Oxford (Bodlean Library), Codex Junianus 83
Reproduced in A. Van Loey, Middelnederlands Leerboek, 1947, De Sikkel, Antwerpen, xvi + 357 pp.; text number 77 on pp. 330-332
(at least that's what it said, but obviously this text would not be part of the Codex Junianus as such)
Introduction and attempted translation by Eli Steenput
The short text gives health advice for each month. The attempt at translation is my own, but as our language has changed a bit since 1252 and I am no expert in old (or modern) Limburgian, some parts are conjectural. Also, for some of the food items I do not know the proper English terms. Many of the things that are recommended to be eaten are "weeds" currently out of fashion for human consumption (with the exception maybe of some forms of herbal medecine), and very unlikely to be cultivated, so these would have been gathered. On the other hand are spices such as pepper and ginger which would have been imported.
I hope the formatting will be self-explanatory.
While my translation/interpretation is open to criticism, I think it will show the general idea of the original. All advice is of a strictly preventive nature. The advice covers the following categories: food and drink, bathing, sleeping, dress, and bloodletting. For some of the advice reasons are included, but this seems to be more for the benefit of an attempt at rhyme than anything else. Exceptions to some rules are made for elder folk. Also interesting is the reference to "medians" to perform bloodletting on.
My reason for this little translation was a discussion I had about hygiene - or lack thereof - in the middle ages. It still seems to be a widely held prejudice that our ancestors never bathed, and for some unfathomable reason enjoyed being dirty, just as they loved wearing ragged clothes, eating rotten food, living in rickety hovels, etc.
This document gives the following advice for bathing during specific months:
- bathe a lot
- bathe often
- bathe all the time
- don't bathe a lot
- bathe with the stone(it has been suggested that this involves rubbing with a pumice stone)
So during a month you could bathe 'not a lot', 'often', 'lots' or 'all the time' which gives at least 4 different levels of bathing intensity. If we equate 'not a lot' with the absolute minimum of one bath a month, it follows that the highest level must be at least 4 baths a month. Not that it makes much sense to distinguish between 2 and 3 baths a month for health reasons, or to call 4 baths a month 'bathing all the time'. But a bathing frequency between 1 and 4 baths a month is still more than some people want to believe was common at the time. I admit only 5 of the 11 months (January is missing) mention bathing. Then again, only 4 months refer to sleeping. Some may wish to interpret this as proof people didn't sleep in the other 8 months.
Note: Since HTML has no code for "u with ring" (similar to "a with ring": å), the "u's with ring" from the original text are replaced with û
[Februarius.] In deser manet sal tu blûet laten bi den dume of ander medianen. drach oec enen warmen hûet. dat is dinen houede uele gût. warmen win drinc gerne. Hi suueret dine darme. Etes du ene sade ûpte andere sade dat wert di alte siken dagen. Alant ende muschaten. ende lacrissce. getemperet mitten wine. boten di des hûstes.
February. In this month you should let blood by the thumb or other median. Also wear a warm hat. That is for your head much good. Warm wine drink often. It cleans your intestines. Eat one seed upon the other seed (?) that keeps away sick days for the elderly. Alant and nutmeg. and lacrissce. tempered with wine. Protects you from the cough.
De marte is so gedaen. du salt dines liues grote hûde hebben dan. Slap luttel. ende bade vele. Laet ne gein blûet. Ende of tu danne spies. hebbet alte spele. Sute dinc et. ende drinc suren win mitten alant. so mûges tu gesunt sin. komin. ende peper saltu eten aller dagelike. Rute lathe. ende venecoel. ende eppe. gengevar. bertram. Lacrissce mit aller list. saltu eten. so heuestu in deser tijt behûden din lif.
March is [done thus/ over quickly]. You should then take great care for your body. Sleep little and bathe lots, don't let blood. Ende of tu danne spies. hebbet alte spele. [as for food do as you want?] Eat sweet things. And drink sour wine with alant, so you shall be healthy. Cumin and pepper eat daily. Rute lathe. and venecoel. and eppe. ginger. bertram. Lacrissce mit aller list. shall you eat, so you will guard your body in this time.
Aprille heuet vuele seden hi maken gerne den rede. Laet bloet gerne ander adere. dat wert di alte genaden. Sopire gerne in alten biren. dat weret di dat fauer. Slap genoch ende bade vele. Reineuan. betonia benevella lubestekel. de wortele alle si di wale bekomen. Nemes tu oec rure binnen deser tijt. dat wart di alte gûde.
April has dirty mores he likes to make you den rede [horny?]. Let blood by the veins, but not the elderly. Old beers(?) keep away fever. Sleep enough and bathe often. Reineuan. betonia benevella lubestekel. their roots will do you good. Take also rure during this time, that keeps the elderly well.
Emmer in den Meie, sin gût die weke eiere, du salt drinken alsen. dat wert di te gude. Alle gûde wortele sin nu tidich. se helen di din lif. hertentunge met ysope et ende drinc sute dranc mit lacrisse ende mit anis aldus so heues tu di der colere geboet. Botere ende coil. gemaket mitter eppe si doin di den munt smaken. Et al dit selue weder de gicht.
Ever in May weak/soft (soft-boiled?) eggs are good, you shall drink alsen that is good for you. All good root vegetables are now in season, they heal your body. Roe-tongue with hyssop eat and drink sweet drinks with lacrisse and anis, this drives out the choler. Butter and coil prepared with eppe make you taste the mint, eat all this against rheumatism(?).
De manet Junius nature spreket aldus. Drinc uastende den cvlen born. so wert din bloet gvt ende dunne. et den ladic. ende busloc. de kerse is di ok gvt. Slape luttel ende bade alle tiit vro. aldus holdes tu din herte. Nie bier. ende nie mede. si maken di den ride. ende dat fauer. it maket die ok de longen siec. dat maghdi werden leit. Du ne salt ok eten der melk niet. si ne si gesoden gode weit.
In June nature speaks thus. Drink fasting from the cool spring, it makes your blood good and thin. Eat ladic, and boslook, cress is also good. Sleep little and bathe all the time, this keeps your heart. No beer, no mead, they make you den ride. and feverish, it also makes the lungs sick. you may regret it. Also eat no milk that has not been cooked.
Julius der manet wil hebben sin recht. drinc gamandream. et dille end eppe. end rute. isope is oec vele gvt. sie verbliet di dinen moit. spec ende cluueloc maket di dine sinne gvt Affter sente Margrieten dagh lates tu blout. dat mach di sere scaden. Suker ende muskaten. cedeware. ende rure. saltu eten. Dune salt eten negene musscle dat is di vele gvt.
July will have his way. Drink gamandream. Eat dill and eppe. and rute. Hyssop is also very good, it drives off fatigue. Bacon and garlic make the senses good. After St. Margrieten's day letting blood can much harm you. Sugar and nutmeg. cedeware. and rure. shall you eat. Eat now no mussels, that is better for you.
Der ogest is vele vreslike. hi maket siic beide man ende wif. Oftu willes gesunt sin. sone et niet enigh grot svin. Vermit den coil ende melk end nie gar bier. want si maken di de longene siec. end seir Lat negen blot wake vro. dat is di vele gvt. Poleie ende wegebrede de salt du hebben gerede, ende van anderen gvden vortelen so varne di. so behaldes tu an deser tiit gesunt din liif.
August is very terrible. It makes ill both man and wife. If you want to stay healthy don't eat like a big swine. Leave coil and milk and beer as they make the lungs sick and painful. Let no blood now, waking early is good for you. Poleie and wegebrede you have at hand, and other good roots, so you keep your body healthy in this time.
September de is gvt. du salt alle dage eten melc ende brot. so vele so it si. et gesoden peren dar bi. ende ander gvde vrûght. Ganse ne darftu niit vermiden. Dune salt dat niit vergeten; dune soles oec sinep eten beide mit vleische ende mit vische.
September is good, eat every day milk and bread, as much as you have. Eat cooked pears with it, and other good fruits. Don't avoid geese. Don't forget this; you should also eat sinep with both meat and fish.
[October] In diser manet so sint alle dinc getidich. et winberen ende drinc den most. behûde di weder den vorst. dat di niet calde ne werde. Ganse. speneverken ende wilbrat et. et gerne gût crut. drach immer mit ti gût crut.
October. All things are in season. Eat winberries and drink most. Protect yourself against frost that you don't catch cold. Geese. Suckling pig and wild roast eat. Eat plenty of good herbs, always carry with you good herbs.
Vns gebidet de Manet nouember. dat wi uns mitten clederen bewaren. dat uns de vorst nene moge scaden. Allerhande uleisch is getidich. sunder schapen ende bukken. Eiere sint gesunt. den senep salt tu oec niet uergeten. bade niet uele. ende lat blot. dat spien is die niet gût. Gengevar. ende cidewaer. cinamomum et. dat is di gût. nû ende ouer al dat jair.
November commands us to cover us with clothing, that the frost may not harm us. All kinds of meats are now in season, especially sheep and buck. Eggs are healthy. Don't forget senep. Don't bathe a lot. And let blood. Spien is not good. Ginger. And cidewaer. Cinnamon eat. That is good for you. Now and all year round.
In december so is et winter. So laet an dinen houede blût dat is di wer dat hovetswar gût. Et alre hande sote eten. ende bade mitten steine. so bliuet din lif sunt ende reine.
In December it is winter. Do not leave your head uncovered, the weather is good for headwear. eat all kinds of sweet foods. And bathe with the stone (pumice?) so your body remains healthy and clean.