9 August 2023


Hopping is, of course, a traditional English past-time. Readers will doubtless recall the episode in 1764 when a couple of young Englishmen doing the Grand Tour, realising the daunting extent of the Uffizi, decided to abandon all that Art;"their impatience burst forth, and they tried for a bett who should hop first to the end of it". Could this become an Olympic sport, just as the 'Marathon' has done?

And the Noble Art still, apparently, survives. I noticed recently two local Notices inviting Hopping

The first invited readers to "hop" into a travel centre; the other advertisement listed places where one could "hop off" a coach.

Naturally; I was partly amused by the activity suggested and its bizarre, dangerous, athleticism; partly puzzled by how the authors of these restrictive instructions planned to police the apparently necessary exclusion of us practising and unrepentent bipedalists.

But illumination struck me as I recalled the fine description of the Monopods in the Navigatio Auroram Petentium, Capitulum XI (what follows is not my own translation).

"The little bundles which had lain at the bottom of the stalks were heads and bodies. The stalks themselves were legs, but not two legs to each body. Each body had a single thick leg right under it and, at the end of it, a single enormous foot--a broad-toed foot with the toes curling up a little so that it looked rather like a small canoe. She saw in a moment why they had looked like mushrooms. They had been lying flat on their backs each with its single leg straight up in the air and its enormous foot spread out above it. She learned afterwards that this was their ordinary way of resting; for the foot kept off both rain  and sun and for a Monopod to lie under its own foot is almost as good as being in a tent. ... Of course, these little one-footed men couldn't walk or run as we do. They got about by jumping, like fleas or frogs. And what jumps they made!--as if each big foot were a mass of springs. And with what a bounce they came down ..."

I hope our Oxford Monopods will be allowed to be full members (Rhodes Scholars?) of the University. What a splendid summer spectacle it would be, watching the Monopods, capped and gowned of course and in subfusc, hopping processionaliter down the High Street to Sir Thomas Jackson's 'Jacobethan' Examination Schools. 


frjustin said...

From the 16th-century "Mercator Venetiarum", Capitulum IV:

The quality monopody's not strain'd.
It hoppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the foot beneath. It is twice bounced:
From off the cloud that gives, and him that takes.

Joshua said...

Are you sure, Fr H., that denizens of the outer isles of Narnia have been visiting Oxford? It seems far more likely that the hoppers are not monopods but macropods, especially as wallabies were introduced into England over a century ago. I do hope you have seen the Tasmanian pademelons at Chester Zoo, or, better, favour their release into the English countryside.

Fr. Brian O'Donnell said...

Dear Father,

Hopping is an Olympic sport, or at least part of one. My grandfather's cousin James Brendan Connolly of Boston won the first event at the first modern Olympics, in Athens in 1896: the hop, skip, and jump. Nowadays they call it the triple jump.

DMG said...

Ahhh... Faith, Hop and Charity!

Chrysologos said...

Inspired (?) by DMG:

Feet, Hopalong Cassidy

Zephyrinus said...

Dear Fr.

May I, respectfully, suggest that your hypothesis does not have a leg to stand on.