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Let’s extend chicken week for one more glorious day with this exquisite ewer from Ancient China. This stoneware chicken vessel was made in the 4th or 5th century in the Eastern Jin Dynasty—the the most empire-like entity to emerge from the chaos and wars of the Three Kingdoms period (some might note that the hideous Three Kingdom Phase of Chinese history contains many valuable lesson about what happens when great nations start to bicker internally and form strongly antagonistic regional factions). The Jin dynasty was a pathetic broken shard of the glory that was the Han dynasty however they made fine chicken shaped ewers and this is one. I particularly like the chicken’s little tube-shaped beak/spout, anxious eyes, and abstruse comb. The piece is a sort or subtle celadon green with dark spots where dabs of iron oxide were deliberately sprinkled over the green glaze.
The red junglefowl (Gallus gallus) is a large tropical game fowl from the Phasianidae family. The junglefowl is closely related to pheasants, grouse, quail, partridges, and other such birds of the pheasant family. Wild junglefowl lives in a swath of south Asia and Indochina which runs from Tamil Nadu east to the southern parts of China and includes the Philippines and Indonesia.
These birds display strong sexual dimorphism. The hen tends to be a drab brownish color with a hint of red on her face—[erfect for blending into the dense jungle. Yet one look at the resplendent male with his iridescent green tail feathers, burnished yellow-orange back, and brilliant scarlet comb & wattle reveals a critical truth about the junglefowl: this is the progenitor chicken—the wild species from which all of our many beautiful and delicious chicken breeds descend. Geneticists tell us there may be a dash of gray junglefowl in there, but the domestic chicken is really effectively the same bird.
Indeed, the wild junglefowl has the same “cock-a-doodle-doo” call and the same truculent streak (but more so, to equip him for living in the tiger-haunted jungles of Indochina). Not only does he have excellent vision and a needle-sharp beak, the jungle rooster is also equipped with sickle-like spurs on his legs for self-protection and fighting for mates. Junglefowl are primarily seed eaters, but they opportunistically eat fruit, insects, small reptiles, and mammals. Cocks exhibit a courting behavior known as “tidbitting.” If they find a food source in the presence of a hen, they cluck coaxingly, bob their head, and pick up and drop the food in offering to the female.
Roosters live by Highlander’s “there can be only one” credo, and fight each other to the death if they come across each other. Junglefowl can apparently live longer than 15 years in captivity, but it doesn’t seem like they attain such old age often in the competitive and dangerous jungles where they occur naturally. They enjoy bathing in dust, are capable of short burst of flight to escape predators or reach roosting sites. The female exclusively broods her eggs and cares for the chicks.
Ironically purebred junglefowl are starting to vanish from the world due to hybridization with feral domestic chickens. But it takes an ornithologist to tell junglefowl from feral domestic chickens anyway (since they are effectively the same animal), so I am not going to stress about this too much. It seems like chickens at least might be here to stay awhile.
Saturday (January 28th, 2017) was Chinese New Year! It’s now year 4714, the year of the fire rooster! Holy smokes, that sounds like an intense animal. Ferrebeekeeper is going to celebrate the spring festival with a whole week devoted to chickens (especially roosters). I write a lot about other animals, but I owe a truly inconceivable debt to chickens, since chicken and rice are my staple foods. Indeed, I eat so many chickens that, I am probably going to get to the afterlife and find hundreds of thousands of angry spirit chickens waiting for me with flame eyes and needle sharp ghost beaks. A week of pro-chicken posts can only help when that day comes.
Tomorrow we will talk about the ancestral wild chickens—the red junglefowl of the subcontinent—and how they became humankind’s favorite bird (if you look at the scale of chicken farming, I think you will agree that no mighty eagle, or super-intelligent pet parrot can compare in our collective esteem). We have some other observations to make about chickens as domestic animals and some rooster anecdotes. A brain-damaged rooster was the animal sidekick in Disney’s latest (amazing) princess film. My parents have an ugly multicolor rooster who is somehow endearing himself to them. Before then though, so I have something on this first workday of, uh, 4714, I would like to present these 4 chicken themed flounders.
The one at the top is a fairly straightforward rooster, greeting the dawn from the back of a turbot which is swimming between classical urns and stars which look like flowers. We will talk more later about the second flounder/chicken hybrid (which not only evokes the lost world of zoomorphs, but also speaks to my roommate’s latest creative/spiritual/magical pursuits (?). This leaves the third flatfish (in glowing green), a clear allegory of the serpent tempting humankind to taste chickens (as various mythical animals and imps excluded from creation look on from beyond the charmed circle).
Finally, there is a contortionist aiming her bow at a target beyond this world as a glowing multicolor cock stares her beadily in the eye. The sable flounder is surrounded by bats in the crepuscular sky as well as an armadillo and a horny toad. We will talk more about chickens tomorrow, but these images should give you plenty to think about as you start off the new year.
Drop everything: Pantone has just announced the color of the year for 2017! Although the “color of the year” is nakedly a publicity ploy by Pantone (a New Jersey branding corporation), it is also relevant since large groups of industries work together to put the color everywhere in clothing and consumer goods. Additionally the color of the year really does represent the zeitgeist of an era (if not through mystical aesthetic convergence, at least through talking and writing about it). I had some reservations about the color of the year last year (the only year with a dual winner: cool pink and gray blue), yet the contrasting/complimenting nature of the shades ended up representing the divisive political, gender, and class battles of 2016 perfectly while still evoking the lost conformity of the 1950s. Maybe it is better not to speak of the bleeding liver color of 2015, which was suited only for haruspices and die-hard Charles Bronson enthusiasts.
Marsala (Color of the Year 2015)
This year’s color is back to being a single shade—a mid-tone cabbage green named “greenery”. Yellowish greens are among my favorite colors (or maybe they are my favorite colors) so I love greenery. I think it is magnificent, and any devoted readers who want to express their affection for Ferrebeekeeper should feel free to send me shirts, cement mixers, or three-wheel mini cars of the verdant pastel hue.
The Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute (snicker) writes “Greenery bursts forth in 2017 to provide us with the reassurance we yearn for amid a tumultuous social and political environment. Satisfying our growing desire to rejuvenate and revitalize, Greenery symbolizes the reconnection we seek with nature, one another and a larger purpose.”
I personally do not feel especially optimistic for 2017: I believe the nation is headed off in a profoundly wrong direction, and, additionally, nothing particularly good is happening in my personal life. But how do we learn other than through terrible mistakes? (well…aside from, you know reading and thinking, and nobody in America is likely to do those things). Plus you never know, maybe popular culture will seize on flounders or eclectic zoology/history/aesthetic blogs as the flavor of the year for 2017. We need to keep an open mind and be ready to seize on opportunities.
Populists and fascists generally push policies which create a “sugar rush” of short term economic euphoria and froth crony capitalism (before state intervention, protectionism, and price fixing set in and create economic death spirals). Perhaps greenery–which, now that I look at it, is also the color of money—will represent this short lived false dawn. When the real slump arrives and recession and scandals shake the nation, Pantone can choose some different colors. Spray-tan orange, blood red, concrete gray, or gold and black .
In the meantime let’s enjoy Greenery: a color which I really do uncritically love. I think this shade would be perfect for room painting and some craft projects. Maybe I will make some yellow-green flounder drawings too. Above all I plan to see lots of Greenery in the garden (which I also plan to write about more). Also, the color of the year announcement kicks off the end-of-the-year holiday season, so I will put up some festive posts while we enjoy eggnog and ornaments and remember the tulip bulbs in the ground, waiting to burst forth come spring.
The first known farmers were apparently…ants. Leafcutter ants have been growing fungus on chopped up leaves for at least 50 million years. It is an amazingly long time. Yet, when one thinks of the astonishing range of different “breeds” of animals and crops which humankind has created through artificial selection during the 10 millenia or so years since we started farming, the ants seem a bit lackluster. For all of their workaholic zeal, ants are not as relentless as us in selecting for traits in their crops.
Yet, as we learn more about the ants and their empire, the amazing extent of their symbiosis with the plants they use is beginning to become more apparent to us. Because of the vastly greater timeline of their endeavors, they have coevolved in astonishing ways. An example of this can be found in the homes of Philidris nagasau, a species of leaf cutterant native to Fiji. These ants literally grow their homes out of Squamellaria, an epiphytic plant which grows on tropical trees.
The Economist described the mechanism through which the ants grow a home (or, alternately, the way the epiphytic plant obtains an army of insect servants):
P. nagasau worker ants harvest seeds from their epiphytic homes, carry them away, and then insert them into cracks in the bark of suitable trees. That done, they patrol the sites of the plantings to keep away herbivores, and also fertilise the seedlings as they grow by defecating into hollow structures called domatia that develop in the bases of the plants’ stems. As a Squamellaria grows, its domatium swells (see picture) and develops galleries that can accommodate ants—which then move in. This, and the plant’s habit of growing flowers that generate nectar long after they have been pollinated, provide the evolutionary quid pro quo that makes the relationship between insect and epiphyte work.
It is incredible that the ants grow their own houses. Yet, as one looks more closely at familiar domestic arrangements with this story in mind, they start to seem less familiar. Is farming really as unique as we make it out to be, or does it resemble mutualistic arrangements found throughout the natural world.
We would never say we co-evolved with goats, cows, and horses: their domestication seems like a one way exchange to us. Yet an outside observer might look at our leather sofas, cheeseburgers, cavalry charges, or angora sweaters and come to a different conclusion.
A persimmon is a berry which grows on a persimmon tree, a group of species within the larger group Diospyros. The Diospyros trees are part of the majestic ebony family, and indeed persimmon trees are likewise noted for their hard, dense, elegant wood. The Diospyros are widespread trees, and native species of persimmon can be found in East Asia, Central Asia, South Asia, the Philippines, and North America.
Persimmon berries (or fruit, as people call them) are an excellent source of dietary fiber, manganese, and beta-carotene (which people are always banging on about, but which I think is overrated). They do not otherwise contain significant nutrients…except perhaps sugars (once they have been sufficiently ripened or bletted). Unripe persimmons are astringent and somewhat indigestible. Indeed, green persimmons are noted for sometimes causing bezoars in humans who eat lots of green persimmons–the unripened flesh polymerizes into a woody ball which traps other food materials. These horrifying lumps can necessitate surgery (although apparently coca-cola dissolves them).
Persimmon trees are rugged and grow fast. Not only do their blossoms emerge after their leaves, which protects the buds from frost, they can also survive in polluted or unfavorable situations. My grandfather had a garden and a fruit orchard next to the Chesapeake Bay. The East Coast is slowly (or maybe not-so-slowly) receding into the ocean and the persimmons lived shockingly close to the saltwater until Hurricane Fran knocked them down in 1996. Throwing a football around while running across the slippery rotting fruit is my foremost persimmon memories, although I have also drunk the Korean spicy punch called sujeonggwa (and I found it delightful). Maybe I should try making a persimmon pie!
Additionally there is a beautiful autumnal orange color named after persimmon. It is a mid-tone orange with hints of red, almost the same hue as senior republicans, but slightly darker with woody brown notes. I like to write about seasonally appropriate colors, and I can hardly think of a hue more suited to early November (unless it is some sort of russet or woodland gray).
One theory of aesthetics asserts that every human-manufactured item provides profound insights into its makers and their society. In college, we had endless fun (or some reasonably proximate substitute) by grabbing random kitschy mass-produced objects and deconstructing them so that all of the peccadillos of wage-capitalism in a mature democracy were starkly revealed. Alone among college endeavors, this proved useful later on, when I worked at the National Museum of American History (where the staff was employed to do more-or-less the same thing). Seemingly any item could provide a window for real understanding of an era. Thus different aspects of our national character were represented by all sorts of objects: harpoons, sequined boots made in a mental asylum, an old lunch-counter, gilded teacups, or miniature ploughs…even a can of Green Giant asparagus from the 70s [btw, that asparagus caused us real trouble and was a continuing problem for the Smithsonian collection: but we will talk about that later on in an asparagus-themed post]. The objects which were significant were always changing and things regarded as treasures in one era were often relegated to the back of off-site storage facility by curators of the seceding generation, but a shrewd observer could garner a surprisingly deep understanding of society by thinking intelligently about even apparently frivolous or trivial objects.
Anyway, all of this is roundabout way of explaining that Ferrebeekeeper is celebrating the Day of the Dead by deconstructing these two skull-themed items. At the top is a skull-shaped candle holder with a bee on it. At the bottom is a skull shaped lotion-dispenser. One dispenses light while celebrating the eusocial insects at the heart of agriculture; the other dispenses unguents and celebrates the reproductive organs of plants. But of course, when we look at these items more closely, there is more to them than just a decorated lamp and a cosmetics container.
The Día de Muertos skull already represents a syncretic blend of two very opposite cultures: the death-obsessed culture of the Aztecs who built an empire of slavery and sacrifice to make up for dwindling resources at the center of their realm, and the death-obsessed culture of the Spaniards who built an empire of slavery and sacrifice to make up for dwindling resources at the center of their realm. Um…those two civilizations sounded kind of similar in that last sentence, but, trust me, they were from different sides of an ocean and had very different torture-based religions.
Beyond the obvious cultural/religious history of Mestizo culture, the two skulls have bigger things to say about humankind’s relationship with our crops. The features of the death’s head have been stylized and “cutened” but even thus aestheticized it provides a stark reminder of human mortality. We burgeon for a while and then pass on. Yet the day of the dead skull is a harvest-time ornament. It is made of sugar or pastry (well not these two…but the original folk objects were) and covered in flowers, grain, and food stuffs. The skulls portray humankind as a product of our agricultural society. The harvest keeps coming…as do seceding generations of people…just as the old harvest and the old people are used up—yet they are always a part of us like a circle or an ouroboros. Each generation, a different group of people comes to work the fields, and eat sugar skulls and pass away–then they are remembered with sugar skulls as their grandchildren work the fields etc…
Lately though, things have started to rapidly change. Although agriculture is the “primary” economic sector which allows all of the other disciplines, most of us no longer work in the fields. Instead we partake of secondary sector work: manufacturing things. In this era we are even more likely to be in the third (or fourth) sector: selling plastic skulls to each other, or writing pointless circular essays about knickknacks.
Marketers have inadvertently built additional poignant juxtapositions into these two skull ornaments. The skull at the bottom is a lotion or soap dispenser. It is meant to squirt out emollients so that people can stay clean and young and supple in a world where old age still has no remedy. The irony is even more sad in the skull on the top which shows a busy bee: the classical symbol of hard work paying off. Yet the bees are dying away victims to the insecticides we use to keep our crops bountiful. Hardwork has no reward in a world where vast monopolistic forces set prices and machines churn out endless throw-away goods. Indeed, these two objects are not beautiful folk objects…they are mass-produced gewgaws meant to be bought up and thrown away. In the museum of the future will they sit on a shelf with a little note about bees or lotion or crops written next to them, or will they join a vast plastic underworld in a landfill somewhere?
Or maybe they are just endearing skulls and you aren’t supposed to think about them too much. But if a skull does not make the observer think, then what object ever will?
Happy Halloween! This year, I have been working on a new series of artworks centered on flatfish. I suppose flatfish have supplanted toruses as the primary focus of my art. People seem to like flounder better than donuts (the asymmetric fish have more personality…or at least they have faces), however the universe is not shaped like a flatfish (according to current models), so it raises the question of what the flounder means symbolically. Flatfish are regarded as a delicious prey animal by humans, however they are excellent predators in their own right: they are sort of the middle-class of the oceans. Like the middle class, the pleurectiformes are experts at blending in, and they change their color and pattern to match their circumstances. Today’s circumstances, however, are not merely muddy sand flats—the whole world is filled with wild eclectic ambiguity which is hard for anyone to follow (much less a bottom-dwelling fish). My full flounder series thus explore the larger human and natural ecosystems of the late Holocene and early Anthropocene world. Each one lives in a little predatory microcosm where it is hunting and hunted.
The bizarre asymmetry of the flatfish also appeals to me. Since my artwork seemingly concerns topology, this may be significant—although a classical knot theorist would blithely observe that a flatfish is homeomorphic with a torus (assuming one regards the digestive tract as a continuous tube). At any rate it is currently Halloween and the flounder need to blend in with the monsters, goblins, witches, and mummies of the scary season! I made three black and white pen and ink flounders to use as Halloween coloring pages. These are supposed to print out at 8.5 inches x 11 inches, but who knows how wordpress will format them for your device? Let me know if you want me to send you a JPEG.
The top flounder is a classical Halloween artwork of haunted houses bats, witches, pumpkins, and mummies. In the center, mortality and the devil grasp for the human soul. The mood of the second artwork is more elusive and elegiac: dark fungi grow upon the sole as an underling hauls a dead gladiator away in the depths. Serpent monsters fill up the sky and our lady of the flowers blesses a corpse. The final pen and ink drawing is unfinished (so you can add your own monster) but it centers around a haunted jack-in-the-box and a ruined windmill. A bog monster, scarecrow and lady ghost haunt the doomed landscape.
I also threw in three little colored Halloween flounder at the bottom–as a teaser for my Instagram page. You should check it out for your daily flounder (free of commentary and text, as is increasingly the way of our digital age). I hope you enjoy these colorful treats and have a wonderful holiday!
The year progresses and we have finally reached autumn. It’s time to get back to the Shepheardes Calender and see what Spenser has to say! For the month of September, Spenser has crafted a special (and especially hard-to-understand) treat for us. The ninth installation of the poem is written in archaic west-country dialect touched with Welsh. This eclogue is perhaps where Shepherdes Calender comes closest to Middle English. And yet the language is modern, despite the pretensions to antiquity (which coincidentally, lead urbane 17th century poets to despise Spenser…and 18th century pastoralists to imitate his ).
Here is a quick synopsis: after falling on hard times, the shepherd Diggon Davie has sojourned to foreign parts in order to seek greater fortune. However instead of finding wealth he found even greater penury among Catholic shepherds who must neglect their flocks to feed the appetites of priests and profligate lords. The satire soon devolves into a complex political metaphor about rapacious foreign wolves, dangerous domestic foxes, and much argument about what sort of stalwart dogs are needed to protect good Englishmen…er, I mean “shepherds” from the same.
I really like the September eclogue with its hillfolk making fun of fancy popery and the profligate ways of foreign folks. Even the yokel-talk seems oddly familiar (if you are having trouble with it, just read it aloud). I suspect it is not just West Virginians who will enjoy it. Here is the full eclogue:
Shepheardes Calender VIIII: September
HOBBINOL. DIGGON DAVIE.
Diggon Davie, I bid her God-day:
Or Diggon her is, or I missay.
Her was her, while it was Day-light,
But now her is a most wretched Wight.
For Day that was, is wightly past,
And now at last the dirk Night doth haste.
Diggon, areed who has thee so dight:
Never I wilt thee in so poor a plight.
Where is the fair Flock, thou west wont to lead?
Or been they chaffred? or at Mischief dead?
Ah, for love of that is to thee most leef,
Hobbinol, I pray thee gall not my old Grief:
Sike question rippeth up cause of new Woe;
For one open’d, mote unfold many mo.
Nay, but Sorrow close shrouded in Heart,
I know, to keep is a burdenous smart.
Each thing imparted, is more eath to bear:
When the Rain is fallen the Clouds waxen clear.
And now sithence I saw thy head last,
Thrice three Moons been fully spent and past;
Since when thou hast measured much Ground,
And wandred weel about the World round,
So as thou can many things relate:
But tell me first of thy flock’s Estate.
My Sheep been wasted (woe is me therefore!)
The jolly Shepherd that was of yore,
Is now nor jolly, nor Shepherd more,
In foreign Coasts Men said, was plenty;
And so there is, but all of misery.
I dempt there much to have eeked my Store,
But such eeking hath made my Heart sore.
In tho Countries where I have been,
No being for those, that truly mean;
But for such as of Guile maken gain,
No such Country as there to remain.
They setten to Sale their Shops of shame,
And maken a Market of their good Name.
The Shepherds there robben one another,
And layen Baits to beguile her brother.
Or they will buy his Sheep out of the Coat,
Or they will carven the Shepherd’s Throat.
The Shepherd’s Swain you cannot well ken
But it be by his Pride, from other Men:
They looken big as Bulls that been bate,
And bearen the Crag so stiff and so state,
As Cock on his Dunghill, crowing crank.
Diggon, I am so stiff and so stank,
That unneath may I stand any more:
And now the Western Wind bloweth sore,
That now is in his chief Sovereignty,
Beating the withered Leaf from the Tree.
Sit we down here under the Hill;
Tho may we talk and tellen our fill,
And make a Mock at the blustering Blast:
Now say on Diggon what ever thou hast.
Hobbin, ah Hobbin, I curse the Stound,
That ever I cast to have lorn this Ground.
Wele-away the while I was so fond,
To leave the Good that I had in hond,
In hope of better that was uncouth:
So lost the Dog the Flesh in his Mouth.
My seely Sheep (ah seely Sheep)
That hereby I whylom us’d to keep,
All were they lusty, as thou diddest see,
Been all starved with Pine and Penury;
Hardly my self escaped thilk pain,
Driven for Need to come home again.
Ah Fon, now by thy Loss art taught,
That seldom change the better brought.
Content who lives with tried State,
Need fear no change of frowning Fate:
But who will seek for unknown Gain,
Oft lives by Loss, and leaves with Pain.
I wote ne, Hobbin, how I was bewitcht
With vain Desire, and Hope to be enricht.
But siker so it is, as the bright Star
Seemeth a greater, when it is far:
I thought the Soil would have made me rich;
But now I wote it is nothing sich.
For either the Shepherds been idle and still,
And led of their Sheep, what way they will:
Or they been false, and full of Covetise,
And casten to compass many wrong Emprise.
But more been fraught with Fraud and Spight,
Ne in Good nor Goodness taken delight;
But kindle Coals of Conteck and Yre,
Wherewith they set all the World on fire:
Which when they thinken again to quench,
With holy Water they doen hem all drench.
They say they con to Heaven the high-way;
But by my Soul I dare underlay,
They never set Foot in that same bode,
But balk the right way, and strayen abroad.
They boast they han the Devil at commaund;
But ask hem, therefore what they han paund:
Marry that great Pan bought with great borrow,
To quite it from the black Bower of Sorrow.
But they han sold thilk same long ago:
For they would draw with hem many mo.
But let hem gang alone a God’s Name;
As they han brewed, so let them bear blame.
Diggon, I pray thee speak not so dirk:
Such myster saying me seemeth to mirk.
Then plainly to speak of Shepherds most what:
Bad is the best (this English is flat)
Their ill Haviour gars Men missay
Both of their Doctrine, and their Fay.
They say the World is much war than it wont,
All for her Shepherds is beastly and blont.
Other sain, but how truly I note,
All for they holden shame of their Cote:
Some stick not to say (hot Cole on her Tongue)
That sike mischief graseth hem emong,
All for they casten too much of World’s Care,
To deck her Dame, and enrich her Heir:
For such Encheason, if you go nie,
Few Chimneys reeken you shall espie:
The fat Oxe that woont lig in the Stall,
Is now fast stalled in her Crumenall.
Thus chatten the People in their steads,
Ylik as a Monster of many Heads.
But they that shooten nearest the prick,
Sain, other the Fat from their Beards do lick.
For big Bulls of Basan brace hem about,
That with their Horns butten the more stout:
But the lean Souls treaden under foot,
And to seek redress mought little boot;
For liker been they to pluck away more,
Than ought of the gotten good to restore.
For they been like foul Wagmoires overgrast,
That if any Galage once sticketh fast,
The more to wind it out thou dost swink,
Thou mought aye deeper and deeper sink.
Yet better leave off with a little loss,
Than by much wrestling to leefe the gross.
Now, Diggon, I see thou speakest too plain;
Better it were a little to fain
And cleanly cover that cannot be cured:
Such Ill, as is forced, mought needs be endured.
But of sike Pastors how done the Flocks creep?
Sike as the Shepherds, sike been her Sheep,
For they nill listen to the Shepherd’s Voice:
But if he call hem, at their good choice,
They wander at will, and stay at pleasure,
And to their Folds yead at their own leasure.
But they had be better come at their call:
For many han unto mischief fall,
And ben of ravenous Wolves yrent,
All for they nould be buxome and bent.
Fie on thee, Diggon, and all thy foul leasing:
Well is known that sith the Saxon King,
Never was Wolf seen, many nor some,
Nor in all Kent, nor in Christendom:
But the fewer Wolves (the sooth to sain)
The more been the Foxes that here remain.
Yes, but they gang in more secret wise,
And with Sheeps clothing doen hem disguise.
They talk not widely as they were woont,
For fear of Raungers and the great Hoont:
But privily prolling to and fro,
Enaunter they mought be inly know.
Or privy or pert if any bin,
We have great Bandogs will sear their Skin.
Indeed thy Ball is a bold big Cur,
And could make a jolly hole in their Fur.
But not good Dogs hem needeth to chase,
But heedy Shepherds to discern their face:
For all their Craft is in their Countenance,
They been so grave, and full of maintenance.
But shall I tell thee what my self know,
Chaunced to Roffin not long ygoe?
Say it out, Diggon, whatever it hight,
For not but well mought him betight.
He is so meek, wise, and merciable,
And with his word his work is convenable.
Colin Clout I ween be his self Boy,
(Ah for Colin he whylom my Joy
Shepherds sich, God mought us many send,
That doen so carefully their Flocks tend.)
Thilk same Shepherd mought I well mark,
He has a Dog to bite or to bark;
Never had Shepherd so keen a Cur,
That waketh, and if but a Leaf stur.
Whilom these wonned a wicked Wolf,
That with many a Lamb had gutted his Gulf,
And ever at night wont to repair
Unto the Flock, when the Welkin shone fair,
Yclad in clothing of seely Sheep,
When the good old Man used to sleep:
Tho at midnight he would bark and ball,
(For he had eft learned a Cur’s Call)
As if a Wolf were among the Sheep.
With that the Shepherd would break his Sleep,
And send out Lowder (for so his Dog hote)
To raunge the Fields with open throte.
Tho when as Lowder was far away,
This wolvish Sheep would catchen his Prey,
A Lamb, or a Kid, or a Weanell wast:
With that to the Wood would he speed him fast.
Long time he used this slippery prank,
Ere Roffy could for his Labour him thank.
At end, the Shepherd his practise spied,
(For Roffy is wise, and as Argus eyed)
And when at Even he came to the Flock,
Fast in their Folds he did them lock,
And took out the Woolf in his counterfeit Cote,
And let out the Sheeps-Blood at his throte.
Marry Diggon, what should him affray
To take his own where ever it lay?
For had his Weasand been a little widder,
He would have devoured both hidder and shidder.
Mischief light on him, and God’s great Curse,
Too good for him had been a great deal wurse;
For it was a perillous Beast above all,
And eke had he con’d the Shepherd’s Call;
And oft in the night came to the Sheep-Cote,
And called Lowder, with a hollow Throte,
As if the old Man’s self had been.
The Dog his Maister’s Voice did it ween,
Yet half in doubt he open’d the door,
And ran out, as he was wont of yore.
No sooner was out, but swifter than Thought,
Fast by the Hide the Wolf Lowder caught;
And had not Roffy ren to the Steven,
Lowder had been slain thilk same Even.
God shield Man, he should so ill have thrive,
All for he did his Devoir believe.
If sike been Wolves, as thou hast told,
How mought we, Diggon, hem behold?
How, but with Heed and Watchfullness,
Forstallen hem of their Wiliness.
For-thy with Shepherds fits not play,
Or sleep, as some doen, all the long day:
But ever liggen in watch and ward,
From suddain Force their Flocks for to gard.
Ah Diggon, thilk same Rule were too straight,
All the cold Season to watch and wait.
We been of Flesh, Men as other be,
Why should we be bound to such Misery?
What-ever thing lacketh changeable Rest,
Mought needs decay, when it is at best.
Ah, but Hobbinol, all this long Tale
Nought easeth the Care that doth me forhaile;
What shall I do? what way shall I wend,
My piteous plight and loss to amend?
Ah good Hobbinol, mought I thee pray,
Of Aid or Counsel in my decay.
Now by my Soul, Diggon, I lament
The hapless Mischief that has thee hent:
Netheless thou seest my lowly Sail,
That froward Fortune doth ever avail.
But were Hobbinol as God mought please,
Diggon should soon find favour and ease.
But if to my Cottage thou wilt resort,
So as I can, I will thee comfort;
There maist thou lig in a vetchy Bed,
Till fairer Fortune shew forth his head.
Ah Hobbinol, God mought it thee requite,
Diggon on few such Friends did ever lite.
Inopem me copia fecit.