Monthly Archives: March 2015

Palimpsest Text and Illos Found in the Black Book of Carmarthen

Previously unknown pictures and a Welsh poem, found in the margins by UV imaging.

The Black Book of Carmarthen is an important Welsh and Arthurian literature text.

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Free Coursera Intro to Linguistics course starting!

If you’d like some exposure to what linguistics is, and what kind of research linguists do, there’s a free course on Coursera that you can check out. (But if you want a “Verified Certificate” that you took the course, you have to pay $49.)

Miracles of Human Language: An Introduction to Linguistics.

Here’s more info about it, over on Language Log. This is actually a better slate of info than the average lecture class, albeit it’s a bit harder to ask questions.

It does feature a short guest interview appearance by the dreaded Noam Chomsky, but hey, they promise that he actually talks about linguistics for once!

The course started yesterday, so you’ve only got one video class to catch up on.

Leiden University is a darned good school over in the Netherlands, but the class is in English.

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Ancient Bronze Statues Made to Hold Trays

PhDiva points out that some great bronzes were actually the functional equivalent of drinkholders and lawn jockeys.

Also pictures of the Last Supper, and the tradition that Jews should eat while reclining on Passover.

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Revenge of the Medieval Physicians!

Medieval physicians get a lot of guff for their prescriptions, which were often based on now-discredited Greek humor theory or astrology.

However, a lot of their medicines were based on experience, too, and some of them work quite well.

So, in the desperate search for something that kills antibiotic-resistant MRSA dead but doesn’t kill the patient, medical science has gone back to examine medieval ointments and salves.

It now appears that “Bald’s eyesalve,” a 10th century Saxon mix of garlic, wine, leek or onion juice, oxgall, and brass chemical byproducts, does kill 99.99% of MRSA on mouse skin samples, when applied topically. (Which is to say that they removed the skin from the mice and gave it MRSA, not that they gave MRSA to the mice.) They also tested versions which contained only one or two of the main ingredients, or only water cooked in the brass vessel, or only versions without the special instructions. All of these did little good, whereas the full Bald’s eyesalve combo kicked the heck out of MRSA. Bald’s eyesalve was also remarkable for being able to breach the sticky biofilm coating which protects MRSA, and then kill all but 1 cell out of every 1000 cells of MRSA.

WITHIN 24 HOURS!!!!

The study was then replicated in the US with equally spectacular testtube results.

They then tested both fresh batches and batches that had been kept in the fridge for longer and longer periods of times, and all the batches retained effectiveness.

The AncientBiotics Project includes work by the English faculty who teach Old English. So there! Ha! This video contains more info than the news stories. It is amazing!

Now, garlic and onion juice do irritate the skin as well as being smelly, but anything is better than having your flesh eaten away until you die.

Oxgall/oxbile is actually currently being used already by bacteriologists, although they fancy up the name so you won’t think they’re medieval. But it’s usually used to help grow stuff that does live in stomachs, not to kill things off that don’t live in stomachs!

But it’s good to know, if you someday end up having to make medieval oxgall ink while trapped in a bacteriology laboratory. It’s also used in an alcohol mix to prepare paper to take ink (for ink art), or to marble paper (by “wetting” the ink colors so you can swish them around).

Obviously Bald’s eyesalve needs to be tested further on human skin samples before we talk about using it on live humans, but right now it probably beats doing nothing. And yeah, that combo would kill just about anything.

Scroll down for a kicky picture of the scientists. They freely admit they expected this crap would do nothing much at all, especially when put together according to the medieval recipe. They now think interdisciplinary science is cool.

Here’s Bald’s Leechbook, linked over at the British Library blog.

More on Bald’s Leechbook.

UPDATE: BBC article containing the scientists’ redaction of the Bald’s eyesalve recipe, just in case you catch MRSA:

– Equal parts onion (or leek) and garlic, minced and crushed in a mortar for two minutes

– Add 0.87 fl oz. of English wine (taken from a historic vineyard near Glastonbury).

– Dissolve bovine salts in distilled water. Add to mixture.

– Keep mixture chilled in a brass vessel for nine days at 4C. After that, decant into a glass jar.

UPDATE: More methodology info. The scientists got their oxgall from “cow’s bile salts” sold for internal use by people who’ve lost their gall bladders. It also talks about how they made the brass vessels in an easily sterilizable form, and about how they prepared the MRSA samples. The scientists also tested just how diluted the eyesalve could be and still work, and what effects a dilute solution had on bacteria. This helped them study the mechanism of how the eyesalve does its antibiotic thing.

UPDATE: US replication of the testing was carried out by Dr. Kendra Rumbaugh at Texas Tech University; she tested on actual living mice with MRSA-infected wounds. The mice took the treatment just fine. Yay! Apparently results weren’t quite as spiffy as in the testtube, but the stuff still worked “as good or better than” more conventional antibiotics. In fact, it worked better than vancomycin, the current antibiotic that is considered best against MRSA.

A translation of Bald’s Leechbook is included in T. O. Cockaygne’s three volume work Leechdoms, Wortcunning, and Starcraft of Early England, an 1864 collection of early English science and medical documents. Bald’s Leechbook is Volume 2, and the eyesalve is in Chapter 2, on page 35, lines 3-10. Here’s a somewhat modernized adaptation of it by me:

“Work an eye salve for a wen:

Take cropleek and garlic, equal quantities of both; pound them well together.

Take wine and bullocks’ gall, equal quantities of both; mix with the leek.

Then put this into a brass vessel; let it stand nine days in the brass vessel.

Wring out through a cloth and clear it well.

Put it into a horn and apply it with a feather to the eye, around nighttime.

The best leechdom.

It’s a mixed bag, because the author was writing down pretty much every medicine he knew. So there are headache remedies that might work nicely even topically, headache remedies that would clear your sinuses beautifully, and then there’s burning a dog’s head. (Possibly an herb, possibly not.) For a head broken open so that the brain is exposed, Bald recommends a mixture of honey (kills germs and protects wounds) plus egg yolk (either as a binder or to make the honey thicker, although obviously bacteria can grow in it), and then leaving it bandaged up securely for three days (probably the best thing to do in medieval conditions). After three days, if there are signs of infection, Bald says you can’t heal it. (Well, no, probably not.) Bald also gives “gargle” recipes for infected mouths and teeth. He gives recipes for “mist in the eyes” (cataracts) that range from reasonable, to ground salt in honey. (Yeah, that might take off the cataracts, but it would be likely to destroy your eyes too….)

So Bald’s eyesalve is another medieval mixed bag, in its own spectacular way. I don’t know how it would work specifically on a wen or sty in one’s eye, but obviously it does work on skin infections.

UPDATE: After I posted the link to the translation of Bald’s Leechbook, a lot of journalists magically started quoting Cockaygne’s translation. Heh, heh. Well, I’m happy to help!

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Unpublished Man from UNCLE Tie-In Novel: The Final Affair by David McDaniel

There was a very successful, very fannish series of Man from UNCLE official tie-in novels, mostly by the late David McDaniel (aka Ted Johnstone). The last novel ended up not getting published for various publisher reasons, and so the manuscript has apparently been kicking around Man from UNCLE fandom ever since.

Here’s the digital version put up in 2010, which is a PDF of the typescript.

You will notice some typical McDaniel features: the UNCLE arc story, which he created; the Tuckerized appearances of various real life friends of the author (such as author Stephen Goldin); and the Leibowitzed appearance of many fictional characters as real historical persons (allusions to Moriarty and to Nero Wolfe’s private detective associate, Saul Panzer).

Mr. McDaniel died young, so it’s nice to see that his friends and fellow fans have kept his work alive in this way.

J.M. Stine reminisces about McDaniel and his connections to The Man from UNCLE. It reveals the “true identity” of some of the novel-only characters; of course they were based on fannish friends!

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Annie Johnson Flint Has Been Ripped Off (and Mark Pearse and Sarah Rowntree, Too)

Once upon a time, there was a poet and lyricist named Annie Johnson Flint. She did not live in the 14th or 15th century. She lived from 1866 to 1932.

Here is her biography.

One of the poems she wrote, “The World’s Bible,” was turned into a Protestant church hymn. It seems to have been fairly well-known in the late 1930’s, 1940’s, and 1950’s, but lost popularity at some point. It is described as an “old song.” Some churches sang it to the same tune as “The Church’s One Foundation,” while others sang it to an original 1934 tune by J. E. Hamilton. There was also a 1986 setting by Eggleston. The only hymnal I’ve found that gives a date for the lyrics says it’s “1919,” but obviously it would be good to know what their source was. Here are the lyrics:

THE WORLD’S BIBLE

Christ has no hands but our hands to do His work today;
He has no feet but our feet to lead men in His way;
He has no tongue but our tongues to tell men how He died;
He has no help but our help to bring them to His side.

We are the only Bible the careless world will read;
We are the sinner’s gospel, we are the scoffer’s creed;
We are the Lord’s last message, given in deed and word;
What if the type is crooked? What if the print is blurred?

What if our hands are busy with other work than His?
What if our feet are walking where sin’s allurement is?
What if our tongues are speaking of things His lips would spurn?
How can we hope to help Him and hasten His return?

(Occasionally this probably non-Flint verse was added:)

So, Christians, tell your neighbors, tell everyone you know.
Tell them that Jesus died, because He loved us so.
Tell how He came from Heaven to earth, so He could give
His life upon the cross, that all mankind might live.

The song at some point was translated into Spanish, probably by evangelicals working in Spanish-speaking countries. At this point, the actual author of the lyrics seems to have been forgotten. You see the words attributed to a “14th century Prayer of the Apostle” (siglo XIV Oración del Apóstol), so possibly the song was named “Oración del Apóstol” in Spanish hymnals. Some sources say it was a medieval German prayer (plegaria medieval aleman). And then, you get another bunch of sources who say it’s by St. Teresa de Avila. (There were also a few folks who said it was St. Catherine of Siena, believe it or not.) It seems to have been at this point that the Cursillo movement took it up, and that’s apparently who popularized the song among Catholics!

See if this “Oración del Apóstol” version doesn’t look familiar:

Cristo, no tiene manos, tiene solamente nuestras manos
para hacer el trabajo de hoy.

Cristo no tiene pies, tiene solamente nuestros pies
para guiar a los hombres en sus sendas.

Cristo, no tiene labios, tiene solamente nuestros labios
para hablar a los hombres de sí.

Cristo no tiene medios, tiene solamente nuestra ayuda
para llevar a los hombres a sí.

Nosotros somos la única Biblia,
que los pueblos leen aún;
somos el último mensaje de Dios
escrito en obras y palabras.

And here’s another version:

“Cristo no tiene manos, solo nuestras manos para hacer el trabajo de hoy!
Solo tiene nuestros labios para hablar a la gente acerca de el!”

Then it got turned into socialist/social justice versions, which were still advertised as being “a medieval prayer”:

Cristo no tiene manos, tiene sólo nuestras manos
Para construir un mundo nuevo donde habite la justicia.
Cristo no tiene pies, tiene sólo nuestros pies
Para poner en marcha a los oprimidos por el camino de la libertad.

Cristo no tiene labios, tiene sólo nuestros labios
Para proclamar a los pobres la Buena Noticia de su dignidad.
Cristo no tiene medios, tiene sólo nuestra acción
Para lograr que todos los hombres sean hermanos.

Cristo, somos tu pueblo unido,
Contigo queremos ofrecernos a Dios, Nuestro Padre
Para cumplir siempre su voluntad.
Ayúdanos a ser servidores de tu Amor,
Constructores de la justicia y obreros de la Paz. Amén.

At any rate, the meme and the various versions of the Flint song seem to have gotten picked up by the Seventies and Eighties crowd, and then translated back into non-rhyming English, with changes in the pronouns.

But there’s also another version, which is even more popular with the peace and justice crowd, and which seems to be taking over in some places!

“Christ has no body now on earth but yours,
no hands but yours, no feet but yours,
Yours are the eyes through which to look out
Christ’s compassion to the world
Yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good;
Yours are the hands with which he is to bless men now.”

Apparently this version leans heavily on a couple of UK Quaker statements (in English!) from about the same time that Flint was having her poems published. In The British Friend, volume 1, number 1, 1892, p. 15 (via Mockingbird’s Imitations, Living in the Monastery and BrianMcLaren.net):

Sarah Eliza Rowntree gave an interesting account of the recent establishment of the “Home” in Pearl Street, and the progress of the Mission there. She appealed for more workers to assist its further usefulness, concluding with some words of Mark Guy Pearse, “Remember Christ has no human body now upon the earth but yours; no hands but yours; no feet but yours. Yours, my brothers and sisters, are the eyes through which Christ’s compassion has to look upon the world, and yours are the lips with which His love has to speak. Yours are the hands with which He is to bless men now, and yours the feet with which He is to go about doing good through His Church which is His body.”

Mr. Pearse’s original quote actually goes all the way back to 1888, so both quotes may actually predate “The World’s Bible,” if that poem really didn’t come out until 1919. Here is Pearse, from a sermon delivered on January 3rd, 1888, in Steinway Hall, Portman Square, London:

“Now you, my brothers and sisters, are the eyes through which Christ’s compassion is to look out upon this world, and yours are the lips through which His love is to speak; yours are the hands with which He is to bless men, and yours the feet with which He is to go about doing good–through His Church, which is His body.” – Evangelical Christendom, v. 42, February 1st, 1888, p. 46

(Heh, I wonder if he’s related to Roger Pearse….)

The connection with UK Quakers explains a lot of the more theologically problematic versions of the words, because obviously Quakers have a hugely different theology and ecclesiology from a lot of other Christian groups.

Either way, this version was turned into hymns again! Lots and lots of hymns! Catholic hymns! Lutheran hymns! Anglican hymns!

Here’s John Michael Talbot’s “St. Teresa’s Prayer”, an adaptation which seems to lean more on Pearse and Rowntree.

Coro Jovenes Santa Teresa gets a little bit further away still, with the refrain of “Crucifijo”.

Cristo no tiene manos y pide las tuyas
Cristo no tiene voz y pide tu canción
Cristo no tiene pies para caminar el mundo
Cristo pide tu amor.

Here’s David Haas’ setting.

Here’s a totally different take by Tom Porter, for a Lutheran church.

“Christ Has No Body Now But Yours” is music by David Ogden, and seems to have become a very popular choir piece. (This one includes the popular pronoun change — allowing a denial that the choir is any part of the Body of Christ, in exchange for getting to lecture the audience.)

A pretty version set to music by Brian McLaren.

To be fair, most of these are far enough away from Flint, and Pearse, and Rowntree to count as new works. Pearse and Rowntree were putting out prose, so they’re covered by the less restrictive UK life plus 70, instead of the sheet music rules. But more importantly, they deserve credit for their own works. (Although it’s awfully flattering to be mistaken for one of Spain’s greatest poets.)

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Richard III Denied Catholic Reinterment

Despite early promises that Richard III would be reinterred by Catholics, of course the government decided it had to be done by the state church. It got done, though, and that’s the main thing.

(Nevertheless, the music was very nice, and ironically more medieval and Catholic than we can get at most Catholic Masses. So it’s six of one and half dozen of the other, I guess.)

There was a Catholic requiem Mass earlier on Monday. It was celebrated by Archbishop Vincent Nichols. Nice homily. For the occasion, he wore the Westminster Vestment, a chasuble passed down from the time of Richard III. It is a wonderful example of the famous “opus Anglicanum” embroidery style.

Ironically, some UK folks complained about the pageantry and coffin processional, even though this was exactly the kind of thing you did in the Middle Ages to apologize if somebody famous got treated like crap when buried originally. Of course, the medieval idea of historical costumes wouldn’t be historical at all; but this kind of thing did happen.

So it was very appropriate that thousands paid their respects to Richard III along the procession and at the cathedral; and it was great that so many Masses and memorial prayer services were held for him across England and the world. We all must die someday, and we all hope for a respectful burial and many prayers.

Here’s a picture of Jacquie Binns and the beautiful pall she made for Richard’s requiem Mass. (The link probably won’t be there long.)

An embroidered linen used for the bones to be placed upon, inside of Richard III’s coffin, made by Elizabeth Nokes, Ricardian. The coffin itself was made by Michael Ibsen, a relation of Richard III. Richard was also buried with a blessed rosary donated by historian John Ashdown-Hill.

In a turn of events that would have pleased Richard, new royal succession laws have removed the rules against Catholics marrying royals, although Catholics still can’t succeed to the actual throne. In a somewhat less historical move, England has now also instituted a Salic succession law in place of male primogeniture, thus permitting women to have the same status in the succession order as men. It’s now birth order only. Obviously this rearranges the line of succession a bit, albeit Charles is still top heir with William and Harry following him. Also, only the first six people in line for the throne need royal permission in order to marry, so theoretically those further back can marry at will and then dispose of the heirs afterward! This is an obvious boon for romance novelists! 🙂

However, that chick from Canada is probably now really embarrassed about converting to Anglicanism. Let’s hope she has the good sense to convert back.

On that note, of course this means that Prince Philip should be able to convert back to Greek Orthodox before he passes, which honestly sounds like a pretty good idea. (Although we’d be perfectly happy to have him as a Byzantine Catholic or an Anglican Use Catholic, or any other flavor!)

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