Friday, June 26, 2009
Huru WelandesThis is translated by Bruce Mitchell et al., edd. Beowulf: An Edition with Relevant Shorter Texts (Malden: Wiley-Blackwell, 1998), p. 209, as "Surely the work of Weland will fail not any of those men who can hold strong Mimming." Weland was a smith, and Mimming was a sword.
worc ne geswiceð
ðara ðe Mimming can
I thought of Wilbur's poem and the merits of fine craftsmanship recently when I read Larry Lack, "Preserving and Reviving a Timeless Technology," The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener (Summer 2009), an article on scythes. Lack's article also started me wondering about scythes in the classical world. The article on the scythe by Solomon Reinach in Daremberg-Saglio, Dictionnaire des Antiquités Grecques et Romaines, II.2 (Paris, 1896), pp. 968-971, s.v. falx, is available on the Internet. Indeed, all of Daremberg-Saglio is available.
The main Greek word for scythe is δρεπάνη (alt. δρέπανον). Scythes appear on the shield of Achilles (Homer, Iliad 18.550-551, tr. Richmond Lattimore):
He made on it the precinct of a king, where the labourersIn the Odyssey (18.366-370, tr. Butcher and Lang), Odysseus challenges Eurymachus to a scything contest:
were reaping, with the sharp reaping hooks in their hands.
ἐν δ᾽ ἐτίθει τέμενος βασιλήϊον· ἔνθα δ᾽ ἔριθοι
ἤμων ὀξείας δρεπάνας ἐν χερσὶν ἔχοντες.
Eurymachus, would that there might be a trial of labour between us twain, in the season of spring, when the long days begin! In the deep grass might it be, and I should have a crooked scythe, and thou another like it, that we might try each the other in the matter of labour, fasting till late eventide, and grass there should be in plenty.The Latin word for scythe is falx, which is really a broad term covering many types of tools with curved blades. Cato, On Agriculture, distinguishes various types of scythes by adjectives describing what they cut, at 10.3 falces faenarias ... stramentarias ... arborarias (hay hooks ... straw hooks ... tree hooks) and 11.4 falces sirpiculas ... silvaticas ... arborarias (rush hooks ... wood hooks ... tree hooks). Cato says that the best place to buy scythes is at Cales and Minturnae (135).
Εὐρύμαχ᾽, εἰ γὰρ νῶϊν ἔρις ἔργοιο γένοιτο
ὥρῃ ἐν εἰαρινῇ, ὅτε τ᾽ ἤματα μακρὰ πέλονται,
ἐν ποίῃ, δρέπανον μὲν ἐγὼν εὐκαμπὲς ἔχοιμι,
καὶ δὲ σὺ τοῖον ἔχοις, ἵνα πειρησαίμεθα ἔργου
νήστιες ἄχρι μάλα κνέφαος, ποίη δὲ παρείη.
Related post: The Hoe and the Axe.