Jellyfishes

disco medusa
Discomedusae by Ernst Haeckel

Jellyfishes

jellyfish – OED first citation 1796
medusa (in this sense) – 1752
sea-nettle – 1601

What did we call the jellyfish
Before we called them that ?
Aristotle was the first
To note what they were at –
He called them akelephe
In his mighty omnibus –
While Pliny called them sea-lungs –
That is, pulmo marinus.

At some point, they were likened
To Medusa, with the snakes –
So when Linnaeus crowned them that,
He simply upped the stakes.
But what about in English,
From before the mighty Swede ?
Shakespeare never mentioned them,
Nor Caxton, Chaucer, Bede.

I guess those Middle Ages folk
Just neither knew, nor cared –
Though fishermen, at lease, you’d think,
Would need to be prepared.
Sea nettle, I suppose
Could make the strongest claims,
But hands that felt the stings were not
The hands that wrote down names.

Yet surely they are tailor-made
To populate in Hell ?
It seems their nightmares missed a trick,
When jellies did not gel.
They kinda look like floating heads,
(Though clearly going bald).
Much like Cthulhu’s nameless ones,
Who knows what they were called ?

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