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Dithmar Blefkins

Posted 11-30-2010 at 05:35 AM by Steve Bucknell
Updated 11-30-2010 at 05:43 AM by Steve Bucknell
Sam comes to tell me with querulous calls that it has snowed heavily in the night. My first task is to clear a path for him and open some ground under the hedge. He follows me and squats down gratefully after scratching out the damp ground. He then races back into the house as if pursued by demon dogs.

I spend two hours clearing the path and the steep drive to the garage. Feeling energetic I dig out neighbour Raymondís drive too. Heís in his eighties but needs to get his car out to feed the sheep he keeps up at Langsett. All done, I go and clear the ice mirror in the snow-thick hawthorn. Its frosted face is still there, but pierced at its edges by sharp black thorns.

Local Radio Sheffield is a litany of school closures. Most of the roads are O.K., but, as usual after snowfall the routes over the Pennines are impassable. The Snake and the Woodhead Pass are closed. Iím working this afternoon. Until then I resume my studies in Edith Sitwellís A Book of the Winter:

On Sailing into the Ice

I sayled not without great fear into the Ice, and I observed that the ice was most violently cast against the Rockes by force of the winds, and so made a mournfull sound afarre off, as if miserable howlings were heard there. Hereupon the Islanders think the soules of the damned are tormented in this Ice.

Dithmar Blefkins, Purchas his Pilgrimes XIII.

I search Google to try to discover Dithmar Blefkins . I find the quote comes from a tract included in Purchasís Pilgrimes volume III. I donít know what ďXIIIĒ refers to, but presume the tracts in volume III were numbered. Samuel Purchas was the next great collector of travels after Richard Hakluyt. Purchas published the first volume of Pilgrimes in 1613. This is the Wikipedia description of Purchas:Ē As an editor and compiler Purchas was often injudicious, careless and even unfaithful; but his collections contain much of value, and are frequently the only sources of information upon important questions affecting the history of exploration.Ē
I then find this quote from A Popular History of the United States, 1896, William Cullen Bryant (author of Thanatopsis.):

A German writer, Dithmar Blefkins, a minister sent to Iceland from Hamburg in 1563,
tells much the same story, which he learned from a monk who entered this monastery of St.
Thomas in 1546. Blefkins, whose tract is in Purchas, vol. III., says : "This Monke told
us marvellous strange things, that there was in the Monastery of St. Thomas (where he
lived) a Fountaine, which sent forth burning and flaming water, that this water was conveyed
through Pipes of stone, to the several Cels of the Monks, and that it made them
warme as stoves do with us, and all kinds of meats might be boyled in this Fountaine, and
fiery water, and no otherwise than if it had bin on a fire indeed, he advertised moreover,
that the walls of the Monastery were made with Pumice stones, out of a certain mountain
not farre from the Monastery : like to Hecla in Iceland, for if you powre this water upon
the Pumice stone, there will follow a slymie matter, which instead of lyme they use for

I think Iíll make the journey and stay in that monastery for the winter.

Then I find this quote from The History of Greenland .David Crantz.1820:

A German author, Dithmar Blefkin, tells us', that being in Iceland, in 1546, he met with a Dominican monk from the monastery of St. Thomas in Greenland, who having in the preceding year accompanied his bishop from that country to Norway, had finally settled in Iceland. From this monk he professes to have received a description of the monastery; and though the incoherence of his account makes it appear extremely questionable, I find it confirmed by Caesar * Longinus. He mentions that James Hall, an Englishman, who made many voyages to Iceland and Greenland in the Danish service, and gave a most detailed and faithful report of the state of the Greenlanders, likewise conversed with the same monk in presence of the governor of Iceland. To this person also he gave an account of his convent, stating, "that it contained a well of hot water, which being conducted in pipes through all the apartments, warmed not only them, but also the chambers of the upper story; that meat was boiled in this spring as quickly as over a fire; that the walls of the convent were composed of pumice stone; and that hot water poured upon stones of this substance, reduced them to the consistence of clay, so that they could be used for mortar.Ē

You canít beat good pointing and efficient central heating. Double-glazing helps . And wearing two pairs of socks helps too.
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