Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The bird of passage known to us as the cuckoo. - Pliny quote

Cuckoos by Andrew Young

When Coltsfoot withers and begins to wear
Long silver locks instead of golden hair,
And fat red catkins from black poplars fall
And on the ground like caterpillars crawl,
And bracken lifts up slender arms and wrists
And stretches them, unfolding sleepy fists,
The cuckoo in a few well-chosen words
Tell they give Easter eggs to the small birds



Cuckoos or gowks if you are Scottish.  A bird that seems to be disappearing here in this country, a discussion elsewhere about gowk stones begged the question about this word.  It is said that it comes from the celtic, maybe, but I am sure it has more to do with  medieval naming, and that   time in history when pagan ways were overlaid by the Christian church.....

Things that were frowned on by the church; Snakes, the devil, fairies and sex.  Does sex equal being 'cuckolded'? Checking through Grigson's Flora, there are many flowers that have local dialect names for cuckoo, but mostly to do with the 'sexual' appearance of the flower (see orchid mascula in medieval tapestries for association). So that the beautiful tall straight bluebells of the woodlands,  in the index of local names, has the following listed...
Welsh - botasen-y-gog  =  cuckoo boots
Gaelic - brog-nacubhaig = cuckoo shoe
Cornish - blejen-au-gucu - cuckoo flower

Wood Sorrel - cuckoo bread
Cornish - bara-au-gok
N.Ireland - gowk's clover
N.Scotland - Gowk's meat
France - pain de coucou

Cuckoo Pint is self evident in its name Lords and Ladies, and there is an amorous love cup  in the orchid blog which was probably the 'viraga' pill of its day....
Metropolitan Museum -Unicorn

Well the cuckoo has plenty of legends

So there we are in medieval illiterate Britain, the naming of the wild flowers interpreted a bit like a saucy Southend postcard, their hidden meanings providing a giggle now and then.....




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