THE BRITISH LIBRARY

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22 posts categorized "Animals"

28 July 2016

Petrus Cuniculus, Noisy-Noisette and Frau Tigge-Winkel: Peter Rabbit’s foreign friends

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Of all the fortnightly pieces which Paul Jennings (1918-89) wrote for the Observer between 1949 and 1966, few are funnier than ‘Babel in the Nursery’, collected in Golden Oddlies (London, 1983; X.958/20513). Glancing at the translations of Beatrix Potter’s works listed on the jacket on one of her books, Jennings reflected on the role of translators (‘heroes or fools’) in opening up the ‘transcendentalized English village’ set firmly in the Cumbrian countryside to young readers throughout the world. Even the characters’ names undergo changes which transform their bearers into very different figures: ‘Sophie Canétang , a Stendhal heroine … the awful Mauriac Famille Flopsaut … Noisy-Noisette, the Mata Hari of the twenties, as depicted by Colette … Tom Het Poesje, a kind of Dutch Till Eulenspiegel … Il Coniglio Pierino, the swarthy Sicilian bandit.’

Today, as we celebrate the 150th anniversary of Beatrix Potter’s birth, we may well admire the ingenuity of translators in tackling these challenges and giving her works to the children of the world in multilingual versions, many of which appear in the British Library’s catalogues.

Pierre Lapin 12800.a.55
Beatrix Potter, Histoire de Pierre Lapin (London, [1921]) British Library 12800.a.55, Peter Rabbit’s first outing in French

The French translator Victorine Ballon was one of the first to attempt the task of presenting Peter Rabbit in a new guise. Her Histoire de Pierre Lapin was the first of several versions of Potter’s works in French, followed by Histoire de Jeannot Lapin (London, [1921]; 12800.a.56), translated in collaboration with Julienne Profichet, as were Histoire de Poupette-à-l’épingle (London, [1922]; 12800.a.57) and Histoire de Sophie Canétang (London, [1922]; 12800.a.54). While Peter’s cousin Benjamin Bunny was rechristened as the typically French Jeannot, Jemima Puddle-Duck presented more of a problem. Ballon’s clever solution combined ‘caneton’ (duckling) and ‘étang’ (pool), preceded by a first name recalling the French idiom ‘faire sa Sophie’, aptly suggesting the prim old-fashioned airs of Potter’s Jemima.

Tailor of Gloucester French
Beatrix Potter, Le tailleur de Gloucester , translated by Deborah Chataway (London, [1967]) X.998/1267

Young readers in Germany were soon able to enjoy Potter’s tales too with the appearance of Die Geschichte des Peterchen Hase, translated by Clara Röhn and Ethel Talbot Scheffauer (London, [1934]; 12800.a.69.). Before long Peter had been joined by his relatives the Flopsy Bunnies in Die Geschichte der Hasenfamilie Plumps, translated by Hildegarde M. E. Marchant (London, [1948]; 12830.e.15), imagined by Paul Jennings as ‘a lesser version of the Krupp dynasty, an endless succession of stern characters extending the family factories in the Ruhr’. When the same translator set to work on The Tale of Mr. Tod, she found a more straightforward solution, replacing the Cumbrian dialect word for a fox with a name recalling the mediaeval beast epic and Goethe’s Reineke Fuchs in Die Geschichte von Herrn Reineke.

Mr Tod German
Title-page from Beatrix Potter, Die Geschichte von Herrn Reineke (London, 1952) 12830.a.120.

Translations into  Italian, Spanish, Dutch and Swedish also followed, issued, like the French and German ones, by Potter’s London publisher, Frederick Warne. Slavonic languages were slower to follow suit, and none are to be found in the British Library’s holdings, presumably because Warne did not publish any. But alongside the more familiar Western European languages, some surprises can be found. Who, for example, is mevrou Kornelia Kat, sunning herself on the stoep as she waits for her guests to join her for tea? Why, it is none other than Mrs. Tabitha Twitchit, mother of Tom Kitten (now Gertjie Kat – short for Gerhardus) and his sisters Pootjies and Oortjies (Mittens and Moppet), mysteriously transported to the veld in an Afrikaans translation by Louise Promnitz (Cape Town, 1970; X.990/4885). The disobedient kittens come to grief after an encounter with the Puddle-Ducks: ‘meneer Hendrikus Plassie-Eend’, Rebekka and Meraai – Jemima in the South African identity which she retains in her own story, Die Verhaal van Meraai Plassie-Eend, also translated by Promnitz (Cape Town, 1971; X.990/4883). Indeed, some of the earliest translations in the British Library’s collections are those into Afrikaans by Antoinette Elizabeth Carinus-Holzhausen, dating from the 1930s, where Benjamin Bunny features under a new alias in Die Verhaal van Bennie Blinkhaar (Pretoria, 1936; 12800.a.64) and Mrs Tittlemouse in Die Verhaal van Mevrou Piefkyn (Pretoria, [1936]; 12800.a.66). Peter had already pipped them to the post in Die Verhaal van Pieter Konyntjie (London, [1930]; 12800.a.65).

Beatrix Potter Afrikaans
Tom Kitten and Jemima Puddle-Duck in Afrikaans

Closer to home, Welsh-speaking children were able to read the adventures of Jemima Puddle-Duck as Hanes Dili Minllyn, translated by ‘M.E.’ (London, [1925]; 12800.a.61), followed by those of Peter Rabbit, Hanes Pwtan y Wningen (London, [1932]; 12800.a.62), an anonymous translation, and those of his cousin Benjamin Bunny, Hanes Benda Bynni (London, 1930; X.990/5922) by K. Olwen Rees, as well as Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle (Hanes Meistres Tigi-Dwt; London, [1932]; 12800.a.63). More recently, just over a century after his first appearance in 1902, Peter Rabbit addressed the world in Scots, courtesy of Lynne McGeachie’s The Tale of Peter Kinnen (London, 2004; YK.2006.a.4550), in which the murderous ‘Maister McGreegor’ finally gets to speak in his own ‘Scots tung’ as he pursues the intruder with a rake, ‘waggin a scartle an roarin oot, “Stop briganner!”’ For those of a scholarly bent, there are even three Latin translations, Fabula Petro Cuniculo (London, 1962; 012845.g.28) by E. Walker, Fabula de Jemima Anate-Aquatica (London, 1965; 12846.t.15) by Jonathan Musgrave, and an anonymous Fabula de Domino Ieremia Piscatore (London, 1978; X.990/10193), where the characters speak in effortlessly Ciceronian language (even Dominus McGregor as he chases Peter with cries of ‘Cessa, fur!’).

Beatrix Potter Scots Welsh Latin
Some of Potter’s characters in (l.-r.) Scots, Welsh and Latin

Though her marriage to William Heelis was childless, Beatrix Potter had a great love of her many young friends and correspondents (several of the books began as illustrated letters), and would no doubt have been delighted that her work was available to readers throughout the world. She never condescended in her use of language or compromised in the artistic quality of her illustrations for children’s books (C.S. Lewis, for example, in his autobiography Surprised by Joy ([London], 1959; 4921.cc.28), recalled those to The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin (London, 1903; Cup.402.a.5) as epitomizing the essence of autumn for him as a boy). On her 150th birthday, she would surely have wished to celebrate the efforts of those who had helped her creations to travel, like Pigling Bland, ‘over the hills and far away’.

Susan Halstead Content Specialist (Humanities and Social Sciences), Research Engagement

03 June 2016

Cats and Dogs

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Cats and Dogs Covarrubias Horozco
 Sebastián de Covarrubias Horozco, Emblemas morales (Madrid, 1610) 637.g.22. Centura III, emblema 79 (f. 279).

Anda agora el mundo tal
que no se cual va tras cual
[It’s upside-down!
Now, who can say
Who’s the chaser
And who the prey?]

This emblem shows mice chasing cats and hares chasing dogs (or is it the other way round?).

Nowadays I think we’d think in terms of cats chasing dogs: after all, the two are natural antagonists, as in the film of 2001. And in the 18th century this Portuguese mock epic does indeed pit the cat against the dog:

Cats and Dogs CarvalhoJoão Jorge de Carvalho, Gaticanea, ou Crudelissima guerra entre os cães, e os gatos (Lisbon, 1781) 11452.aaa.20.

(I wonder if the phrase “raining cats and dogs” refers to the commotion caused when cats and dogs fight.)

But cat vs dog isn’t the only bout in town.

Back at the dawn of literature, in Aesop’s fables, the protagonists are never cats and dogs. To further complicate the matter, cats aren’t cats. Olivia and Robert Temple argue:

Precision in the terminology also reveals facts such as that household pets in ancient Greece were not cats but domesticated polecats, or house-ferrets (galē). (The Complete Fables, p. xix).

Terminological exactitude, or the translator’s age-old desire to outdo his predecessors?

Barry Taylor, Curator Romance Studies

References:

Alberto Pimentel, Poemas herói-comicos portugueses (Porto, 1922)
X.908/25214.

Aesop, The complete fables; translated by Olivia and Robert Temple; with an introduction by Robert Temple. (London, 1998) YK.1998.a.7044

 

25 November 2015

Wojtek, the soldier bear from the Polish Army

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On 7th November an unusual ceremony took place in Edinburgh: a monument to a soldier bear was unveiled to hundreds of people gathered in the middle of town. The statue had been commissioned by the Wojtek Memorial Trust, an organisation set up in 2008 by Aileen Orr. She is also the author of the book Wojtek the Bear: Polish war hero (Edinburgh, 2010; British Library YC.2011.a.10359), which makes a good read.

The story of the brave soldier bear started in Persia (today’s Iran) in 1942. Found in the mountains as an orphaned cub, he was sold to Polish soldiers for a few cans of corned beef. The Polish Army, newly formed in the USSR under General Władysław Anders, was on its way through Persia to Palestine.  Corporal Piotr Prendysz was appointed as the cub’s guardian, and the bear was given the name Wojtek (Voytek) meaning “joyful warrior”. The legend has it that Wojtek was enlisted as a soldier with the rank of Private and his pay was double food rations. In fact, he was adopted by the soldiers of the 22nd Artillery Supply Company of the 2nd Polish Corps and became their mascot.

Wojtek 1
Wojtek in Iraq, 1942. Courtesy of the Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum.

Initially Wojtek was fed with diluted condensed milk via an old vodka bottle. He quickly grew huge, weighing 250 kg and measuring almost two metres in length. He loved beer and cigarettes, eating instead of smoking the latter.  His favourite game was wrestling with his fellow soldiers, but due to his gentle nature he never hurt anybody.  He liked human company so much that at night he often slipped into tents and slept beside his mates’ beds. Wojtek soon became the soldiers’ best friend. Although he settled well into army routine his record of acts of mischief was steadily growing.  In a large Allied forces’ military camp in Iraq Wojtek stole a washing line of women soldiers’ underwear to the horror of the terrified women.  On Christmas Eve after a traditional Polish feast he made his way to the camp food store. In search of his favourite jams and fruits he devastated the place. Spilled cooking-oil was mixed with flour, grain and other foods on the floor.  However, in June 1943, in an attempt to commit another crime, he captured an Arab spy. Wojtek was barred from taking his much-loved showers due to the shortage of water, a precious commodity in the Middle East. The door of the bath house was locked but he would hang around outside.  On this day he spotted the unlocked shower door, and upon entering he found a man hiding in the showers whose screams alerted the camp guards.

Wojtek 2
Wojtek wrestling his comrade. Courtesy of the Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum

In 1944 the Polish Corps was transferred from Egypt to Italy to fight in the Italian campaign with the British forces. To embark on the ship Wojtek needed a special permit. Convinced by the argument that he contributed hugely to strengthening the fighting spirit of the soldiers, the British authorities approved his travel warrant just in time for him to join the Company on their voyage to Italy. However, the height of his fame came during the Battle of Monte Cassino in May 1944. Wojtek helped his comrades carry artillery shells to the front line. He watched what the soldiers were doing and stood upright with his front paws outstretched, indicating his intentions.  He carried the large boxes of ammunition from the supply lorries to the artillery positions even under heavy cannon fire.  After the battle Wojtek featured on the 22nd Company logo showing a bear carrying a shell. The Company fought in the battle of Bologna in April 1945, the last combat in the Italian campaign.  A year later they finally sailed for Glasgow and this time Wojtek was officially on the passenger list.

Wojtek 3
A happy Wojtek, Italy, October 1944. Courtesy of the Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum

Wojtek had spent one year at Winfield Camp in Scotland together with his mates before the company was demobbed, and was  then transferred to Edinburgh Zoo in 1947. Though he was the main attraction for numerous visitors to the zoo he greatly missed his comrades in arms and always reacted joyfully to the Polish language. He died there peacefully in November 1963.

  Wojtek 4Wojtek’ statue in the Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum. Courtesy of the PISM.

Magda Szkuta, Curator East & SE European Collections


References/Further reading

Wieslaw A. Lasocki, Wojtek spod Monte Cassino (London, 1968). X.631/769

Geoffrey Morgan and W.A. Lasocki, Soldier Bear (London, 1970). X.809/8265

Krystyna Mikula-Deegan, Private Wojtek – soldier bear (Kibworth, 2011). H.201/6712

Wojtek album (London, 2013) LC.37.a.1031                                      

 

19 November 2015

From Poetry to Songs: Hare, Rabbit and Sirens in Apollinaire’s Bestiary

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Guillaume Apollinaire (1880-1918) moved to Paris and started publishing poems, articles and art reviews in the 1900s. He was close to artists like Pablo Picasso, André Derain, Maurice de Vlaminck or le Douanier Rousseau. In 1911, he published a deluxe edition of his Bestiaire, in 120 copies, composed of 30 poems illustrated with engravings by Raoul Dufy. 18 of these poems had previously appeared in 1908 in the journal La Phalange, under the title ‘La marchande des quatre saisons ou le Bestiaire mondain’.

Mediaeval interest in bestiaries often resided less in the naturalistic and physical descriptions of the animals and their behaviour, often fanciful, than on their symbolic and allegorical level. Although Apollinaire does not put the emphasis on the didactic aspect of the bestiary, his work is infused with both Classical and Biblical or religious references. The poet, who chose his pseudonym after Apollo, God of Music and Poetry, gave his 1911 Bestiary, the subtitle ‘Cortege d’Orphée’. The collection of poems is introduced and guided by the character of Orpheus, emblem of the poet himself, who addresses directly the reader, drawing his attention to the text, the images, and the animals, in four poems introducing and accompanying the collection. The poet plays on the concept of the animal series and on the combination of text and engravings. He accentuates the brevity of each entry, as each poem is only formed of a quatrain.

1lievrea
The Hare, from Guillaume Apollinaire, Le bestiaire, ou Cortège d’Orphée, illustrated with woodcuts by Raoul Dufy (New York, 1977), British Library LR.430.e.10

In medieval bestiaries, and at least since Isidore of Seville, the hare is characterised by its velocity, associated with timidity and fearfulness, while the rabbit is known both for its fertility and the fact that it is hunted by dogs. In Raoul Dufy’s engraving, a hare bouncing in an open field appears encircled in a medallion formed by a horn, while the frame is completed with gun and whip and with two hunting dogs. In Apollinaire’s poem, both the hare and the rabbit are associated with love, sexual intercourse and fertility. The poem is formulated as an advice to the reader, who should not be like the hare and the lover, both ‘lascif[s] et peureux’, but should aim to reach the fertility and productivity of the doe, transposed in the field of imagination and intellectual creativity: ‘Mais que toujours ton cerveau soit / La hase pleine qui concoit’.

As for the rabbit, it is presented by Apollinaire as a symbol for the beloved, and the archaic or literary use of the French word  ‘connin’ for rabbit, reminds us of the medieval association of the animal with the female organ (‘con’), in the context of the love chase, an aspect often playfully illustrated in manuscript marginalia (as in this example).

3Carte_du_tendre_300dpiFrançois Chauveau, ‘Carte du Tendre’,  from Madeleine de Scudéry, Clélie, Histoire romaine, première partie (Paris 1654) Paris, BNF, Cartes et Plans, GE F PIECE- 11777

The use of allegory in the bestiary is reinforced in ‘Le Lapin’ by Apollinaire’s reference to the 17th century engraving of the ‘Carte du Tendre’. In La Clélie, a romantic novel by Madame de Scudéry, this allegorical map provides a topographical representation of the country or journey of love with all its delights and pitfalls. In the 1911 Bestiaire, Dufy’s engraving shows the rabbit in front of a peaceful hilly countryside with plants and trees and a church in the background (below).

4lapina

The only imaginary creature retained by Apollinaire is the siren, actually presented as a group: ‘les Sirènes’. They are preceded by a representation of Orpheus accompanied by a warning against flying Sirens (‘volantes Sirènes’, ‘oiseaux maudits’) and their deadly songs. In antiquity, they were half women half birds, reputed to charm sailors with their songs and lull them into sleep before killing them, but in the middle ages, sirens also started to be depicted and pictured as women with a fish tail.

  5Sloane 278 f.47 sirenlg
Mediaeval Siren and Onocentaur (man/donkey hybrid), Bestiary,  British Library MS Sloane 278. f. 147

The chant of Apollinaire’s Sirens can be contrasted with that of the poet, whose love and song has the power to raise Eurydice from the dead, or that of the pure and sexless angels in Paradise.  In both the Orpheus and the Sirens’ engravings, the sirens bear female heads and breasts, but also wings and lion arms, their body ending in a tripartite fish tail in the second engraving. This maritime aspect is highlighted in the corresponding poem, where the enticing song of the temptresses gives way to wails founded in tediousness (‘ennui’).

 
6sirenesa
Sirens from Apollinaire's Bestiaire

The position of the poet himself becomes ambiguous when his identification with Orpheus leads to an association with the sirens, as he depicts himself as the sea, full of ‘vaissaux chantants’ and ‘voix machinées’, in a curious conflagration of the tricky and enticing sirens and the ships and crews which become their victims. While in Orpheus’ poem, death was associated with the sirens’ songs, in the sirens’ verses, age may account for the voices haunting the poet’s mind, and his experience may be related to the use and mastery of crafty devices in the range of his poetical work.

 
7orpheea2
Orpheus from Apollinaire’s Bestiaire

After the First World War, without consultation, both Louis Durey  and Francis Poulenc, members of the Groupe des six  (a group of composers close to the poetic avant-garde circles, Jean Cocteau in particular) set Apollinaire’s Bestiaire  to music. In 1919, Durey produced melodies for song and piano for the 26 animal poems of the Bestiaire (Music Collections G.1270.b.(16.)), while the four Orpheus sections remained spoken. A later version, produced in 1958, is set for voice and orchestra. Poulenc set 12 of Apollinaire’s poems to music, although following Georges Auric’s advice, he finally retained only six of them: Le Dromadaire, La Chèvre du Tibet, La Sauterelle, Le Dauphin, L’Ecrevisse and La Carpe, a work which gave him notoriety and had a long lasting success (Music Collections H.1846.kk.(2.)).

8001a
Record sleeve showing Le groupe des six (Le chant du monde, 1968); the recording includes Poulenc’s
Bestiaire, sung by Irène Joachim

Later musical adaptations include Claude Ballif’s  30 poems for soprano or baritone and piano (1945-1948), Jean Absil’s Cinq petites pièces pour quatuor vocal mixte (1964), Alan Mills’ 6 poems for baritone and piano (1985) , John Carbon’s 3 poems for soprano, horn, cello and piano (2002), and Régis Campo’s 11 poems for soprano and orchestra (2008). The British Library Sound Archive holds many audio recordings of Poulenc’s songs (from the ‘Groupe des six’ to contemporary adaptations), several recordings of Durey’s Bestiaire and one of Absil’s, recorded by the Chorale universitaire de Grenoble, which can be listened to in the British Library Reading Rooms.

Irène Fabry-Tehranchi, Curator, Romance Collections

References / further reading

Francis Steegmuller, Apollinaire: Poet among the Painters (London, 1963).

David Badke, The Medieval Bestiary: Animals in the Middle Ages  (online resource)

Debra Hassig, Medieval Bestiaries: Text, Image, Ideology (Cambridge, 1995). YC.1996.b.2164

Christian Heck and Cordonnier Rémy. Le bestiaire médiéval : l'animal dans les manuscrits enluminés (Paris, 2011) LF.31.b.9154

Francis Klingender, Animals in Art and Thought to the End of the Middle Ages, ed. by Evelyn Antal and John Harthan (London, 1971). X.322/1206.

L'humain et l'animal dans la France médiévale (XIIe-XVe s.) = Human and animal in medieval France (12th-15th c.), sous la direction d'Irène Fabry-Tehranchi et Anna Russakoff. (Amsterdam, 2014)  YF.2014.a.22449

 

30 October 2015

The ‘Esbatement moral des animaux’ : a 16th century French adaptation of Aesopian fables and their illustration

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The current Animal Tales exhibition includes a copy of the Esbatement moral, Des animaux (British Library C.125.d.23), an anonymous French verse adaptation of Aesop’s fables in sonnet form. It was published in Antwerp in 1578 by the engraver Philippe Galle (1537-1612). Little can be inferred about the identity of the anonymous author, who claims to be ‘tout nouveau en la langue Françoise’, apart from the dedication to Charles de Croÿ and his connections with Philippe Galle himself  and Pierre Heyns, writer of the verse preface, and part of the community of Antwerp humanists. Heyns’s preface refers to ‘des Heroiques vers / En Sonets bien troussez... / A Londres entonnez et finiz en Anvers’, pointing to a cultural relation between Flanders and England, which is also relevant to the illustrator, Marcus Gheeraerts the Elder.

 01 Esbatement
Esbatement moral des animaux
(Antwerp, 1578); image from a copy in the Bibliothèque nationale de France, RES P-YE-550, available online via Gallica

This work shows the interest in Aesopian fables within Flemish humanistic circles in the Renaissance. It expresses the desire to combine classical wisdom with the Christian message, using text and images to support this didactic purpose.

The title of the collection, ‘Esbatement moral’, or ‘moral entertainment’, covers the double ambition of the fables, docere et placere, to instruct and to please. Staging animals to represent human behaviours, foibles and virtues, is part of the appeal of these short didactic tales. The preface immediately plays on this double register, as man is characterised first by religion and second by the Aristotelian category of animal rationabile, as opposed to that of bestia. Interestingly, no reference is made to Aesop, either in the title or in the introduction: at the bottom of the frontispiece, a quotation from Psalm 148 exhorts animals to praise the Lord. The purpose of the book is clearly the didactic dissemination of a Christian moral.

The frontispiece shows animals on a theatrical stage in front of a curtain while men and women are attending the performance. Although the animals are represented in a naturalistic manner, the cushion used as seat by the lion, king of the animals and the fool’s outfit worn by the monkey contribute to their anthropomorphism. Animals are privileged actors on the stage of the theatrum mundi: a century later, Jean de La Fontaine presents his collection of fables as ‘Une ample comédie à cent actes divers, / Et dont la scène est l’univers’ (Fables, V, 1, 1668).

Around the central illustration, medallions containing portraits of individual animals are interspersed with Latin inscriptions allowing the reader to identify the protagonists of specific biblical or classical stories (Eve and the serpent, Balaam’s ass, the speaking dog of Tarquin the Proud...). This sets up a biblical and classical cultural horizon for this collection of fables, even if the core language of the collection is not Latin but French.

02 Esbatement
Dedication of the Esbatement moral des animaux, f. A2.

The Esbatement is dedicated to Charles III de Croÿ, prince de Chimay (1560-1612), a keen collector of books and artworks. The author highlights his religious and educational purpose: in his dedication, the expected association of fables with oral tales and classical fiction, gives way to references to the Gospel and the Holy Writ, mentioning ‘figures’, ‘similitudes’ and ‘paraboles’ as means to access the truth, ‘vive verite’.

The Aesopian sonnets are introduced by Pierre Heyns (1537-1598), who wrote and translated several didactic and pedagogical works. His  preface is directed to the ‘Spectateur et Lecteur’, highlighting the essential combination of the visual and textual aspects of the book.

03 EsbatementVerse preface by Pierre Heyns, from Esbatement moral des animaux, f. A2v

The author also considers the images as essential: his dedication mentions ‘plusieurs nouvelles figures... et divers passages de l’Escriture Sainte, accommodés aux figures et sonets...’. For the author, the biblical quotations seem as important as the fable itself.

04 1567 01aa
Edewaerd de Dene, De warachtighe fabulen der dieren (Bruges, 1567). Image from the Bibliothèque nationale de France copy , RES-YI-19, via Gallica

The artist, Marcus Gheeraerts the Elder, had illustrated a collection of Aesopian fables, De warachtighe fabulen der dieren (‘True animal fables’), translated into Dutch by Edewaerd de Dene (British Library 640.l.22 is a collection of engravings from this edition). The Dutch edition has a different frontispiece (above) and is introduced by the engraver and printer Hubert Goltz.

A preface to De warachtighe fabulen… by Lucas d’Heere, a Flemish painter, poet and writer was used as model for Pierre Heyns’s foreword to the French edition. The 1578 Esbatement des animaux also reused 107 etchings from this edition, with 18 additional illustrations, also by Gheeraerts.

06 1567 03a
Durch version of   ‘The Lion and the Mouse’, from De warachtighe fabulen der dieren, ff. 202-203.

In the Flemish copy (above), the illustration of ‘The Lion and the Mouse’ features on the left page, preceded by a motto and followed by two Bible quotations: one from Proverbs 27, and the other from Ecclesiastes 3 (the choice of quotations in the French version is different). The Dutch fable is also versified, but in alexandrines, and is longer. The moral is set distinctively from the narration by the use of an indented paragraph and of italics, and it is preceded by a pointing hand, a manicula.

07
French version of  ‘The Lion and the Mouse’, from Esbatement moral des animaux, ff. 11v-12.

In ‘Du Lion et le Rat’, the verse fable, placed on the left page, faces an etching on the right page, framed by a devise on top (‘Chascun peut faire recompense’) and a Bible quotation at the bottom (Ecclus. 12:1,2). In the illustration of ‘the Lion and the Mouse’, the lion is depicted with a lot of movement and vivacity, at the forefront of the image: he is trying to untangle himself from the net wrapped around him. He stands on his back legs, tail up, head contorted and expressing anguish, with an open jaw which reveals his tongue and teeth, and an aggrieved look. His confusion contrasts with the calm of the mouse in the bottom left of the image, who starts biting into the thread.

The sonnets follow the rhyme scheme set up by the French poet Clément Marot (1496-1544): two quatrains of alexandrines in enclosed rhymes (abba) followed by a couplet (cc) and a last quatrain of enclosed rhymes (deed). However, visually and syntactically, the poem appears as a sequence of two quatrains and two tercets, in the tradition of the Italian or Petrarchan sonnet. The last tercet is an ideal location for the moral of the fable, which echoes the two sentential statements on the facing page.

This collection of Aesopian fables in French can appeal to different kinds of audience: readers will enjoy this poetical rewriting of the fables in the short sonnet form, but the author first puts the emphasis on the moral and Christian instruction they provide, along with the lively illustrations which will appeal to both younger and older readers.

Irène Fabry-Tehranchi, Curator, Romance Collections

References / further reading:

Edward Hodnett, Marcus Gheeraerts the Elder of Bruges, London, and Antwerp (Utrecht, 1971) X.421/5858.

Hollstein’s Dutch & Flemish etchings, engravings and woodcuts (1450 - 1700) (Rotterdam;  Amsterdam, 1949-2001) L.R.419.bb.2  

Manfred Stefan Sellink, Philips Galle (1537-1612) : engraver and print publisher in Haarlem and Antwerp (Rotterdam, 2000) YA.1999.b.4195

 

 

21 September 2015

Joannes Stradanus and his Hunting Scenes

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The Flemish artist Jan van der Straet, also known as Joannes Stradanus (1523- 1605), spent most of his working life in Florence where his enormous output included religious paintings, frescoes in the Palazzo Vecchio, tapestry cartoons, and also designs for various series of prints.

CM STRADANUS Fig 1 wierix BMAN00067790_001_l
Portrait of Johannes Stradanus ca 1580. Print made by Johannes Wierix  after J. Stradanus.  British Museum 1879,0510.428  (©Trustees of the British Museum. CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Between 1566 and 1577 Stradanus executed preparatory drawings for a series of hunting scenes  for tapestries to decorate the Medici villa at Poggio a Caiano near Florence. The success of these led Flemish publishers to commission  hunting scenes by Stradanus for engravings, an indication that the artist’s fame had by then spread north of the Alps. Six large-format engravings with scenes representing the tapestries at Poggio a Caiano were published by the renowned print publisher Hieronymus Cock in 1570, and in 1574 and 1576 Volxcken Diericx, Cock’s widow, published two series prints based on the same designs but without their ornamental borders.

CM Stradanus boar hunt
Wild Boar Hunt with Nets. 1570 (Series of hunting scenes with borders). Engraving. Published by Hieronymus Cock, after Jan van der Straet.  British Museum 1870,0514.1233 (©Trustees of the British Museum. CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Stradanus had by then begun his collaboration with Philips Galle (1537-1612), another engraver and print dealer who had earlier worked in Cock’s workshop. This resulted in two new series of hunting scenes. The first, which numbered 44 prints, was published in 1578-80 and some 15 years later an additional 61 prints were produced, providing a greater variety of scenes. Both series were combined into a single collection  published in 1596 as Venationes, ferarum, arium, piscium [Hunts of wild animals, birds and fish]. Several engravers were engaged on this ambitious publication which was reprinted several times during the 17th century by Galle’s heirs.

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Title page of Venationes Ferarum, Avium, Piscium. British Library C.107.k.7

The British Library has two copies of the work, 1899.cc.71 and C.107.k.7. Both  have the same engraved title page, on which the name of Joannes Galle  has replaced that of  his father Philips, as it does on all the plates. This edition was first published in 1634 but as the date does not appear on the title page of either of our copies, perhaps they are later reissues. Judging by the quality of the plates, 1899.cc.71 is the earlier of the two. It is incomplete – a selection of 38 plates – whereas  C.107.k.7 has all 104 plates. 

The prints are approximately 20 x 26.5 cm. They are grouped into thematically related depictions of animal and bird hunts, fishing, scenes from history or legend, fights between animals, or between wild animals and men in arenas. At the bottom of each picture there are verses explaining its subject. The examples below  give an idea of the great variety of subjects and their treatment, and of Stradanus’s inventiveness and exuberance. The landscapes, drawn following Flemish and Italian pictorial traditions, are a reminder both of the artist’s country of origin and of  his adopted country.

Scenes from history and legend

CM STRADANUS Fig 4Whale Hunt by the Emperor Claudius at Ostia. Engraved by Adriaen Collaert [Plate 86]. Claudius fought a killer whale which was trapped in the harbour, an event witnessed by Pliny the Elder. The whale sinks a boat with a gush of water from its mouth.

Animal hunts

CM STRADANUS Fig 5Hunting panthers using mirrors. Engraved by Jan Collaert II  [Plate 16]. In the foreground panthers are lured into traps which contain mirrors; on a wooded outcrop above, huntsmen wait to spring the traps; to right, other panthers are caught in nets; a group of hunstmen, with spears, approach along a riverbank.

CM STRADANUS Fig 6Gazelle hunt.  Engraved by  Joannes Galle [Plate 51]. One of the most spectacular engravings in the collection.  At right foreground a group of hunters are preparing for the hunt, two of them putting on their climbing shoes. At left mid-ground, hunters armed with spears, accompanied by dogs, chase gazelles up cliffs; on the opposite side of the ravine, men drive the gazelles off the cliff.

Bird hunts

CM STRADANUS Fig 7Hunting of reed warblers with owls. Engraved by Jan Collaert II [Plate 68]. Three owls perch on poles tethered with cords and a fourth stands on a cage. They attract the warblers which fly down to mock them. Lying on the ground are hunters camouflaged as bushes (their hands and faces can be seen) holding lime-twigs on which the birds land and become trapped. In the foreground, a couple is handing dead birds to an older woman who is putting them in a basket; a little boy observes the hunt.

CM STRADANUS Fig 8Catching swallows from rooftops using discs. Engraved by Joannes Galle [Plate 85]. One of the rare cityscapes in the series. In the foreground, boys catch swallows from the roofs and balconies of buildings using circular discs suspended from long sticks; groups of figures watch them from an Italianate square.

CM STRADANUS Fig 9Beekeeping. Engraved by Joannes Galle [Plate 83]. Beekeeping is curiously included as an example of bird hunting. A man on a ladder scrapes bees from the trunk of a tree into a hive; another figure supports the base of the ladder; two figures beat pans with sticks , and a third watches a swarm of bees flying above. A row of hives can be seen to right.

Fishing

CM STRADANUS Fig 10Fishing with dip nets in the river Arno. Engraved by Joannes Galle [Plate 96].  In the right foreground a river god, holding a cornucopia, is seated upon a lion representing Florence; fishermen wade in the river Arno with dip nets; to left and right, the city of Florence flanks the river.

Chris Michaelides, Curator Romance Studies

References/further reading

Jan van der Straet, Philippus Gallæus, Cornelis van Kiel  Venationes Ferarum, avium, piscium, pugnæ bestiariorum et mutuæ bestiarum. … . ([Antwerp, after 1634?]). 1899.cc.71.

Jan van der Straet, Joannes Gallæus, Cornelis van Kiel, Venationes ferarum, auium, piscium….  (Antwerp,  [after 1634?]). C.107.k.7.

Alessandra Baroni & Manfred Sellink, Stradanus, 1523-1605 : court artist of the Medici  (Turnhout, 2012). LD.31.b.3160

Alessandra Baroni Vannucci,  Jan Van der Straet detto Giovanni Stradano: flandrus pictor et inventor.  (Milan, 1997).  LB.31.b.19393

Manfred Sellink, Philips Galle (1537-1612): engraver and print publisher in Haarlem and Antwerp.  ([Amsterdam?], 1997).  YA. 1999.b.4195.

Johannes Stradanus, compiled by Marjolein Leesberg; edited by Huigen Leeflang. (Amsterdam, 2008). YF.2009.b.2177

Yvonne Bleyerveld, Albert J. Elen, Judith Niessen, Bosch to Bloemaert : early Netherlandish drawings in Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam (Paris,  [2014]). YF.2014.b.1669. 

18 September 2015

‘Fables of another type’: some Animal Tales from Russia

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Very few people now know the name of Ivan Ivanovich Bashmakov (?-1865) or his pen-name Ivan Vasenko. Even fewer can remember reading anything by him. A prolific Russian writer, he published novels, fairy tales, short stories, books for children, and even patriotic tracts (e.g., Enemies of the Holy Russia about the siege of Sebastopol), primers and textbooks for learners.

In literary encyclopaedias Bashmakov is described as an author of popular literature for common people. Critics agree that he was best known for his fables in verses (first published in 1854), which although not masterpieces, were lively, witty and funny.

The tradition of fables had been established in Russia by Mikhail Lomonosov, Ivan Krylov, Ivan Dmitriev and others, and Bashmakov successfully followed their steps, although supplied his book Semeinye prikliucheniia zhivotnykh (‘Animals’ family stories’; British Library 12304.c.8) with a subtitle: ‘basni inogo roda’ (‘fables of another type’). The book consists of two parts with a small appendix of three fables ‘Mysli i chuvstva rastenii’ (‘Thoughts and Feelings of plants’).

Bashmakov’s imagination took him on a trip of discovery of human features in almost every living creature: Goat’s valour, Bear’s taste, Crawfish’s  heroism, Bumblebee’s wish, Cat’s melancholy, Piglet’s annoyance, Cricket’s  dignity, Jackdaw’s gossip, Sparrow’s anger, Mouse’s impulse, etc. However, only two out of four lithographed images illustrate animals other than perfectly domesticated cats and dogs. Here is one:

Image-1

Although the fable tells a story of a Hare who, having overheard a conversation between an Elephant and a Lion, realised that all have their own weaknesses (as Lion was afraid of mice, he was afraid of dogs), it looks as if the illustrator decided to ignore the ‘main hero’ altogether. The two animals are of the same size and it is obvious that the artist had been trained to draw lions as they appeared in the European visual tradition, but had almost no idea how to approach drawing an elephant. Maybe, that is why the elephant is well hidden in the bushes?

Image-2

The picture above  illustrates the fable called ‘Snake’s tenderness’. You can probably guess already that instead of a kiss for fantastic singing a Skylark got poisoned.

In the pictures that accompany the tales, ‘Dog’s instructions’ about an old female Dog recalling a story of her love and ‘Dog’s fate’ that, by comparing cats’ and dogs’ life in one household, concludes that we should to be happy with what we have, not wishing to obtain another fate, people clearly dominate the scene.

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 Maybe, the artist really liked cats, as he supplied ‘Dog’s fate’ with one more picture, featuring a cat:

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Quite unlike other images where animals were portrayed without any impersonation that was prompted by the text of the fables, only one cat in the whole book looks like a lady.

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Can you imagine that this lady-Kitty in the fable ‘Cat’s sensibility’ interrupts her aria to her beloved Pussycat to catch a mouse? Oh, no!!! But will you drop your love song when your iPhone notifies you of new pictures on friend’s Instagram?

Katya Rogatchevskaia, Lead Curator East European Collections

 

16 September 2015

Bruto, a clever dog from the 1490s

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Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo (1478-1557) is best known nowadays as the author of the Historia general y natural de las Indias (1535, second edition 1547),  a pioneering account of the history and natural history of the Americas.

He is also of interest as a writer and courtier whose career spanned the Atlantic.  He was also obviously something of a dog-lover.

The focus of today’s blog is the Libro de la cámara del príncipe don Juan.  This is a very full account of the personnel and activities of the court of Prince John (born 1478), son of the Catholic Monarchs.  John died young in 1497 at the age of 18.  The Libro (first manuscript version 1547-48, revised a year later) was prepared by Oviedo for the guidance of Prince Philip (later King Philip II).

One detail which Oviedo added in the second version was this account of Bruto (Brutus), the prince’s greyhound. 

He had black and white patches.  He was not a handsome beast, as his father must have been a mastiff, and so he did not have a pretty head, but he was strongly built and not very tall.   But he was clever, as dogged as could be and marvellously quick at the attack.       

GreyhoundA contemporary greyhound.  No stain of the mastiff here (British Library Royal MS 16 F II)

When on the road or hunting, the prince would deliberately drop a glove or handkerchief and once they had gone on a league or so, would say, “Bruto, bring me my glove.”  And the dog brought it to him in his mouth, as pristine and clean of dribble as if a man had brought it; and this regardlesss of whether the terrain was open or thickly covered in trees.

A number of men could be fifteen, twenty or thirty paces away, and the prince would say, “Bruto, bring me that man.”  And he would go and take him by the arm, very gently and without sinking his teeth.  And when the prince said, “Not him,” Bruto left him and fetched another.  And when he said, “Not him, but the one with the green, or grey cape,” as he was commanded so he did, in such as way that it seemed he knew his colours, like a person of good judgment.  He was a marvellous tracker.

When the prince was buried at dawn on 5 October 1497 in the Cathedral of Salamanca, Bruto lay down at the head of the tomb, and whenever they took him away he returned to his place; so that finally they supplied him with a cushion to lie on, day and night, and they fed and watered him there, and when he went out to perform his necessities, he returned to his cushion.  When the King and Queen left for their daughter’s weddding in Portugal, on their return they found him there still.

The prince’s final resting place was at Avila.

  SepulcroPrincipeJuan
The tomb of Prince John at Avila (Image from Wikimedia Commons)           

Writing in 1549 of events of 1497, Oviedo obviously found Brutus as admrable as Greyfriars Bobby was to be four and a half centuries later, an exemplar of canine loyalty above the bestial standards of the late medieval court.

Barry Taylor, Curator Romance Studies

References

Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo, Libro de la cámara del príncipe don Juan, ed. Santiago Fabregat Barrios (Valencia, 2006), pp. 135-37.

Libro de la Cámara real del Príncipe Don Juan, é officios de su casa é seruiçio ordinario, ed. J. M. Escudero de la Peña (Madrid, 1870) Ac.8886/7.

Angel Alcalá and Jacobo Sanz, Vida y muerte del Príncipe Don Juan : historia y literatura (Valladolid, 1999)  YA.2002.a.11935

 

14 September 2015

Champfleury and his Cats

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Champfleury, pseudonym of Jules Husson Fleury (1821-89), is little read nowadays,  though his name is familiar to students of French 19th-century culture because of the variety of his interests and activities, both literary and artistic. A prominent member of bohemian circles in Paris in the 1840s, a novelist and short story writer, he also championed the painter Gustave Courbet and realism in art and literature, and played a key role in the ‘rediscovery’ of the Le Nain brothers, 17th-century painters of ‘reality’ who, like Champfleury himself, were born in Laon in Picardy. He had a lifelong interest in ‘popular’ arts  and wrote on a wide variety of subjects including  pantomime, caricature,  popular imagery, Japanese prints and ceramics. For the last 17 years of his life he was the curator of the Manufacture nationale de Sèvres.

Champfleury’s most  popular work was his book on cats, published in 1869.  Les Chats, histoire, moeurs, observations, anecdotes was advertised by a poster with a lithograph by Manet, Le rendez-vous des chats (‘The cats’ rendezvous’), showing two cats on a rooftop engaged in a mating game. The black cat was no doubt a reminder of the cat that featured prominently in Manet’s Olympia, the painting that had caused a scandal when first displayed in 1865. Manet’s lithograph was also used on the poster for the second edition of Champfleury’s work a few months later and an engraving of it appears in the book itself. 

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Poster with a lithograph by Manet, advertising Champfleury’s Les Chats
(Image from Wikimedia Commons)

The popularity of the book was such that it was reprinted twice in quick succession and two deluxe editions followed in 1870 with several additional texts and illustrations including, in the fifth edition, an etching by Manet, Le Chat et les fleurs (‘Cat and Flowers’), showing a cat on a balcony near a ceramic jardinière, an image influenced by Japanese prints and also a reference to Champfleury’s interest in ceramics. [Fig.3]

CM Champfleury 3 1870 ed bpt6k1040588b
Edouard Manet, Le Chat et les fleurs. Etching  in  Les Chats (5th edition, 1870)

The book’s 23 short chapters (34 in the de luxe editions) and numerous appendices look at cats in ancient civilizations, popular traditions, heraldry, art and literature. There are also chapters on friends, enemies and painters of cats. It is profusely illustrated  with  full-page illustrations, decorated letters and vignettes, and several chapters have delightful tailpieces, several of them copied from a sheet of studies of cats  by Hiroshige (which Champfleury erroneously attributes to Hokusai).

CM Champfleury 4 Hiroshige 2  8be00e1411f3487b038ef0a8c9782387Ando Hiroshige , Sheet of cat studies from Ryusai gafu. ca 1836

The frontispiece of the original 1868 edition is a drawing by the Swiss artist Gottfried Mind (1768-1814), ‘the Raphael of cats’, a nickname given to him (according to Champfleury) by Mme Vigée Lebrun.  Mind painted an infinite variety of cats and he would sit for hours drawing with a cat sitting on his lap and two or three kittens perched on his shoulders; a general massacre of cats in 1809 in his native Berne was the greatest tragedy of his life. Another Mind drawing in the text (below right) has the elegance and grace of a Matisse line drawing.

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Images of cats by Gottfried Mind, frontispiece and p. 142 of the 1869 edition of Les Chats

Champfleury’s erudite interests are much in evidence in the book in the inclusion, for example, of two devices of the Sessa family of printers, active in Venice in the 16th century, showing a cat.

 

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Sessa’s printers device, Les Chats (1869) p. 152

 There are also examples of cats in heraldry, in legends and, above all, in popular prints. They include a 17th-century French woodcut showing a concert of cats in a fairground, their trainer surrounded by cats reading from scores headed ‘miaou’ and a Russian lubok colour print showing ‘The Mice  Burying the Cat’, a typical example of the world turned upside down.


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‘La Musique des Chats’ [above] and ‘The mice burying the cat’ [below], from Les Chats (1870)

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An impressive full-page Japanese print (below) showing  a composite head of a cat is another example of the author’s interest in Japanese art.

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The numerous  portraits of writers and artists who were cat-lovers include Montaigne, Chateaubriand, Hoffmann and Baudelaire, but pride of place is given to Victor Hugo and his cat Chanoine.

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A vignette of Chanoine in the first edition became the frontispiece of the de luxe editions (above) with a note in Hugo’s hand quoting Joseph Méry’s dictum “God made the cat to give man the pleasure of stroking a tiger.”

CM Champfleury 13 P1070606

While a drawing of a cat by Delacroix (above) almost looks like a self portrait, cat’s ears are sprouting on Champfleury’s own head in the final illustration in the book, a humorous portrait of the author in his study, poring over a book about cats and observed by a cat perched on a bookcase behind him. 

Chris Michaelides, Curator Romance Studies

References:

Champfleury Les Chats. Histoire-mœurs-observations-anecdotes.  Troisième édition. (Paris, 1869).  7207.aa.23; 

Quatrième édition. (Paris, 1870). 7208.aa.10. 

1869 edition available online from the Bibliothèque nationale de France via Gallica

Luce Abélès, Champfleury: l'art pour le peuple. (Paris, 1990). ZV.9.a.67(39)

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A cat-eared Champfleury in his study, portrait by Edmond Morin from Les Chats (1869), p. 287.

07 September 2015

The Lion, the Wolf and the Wardrobe: Smil Flaška’s council of Bohemian birds and beasts

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As we commemorate the 800th anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta, it is interesting to reflect that England was not the only country in mediaeval Europe where the interests of the king clashed with those of his barons. When he succeeded his father Charles IV as king of Bohemia in 1361, Wenceslas IV faced a similar situation. Like his brother-in-law Richard II in England, he was of a temperamental disposition which did not make it easy for him to come to terms with the nobles who were concerned about his attempts to encroach on their ancient rights and organized themselves into a union of lords, the Panská jednota, to combat them. In 1402 Wenceslas was taken captive, leading to prolonged negotiations for his release and fighting between the nobility and the mainly German inhabitants of the royal towns. He was clearly in need of some sound advice about how to rule his turbulent kingdom.

It came from a somewhat surprising source – a man with a personal grudge against the Crown. Little is known about the early life of Smil Flaška of Pardubice except that he studied at the University of Prague in the 1350s, and in 1394 was appointed chief notary of the land court of the Panská jednota. It was also around 1394 that he composed the allegorical poem Nová rada (The New Council), the first example of its kind in mediaeval Czech literature.

Flaska, Nova Rada 1950 Ac.800.ba.(9)Cover of a modern edition of Nová rada (Prague, 1950). British Library Ac.800.ba(9).

Beast allegories were already widespread throughout Europe, both in Latin and the vernacular languages, from the tales of Reynard the Fox to Chaucer’s Parliament of Fowls (c.1380), written to mark the marriage of Wenceslas’s sister Anne of Bohemia to Richard II. They were the successors to the classical fables of Aesop and Phaedrus,  in which amusing anecdotes about the follies of the animal protagonists could be used to point a moral which might have been unacceptable if expressed in another guise. This tradition was picked up in France by Gervais du Bus in a satire attacking the corrupt reign of Philippe IV, Le Roman de Fauvel (c.1310), where the run-down nag Fauvel represents the shabby condition of church and state.

Flaska, King LionThe king of the beasts, from an edition of Nová rada iIlustrated by Antonín Strnadl (Prague, 1940). Cup.502.aa.12.

Smil’s poem begins with the young king of beasts (recalling the double-tailed lion of Bohemia) summoning a council of forty-four birds and beasts to advise him. In a series of speeches each presents his views, based on the natural characteristics of their species. The beaver, for instance, advises the lion to build his castles of wood in watery places, a reference to Wenceslas’s well-known fondness for taking baths. The swallow, however, counters:

No, do not build in marsh or mire,
But where the air is healthy, higher;
With stone and mortar, dry and fast,
So what you build is sure to last.

Every aspect of kingly activity is covered, from the lynx’s tips on military strategy to the camel’s advice on charity towards those in misfortune and the elephant’s on the moral upbringing of the royal children. Not everyone is so high-minded, though; the peacock, understandably, urges the king to dress in a style more suited to his station (Wenceslas was notorious for slipping out in humble garb to enjoy the low-life pleasures of the town), and the horse enthusiastically agrees, advocating the splendours of the tournament surrounded by richly bedecked lords and ladies (though we may detect a satirical note in his decidedly unheroic account of the unhorsed knights rolling in the dust, shedding teeth and imploring aid with cries of ‘Rette, rette!’ – revealing their alien origins and tastes).

Flaska, Camel and Elephant            The elephant and the camel, from Cup.502.aa.12.            

Courtierly self-interest is also evident in the recommendations of the fox (if the king needs advisers at all, surely smaller ones with their wits about them are the best?) and the cat:

And, in addition, you’ll need spies
To watch at night with shrewd sharp eyes;
Murderers and thieves are apt, I think,
Softly in darkness to creep and slink;
But spies will seize them right on the stair
And drag them to court, for punishment there.
           (Translations by Susan Reynolds/Halstead)

The wolf, too, with his shoulders mantled in grey hair suggesting a cowl, symbolizes the rapacity of certain monastic orders, with an interpolated reference to the falsification of documents which caused Smil’s ancestral estates to be forfeited to the king, one of several cases where Wenceslas deprived noble families of their lands by the feudal right of reversion. He is also associated with the much-resented ‘new men’ whom Wenceslas had taken onto his council and allowed to buy positions in the land court, to the fury of the barons.

Flaska, Leopard, Bear and WolfThe leopard, bear and wolf from Cup.502.aa.12.

Perhaps the author could have used the lynx’s wise advice about how best to avoid an ambush; having taken an active part in the fighting on the side of the nobility, he was fatally wounded on 13 August 1403 during the siege of the royalist town Kutná Hora.

Smil was too astute to speak out unambiguously and counsel the king directly, even in an allegory, but the results make for a colourful and entertaining poem which was one of the first to be published in a new edition with a parallel text in modern Czech by Jan Gebauer, a pioneer of mediaeval Czech studies, in 1876 (Ac.800/7). In 1940 a new translation by František Vrba was published by Orbis in Prague, illustrated with woodcuts by . They prove that though Smil Flaška’s poetry originated from a specific time of personal and national crisis, its appeal is timeless and universal.

Susan Halstead,  Content Specialist, Research Engagement.