Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Shakespearean or early modern pumpkin

For a malapropism:

Clown. …for mine own part, I am (as they say, but to perfect one man in one poor man) Pompion the great sir.

Berowne. Art thou one of the Worthies?

Or, of course, for rotundity:

Or ‘We’ll use this unwholsome humidity, this gross-watery Pumpion’

Merry Wives of Windsor III. iii. 38

For all kinds of jokes:

The Welsh-man purchased the Pompion for the Mare’s Egg and got never a Colt from it” (Richard Boulton, Richard, A letter to Dr. Charles Goodall (1699)

In cookery:

“Why a piece of Pompion being put into a Pot wherein Flesh is boyling, makes the same tender. A piece of Pompion put into a Pot in which Flesh is boyling, doth make the same more tender than ordinary.

The Reason is, because the Pompion abounds with strong Spirits, and a sowrish Juice: Now it is manifest that all sowr things are endued with a resolving virtue, which daily experience shews us concerning Vinegar. And PLINY assures the same concerning sharp pointed Docks, viz. that being boyld with Flesh, it makes it more soft and tender; because its sharp and corroding quality doth dissolve the Texture of the Fibres.

~ A worthwhile tip, and from no less a source than An entire body of philosophy according to the principles of the famous Renate Des Cartes in three books, 1694.

And of course for carving. Assembling this little collection took me to The Essex champion, or, The famous history of Sir Billy of Billerecay and his Squire Ricardo (1699), which is a piece of sub-Quixote buffoonery by William Winstanley. Sir Billy having taken to delusions of knight-errantry and picaresque chivalry, an Innkeeper induces a groom to try to frighten their credulous guest. The groom dresses in a bear’s skin, and carries “on his shoulder a lighted Candle in the Rinde of a Pompion, cut out with the resemblance of Nose, Eyes, and Mouth, it looked most dreadfully.” But Billerecay Billy summons his resolution, and smites him hard enough to split the pumpkin and extinguish the candle. The groom thinks the cracking noise was his own skull, and flees, leaving Billy convinced that he has vanquished the devil.

Or the OED gave me W Kenrick, Falstaff's Wedding (1760): “Hast thou never seen a pumpion, fantastically carv'd and set over a candle's-end, on a gate-post, to frighten ale-wives from gossiping by owl-light?” But that's out of my period. That's my pumpkin for tomorrow, the gourd of Avon.

1 comment:

mercurius politicus said...

Thank you so much for this - brilliant stuff.