Palladius

Roman, (4th cent. AD)

BOOK THE THIRD. FFEBERYERE
De educatione porcorum.

Excerpted from an anonymous Middle-English translation of Palladius’ De re rustica and known as On husbondrie.

  1. 151
  2. Nowe bores gladly brymmeth. Chese a bore
  3. Greet bodied, side, and wyde, eke rather rounde
  4. Then long, eke hipped greet, and wombed hoor,
  5. And huge-snouted, shorte, his necke abounde
  6. With fattes feel, his stones greet and sounde.
  7. And from oon yere until he come atte fyve
  8. He wol do well ynough, and often wyve.

Interpretation: The best boars for breeding are great-bodied, ample, wide, round, with large hips and white bellies, etc.

  1. 152
  2. The sowes is to chese of longest syde,
  3. In other thinges take her like a boore
  4. So thai be wombed wel, dependannt, syde,
  5. That likely is for greet and mighty stoore.
  6. The hered blake in cold countree, the hoore
  7. And every hewe to have in places warme
  8. Is indistinctly good, and may not harme.

Interpretation: The sows should be large-bellied, pendant, vast. The black-haired in cold countries; whit and all colours thrive in warm places.

  1. 153
  2. The femal shal til VII yere suffice
  3. To bere, and oon yere olde she wol conceyve,
  4. And, monethes IIII ydone, it is thaire gise
  5. To pigge, and in this point thay nyl deceyve.
  6. Thees if me spende, or mynt for them receyve,
  7. The sonner wol they brymme ayeine and brynge
  8. Forth pigges moo. Now herbes for hem springe.

Interpretation: The sow breeds from two to seven years of age. They litter after four months. If you eat or sell the piglets the sooner they will breed again.

  1. 154
  2. A man may have hem in every lande,
  3. But bette in myri feeldes then in dri,
  4. And moost thaire fructifying wodes stande,
  5. Wherof sum fruyte wol targe and sum wol hie.
  6. Eke lande is goode ther herbes multiplie.
  7. The rootes eke of rede and risshe thay ete.
  8. When winter sleeth thaire fedyng, yeve hem meete.

Interpretation: Pigs do better in miry land, especially where woods are, some of whose fruit remains, some hastens to fall.

  1. 155
  2. Mast, chastene, yeve hem pugges of thi corne;
  3. Hem that beth melch in veer novelles grene
  4. Beth nought to feede; her cotes make beforne
  5. Under sum porche, and parte hem so betwene
  6. That every stye a moder wol sustene,
  7. That with her wombe her pigges doth from cold;
  8. But make it that me may on hem behold.

Interpretation: Give them mast, chestnuts and refuse them corn. Young plants that are milky in Spring are injurious. Make their sties beforehand.

  1. 156
  2. Thy swon may se thaire nomb’r and up save
  3. The oppressed pigge; and VIII wol Columelle
  4. A soowe up bryng. I saie VI is to have
  5. Ynough, and that is over spende or selle.
  6. Ffele I have seyn thair dammes feynt or quelle.
  7. Thi vyne swyne wol delve after vyndage,
  8. As diligent as delvers for thaire wages.


Interpretation: Let the swine see the number. Columella says eight. I say six. I have seen too many piglets weaken or kill the sow.

Anonymous translation of Palladius’ On Husbondrie.
Edited by Rev. Barton Lodge, MA. London: Early English Text Society (1879).

Editor’s Note:

In the Preface to the Early English Text Society’s reprinting (1879), the editor, Rev. Barton Lodge, notes:

“The form and structure of the language point decidedly to a period little subsequent to the age of Chaucer. The grammatical peculiarities lead to this conclusion; the Stanza adopted was a favorite one with the great Poet in his early Canterbury Tales; and in our text expressions and turns of thought frequently occur, which may justify the surmise that the translator, whoever he was, had recently read and admired Chaucer’s wonderful poem, and was led to an unconscious and humble imitation of his verse.”

About the Poet:

Palladius (4th cent. AD) was a Roman writer. Also known as Palladius Rutilius Taurus Aemilianus or Rutilius Taurus Aemilianus Palladius, he is principally known for his book on agriculture, Opus agriculturae, sometimes known as De re rustica.

This work of Palladius was well known in the Middle Ages through a translation into Middle English verse that survives and is entitled On Husbondrie. This is an anonymous translation of Palladius, in the form of a single unique parchment manuscript that originated about 1420 A.D. This manuscript was found in the Library of Colchester Castle. It had been bound at some later time from its creation, after an unknown period of obvious ill-treatment. [DES-07/12]

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