• Etymons

    Poet

    The Greeks called him “a poet,” which name has, as the most excellent, gone through other languages. It comes of this word poiein, which is “to make”; wherein I know not whether by luck or wisdom we Englishmen have met with the Greeks in calling him “a maker.” Which name how high and incomparable a title it is, I had rather were known by marking the scope of other sciences than by any partial allegation (Sidney Defence of Poesie). Sidney is absolutely correct when he notes that the English word poet derives from the Greek poiein, to create. Our modern English poet comes to us via Middle English, from Old French poete,…

  • Etymons

    Memento Mori

    The phrase memento mori is usually used in the context of a literary topos, that is a commonplace, or a motif in art. The New Latin (i.e. not Classical, but late Medieval or Early Modern Latin) is derived from Latin mementō, singular imperative of meminisse, “to remember’ + Latin morī, “to die.” Memento mori is conventionally translated as “remember that you have to die,” or the even less literal “remember your death” (AHD).” Death Comes to the Banquet Table Giovanni Martinelli (1600–1659) Image: Wikimedia commons Remember here has a cautionary connotation of “don’t forget.” The driving idea behind the tag (and the topos) is that all creatures die; we should…

  • Calendar,  Medieval manuscripts

    August from the Très Riches Heures de Jean Duc de Berry

    The conventional seasonal labor for August is wheat threshing; that’s when the wheat reaped in July, briefly dried in the field then stacked in small bundles or sheaves, before being gathered into larger shocks, tied, and brought to a barn (sometimes a dedicated three-walls-and-a-roof threshing barn) where it was beaten with a flail to force the dried wheat grains off the stems. Grain had to be dry before being stored or milled; damp wheat often resulted in fungus, even the dreaded ergot. Threshing was sometimes continued into the autumn and even winter, when working inside was a convenient escape, and thereby allowed summer’s harvest to continue without interruption. In this…

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