Dialogue on the Threshold

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Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Caelii Calcagnini Ferrariensis Podicis Encomium

Caelius Calcagninus (Celio Calcagnini, 1479-1541), Podicis Encomium*

Membra omnia corporis capitales olim inimicitias adversus podicem exercebant: atque illi aliquando apud Hippocratem summum corporis vindicem diem dixere: sellulariam autem illi desidiam foetoremque inenarrabilem, et omnium sordium conceptaculum: quodque nulla pars in toto corpore magis pudenda esset: imputabant. At ipse innocentiae suae conscius minime iudicem recusavit; neque vadimonium declinavit: sed ad clepsydram breviter causam suam dixit. Nam et se ad corporis fores excubare, et quasi ianitorem a natura positum locum summa diligentia servare respondit: quas vero sordes, quae excrementa membra caetera aut alerent aut conciperent, se fideliter evehere atque exportare. Foetoris autem causam non sibi, qui sit natura defaecatissimus, sed iis sordibus, quas extruderet, adscribi debere: quin eo nomine gratiam non accusationem reprehensionem deberi; quod pro reliquorum membrorum salute in perpetuo squallore ac pedore vivat. neque pudendam aut poenitendam partem corporis existimari oportere; sine qua homo diu esse non possit. Tutissimam vero potius ac repositissimo loco conditam; ut pote quam inter geminas symplegadas natura locaverit. Audierat haec Hippocrates summa attentione; reque mature animadversa, pro podice sententiam tulit: accusatoresque sub perpetui palloris atque internecionis comminatione, ad persolvendum certum tributum damnavit. Atque ex eo tempore skatophagou nomen accepit.

Once upon a time, all the other parts of the body bore a deadly grudge against the arsehole. And so they set a date for him to appear in court before Hippocrates, the body’s chief protector. They charged him with sitting around idly, having an unspeakable stench, and being the receptacle of all filth, wherefore no other part of the whole body was more shameful. Aware of his own innocence, the arsehole did not in the least reject the judge or decline to put up a bail-bond, but succinctly stated his case, speaking against the water-clock. In his defence he said that he camped outside the gates of the body and like a door-keeper appointed by nature to that place guarded it with the greatest assiduity. Whatever filth, whatever ordure the other parts of the body ingested or received, he carried them away, conveying them thence. The reason for the stench ought to be ascribed not to him, who was immaculately clean by nature, but to all the filth he had to extrude. Indeed, he ought to be thanked for his services on that account, rather than being censured, because, for the welfare of the rest of the body, he lived in perpetual squalor and dirt. Nor was it proper for him to be reckoned a shameful or reprehensible part of the body, because without him man would no longer be able to exist. Indeed, he was the safest rather than the remotest place of all, inasmuch as nature had set him between the twin Symplegades. Hippocrates listened to all this with the greatest attention. Having considered the matter seasonably, he passed judgement in favour of the arsehole: under threat of perpetual terror and slaughter, he sentenced the accusers to pay a certain toll. And since that day he has gone by the name of skatophagos.

*In a similar jesting-serious (ioco-serium) vein, an anonymous Actio Injuriarum Nasi contra Podicem (The Nose's Lawsuit for Damages Against the Arsehole) (10pp. in quarto) was published in 1680.

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