Friday, October 01, 2010
A full lecherous beast in youth, swift, pliant, and merry
I found the image I used the other day of those medieval cats (one affectingly shedding a tear at the impediment to his throat-ripping ways represented by the bars of a birdcage) on Google, but have no idea which manuscript it derives from. Does anyone know? As I trawled around in search of answer, I did, however, come across the following most excellent description of cats in Bartholomaeus Anglicus’s thirteenth-century De Proprietatibus Rerum. Did Christopher Smart read this, I wonder? Our scribe writes:
He is a full lecherous beast in youth, swift, pliant, and merry, and leapeth and reseth on everything that is to fore him: and is led by a straw, and playeth therewith: and is a right heavy beast in age and full sleepy, and lieth slyly in wait for mice: and is aware where they be more by smell than by sight, and hunteth and reseth on them in privy places: and when he taketh a mouse, he playeth therewith, and eateth him after the play. In time of love is hard fighting for wives, and one scratcheth and rendeth the other grievously with biting and with claws. And he maketh a ruthful noise and ghastful, when one proffereth to fight with another: and unneth is hurt when he is thrown down off an high place. And when he hath a fair skin, he is as it were proud thereof, and goeth fast about: and when his skin is burnt, then he bideth at home; and is oft for his fair skin taken of the skinner, and slain and flayed.