15th century German Fishing Humor

The “burlesque” below is taken from Wie man fisch und vögel fahen soll (How to Catch a Fish), by Jacob Köbel, Heidelberg, 1493.   This version is edited and translated by Richard C. Hoffman and can be found in Hoffman’s Fisher’s Craft and Lettered Art: Tracts of Fishing from the End of the Middle Ages (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1997).   I can, at least, agree with Köbel’s characterizations of the salmon, trout, and grayling.

This is a burlesque comparison of fish.

Item a stickleback is a king.  A fresh-run salmon a lord.  A carp a knave.  A pike a robber.  A barbell a tailor.  An eel a trickster.  A nose a scribe.  A roach a cat.  A dace a bastard.  A perch a knight.   A ruffe a goldsmith.  A lampern a child.  A gudgeon a virgin.  A miller’s thumb a horse nail.  A minor a grocer.  A bitterling the grocer’s helper.  A brook lamprey a piper.  A trout a forester.  A grayling a count of the Rhine.  A crayfish a digger.  A spined loach a watchman.  A burbot a thief.  A bleak a launderer.


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