Archpoet suffered like Jonah & offered to castrate himself for wine

In 1164, the Archpoet begged his patron Rainald of Dassel for help. Rainald was Archbishop of Cologne and Archchancellor of Italy for the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa. When Rainald came to be honored at Vienne in Burgundy, nobles, actors, musicians, and entertainers all hoped to receive gifts. The much more learned and cultured Archpoet, however, bowed his head in shame, “as if a brother to thieves {tamquam frater sim latronum}.”[1] The Archpoet had done moral wrong and been deprived of many goods. He was truly a brother to thieves in the most wicked sense of being willing to castrate himself for wine.

Jonah swallowed and spewed from whale

The Archpoet depicted himself as the biblical prophet Jonah. In his poem “As Fame sounds the trumpet {Fama tuba dante sonum},” the Archpoet explained to his patron Rainald:

Having seized Jonah by chance
as the one guilty of the sudden storm,
condemned by his ship-mates,
the gates of the whale soon swallowed him.
And thus I, deserving of death,
having lived wickedly and perversely,
I whose flesh was engulfed
(but whose heart perhaps still remains)
is guilty before you and fears you.
You perhaps will have pity on me.

Behold, your Jonah weeps,
not ignorant of his fault,
for which the whale ate him;
he wants and begs for mercy,
that from the disease he suffers,
you may release him, you whom he honors,
fears, worships, and adores.

{ Ionam deprehensum sorte
reum tempestatis orte,
condempnatum a cohorte
mox absorbent ceti porte.
sic et ego dignus morte
prave vivens et distorte
cuius carnes sunt absorte
(sed cor manet adhuc forte)
reus tibi vereor te
miserturum mihi forte.

Ecce Ionas tuus plorat,
culpam suam non ignorat,
pro qua cetus eum vorat:
veniam vult et implorat,
ut a peste qua laborat
solvas eum quem honorat
tremit colit et adorat. } [2]

Lacking the insights of meninist literary criticism, scholars haven’t understood well the whale that swallowed the Archpoet. The Archpoet’s poetic forefather Hugh Primas brilliantly depicted whores exploiting him and other love-deprived men.[3] Moreover, the Archpoet’s illustrious contemporary Walter of Châtillon described being legally, financially, and sexually swallowed by a whore:

I’ll be forced into shackles
unless I give a little to her voracious gullet.
Already my knob
and the length of my purse
have gone down the wildcat’s gaping throat.

{ cogar ad vinculum,
nisi dem poculum gule voraginis.
Iam nodulum
et burse modulum
abstulit patulum guttur viraginis. } [4]

In medieval Europe, women with strong, independent, and highly active sexuality were thought to have unusually large vaginas. The whale that swallowed the Archpoet is best understood as a rapacious whore’s vagina.[5]

Scylla on ancient Greek vase

In describing being swallowed by a rapacious whore’s whale-vagina, the Archpoet rejected men-abasing courtly love for an idolized woman. Within the structural gender injustices of heterosexual love-seeking, the Archpoet apparently was love-impoverished. Poor in this fundamental sense, he turned to a whore for sexual consolation. She engulfed his flesh, but didn’t hold his heart: “but the heart remains {sed cor manet}.” Supporting his appeal for patronage, the Archpoet extravagantly expressed his love for his patron Rainald of Dassel, the one “whom he honors, / fears, worships, and adores {quem honorat / tremit colit et adorat}.” The Archpoet represented his love for Rainald to be as a courtly lover loves his idealized beloved. The Archpoet implied that, despite his whoring, his heart always remained with his patron.[6]

The Archpoet conditionally promised to turn from sex with whores to poetry. He implored Rainald:

If you pardon this guilty man,
and if you give order to the whale,
the whale whose mouth is wide,
it may, offering its customary gap,
vomit the made-bald poet
to his very intended port,
him made thin by hunger.
Thus the poet of poets might again
write for you a pleasing work.

With my life I’ll surpass the lives of the fathers,
shunning those things that you shun;
poetry yet unheard
I’ll write for you, if you enrich me.

{ Si remittas hunc reatum
et si ceto des mandatum,
cetus cuius os est latum
more suo dans hiatum
vomet vatem decalvatum
et ad portum destinatum
feret fame tenuatum,
ut sit rursus vates vatum
scribens opus tibi gratum.

vincam vita patrum vitas
vitans ea que tu vitas.
poetrias inauditas
scribam tibi, si me ditas. } [7]

The Archpoet’s intended port contrasts with the whore’s port, the “common port” that’s a well-known figure in medieval poetry of men’s sexed protest. While the whore’s vagina is wide, the Archpoet’s penis is made thin by hunger. It can then more easily be withdrawn. The Archpoet figuratively and literally vowed to shift his creative work from his penis to his pen. He recognized himself to be like the prodigal son leaving his father:

A stream of tears flows,
those that the fugitive pours out,
he only half-alive within the whale.
I was once your adopted son,
but my plural genitive testicles,
too evil and lascivious,
have been made injurious to me.

Wanting to enjoy pleasure,
I was comparable to a brute;
with a holy man I was not holy.
For that, fearing your anger,
like Jonah before his God,
I hurried, an exile seeking flight.

Already past time, I will speak plainly:
I’m pressed by the plague of poverty,
fool that I am, who in your service,
with money, horses, food, clothing,
led all festive days.
Now more insane than Orestes,
living badly and grievously,
dishonestly tramp-wandering,
I lead all sad days.
This matter needs no witness.

{ Lacrimarum fluit rivus
quas effundo fugitivus
intra cetum semivivus,
tuus quondam adoptivus;
sed pluralis genitivus
nequam nimis et lascivus
mihi factus est nocivus.

Voluptate volens frui
conparabar brute sui
nec cum sancto sanctus fui.
unde timens iram tui
sicut Ionas dei sui
fugam petens fuga rui.

Ut iam loquar manifeste:
paupertatis premor peste
stultus ego qui penes te
nummis equis victu veste
dies omnes duxi feste;
nunc insanus plus Oreste,
male vivens et moleste,
trutannizans inhoneste
omne festum duco meste;
res non eget ista teste. } [8]

Furies pursuing Orestes

Why did the Archpoet invoke Orestes? The enraged Orestes sought, with some justification, to kill his mother. Then vengeful, female monsters relentlessly pursued him. The miserably impoverished Archpoet sought, with some justification, to withdraw from his rapacious whore-lover. Despite his wrongs, the Archpoet returned to his patron-father Rainald of Dassel. As a Christian bishop, Rainald should love generously, as did the father of the prodigal son. The Archpoet knowingly asked Rainald for goods. Expelled naked from the whale’s gap, the Archpoet rightly could hope to receive from Rainald a new cloak, an expensive ring, and an honorary feast.[9] The Archpoet sought compassion that Orestes could not have received.

After having extensively discussed, well-understood experiences like that of Jonah, Orestes, and the prodigal son, the Archpoet proposed a classical horror and blasphemy against God’s blessing. He offered to sacrifice his genitals at Rainald’s wish:

Peace’s author, avenger of strife,
be gentle to your poet,
don’t believe the inexperienced;
already with testicles put to sleep,
I live holier with hermits.
Whatever you know to be evil in me,
I will amputate, if you wish.
So that thirst would not seize us,
I will be the branch and you the vine.

{ Pacis auctor, ultor litis,
esto vati tuo mitis
neque credas imperitis;
genitivis iam sopitis
sanctior cum heremetis:
quicquid in me malum scitis
amputabo, si velitis.
ne nos apprehendat sitis,
ero palmes et tu vitis. } [10]

Men deserve choice among alternate lifestyles, such as the life of a celibate hermit or poet. But having a man amputate his testicles differs categorically. No man should be compelled to castrate himself. Resist and reject castration culture!

In the context of castration, the Archpoet’s final verse is a gross misuse of holy scripture. Jesus in the Gospel of John declares:

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. … I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

{ ego sum vitis vera et Pater meus agricola est. omnem palmitem in me non ferentem fructum tollet eum et omnem qui fert fructum purgabit eum ut fructum plus adferat. … ego sum vitis vos palmites qui manet in me et ego in eo hic fert fructum multum quia sine me nihil potestis facere.

ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ ἄμπελος ἡ ἀληθινή καὶ ὁ πατήρ μου ὁ γεωργός ἐστιν. πᾶν κλῆμα ἐν ἐμοὶ μὴ φέρον καρπόν αἴρει αὐτό καὶ πᾶν τὸ καρπὸν φέρον καθαίρει αὐτὸ ἵνα καρπὸν πλείονα φέρῃ. … ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ ἄμπελος ὑμεῖς τὰ κλήματα ὁ μένων ἐν ἐμοὶ κἀγὼ ἐν αὐτῷ οὗτος φέρει καρπὸν πολύν ὅτι χωρὶς ἐμοῦ οὐ δύνασθε ποιεῖν οὐδέν. } [11]

For Jesus’s words “I am the vine, you are the branches {ego sum vitis vos palmites},” the Archpoet himself declared to his patron Rainald “I will be the branch and you the vine {ero palmes et tu vitis}.” Thus after adoring Rainald as if he were the Virgin Mary, the Archpoet figured him as Jesus! Even worse, the biblical context of pruning branches corresponds to the Archpoet offering himself to be castrated. Men’s seminal fruitfulness is essentially linked with men’s genitals. Enraged at obstinate heretics troubling his beloved Christian community, Saint Paul hurled the ultimate insult:

I wish those who unsettle you would castrate themselves!

{ utinam et abscidantur qui vos conturbant

ὄφελον καὶ ἀποκόψονται οἱ ἀναστατοῦντες ὑμᾶς } [12]

The Archpoet’s offer to castrate himself draws from his thirst for wine. In Christian understanding, Eurcharistic wine is transubstantiated into the blood of Christ. Men’s genitals, in contrast, are themselves God-created flesh. Men’s genitals work to fulfill the fundamental blessing of Hebrew scripture. Surely men’s thirst for women is more dangerous than their thirst for wine. Yet men’s genitals should not be sacrificed for wine or any other worldly goods.

The Archpoet, swallowed by a rapacious whore’s whale-vagina, suffered like Jonah. Like the prodigal son, the Archpoet returned impoverished to his father-patron, Rainald of Dassel. The Archpoet’s poignant, enormously learned poem wasn’t censored and canceled in relatively liberal and tolerant medieval Europe.[13] Yet castration culture, then and now, is a scandal of social justice and an insult to God. All deserve to know fully the blessing of well-tended branches producing an abundance of fruit.

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[1] Archpoet of Cologne, “As Fame sounds the trumpet {Fama tuba dante sonum}” v. 14, Latin text from the Latin Library, my English translation benefiting from those by Robert Levine (who also provides a good scholarly overview of the Archpoet) and Adcock (1994). All subsequent quotes from “Fama tuba dante sonum” are similarly sourced. The currently best edition of the Latin text is Watenphul & Krefeld (1958). For this poem, it’s essentially identical to the Latin Library text.

Rainald of Dassel was arriving to be seated in honor in Vienne in Middle Francia, part of historical Frankish Burgundia. Vienne is in the present-day Isère department of France. In “Fama tuba dante sonum,” v. 6, the word “Vienna” doesn’t refer to the present-day city of Vienna in Austria. Skinner (1973), p. 2, wrongly identifies the Archpoet’s “Vienna.”

“Fama tuba dante sonum” suggests that the Archpoet was intricately engaged with musical representation and numerical relations. Howlett (2008) pp. 245-9. Howlett concluded, “If even a fraction of this analysis is correct, the Archpoet earned both his title and his keep.” Id. p. 249.

The German band Helium Vola recorded an impressive performance of “Fama tuba dante sonum” in 2001 on its studio album Helium Vola. That performance includes only selected verses from the original poem.

Little is known about the Archpoet apart from his ten surviving, attributed poems. Godman stated:

Facts about the Archpoet are few. One of them is fundamental: the identification of him with ‘Rainald H’, a notary in the service of Rainald of Dassel, archchancellor of Italy and archbishop of Cologne, between 1158 and 1167. The complicity which distinguishes patron and client, unparalleled in the Latin literature of the Middle Ages, developed within a context of companionship. Itinerant but no vagans, our author accompanied his chief in the chancery on journeys throughout Germany, Burgundy and Italy. Places and dates of their travels are provided by charters which ‘Rainald H’ composed and copied. They leave little room for doubt that, more than any other identifiable member of his master’s entourage, he remained at Rainald of Dassel’s side.

Godman (2011) p. 31. Peter Dronke was skeptical of the claim that the Archpoet was this Rainald H. Adcock (1994) pp. xx-xxi (written by Dronke).

[2] Archpoet, “Fama tuba dante sonum” vv. 31-47. The Archpoet’s diction picks up words from the Vulgate text of Jonah. Cf. Jonah 1:3, 2:1-2. “A fish swallows a man” is a well-established folktale motif.  For discussion of this motif (ATU 1889G), Ziolkowski (2007) Ch. 2. Ziolkowski (1984), an early version of that chapter, has the great advantage of being freely accessible online.

In Jonah, the sea-creature that swallows Jonah is described as a “large fish.” Jonah 1:17. Drawing upon the description of Jonah being swallowed in Matthew 12:40, Jerome influentially declared:

In Hebrew, however, we read “large fish” for what the translators of the Septuagint and the Lord in the Gospel call a whale. The later two make clear the same thing more concisely. For in the Hebrew is said “dag gadol,” which is translated as “large fish.” There is no doubt that it means whale.

{ In hebraico autem PISCEM GRANDEM legimus pro quo LXX interpretes et Dominus in Euangelio cetum uocant, rem ipsam breuius explicantes. In hebraico enim dicitur “dag gadol” quod interpretatur PISCEM GRANDEM. Haud dubium quin cetum significet. }

Jerome, Commentary on the Prophet Jonah {Commentarius in Ionam prophetam} 2.1a, Latin text and English translation (modified insubstantially) from Duval (1973), as cited by Ziolkowski (2007) p. 388, n. 79. For related discussion, id. pp. 80-1. Jerome’s enormously influential Vulgate translation of Matthew 12:40 employed the word “cetus {whale}.”

Jonah was important in Christian exegesis. Hebrew scripture tells of a large, powerful, threatening sea-creature — Leviathan or Behemoth. See, e.g. Job 40:15-41:34. In Job 41:1 (40:20 in the Vulgate), God challenged Job, “Can you draw out Leviathan with a fishhook {Vulgate: an extrahere poteris Leviathan hamo}?” Jesus was understood to have done just that:

Christ was the fisherman (piscator) who made himself the bait (esca) and crucified himself on the hook (hamus) in order to catch the whale (cetus).

Ziolkowski (2007) p. 82. With the help of Matthew 12:39-41 and Jonah 2:2-6, Christians understood the mouth of the whale to be the entrance to Hell, the path to “the belly of Sheol” (Jonah 2:2). Jonah’s three days in the whale’s belly prefigured Jesus’s three days in the tomb before his resurrection.

[3] The Archpoet’s “Fama tuba dante sonum” is written in the meter of Hugh Primas’s poem “I was rich and cherished {Dives eram et dilectus}.” The Archpoet’s poem also shares with Hugh’s poem the theme of a fall into poverty and disgrace from being rich and cherished. On the close relation between these poems, Dronke (1997) pp. 97-8. Dronke declared of the Archpoet:

the relation between his poetry and that of Hugh Primas are in certain respects close enough, in my view, to suggest that at some stage, perhaps around 1150, he {the Archpoet} was a disciple of Primas at Orleans.

Id . p. 96. Similarly, id. p. 99 and Adcock (1994) pp. xxi-xxii (written by Peter Dronke). With respect to the Archpoet’s “Fama tuba dante sonum,” see in particular Hugh Primas, Carmen 7 (“What are you grieving for, poet? Why cry over a whore? {Quid luges, lirice, quid meres pro meretrice?}”) and Carmen 8 (“You’ve sent out for a whore, but she won’t leave the brothel before {Iussa lupanari meretrix exire, parari}”).

Both Hugh Primas and the Archpoet were highly learned, court poets. Neither was a vagaband poet like the medieval poetic figure of Golias — “Bishop Golias as an incarnation of the libertine spirit in mediaeval culture.” Both Hugh and the Archpoet, however, contributed to that figure:

Certainly it is to Hugo of Orleans {Hugh Primas} and the Archpoet of Cologne that Golias primarily owes his substance, for without them he would be but the shadow of a name — the mere embodiment of a churlish reproach against freedom and the lust of life.

Hanford (1926) pp. 38, 57.

[4] Walter of Châtillon, St-Omer 22, “As I seek a cure for myself {Dum queritur michi remedium},” 5.6-10, Latin text from Traill (2013) p.46, my English translation benefiting from that of id. p. 47.

[5] Letaldus of Micy’s late-tenth-century poem About a Certain Fisherman Whom a Whale Swallowed {De quodam piscatore quem ballena absorbuit} seems to have informed the Archpoet’s figure of the whale. Letaldus describes the whale that swallowed the fisherman as having an “ever-gaping gullet {gutture semper hianti}.” De quodam piscatore, v. 39. Cf. Walter of Châtillon, Dum queritur michi remedium, vv. 5.7, 10. The whale has a mouth and eyes like those of the female sea-monsters Scylla and Charybdis (De quodam piscatore, v. 38). Those female sea-monsters lure men sailors to their deaths. Scylla and Charybdis are invoked in ancient and medieval men’s sexed protest. For example, Anaxilas states in Neottis:

And isn’t Phryne behaving just like Charybdis,
by grabbing the ship-owner and gulping him down, boat and all?

{ ἡ δὲ Φρύνη τὴν Χάρυβδιν οὐχὶ πόρρω που ποεῖ, τόν τε ναύκληρον λαβοῦσα καταπέπωκ᾿ αὐτῷ σκάφει }

Athenaeus, The Learned Banqueters 13.558c, ancient Greek text and English trans. Olsen (2010) pp. 238-9. See also Alan of Lille, Anticlaudianus 4.307, 314-18.

Letaldus also associated the whale with the frequently erupting Mount Etna and the Furies:

Raging like the whale, Mount Etna spews forth sulphurous fumes
and batters the bright stars with the ashes it discharges.
Scarcely otherwise, this Eumenides, incited by the swift fires,
seethes, thrusting its jaws through the loudly sounding waves.

{ Sulphureos velut ille fremens vomit Ethna vapores
lucidaque elatis diverberat astra favillis,
haut secus eumenides rapidis haec acta caminis
aestuat, altisonas fauces exerta per undas. }

De quodam piscatore vv. 73-6, Latin text from Bisanti (2010) and Wilmart (1938), English translation (with my minor changes) from Ziolkowski (2007) p. 245. In Boccaccio’s Corbaccio, the anus of the narrator’s ex-wife is described similarly to this description of Mount Etna. In outrageous caricature, a whore’s changing behavior toward a man customer, as well as her natural menstrual cycle, might be understood in relation to Mount Etna.

The Furies are ancient Greek female divinities of vengence. Often they are named with the apotropaic double-talk Euminedes (Εὐμενίδες {the kindly ones}). Double-talk is a characteristic way in which men attempt to appease women. The Furies were commonly thought to be three in number (Eumenides is a plural form for Eumedis {Εὐμενίς}). Letaldus uses Eumenides to represent a singular female Fury.

Letaldus further associated the Furies with the whale that swallowed the fisherman named Within (the fisherman’s Latin name is only inadvertently allegorical in English):

“I am Within,” he said, “whom with ravenous throat this tormenting
Eumenides has raped and engulfed in its embittering guts.

{ “Within,” ait, “sum, quem rabidis haec faucibus angens
eumenides rapuit et viscere mersit acerbo.” }

De quodam piscatore vv. 73-6, Latin text (with insubstantial changes) from Bisanti (2010) and Wilmart (1938), my English translation, benefiting from that of Ziolkowski (2007) p. 247, which has for the second quoted part, “whom with ravening throat this choking Fury has seized and submerged in it pitiless gut.” I’ve translated the two verses within the semantic range of the given Latin words, but with contextual relation to the whale swallowing the Archpoet in “Fama tuba dante sonum.” In that poem, the Archpoet described himself as “now more insane that Orestes {nunc insanus plus Oreste}.” That obscure reference makes best sense in relation to Letaldus’s association of the man-swallowing whale with the Eumenides.

Skinner superficially interpreted as comic the whale that engulfed the Archpoet:

The great fish is a particular source of fun. The monstrous size of his {sic} jaws is caricatured …  Technique is deliberately stressed at the expense of content.

Skinner (1973) pp. 1-2. The content of “Fama tuba dante sonum” is actually ingenious and full of significance.

Godman similarly effaced in conceptual abstraction the whale that engulfed the Archpoet:

Looming large in the sea of the client’s alienation from his patron, it is not only a figura of punishment but also a figure of fun.

Godman (2014) p. 218 (footnote omitted that documents “the metaphor of the sea as alienation”). Godman interpreted “Fama tuba dante sonum” as cryptically conveying signals between the Archpoet and his patron Rainald. Medieval masters, who did not marginalize men’s sexed protests under superficial, virtue-signaling labels (“anti-feminist”), probably more readily understood “Fama tuba dante sonum” than have modern professors.

[6] Skinner interpreted the Archpoet to be figuring his patron Rainald as God:

the symbolic association between Reinald von Dassel and God has almost become an identity. … the symbolic identification of the patron with the biblical Jehovah {sic} is developed by use of this extended metaphor {of the Archpoet as Jonah}.

Skinner (1973) p. 3. That’s too abstract of an interpretation. Ideologically deluded men tend to regard women as gods. The Archpoet’s god-like treatment of Rainald is explictly contextualized with respect to human love and gyno-idolatry. A more detailed and perceptive reading of the relation between the Archpoet and Rainald reconized “the complicity between them, which is expressed in their shared sense of humour.” Godman (2011) p. 57.

[7] Archpoet, “Fama tuba dante sonum” vv. 48-56, 68-71. Jewish scriptural interpreters and Christian artists understood Jonah to have lost his hair (and according to some, his clothes) when he was in the belly of the large fish. Ziolkowski (2007) pp. 85-88, Friedman (1988). A man who loses clothes and is more generally impoverished through paying women for sex is common in literary history. See, e.g. Johannes de Hauvilla, Architrenius 9.242-7; poems of Hugh Primas; and Alphabetical song concerning the evil woman {Canticum alphabeticum de mala muliere}, stanzas 9, 17, 20, 24.

[8] Archpoet, “Fama tuba dante sonum” vv. 18-30, 72-81. The phrase pluralis genitivus is clearly a grammatical metaphor for the poet’s testicles. Medieval poetry such as Alan Lille’s The Plaint of Nature {De Planctu Naturae} and Matheolus’s Lamentationes Matheoluli used grammatical metaphors for sexual organs and acts.

The Archpoet in vv. 72-81 alludes to Venantius Fortunatus’s sixth-century Easter hymn, “Hail, festive day {Salve festa dies}.” That hymn associates Jesus’s death, his harrowing of Hell, and his resurrection with Jonah’s experience after being swallowed by the large fish:

The greedy monster,
whose huge throat
had swallowed all mankind,
is now thy prey, O God!

Hail, thou festive…

The savage beast now trembling
vomits forth the victims he had made,
and the lamb tears the sheep
from the jaw of the wolf.

Hail, thou festive…

{ Inferus insaturabiliter
cava gruttura pandens,
Qui rapuit semper,
fit tua praeda, Deus.

Salve festa dies…

Evomit absorptam
trepide fera belua plebem,
Et de fauce lupi
subtrahit agrnus oves.

Salve festa dies… }

St. 17-8, Latin text and English translation from SSPX.

On the reference to Orestes, see note [5] above concering the reference to Eumenides in Letuldus of Micy’s De quodam piscatore quem ballena absorbuit. In v. 83, trutannizans is “a medieval verb of vagrancy.” Godman (2014) p. 224.

[9] Cf. Luke 15:22-3 (the prodigal son returns home to his father).

[10] Archpoet, “Fama tuba dante sonum” vv. 82-90. As v. 84 points out, celibate hermits or celibate clerics, inexperienced in the ways of women, shouldn’t naively judge men’s claims of being victimized by women.

[11] John 15:1-2, 5, Latin text (Vulgate) and Greek text (MGNT) via BlueLetterBible.

[12] Galatians 5:12, Latin text (Vulgate) and Greek text (MGNT) via BlueLetterBibleTranslations of this verse vary in explicitness. The King James Version has “cut off”; the English Standard Version and the New International Version, “emasculate”; and the New Revised Standard Version, “castrate.” Paul and his opponents are arguing over the necessity of circumcision for Christians.

[13] Such work of the Archpoet, along with similiar poems of Hugh Primas and Walter of Châtillon, was often in medieval literature compilations distinguished with the term “Goliardic.” In historical context, “Goliardic” apparently “identifies difference, otherness, potential danger.” Bridges (2012) p. 78. In contrast to modern pieties about celebrating difference and welcoming otherness, medieval culture seems to have been actually more supportive of such characteristics of symbolic works.

[images] (1) clothed Jonah going into whale’s mouth (right), naked, bald Jonah leaving whale’s mouth (left). Wall painting by Albertus Pictorin the Härkeberga Church (Uppsala County, Sweden). Painted c. 1480. Image thanks to Lars-Olof Albertson and Wikimedia Commons. (2) Sword-bearing Scylla with a sea-monster’s tail and three dog heads protruding from her waist. Painting on a Boeotian red-figure bell-crater. Made between 450 and 425 BGC. Preserved as accession # CA 1341 in the Louvre Museum (Paris). Image thanks to Jastrow and Wikimedia Commons. (3) The Remorse of Orestes or Orestes Pursued by the Furies. Painting by William-Adolphe Bouguereau. Painted in 1862. Preserved as accession # 71.623 in the Chrysler Museum of Art (Norfolk, VA; USA). Image thanks to Google Art Project and Wikimedia Commons.


Adcock, Fleur, trans. 1994. Hugh Primas and the Archpoet. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (review by Paul Pascal)

Bisanti, Armando. 2010. “Il Within piscator (De quodam piscatore quem ballena absorbuit) di Letaldo di Micy.” Course resource, academic year 2010-2011, University of Palermo, Italy.

Bridges, Venetia. 2012. “‘Goliardic’ Poetry and the Problem of Historical Perspective: medieval adaptations of Walter of Châtillon’s quotation poems.” Medium Aevum. 81 (2): 249-270.

Dronke, Peter. 1997. “The Archpoet and the Classics.” Ch. 4 (pp. 83-100) in Dronke, Peter. Sources of Inspiration: studies in literary transformations, 400-1500. Roma: Edizioni di storia e letteratura. Originally published in  Godman, Peter, and Oswyn Murray, eds. 1990. Latin Poetry and the Classical Tradition: essays in medieval and Renaissance literature. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Duval, Yves-Marie. 1973. Le livre de Jonas dans la litterature chretienne grecque et latine: sources et influence du Commentaire sur Jonas de saint Jerome. Paris: Etudes augustiniennes.

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