|Iconic shepherd pose, with lamb tucked under arm|
Truly, shepherd, in respect of itself, it is a good
life, but in respect that it is a shepherd's life,
it is naught. In respect that it is solitary, I
like it very well; but in respect that it is
private, it is a very vile life. Now, in respect it
is in the fields, it pleaseth me well; but
in respect it is not in the court, it is tedious.
I’m celebrating Shakespeare’s Centenary, so the above dialogue, between Touchstone (the court jester in disguise) and Corin, an elderly shepherd, in ‘As You Like It’ fits perfectly. Corin asks Touchstone how he likes ‘this shepherd’s life’ and he replies that he enjoys some aspects, but it’s clear from his answer that he misses his life at court. Indeed, a shepherd’s life then, as now, was very hard.
Our Sepia Saturday picture prompt this week is a photograph titled 'Ninety and Nine’ (by Joseph Gale c1890), showing a shepherd resting at a gate with a lamb under his arm and his sheepdog nearby. The picture recalls the parable from the Gospel of Matthew about the ‘Lost Sheep’.
It reminded me of a roadside statue we came across a few years ago, when travelling in Spain, near Burgos. It’s a monument to the rural shepherd and his dog, next to a shrine. Sculpted by Victor De Los Rijos, it was erected by public subscription in 1961. His Sheepdog is a large, but friendly looking Mastiff, and he also seems to have a young lad to help him. The statue is huge, as can be seen by me standing beside him!
|A Colossus amongst shepherds|
I delved into my ‘News From The English Countryside, 1750-1850’* for the first time in months, to share two small news items with you which demonstrate the shepherd’s dedication.
Last year died at Basingstoke one William Taylor, aged 102, as appears by the Register, in the Parish church of Basingstoke aforesaid; he was strong and healthy till a few days before his Death, and is said to have followed the business of a Shepherd upwards of 90 years.
Reading, January 28
1809: Shepherd Drowned in Mud
A shepherd to Mr Fisher, of Cotham, Lincoln was found drowned last week with a fat sheep, in one of the closes on the farm. The dog, it is supposed, drove the sheep in, and on the man endeavouring to get out, the mud was so strong, he could not extricate himself.
11 June 1809
|The shepherd’s lad|
Perhaps the second one was similar to the ‘Lost Sheep’; he had the other ninety-nine safely penned in and went off to look for Number 100 - it had to be the fat, dopey one didn’t it? And why did that daft dog drive towards the muddy pond?! Poor shepherd.
Coincidentally I’ve just watched BBC TV’s ‘Countryfile' for April 24th and it was, of course, a Shakespeare Special. One item was about the importance of the wool trade to Stratford-upon-Avon, and how it contributed to Shakespeare’s wealth and his ability to join the theatre. To make it more interesting a small flock of sheep were driven down Stratford’s Sheep Street. Unfortunately the sheep were spooked by the crowds, which and gathered to watch filming, and chaos ensued. Some sheep nearly ended up in the River Avon - nobody drowned though. Here’s a link to the Telegraph’s report, including a short film clip.
* By Clifford Morsley: pub.Harrap
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