John Speller's Web Pages Orientis Partibus

John Speller's Web Pages - Epiphany

Orientis Partibus: The Prose of the Ass
This version of Orientis Partibus comes from George Ratcliffe Woodward's Poemata (1903). A very different version is found on the Hymns and Carols of Christmas website. The name "Dan Burnel" refers to a passage in the "Nuns' Priest's Tale" in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. A monk who is unhappy with his lot is compared to an ass who is dissatisfied with the length of his tail. This itself is an allusion to the ass "Dan Burnel" in a Latin poem, Speculum Stultorum, written by Nigellus de Wireker, monk and precentor of Canterbury Cathedral in around 1200. The Feast of the Ass (French, Fte de l'ne) was held on the 14th of January in commemoration of the Flight into Egypt. A girl and a child on a donkey would be led through town to the church, where the donkey would stand next to the altar during the mass and the congregation would hee-haw the responses. The practice died out by the end of the fifteenth century.

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"The Flight into Egypt" by Fra Angelico (c. 1395-1455)
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