Friday, November 27, 2009


In Defence and Praise of the Fart

Thanks to a friend for drawing my attention to Manuel Marti's Pro Crepitu Ventris. The full title is Oratio Pro Crepitu Ventris habita ad Patres Crepitantes ab Emanuele Martino Ecclesiae Alonensis Decano, i.e. Speech in Defence of the Fart, delivered before the Farting Fathers by Manuel Marti, Dean of the Cathedral of Alicante.

The original edition, published in 1737 (Regio-Brigae: Ex Officina Aethonis), is rare, and I couldn't find a copy on the Internet. However, there is a reprint in Clarorum Valentinorum Petri Joannis Nunnesii, Emanuelis Martini, Gregorii Majansii, Joannis Insulae, Aliorumque Orationes Selectae (Lausannae: Apud Franciscum Grasset & Socios, 1767), pp. 90-117, which is available via Google Books, although unfortunately some of the pages are almost illegible. Of special interest to me is the discussion of the god Fart on p. 113. My friend hinted that he might translate this droll work—I hope he will.

I think that the following illustration comes from Claude F.X. Mercier, Eloge du pet: dissertation historique, anatomique et philosophique sur son origine, son antiquité, ses vertus, sa figure, les honneurs qu'on lui a rendus chez les peuples anciens et les faceties, auxquelles il a donné lieu (Paris: Favre, 1799), i.e. Praise of the fart: historical, anatomical, and philosophical dissertation on its origin, its antiquity, its virtues, its shape, the honors paid to it by ancient peoples, and the jokes to which it has given rise, although I haven't seen the book:

I came across another treatise on the same subject by Rudolph Goclenius the Younger, Physiologia Crepitus Ventris (Francofurti, 1607), reprinted as Problemata De Crepitu Ventris ("Questions Concerning the Fart") in Caspar Dornavius, Amphitheatrum Sapientiae Socraticae Joco-Seriae (Hanoviae: Typis Wechelianis, 1619), vol. 1, pp. 349-354. The enthusiasm of an anonymous reviewer of Goclenius' work in The Philobiblion (Oct. 1862) 255-256 (at 256) is infectious:
This learned dissertation is drawn up in a masterly manner; and we may say, without exaggeration, that the subject is enlarged by the magic pen of Goclenius. The subject is thoroughly discussed and considered from an elevated point of view. The different denominations of the peditus among divers nations; its signification; the near, remote, and efficient causes of it; its dimension, resonance, emission, retention, and odor; and indeed all the accessory and concomitant circumstances are successively and learnedly discussed. But this, however, does not exhaust the curiosity and fecundity of our ingenious author; the most singular and unexpected questions are raised and resolved. In confirmation of this, we recommend the curious reader to examine the following paragraphs: V. De crepitibus artificialibus. VII. Cur Vandali ex ceparum usu frequentius pedunt. XIII. Essetne in hoc crepitu musica. XVII. De connexis. Cur prodest simul et pedere et meiere. XXIII. Cur multi etiam imperatores crepitum ventris tanti faciant. XXX et XXXI. De comparatione cum tonitru et cum fulmine. Finally, musicians and natural philosophers will find, perhaps, some new and important ideas in the paragraph where the erudite author compares the variations of sound with the capacity and power of the instrument which produces it.

It may be truly said that Goclenius has studied his interesting subject ab ovo. He takes the peditus at its origin—in that elementary state which chemists designate as gaz-naissant, when it is yet only a gentle murmur, which the Greeks named βορβορυγμος; he follows it to the age of virility, and abandons it only at its complete emancipation and deliverance. As a man conscious of great strength, Goclenius does not hesitate to measure himself with the most celebrated personages of antiquity; and he alternately discusses his subject with Hippocrates, Dioscorades [sic, read Dioscorides], Galen, Socrates, Horace, Martial, and Suetonius. He severely criticizes Aristophanes, and comments upon Erasmus; and his learned composition is richly decorated with Greek, Latin, and German quotations, both in prose and poetry. In short, his work is truly an everblooming parterre, where fragrant flowers of antiquity spring up at every step.


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