If hosen and shoon thou ne'er gav'st nane

Anna Z Skarzynska theania at freeuk.com
Fri May 2 20:00:05 EDT 2003

> This time I saw far more versions giving the line as 'fire and sleet
> and candle-leet', which is confusing now that we've sorted it out as
> meaning three basic human necessities.
> Hallie.

In some hands s and f can look very similar. The Irish hand, notably; but
cf. the long s's that look like fs even in early printed books. How many old
MSS are there with the Lyke-wake dirge? Examining them may well establish
that soemone miscopied the word and it turned to sleet in subsequent
As I recall (please tell me if I'm wrong) the f-like s is used at the
beginning of words and in the middle, and the ordinary s at the end
(businesf; fhould; the real long s has no dash across it, I just used f
because it was easier than looking for the symbol to insert). Likewise, in
Greek, the letter sigma has two forms, one occurring at ends of words, the
other elsewhere.
I vote for miscopying. I'd say it's extremely likely. (credentials: my PhD
involved comparing MS versions of a tale, noting just such inconsistencies
and extrapolating from the data)


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