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Philippa Bright, Diane Speed, and Juanita Ruys (eds), Oxford Medieval Texts: The Anglo-Latin Gesta Romanorum: from Oxford, Bodleian Library, Douce MS 310

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7. GIRAFFE

[fo.15v] Orosius30 est bestia ad magnitudinem cerui, sed monstruose altitudinis in anteriori parte in tantum quod extendo collum ad uiginti cubitos31 attingit in altitudine. Pellem habet uarietatis et [fo.16r>] pg 684pulchritudinis quam, cum homines considerant, si hoc aduertat, se girat et regirat ut suam pulchritudinem ostendat. Talis bestia mittebatur a soldano Babilonie imperatori Frederico.32

Sic est de superbis,33 qui coram hominibus pulchritudinem uestium aut corporis ostendunt, qui quasi in anteriori parte sunt erecti, dum aliis se preferunt, et in superbiam eriguntur, et ideo secundum Anselmum non possunt celum intrare, quia hostium celi est humile et paruum uidetur.34 Vnde Christus dicit per Iohannem: 'Ego sum hostium.'35 Et ideo nullus erectus per superbiam intrare potest propter quod Christus, in hora qua erat transiturus de mundo ad celum, non erexit caput, sed inclinauit. Vnde dicitur: 'Et inclinato capite, emisit spiritum.'36

Translation

7. GIRAFFE

Orosius30 is an animal about the size of a stag, but of such unnatural height in the front part that by extending its neck it reaches 20 cubits in height.31 It has a hide of variety and beauty and when people look at pg 685it, if it notices, it turns itself around and around so that it can display its beauty. Such an animal was sent by the Sultan of Babylon to the Emperor Frederick.32

So it is with the proud33 who display the beauty of their clothes or their body in front of people and who, as it were, are upright in their front part while they show themselves to others, and in fact are lofty in pride, and that is why according to Anselm they are not able to enter heaven because it appears that the gate of heaven is low and small.34 Hence Christ says through John: 'I am the door.'35 And therefore no one who is lofty through pride is able to enter because Christ, at the hour at which he was about to pass from the world to heaven, did not raise his head, but bowed it. Hence it is said: 'Bowing down his head, he sent forth his spirit.'36

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Notes

Editor’s Note
7 The exemplum is ch. 15 of C1 and is also included in A1 Cc D3 and J2.
Editor’s Note
30 The name 'Orosius' appears to be a misreading of 'orasius', which is one of the names given to the giraffe by Vincent of Beauvais (see Speculum naturale, i. 19. 9. 1225). For early descriptions of the giraffe, which is more commonly referred to by the Latin term 'camelopardus', see Pliny the Elder, Natural History, viii. 27; Isidore of Seville, The Etymologies, xii. 2. 19; Albertus Magnus, On Animals, xxii; and Mandeville's Travels, ed. Hamelius, i, c. xxxii. The latter work includes the detail that the Giraffe's neck is 20 cubits long.
Editor’s Note
31 The cubit is a unit of length based on a comparison to the length of a forearm. One cubit is 45.72 cm.
Editor’s Note
32 The holy Roman emperor Frederick II who apparently loved exotic animals and kept a menagerie of them.
Editor’s Note
33 'Moraliter' is written in the margin.
Editor’s Note
34 It has not been possible to discover the source of the reference among Anselm's writings, but cf. Matt. 7: 14.
Editor’s Note
35 John 10: 9.
Editor’s Note
36 A variation on John 19: 30, 'Et inclinato capite tradidit spiritum.'
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