Amid the discussion in Goussin of Metz’s Image du Monde of various kinds of water — fresh, salty, black, poisonous, and so on — is an attempt to account for sulfurous hot springs. In one of Goussin’s key sources, Honorius of Autun’s Imago Mundi, the discussion of water wonders seems to shade into considering lava. Honorius writes: “Et si prope hunc locum erumpit, flammivoma ebullit” (and if it breaks from this place, it boils out, vomiting flames” (from Valerie Flint’s edition). William Caxton’s Middle English translation follows its source closely: “it sholde yssue sourdyng alle enflamed and alle boylyng as it were on a fyre.”
The verse Image du Monde, one of whose many manuscripts I have been helping transcribe over the past few days, may often have some trouble with this line. And no wonder? How can we talk sensibly about burning water?
So, we have the water burning “Ausi com espoise boillant” (BnF. Département des Manuscrits. Français 14964, 64r), like an oil lamp boiling. I think this is what’s happening too in BnF. Département des Manuscrits. Français 24428, 24v: “Ausi com espesse boulant.”
The fourteenth-century prose version also has the oil lamp (” Et s’il avient que l’yaue saille par la endroit hors de la terre, ele s’en ist toute enflambée sourdant, et toute boillant ausi comme ampoise.”).
But at least a few, including what I’ve come to think of as my manuscript, misread and mangle — or improve? — the comparison.
And mine? BnF. Département des manuscrits. Français 2173 31v
Devant q[ue] leue sor deforz
En fla[m]mee se ist sordant
Si co[m]me poiz em pot boulanz
I’m not quite sure what BnF fr. 2173’s scribe had in mind, but the roiling, noisy semi-solidity of peas banging in a pot certainty evokes the urgent DO NOT TOUCH that courses through Goussin’s treatment of dangerous, strange waters.