Back to previous post: Lichtvergadering

Go to Making Light's front page.

Forward to next post: Spoiler thread for Lock In by John Scalzi

Subscribe (via RSS) to this post's comment thread. (What does this mean? Here's a quick introduction.)

August 28, 2014

The first four sentences of Craft of Deyng
Posted by Teresa at 06:15 PM * 57 comments

Like it says on the box:

SEn the paſſage of this vrechit warlde, the quhilk is callit dede, ſemys harde, perelus, ande rycht horreble to mony men, alanerly For the wnknawlage at thai have thare-of, tharfore this lytill trety, the quhilk is callyt the craft of deyng, is to be notyde & ſcharply conſederyt to thaim that are put in the fech[t]inge of dede; For to þaim, ande to al vthere folk, It may awaill rycht mekle till have a gude ende, the quhilk makis a werk perfyte, as the ewill end wndois al gud werk before wrocht. The fyrſt chepture of this trety begynnys of the commendatioune of dede, Fore ded, as haly wryt ſais is mar pretiouxe and worthy, is maiſt terreble, of al thing that may be Thocht. Ande in-ſamekle as the ſaull Is mare pretious & worthy than The body, in-ſamekle is the ded of It mare perulus and doutable to be tholyt. Ande the ded of synfull man, but ſufficiant Repentans, is euer ill, as the dede of gude men, how ſoding or terreble at euer It be, is gude & pretious before gode: For the dede of gude men is nocht ell bot the paſing of perſonis Retwrnynge fra banaſynge, offputyng of a full hevy byrdinge, end of all ſeknes, eſchevyng of perellys, the terme of all Ill, the brekinge of al bandys, the payment of naturell det, the agane-cumynge to the kynde lande, ande the entering to perpetuall Joy and welfare; And tharfore the day of ded o neide men is better than the day of thar byrthe; And ſa thai that ar all weill ſchrewyne, and deis in the faithe and ſacramentis of haly kyrk, how wyolently at euer thai dee, thai suld nocht dreid thare ded; Fore he that valde weill de, ſuld glaidly dee, and conferme his wyll to the wyll of gode; for ſen vs behwys all de o neid, and we wat noþer the tyme nor the ſted, we ſuld reſaue It glaidly, that god and nature has ordanyt, & gruche nocht thar-wyth, ſen It may nocht be eſchewyt, For god, at ordanyt ded, ordanyt It fore the beſt, ande he is mare beſy fore our gud than we our ſelf can ore may be, ſen we ar his creaturys and handewerkis; and tharfore al men that wald weill de, ſuld leir to de, the quhilk is nocht ellys bot to have hart and thocht euer to god, and ay be reddy to reſaue the ded, but ony murmwr, as he that baide the cumyne of his frend; & this is the craft that al kynd of man ſuld be beſye to ſtudy in, that is to ſay, to have his lyf, how velthye or pure that It be, takyne In paciens that gode sendis.*
Because I like it, that’s why.

Those are some fearless spellings, and that last sentence is epic.

Comments on The first four sentences of Craft of Deyng:
#1 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2014, 05:34 PM:

I'm a tad disappointed -- I was hoping for dyeing...

#2 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2014, 05:42 PM:

Those f-like esses remind me of a scene from "The Vicar of Dibley".

#3 ::: Anne Sheller ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2014, 06:02 PM:

Don't think I can guarantee that I will gruche nocht thar-wythe.

#4 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2014, 06:04 PM:

Xeger, how can you be disappointed with a text that includes words like alanerly, wndois, pretiouxe, in-ſamekle, ſoding, eſchevyng/eſchewyt, ſchrewyne, behwys, gruche, murmwr, and velthye?

#5 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2014, 07:05 PM:

I think it's interesting that I had to enlarge the font in order to read it. Fewer contextual clues, I guess. With ordinary text, I'm probably not actually seeing all the letters, but I don't need to.

#6 ::: Dave* Twiddy ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2014, 07:07 PM:

So how do we translate this into modern clickbaitese? YOU'LL NEVER BELIEVE THE BEST WAY TO BEAT STRESS!!!! ANCIENT SCOTTISH LORE LIKE "OUTLANDER"!!! I suspect the word 'lifehack' has to be used somewhere.

#7 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2014, 08:16 PM:

An acquaintance of mine decided to take a different route to deyng. I'd probably met Hal Finney in person a time or two, but mostly knew him on line, and he's spent the last five years dealing with ALS. They took him off the ventilator Tuesday, he died this morning, and the Alcor folks have been getting him ready for freezing. If he's lucky, he'll spend the next N years there, and they'll find a cure for this death business, and figure out how to thaw people out, and he'll get to experience a shiny post-singularity future; more realistically he's found an interesting way to donate his body to science. AFAIK he's not religious, but even if he is, being dead is something he'll get to do for a long time even if he gets revived for a while first.

#8 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2014, 09:25 PM:

We just met our kid's kindergarten teacher for the year upcoming. One of the things he oriented the classroom of parents on is how to handle homework - reasonable, because his policy differs significantly from the pre-K classroom.

When he sends home a homework sheet, there is likely to be a space to draw a picture and a space to write a label or short response (as well as the name field). He does not want parents writing anything on it. As he put it, "if they draw a triangle and a worm for their name, that's the name I want to see." We are to help only to the extent of keeping them on-task and un-dejected.

We are not to provide dotted letters for the kids to trace, or generate their prose for them. We are explicitly NOT to help by offering to spell words in the sentence they choose to produce.

It is the school's explicit policy to focus more on producing interesting and complicated ideas than on drilling rote spelling memorization and convincing kids they're doing it wrong if they don't spell well right from the outset.

It is not at all how I was taught, and I now am starting to have sympathy (rather than merely intellectual empathy) for my mom's becrogglement at having to deal with me bringing home New Math homework she couldn't make heads nor tails of.

#9 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2014, 09:29 PM:

Also, wow, I just looked that up - 1831? Is it a nineteenth century reprint of something much older, because that does not read as modern English?

#10 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2014, 09:52 PM:

The language fits right in with Dunbar, doesn't it?

I that in heill was and gladness
Am trublit now with great sickness
Enfeeblit with infirmitie
Timor mortis conturbat me

#11 ::: Stephen Sample ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2014, 10:17 PM:

I'm getting stuck on in-ſamekle. From context it looks like an inasmuch (as) sort of construction. In-so-muckle, maybe?

#12 ::: Anne Sheller ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2014, 12:14 AM:

Clifton @10 - Yeah, I was guessing
late Middle Scots or maybe very early Modern Scots.

#13 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2014, 01:10 AM:

A bit of googling suggests that it's Scots from about the 15th century, which I guess would count as late Middle.

#14 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2014, 01:16 AM:

Bill Stewart @ 7 ...
I'd probably met Hal Finney in person a time or two, but mostly knew him on line, and he's spent the last five years dealing with ALS. They took him off the ventilator Tuesday, he died this morning

Bugger. I didn't realize that he'd just passed :(

#15 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2014, 03:16 AM:

Clifton: Lallans Scots, and it's a lot earlier than 1831. The author is unselfconsciously spelling by ear at a time of rapid linguistic change, so the same word can vary its spelling within the document.

The first time I read it, his voice and geographical location snapped into focus for me at the words "ſcharply conſederyt."

Stephen: You already got it: in-ſamekle = inasmuch (more or less). Mekle or meikle or mickle = big, large, much, etc., so it's approximately "in so much".

#16 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2014, 08:17 AM:

What's this "quhilk"... something about the whole?

And yeah, fearless spellings. I'm particularly becroggled by "or to þaim, ande to al vthere"...
from thorn to 'vth'?

#17 ::: Tim May ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2014, 11:24 AM:

Dave Harmon @ #16:

quhilk seemed to me to be cognate to English "which". Looking in an English-Scots dictionary I found:

whilk [ʍɪlk, ʍʌlk, N. fɪl(k), fʌl(k)]
pron. Relative and interrogative: which.
adj. Relative and interrogative: which.

Generally replaced by that or whit.

#18 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2014, 11:32 AM:

I took "quhilk" to "quick" and thought it meant "live people" but now that I look at it again, "quhilk" -> "which" makes a lot more sense.

#19 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2014, 11:36 AM:

"Quhilk" is pretty much "which". I don't know how it was pronounced.

#20 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2014, 11:47 AM:

'or to them, and to all other' is how I read that.

#21 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2014, 12:07 PM:

Teresa at 19: the "q" is silent.

#22 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2014, 12:29 PM:


#24 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2014, 12:49 PM:

A lot more about quhat (also quhate, quhatt, qwhat, qvhat, qhat, quat, qwat, uhat, wuhat, quhait, quaitt, qwhait, quhet, quhot, quhit...)

#25 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2014, 12:55 PM:


#26 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2014, 01:34 PM:

Dave Twiddy @6, that idea didn't get enough attention. It's insane, and could probably be made to work.

#27 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2014, 02:08 PM:

re: quhilk

Without actually looking it up, I'm make a stab that this is "what + ilk" (i.e., what type) in origin.

The "q" isn't entirely silent at the time, I would guess. Just as "wh" started out as a labialized velar fricative, "qu" started out representing a labialized velar stop. So the two spelling traditions represent sounds that are much more similar in origin than one might think.

#28 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2014, 02:32 PM:

Teresa @23/24: I was very disappointed, when I found an eBook of Gavin Douglas' Aeneid - which I'd been looking for on and off for years - to discover they'd modernized the spelling and taken out all the qs.

#29 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2014, 03:01 PM:

Teresa @ 15: Then I was closer to the mark than I expected. I know very little about early English or Scots; it just struck me when I read it out loud to myself as sounding similar to the word forms in 'Lament for the Makaris'. Maybe it's the "-it" verb endings, maybe it's the "-is" noun plurals, I don't know.

Also, "gruche" as in "gruche nocht thar-wythe" is probably synonymous with "to grudge", but I like it as "to grouch not there-with" which is how I first read it.

Teresa @ 24: It seems to me that whole page and all the different usages could have been reduced to "See: WHAT".

#30 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2014, 03:23 PM:

Just for the fun of it, here's a (particular) Chinese perspective on dying - Wu-Men's comment on the Wu-men-kuan (Mumonkan) Case 35, "Which is the true Ch'ien?", using Robert Aitken's translation.

The case:
Wu-tsu asked a monk, "The woman Ch'ien and her spirit separated. Which is the true Ch'ien?" *

Wu-Men's comment:
If you realize the true one, then you'll know that emerging from one husk and entering another is like a traveler putting up at an inn. If this is still not clear, don't rush about recklessly. When you suddenly decompose into earth, water, fire, and air, you'll be like a crab dropped into boiling water, struggling with your seven hands and eight legs. Don't say I never told you.

* It's a Chinese folk tale, a ghost story of sorts, which was taken up to pose a koan. You can look it up on the web; search for "Ch'ien and her soul" or "Sen-jo and her soul" (using the Japanese transliteration of the name.)

#31 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2014, 04:05 PM:

Folks at #17-20 and continuing...: Thanks!

#32 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2014, 05:58 PM:

Praisegod Barebones @28: Oh, of course. I should have remembered that.

There's a less-bad-than-many Project Gutenberg edition and a page-by-page facsimile version of the unmodernized Eneados, if you're still looking.

What's a cherbukle?

#33 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2014, 07:26 PM:

TNH @ #32: carbuncle? As in red gemstone, not skin eruption?

#34 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2014, 09:29 PM:

It kind of scares me that I can read it and it makes sense. But I know a whole cross section of parts of the languages that make up modern English.

But I, too, wanted it to be about coloring fabric, not going to the throne eternal.

#35 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2014, 10:03 PM:

Lizzy L @21: the "q" is silent.

I wonder if it's that hork-a-looie consonent?

praisegod barebones @22: Quhat?

Not to be confused with qat.

#36 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2014, 10:36 PM:

That's a lovely bit of sixteenth-century Scots. A fine piece of rhetoric by someone who must have been a pretty compelling preacher, er, dominie.

#37 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2014, 10:39 PM:

TNH #15: Voice and location were obvious at 'vrechit wyrlde'. The epoch was clear by the end of the first sentence. It couldn't have been anie later than the Age of the Makars.

#38 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2014, 04:13 AM:

Teresa @32: Thanks! I'd found the Gutenberg, but found it was a bit unmanageable on the eReader I was using at the time. The facsimile is lovely, and might encourage me to start reading it again on the iPad. (I've just finished Ursula Le Guin's Lavinia, so feel it might be time to have another go at Virgil.)

#39 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2014, 05:29 PM:

I'm thinking about 16th century myself, but I don't have time right now to check what 15/16th century lowlands Scots works I have in my library.

I am reminded of the Egyptian book of the dead, except that's about the souls journey to the afterline, whereas the impression I'm getting from this is the act of death itself.

I note also " in-ſamekle" meaning "insomuch". If you want to sound Scots, that's a good way to do it.

#40 ::: estelendur ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2014, 07:46 PM:

I didn't work out it was Scots until I got to "haly wryt" and "maiſt terrible", at which point I started reading it aloud for comprehension's sake. Worked nicely.

#41 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2014, 09:54 PM:

I was frustrated to find that I found the ſ-vs.-s typography distracting, especially since it seemed to be used a bit inconsistently (e.g. ſacramentis vs. sendis.) (It shouldn't bother me; Greek had non-terminal and terminal forms of sigma σ/ς, and years ago I'd read enough colonial-period English to be used to ſs, but that skill seems to have rotted away. Or maybe the font isn't helping, since they don't have descenders?) The thorns vs. th's didn't bother me.

#42 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2014, 09:41 AM:

I've seen a story (or, you might say, a piece of Oulipo-style stunt writing) where the ſ was used everywhere ambiguously. That is, in every sentence there was a word which read more-or-less sensibly whether you took the glyph as f or as s. For Heaven's ſake.

#43 ::: HelenS ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2014, 01:56 PM:

Donne had some fun with long esses (unruly fun, of course -- I hope you ſee quhat I did there).

Marke but this flea, and marke in this,
How little that which thou deny'ſt me is;
It ſuck'd me firſt, and now ſucks thee,
And in this flea our two bloods mingled bee;
Thou know'ſt that this cannot be ſaid
A ſinne, nor ſhame, nor loſſe of maidenhead,
Yet this enjoyes before it wooe,
And pamper'd ſwells with one blood made of two,
And this, alas, is more than wee would doe.

#44 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2014, 10:12 PM:

Isn't there a poem of Robert Graves's that engages in such wordplay, HelenS?

#45 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2014, 12:02 AM:

I was gratified to see that I could understand it pretty well by just slowing down and sounding it out. Context is interesting (and it probably would have helped if I hadn't thought it about the craft of dyeing, given the recent textile thread...)

#46 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2014, 09:36 AM:

B. Durbin @45, it probably would have helped if I hadn't thought it about the craft of dyeing,

I'm glad to know I'm not the only one. I was puzzling my way through it and suddenly realized two important things: 1) it was about dying, not dyeing, and 2) some of those "f"s didn't have crossbars and were therefore "s"s. From nonsense words to instant comprehension....

#47 ::: HelenS ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2014, 03:21 PM:

Fragano@44: dunno. I don't think I've read any of Graves's poetry to speak of.

#48 ::: dotless ı ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2014, 04:13 PM:

Looking at the full text, I came upon the word "ſuffiſſand", which I think is brilliant. It reminds me of an old source code obfuscator that replaced all variables with sequences of "O", "l", "0", and "1".

Bill Stewart@41: In addition to the ſ/s inconsistencies, in the full text there's the use of ß for most but not quite all instances of final double ss/ſſ/ſs. (The inconsistencies remind me of once typing "Maffachufettf" into Google and being amused to get back "Did you mean 'Maffachufetts'?")

Andrew Plotkin@42: I'd love to see that, if you have any memory of where it came from.

#49 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2014, 08:32 PM:

Clifton @29:

I know very little about early English or Scots; it just struck me when I read it out loud to myself as sounding similar to the word forms in 'Lament for the Makaris'. Maybe it's the "-it" verb endings, maybe it's the "-is" noun plurals, I don't know.
No difference here; verbs that end with "-it" where we would use "-ed" and nouns made plural by "-is" will both shift my reading sharply northward, and I'd be lost in Middle English and Early Modern English if I didn't track the sound of its voice.
It seems to me that whole page and all the different usages could have been reduced to "See: WHAT".
It could, I suppose; but that wouldn't tell us anything about the range of behaviors that "what" displays in this regional dialect. ME and EME texts become a great deal easier to read once you get a sense of the local voice.

Lila @33: We could still be wrong, but "carbuncle" seems as good a translation of it as anything else I can come up with.

Paula @34 and others, I'd find you a treatise on dyeing if I could, but it's not a subject that got written up a lot.

Bill Stewart @41 and others: The text is more irregular than anything we'd do on purpose, but that style of regularity hadn't yet become part of everyone's mental furniture. The irregularity pleases me. This particular author spelled as fearlessly as Adam and Eve before the fall, when they hadn't yet eaten the fruit of the tree of Knowledge of Correct and Incorrect Spelling.

#50 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2014, 03:54 AM:

dotless ı@48 - wow, I hadn't seen ß's used in English. (And apparently German usage of it changed in 1996, long after I left school.)

Teresa - yes, the spelling is marvellous.

#51 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2014, 05:23 AM:

The mention of "ß" prompts a vague memory of one of those old comic strip stories about a spy for Rommel in North Africa. The guy was a German officer who masqueraded as a Scot in 8th Army, of the same name. "Lang" was the surname, I think, and some slightly dialect forename.

There was a certain sense, in such stories, that the Afrika Korps was made up of the "good" Germans, which is a gross over-simplification of a more complicated reality. Libya was Italian territory, so the Gestapo were out of the picture, but Rommel's history was hardly as noble as the later myth.

#52 ::: dotless ı ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2014, 10:27 AM:

I forgot to mention one thing that pleased me inordinately while I was writing my last note: a search for "ss" in the original text (in Chrome) highlighted all of "ss", "ſs", "ſſ" and "ß". I really like that surprise when software does what I want better than I expect it to. (I note, though, that it doesn't do as well on my nym when searching for "dotless i", whether capitalized or not.)

#53 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2014, 02:19 PM:

Teresa: This is perhaps as good a place as any to say how disproportionately pleased I am that you have been writing in Making Light more often of late. There was quite a long period when it seemed as though you were hardly ever posting or commenting, and I enjoy your writing.

#54 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2014, 02:36 PM:

Clifton: Hear hear!

#55 ::: Henry Wessells ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2014, 08:32 PM:


love that long medial S,
and " agane-cumynge to the kynde lande " is fearless and memorable


#56 ::: Cadbury Moose detects spam at #56 ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2015, 04:18 PM:

Another piece of linkspam with google as the target!

Perhaps a trap for that specific link would put a crimp in these blighters?

#57 ::: Cadbury Moose discovers the spam has been removed while previewing his warning ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2015, 04:21 PM:

Meanwhile, the gnomes have opened another tin of spam-be-gone and removed it while this moose was posting the alert.

All hail the gnomes for their greatness is Huge!

Welcome to Making Light's comment section. The moderators are Avram Grumer, Teresa & Patrick Nielsen Hayden, and Abi Sutherland. Abi is the moderator most frequently onsite. She's also the kindest. Teresa is the theoretician. Are you feeling lucky?

Comments containing more than seven URLs will be held for approval. If you want to comment on a thread that's been closed, please post to the most recent "Open Thread" discussion.

You can subscribe (via RSS) to this particular comment thread. (If this option is baffling, here's a quick introduction.)

Post a comment.
(Real e-mail addresses and URLs only, please.)

HTML Tags:
<strong>Strong</strong> = Strong
<em>Emphasized</em> = Emphasized
<a href="">Linked text</a> = Linked text

Spelling reference:
Tolkien. Minuscule. Gandhi. Millennium. Delany. Embarrassment. Publishers Weekly. Occurrence. Asimov. Weird. Connoisseur. Accommodate. Hierarchy. Deity. Etiquette. Pharaoh. Teresa. Its. Macdonald. Nielsen Hayden. It's. Fluorosphere. Barack. More here.

(You must preview before posting.)

Dire legal notice
Making Light copyright 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 by Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden. All rights reserved.