So, would you rather visit Tory party conference or the 1660 Foire de Saint-Germain?

Given the choice (we believe in choice). Featuring castanets, monkeys, marionettes, and human and tortoise castles.

These tumblers are said to have come from Holland, but they sound like (apprentices of) Venetians, of whom more another day:

La belle foire Saint-Germain
Aujourd’hui se ferme, ou demain:
Ainsi, trêve de castagnettes,
De singes, de marionnettes;
Trêve de ces sauts périlleux,
Trêve de ces tours merveilleux.

Hath suffered a we-change:

The splendid fair of Saint Germain,
Here today, or gone demain:
And so, a truce of castanets,
Of monkeys, and of marionettes;
A truce of those bold parlous leaps,
A truce of marvellous human heaps.

Illiterate Southern Occitans and the UNESCO mafia would have you believe that biological pyramids were invented towards the end of the War of the Spanish Succession at Valls, just up the River Francolí from Tarragona. Sed testudines nos non assentimur:

the Tortoise Brothers and their incredible Pyramid of Death

London organ-grinder tweets for September 2017

I know where your house lives, but sometimes the front door’s a struggle

Featuring Abel and Marguerite Chevalley and their Concise Oxford French Dictionary.

From Abel and Marguerite Chevalley’s intro to the 1934 Concise Oxford French Dictionary:

It is not sufficient to be a Frenchman, even highly educated, if you want to succeed as a French-English lexicographer. Nor can an Englishman, even with first-class honours in French, be guaranteed to find the best English equivalents for French words or idioms. Every living language gets stratified as it grows. Very few people are at home in its different strata. Mrs. Malaprop’s language was probably free of malapropisms when she spoke to her cook, and the most purist précieuse would perpetrate malapropisms of another sort if she had to deal with the butcher and the grocer. Languages are like houses: they must be lived in—from attic to basement—before they can be called ours. The number of people who have become familiar, in this intimate manner, not only with one but with several houses is, of course, limited.

Culture and knowledge are not sufficient. A taste for words as words; an instinct of divination leading in abstracto to the ‘mot juste’, and an insight into the risks and difficulties of others, less gifted; the sporting spirit that sustains, year in year out, a lifelong word-hunt; an acute sense of the correspondences and discrepancies between words of apparently the same sort and sound in two languages that are now frères ennemis and then “heavenly twins’, these are also not enough. A great thing, perhaps the greatest, is to have lived both French and English, meeting on their own ground all conditions of men, and transacting with them all kinds of business; to have travelled, under the sting of necessity, up and down the social order, always in a spirit of comprehensive sympathy but with that touch of amusement that goes to the making of humour. You must have run a hundred times, half angry, half smiling, from loft to cellar before you can flatter yourself that you know every turning, nook, and corner in your own house; and even then you knock your shins against unsuspected obstacles. What if the house were a double affair, more than half built in the air, of metaphors, shadows and shades, and visions, ever changing, ever moving, without perhaps one single exact counterpart in the two enchanted fabrics? I am not sure that the King’s English does in this sense belong to the King rather than to the bricklayer, and the French of France to the Académie rather than to the nearest pub. But I am sure that the lexicographer who has frequented both is also the best prepared for the task. These conditions must be sadly missing in the world of dictionaries.

I’ve been on holiday too long, but that’s still how I feel about borderline Dutch and Low German, and older houses in places like Hamburg and Strasbourg flash me back to ramshackle dwellings in the diseased swamp and blighted heath that separates the bishops of Utrecht and Münster. With other languages the feeling varies from residence through squatting to Airbnb (sorry, I broke the toilet). The Great House of Russian, on the other hand, is often as strange to me as the 60s West End of London to the anthropomartians above. How different the world might have been had Peter the Great spent some of his tobacco revenues on a translation of Erasmus’ proverbs.

The Chevalleys are interesting. Marguerite translated “from the American, English [sic] and Norwegian into French”, and it sounds as if her lexicography echoed the popular Protestant theology of her father, Auguste Sabatier. Abel has a German, but not a French, Wikipedia page because he represented the French state in the exclavation of East Prussia after the Treaty of Versailles. He wrote that “the English novel owes its existence and power to the authors of the 18th century and its prestige to Walter Scott”, and authored a study of Queen Victoria and a Ripper-type novel loosely based on the Beast of Gévaudan. Son Claude was a better mathematician than diplomat, applying from within the Great Satan for a job at the Sorbonne while simultaneously being rude about the artist then known as French science.

Yiddish and the Italian Welsh

Daffy-down-dilly has been and fled / Her yellow-green gown all stained in red. Featuring Google Translate’s transliteration service for unfamiliar scripts.

Here’s the Yiddish original of an Abridger’s Confession quoted (and translated) by A.Z. Foreman:

דש דוזיג בוך אין וועלשן שפרוך
דש שרייבט גאר לאנג אין אלן עקן
איך וויל אים ניט מין שרייבן נוך
וויל אויביריגי ווארט לוש איך נוך שטעקן
זוישט וואורד מיר מיין בויכֿלן צו הוך
אונ׳ דיא צייט וואורד מיך דרצו ניט קלעקן
דרום ווער עז הוט גילייט בֿור אך אין וועלשן
מאיין ניט דש איך עש דעהרום וויל ועלשן

I was interested in the literal original and the translation process, but I can’t read Hebrew. here‘s the Google Translation:

Flap doozy book in which entitlement
Flap writing extremely long in aln ends
I wish him no kind writing nukh
Wants aoybirigi word Lush I nukh staff
Cleaner wards me my boykhln to hukh
And Dia times wards me moreover not suffice
South who EZ hat gileyt majority but in which
My not flap I Esche dehrum wants uelshn

A case of madness beating method. But anyone who knows a bit of German should be able to understand Google Translate’s transliteration:

dsh duzig bukh in velshn shfrukh
dsh shreybt gar lang in aln ekn
ikh vil im nit min shreybn nukh
vil aoybirigi vart lush ikh nukh shtekn
zoysht vaurd mir meyn boykhln tsu hukh
aun’ dya tseyt vaurd mikh drtsu nit klekn
drum ver ez hut gileyt vur akh in velshn
meyn nit dsh ikh esh dehrum vil uelshn

One curiosity: Foreman translates velshn/uelshen as “Italian” in line with historical linguistic theory:

*Walhaz … is a reconstructed Proto-Germanic word, meaning “foreigner”, “stranger”, “Roman”, “Romance-speaker”, or “Celtic-speaker”. The term was used by the ancient Germanic peoples to describe inhabitants of the former Western Roman Empire, who were largely romanised and spoke Latin or Celtic languages. The adjectival form is attested in Old Norse valskr, meaning “French”, Old High German walhiskbarrick, meaning “Romance”, Modern German welsch, used in Switzerland and South Tyrol for Romance-speakers, Dutch Waals “Walloon”, Old English welisċ, wælisċ, wilisċ, meaning “Romano-British”, and Modern English Welsh.

However, it is common knowledge here in Bala, Gwynedd, Wales that all other incomprehensible tongues in fact spring from Welsh, in which tongue proto-Calvinistic Methodist dogma was being preached long before the Shemites shtarted shquabbling, and whose speakers have dominated European government for centuries by the subtle use of leeks. A fearsome language and a fearful people, of whose death-dealing daffy-down-dilly Robert Herrick (1591-1674) wrote:

When a daffodil I see,
Hanging down his head towards me,
Guess I may what I must be:
First, I shall decline my head;
Secondly, I shall be dead;
Lastly, safely burièd.

The Welsh appear in a notorious poem by Ernst Arndt (1769-1860), which on a particularly slow day Mr Foreman might translate as follows:

That is the German fatherland,
Where foreign junk is fiercely banned,
Where every Frenchman is condemned,
Where every German is your friend.
So shall it be! so shall it be!
So shall be all of Germany!

[
Das ist des Deutschen Vaterland,
Wo Zorn vertilgt den welschen Tand,
Wo jeder Franzmann heißet Feind,
Wo jeder Deutsche heißet Freund.
Das soll es sein! das soll es sein!
Das ganze Deutschland soll es sein!
]

But this, pace Bala, is actually about the Welsh, not foreigners in general. A precocious talent, Arndt is recalling his attendance, at the age of 18 months, at Cardiff City’s best ever showing in European competition: the second leg of its 3-4 aggregate loss against Hamburger SV in the semi-finals of the 1768 Cup Winners’ Cup:

Why not simply learn Hebrew script? Because I have discovered from overheard conversations in Yiddish that the Stamford Hill Haredim are less interested in world domination than in what’s for tea, so the chance of Hebrew script becoming more widely used and useful seems unacceptably small.

Did the house that Jack built come from Spain?

Cumulative songs (and monstrous nested stuffing recipes) in Quixote and Estebanillo González, with the grossest video you’ll see today.

Quijote and Estebanillo

One of my favourite English kids’ songs is “I know an old lady who swallowed a fly,” which I know from the Burl Ives version I heard as a child:

Current bedtime reading is La vida y hechos de Estebanillo González, the mid-C17th picaresque of a scoundrel’s adventures in the Thirty Years War. In Captain Stevens’ 1707 English translation, 1, a Spanish cumulative verse like “I know an old lady” is translated by reference to “The house that Jack built”:

My Master is such a Worthy Person, that he had rather see his Servants made much of, than please himself, and therefore he and his Friends never put their Landlords to any more Charge than a Dish of Imperial Stuff’d Meat with an Egg in it. He ask’d me, What that Stuff’d Meat was made of? And I bid him order me a new lay’d Egg, and a Squab Pidgeon, and two Loads of Coals, and to send for a Cobler, with his Nawl and Ends, and a Grave maker, with his Spade, and then he should know what else was wanting, that he might provide it, whilst we were at Work. The Landlord was amaz’d, and went away half beside himself, to get the Necessaries for the ordering of that Dish of Stuff’d Meat. A while after he return’d with all I had demanded, except the two Loads of Coals. I took the Egg and the Squab-Pidgeon, which I Gutted, and cutting it open enough with my Knife, for I had all my Tools about me, clapp’d the Egg into the Belly of it, and then said to him, Now, Sir, take Notice of this Stuff’d Meat, for it is just like the Tale the Children tell of, This is the Stick that beat the Dog, the Dog that bit the Cat, the Cat that kill’d the Mouse, the Mouse that eat the Malt, the Malt that lay in the House that Jack built; for this Egg is in the Pidgeon, the Pidgeon is to be put into a Partridge, the Partridge into a Pheasant, the Pheasant into a Pullet, the Pullet into a Capon, the Capon înto a Turkey, the Turkey into a Kid, the Kid into a Sheep, the Sheep into a Calf, and the Calf into a Cow, all these Creatures are to be Pull’d, Flea’d and Larded, except the Cow, which is to have her Hide on, and as they are thrüst one into another, like to a Nest of [English ]Boxes, the Cobler is to Sew every one up with an End, that they may not slip out; and when they are all fast Sew’d into the Cows Belly, the Grave Digger is to throw up a deep Trench, into which one Load of Coals is to be cast, and the Cow laid a top of it, and the other Load upon her, and the Fuel set on Fire, to Burn about four Hours, more or less; when the Meat being taken out, it is all Incorporated, and becomes such a delicious Dish, that formerly the Emperors us’d to Dine upon it on their Coronation Day, for which Reason, and because an Egg is the Foundation of all that curious Mess, it was call’d, The Imperial Egg Stuff’d Meat. 2

[
Before we look at Jack, some culinary credibility in this stuffing demonstration using real animals in Fernando Fernán Gómez’s 1974 Spanish Golden Age picaresque potpourri, El pícaro:

I hope that was gross enough. Back to Jack.
]
Stevens (1707) beats Wikipedia‘s first (1739) sighting of the house that Jack built by 32 years, so adepts may want to do a bit of gardening there. Cervantes in Quixote (1605), as well as an imperial relleno adobado like Estebanillo’s, 3 has a more extended version of Estebanillo’s Tom and Jerry cumulative song, which Shelton in 1612 translates more-or-less literally and without reference to Jack:

And so, as men say, the cat to the rat, the rat to the cord, the cord to the post; so the carrier struck Sancho, Sancho the wench, she returned him again his liberality with interest, and the inn-keeper laid load upon his maid also; and all of them did mince it with such expedition, as there was no leisure at all allowed to any one of them for breathing. 4

I think this is the same song of the starving grandparents found in Spanish oral tradition, whose accumulation is pretty much along the lines of the house that Jack built. A quick translation:

An old woman and an old man had nothing to eat but a cheese, and along came a (rhyming) rat and ate it.

Then along came the cat
And killed the rat
Which ate the cheese
Of grandma and grandpa.

Then along came the dog
And killed the cat
Which killed the rat
Which ate the cheese
Of grandma and grandpa.

Then along came the stick
And killed the dog
Which killed the cat
Which killed the rat
Which ate the cheese
Of grandma and grandpa.

Then along came the fire
And burnt the stick
Which killed the dog
Which killed the cat
Which killed the rat
Which ate the cheese
Of grandma and grandpa.

Then along came the water
And killed the fire
Which burnt the stick
Which killed the dog
Which killed the cat
Which killed the rat
Which ate the cheese
Of grandma and grandpa.

The ox to the fold
My story’s told
That couple so old
No cheese did behold. 5

But the verse is undated, and so while it might be older than Cervantes, so might it equally be a variant of some version of “The house that Jack built” taught to a Spanish girl by some Napoleon-fighting Brit during the Peninsular War, or some such curiosity, and so we will ignore it.

Spanish origins, or a universal technique?

So was the Jack architecture copied from the Spanish? Estebanillo is shorter in Spanish than English, which might suggest that Jack and other Aarne-Thompson 2035-type (food) chain songs were quite new in English in 1707 but already well-established in Spanish when the novel was published around 1650:

Original

Repare vuesa merced en este relleno, porque es lo mismo que el juego del gato al rato
Literal translation

Your Grace, note this stuff’d meat, for it is just like the game of the cat with the mouse
Stevens’ gloss

Now, Sir, take Notice of this Stuff’d Meat, for it is just like the Tale the Children tell of, This is the Stick that beat the Dog, the Dog that bit the Cat, the Cat that kill’d the Mouse, the Mouse that eat the Malt, the Malt that lay in the House that Jack built

OK, then there’s the literality of the Cervantes translation, but the casual reference to the cat who killed the mouse (or, for you rhymers, the cat who the rat did splat) Canarian polylinguist Bartolomé Cairasco de Figueroa in Tragedia y martirio de Santa Catalina de Alejandría (ca. 1580) and the lack of any known source in English again might suggest that the device was deeply ingrained in Spain but not in England:

Éste es el gato
que mató al rato

On the other hand, perhaps this kind of thing was going on everywhere in the 16th century. I should be able to think of Dutch examples, and early German counting tales, Zählgeschichten, but can’t. Can you suggest anything in another language in early modern Europe?

Or perhaps it’s actually universal – of all places and times, a spinoff from the use in oral cultures of cumulative techniques for the rote-learning (particularly by children) of genealogies and itineraries. Let us imagine a visit to some early descendants of Shem in an Arabian desert:

Abraham begat Isaac;
Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob;
Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judas and his brethren;

… or some of Japheth’s spawn, shivering amid painted savages in a British marsh:

Venta Silurum, 9,000 paces
Venta Silurum, 9,000 paces; Abone, 14,000 paces;
Venta Silurum, 9,000 paces; Abone, 14,000 paces; Traiectus, 9,000 paces;

Afterword: cumulative song striptease?

What game did you play as a child with the house that Jack built? I can’t remember, but a book of dances and games (Bailes y juegos: diversiones varias para entretenimiento y recreo de las tertulias y sociedades… por un aficionado (1903)) describes what may be a rather unusual way of accompanying “La llave del jardín del rey,” the key of the garden of the king:

The game director takes a key with a cord tied to it and gives it to the player to his right, saying, “This is the key to the garden of the king.” The recipient passes it to the player to his right, saying the same thing, and thus the key travels from hand to hand until it returns to the director. He again hands it to the player to his right, saying, “This is the cord which holds the key which gives access to the garden of the king.” The recipient hands it to the following player, saying the same thing, and so on and so forth until the key comes once more into the hands of the director, who continues by saying, “This is the mouse which ate the cord which holds the key which gives access to the garden of the king,” which everyone else repeats. Then, when the key has been returned to the director, he continues, “This is the cat which ate the mouse which ate the cord which holds the key which gives access to the garden of the king.” Then he adds, “This is the lion which ate the cat which ate the mouse which ate the cord which holds the key which gives access to the garden of the king.” Finally, he adds, “This is the hunter who killed the lion which ate the cat which ate the mouse which ate the cord which holds the key which gives access to the garden of the king.” Thus the list increases, the director being empowered to vary the words as he wishes in order to cause more errors and the payment of more items of clothing. 6

Prenda is of course actually forfeit here, rather than an item of clothing, as in Dickens:

‘This,’ said Mr. Pickwick, looking round him, ‘this is, indeed, comfort.’ ‘Our invariable custom,’ replied Mr. Wardle. ‘Everybody sits down with us on Christmas Eve, as you see them now — servants and all; and here we wait, until the clock strikes twelve, to usher Christmas in, and beguile the time with forfeits and old stories. Trundle, my boy, rake up the fire.’

But search engines seek sensation. As did Pepys:

[A]fter dinner the Comptroller begun some sports, among others the naming of people round and afterwards demanding questions of them that they are forced to answer their names to, which do make very good sport. And here I took pleasure to take the forfeits of the ladies who would not do their duty by kissing of them; among others a pretty lady, who I found afterwards to be wife to Sir W. Batten’s son. Home, and then with my wife to see Sir W. Batten…

What a back-and-forth and to-and-fro of customs! And the Russians (or Fabergé at least) even prefer their nestled stuffings topsy-turvy, with the egg on the outside and the emperor inside! Where will it ever end!

Stuff

  1. The printer was in Bearbinder Lane – check this splendid map of early modern London.
  2. Mi amo es tan gran caballero que más quiere tener contentos a sus criados que no a su persona; y así él y sus camaradas no hacen de gasto al día a ningún patrón si no es un relleno imperial aovado.

    Preguntóme que de qué se hacía el tal relleno. Respondíle que me mandase traer un huevo y un pichón recién nacido y dos carros de carbón, y mandase llamar a un zapatero de viejo, con alesna y cabos, y un sepolturero con su azada, y que sabría todo lo que había de buscar para empezar a trabajar en hacerlo.

    El patrón, medio atónito y atemorizado, salió en busca de lo necesario al tal relleno, y a el cabo de poco espacio me trujo todo lo que le había pedido, excepto los dos carros de carbón. Toméle el huevo y el pequeño pichón, y abriéndolo con un cuchillo de mi sazonada herramienta, y metiéndole el huevo, después de haberle sacado las tripas, le dije desta forma:

    -Repare vuesa merced en este relleno, porque es lo mismo que el juego del gato al rato: este huevo está dentro deste pichón, el pichón ha de estar dentro de una perdiz, la perdiz dentro de una polla, la polla dentro de un capón, el capón dentro de un faisán, el faisán dentro de un pavo, el pavo dentro de un cabrito, el cabrito dentro de un carnero, el carnero dentro de una ternera, y la ternera dentro de una vaca. Todo esto ha de ir lavado, pelado, desollado y lardeado, fuera de la vaca, que ha de quedar con su pellejo; y cuando se vayan metiendo unos en otros, como cajas de Inglaterra, por que ninguno se salga de su asiento los ha de ir el zapatero cosiendo a dos cabos, y en estando zurcidos en el pellejo y panza de la vaca, ha de hacer el sepolturero una profunda fosa, y echar en el suelo della un carro de carbón, y luego la dicha vaca, y ponerle encima el otro carro, y darle fuego cuatro horas, poco más o menos; y después, sacándola, queda todo hecho una sustancia y un manjar tan sabroso y regalado que antiguamente [lo] comían los emperadores el día de su coronación; por cuya causa, y por ser el huevo la piedra fundamental de aquel guisado, le daban por nombre relleno imperial aovado.

  3. Cervantes 1615/Shelton 1620
  4. Y así como suele decirse “el gato al rato, el rato a la cuerda, la cuerda al palo”, daba el arriero a Sancho, Sancho a la moza, la moza a él, el ventero a la moza, y todos menudeaban con tanta priesa, que no se daban punto de reposo
  5. Una vieja y un viejo no tenían para comer más que un queso, y vino un ratón y comióselo.

    Entonces vino el gato
    y mató al rato,
    porque comió el queso
    de la vieja y el viejo.

    Vino el perro y mató al gato,
    porque mató al rato
    porque comió el queso
    de la vieja y el viejo.

    Vino el palo
    y mató al perro,
    porque mató al gato
    porque mató al rato
    porque comió el queso
    de la vieja y el viejo.

    Vino el fuego
    y quemó el palo,
    porque mató al perro
    porque mató al gato
    porque mató al rato
    porque comió el queso
    de la vieja y el viejo.

    Vino el agua
    y mató al fuego,
    porque quemó el palo
    porque mató al perro
    porque mató al gato
    porque mató al rato
    porque comió el queso
    de la vieja y el viejo.

    El buey ya durmió
    el cuento acabó
    la vieja y el viejo
    sin queso quedó.

  6. El director del juego sacará una llave que tenga atado un cordón, y se la dará al jugador de su derecha, diciendo: «Esta es la llave del jardín del rey.» El que recibe la llave, la entregará al de su derecha, diciéndole lo mismo, y así irá la llave de mano en mano hasta que vuelva al director. Este volverá á entregar la llave al de su derecha, diciendo: «Este es el cordón que sostiene la llave que da entrada al jardín del rey.» El que la reciba, la dará al siguiente, diciéndole lo mismo, y así sucesivamente hasta su vuelta á manos del director, quien seguirá diciendo: «Este es el ratón que se comió el cordón que sostiene la llave que da entrada al jardín del rey», volviendo á repetirlo todos los demás. Luego el director continuará cuando vuelva á entregar la llave: «Este es el gato que se comió el ratón que se comió el cordón que sostiene la llave que da entrada al jardín del rey.» Después añadirá: «Este es el león que se comió el gato que se comió el ratón que se comió el cordón que sostiene la llave que da entrada al jardín del rey.» Por último, añadirá: «Y este es el cazador que mató el león que se comió el gato que se comió el ratón que se comió el cordón que sostiene la llave que da entrada al jardín del rey.» Así se irá aumentando la relación, teniendo facultad el director de variar las palabras que quiera, á fin de que resulten más equivocaciones y de que se paguen más prendas.

Gorging Jack and Little Billee

The case for the defence.

Most folkies still don’t realise that one of their favourite sea shanties, “Little Billee (There Were Three Sailors of Bristol City)”, was written by William Makepeace Thackeray around 1845 as a satire, complete with manky metre and grammar, on patriotic middle-class folkies’ enthusiasm for (parlour-ready) sea shanties. Cf. Tom Lehrer’s “Folk Song Army” at around 01:17:

… as well as the Coen Brothers, who I think said somewhere that they made Inside Llewyn Davis simply in order to film a folksinger being punched in the face.

Musical camaraderie aside, I sing Little Billee in the Thackeray version:

I’d never really considered the exact nature of Gorging Jack’s snickersnee. From the Dutch you might venture that it is a alliterative compound of snikken (to sob) and snijden (to cut; the noun is snee). But in mankind’s affairs the cutting mostly comes before the sobbing, and the OED says that it’s actually from steken (to thrust, stab) plus snijden, and that “the st- of the first word to the sn- of the second” assimilated has been. For example, Samuel Rowlands’ Knave of Clubbs (1600) murmurs sweetly:

Pike-staffe and pistoll, musket, two-hand sword,
Or any weapon Europe can afford,
Let falchion, polax, launce, or halbert try,
With Flemings-knives either to steake or snye,
I’le meet thee naked to the very skin,
And stab with pen-knives Caesars wounds therein.

Contemporary Dutch gives us e.g. Willem Schellincx, who in “Quik” (mercury) from the great, mad 1654 song collection, De Koddige Olipodrigo (“the droll potpourri”, < the Spanish olla podrida), describes just to what lengths Monsignor de B. will go for the girl he loves:

Om Haar, wou hy hem laten tot huspot kappen, en laten ‘t hart torrenen uit zen borst.
Om Haar, wou hy hem laten steeken, snijden, villen, en braden as ien worst.

Literally:

For her, he would let himself be chopped up into a hodgepodge, and let his heart be torn from his breast.
For her, he would let himself be stabbed, cut, flayed and fried like a sausage.

Tom Lehrer again provides the 20th century equivalent:

As firearms take over, in Dutch the combination of steken and snijden, thrust and cut (more logical than cut and thrust? will consult my Hackney neighbours), increasingly becomes the domain of surgeons and other carers. Take for example De huishouding der dieren (“animal husbandry”, 1865) on marmot hibernation:

De diertjes zijn koud en stijf en men kan ze in het ligchaam steken en snijden zonder dat zij er iets van gevoelen.

Or:

The little animals are cold and sniff, and you can stab and cut their bodies without them feeling anything.

So maybe Gorging Jack simply wanted to help Little Billee. Unfortunately I don’t know how to start an online petition for a posthumous pardon.

Will Kemp Morris-danced from London to Norwich

But unfortunately he probably won’t figure in the results of the Singing Organ-Grinder’s historical explorations into English popular song.

Settling down to England, I’m being a good immigrant-monkey and polishing my repertoire of interesting and amusing popular music sung here over the centuries, in the hope of getting organ-grinding gigs with museums, galleries, political conspiracies and other prizers of the worthless, to add to the domestic circuit of weddings and divorces.

One great find yesterday was John Freeth (1731–1808), publican and poet, patriotic radical, aka John Free and, according to a review of his Political Songster in what had been Smollett’s Critical Review, “the Birmingham Pindar.” His “The Tripe-Eaters” looks very good, but until I or someone else spends 17 quid on the full transcription I’m going to devote some time to “Budget Day”:

Full twelve score millions of good pounds
JOHN BULL is said to owe;
But how or when ’tis to be paid,
Is what I wish to know.

A cent’ry past JOHN’s family
Was not a pin in debt;
How strange to think that still we find,
The ROGUE can credit get.

I think that Freeth’s longevity may have been down to his tempering his drinking and scribbling with walking, though the “Ballad-Singer’s Ramble to London” may not be autobiographical:

The First of April Sixty-three,
To London I went budging;
For know you, all of my Degree
Go on their Ten Toes trudging;
At Coventry I stop’d to see
If any Thing was wanting,
From Pocket Lodge, pull’d out my Fodge
And straitway fell to chanting.

And as I pass’d the Streets along,
The People round me gazing,
Some cry’d out, ’tis nobly sung,
And worthy of our praising;
In troth my Boy, I presently
Pick’d up a Double Grunter 1,
To the Ale-house then, away I ran,
And spent it with a Bunter. 2

Enjoyable in its way, though not on a par with Chatwin’s Songlines or Nine Daies Wonder: Performed in a Daunce from London to Norwich by Will Kemp, far more than Shakespeare’s clown, which I read a couple of months ago and then forgot:

The first mundaye in Lent, 3 the close morning promising a cleere day, (attended on by Thomas Slye my Taberer, William Bee my seruant, and George Sprat, appointed for my ouerseer, that I should take no other ease but my prescribed order) my selfe, thats I, otherwise called Caualiero Kemp, head-master of Morrice-dauncers, high Head-borough of heighs, and onely tricker of your Trill-lilles and best bel-shangles betweene Sion and mount Surrey, began frolickly to foote it from the right honorable the Lord Mayors of London towards the right worshipfull (and truely bountifull) Master Mayors of Norwich.

My setting forward was somewhat before seauen in the morning; my Taberer stroke up merrily; and as fast as kinde peoples thronging together would giue mee leaue, thorow London I leapt. By the way many good olde people, and diuers others of yonger yeers, of meere kindnes gaue me bowd sixepences and grotes, blessing me with their harty prayers and God-speedes.

Being past White-chappell, and hauing left faire London with all that North-east Suburb before named, multitudes of Londoners left not me: but eyther to keepe a custome which many holde, that Mile-end is no walke without a recreatiō at Stratford Bow with Creame and Cakes, or else for loue they beare toward me, or perhappes to make themselues merry if I should chance (as many thought) to giue over my Morrice within a Mile of Mile-end; how euer, many a thousand brought me to Bow; where I rested a while from dancing, but had small rest with those that would haue vrg’d me to drinking. But, I warrant you, Will Kemp was wise enough: to their ful cups, kinde thanks was my returne, with Gentlemanlike protestations, as “Truely, sir, I dare not,” “It stands not with the congruity of my health.” Congruitie, said I? how came that strange language in my mouth? I thinke scarcely that it is any Christen worde, and yet it may be a good worde for ought I knowe, though I neuer made it, nor doe verye well understand it; yet I am sure I have bought it at the word-mongers at as deare a rate as I could haue had a whole 100 of Bauines at the wood-mongers. Farwell, Congruitie, for I meane now to be more concise, and stand upon eeuener bases; but I must neither stand nor sit, the Tabrer strikes alarum. Tickle it, good Tom, Ile follow thee. Farwell, Bowe; haue ouer the bridge, where I heard say honest Conscience was once drownd: its pittye if it were so; but thats no matter belonging to our Morrice, lets now along to Stratford Langton.

Many good fellows being there met, and knowing how well I loued the sporte, had prepared a Beare-bayting; but so unreasonable were the multitudes of people, that I could only heare the Beare roare and the dogges howle; therefore forward I went with my hey-de-gaies to Ilford, where I againe rested, and was by the people of the towne and countrey there-about very very wel welcomed, being offred carowses in the great spoon, one whole draught being able at that time to haue drawne my little wit drye; but being afrayde of the olde Prouerbe (He had need of a long spoone that eates with the deuill), I soberly gaue my boone Companyons the slip.

From Ilford, by Moone-shine, I set forward, dauncing within a quarter of a myle of Romford; where, in the highway, two strong Iades (hauing belike some great quarrell to me vnknowne) were beating and byting either of other; and such through Gods help was my good hap, that I escaped their hoofes, both being raysed with their fore feete ouer my head, like two Smithes ouer an Anuyle.

There being the end of my first dayes Morrice, a kinde Gentleman of London lighting from his horse, would haue no nay but I should leap into his saddle. To be plaine with ye, I was not proud, but kindly tooke his kindlyer offer, chiefely thereto vrg’d by my wearines; so I rid to my Inne at Romford.

In that towne, to giue rest to my well-labour’d limbes, I continued two dayes, being much beholding to the townsmen for their loue, but more to the Londoners that came hourely thither in great numbers to visite me, offring much more kindnes then I was willing to accept.

Unfortunately the songs, contributed by friends (sponsors?), are no match for Kemp’s writing or dancing: 4

A Country Lasse, browne as a berry,
Blith of blee, in heart as merry,
Cheekes well fed, and sides well larded,
Euery bone with fat flesh guarded,
Meeting merry Kemp by chaunce,
Was Marrian in his Morrice daunce.
Her stump legs with bels were garnisht,
Her browne browes with sweating varnish[t];
Her browne hips, when she was lag
To win her ground, went swig a swag;
Which to see all that came after
Were repleate with mirthfull laughter.
Yet she thumpt it on her way
With a sportly hey de gay:
At a mile her daunce she ended,
Kindly paide and well commended.

Kemp was not a one-off. William Rowley in 1609 writes in A search for money. Or The lamentable complaint for the losse of the wandring knight, Mounsieur l’Argent Or come along with me, I know thou louest money. Dedicated to all those that lack money:

yee haue beene either eare-or-eye-witnesses or both to many madde voiages made of late yeares, both by sea and land, as the trauell to Rome with the returne in certaine daies, the wild morrise to Norrige, the fellowes going back-ward to Barwick, another hopping from Yorke to London, and the transforming of the top of Paules into a stable.

(
In 1601 William Bankes walked his extraordinary performing horse, Marocco, up more than a thousand steps to give a show on the roof of old St. Paul’s. Another Moorish reference…
)

Kemp also recalls Christmastide brass band house-to-house ramble-shambles in Lancashire, and frozen, drunken wanderings with carnival bands in the eastern Netherlands and the central Pyrenees. Tim FitzHigham repeated his (ahem) feat in 2008, adding the pleasing dramatic hook of a supposed argument between Shakespeare and Kemp:

Esther Webber has a nice clip of Jeremy Corbyn imitating Tim.

Despite its excellent wheeled carriage, I wouldn’t attempt any such thing with the current street organ: it weighs 80 kg and has a high centre of gravity, and on parade-type functions I’ve never pulled it along for more than a couple of miles. However, I hope that sometime, as part of the Bohemian project, I’ll get to carry a smaller organ from the Ore Mountains down to the Eger, singing 18th and early 19th century German songs as I go. (BTW: Does anyone know any Czech functionaries, preferably Ministry of Culture?)

How nice if Kemp were this lunatic:

The man in the moon came tumbling down
And asked his way to Norwich;
He went by the south and burnt his mouth
With supping cold pease porridge.

He does indeed take the southeastern route through Chelmsford (the pre-19th century Fens were still rather damp) but there’s no mention of porridge.

Stuff

  1. In Strine, a double bed, but here probably Partridge‘s shilling.
  2. Partridge: “A low, esp. a low thieving, harlot.”
  3. … during which players were meant to shut up shop, and thus often sought alternatives.
  4. Norwich honoured him by nailing his buskins to the Guildhall wall, “It is hardly necessary,” notes the Rev. Dyce in 1839, “to inform the reader that no memorial of Kemp is now extant in that building.”

Is the Cibber piper in the V&A a notorious plague-pit drunkard?

Featuring O du lieber Augustin, the Thomases Dekker and Middleton, Daniel Defoe and various disreputable beggars and foreigners.

Statue + story

A serendipity in The flowers of literature (1824) links the sculpture portrayed above to a story:

THE BAGPIPER.

In a garden, on the terrace in Totteuham-court-road, is a statue, which is an original work of the famous Caius Gabriel Cibber, the father of Colley Cibber.

The statue in question is executed on a fine free-stone, representing a Bagpiper in a sitting posture, playing on his pipes, with his dog and keg of liquor by his side, the latter of which stands upon a neat stone pedestal.

The following singular history is attached to its original execution. During the great plague of London, carts were sent round the city each night, the drivers of which rung a bell, as intimation for every house to bring out its dead. The bodies were then thrown promiscuously into the cart, and conveyed to a little distance in the environs, where deep ditches were dug, in which they were deposited.

The piper (as represented in the statue) had his constant stand at the bottom of Holborn, near St. Andrew’s church. He became well known about the neighbourhood, and picked up a living from the passengers going that way, who generally threw him a few pence as the reward of his musical talents. A certain gentleman, who never failed in his generosity to the piper, was surprised, on passing one day as usual, to miss him from his accustomed place:—upon inquiry, he found that the poor man had been taken ill in consequence of a very singular accident. On the joyful occasion of the arrival of one of his countrymen from the Highlands, the piper had in fact made too free with the contents of his keg: these so overpowered his faculties, that he stretched himself out upon the steps of the church, and fell fast asleep. These were not times to sleep on church steps with impunity. He was found in this situation when the dead cart went its rounds; and the carter supposing of course, as the most likely thing in every way, that the man was dead, made no scruple to put his fork under the piper’s belt, and, with some assistance, hoisted him into his vehicle, which was nearly full, with the charitable intention that our Scotch musician should share the usual brief ceremonies of interment. The piper’s faithful dog protested against the seizure of his master, and attempted to prevent the unceremonious removal; but, failing of success, he fairly jumped into the cart after him, to the no small annoyance of the men, whom he would not suffer to come near the body; he further took upon himself the office of chief mourner, by setting up the most lamentable howling as they passed along.

The streets and roads by which they had to go being very rough, the jolting of the cart, added to the howling of the dog, had soon the effect of awakening our drunken musician from his trance. It was dark; and the piper, when he first recovered himself, could form no idea either of his numerous companions or his conductors. Instinctively, however, he felt about for his pipes, and playing up a merry Scotch tune, terrified, in no small measure, the carters, who fancied they had got a legion of ghosts in their conveyance. A little time, however, put all to rights;—lights were got, and it turned out that the noisy corpse was the well-kno’wn living piper, who was joyfully released from his awful and perilous situation. The poor man fell badly ill after this unpleasant excursion, and was relieved, during his malady, by his former benefactor, who, to perpetuafe the remembrance of so wonderful an escape, resolved, as soon as his patient had recovered, to employ a sculptor to execute him on stone—not omitting his faithful dog, keg of liquor, &c.

The famous Caius Gabriel Cibber was then in high’ repute, from the circumstance of his having executed the beautiful figures which originally were placed on the entrance gate of old Bethlem Hospital; and the statue in question of the Highland bagpiper remains an additional specimen of the merits of this great artist.

It was long after purchased by John the great duke of Argyll, and came from his collection, at his decease, into the possession of the present proprietor.

The statue

The V&A says:

This is a fine example of late 17th-century garden sculpture; its weathered surface is evidence of its exposure to the elements. The subject may be related to genre works produced by the Netherlandish sculptor Pieter Xavery (active 1667-1674), and connections have also been suggested with the bronze statuettes by Giambologna (1529-1608). 1 The sculptor Caius Gabriel Cibber (1630-1700) was a native of Denmark, and also studied in the Netherlands and Rome, before settling in England in the 1650s. He was appointed Sculptor in Ordinary to William III, in 1693. Cibber introduced a fluent style of sculpture, as well as new figurative subjects into Britain, thanks to his training in Europe

[…]

This work was probably made for the Duke of Argyll, as it was housed at his house in Whitton for 100 years. It was then moved to 178 Tottenham Court Road occupied by the studio of a sculptor named Hinchliff. Later it was under the possession of Hinchliff’s son, with whom it remained until ca. 1835. At some point it was removed to Stowe House, Buckinghamshire. It was included in the Stowe sale of 1848, sold as lot 134 for £38 17s 0d to a Mr. J Browne. Re-purchased by Mr. Mark Philips. Then in the gardens at Snitterfield, Mr Philip’s seat at Warwickshire. Later in the possession of Sir George Trevelyan at Welcombe. Then included in the sale of garden ornaments held by Sotheby’s in 1929 and bought in for 115. It was then acquired by the museum by private treaty, via Alfred Spero and Kerin Ltd, London in 1930 for 150.

Nothing about plagues or drunks there (though the keg is clearly visible), and, on the other hand, there is no mention of statues in most versions of…

The story

The Viennese myth of der liebe Augustin was fabricated by the prolific historical fantasist, Moritz Bermann, and published in Alt-Wien in Geschichte und Sage in 1865. It combines and locates in Vienna two items with no demonstrable link to one another or to the Austrian capital: firstly, the late 18th century popular song about a beloved and probably fictional wastrel:

Oh you darling Augustine,
Money’s gone, it’s all gone!
2

… and secondly, a much older story about a different person’s drunken escape from a plague pit, and it’s the story we’re interested in. A marketing genius, his creation speaks to the Viennese view of themselves as down-to-earth and darkly humorous (there may have been more truth in that before the empire tumbled in 1914), 3 and his invention still furnishes hope to modern tourists suffering from a surfeit of Habsburgs.

Bermann claims that he has exclusive access to a chronicle of the life of a Max Augustin, who is born in 1643 into a Viennese family of innkeepers. Shunning work, Max earns his living as an itinerant bagpiper in the city’s most disreputable taverns. One night in the plague year of 1679 he is staggering along singing a particularly gloomy version of the title song when he falls into a plague pit. The following morning, having sobered up, he plays his pipes to attract the attention of the corpse carriers, and goes on to die less sensationally in 1705.

Unfortunately for Bermann, the same story, featuring a nameless bagpiper, turns up in Paul de Sorbait’s 1679 Pest-Ordnung, which consists of the plague notes of a fellow Viennese physician, Johann Wilhelm Mannagetta, who died in 1666, 13 years before Max Agustin’s plague. 4 I can’t find the 1679 edition online, so here’s the 1681 reissue:

The same story is told of a bagpiper, who, having fallen asleep in the tavern, was taken for a plague-death, and thrown into the pits on top of other uncovered bodies, but he woke up, and reaching around him, supposed that these were those with whom he had been drinking, and hence to enliven them he pulled his pipes out of the bag and blew, causing no little fright to the corpse carrier who was arriving with another body.

Der gleichen Geschicht erzehlet man auch von einem Sackpfeiffer, welcher im Wirtshauß entschlaffen, für einen Pest-verstorbenen gehalten, und in die Gruben auff andere unbedeckte Cörper geworffen, da er aber erwachte, und umb sich griffen, vermeinte, daß es die jenige wären, mit welchen er getruncken, derowegen vermeinte sie zu ermuntern, zoge auß dem Sack seine Pfeiffe herfür und pfieffe, dardurch dann die mit einer andern Leich ankommende Todtenträger nicht wenig erschreckt hat.

Mannagetta mentions other interments of the undead in Italy (including a woman who gives birth to twins), this kind of thing is quite common in Italian literature (think of the Decameron), and the whole story may well be a southern import, or from Indian, like most things. However, Defoe in A Journal of the Plague Year (1722) is in no doubt that it took place in London, not Vienna, and in 1666, again before Bermann’s date:

It was under this John Hayward’s care, and within his bounds, that the story of the piper, with which people have made themselves so merry, happened, and he assured me that it was true. It is said that it was a blind piper; but, as John told me, the fellow was not blind, but an ignorant, weak, poor man, and usually walked his rounds about ten o’clock at night and went piping along from door to door, and the people usually took him in at public-houses where they knew him, and would give him drink and victuals, and sometimes farthings; and he in return would pipe and sing and talk simply, which diverted the people; and thus he lived. It was but a very bad time for this diversion while things were as I have told, yet the poor fellow went about as usual, but was almost starved; and when anybody asked how he did he would answer, the dead cart had not taken him yet, but that they had promised to call for him next week.

It happened one night that this poor fellow, whether somebody had given him too much drink or no—John Hayward said he had not drink in his house, but that they had given him a little more victuals than ordinary at a public-house in Coleman Street—and the poor fellow, having not usually had a bellyful for perhaps not a good while, was laid all along upon the top of a bulk or stall, and fast asleep, at a door in the street near London Wall, towards Cripplegate-, and that upon the same bulk or stall the people of some house, in the alley of which the house was a corner, hearing a bell which they always rang before the cart came, had laid a body really dead of the plague just by him, thinking, too, that this poor fellow had been a dead body, as the other was, and laid there by some of the neighbours.

Accordingly, when John Hayward with his bell and the cart came along, finding two dead bodies lie upon the stall, they took them up with the instrument they used and threw them into the cart, and, all this while the piper slept soundly.

From hence they passed along and took in other dead bodies, till, as honest John Hayward told me, they almost buried him alive in the cart; yet all this while he slept soundly. At length the cart came to the place where the bodies were to be thrown into the ground, which, as I do remember, was at Mount Mill; and as the cart usually stopped some time before they were ready to shoot out the melancholy load they had in it, as soon as the cart stopped the fellow awaked and struggled a little to get his head out from among the dead bodies, when, raising himself up in the cart, he called out, ‘Hey! where am I?’ This frighted the fellow that attended about the work; but after some pause John Hayward, recovering himself, said, ‘Lord, bless us! There’s somebody in the cart not quite dead!’ So another called to him and said, ‘Who are you?’ The fellow answered, ‘I am the poor piper. Where am I?’ ‘Where are you?’ says Hayward. ‘Why, you are in the dead-cart, and we are going to bury you.’ ‘But I an’t dead though, am I?’ says the piper, which made them laugh a little though, as John said, they were heartily frighted at first; so they helped the poor fellow down, and he went about his business.

I know the story goes he set up his pipes in the cart and frighted the bearers and others so that they ran away; but John Hayward did not tell the story so, nor say anything of his piping at all; but that he was a poor piper, and that he was carried away as above I am fully satisfied of the truth of.

And the only earlier published source I can find for the story is also British: Thomas Middleton & Thomas Dekker’s The Meeting of Gallants at an Ordinarie: Or, The Walkes in Powles (1604), which deals with the 1603 London plague outbreak. Its form is even simpler than Mannagetta/Sorbait: the drunkard dumped in the plague pit has neither name nor bagpipes:

[T]his that I discourse of now is a prettie merrie accident that happened about Shoreditch, although the intent was Sad and Tragicall, yet the euent was mirthfull and pleasant: The goodman (or rather as I may fitlier tearme him, the bad-man of a House) being sorely pesterd with the death of seruants, and to auoyde all suspition of the Pestilence from his house aboue all others, did very craftily and subtilly compound with the Maisters of the Pest-cart, to fetch away by night as they hast by, all that should chance to die in his house, hauing three or foure seruants downe at once, and told them that he knew one of them would be readie for them by that time the Cart came by, and to cleare his house of all suspition, the dead body should bee laide upon a stall, some fiue or sixe houses of: where, there they should entertaine him and take him in amongst his dead companions: To conclude, night drewe on-ward, and the seruant concluded his life, and according to their appointment was enstalde to be made Knight of the Pest-cart. But here comes in the excellent Jest, Gentlemen-Gallants of fiue and twentie, about the darke and pittifull season of the night: a shipwracke drunkard, (or one drunke at the signe of the Ship,) new cast from the shore of an Alehouse, and his braines sore beaten with the cruell tempests of Ale and Beere, fell Flounce vpon a lowe stall hard by the house, there being little difference in the Carcasse, for the other was dead, and he was deaddrunke, (the worse death of the twaine) there taking vp his drunking Lodging, and the Pest-cart comming by, they made no more adoo, but taking him for the dead Bodie, placed him amongst his companions, and away they hurred with him to the Pest-house: but there is an oulde Prouerbe, and now confirmed true, a Druncken man neuer takes harme: to the Approbation of which, for all his lying with infectious Bedfellowes, the next morning a little before he should be buried, he stretcht and yawnde as wholesomly, as the best Tinker in all Banburie, and returned to his olde Vomit againe, and was druncke in Shoreditch before Euening.

However, Johann Heinrich von Falckenstein, Civitatis Erffurtensis historia critica et diplomatica (1739) 5 claims to have seen documents showing that in 1517 a drunken beggar called fell into and escaped from a plague pit without the aid of bagpipes (dodgy translation?):

Around Michaelmas there arose in the city a great mortality from a plague outbreak. At the Canons Regular [i.e. the Augustinians], 60 bodies were put in a pit in one go. The hole was covered over at night with boards. There was at the time in Erfurt a beggar, a rogue called Schuch, who that evening wanders drunkenly through the churchyard and arrives at the board-covered pit, in which the dead bodies were laid in layers; and since the boards weren’t fixed properly, the drunken Schuch falls in. But because he was so drunk that he could no longer hear nor see, he remained lying among the dead as one of them. When he wakes up in the morning he imagines he is lying somewhere else and reached around him; but, perceiving that he found himself among the dead, he began to lament: and although the people in the neighbourhood heard him, no one dared to go to him, since they believed that it was one of the dead who had come back to life, or that the noise and wailing came from a ghost. But around nine o’clock when new corpses were brought to the pit to be buried, they found in it the rogue, the beggar Schuch.

Um Michaelis erhub sich in der Stadt ein grosses Sterben von der eingerissenen Pestilenz. Zum Reglern legete man auf einmahl in eine Grube 60. Cörper. Das Loch legete man des Nachts zu mit Bretern. Da war nun damahls in Erfurt ein Bettler, ein Grundschalck, Schuch genannt, derselbe gehet des Abends besoffen über den Kirchhof, und kommt zu der mit Bretern oben bedeckten Grube, worein die todten Cörper Schichten weise geleget wurden; indem nun die Breter nicht allzufest geleget waren, so fällt der besoffene Schuch hinein. Weil er aber so sehr bezecht war, daß er von feinen Sinnen nicht wußte, also blieb er auch unter denen Todten, gleich als ein Todter mitliegen. Wie er des Morgens erwachet, vermeint er, er liege an einem anderen Orte, grieff um sich; wie er aber wahrnahm, daß er sich unter denen Todten befande, fing er an zu lamentiren: Und ob es schon die Leute in der Nachbahrschafft höreten, so getrauete sich doch niemand hinzu zugehen, weilen fie vermeinten, es wäre einer von denen Todten entweder wieder lebendig geworden, oder das Getöß und Lamentiren komme von einem Gespenste her. Als man aber gegen neun Uhr wiederum Verstorbene zur Grube brachte, um dieselbe dahinein zu begraben, so fand man den Grundschalck, den Bettler Schuch darinnen.

A motif summary:

Questions

  1. Is there any prior information linking Cibber’s statue with the plague, or is the story published in The flowers of literature merely a charming falsehood like Bermann’s?
  2. Wouldn’t a copy of the statue, complete with a plaque with the story, true or false, work rather well on the pedestrianised junction of Tottenham Court Road with Howland Street, opposite 178? You could advertise the V&A & add a silver lining to the dreadful shadow cast by the Bloomsbury Group over the touristic prospects of the area. Calling Linus Rees and Fitzrovia News… This vulgar Orpheus would of course be happy to contribute songs of death and disaster at the unveiling.
  3. How many small mammals would we have to add to the story before it overtook the Pied Piper of Hamelin?
  4. Does the story tie up with the not entirely pointless tradition of (annoying) beggars, spoons virtuosi and amped guitarists being killed or humiliated as scapegoats? For example, this note in Charpentier (trans.), Oeuvres complètes de Virgile (1831):

    When the plague raged in Marseille, a miserable person, a beggar was chosen, who, after having been fed and fattened at the expense of the public purse, was sacrificed.

    Lorsque la peste régnait à Marseille, on choisissait un misérable, un mendiant, qui, après, avoir été nourri et engraissé aux frais du trésor public, était sacrifié.

    Or Philostratus, Life of Apollonius:

    when the plague began to rage in Ephesus, and no remedy sufficed to check it, they sent a deputation to Apollonius, asking him to become physician of their infirmity; and he thought that he ought not to postpone his journey, but said: “Let us go.”

    And forthwith he was in Ephesus, performing the same feat, I believe, as Pythagoras, who was in Thurii and Metapontum at one and the same moment. He therefore called together the Ephesians, and said: “Take courage, for I will today put a stop to the course of the disease.”

    And with these words he led the population entire to the the theater, where the image of the Averting god has been set up. And there he saw what seemed an old mendicant artfully blinking his eyes as if blind, as he carried a wallet and a crust of bread in it; and he was clad in rags and was very squalid of countenance. Apollonius therefore ranged the Ephesians around him and said: “Pick up as many stones as you can and hurl them at this enemy of the gods.”

    Now the Ephesians wondered what he meant, and were shocked at the idea of murdering a stranger so manifestly miserable; for he was begging and praying them to take mercy upon him. Nevertheless Apollonius insisted and egged on the Ephesians to launch themselves on him and not let him go. And as soon as some of them began to take shots and hit him with their stones, the beggar who had seemed to blink and be blind, gave them all a sudden glance and his eyes were full of fire. Then the Ephesians recognized that he was a demon, and they stoned him so thoroughly that their stones were heaped into a great cairn around him.

    After a little pause Apollonius bade them remove the stones and acquaint themselves with the wild animal they had slain. When therefore they had exposed the object which they thought they had thrown their missiles at, they found that he had disappeared and instead of him there was a hound who resembled in form and look a Molossian dog, but was in size the equal of the largest lion; there he lay before their eyes, pounded to a pulp by their stones and vomiting foam as mad dogs do. Accordingly the statue of the Averting god, Heracles, has been set up over the spot where the ghost was slain.

Stuff

  1. I thought of the 16th century Pfeifferbrunnen (piper fountain) statue in Berne, which has a goose instead of a dog.



  2. James J. Fuld, The Book of World-famous Music: Classical, Popular, and Folk (2000) is pretty good on the tune, though I think his first date is 10 years early. A couple of early dates:

    See also Polly put the kettle on, which sounds to me like a parody of the German song, and other stuff like Did you ever see a lassie and Daar wordt aan de deur geklopt, and I’ve heard of a Czech version.

  3. Freud’s story in Ernest Jones, Sigmund Freud. Life and Work, Vol. 2 (1955) about the young Mahler rushing out onto the street to escape warring parents and being confronted with an organ-grinder playing “Ach, du lieber Augustin” is probably less about who he was than about who he wanted to be – a transfigurer of the commonplace.
  4. Via Gertraud Schaller-Pressler in Wien, Musikgeschichte: Volksmusik und Wienerlied (2006).
  5. Via Johannes Nohl, Der schwarze Tod – Eine Chronik der Pest 1348 bis 1720 (1st ed. 1924). Nohl also mentions one Kumpan in 1549 Danzig/Gdansk, who I haven’t managed to trace.

Christmas carousels

Impossible automata for my street organ this holiday season. Featuring Georg Büchner, Ignaz Bruder, German Christmas pyramids, dancing Hasidim, Lieutenant Kijé as you’ve probably never seen it, Le Tigre, and a crustacean.

The other day someone sent me some of the excellent light verse produced at Theresienstadt, the Nazis’ photogenic waiting room for Auschwitz and other extermination camps. Doing a bit of backreading, I met up again with the barrel-organ metaphysics (more another time) of Reinhard Heydrich, Butcher of Bohemia and Moravia. That same someone then sent me the source of that story -Lina Heydrich, Leben mit einem Kriegsverbrecher (“Life with a War Criminal”, 1976)- and located in the final chorus of Heydrich Senior’s sentimental opera, Das Leierkind (“The Barrel-Organ Child”), 1 the quote in question:

Ja, die Welt ist nur ein Leierkasten,
den unser Herrgott selber dreht,
und jeder muss nach dem Liede tanzen,
das grad’ auf der Walze steht.

An alternative translation:

Yes, the world is but a barrel-organ
Which our Lord God himself doth grind,
And all must dance unto the song
With which the cylinder is tined. 2

You can’t (always) blame fathers for their sons. Heydrich Senior is merely echoing the blows of fate/fateful bellows attributed to organ-grinders in 18th and 19th century romantic fiction – Büchner’s ballad singer’s quasi-Lutheranism announcing Marie’s betrayal with the drum-major of Woyzeck (1837), for example:

Auf der Welt ist kein Bestand,
Wir müssen alle sterben,
das ist uns wohlbekannt.

Gregory Motton:

On earth we can’t abide,
We all must die
As everybody knows. 3

Topical lyrics of this type had their visual counterpoint in ballad busking in a) proto-PowerPoint illustrations, and/or b) social and occasionally political automated tableaux which, along with bellows and barrel, ran off the crank on many Black Forest organs. The latter seem to have developed from the the region’s weight-powered flute clock automata, and Ignaz Bruder of Waldkirch (1780-1845) is their best-known manufacturer:

They offer more wide-ranging but less precise theatrics than my splendid organ-god – none of them beat 4/4 or 3/4:

But let’s cut to the chase. Automations seen this Christmas which I might try to add to the organ if I were a rich wastrel:

  1. I met a nice small candle-powered Christmas pyramid/Weihnachtspyramide at the German Deli in Hackney Wick. Here‘s a similar one:

    I’d go for a triple-decker cranked version populated with home-made figures representing farmers, warriors and priests, or promotors, policemen, and bureaucrats, crowned by an organ-grinder. Say no to electrically-powered Star Wars scenes:

    Large municipal executions have also become popular over the last couple of decades. Like the one above, to eliminate draughts and working people they are usually mains-powered and use decorative lightbulb candles and recorded music:

    I think I recall seeing a very large hybrid incorporating a carousel ride at a fair I played at once in Germany, but I can’t find anything on YouTube and I was probably tipsy.

  2. A bunch of (male) Haredim hand-in-hand, observed dancing around in a circle outside a house on Stamford Hill, London, humming a song. They were rather like this:

    … but actually reminded me more of vlöggelen/vlöggeln at Easter at Ootmarsum in the (Roman Catholic) eastern Netherlands:

  3. Everyone knows the sleigh ride/troika from the Prokofiev’s orchestral suite:

    … but the virtually unknown eponymous film (1934), with its Hitlerian Emperor Paul I, is quite marvellous, and the robotic servants of the machine society -how un-Soviet!- are simply dying for recycling:

    Work is said to be underway on a device that will coordinate music playback with video in order to enable me to (write music for and) accompany (suitably edited) films.

  4. “Deceptacon” by Le Tigre (ta, SG), which, like the Fellini / Rota partnership, surely owes a lot to the Kijé generation:

  5. A lobster. Robert Conquest’s paraphrase of Shakespeare’s take on the ages of man in As you like it:

    Seven Ages: first puking and mewling
    Then very pissed-off with your schooling
    Then fucks, and then fights
    Next judging chaps’ rights
    Then sitting in slippers: then drooling.

    The path to the pot is plagued by good purpose. The DG’s splendid adjunct auntie S has a pet herring gull, rescued as a broken-winged chick, and loves animals. 4 Having plied the organ-grinder with champagne and milk-based vodka, the DG announced to her that the organ-grinder had a pet lobster, rather like Gérard de Nerval:

    Why should a lobster be any more ridiculous than a dog? …or a cat, or a gazelle, or a lion, or any other animal that one chooses to take for a walk? I have a liking for lobsters. They are peaceful, serious creatures. They know the secrets of the sea, they don’t bark, and they don’t gnaw upon one’s monadic privacy like dogs do. And Goethe had an aversion to dogs, and he wasn’t mad.

    “Oh, how wonderful,” she exclaimed. “And where do you keep it?!”

    But the organ-top would be a more impressive and in many ways satisfactory location.

Stuff to avoid: Google’s winter solstice doodle, which is a perpetual motion con (no candle or crank needed) and a blasphemy – their logo replaces the Christmas pyramid’s seraphim. 5

Stuff

  1. Anyone got a score?
  2. Tined? Wassat?
  3. I like Motton’s first line -I was looking for a two-syllable noun meaning permanence- but I’d also like to hang onto the Bestand/bekannt rhyme. Motton says Leierkasten is a hurdy-gurdy, which is quite reasonable, and the BBC turns it into a simple violin, which is pretty naughty given their wealth.
  4. Though she was enjoying her beef stew.
  5. Milton says (Samson Agonistes (1671)) that seraphim can play trumpets in between singing the old “Holy, holy, holy!” or whatever else they get up to:

    Where the bright Seraphim in burning row
    Their loud up-lifted Angel trumpets blow,
    And the Cherubick host in thousand quires
    Touch their immortal harps of golden wires

Hackney Brook restoration scheme

Iain Sinclair wrote of when “global warming rolls a warm sea [up] the course of the old Hackney Brook.” The flow’s going to be the other way. Let me explain.

Olympic creativity didn’t extend to watercourses west of the Lea Navigation, 1 and Hackney Brook – still submerged and redirected – continues to mole along more or less as shown in the cover art of Sinclair’s Hackney, That Rose-Red Empire: at the end of Morning Lane it diverges from its natural course down Wick Road and travels under the higher ground of Kenton Road and Gascoyne Road past the People’s Park Tavern into Victoria Park, where, still heading roughly southeast, it follows the path past the tennis courts, exits by Montessori on the Park at St. Mark’s Gate, traverses Cadogan Terrace, and drains into the Hertford Union Canal just below Old Ford Middle Lock, which flows slowly northeast to join the Navigation just south of the German Deli and Crate Brewery.

Things weren’t ever so. Diamond Geezer accompanies his posts on Hackney Brook with a handy map of its original course:

What once was cannot be again, but (with apologies to Baron Haussmann) if as well as a Hackney agrandie and a Hackney assainie you want to see a Hackney embellie, then the vertebra provided by a revived Hackney Brook might help dispel the impression that Hackney Council’s urban strategy consists solely in facilitating the construction of investment objects.

So here’s my seven-point guide to restoring the course downstream from the Mare Street/Amhurst Road/Bohemia Place/Narroway junction to the River Lea Navigation, adding a tentacle to the Hackney Council octopus as well as encouraging citizens to stroll down from Hackney-on-High to Hackney-on-Sea on a Sunday morning:

  1. Wage war on Islington to recover our stolen water
  2. Run the brook between a new bus station and Bohemia Place
  3. Kayak to the Paradise Garden: Mehetabel Road and the Chesham Arms
  4. Simpsonlandia: Cardinal Pole School and Flanders Way
  5. Well Street: regenerated market framed by Jack Cohen memorial & hydraulic organ
  6. Wick Road: sea battles and scampi
  7. Hackney Wick: the delta

Wage war on Islington to recover our stolen water

The mighty torrent with bridge and St. Augustine’s tower in 1791, viewed from the site of the subsequent railway bridge on Mare Street:

… and the pathetic present-day piddle into the Hertford Union, even during the monsoon:

Apologists mutter about storm drains and managed outflow, but the truth is that Islington is stealing our brook at source in Holloway, and probably shipping it to the United Arab Emirates. And look at how they’re benefitting: apart from house prices that are even more absurd than ours, they have Arsenal, while we no longer even have Clapton FC, who play in Forest Gate because Hackney is too arid for grass.

This is bigger than the Netherlands vs Germany re traffic and flood management on the Rhine 2, this is bitchier than the squabbling sons of Shem, and we of Hackney have more guns than them. So let’s annex Holloway with the calming promise of free boat trips to Westfield, thus safeguarding our water supply, and then one evening I’ll be able to present a second plan for the restoration of the brook from its source in Holloway, via Clissold Park, Abney Park Cemetery, Stoke Newington Common and Hackney Downs to Mare Street.

Run the brook between a new bus station and Bohemia Place

The St. John-at-Hackney conservation and management plan says that the brook currently runs in a drain under Arriva’s Clapton bus garage (allocation: 100 buses), so having the brook flow along Bohemia Place is the simple option. We suspect, however, that Hackney Council, TfL and St John-at-Hackney will prefer to redevelop the bus station, and it is the counsel of our lords that will stand. Given that, we will build a smaller garage on the north side of the site using some simple variant of VW Wolfsburg’s vertical stacking:

The brook will flow between Bohemia Place and the new bus station, which will be skinned as the back of a bus, from the exhaust pipe of which the brook will emerge.

Proximity to St. Augustine’s tower will be to our intellectual and moral advantage. Like the barrel organ’s conversion of boundless sound into a revolving mess of pins, Augustine’s Confessions are a meditation on infinity where time is short – in Flann O’Brien’s Dalkey Archive, the best commentary on the Confessions, time being represented by aqualungs in a subaqueous cavern:

Then Mick saw a figure, a spectre, far away from him. It looked seated and slightly luminescent. Gradually it got rather clearer in definition but remained unutterably distant, and what he had taken for a very long chin in profile was almost certainly a beard. A gown of some dark material clothed the apparition. It is strange to say that the manifestation did not frighten him but he was flabbergasted when he heard De Selby’s familiar tones almost booming out beside him.
– I must thank you for coming. I have two students with me.
The voice that came back was low, from far away but perfectly clear. The Dublin accent was unmistakable. The extraordinary utterance can here be distinguished only typographically.
Ah not at all, man.
– You’re feeling well, as usual, I suppose?
Nothing to complain of, thank God. How are you feeling yourself, or how do you think you’re feeling?
– Tolerably, but age is creeping in.
Ha-ha. That makes me laugh.
– Why?
Your sort of time is merely a confusing index of decomposition.

The barrel organ has one of its roots in the kind of simple automated clock (said to be late 16th or early 17th century) found in St. Augustine’s tower. Though Flann’s Augustine claims that “Book Two of my Confessions is all shocking exaggeration,” he might have appreciated the early use in Dutch brothels in the 1680s of mechanical organs, mechanical musical instruments like carillons having been driven out of the churches by the Calvinists, who made the grievous error of introducing religion in their place.

This section’s water music from the Singing Organ-Grinder is therefore Cool Water, which seems to have been inspired by Psalms 42:1 (As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God):

Dan’s feet are sore, he’s yearning for
Just one thing more than water,
Cool water.
Like me, I guess, he’d like to rest
Where there’s no quest for water,
Cool, clear water.

Keep a-movin’, Dan, don’t you listen to him, Dan,
He’s a devil not a man
And he spreads the burning sand with water,
Cool water.
Dan, can you see that big green tree
Where the water’s running free
And it’s waiting there for me
And you?

Kayak to the Paradise Garden: Mehetabel Road and the Chesham Arms

The fashion hub under the railway arches on Morning Lane has no space for a brook or the watercress beds of old:

… and so the next section depends on the residents of the south side of Mehetabel Road being prepared to trade the damp end of their garden, up against the railway wall, for a (generally non-navigable) stream. Were they to say yay, then an annual performance could be held of Delius’ A village Romeo and Juliet:

At a local fair [Narroway], Sali and Vreli buy rings. Sali mentions an inn, the Paradise Garden, where they can dance all night, and they go there. The Dark Fiddler and some vagrants are drinking there. He greets the lovers, and suggests they join him to share a vagabond life in the mountains. Instead, Sali and Vreli decide that they cannot live such an existence, and they resolve to die together, uncompromising in their love for each other. They leave the inn and find a hay barge, which they release from the dock to begin to float down the river. As the Dark Fiddler observes them, Sali removes the plug from the bottom of the boat, and Sali and Vreli sink with the boat.

The Singing Organ-Grinder has made a version of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde for barrel organ, so Delius should also be feasible.

Singing Organ-Grinder water music? Let us recall the words of an Irish friend at the Eagle, on being asked at which track the horses on which he was betting were racing: “I haven’t got a facking clue.”

Simpsonlandia: Cardinal Pole School and Flanders Way

Between Link Street and Ponsford Street the brook stays north of the railway, passing south of the estate, and then crosses the railway at the bridge, perhaps flowing along the railway through the grounds of Cardinal Pole School and then entering Flanders Way.

Flanders Way is the southern outpost of Simpsonlandia – Springfield Park, Homer-town, the parish (church) of St. Bart and Lisa Star Nails on Stamford Hill, St. Maggie’s at St. Saviour’s… Here the brook will host a population of three-eyed fish in tribute to Blinky:

Well Street: regenerated market framed by Jack Cohen memorial & hydraulic organ

Well Street needs a well again in some shape or form, partly to provide a focus for a regenerated market. We’d like this to be between Tesco and the excellent butcher. We’d like a smaller version of Barcelona’s Agbar tower, which was built by the local water company without the functionality attributed to it in (gay) urban legend – a spout of water emerging from the top:

Image: Axelv

Our version will include this functionality, and will be cut in such a way as to evoke Jack Cohen, who started his Tesco empire on this spot.

Reduced traffic flow will enable Well Street to extend beyond its current junction to meet the clump of trees on the corner of Flanders Way, and a small circular polyphonic hydraulic organ, driven by the brook, supplemented by the small stream flowing down Well Street, will terminate the market:

Water music from the Singing Organ-Grinder: Little Boy Billy, a maritime take on Sweeney Todd:

Wick Road: sea battles and scampi

Traffic. You only need a tiny fraction of today’s cars when they can drive themselves and be waiting for you within 5 mins of booking, and that’s just round the corner. For now Wick Road can manage with a single calmed motor transport lane alongside a brook taking up equivalent space. Most traffic currently using that route can be taken up Kenworthy Road, and Homerton High Street can be made essentially one-way westward for the extremely dangerous stretch between Kenworthy Road and Ponsford Street (contraflow for public transport and bicycles), complementing and forming a ring with the one-way eastward traffic on Cassland Road on the other bank of the brook.

This space lends itself to theatrics. In an annual event commemorating a mashup of Battle of Lepanto and the Spanish Armada and Tromp and De Ruyter, or some such, the children of St. Dominic’s Catholic Primary will row up the brook and engage in battle the ferocious meat cleaver wielders in the excellent Kuzu shish bar and others along Well Street, with fearful and quite unpredictable consequences. For such events, seafood and other kiosks will line the tall blocks along the increasingly estuarine promenade that is Wick Road – like Venice, before Venice became a rancid tourist hellhole.

Water music from the Singing Organ-Grinder: a censored version of Barnacle Bill the Sailor, sung by the Caribbean pirates at the Prince Edward:

Hackney Wick: the delta

From the Tiger on the corner of Kenworthy Road we’d take the brook down the middle of Wick Road, with a simple bridge at the junction with the A12, and then down the southern side of Chapman Road. From this point, given sufficient current we’d like to split the brook into several less strictly defined courses draining via rice paddies (more Lower Lea Flood Plan washland…) into the navigation respectively north and south of the railway. But we now must depart to watch and eat bangers, and cannot elaborate this eminently sensible proposal any further.

Water music from the Singing Organ-Grinder: the German beach classic, Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Honolulu Strand Bikini:

Ah, rainy Saturdays.

Stuff

  1. Doc dump: GLA Olympic Legacy doc; Mayor’s Olympic Waterways Strategy; 2009 LRAP Plan; last Thames Rivers Trust news update is from 2013 & their link to the River Restoration Centre leads to an estate agent of the same acronym – but no doubt all Olympic money was well spent.
  2. Alex van Heezik, Battle over the rivers. Two hundred years of river policy in the Netherlands is good, full Dutch version (Strijd om de rivieren) is very good.