(From Cennino d’Andrea Cennini’s Il Libro dell ‘Arte)

Arrange your life as though you are studying
theology or philosophy.

Eat and drink moderately,
saving and sparing your hand.

Preserve it from strain,
such as heaving crowbars or stones,

and other things –
that if indulged

can make your hand
so unsteady it will waver

fluttering more than leaves
in the wind.

This indulgence I warn against :
the company of women.

Published in ‘ORBIS’ 164, Summer 2013, the inspiration for the poem came when I was looking at the manuscript of Il Libro dell ‘Arte in Manchester John Rylands Library. This medieval manuscript is a Handbook for craftsmen and artists in the 15th century. The rules for the ‘Illuminators’ of the title seemed particularly fastidious, especially the one in which the poem culminates. The humour of this precaution was the thing that inspired and instigated the poem.

By Frances Sackett

Born in North Wales, Frances Sackett has lived in the North West for over thirty years. She graduated from Manchester University in the 1980’s with a Literature degree which included Old English and Middle English literature. She has published poems in many UK magazines and journals including: ‘Acumen’, ‘Orbis’, ‘Poetry Review’, ‘Poetry Wales’, ‘Staple’ and been anthologised in publications on the ‘Brontes’, ‘Parents’, ‘Childhood’ and ‘Railways’ amongst others. Recently she has been involved in a project called ‘Writing the Cathedral’ where local poets have written a series of poems to celebrate Manchester Cathedral’s chapels, architecture and lesser known nooks and crannies. The launch of this project is on Ash Wednesday 2014 and will hopefully be made available in audio form to visitors. Her full poetry collection is ‘The Hand Glass’ published by Seren.