Well If it’s in Chaucer & Shakespeare…


Monday, the appraiser came. I’ve heard neither yea or nay, but I’m not too worried – the ‘hood is hot right now and the price of this place is more than reasonable. (OK, I’m a little worried…because worry is what I do. But I’m trying to stuff it down.)

Next Monday, I have the inspection. I feel certain the inspector will hate me; I am annoyingly inquisitive (and yes, if he climbs onto the roof, I’ll be right behind, thank you very much). About the inspection, I’m really not worried; I pretty much know what I’m getting into (expect the complete renovation reveal in…2020 at the earliest).

If When when the house is mine (May 29th – fingers crossed), I’ll show actual pictures thereof.

In the meantime, let’s talk about the tree that’s covering it.

It’s a dogwood (I believe Cornus florida), but also goes by other names.

“Dagwood” is among them, from “dag” or “dagger,” because this hardwood is very strong and broken-off bits make an excellent weapon (I’m a single woman in the mean city…). It was also used for arrows and tools handles, among other things.

Legend has it that the cross on which Christ was crucified was made of dogwood – and that its current gnarled shape is thanks to, following resurrection, his twisting the branches so the dogwood could never again be used for such a purpose. And the flowers are said to represent the four corners of the cross, with the red fruit representing his blood.

“Whipple-tree” or “whippeltree” is another moniker, and it’s mentioned by Chaucer in “The Knight’s Tale:”
But hoe the fyr was maked upon highte
Ne eek the names that the trees  highte
As ook, firre, birch, aspe, alder, holm, popler,
Wylugh, elm, plane, assh, box, chastyen, lynde, laurer
Mapul, thorn, bech, hasel, ew, whippeltree–
How they weren feld shal nat be toold for me; (2919-24)

A pyre for a god – Arcite – apparently requires a great many species.

But my favorite dogwood tree association is found in Shakespeare…of course. That’s the character of Dogberry (the dogwood’s fruit) in “Much Ado About Nothing” – which is among my top-five favorites plays (No. 1 is a moving target).

Dogberry is a delightful idiot, known for his pretentions and malapropisms (a favorite is, “O villian! thou wilt be condemned into everlasting redemption for this!”).

So, not only will a be able to cobble together a great shop in my new basement, I’ll be able to practice MAAN lines. I shall sit on my new porch (hidden behind the dogwood tree) and yell at passersby: “Away! you are an ass, you are an ass.” It’s the late-16th-century version of “get off my lawn.”

When I get tired of that, I’ll trim the tree. And perhaps cast some daggers.

“She speaks poniards, and every word stabs.”

About fitz

Woodworker, writer, editor, teacher, ailurophile, Shakespearean. Will write for air-dried walnut.
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17 Responses to Well If it’s in Chaucer & Shakespeare…

  1. Kinderhook88 says:

    Yikes, that tree is unruly! You could cast many daggers. If you do, throw one my way – I like daggers.

  2. George J. says:

    Does look real nice, from what I can see beyond that dogwood…. Keeping my fingers crossed for you! Is it smaller than the last one? Looks like a cozy footprint and height, in a most positve way.

    • fitz says:

      It’s actually about 1,000 sq ft larger – the old one is 1,770 sq ft. (which was plenty large enough, really…but for a shop space – this one has a dry basement with adequate head room).

  3. Paul says:

    Sounds great! Hope it all works in your favor

  4. Dave Reedy says:

    Per Roy Underhill: “Do you know how to tell a Dogwood tree?………………………..By it’s bark.”

  5. “Away! you are an ass, you are an ass.”

    I would walk by your house daily to hear that cast out from behind the branches of the whippletree!

  6. JC says:

    Congrats! I’ll tilt the parting glass for ye…

  7. So happy for you, as I’m sure it’ll pass any inspection if you’ve already looked it over. And Ah Canterbury Tales. Took me 17 weeks to memorize the Prologue in the old English and to
    understand it. Enjoyed the tales especially the raunchy ones.

  8. toolnut says:

    Dogwoods are pretty. A good trim will let some light through and still provide shade with the added benefit of you being able to actually see who you are yelling at. Wouldn’t want you to yell at Lucentio.

  9. John Horst says:

    The houses in your area seem to be very close together. The lot that our house sits on (house is 2200 sq ft two story) is 200′ wide by 125′ deep. Is that close to what you have in your area? Just curious as I like to have a small garden.

    • fitz says:

      Old urban neighborhood; not much land w/any of the houses. The lot is .111 acres (approximately 40’x120′); my former home was .054 acres. There’s enough front yard for flowers though, and enough backyard for a small vegetable garden…or chickens and goats (which some of the neighbors have).

  10. Potomacker says:

    Another house fallen victim to arboricidephobia.

  11. Kevin Thomas says:

    The official tree of the Great State of Missouri. A true beauty in the spring. Enjoy.

  12. nateharold says:

    That looks very Cincinnati! My sis lives on Drake, aunts/uncles in Silverton. I can imagine what you’re in for… but a dry basement is an amazing find – good luck!

  13. miathet says:

    Anytime I can start my day with Canterbury Tales is a good day. Good luck, but remember as I have found a lot of people don’t want to sit in the shop because you don’t have your living room setup!

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