Seasickness

August 17th, 2007

No, the title of my post is not an indication that going through the Canal we felt queasy: this is in the nature of the case impossible, because we haven’t been through the Canal yet.

In the Middle Ages, pilgrimages to St. James of Compostella seem to have been a frequent occurrence, perhaps particularly for the English. Here are the trials of such a voyage rather gleefully described. Like Satie’s notes on the performance of his pieces, the words in brackets should not be read aloud.

Men may leve alle gamys

That saylen to Seynt Jamys,

Ffor many a man hit gramys [grieves]

When they begin to sayle;

Ffor when they have take the see

At Sandwyche or at Wynchylsee,

At Brystow, or where that hit bee,

Theyr hartes begyn to fayle.

Anone the mastyr commaundeth fast

To hys shypmen, in alle the hast,

To dresse hem [busy themselves] sone about the mast

Theyr takelyng to make;

With ‘Howe! hissa!’ then they cry;

‘What, howe! mate, thow stondyst to ny,

Thy fellow may nat hale the by’ [haul by thee];

Thus they begyn to crake [cry]…

‘Hale now the bowelyne! Now, vere the shete

Cooke, make redy anoon our mete;

Our pylgryms have no lust to ete,

I pray God yeve [give] hem rest.’

‘Go to the helm! what, howe! no nere!’

‘Steward, felow, a pot of bere!’

‘Ye shalle have sir, with good chere,

Anon alle of the best…’

Then cometh oone and seyth: ‘Be mery,

Ye shall have a storme or a pery.’ [squall]

‘Holde thow thy pese! thow canst no whery [?],

Thow medlyst wondyr sore.’

Thys menewhyle the pylgryms ly,

And have theyr bowlys fast theym by,

And cry aftyr hote malvesy [malmsey];

Thow helpe [their health] for to restore.

And som wold have a saltyd tost,

Ffor they myght ete neyther sode [boiled] ne rost;

A man might sone pay for theyr cost,

As for oo day or twayne.

Som layde theyr books on theyr kne,

And rad so long they myght nat se.

‘Allas, myne hede wolle cleve on [split in] thre!’

Thus seyth another certayne…

A sak of strawe were there ryght good

Ffor some must lyg theym in theyr hood:

I had as lefe be in the wood,

Without mete or drynk.

For when that we shall go to bedde,

The pumpe is nygh our beddes hede;

A man were as good to be dede

As smell therof the stynk!

4 Responses to “Seasickness”

  1. Lauren Says:

    It lilteth so nycelye that t’wold maketh me seesicke. What howe, Zion!

  2. py3ak Says:

    It was reassuring to me to see that queasiness during travel is an ever-recurring facet of human experience.

  3. Lauren Says:

    Yes, and some of us can even achieve this state standing still. This is the most evolved facet of human experience.

  4. py3ak Says:

    But at least you are not by the pumpe.

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