place there the Ship of Fools a strange drunken boat that glides along the calm

Place there the ship of fools a strange drunken boat

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place there: the Ship of Fools, a strange "drunken boat" that glides along the calm rivers of the Rhineland and the Flemish canals. The Narrenschiff, of course, is a literary composition. […] Fashion favored the composition of these Ships, whose crew of imaginary heroes, ethical models, or social types embarked on a great symbolic voyage which would bring them, if not fortune, then at least the figure of their destiny or their truth. But of all these romantic or satiric vessels, the Narrenschiff is the only one that had a real existence-- for they did exist, these boats that conveyed their insane cargo from town to town. An itinerant existence was often the lot of the mad. The towns drove them outside their limits; they were allowed to wander in the open countryside, when not entrusted to a group of merchants and pilgrims. The custom was especially frequent in Germany; in Nuremberg, in the first half of the fifteenth century, the presence of 63 madmen had been registered; 31 were driven away; in the fifty years that followed, there are records of 21 more obligatory departures. Frequently they were handed over to boatmen. Sometimes the sailors disembarked these bothersome passengers sooner than they had promised.
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  • Summer '13
  • Prof.Goh

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