They Will Sew the Blue Sail

Judith Goldman | From Ferity


In 864, the Council of Worms decreed that some bees which

had killed a man by stinging, should be suffocated in their hives

Sentence pronounced condemning a pig

to be hanged and strangled for infanticide committed on

the fee-farm of Clermont-lez-Montcornet

Fined 18 francs for negligence, because

the child was their fosterling

minutest details of the proceedings, ending with

execution of the pig

In the year 1565 the people in the town of Arles in Provence indicted

some grasshoppers

for injury done the fruits of the field

Competency as witnesses

As not to know the nature and quality of the act

At Falaise, in 1386, a sow was sentenced by the commune

to be mangled in the face and maimed in the forelegs

It had torn the face and arms of a child

a kind of iron cage or pillory set up in the marketplace

tormented by flies

A cock finds a precious stone in a dunghill

He leaves the jewel in the dunghill:

“no thynge have I to do with thē”

Reported to have laid eggs

a chicken passing for a rooster

Laid an egg and was prosecuted by law

But contended that the laying of the egg

in this particular case

had been entirely unpremeditated and involuntary

The cock is a fool for the stone is wisdom

The cock was condemned and was burned at the stake

In 1456 two pigs were thus punished at Oppenheim on the Rhine

for killing a child

And bestrode his body like a fretful mother cow

The church had the right, by its anathema

to compel the insects to stop ravaging but also

that the insects had the legal right to live

since his clients had been created, they

were justified in eating what was necessary for their welfare

Until finally, as a sort of compromise,

the authorities set apart a plot of ground outside the village

for the sole use and benefit of the weevils in perpetuity

Against the noxious host, which creeping secretly in the earth

Allegation, replication, and judgment in the process against


at Stelvio in 1519

And wantonly destroyed the barley of that province

to quit the aforesaid fields and withdraw to the place assigned them

But also all cattle after their kind

Letters patent, by which

Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, on Sept. 12, 1379

pardoned two herds of swine

The peasants of the Electorate of Mayence brought a complaint

against some Spanish flies

appointed attorneys

lest they should remain defenseless:

Gentlemen, inasmuch as you have chosen me to defend these little beasts

Where this element is wanting, there is no culpability

By being read officially before the hills of the termites

the said summons had been duly issued

That they should seek their food

in wild and wooded places and cease

from ravaging cultivated grounds

Five copies of same posted each on a tree in the five forests of the territory

than they all came out


Some rats were brought to trial before the bishop’s vicar

He argued that

Made his reputation as counsel for some rats

Of serving a writ of ejectment on rats

for having eaten and wantonly destroyed some barley crops in that district

The note expresses an interest in their welfare, but asks them to leave

Messrs. Rats & Co.,

In regard to your winter quarters

Seeing as you have pitched your winter quarters

As a patch of waste-ground, on your own land

Their eyes shine and flash in the dark

Again in 1541, a cloud of locusts fell on Lombardy

The People versus Locusts

As legal persons

who spare neither corn nor vines

Having buried in the earth two pigs, which had torn a little child

Or if a horse kick a keeper and kill him

That the bull had met with its deserts

and had been justly put to death

Buried up to his neck

And to have his head plowed off with a new plow

To nail the dead hawk to his barn-door

A man named Gilles Garnier, who ran on all fours in the forest

Where is he? Why doesn’t he move? Is he dead?

Buried in a hole with the filthy straw of the cage

We read of a he-goat being exiled to Siberia

Whether the object of it should be retributive or preventive?

In the year 1565 at Montpellier a man and a mule

were burnt alive for this offence

For the barren tree, cumberer of the orchard

As a condemnation and punishment of the tree

for its delinquencies

A shuddering of fear may have run through all the leaves of the tree

So far as his own person is concerned

So far as

A monkey often takes delight in doing what is wrong

When a dog does wrong, he knows that he is doing wrong

And then only whistle, to make him return

To make him return for the execution

Two wolves in brogans hanging on the gallows

As accomplices

He that will bite must expects be bitten

In 1394 a pig was hanged at Mortaigne

In 1457 at Lavegny, a sow and her litter were charged with

having partially devoured a child

The sow condemned to death but her piglets

released because of their tender age

Because their mother had set them a bad example

Willing to bear witness the mare in word and deed and

in all her habits of life

a most honest creature

Condemning a sow with a black snout

to be hanged for her cruelty and ferocity in murdering a girl of four months,

March 27, 1567, Senlis

But will not have the slightest effect in preventing other pigs?

The sow was found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging

The dog is found guilty and sentenced to the gallows

Hoping thereby to find some loophole

To what extent the will of the accused was

And then only whistle, to make him return