Previously on Beware the Cat: Mr Streamer has made a magical medicine that will allow to him understand cats.
Layer 1: framing narrative spoken by Baldwin
Layer 2: main narrative spoken by Streamer
Warning: people will be eating cat poo in today’s instalment. If you don’t want to read “By God’s bones it is a cats turd!” then now is the time to read something else.
This part is tremendous writing. Mr Streamer gains superhuman hearing as a consequence of all the freaky stuff he either consumed or stuck as pillows on his hears. Alternatively, Mr Streamer is as a high as a a very high hippy at Woodstock listening to Jimi Hendrix.
Streamer can hear planets, women in nearby towns calling their husband “cuckolds” and is freaked out by the church bell of St Botolph’s (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_Botolph’s,_Aldersgate ). When the servants come to look for him, he things he is being chased by devils.
This is very much a writer having fun with words particularly when it comes to Mr Streamer listing all the sounds he can hear: “singing of swans, ringing of pans, crowing of cocks, sowing of socks, cackling of hens, scrapling of pens, heaping of mice, trulling of dice, curling of frogs and toads in the bogs, churking of crickets, shutting of wickets, scritching of owls, fluttering of fowls, routing of knaves, snorting of slaves, farting of churls, fisling of girls”
The Effect of the Medicine on Mr Streamer
With my lozenges in a box, I went out among the servants – one of whom was a shrewd boy, that wanted to know what was in my box. I, to sauce him after his sauciness, called them “prescienciall pills”, affirming that whoever might eat one of them should not only understand wonders, but also make prophecies. On hearing this the boy was exceedingly earnest in entreating me to give him one, and when at last very loathly (as it seemed) I granted his request, he took a lozenge and put it in his mouth and chewed it. When the fume ascended in his mouth he began to spattle and spit, saying, “By God’s bones it is a cats turd!”
At this everybody laughed, and so too did I, verifying it to be as he said, and that he was a prophet but so that he might not spew too much, I also put a lozenge in my mouth and kept it under my tongue, showing that it was not evil. While I did this I thought I heard someone cry with a loud voice, “What, Isegrim! what, Isegrim !” I asked the servants whose name was Isegrim, saying that someone was calling him, but the servants said that they knew nobody of the name, nor had they heard anybody call.
“No,” said I, for the voice still called “hear you nobody?”
“We hear nothing but a cat,” said they, “which mewed alone on the roof.”
When I saw it was so indeed, and that I understood what the cat said, glad was I as anyone alive, and taking my leave of them as though I would to bed straight, I went into my chamber. Because the hour of Saturn’s cold dominion approached I put on my gown and got myself to the place in which I had viewed the cats the night before. Once I had settled myself where I might conveniently hear and see all things done in the Aldersgate roof, the cat still cried out for “Isegrim”. I put into my two nostrils two lozenges, and into my mouth another two lozenges, one above my tongue, the other under. I took off my left shoe because of Jupiter’s appropinquosion, and laid the fox tail under my foot.
To hear better I took off my pillows, from my ears, and then listened and viewed as attentively as I could. The pellicils or filmy vein that lies within the bottom of my ear hole, from where veins carry the sound to the senses, was with this medicine in my pillows so purged and parched, or at least dried, that the least moving of the air, whether struck with breath or with living creatures, (which we call voices) or with the moving of dead, as winds, waters, trees, carts, falling of stones, etc. (which are named noises), sounded so shrill in my head, by reverberations of my final films, that the sound of them altogether was so disordered and monstrous that I could discern not one from the other, save only the harmony of the moving of the spheres which noise excelled all other as much both in pleasance and shrill bigness of sound as the zodiac itself. In comparison of the most bass of this noise, which is the moving of Saturn by means of this huge compass, the highest whistling of the wind, or any other organ pipes (whose sounds I heard issued together,) appeared but a low base, and yet was those a high treble to the voice of beasts which as a mean the running of rivers was a tenor, and the boiling of the sea, and the cataracts or gulf is a goodly base, and the rushing, rising, and falling of the clouds a deep diapason.
While I listened to this broil, labouring to discern both voices and noises a sunder, I had such a mixture as I think was never in Chaucer’s “House of Fame,” for there was nothing within an hundred mile of me down on my side (for from so far but no farther the air may come because of obliquacion,) but I heard it as well as if I had been by it, and discern all voices, but by means of noises understood none.
Lord, what a fuss women made in their beds ; some scolding, some laughing, some singing to their sucking children, which made a woeful noise with their continual crying, and one shrewd wife, a great way off (I think in St. Albans), called her husband cuckold as loud and shrilly that I heard it plain, and would have heard the rest, but could not because of the barking of dogs, grunting of hogs, wailing of cats, rumbling of rats, gaggleing of geese, humming of bees, rousing of bucks, gaggling of ducks, singing of swans, ringing of pans, crowing of cocks, sowing of socks, cackling of hens, scrapling of pens, heaping of mice, trulling of dice, curling of frogs and toads in the bogs, churking of crickets, shutting of wickets, scritching of owls, fluttering of fowls, routing of knaves, snorting of slaves, farting of churls, fisling of girls, with many things else ; as ringing of bells, counting of coins, mounting of groins, whispering of lovers, springling of plovers, groning and spinning, baking and brewing, scratching and rubbing, watching and shrugging, with such a sort of commixed noises as could deafen anybody to have heard, and much more.
Seeing that the peanieles of my ears were made so fine and stiff by my medicine, and that by the temperate heat of the things there, that like a tabard dried before the fire, or else a lute string shrunk by heat, never they were incomparably amended in receiving and yielding the shrillness of any touching sounds. While I was earnestly harkening (as I said) to hear the women, minding nothing else, the greatest bell in St. Botolph steeple, which is hard by, was tolled for some rich lady that then lay in passing. The sound came with such a rumble into my ear, that I thought all the devils in hell had broken loose, and where come about me. I was so afraid that when I felt the foxtail under my feet (which through fear I had forgot) I deemed it had been the devil indeed ; and therefore I cried as loud as ever I could, “The devil, the devil!”
When some of the fellows, raised by my noise, had sought me in my chamber and found me not there, they went seeking about, calling to one another, “Where is he? I cannot find Mr Streamer.” This noise and stir of them was so great in my ears that I thought they were devils indeed that sought and asked for me. Therefore I crept close into a corner and hid, saying many good prayers to save me from them; and because that noise was so terrible that I could not abide it, I thought best to stop mine ears, thinking I should then be less afraid. And as I was there about, a crow, which was most likely nodding asleep in the chimney top, fell down into the chimney over my head. The fluttering fall made such a noise that when I felt the crow’s feet over my head I thought then the devil had come indeed and seized me; and when I threw up my head to save myself, and touched the crow, he called me knave in his tongue. I swooned in fear, and when I had come to my sense again the crow had flown into the chamber roof, and there he sat all night.
Then took I my pillows to stop my ears, for the rabble that the servants made I still took for the devil, it was so great and shrill. I had no sooner put them on but by and by I heard it was the servants which sought for me, and that I was deceived through my clearness of hearing. For the bell which put me in all this fear (for which I have never loved bells since) tolled still, and I perceived well enough what it was; and seeing that the servants would not leave calling and seeking till they found me, I went down to them and told them that a cat had been in my chamber and had frightened me, whereupon they went to bed again, and I returned to my watching place.