At a crucial moment in his Defense of Poesy, Philip Sidney summons a magical horse. He does so in response to the question: “How then shall we set forth a story which containeth both many places and many times?” Sidney offers: “Again, many things may be told which cannot be showed, if they know the difference betwixt reporting and representing. As, for example, I may speak (though I am here) of Peru, and in speech digress from that to the description of Calicut; but in action I cannot represent it without Pacolet’s horse” (244). Editors of Sidney’s treatise have long noted that “Pacolet’s horse” alludes to a fi gure from the French romance Valentin et Orson.1 In the story (qtd. here from Henry Watson’s sixteenth-century translation), a dwarfi sh enchanter named Pacolet fashions a magical wooden horse that allows him to travel throughout the world:
Euery tyme that he mounted upon the horse for to goo somwhere, he torned the pynne [turned the pin] towarde the place that he wolde go to, and anone he founde him in the place without harme or daunger, for the hors was of suche facyon that he wente throughe the ayre more faster than ony byrde coude fl ee. . . . (Hystory N4r)
In the scene depicted in the following woodcut (Figure 1), two characters are fl ying over a castle on the back of Pacolet’s magic horse to the wonder of the onlookers below.