Monday, February 27, 2012

Book Review - Fleas, Flies, and Friars

Fleas, Flies and Friars

Children's Poetry From The Middle Ages

by Nicholas Orme

Published by Cornell University Press, 2011.

As children's verses and nursery rhymes have been primarily passed down by the oral route, this is a part of literature which has hitherto not been extensively written about. I found this to be an absolutely fascinating look at children in late mediaeval life and how these ideas and rhymes persisted; despite having a degree in medieval studies myself, many of these poems were quite unknown to me and were an absolute delight.

An enormous variety of verse is included in this slim but charming volume: poems composed by adults for or about children as well as children's own rhymes of abuse, charms, riddles and tongue-twisters. There are references to books of advice about behaviour and morals and the even rarer advice poems for girls. It was nice to see St Nicholas and the Holy Innocents so well represented in the section on religion and I particularly enjoyed the school days helps for learning Latin.
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