Saturday, January 19, 2013

Today's research snippet. 12th century Londoners in Winter

Given the state of the UK weather at the moment, I thought I'd quote from William FitzStephen's Norman London, written in the 12th century before 1183. This is what Londoners did for fun in icy weather!

In winter on almost every feast-day before dinner either foaming boars and hogs, armed with tusks lightning-swift, themselves soon to be bacon, fight for their lives, or fat Bulls with butting horns, or huge bears, do combat the death against hounds let loose upon them.

When the great Marsh that washes the Northern walls of the city is frozen, dense throngs of youths go forth to disport themselves upon the ice. Some gathering speed by a run, glide sidelong, with feet set well apart, over a vast space of ice. Others make themselves seats of ice like millstones and are dragged along by a number who run before them holding hands. Sometimes they slip owing to the greatness of their speed and fall, every one of them, upon their faces. 

Others there are, more skilled to sport upon the ice, who fit to their feet the shin bones of beasts, lashing them beneath their ankles, and with iron-shod poles in their hands they strike ever and anon against the ice and are born along as swift as a bird in flight or a bolt shot from a mangonel.

But sometimes two by agreement run against one another from a great distance and raising their poles, strike one another. One or both fall, not without bodily hurt, since in falling they are born a long way in opposite directions by the force of their own motion; and where ever the ice touches the head, it scrapes and skins it entirely. Often he that falls breaks shin or arm, if he fall upon it. But youth is an age greedy of renown, yearning for victory, and exercises itself in mimic battles that it may bear itself more boldly in true combats.

Today's photo - shin bone ice skates as mentioned above.  Museum of London.

1 comment:

M Harold Page said...

"or a bolt shot from a mangonel"

Oh, that's interesting. Is that a fairly literal translation, I wonder? If so, mangonel = ballista.