Now, this is supposed to be a 'well known story', but could I find a translation of its original source, Ralph of Coggeshall's 'Chronicum Anglicanum'? I could not. So here is the Latin, and what I can make of it. Which is extremely poor, I accept. Sorry to my Latin teachers. It went in one ear and out the other. I'd be very glad of a more erudite version.
De quodam homine silvestri in mari capto.
About a certain wild man captured from the sea.
Temporibus Henrici regis secundi cum Bartholomeus de Glanvilla custodiret castellum de Oreford, contigit ut piscatores ibidem in mari piscantes, hominem silvestrem intra retia sua comprehenderent; qui castellano praedicto traditus prae admiratione, ex omni parte nudus erat, ac speciem humanam in omnibus membris praetendebat.
In the time of King Henry the Second, with Bartholomew de Glanville taking care of the castle at Orford, it happened that some fishermen were fishing there in the sea, and they took a wild man in their nets. They handed him over to the aforementioned castle. He was completely naked and a human being in every respect.
Capillos autem habebat, sed in superficie quasi divulsi et demoliti videbantur, barba vero prolixa erat et pineata, circa pectus nimium pilosus et hispidus. Praedictus vero miles fecit eum custodiri diutius diebus ac noctibus, ne mare posset adire.
Except, he had hair, that made his surface appear torn and rent, a truly lengthy conical beard, and a breast rather hairy and bristly. The aforementioned soldier (de Glanville?) kept him in custody for days and nights, and he couldn't visit the sea.
Quae ei apponebantur avide comedebat. Pisces vero tam crudos quam coctos sumebat, sed crudos inter manus fortiter comprimebat donec omnis aquositas consumeretur, et sic eos edebat. Loquelam autem nullam edere voluit, vel potius non potuit, etiam per pedes suspensus et saepe dirissime tortus.
What they served up he ate greedily. He preferred raw fish over cooked, and powerfully compressed the raw ones between his hands until all the water was consumed, and thus he ate them. He didn't produce any speech, or perhaps he couldn't, as he didn't even when suspended by his feet and cruelly tortured.
Ad ecclesiam quanquam adductus, nulla omnino venerationis vel alicujus credulitatis signa monstrabat, aut in genuum flexione, sive in capitis inclinatione, quotiens aliqua sacrata cerneret.
He was brought to the church, but he didn't show any sign of worship or belief at all, neither bending his knee, or bending his head whenever any sacred thing required it.
Cubile suum semper in occasu solis festinanter petebat, usque ad exortum solis in eo recubans. Contigit quoque ut eum ad portum maris semel adducerent, atque eum in mari dimitterent, locatis ante eum fortissimis retibus triplici ordine.
He always quickly sought his bed at sunset, and lay there until the sun reappeared. One day it happened that they brought him to the sea port, and sent him away into the sea, but they put before him a very strong net made of three layers.
Qui mox maris ima petens, atque retia omnia pertransiens, iterum atque iterum de profundo maris se emergebat, et spectantes super ripam maris diutius spectabat, saepius se mergens, et post pusillum emergens, et quasi spectantibus insultans quod eorum retia evasisset.
Desperate to get at the sea, he got through all the nets, and again and again he surfaced from the depths of the sea, and they saw him watching them from beyond the sea shore, frequently sinking down, and after a quick reemergence, they watched him attack their nets and escape.
Cumque diu in mari ita lusisset, et jam omnis spes reversionis ejus sublata fuisset, venit iterum sponte usque ad eos in maris fluctibus natans, mansitque cum eis iterum per duos menses. Sed cum postmodum negligentius custodiretur et jam fastidio haberetur, clam aufugit ad mare, et nusqam postea comparuit.
For a long while he played in the sea, and now every hope of his being recaptured had been destroyed, he came again willingly up to those in the sea who were floating on the waves, and he stayed with them again over two months. But after the careless guarding incident they now disdained him, and he quietly vanished off into the waves, and was never seen again.
Si autem hic mortalis homo exstiterit, sive aliquis piscis humanam praetendens speciem, sive aliquis malignus spiritus fuerit in aliquo corpore submersi hominis latitans, sicut de quodam legitur in vita beati Audoeni, non facile diffiniri potest, maxime quia tam multa miranda a tam multis de hujusmodi eventibus narrentur.
Supposing that mortal man exists, but on the other hand some fish-human sight is presented, if some wicked spirit was lurking somewhere within a man's body, like about a certain person in the life of St Ouen, it is not easy to lay down a rule, particularly because so much is to be marvelled at from so many of these kind of reported events.
Ok so the last bit went particularly skewiff. But I've tried. There's a translation here
which is the only one I've found (after my effort!) which suggests the last bit is wondering about what sort of a thing he was.
The paragraph that follows in the Chronicum is about the puero and puella de terra emergentibus... ah yes the famous green Woolpit children. But that Herculean effort will have to be for another day.
|Orford Castle (by Ashley Dace)|