An old Dutch A&E joke

And the abbot who thinks little of his neighbour the emperor’s worldly ambitions.

Maandelyke uittreksels, July 1727: A man is being helped by a surgeon after having been hit in the face with a stone. “Have I lost my eye?” he enquires. “No,” says the surgeon, “I’m holding it in my hand.”

I was actually looking for cousins of the abbot/neighbour bit in the proverb which appears inter alia in Núñez’s Refranes o prouerbios en romance (1555): Ni mula mohína, ni moça Marina, ni poyo a la puerta, ni abad por vezino, ni moço Pedro en casa.

There’s obviously a story behind this, but the closest I’ve found in this lightning pre-prandial sweep is from an 1836 Friesian collection (which is not to say that Friesland is where it originated): an emperor who does’t so much long for comfort as yearn for glory, and his neighbour, an abbot, who is completely indifferent to fame and considers it a load of wind.

So where does it lead? Who knows: there are mussels to be scraped.

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