Tag: literature

Some Ridiculous Links

Some of you, beloved readers, expressed an interest in one title I mentioned in the previous post, Die Wiedererweckung des Lachens. Schwänke und Scherze aus dem sechzehnten Jahrhundert.
Here is a list of the content. I doubt that this book is translated, lets see whether texts in it may be available on the web. See also “jestbooks” (here).
For further reading …

Poggio BRACCIOLINI, Facetiae 1470 (something googlish)
Hieronymus MORLINI, Novellae 1520 (exists, nothing else found)
Giovanni Francesco STRAPAROLA, Vergnügliche Nächte (The Facetious Nights) 1550
Matteo BANDELLO, Novelle 1554
Francesco SANSOVINO, Cento Novelle 1560 (exists, nothing else found)

Augustin TÜNGER, Facetiae 1486 (exists, nothing else found)
Heinrich BEBEL, Facetien 1504-1514
Johannes PAULI, Schimpf und Ernst 1522 (terrible, nothing to be found, outdated links, so much for the actuality of the web)
Jörg WICKRAM, Rollwagenbüchlein 1555 (???)
Jacob FREY, Gartengesellschaft 1556/57
Martin MONTANUS, Gartengesellschaft 1558 (or later), Wegkürtzer 1557 (nothing !)
Michael LINDENER, Rastbüchlein 1558, Katzipori 1558 (exists)

From the Cent Nouvelles Nouvelles, post 1460 (translation)
From RABELAIS, circa 1550 (see the linked wikipage for links to works)
Bonaventure Des PÉRIERS, Nouvelles Récréations et Jouyeux Devis 1558
Guillaume BOUCHET, Serées 1584 (Ger. wiki, bit more detailed)
Étienne TABOUROT, Escraignes Dijonnoises 1608
Bérolade De VERVILLE, Moyen de Parvenir 1612 (only parts, about)
Sieur GAULARD, Sayings 1599 (see TABOUROT’s Escraignes, and here)

Vom Ess-Zett (sz)

From the ongoing series “Bootless Knowledge for Everybody”.

I was reading in the Dæmonomania (mentioned here), innocently enough, when I came upon the following interesting passage :

Seiteinmal kundbar / daß wo ein Zauberer oder ein Hexin nur das Pulfferlein darvon in einen Schaaffstall leget / daß gleich das Viech darvon stirbt / wo es Gott nicht sonderlich bewaret; (gleich wie auch die Wurmkrämer ein Ratte[n] Aaß / die Mäuß darmit zutöden / wissen darauß zubereiten / daher es auch seinen Namen Maußzwibel bekommen.)”

Maußzwibel – that must be what he mentions in the previous paragraph as “Mörzwibel” or Squilla. A short research brings us the following result: In the Capitulare de Villis (Ger., Eng.) we find under number 16 a plant called “squilla(m)”, Urginea maritima (L.) Baker, also called “Meerzwiebel” (Ger., Eng.). The plant is known through the whole ancient world for medical uses. That the plant is deadly to mice and rats is mentioned in the Kräuterbuch of Tabernaemontanus (Ger., Eng.), one of the most important books of its kind of the 16th century, but it seems that the old Egyptians already knew how to use it.

Ratten Aaß – that threw me a bit off : “Aas” is a rotting carcass, but this would make no sense altogether in this sentence. A look in the holy Wörterbuch (Ger., Eng.) helped : aasz is not a cadaver, it’s something to eat, from ezan, essen ; the old word “Atzung” for food comes to my memory ; also an old word in my dialect, “aas[z]en” for stuffing oneself, over eating.

Wurmkrämer – A “Krämer” sells “Kram” – clobber, stuff, he’s a monger, a peddler. Is there a medieval worm-business I have not heard of ? Also Messers GRIMM can help : A Wurmkrämer sells drugs, “Arzney & Theriak”, against worms, parasites inhabiting the human body, a not uncommon illness in medieval Europe.

The sellers of anti-worm drugs know to prepare deadly rat-food from a plant called mice-bulb. The murine onions were not that deadly that  a cat who’d bit or munch on a poisoned mouse would also suffer. This is discussed in chapter III “Vom underscheid / so sich zwischen Guten und Bösen Geistern erhelt” (About the difference between good and bad spirits). Wurmkrämer – herrje …


Damn Books

Rummaging through the shelves may lead to interesting discoveries – ha, you once bought that, really ? I came about a volume in plain brown cloth, could not read the title embossed in gold on the spine – low contrast and dim light, I really should take care for a good bulb ! – and found BODINs (Ger., Eng.) (1529-1596) Dæmonomania in FISCHARTs (Ger., Eng.) (1545-1591) translation, Vom ausgelasnen wütigen Teufelsheer ; of course a reprint (Graz 1973), originally published Straßburg 1591. Superstition, witchcraft, the whole program, was all the rage in 1980s seminars. Wonder whether it is time for a new generation to “discover” the area.
BODIN was a very “modern” man in some respects. He wrote about money and economics, clearly understanding the results of the influx of gold & silver from Southern America ; he – as a protestant – always advocated tolerance between the confessions (remember that the “Bartholomäusnacht” (Ger., Eng.) of 1572 was a pogrom that left some thousand protestants dead in Paris and France) ; and – most important – he was a theorist of the state. His ideas were based on the rule of natural (thus : divine) law that stands over all other laws (id est those that origin from confessions or from other social groups), and hence a “state” is obligated to the law, only following this law gives its reign over individuals reason, justification and foundation : The state is bound by law. He was no advocate of the “absolute” state, but that is what later theorists made out of it and what finally came into existence, notably in France. Some writers go so far to call BODIN a “proto-enlightener” (Frühaufklärer).
And then he publishes a book that could easily be written by a narrow-minded Dominican inquisitor of the worst ilk. Some writers of the 19th and even 20th century wanted to understand this work as a kind of satire or persiflage, but it is not. Its bloody serious, BODIN is bloody serious about it. The whole text is an answer to the ideas of WIERUS (Ger., Eng.) (1515-1588) who came to the conclusion that those witches and magicians are ill, people suffering from a mental disability, and thus may not be condemned to death.
Leaving Mr. BODIN behind I came to think about it. Here we have a “proto-enlightener” of the late 16th century following the darkest superstitions. How did it go on ?
The 17th century saw a war of European dimension fought originally about confessions, superstitions wildly growing, stacks nicely burning, and the development of the modern state. The 18th is called the “age of enlightenment” and on the other side the golden age of alchemy and secret societies of any kind. The 19th sees progress in natural sciences and modernisation, inventions like electricity and photography – and what did they photograph, the modern occultists ? Spirits.
The 20th brought us wars of before unknown dimensions, and finally the engineer’s wet dream, atomic power – and Auschwitz, the culmination of irrationalism. At the beginning of the 21st century we have to watch barbarians beheading people who are unlucky enough not to be of the right faith. And the barbarians use of course most modern technology. As the SS did. Even black uniforms are en vogue again. Pereant !

There is no progress. No development to the “better”, only stupidity, shrewdness and greed. Always and everywhere.

The bottle of greed was found and smashed.


I see grey banks of clouds drift over the land, now and then one comes to my place for a quick visit. The light changes, wind gusts (I think I heard glass splitter two hours ago somewhere in the house), cold rain gushes ; twenty minutes later it’s over and only the drops on my grimy window pane testify that the cloud attack really took place. Two hours ago it even rained down Graupel, very fittingly called soft hail.
What a strange word. I wonder about its origin. Perhaps it was named after Fréderic GRAUPÈL, a French chemist, physicist and meteorologist of the 18th century … his biography needs to be written.

Another strange man’s biography is at least roughly known, I speak about Karl Julius WEBER (Ger., Eng., short bio German only) (1767-1832 ; he died in the same year as GOETHE, but was 18 years younger than Wolfie).
WEBER was born in Langenburg (Ger., Eng.), one of the Duodezresidenzen of the old Reich, in the middle of the magical land of Hohenlohe. A fictional thing this Hohenlohe – let’s say, one loves it or not ; for some people it’s the epitome of boring, for others it’s a treasure trove of hidden gems.
His father was an official at the local court, his mother worked as  Kammerjungfer. He was sent to the local school, later to the Gymnasium in Öhringen (Ger., Eng.), and finally to Erlangen to study law, later in Göttingen until 1790. All this sounds innocent enough, but in the times of the great revolution, and Göttingen being the hotbed of enlightenment, things could become a bit difficult. WEBER first was a friend of the revolution, but watching closely the descend into slaughter and violence made him find a more critical position. He aimed at a juridical professorship, but it failed and he went away from Göttingen, pretty hurt as it seems.
So he took the dreaded job of a Hauslehrer, a private tutor – what in some cases could equal hell on earth, but for WEBER it was a good time: He worked for a rich Genevan family, they travelled in France – these two years in France and Switzerland changed him : French literature, French esprit, a kind of savoir vivre and savoir voir, a way to look at things, accompanied him for the rest of his live.
Back in the steadily self-liquidating Reich in 1792 he worked at those petty courts like the one he was born into. In 1792 he became secretary of the chancellor of the Deutschorden (Ger., Eng.) in Mergentheim count Christian zu Erbach-Schönberg. After the count’s death 1799 WEBER became first Hofrat in that county, 1804 he switched as leading administrator to the administration of Ysenburg-Büdingen – and this was a severe mistake. To make a long story short – in April 1804 he left this position, as it seems pretty broken, disillusioned, hurt again : Large promises were not kept, intrigues were spun ; his character, seemingly a bit on the choleric-sanguinic side, did not help to ease things out ; he seemingly developed, perhaps from stress, hypochondriac tendencies.
He turned home. And home means the household of his married sister ; he lived in Jagsthausen, Weikersheim, Künzelsau and Kupferzell – all across the Hohenlohe. It took him some time to unwind, books helped a lot – at the end of his live he had amassed a library of 11.000 tomes. He spent his time reading, writing, smoking his pipe – and once a year he travelled.
The Hofrat vanished, a smiling philosopher, Demokritos, replaced him. From 1818 onwards (he’s in his early fifties) his historical works about “the Monks”, and “The Knights” were published. Later the Briefe eines in Deutschland reisenden Deutschen (Letters of a German travelling in Germany) followed – and this book (in six tomes in the end) was a success – Mr. Biedermeyer (Ger., Eng.) used it as travel guide. Still today this is worth a read, he writes a good style, and a certain serenity, peace of mind can be felt.
WEBER died in 1832 in Kupferzell, he is buried there and his gravestone is still standing. His major work Demokritos, oder hinterlassene Papiere eines lachenden Philosophen (Demikritos, or, Papers Left Behind by a Laughing Philosopher) started to be published in the year of his death, it became pretty successful. He worked on this text for nearly thirty years – with longer pauses – and it is a kind of encyclopedia of the ridiculous. WEBER is a forefather of the modern feuilletonistic essay, and like the great MONTAIGNE he does not shy away from opening up his inner thoughts, his character in great and small traits, his surroundings, with a smile.
The success (15 editions until the 1920s) came with critique, the accusation of being rude, shallow, hunting for anecdotes etc. did not prevent the German liberal bourgeoisie of the second half of the 19th century to buy, read and like the smiling philosopher.

WEBER choose as sepulchral inscription:

Hier liegen meine Gebeine.
Ich wollt’ es wären Deine.

Roughly: Here lie my bones, I wish it were yours. The family disapproved, so on his gravestone now we can read:

Jocosus vixi, sed non impius / Incertus morior, nec perturbatus / Humanum est nescire et errare / Ens entium, misere mei !

I have lived with joy, but not impious ; I die insecure, but not without confidence ; It is human not to know and to go wrong ; Supreme being, have mercy on me.

WEBER is the most important writer Hohenlohe produced, and pretty forgotten these days. A bit like the land he came from.