Does yonder mouse with a grape in its hand
and its child in its mouth, not portray
the Spanish fleece suspended by the neck?”
“Camellia Sabina,” Active Anthology, 1933, p 190. ll. 38-40
While Moore provides a note for the mouse with a grape, a reference to a photograph in The National Geographic,
,she offers no help for “Spanish fleece.” Here she refers to the “toison d’or’” the symbol of the Order of the Golden Fleece, a Catholic knighthood founded in Burgundy in the 15th Century to uphold the Catholic religion in Europe. Over time, this Hapsburg order split between Spain and Austria giving rise to two sections. Sovereigns, dukes, and other nobility were the usual recipients but over time, the rule was relaxed and protestant Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington, was admitted in 1812 and Japan’s Emperor Hiro Hito in 1928.
The insignia was a golden fleece, indeed “suspended by the neck,” from a decoration that included the letter “B” for Burgundy.
Moore does not give an explicit clue as to how the “Spanish fleece” figures in the poem other than, perhaps, as it shares the same position on its decoration as does the baby mouse in its mother’s mouth. One might speculate about Wellington, an Anglo-Irish hero who might have joined Moore’s list of Irish heros. Comments welcome!