other; and I am apt to believe too, that you would indulge me in that freedom, as far as anybody would. But notwithstanding this, do you imagine that I should think there were no bounds to that freedom? I assure you, I should not think so; and I take myself to be as much tied down by a certain degree of good manners to you, as by other degrees of them to other people. Were I to show you, by a manifest inattention to what you said to me, that I was thinking of something else the whole time; were I to yawn extremely, snore, or break wind in your company, I should think that I behaved myself to you like a beast, and should not expect that you would care to frequent me.
We may safely conclude, then, that Lord Chesterfield never said to his son, "Pull my finger, dear boy."

Saturday, December 11, 2010

An Old French Proverb

"Tart main a cul, quant pet est hors." I take this to mean "Too late is a hand over the arse hole, once the fart is out." A German version — "Zu spät bedeckt man den Arsch nach dem Furz."

These seem to me more earthy and vigorous than the English "It is too late to shutte the stable doore when the steed is stolne."

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Let Us Exchange Our Buttocks

Franz Boas, Kathlamet Texts (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1901), pp. 84-87:
Now they were hungry. Coyote mended his arrows. They went to shoot birds. Early in the morning they went. At night they came home. Badger had killed many, Coyote had killed one duck. Next morning they went again to shoot birds. At night they came home. Coyote had killed two, Badger had killed many. On the following day they went again and came back at night. Coyote had nothing. Badger had shot many. Thus it was every day. One night Coyote thought: "Let us exchange our buttocks," and he said: "What do you think? Let us exchange our buttocks." Badger replied: "I like my own buttocks. I know them: you do not know them."

The next day they went again and came back in the evening. Badger had caught many, and Coyote had two. Badger had no arrows. He just broke wind at those birds. Coyote had arrows, and behold, he got nothing. On the following morning it was just the same. Badger got many. He merely broke wind, and they were dead. Coyote sometimes got one, sometimes none. At night he said again: "Let us exchange our buttocks." Badger said: "No." Every evening Coyote said the same thing and made his brother tired.

Then Badger said: "You make me tired. Let us exchange them." Then they exchanged their buttocks. Now Coyote was glad. He was awake, and thought: "Now I have fooled you. Badger. Now I shall get many." He rose early and quickly. Then he broke wind. He arose and went out. He went with long strides and broke wind: pō, pō, pō, pō. He made slow steps and broke wind: pu, pu, pu, pu. When he stepped with long strides, he broke wind loudly; when he went slowly, he broke wind slowly. Now they went to hunt birds. They came home in the evening. Coyote had nothing, hut Badger had caught many. Coyote tried to go up to the birds with long steps, but every time he stepped he broke wind: pō, pō, pō. On the following day they went again and came back in the evening. Coyote had nothing, and Badger had killed many.

Then Coyote thought: "I made a mistake: I will return his buttocks to him." He said: "What do you think? I will return your buttocks to you." Badger did not say anything. Coyote tried to keep his buttocks closed, but he could not do it. He almost reached the ducks; then they smelled him and flew away. Again they came home, and he said: "I will return your buttocks to you." But Badger was angry. "You make me tired." he said. "I gave them to you. Now you are making me tired again. Take out yours first." Coyote took out the buttocks of Badger. Then Badger took out those of Coyote and threw them into the water, while he put his own buttocks into himself. Now Coyote's buttocks drifted down the rapid creek. Coyote pursued them. Badger went away.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Pepys Poops

Samuel Pepys, Diary (Saturday, October 10, 1663):
Up; and not in any good ease yet, but had pain in making water, and some course I see I must take, besides keeping myself warm, to make myself break wind and go freely to stool before I can be well—neither of which I can do yet, though I have drank the other bottle of Mr. Hollyards against my stomach this morning.

I did however make shift to go to the office, where we sat; and there Sir J. Mennes and Sir W. Batten did advise me to take some Juniper water, and Sir W. Batten sent to his Lady for some for me, strong water made of Juniper. Whether that, or anything else of my draught this morning did it, I cannot tell, but I had a couple of stools forced after it and did break a fart or two; but whether I shall grow better upon it I cannot tell.