118: Picker & Stealer Say More

More cats gathered on the second night of our Revel than on the first.  I did not know if they came to make merrie, or because they were ear-lickers of Picker and Stealer.

First, Picker and Stealer spake very high of the wondrous gift Queen Puss sent to the Emperor of the Turks.

The imposing figure of a dark-bearded man wearing a very large white turban.
Sultan Mehmet III – via Wikimedia Commons.  He was delighted with the gift.

They sayt, “It’s a mechanickal device that chimes the hours as a clock do.  After it chimes, bells make a din. 

“Two little painted toys that stand on this device raise silver trumpets to their mouths and give sound.  Then the device makes musick, very good to hear.

“Best is a holly bush that sits atop the thing.  When the musick stops a multitude of birds in the bush flap their wings and sing.

“These are not birds to eat.  They’re pretty toys.  The rude and barbarous cats of Constantinople will never have seen the like.”

Then Picker and Stealer sayt that they hoped the men who carried this device to the Emperor would come safe home again.

“We heard tell that this Emperor caused all his brothers to be strangled, and he had more brothers than most cats have claws.  Say now, Kettie, can this be this true?”

“I believe it were done for the safety of the realm,” sayt Kettie the Turkey cat.  “But who can account for the doings of great folks?  I heard tell that your old King Harry cut the head off his wife the mother of your Queen.  And Her Majestie is so far from bearing her father any malice that she loves to be told how like to him she is.”

“Who hasn’t wished to strangle a brother or sister?” called Onix.  “I have, and were I an Emperor I might have done.”

That set all screeching.

A brightly coloured drawing of a walled seaside city.
Constantinople – a picture from 1493, via Wikimedia Commons.

Next, Picker and Stealer told of the learned doctor’s prognostickation for the Earl of Essex.  This doctor had gone, as all London did, to see Essex leave for Ireland.  Then he hasted home to make an astrologick chart.

“What awaits our noble Earl and his friends in Bogland?  Treason, hunger, sickness and death.  He’ll do little good there, and on his return much treachery will be wrought against him by his enemies.  He’s like to be imprisoned and have great loss of his goods and honour.”

Simon Forman, from the cover picture on A.L. Rowse’s The Casebooks of Simon Forman.

Picker and Stealer looked right pleased with theirselves.

“So far,” sayt Linkin, “so Ireland.  I don’t need no stars to tell me that.  What I do know is that after a most horrid crossing of the sea our Earls and their friends made safe landfall.  And Queen Puss has waxed wroth because another Earl, Lord Rutland, went with them.  He’ll be punished for it.  But that’s a report for parlement, not our Revel.”

“Tower, Tower,” sang a cat. “Take him to the Tower.”

“There let him rot,” sang another, “and be clean forgot.”

“A most excellent song,” sayt I, untruthful, “for to end our Revel.”

Then the scabbed villain that keeps the wall by Essex House came forward.  He swore he’d liked our Revel so well he would grant safe passage to any among us who wished to pass that way.

And he sang most poetick.

Am I so base, that I might not aspire
Unto those high joys which she holds from me?
As walls are high, so high is my desire:
If she this deny, what can granted be?

Scabface knew I sought the freedom not only of that wall, but of Essex House itself.

Oh, the things we queen cats do to make our ways in this wicked world.

Editor's Note. Small image of a quill pen.Most poetick, indeed.  It’s a verse from a poem attributed to the Earl of Essex, and set to music by John Dowland.  Scabface must have heard it sung at Essex House, and tweaked the wording slightly to impress Tricks.

The gift for Sultan Mehmet III was an elaborate mechanical organ made by Thomas Dallam (1575 – c1630).  Another gift was a handsome coach for the Sultan’s powerful mother Safiye.

The organ was 16 feet/4.8 metres high.  Queen Elizabeth viewed it at Whitehall Palace, then it was taken apart for shipping to Constantinople.  The voyage took about 6 months.  There, Dallam and the men he refers to as his mates – an ‘ingener’ (engineer), a joiner, and a painter – reassembled it.

The organ was set to play mechanically before the Sultan.  Then he asked if anyone present could play it manually.  Thomas Dallam was called in.  At first he refused, explaining to a court official that to play he would have to sit with his back to the Sultan – a serious breach of protocol.

He was urged on, even though to reach the organ he had to brush past the Sultan – another serious breach.  When the Sultan stood up to get a better look at Dallam’s hands on the keys, Dallam thought he was drawing his sword to cut off his head, but played on.

Astrologer/medical practitioner Simon Forman’s prediction for Essex was extraordinarily accurate, but as Linkin said, “so Ireland.

I’ll be taking a break, but Tricks and friends will be back in the New Year.  Happy Christmas!


29 thoughts on “118: Picker & Stealer Say More

  1. April Munday December 21, 2017 / 10:44 am

    The organ sounds amazing, although I’m not sure what state it would have been in after being carted all the way to Turkey

    Liked by 2 people

    • toutparmoi December 21, 2017 / 11:26 am

      The organ arrived in a sorry state. Dallam had to unpack it at the ambassador’s house over the water in Galata, or (more accurately) in a special shelter the ambassador ordered to be erected for it, because it was too tall for his house.
      After months in chests in the ship’s hold the “glewings” had all come apart and a number of the pipes were damaged.
      The ambassador and his staff were dismayed, and one declared it wasn’t worth twopence!
      Dallam and his mates set about repairing it, and then it had to be taken apart again for transportation to the Sultan.
      Dallam never gives a detailed description of the organ. He kept a lively diary of his trip, but is more interested in describing everything he saw and did along the way.
      Just after I posted I read about this marvellous piece of clockwork:

      Liked by 3 people

    • April Munday December 21, 2017 / 11:50 am

      One summer holiday I worked for an organ tuner and I learned that they’re really rather delicate – organs, not the organ tuner.

      The cloclwork peacock looks amazing.

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi December 21, 2017 / 12:08 pm

      That makes me wonder how Dallam’s playing would have sounded to an organ tuner’s ear.


    • April Munday December 21, 2017 / 6:15 pm

      It was before even temperament, so it would have sounded odd to us however well he played. Organ builders are usually very good players, though.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. roshendalal December 21, 2017 / 4:14 pm

    Happy Christmas and New Year! Waiting for the next post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi December 22, 2017 / 8:45 am

      Thank you, and many Happy Hitchings for you in the New Year.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. colonialist December 22, 2017 / 8:41 am

    In the good old days before all the I stan bull.
    There was a bit of bad organ isation in the transport of that instrument.
    The cats are, as always, a well of information.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi December 22, 2017 / 8:47 am

      Their ears are well made for the business of news-gathering.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Dave Ply December 22, 2017 / 5:44 pm

    Sounds like a handsome gift. Hopefully, you too can enjoy the gifts of the season.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi December 22, 2017 / 6:04 pm

      Thanks, Dave, Incidentally, I thought of you recently when I went to a craft beer festival here. There was an amazing array of beers on offer, many from small breweries I’d never heard off! And an array of food trucks, too, selling the most delectable snacks. A great time was had by all!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Dave Ply December 24, 2017 / 8:08 am

      All the travel stories, and I’m remembered as a craft brewer. Ha! 😉 Actually, I did just upgrade my brewing set up; I picked up a unit called the “Grainfather”, created by a New Zealand company.

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi December 24, 2017 / 8:22 am

      Not even as a brewer, Dave! I was thinking more of a craft drinker 😉 Though the travel required to do a Kiwi craft beer tour would suit you just fine.

      Liked by 2 people

    • toutparmoi December 22, 2017 / 9:28 pm

      England had had quite a long relationship with Turkey. In the interests of trade, intrepid merchants and navigators went on explorative voyages. By Elizabeth’s time a lucrative trade had been established, via the Levant Company, with the Ottoman Empire, which also provided an effective counterbalance to the superpower of Spain.

      Elizabeth had been on cordial terms with Sultan Murat III and Safiye, and everybody wanted this relationship to continue after their son Mehmet became Sultan in 1595. Hence the slightly belated gift. The ‘ambassadors’ at the time were employed by the Levant Company, but did double duty as Elizabeth’s representatives.

      Liked by 2 people

    • toutparmoi December 23, 2017 / 6:16 am

      And to you, Christine. BTW, I assume it would have been The Levant Company, not Queen Puss, who paid to have the organ made and covered all the costs!

      Liked by 2 people

  5. chattykerry December 27, 2017 / 4:46 am

    I am fascinated by the tale of the clock. Hope you have a festive season and see you in the New Year!

    Liked by 2 people

    • toutparmoi January 4, 2018 / 11:41 am

      It seems like 2017 was a good year for you, Mitch, with the success of your movie. I hope 2018 will be every bit as good, if not better!


    • Claremary P. Sweeney February 25, 2018 / 9:42 am

      Desperately trying to catch up with the adventures. I just can’t stay away for two months and expect to know what’s happening on your blog!

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi February 25, 2018 / 10:12 am

      Tricks lived in turbulent times. I’m amazed that she manages to keep her paw on events.

      Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.