24 December 2011

An Aristotle Christmas Story

Each year, on the Saturday before Christmas, Queen’s College at Oxford celebrates their annual Boar’s Head Feast. The feast involves the ceremonial entry of the boar’s head followed by the singing of the Boar’s Head carol:

The boar’s head in hand bring I,
Bedeck'd with bays and rosemary.
I pray you, my masters, be merry
Quot estis in convivio
Caput apri defero
Reddens laudes Domino

The boar's head, as I understand,
Is the rarest dish in all this land,
Which thus bedeck'd with a gay garland
Let us servire cantico
Caput apri defero
Reddens laudes Domino

Our steward hath provided this
In honor of the King of Bliss;
Which, on this day to be served is
In Reginensi atrio
Caput apri defero
Reddens laudes Domino



“But what does this all have to do with Aristotle?” you may ask. Quite right; I promised you an Aristotle Christmas story. Well, there is an old legend that explains the origin of the Boar’s Head Feast.

A Queen’s College student, staying over at Oxford during the Christmas holiday, was strolling through the woods with a copy of Aristotle’s works, trying unsuccessfully to understand the philosopher. Suddenly he came upon a wild boar, which, feeling no particular affection for the academic type, charged him open-mouthed with tusks bared. Luckily, the student put his copy of Aristotle to good use. The chroniclers tell us, “With great presence of mind, and the exclamation ‘Graecum est,’ the collegian thrust the philosopher’s Ethics down his assailant’s throat, and having choked the savage with the sage, went on his way rejoicing.” Luckily the vicious boar found Aristotle to be as indigestible as the student did, and Queen’s College was provided with a great Christmas feast.

So if you're intent on getting a great classical education, remember, not only does Aristotle improve your mind; Aristotle saves lives!

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

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