British Library, Arundel MS 292
(Middle English Bestiary)
|England, 13th century
|British Library, London, England, UK
|Old / Middle English
A bestiary in Middle English is on folio 4r-10v. Also contains the Latin animal fables of Odo.
A Bestiarium, or natural history of certain animals, with the moral significations appended; translated into Middle English verse, chiefly from the Latin of Hildebertus Cenomanensis. fol. 4. Beginning: 'De leun stant on hille / And he man hunten here.' End: 'In hole of ston ge make hire nest, / In Cristes milce irre hope is best.'
Composed in East Midlands, first half thirteenth century, from the metrical Latin Physiologus by Theobaldus (eleventh-century Italian monk).
The Bestiary is founded on the Latin Physiologus of one Thetbaldus, though earlier specimens had appeared in Old English and Anglo-French. Of the thirteen animals dealt with, twelve are taken from the work of Thetbaldus, the section relating to the dove from Neckam's De Naturis Rerum (1, 56). The method of teaching is venerable but effective; the habits of animals are made to symbolize spiritual truth. The work does not, however, represent much originality, though the metrical form is a blending of old and new. Its six-syllable couplet is derived either from the Latin hexameters of the original or from Philipe de Thauns couplet, with which it is identical. But the treatment is far from regular; alliteration, rime and assonance are promiscuously used, and syllabic equivalence is but imperfectly apprehended. Occasionally delightful movements are obtained... But the whole seems to point to artistic inconsistencies rather than whimsical handling, though the work is interesting as showing English verse in the process of making.
Editions and Facsimiles
British Library (partial, 15 pages from the ME Bestiairy)