Henry Copley Greene, "The Song of the Ass,"
6.4 (October, 1931) 534-549 (at 534):
To represent the Virgin's flight into Egypt, a strange holiday was
celebrated yearly in many towns during the Middle Ages. The following account2 of the Beauvais celebration is found in a letter of
December 18, 1697 from a Canon in Beauvais, Foy de Saint-Hilaire,
to M. de Francastel, Assistant Librarian of the Bibliothèque Mazarine in Paris.
'On the first day after the Octave of the [three] Kings,3 they chose a beautiful young girl, put a child in her hands, and mounted her on an ass which
they led in procession from the Cathedral Church to the Church of St
Stephen. Placing the ass and his lovely burden in the Sanctuary there on
the Gospel side, they sang a solemn mass, whose prose [of the Ass] is in
Louvet,4 and whose Introit, Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, etc., end in hin ham [he
haw], to the point where in fine missae sacerdos versus ad populum vice "Ite
Missa est" ter hinhanabit [he-hawed], populus vero vice "Deo gratias" ter
respondavit, "Hinham, Hinham, Hinham".'.5
2 Dom Paul Denis, Lettres Autographes de la Collection de Troussures (Paris: Champion,
1912), p. 312.
3 Foy de Saint-Hilaire is emphatic as to dates: 'We must not confuse the holiday of the Ass
with the day [other days] when the prose [of the Ass] was sung; for it is certain that this holiday
[when the Ass went into St Stephen's] was neither on Christmas day nor on the day of the Circumcision, nor on the [Three] Kings' day, [but on] the first day after the octave of the [Three]
4 Pierre Louvet, Histoire et Antiquités du Diocese de Beauvais (Beauvais, 1631-1635), ii.301.
5 In connection with this story, Foy de Saint-Hilaire added:
'See what I heard said by my late father, who had seen the whole Donkey Mass, [of] which
[the MS.] was kept in our parish church of St Stephen, and which a clerk of the Curé's ...
seized and cruelly burned because of conscientious scruples. His name was Davennes, and I
knew him when I was a child.' (Denis, op. cit., 312).
On animal sounds in Greek and Latin see:
- D. Thomas Benediktson, "Polemius Silvius' Voces varie animancium and related catalogues of animal sounds," Mnemosyne 53 (2000) 71-79
- C.E. Finch, "Suetonius' catalogue of animal sounds in codex Vat. Lat. 6018," American Journal of Philology 90 (1969) 459-463
- Paul Kretschmer, "Συς und andere lautnachahmende Wörter," Glotta 13 (1924) 132-138
- Karl Kunst, "mugire und rugire," Glotta 14 (1925) 109-113
- J.H.H. Schmidt, Handbuch der lateinischen und griechischen Synonymik (Leipzig: Teubner, 1889), pp. 157-162 (Stimmen der Säugetiere) and 162-166 (Stimmen der Vögel, Lurche und Kerfe)
- Bruno Snell, "Das I-Ah des goldenes Esel," Hermes 70 (1935) 355-356
- W.B. Stanford, The Sounds of Greek (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967), ch. V (Mimesis in Words), pp. 98-121, esp. 102-103
- Wilhelm Wackernagel, Voces Variae Animantium (diss. Basel, 1867)
Hat tip: Jim O'Donnell.