Pessimus Cattus

Nicolaes Maes (1634 – 1693 (buried))

 

Manuscript1420

“Hic non defectus est, sed cattus minxit desuper nocte quadam. Confundatur pessimus cattus qui minxit super librum istum in nocte Daventrie, et consimiliter omnes alii propter illum. Et cavendum valde ne permittantur libri aperti per noctem ubi cattie venire possunt.”

 

English translation:

Here is nothing missing, but a cat urinated on this during a certain night. Cursed be the pesty cat that urinated over this book during the night in Deventer and because of it many others [other cats] too. And beware well not to leave open books at night where cats can come.

 

https://medievalfragments.wordpress.com/2013/02/22/paws-pee-and-mice-cats-among-medieval-manuscripts/

 

— Grateful to Pádraig Belton for making me aware of this story.  I was defeated in my effort to disentangle the rest of the chain of provenance.

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Which Sides Are You On

Portrait of Benjamin Lay

William Williams, Sr. (1727 – 1791)

 

 

by Marcus Rediker

It was September 1738, and Benjamin Lay had walked 20 miles, subsisting on “acorns and peaches,” to reach the Quakers’ Philadelphia Yearly Meeting. Beneath his overcoat he wore a military uniform and a sword — both anathema to Quaker teachings.

He also carried a hollowed-out book with a secret compartment, into which he had tucked a tied-off animal bladder filled with bright red pokeberry juice.

When it was Lay’s turn to speak, he rose to address the Quakers, many of whom had grown rich and bought African slaves.

He was a dwarf, barely four feet tall, with a hunched back, but from his small body came a thunderous voice.

God, he intoned, respects all people equally, be they rich or poor, man or woman, white or black.

Throwing his overcoat aside, he spoke his prophecy: “Thus shall God shed the blood of those persons who enslave their fellow creatures.” He raised the book above his head and plunged the sword through it, and the “blood” gushed down his arm.

Lay did not resist when his fellow Quakers threw him out of the building. He knew he would be disowned by his beloved community for his performance, but he had made his point. As long as Quakers owned slaves, he would use his body and his words to disrupt their hypocritical routines.

Lay’s methods made people talk about him, his ideas, the nature of Quakerism and Christianity, and, most of all, slavery.

According to Benjamin Rush, a Philadelphia physician and signer of the Declaration of Independence, the name of this “celebrated Christian philosopher” became “familiar to every man, woman and to nearly every child, in Pennsylvania.”

Lay was the world’s first revolutionary abolitionist. Against the common sense of the day, when slavery seemed to most people as immutable as the stars in the heavens, Lay imagined a new world in which people would live simply, make their own food and clothes, and respect nature.

He lived in a cave in Abington, Pa.,   ate only fruits and vegetables — “the innocent fruits of the earth” —          and championed animal rights.

He refused to consume any commodity produced by slave labor and was known to walk abruptly out of a dinner in protest when he found out that his host owned slaves.

Today Benjamin Lay is largely forgotten, for essentially two reasons.

The first is that he did not fit the dominant, long-told story about the history of the abolitionist movement. Formerly a common sailor, he was not one of the so-called gentleman saints like William Wilberforce, an aristocratic leader of the abolition movement in Britain. He was wild and confrontational, militant and uncompromising.

A second reason is that he has long been considered deformed in both body and mind. As a little person and as a man thought eccentric at best and more commonly deranged or insane, he was ridiculed and dismissed, even among Quakers who were ostensibly committed to an ideal of spiritual equality. The condescension continued in subsequent accounts of his life.

Yet Lay predicted that for Quakers and for America, slave-keeping would be a long, destructive burden.  He wrote that it “will be as the poison of dragons, and the cruel venom of asps, in the end.”

The poison and the venom have had long lives indeed, as we still live with the consequences of slavery: prejudice, poverty, structural inequality and premature death.

Disparaged and abandoned by his fellow Quakers, Lay eventually helped win the debate over slavery. He wanted to provoke, to unsettle, even to confound — to make people think and act.

He asked everyone he met, Which side are you on?

Slowly, over a quarter-century, his relentless agitation changed hearts and minds.

In 1758 a friend arrived at his cave to inform him that the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting had finally taken the first big step toward abolition, ruling that those who traded in slaves would henceforth be disciplined and perhaps driven from the community. Lay fell silent for a few reverential moments, then rose from his chair, praised God and announced, “I can now die in peace.”

He died a year later, an outsider to the Quaker community he loved, but a moral giant of a man.

By boycotting slave-produced commodities, Lay pioneered the politics of consumption and initiated a tactic that would become central to the ultimate success of abolitionism in the 19th century, and one that still motivates global movements against abuses like sweatshops today.

In his time Lay may have been the most radical person on the planet. He helps us to understand what was politically and morally possible in the first half of the 18th century — and what may be possible now.

It is more than we think.

 

 

Marcus Rediker, a professor of history at the University of Pittsburgh, is the author of the forthcoming “The Fearless Benjamin Lay: The Quaker Dwarf Who Became the First Revolutionary Abolitionist,” from which this essay was adapted.

 

 

 

https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/08/12/opinion/sunday/youll-never-be-as-radical-as-this-18th-century-quaker-dwarf.html?referer=

 

 

 

 

Tempera Wind

Andrew Newell Wyeth (1917 – 2009)
detail

 

Published in: on July 23, 2017 at 1:24 am  Comments (2)  
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The Colours of The Winds

detail, Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775 – 1851)

 

from the 
SALTAIR NA RANN
attrib. Oengus the Culdee, ninth century

 

King who ordained the eight winds
advancing without uncertainty, full of beauty,
the four prime winds He holds back,
the four fierce under-winds.

There are four other under-winds,
as learned authors say,
this should be the number, without any error,
of the winds, twelve winds.

King who fashioned the colours of the winds,
who fixed them in safe courses,
after their manner, in well-ordered disposition,
with the varieties of each manifold hue.

The white, the clear purple,
the blue, the very strong green,
the yellow, the red, sure the knowledge,
in their gentle meetings wrath did not seize them.

The black, the grey, the speckled,
the dark and the deep brown
the dun, darksome hues,
they are not light, easily controlled.

King who ordained them over every void,
the eight wild under-winds ;
who laid down without defect
the bounds of the four prime winds.

From the East, the smiling purple,
from the South, the pure white, wondrous,
from the North, the black blustering moaning wind,
from the West, the babbling dun breeze.

The red, and the yellow along with it,
both white and purple ;
the green, the blue, it is brave,
both dun and the pure white.

The grey, the dark brown, hateful their harshness,
both dun and deep black ;
the dark, the speckled easterly wind
both black and purple.

Rightly ordered their form,
their disposition was ordained ;
with wise adjustments, openly,
according to their position and their fixed places.

The twelve winds,
Easterly and Westerly, Northerly and Southerly,
the King who adjusted them, He holds them back,
He fettered them with seven curbs.

King who bestowed them according to their posts,
around the world with many adjustments,
each two winds of them about a separate curb,
and one curb for the whole of them.

King who arranged them in habitual harmony,
according to their ways, without over-passing their limits ;
at one time, peaceful was the space,
at another time, tempestuous.

 

Translations from Irish Gaelic Poetry into English Prose and Verse 
SELECTED AND EDITED BY ELEANOR HULL, 1912
To Miss Eleanor Knott I am indebted for valuable help in the translation

 

 

[with thanks to  for twitter discussion of wind-color]

Stones of Ochre

Visita Allo Studio, Odoardo Borrani
(1833 – 1905)

 

by Sarah Cascone

Porc-Epic is a cave that, for 4,500 years, was used to produce ochre, a brownish-yellow pigment often used in prehistoric artwork.

The Porc-Epic cave was discovered by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and Henry de Monfreid in 1929 and is thought to date to about 43,000 to 42,000 years ago, during the Middle Stone Age.
At the site, archaeologists found a stash of 4213 pieces, or nearly 90 pounds, of ochre, the largest such collection ever discovered at a prehistoric site in East Africa.

Ancient visitors to the site processed the iron-rich ochre stones there by flaking and grinding the raw materials “to produce a fine-grained and bright red powder.” The ochre stones can be used to produce powders of varying coarsenesses, in shades of yellow, orange, red, brown, and gray.

Ochre powder could be used medicinally or for other purposes, but this production is “most consistent with symbolic activities, such as body painting, the production of patterns on different media, or for signalling.”A pebble half coated in ochre, for instance, could have been used as a stamp to apply the pigment to soft surfaces. The researchers also compared pieces with long pointy ends to ochre “crayons.”

Apparently the local community relied on Porc-Epic for its ochre needs for millennia, the cave essentially serving as a studio for artists.

 

On May 24, 2017 researchers Daniela Eugenia Rosso of the University of Barcelona and Francesco d’Errico and Alain Queffelec of the University of Bordeaux in France published a paper, “Patterns of change and continuity in ochre use during the late Middle Stone Age of the Horn of Africa: The Porc-Epic Cave record,” in the PLOS ONE journal.
A similar find was discovered in a 100,000-year-old cave in South Africa in 2011.

https://news.artnet.com/art-world/worlds-oldest-art-studio-discovered-ethiopia-979637?utm_content=from_&utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=June%202%2C%202017%20artnet%20News%20Daily%20Newsletter%20ALL&utm_term=artnet%20News%20Daily%20Newsletter%20USE

Spring Pools

Georg Flegel (1566 Olomuc-23 March 1638 Frankfurt-am-Main)

 


Spring Pools

These pools that, though in forests, still reflect
The total sky almost without defect,
And like the flowers beside them, chill and shiver,
Will like the flowers beside them soon be gone,
And yet not out by any brook or river,
But up by roots to bring dark foliage on.

The trees that have it in their pent-up buds
To darken nature and be summer woods –
Let them think twice before they use their powers
To blot out and drink up and sweep away
These flowery waters and these watery flowers
From snow that melted only yesterday.


Robert Frost (March 26, 1874 – January 29, 1963)

 

Snow

John La Farge (March 31, 1835 – November 14, 1910)

 

Snow

Snow is what it does.
It falls and it stays and it goes.
It melts and it is here somewhere.
We all will get there.


Frederick Seidel (b. 1936)

 

Published in: on March 11, 2017 at 7:13 pm  Comments (1)  
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Landscape Sketch – Verso

landscape-eakins-_versoThomas Cowperthwait Eakins (1844 -1916) Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

 

The making of gardens and parks goes on with civilization all over the world, and they increase both in size and number as their value is recognized.
Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike.
This natural beauty-hunger is made manifest in the little window-sill gardens of the poor, though perhaps only a geranium slip in a broken cup, as well as in the carefully tended rose and lily gardens of the rich, the thousands of spacious city parks and botanical gardens, and in our magnificent National parks–the Yellowstone, Yosemite, Sequoia, etc. — Nature’s sublime wonderlands, the admiration and joy of the world.
Nevertheless, like anything else worth while, from the very beginning, however well guarded, they have always been subject to attack by despoiling gainseekers and mischief-makers of every degree from Satan to Senators, eagerly trying to make everything immediately and selfishly commercial, with schemes disguised in smug-smiling philanthropy, industriously, sham-piously crying, “Conservation, conservation, pan-utilization,” that man and beast may be fed and the dear Nation made great.”
Thus long ago a few enterprising merchants utilized the Jerusalem temple as a place of business instead of a place of prayer, changing money, buying and selling cattle and sheep and doves; and earlier still, the first forest reservation, including only one tree, was likewise despoiled.
Ever since the establishment of the Yosemite National Park, strife has been going on around its borders and I suppose this will go on as part of the universal battle between right and wrong, however much its boundaries may be shorn, or its wild beauty destroyed.

These temple destroyers, devotees of ravaging commercialism, seem to have a perfect contempt for Nature, and, instead of lifting their eyes to the God of the mountains, lift them to the Almighty Dollar.


John Muir (1838 East Lothian, Scotland – 1914 Los Angeles, California)

 

The Garden of Earthly Fools

owlface5Detail
Jheronimus van Aken (c. 1450 – 1516)

 
New research published in the journal Biological Conservation finds that for every decibel of added noise, the hunting ability of saw-whet owls declines dramatically.
Their odds of detecting prey fell 8 percent per decibel, while the odds of actually striking the prey they did detect fell 5 percent per decibel.
By the time noise reached 61 decibels—a little louder than a busy restaurant—the owls completely failed to even notice nearby prey.

Lead researcher Tate Mason, education coordinator for the Peregrine Fund’s World Center for Birds of Prey, says the research was inspired by early studies into bats, which found that the flying mammals had to increase their hunting search times when flying near noisy highways.
“We wondered if other acoustically specialized predators, in particular birds, could be facing the same scenarios.”

They set out to examine the problem.
Instead of highways, though, they designed their experiment to replicate the sounds produced by natural-gas compression stations.

“Compressor stations are relatively new in the landscape,” Mason says. “They are increasing, and they run 24 hours a day, year-round.”
That gives them more impact than highways or airports, which create a lot of noise during the day but can be much quieter at night when owls tend to hunt.

Although he suspected that the birds would have impaired hunting ability, the complete failure surprised him. “The impact was more profound than I thought it would be,” he says.

Bangor University lecturer Graeme Shannon led work on a paper that synthesized research into the effects of noise on all manner of wildlife.
“These are noise levels that can readily extend hundreds of meters from an active drill rig or a busy highway,” he says, “which in effect drastically reduces the suitable habitat for animals that need to hunt.”

Mason says that’s an important aspect of his research. “The quiet places on Earth are becoming few and far between.”
Protecting those naturally quiet spaces from intrusive noise, he says, will help acoustic specialists such as saw-whet, Great Gray, and Northern Spotted owls.

“We have the ability to know ahead of time that there’s a threat out there that could be compromising owl habitat:
If we deal with that before the population declines, we can do better at conserving our wild creatures.”


http://www.audubon.org/news/human-noise-robs-owls-their-ability-hunt

In Our Hands Forests Sleep

lynx-la-balsaminaProbably from the botanical manuscripts of Federico Angelo Cesi (1585 – 1630), founder of the Accademia dei Lincei

 
Protea montana
 is a threatened species from the very highest peaks of the Western Cape of South Africa.
A fluffy seed coat allows it to be blown – after a fire has released it from the prison of a dead flower head – to a site where the same fluff allows it to corkscrew into the shallow soil and wait for winter rain.

For a thing so small, a seed bears a heavy burden: the future existence of its species.
If things go wrong for the seed, it could mean potential extinction.

Each plant species produces its own unique and beautiful seeds.
Beyond that beauty and uniqueness are the processes that place them into dormancy until the conditions are just right, distribute them, bring them out of their stasis and cause them to germinate.
Then each has its  pollination process allowing it to produce more seeds.

Mimetes stokoei
, the mace pagoda, has been declared extinct twice because there were no actual plants of this species growing anywhere on Earth.
What wasn’t considered at the time was that the mace pagoda had placed its entire future security as a species
on seed buried just under the surface of the soil, and was waiting for the right kind of fire to trigger germination.

Hope, so inextricably tied up in seeds, has led to them being one of our most important backup plans for the planet, and so humanity.
There are people out there all over the world busily collecting and storing seed; guardians of our future.
The wild relatives of our crops, endangered species, and culturally important varieties, are all important to seed-bankers.
In some countries, it’s the only way to preserve the sheer levels of genetic diversity there now.

We don’t really know what the future holds, so we must cover all bases.
On the day when we need to put endangered species back into restored habitats, or bring back genetic diversity to our crops, we will have all that potential locked away in the form of a seed.

Ecosystem restoration projects across the globe depend entirely on seed, along with the people collecting them and those who know how to grow them.
With some forethought, often on the part of enlightened governments, people are coming together to make sure the possibilities of seeds are realised.
In Thailand, rainforest is being restored using seed bombs dropped from army planes.
In the USA the Native Seed Network and the Plant Conservation Alliance are bringing together a united force of native seed collectors, growers, and landscape restoration experts in an attempt, fostered by the Obama government through its National Seed Strategy for Rehabilitation and Restoration, to make sure all degraded habitats are restored using seed of local provenance as a matter of utmost urgency.

 

Robbie Blackhall-Miles is a plantsman and conservationist. He tweets as @fossilplants.
https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/gardening-blog/2017/jan/13/seeds-little-time-capsules-that-could-secure-our-future?CMP=share_btn_tw#comment-91392416

https://secretgardening.wordpress.com/2014/05/10/the-seed-shop/