Saturday, April 9, 2011

hear the mandrake grone

i'm taking this class on "witchcraft and heresy" in europe in the dark ages. i had to take it because i waited until the week before the semester began to register, and this was the only thing left lying around. i would have eaten this shit up in high school, but as it is, i'm put right the fuck out at having to immerse myself in the pastoral woman-hating hyper religious days of medieval england and france. fuck them, you know? there are a lot of things i'd rather be doing than reading about old women getting the rack and then burnt because some asshole accused her of witchcraft because her goat ate his garden. not a euphemism. who knows!

so most of the time i am reading the minutes of various witch trials and the confessions of the accused. they're what you'd expect, pathetic and full of leading questions. the desperation of the accused and the salacious allegations and accounts of what was said during torture is sickening. but i came across this play that i had never heard of, the masque of queens, written by ben jonson, who displays an obvious personal preoccupation with then-contemporary witchcraft theory. parts of it amused me; you can read most of it here. this excerpt is about what a bunch of nasty old witches have been up to in preparation for some shenanigans.



Q U E E N S,

Celebrated from the House of FAME:


Q U E E N of Great Britain, with her L A D I E S.
At W H I T E H A L L, Feb. 2. 1609.

Let us disturb it then, (c) and blast the Light;
Mix Hell with Heaven, and make Nature fight
Within her self; loose the whole henge of Things;
And cause the ends run back, into their Springs.
Hag. What our Dame bids us do,
We are ready for. Dam. Then fall too.
(d) But first relate me, what you have sought,
Where you have been, and what you have brought.

I Last Night, lay all alone
O'the Ground, to hear the Mandrake grone;
And pluckt him up, though he grew full low;
And, as I had done, the Cock did crow.

I Had a Dagger: what did I with that?
Kill'd an Infant, to have his fat.
A Piper it got, at a Church-ale,
I bad him, again blow Wind i'th' Tail.

A Murderer, yonder, was hung in Chains,
The Sun and the Wind had shrunk his Veins;
I bit off a Sinew; I clipp'd his Hair,
I brought off his Rags, that danc'd i'th' Air.

The Scrich-owls Eggs, and the Feathers black,
The Blood of the Frog, and the Bone in his back,
I have been getting; and made of his Skin
A purset, to keep Sir Cranion in.

And I ha'been plucking (Plants among)
Hemlock, Henbane, Adders-tongue,
Night-shade, Moon-wort, Libbards-bane;
And twise, by the Dogs, was like to be tane.

I Went to the Toad breeds under the Wall,
I charm'd him out, and he came at my call;
I scratch'd out the Eyes of the Owl before,
I tore the Bat's Wing; what would you have more?

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