Saturday, May 1, 2010

Shepherd's ingenuity: or, The praise of the green gown, 1688

May is International Make-out Month*! It's true! I'll explain: May 1st, or May Day, is a traditional celebration welcoming the coming of Spring. Originally a pagan holiday, "going a-Maying" was embraced by people in medieval and Renaissance cultures, and still remains an important holiday (it's kind of like Labor Day for everyone except Americans. Lame.).

Anyway, it has a sexy history! Celebrating the "Rites of May" was supposed to be about running around in the fields all night to ostensibly gather flowers and greenery and maypoles or whatever, but really you could use it as an excuse for getting trashed and hitting on people. Many Protestants opposed these celebrations on account of all these unchaperoned young people doing who-knows-what in the woods. Phillip Stubbes thought it was the worst, citing May Day's potentiality for moral bankruptcy and sexual hedonism in his Anatomie of Abuses:

"I have heard it credibly reported (and that viva voce) by men of great gravitie and reputation, that of fortie, threescore, or a hundred maides going to the wood over night, there have scarecely the thirde parte of them returned home againe undefiled" (Ch. XIII).

Really? Wow. Robert Herrick liked it, though. The author of Shepherd's ingenuity seems to like it too, explaining the joys of woodland make-out sessions and "green gowns," a phrase alluding to the ruined dress a girl would receive from rolling around in the grass with her lover. To be said to have a "green gown" eventually came to mean a woman was promiscuous. In addition to the super-hot picture, the ballad has some terrific advice for getting ladies:

"Some for to gain their Ladies Love,
will give them Chains and Rings,
Some gives them Fans and Fancies too,
but these ate foolish things;
If you wou'd fain her Love obtain,
let this be your endeavour,
To give her a fair Gown of Green,
and then she's yours for ever. "

See, it's easy! And today is the only day you can act like a 'ho and say it's "historical research!"

*Unofficial, and mostly made up by me.

Oh, and in other sexy news, I did an Andrew Marvell makeover.

Friday, April 2, 2010

A systeme of anatomy, 1685

It's Easter! Bunnies and Candy time! I think Jesus may be involved in some fashion, too.

A systeme of anatomy, treating of the body of man, beasts, birds, fish, insects, and plants
was written by Samuel Collins (1619-1670). This guy was apparently hot stuff in the medical field, and famously served as the personal physician to Tsar Aleksei Mikhailovich. Modern doctors still write about his contributions to neurology! Anyway, when he busted up this rabbit's skull, he wrote some really flattering things about it, like this:

"The Hemispheres of the Brain of this Animal are beautified with many Prominencies, adorned with various shapes and sizes."

Beautified? Adorned? Seems like pretty flowery language to describe a brain. The only satisfactory explanation is that Dr. Collins was a zombie. Seriously, dude was way in to cracking open skulls and looking at brains...braaains...braaaaaains! And yet I think the worst part about the pictures is that he drew in the little bunny whiskers--it's like 10 times creepier because of that. Well, that and the fact that they look like the Donnie Darko nightmare rabbit. Happy Zombie Easter, I guess.

Now, as a bonus Easter present to you, I offer up this holiday-themed Long S from 1 Henry IV:

Whoa. Easter just got real.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

English military discipline, or, The way and method of exercising horse & foot according to the practice of this present time,1680

Whenever people ask me if I had a good day, I think to myself, "did I have to use my A.K.?" That's a pretty good litmus test for the quality of day I had. Ice Cube agrees with me.

English Military Discipline is a short publication about how to use your sword, pike, and AK-47 musket. It's devoted to instructions about military formations, organizations of ranks of soldiers, and strategies on how you should utilize firearms and other weapons during a battle. The basic thrust is that everyone should stand in lines or squares. Tactics! Basically I just liked the pictures of the guns. Here are some more:

I gotta say it was a good day.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Husband's Instructions to his Family, 1685

Okay, so the sign really said "A Family well Govern'd is, like a Kingdom, well Ruled," but this is essentially the same thing. Read it and weep, sis.

The husband's instructions to his family:, or, Household observations fit to be observed by vvife, children, and servants is such a useful publication. In three instructive poems, we hear a husband's great ideas about how his wife, kids, and servants should behave. Just go to the column that represents the oppressed group to which you belong, and read what a rich white man thinks about you. TONS of good advice in here for all! We learn, for example, that a wife shouldn't wear makeup, or talk too loud, or nag nag nag her husband all the time he's the one making all the money around here for crying out loud what more do you want?!! The advice for servants is mostly about how they shouldn't steal or gamble. It also contains these immortal lines:

I hate a slut, too. And don't even get me started on saucy knaves! Good servants are so hard to find these days. Basically the entire thing is reinforcing that patriarchy through the magical medium of poetry. Together at last.

Finally, for good measure, a pretty funny Long S from the instructions for children poem to add to the collection:

Great set of instructions, husband! I'm off to wash off my makeup and work on my humility and modesty.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Loves Lamentable Tragedy, 1680

Love's Lamentable Tragedy, in this case, refers to the pain of lost love. From the title page:

"When cruel lovers prove unkind, great sorrows they procure; and such strange pains the slighted find, that they cannot endure."

I liked the image, because the woman doesn't die in the ballad--she's just super sad that her boyfriend left her. So the use of the iconic image of death (the ol' Skeleton with hourglass and arrow standby) is a metaphor for heartbreak. Poor lady.

Anyway, if you want a more traditional Valentine image, check out the previous posts, featuring cutting out of hearts, hearts being cut out, and early modern heart anatomy. You know, romance.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A true discourse Declaring the damnable life and death of one Stubbe Peeter, 1590

The full title: A true discourse. Declaring the damnable life and death of one Stubbe Peeter, a most wicked sorcerer who in the likenes of a woolfe, committed many murders, continuing this diuelish practise 25. yeeres, killing and deuouring men, woomen, and children. Who for the same fact was taken and executed the 31. of October last past in the towne of Bedbur neer the cittie of Collin in Germany.

Werewolves were a huge social problem in 16th century Europe. They were everywhere! Germany seemed to be especially afflicted. Apparently, this fellow Peter Stubbe, "careles of saluation, gaue both soule and body to the deuil for euer." Problem was he didn't really want riches or fame. He was a total asshole/serial killer to start with, and he only asked the Devil to make it so that he might "woork his mallice on men, Women, and children, in the shape of some beast, wherby he might liue without dread or danger of life." Long story short, SHABLAM! WEREWOLF! Dude started killing everybody, and "oftentimes the Inhabitants found the Armes & legges of dead Men, Women, and Children, scattered vp and down the feelds." It was the worst.

Anyway, some folks finally see Peter Stubbe and arrest him for suspicious werewolfy-type stuff. Then they tortured him on the rack and surprise surprise! He confessed everything! Werewolves absolutely hate torture, but then the townsfolk killed him (and his daughter and the town gossip, whom he implicated) in a fairly torturous fashion anyway. One point for God. P.S., if you'd like to read more about this fairly famous case, I recommend this article from Early Modern Whale. It's pretty interesting.

Can you honestly say you're "Team Jacob" now? I didn't think so.

(By the way, in the vein of Pride and Predjudice and Zombies, which I read and really liked, I think that Wuthering Heights and Werewolves is an obvious next step. Heathcliff is basically already a werewolf anyway. Someone get on it!)