The Blood Of Ducks, The Blood Of Lambs

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Two monks took the blood of a duck, which they renewed every week; this they put into a phial, one side of which consisted of a thin, transparent crystal; the other thick and opaque; the dark side was shown until the sinner’s gold was exhausted, when, presto! change, the blood appeared by turning the other side of the phial. Innumerable toe-parings, bones, pieces of skin, three heads of St. Ursula, and other anatomical relics of departed saints, were said to cure every disease known to man.

– Alfred Wesley Wishart, A Short History Of Monks And Monasteries (1900)

The phrase “two monks took the blood of a duck”, in the above quotation, was appropriated by the poet Dennis Beerpint as the title of a lengthy, as-yet-unpublished work. It may be that he is still writing it, but our regular Beerpint-watcher, Dan Sprawl, is currently in hospital with a case of jangling cav and pag, so news is limited.

What we do know is that the poem compares the image of monks draining blood from a duck with the concept of being “washed in the blood of the lamb”. Here is an extract:

Then Brother Fabrizius strangled another teal.

“Hand me that retort, Brother Arpad, so that I may decant into it this teal’s gore.”

Brother Arpad reached for the retort and in so doing smashed an alembic.

There was a sound of bells.

The monks were called to compline.

For each canonical hour they allocated a duck to be slaughtered for its blood.

At compline, a teal.

At matins, a merganser.

At prime, a pintail.

At tierce, a shoveler.

At sext, a wigeon.

At nones, a smew.

And at vespers, a bufflehead.

Out in the fields, sweet little lambs gambolled and frolicked.

They would not frolic for long.

Soon, in the monastery, it would be bathtime.

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About Author Profile: Frank Key

Frank Key is a London-based writer, blogger and broadcaster best known for his Hooting Yard blog, short-story collections and his long-running radio series Hooting Yard on the Air, which has been broadcast weekly on Resonance FM since April 2004. By Aerostat to Hooting Yard - A Frank Key Reader, an ideal introduction to his fiction, is published for Kindle by Dabbler Editions. Mr Key's Shorter Potted Brief, Brief Lives was published in October 2015 by Constable and is available to buy online and in all good bookshops.

5 thoughts on “The Blood Of Ducks, The Blood Of Lambs

    May 27, 2011 at 09:20

    At nones, a smew.

    You just don’t get this kind of stuff on the Spectator Arts Blog…

  2. Worm
    May 27, 2011 at 09:44

    you would need to milk the blood of at least 2000 smews just have one shallow bath

    ian russell
    May 27, 2011 at 12:51

    Two monks, to make sure there was no funny business..

  4. Gaw
    May 27, 2011 at 18:16

    Simply magnificent. Or perhaps just magnificent.

Comments are closed.