Sunday, March 9, 2008

Drowned Giantesses

Dear readers, I stumbled into this eldritch passage in Kenneth Hurlstone Jackson's Celtic Miscellany this weekend, and had to share it with you:

A woman, whose breasts had not grown, was cast up on a sea shore in Europe. She was fifty feet tall, that is from her shoulders to her feet, and her chest was seven feet across. There was a purple cloak on her. Her hands were tied behind her back, and her head had been cut off; and it was in this way that the wave cast her up on land.

Another woman was cast up from the sea in Scotland, and she was a hundred and ninety-two feet long; there were seventeen feet between her breasts, and sixteen was the length of her hair. and seven the length of the finger of her hand. Her nose was seven feet long, and there were two feet between her eyebrows. Every limb of her was as white as the swan or the foam of the wave

Translated from the medieval Irish.

Ah, what do you make of that?

I love the combination of mathematical precision and poetic fervor: we are made to see the second of the drowned giantesses first as an engineer would - in measurements; but second, as a poet would - every limb of her was as white as the swan or the foam of the wave.

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