Monday, February 27, 2012

Man's Most Honorable Part

Erasmus, The Fabulous Feast, translated by Craig R. Thompson:
Some boon companions, as they're called, whose main object in life is a laugh, were once having a party. Among them was Antony; also another man with the same sort of reputation and jealous of Antony. Now as philosophers, when they meet, are accustomed to propound some question about natural phenomena, so here the question quickly came up, which was man's most honorable part? One guessed the eyes, another the heart, another the brain, another something else, and each offered reasons for his surmise. Told to give his opinion, Antony said he thought the mouth the most honorable part of all; and he added a reason, I'm not sure what. Then that other fellow, to avoid agreement with Antony, retorted that in his opinion the part we sit on was most honorable. Ridiculous as this seemed to everyone, he argued that priority in seating is commonly allowed to belong to the part he had named. They applauded this notion and had a good laugh. Antony seemed to be beaten in that contest. He dissembled: he had awarded highest honors to the mouth only because he knew the other, from envy of his reputation, would name a different part. Some days later, when they were both guests at the same party again, Antony came across the envious chap talking with some others while they were waiting for dinner. Turning his back, Antony broke wind loudly in the other's face. "Get out, you clown," said the man angrily. "Where did you learn those manners?" "Angry, too, are you?" said Antony. "Had I greeted you by word of mouth, you'd have replied in the same way. Now I greet you with that part of the body which in your opinion is the most honorable of all and I'm called clown." Thus did Antony recover his lost reputation.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Merda Umbellifera

Dr. S-----t, Human Ordure, Botanically Considered (London: F. Coggan, 1733), pp. 16-22:
[p. 16] The Fourth Tribe of Excrements are the Merdae umbelliferae, take the Description.

This kind are a broad round Faeces, lying spread upon the Ground, like an Umbrella or full blown Rose, the colour uncertain; they are of a tolerable consistency, but don't come nigh the solidity of any of the former, but yet are firm and uniform: It was this kind of Excrement that both Hippocrates and after him Celsus said indicated the best state of Health, and were always the most beneficial to young People, and always the consequence of a regular temperate method of Living; † Hel[p. 17]mont says, They who have those kind of Evacuations, have always a free use of their perspiratory Pores, and a fine thin Skin, but a constipated Belly makes a thick Skin,

'Tis upon this Species of Excrement that the innumerable minute grayish Fungi like Down, always grow, vulgarly called Mould. I have for some Hours wonderfully amus'd myself by looking at those tender Vibrissae, and have discovered by the help of Microscopes, the most regular Vegetation, that cou'd possibly be performed by a Chymist after the nicest process for the transmutation of Metals; nay, I have perceived the very motion of their rising, tho' by many degrees flower than the minute Hand of a Watch; for if we consider the quickness of their growth and the shortness of their duration, when grown, (for 'tis remarkable all Fungi grow and decay speedily) a Minute to them in proportion to their size and duration, is equivalent to a Year's growth with other larger Vegetables; and considering they are produced from their native hot Bed, and spring so suddenly, it ought not to seem improbable, that one may [p. 18]
perceive, by the help of Glasses, their Vegetative motion.

The ingenious Mr. ‡ Laurence in his Treatise of Horticulture, tells us of a method of raising Purflain from an hot Bed, that in an Hour's time should be fit to eat: and certainly the motion here must be perceivable to the naked Eye.

I have often with pleasure fancied I cou'd discern upon one of those Faeces over-grown with Fungi, the rude lineaments of Gardens, Wildernesses, Espaliers, Groves, Orchards, Flower-knots, Edgings, &c. and have frequently lent my Glasses to those of my Friends who would venture their Noses so nigh, who have viewed those Lusus Naturae, With as much pleasure and surprize as my self; I have frequently with a very nice Forceps, pluck'd up one of those fungous Fibres, and cou'd plainly perceive always a small atom annex'd to the lower extremity, which I take to be the Root of the Fungus; and I have frequently gathered Numbers of [p. 19] them, and endavoured to analize them for my own satisfaction, to know what they really were, but I never prospered in the Event; however, the most rational conjecture that can be made, is, That they certainly are the minute Seeds of some Fruit or Vegetable, that have been swallowed and passes off with the Excrement, and so have a momentary Vegetation afterwards: And here I can't but observe how often we are indebted to accidents of this nature, for several sorts of Fruit Trees, that are found wild, and supposed either by chance or design, to have been tossed out of Gardens, or Seeds scattered abroad by the Wind, or else to have had their first rudiments laid there since the Creation or the Flood, such Fruits as Cherries, Apples, Raspberries, Plumbs, &c. when perhaps they owe their birth to a T--d: 'Tis certainly a common Custom in England of eminent Gardeners who propose to propagate choice Stone Fruit, to give a quantity of them to Children to eat, provided they promise to swallow the Stones, and they constantly watch them till they go to Stool, to pick them out; and this they aver to be the most natural and nicest [p. 20] preparation, before they inter them; for they never fail, being treated in this manner, to come to the greatest perfection.

M. * Scharzini, an Italian, in his Account of the Isle of Cyprus, tells us there is a particular part in the West of the Island so overgrown with Cherry-Trees, that they take up nigh three hundred Acres of Land, and nothing can look more beautiful in the Season, than the innumerable variety or chequer Work Nature produces by the multiplicity of black and red Cherries, but the latter colour so predominates over the former, that Strangers, when at a distance, fancy they see the Mare Erythraeum, where Pharaoh and his Army perished: He farther says, this immense Wilderness of Cherry-Trees, is intirely owing to a kind of Bird called a † Matzer, of which there is a prodigious Number in this part of the Island, exactly resembling our Black-Bird, only they have but one Foot consisting of ten Claws, who live wholly upon Cher[p. 21]ries, and always swallow the Stones, and when they void them, it being a moist Soil, they easily by their Vegetative gravity sink and take Root, and are always vastly prolifick. I doubt not but the small black Cherry cultivated in Gardens, and called a Mazer takes its Etymology from hence.

I am told there is a Plumb-Tree, called a Green Gage, at Stow in England, the Seat of the Lord Cobham, that constantly bears twelve or fourteen dozen of large, luscious, green Plumbs, every Season, that was raised from a Stone taken out of a French Marquis's Excrement, who was a remarkable Epicure: Any Man that wou'd eat three or four of these Plumbs, in about an Hour after, wou'd be ib prone to Leaping, Skipping, Cutting Capers, and Coopees, and so apt to make Love to every Female that came in the way, that People wou'd think he was mad, and that the Plumbs had a particular intoxicating quality in their Juice like the * Mala insana, so that People only taste, but never swallow them. Indeed I am apt [p. 22] to believe, that the Stone in passing thro' the Ragoo's Guts, must have been impregnated with some of his alert Animal Juices. But this Account savours much of a Romance, if otherwise, How great a loss and misfortune was it to the Learned World in general, that * Anacreon had such a treacherous and ill-contrived Epiglottis? What a glorious poetick inspiring Grape have we lost: And to come nigher home, What a Law inspiring Cherry-Tree have we lost, by the fatal Maeandrings of J----
's intestines? These hints I think ought to encourage our Botanists, and curious Gardeners, to search closely into this ingeniously odd way of propagating.

[p. 16] † Cap. de Dieta page 56.

[p. 19] ‡ Page 84.

[p. 20] * Page 96 of that Edition Printed at Rome Ann. 1702.

[p. 20] † Vid. Gesner hist. Animal.

[p. 21] * Vid. Ray hist. Plantar.

[p. 22] * He was an old Amorous Lyrick Poet, very fond of a young Man called Bathyllus. he was choaked with a Grape Stone. Vid. Plin.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Merda Variegata

Dr. S-----t, Human Ordure, Botanically Considered (London: F. Coggan, 1733), pp. 11-16:
[p. 11] The Third Class or Tribe are the Merdae variegatae, sive marmoratae, the Marbl'd or Strip'd Excrement; 'tis really diverting to see how Nature sports in the production of this kind of Faeces, as to the shape they may participate of the two former, but have not half the solidity or consistency; I have seen some white, bluish, and brown, others yellow, orange, and gray, and all in the same Excretion; these are [p. 12] properly the variegatae, but the marmoratae, tho' of the same Tribe, yet their distinguishing Characteristicks are different, for their variations chiefly depend on sanguiferous streaks, and specks, and lines of a different colour'd Choler or Bile, marbling as it were the Faeces: The former Species of this Tribe proceed either from Meats of different kinds or consistency eaten the same Day, or from Drinks of different colours, taken after, which generally tinge some parts of the Excrement with a colour some way or other analagous to what was originally taken in. (Claret-Drinkers always have costive dark reddish stools, and as costiveness was looked upon to be beneficial to Men in Years, upon this account 'twas ordered to old Men by * two of the greatest Philosophers of the Faculty in their Days. But this by the by.)

The latter Species of this Tribe proceeds either from overstraining, which occasions perhaps a Rupture of some minute intestinal Vessel, which spills its contents upon this kind of Faeces [p. 13] in streaks, or perhaps from a tincture of the Gaul in the intestinum Duodenum, or it may be from an accidental mixture of an Atra bilis with the Faeces in the circuit of the Guts; but happen as it will, I have been strangely diverted with the variety of Figures that those Maeandrous variegated streaks have produc'd; I have often fancy'd I have seen as whimsical Landskips as the hand of Art could possibly depict; at other times I have actually and distinctly read unintelligible words formed by those irregular party-coloured streaks, which makes me believe, 'twas by the assistance of those Species of Faeces that † Zid Benzool the famous Persian Soothsayer used to prophesy, and not only foretel the death of particular Personages, but also the fate of Cities, Provinces, Kingdoms, &c. There is a very authentick Tradition that says, this Zid Benzool foretold the death of the Governor of Susa, (Anno 1662) by some extraordinary Hieroglyphick he saw in his Excrement, three Days before he was [p. 14] killed by the random shot of an Arrow: This way of Divination, I think, bears some Analogy to that of the Ancients, who used to. prophesy by the Viscera or Entrails of Beasts, Birds, and Men after Death; and indeed the Divination by ‡ Ob or Pithonissa was only by Answers given from the Viscera, when in their proper situation, and the subject alive.

But why this way of Fortune-telling by Faeces has not been handed down to Posterity, and been better known amongst us, certainly must proceed from the uncleanness and filthiness of the Subject by which we are to form our predictions, tho' there is a method of Fortune-telling even amongst us now, that bears some resemblance to that of the Persians, practised mostly by a Sect of People calling themselves Aegyptians, or Gypsies, and that is, by the Faeces of Coffee, from thence calling themselves Coffee-Toffers, but. as 'tis now practised 'tis a meer Cheat.

[p. 15] I remember to have been told an odd Story of one * T------ S------ Esq; a Justice of the Peace in Devonshire, a Man of great Wealth and Immorality, who was remarkable for voiding always those Faeces Striatae, one Morning having occasion to ease Nature in a Field, and having done, died of an Apoplectick Fit before he had time to pull up his Breeches; his Friends missing him, after some search found him lying by his Faeces, and the Word CaVe, writ in the manner express'd, upon his Excrement in sanguineous Characters, and they that were Scholars in Company said, 'twas an admonition from Ob or the Lares of his Excrement, to take care he should be decently buried, seeing he was a remarkable Man in his Country: But my Author fancies this was a misinterpretation of the meaning of the Word, for 'twas designed no doubt (said he) for a Warning to the Gentleman himself; and he believed had his Excrements been inspected into before, the same Phaenomenon might have happened, and the Man [p. 16] might have either escaped or have been better prepared, had he fortunately looked about him; but this is but a conjecture. And indeed that very action of turning about to see what's voided, which most People do, (that have not the opportunity of modest neceslary Conveniencies) which I used to take to be nothing more than a natural Mechanical motion, I believe intirely proceeds from some confus'd Ideas or hints of this nature, scattered amongst Mankind.

[p. 12] * Hippocrates and Galen.

[p. 13] † Sid Benzool or Siddy, died at Ispahan Anno 1694. Some say be was burned at Amanzarifdin for Sorcery.

[p. 14] ‡ Vide Selden de diis Syris Symagmat. 2. Plutarch in Patin, &c.

[p. 15] * Vid. Verstegan de Terriculamentis, &c. page 102.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Merda Dolioloidea

Dr. S-----t, Human Ordure, Botanically Considered (London: F. Coggan, 1733), pp. 9-11:
[p. 9] The next Tribe are, the Merdae * Dolioloides, or Tun-form'd Excrements, these are generally thick in the middle, and small at both extremities, like a Rolling-pin or Wooden Cat, these being exactly divided in the middle, are converted into a Species of the former Tribe.

These are of as firm a Consistency as the Campanulatae, but don't seem to be so naturally colour'd; but whether this be a fault in the first, second, or third Concoction, I leave to the decision of the Curious; these kinds are usually to be met with about Cities, and sometimes in the Country; they are much larger in England than here, and larger again in Holland: I remember about four Years ago, I was walking with an English Merchant, in a Field near the Town of Antwerp, where I spied one of these Tun-form'd Affairs [p. 10] lying by a Ditch-side, and I being a stranger in the Country, took it for a small Runlet of Brandy, and wou'd certainly have b----t my self with eagerness to seize it before my Friend, had he not undeceiv'd me, by laughing heartily, and asking, what the D--—l I was going to do with the Afgang or Stront of a Dutchman. I must own I never was more deceiv'd nor asham'd in my Life, but nothing certainly ever more resembled the thing I took it for, than it did; its shape and colour so regular, and its bulk equivalent to a Keg of about three Quarts measure, and the * Valvulae Conniventes of the intestinum Colon had made circular impressions on both extremities, that exactly resembled Hoops; and what was more particular, there was the Stone of some Fruit voided with the Excrement, which lay à propos in the center of the thicker part, and exactly resembled a Bung, so that really after all 'twas a very natural mistake; but what surpriz'd me more, was, considering the diameter of this monstrous Evacuation, how [p. 11] 'twas possible an human * Rectum cou'd contain it, but afterwards I saw larger, and the frequency in a great measure abated my surprize, and considering the Frame of tne Dutch in general about the Hipps, or Ossa inominata, Os Sacrum, Coxigis, &c. where the straight Gut terminates, 'tis no great wonder they shou'd have such gigantine Stools: I have often in dark Nights stumbl'd over some of them.

N.B. 'Twas upon this comely Species of Evacuation, that the munificent King James the First confirmed the Honour of Knighthood †.

[p. 9] * See farther into the Botanical Elements, p. 14.

[p. 10] * Vid. Dr. Willis, Bartholin. Verhyen, &c. de intestinis.

[p. 11] * The Arse-Gut or intestinum rectum.

† Vide Gabriel Benzoar's Remarkable Transactions of the Kings of England since W. the Conqueror, page 102.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Merda Campanulata

Dr. S-----t, Human Ordure, Botanically Considered (London: F. Coggan, 1733), pp. 7-9:
There is no Man that ever was so humble as to observe Human Ordure, but must confess there is a wonderful variety in all productions of this nature. I intirely exclude the Faeces Colliquativae (called in English by the figure Onomatopoeia, Squitter,) being seldom the Sedes Sanorum, and therefore foreign to the Subject. For my part, I have found such a variety, that I have Trib'd and Class'd them, with as much pleasure and care as Botanists do Plants.

And the first of the Tribe that claims precedence, is the * Merda Campanulata sive Turbinata the Bell-form'd Excrements, or resembling a Boy's Top revers'd; the distinguishing Characteristick of this kind of Evacuation, is, that it rises with a broad Basis, and terminates with a nanow Apex; under this denomination is comprehended, those form'd like an Obelisk, Cheshire-Hat, Sugar-Loaf, inverted Pyramid, Portugal Pear, &c. These are always of a firm consistency, the product of a well concocted Aliment, and are always generated in a robust strong Body, and give us sure indications of a firm well-ton'd set of Intestines, with a salubrious attraction of the Lacteal Vessels; to be met with mostly in Plow'd Fields, High Roads, and sometimes in Meadows; I have seen some faint Icons of this Species about the suburbs of Cities; these generally belong to Farmers, Plowmen, Threshers, &c. I have hot had time to inquire into the Virtues or Vices of these, of any of the kinds I have met with; but that must be my next Work, according as this meets with Encouragement.

* Vid. Dr. Stephens's botanical Elements, pag. 13.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Excuses for Farts

Ulrich Marzolph and Richard van Leeuwen, The Arabian Nights Encyclopedia, Vol. 1 (Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2004), p. 150:
Jokes about untimely or unfortunate farts constitute a distinct category in classical Arabic jocular literature. Besides the phenomenon of the "adopted fart (Arabia ridens 2: nos. 151, 433), a frequently imagined situation has the petitioner fart while addressing the ruler with a request. Various responses follow: Each and every opening of my body praises you! (addressing the ruler); You be quiet while the mouth talks! (addressing his buttocks) (Arabia ridens 2: no. 616); And this is another unfortunate thing that happened to me lately! (addressing the ruler) (Arabia ridens 2: no. 918).
The references are to Ulrich Marzolph, Arabia Ridens, 2 vols. (Frankfurt am Main: Klostermann, 1992), which I haven't seen.

Friday, February 10, 2012

A Lost Neo-Latin Poem

François Boyer and Antoine Vernière, edd., "Journal de voyage de Dom Jacques Boyer (1710-1714)," Mémoires de l'Académie des Sciences, Belles-Lettres et Arts de Clermont-Ferrand 26 (1886) 65-602 (at 230; January 3, 1712, at Chanteuges, my translation, with the help of a friend):
I was very unwell on that day, and unable to depart for La Chaise-Dieu. Someone showed me a poem, weighty and appropriate. It's the work of some member of the Society of Jes ...ters. One can judge of it by the first two lines (3):
At the shitty threshold of the smelly arse-hole there stood
A silent but raging fart, unmistakable harbinger of a foul turd.
That reminds me of an inscription which a citizen of Clermont put at the gate of the town of Montferrand, in place of the one which used to be read there. Here they are, the old and the new — compare the two!
I am a royal town, blooming with fields and flowering with meadows.
I am a country town, blooming with pigs and flowering with turds.
(3) I've searched in vain in specialized collections for this scatological poem, and I declare that I haven't been able to find its author. I leave to the charitable Benedictine responsibility for his claim.
The orginal French and Latin:
Je fus fort incommodé ce jour-là, et ne pus partir pour la Chaise-Dieu. On me fit voir un poëme pompeux et propre au dernier point. C'est l'ouvrage d'un Jés...., ou plutôt polisson. On peut en juger par les deux premiers vers (3):
Stabat odoriferi merdoso in limine culi
Vessa furens, putidae certissima nuntia merdae.
Cela me rappelle l'inscription qu'un Clermontois mit à la porte de la ville de Montferrand, au lieu de l'ancienne qu'on y lisait. Les voici l'une et l'autre, faites-en le parallèle:
Regia sum, campis florens et florida pratis.
Rustica sum, porcis florens et florida merdis.
(3) J'ai vainement cherché dans les recueils spéciaux ce poëme scalologique, et je déclare n'avoir pu en découvrir l'auteur. Je laisse au charitable Bénédictin la responsabilité de son assertion.
It is a sad loss to belles lettres that Dom Boyer did not transcribe more of this very interesting poem by an unknown Jesuit writer. For further discussion see Th. d'Angomont, "Un Bon Moine Scatologue," Revue du Moyen Age Latin 41 (1985) 262.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Good Manners

Erasmus, A Handbook on Good Manners for Children. Translated by Eleanor Merchant (London: Preface Publishing, 2008), pp. 25-26:
There are some who teach that a child should hold in digestive wind by clenching his buttocks. But it's not good manners to make yourself ill in your eagerness to appear polite. If you can go somewhere else, then do that on your own. But if not, as the oldest of proverbs goes, 'let him disguise the fart with a cough.' Anyway, why don't those people teach in the same way that children should refrain from moving their bowels, since it's far more damaging to refrain from breaking wind than to constrict the bowels?
Hat tip: A friend.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A Fart for Death

A Collection of Epigrams (London: J. Walthoe, 1727), no. CCCV:
If Death doth come as soon as Breath departs;
Then he must often die, who often farts:
And if to die be but to lose one’s Breath;
Then Death’s a Fart, and so a Fart for Death.

Monday, February 6, 2012

A Tribute to British Royalty

Queen Elizabeth II became Queen 60 years ago today. In honor of the day and as a tribute to British royalty, here is a work of art by Richard Newton (1777-1798), entitled Treason, first published on March 19, 1798 (William Pitt left, John Bull center, George III right):

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Illustration from a Learned Attack on Erasmus

M.A. Screech, Laughter at the Foot of the Cross (1997; rpt. Boulder: Westview Press, 1999), p. 250:
A learned attack on Erasmus by Lopis Stunica sports a printer's ornament with a mannequin-pisse on one side and, on the other, a woman copiously, vigorously and vividly breaking wind. Are such things so routine that compositors set them up without a second thought, or is there a conscious mixture of the grossly earthly and the highly spiritual?21

21. Lopis Stunica, Annotationes contra D. Erasmum Roterodamum, Conrad Resch, Paris, 1522.
Here is the title page, with "mannequin-pisse" at top left and "woman copiously, vigorously and vividly breaking wind" at top right:

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

What the Devil's This?

Rabelais, Gargantua and Pantagruel, tr. J.M. Cohen (Penguin, 1955), p. 597:
Ha, ha, ha! But, ho! What the devil's this? Do you call it shit, turds, crots, ordure, deposit, fecal matter, excrement, droppings, fumets, motion, dung, stronts, scybale, or spyrathe? It's saffron from Ireland, that's what I think it is. Ho, ho, ho! Saffron from Ireland! It is indeed. Let's have a drink.