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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: November ::
Dyers and Big Calves
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.2035  Friday, 19 November 1999.

From:           Frank Whigham <
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Date:           Thursday, 18 Nov 1999 11:11:55 -0600
Subject:        Dyers and Big Calves

Colleagues,

Can anyone explain why dyers might have developed large calf muscles? A
joke in The Art of English Poesy runs as follows:

=====

as we once sported upon a country fellow who came to run for the best
game, and was by his occupation a dyer and had very big swelling legs:

He is but course to run a course,
Whose shanks are bigger than his thigh:
Yet is his luck a little worse,
That often dyes before he dye.

=====

Readers of Webster will know that barge-men had notoriously strong
thighs (a fact also attested to by Camden), but why the occupation of
dyeing would develop the calves is unclear to me.

Many thanks.

Frank Whigham
 

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