Thursday, November 9, 2023

"The Properties of a Good Greyhound" by Dame Juliana Berners

[1881 Facsimile of the original manuscript]


[Poem as published in The Rattle Bag]

The Properties of a Good Greyhound

A greyhound should be headed like a Snake,
And necked like a Drake,
Footed like a Cat,
Tailed liked a Rat,
Sidèd like a Team,
Chined like a Beam.

The first year he must learn to feed,
The second year to field him lead,
The third year he is fellow-like,
The fourth year there is none sike,
The fifth year he is good enough,
The sixth year he shall hold the plough,
The seventh year he will avail
Great bitches for to assail,
The eighth year lick ladle,
The ninth year cart saddle,
And when he is comen to that year
Have him to the tanner,
For the best hound that ever bitch had
At nine year he is full bad.

Sources of the text - (1) The Boke of Saint Albans by Dame Juliana Berners, with an introduction by William Blades.  London: Elliot Stock, 1881.  (2) The Rattle Bag, edited by Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes.  London: Faber and Faber, 1982, pages 352-353.

TJB: Dog georgics; greyhounding for dummies. With a first stanza sleek as a greyhound, the poet uses rhyming couplets to create easy-to-remember advice.

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