G. G. (George Gordon) Coulton.

A medieval garner; human documents from the four centuries preceding the reformation online

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(that is, from God's Church), and be then confounded
in the fires of hell." Moreover, this superfluity and
costliness of buildings and stone walls is a cause why
we have in these days less pity and alms for the poor ;
since we are not rich enough to feed them while we
spend also upon such superfluous expenses. Let us
remember also what Esaias saith : " Heaven is my
throne, and the earth my footstool ; what is this house
that you will build to me ? and what is my place of
rest ? " Moreover, Jerome saith, " I know that there
is a people, to wit the men of Megara, who build as
though they would live for ever, eating meanwhile and
drinking as though they must die on the morrow ; for
they say, 'Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die.' "
Moreover, Paul the first hermit dwelt in a crypt, that
is in a cave under the earth ; and an angel fed him with
haK a loaf [daily] : wherefore St. Anthony, archiman-
drite and father of the hermits, hearing of his sanctity,
came to visit him and knocked at his door : whom
Paul supposed to be a wild beast or a wolf. . . More-
over he asked very many questions of Anthony, among
which he enquired whether the idolatry [of the heathen]
and the obstinacy of the Jews were yet removed, and
whether the Christian religion imitated the Gentile
worship in the costliness of its edifices, saying: ."Do
the towers and bulwarks still rise to heaven, with the
palaces, and all those so lofty and costly buildings of
Rome ? " " Yea," quoth Anthony : whereat the other
bewailed this superfluity even with tears, mourning
that men were given up to such vanities, whereas
Christians ought rather to exhort each other saying :
" We have not here a lasting city, but we seek one that
is to come." ... As one prelate said to another,
" What meaneth this loftiness of your buildings ?
Wherefore have ye towers and bulwarks withal ? Thou
shalt not thereby be better defended against the Devil,
but all the nearer to him." Moreover, this lust of
building is testified by the palaces of princes, reared



126 A Medieval Garner.

from the tears and the money wrung from the poor.
But monastic or ecclesiastical edifices are raised from
the usury and breed of barren metal among covetous
men, from the lying deceits and deceitful Hes of hireling
preachers ;* and whatsoever is built from ill-gotten
gains is in much peril of ruin : for, as Ovid saith, " A
sordid prey hath no good issue." For example, St.
Bernard wept to see the shepherds' huts thatched with
straw, like unto the first huts of the Cistercians, who
were then beginning to live in palaces of stone, set with
all the stars of heaven. But oftentimes to the Religious
themselves, as to other men, their own offence becomes
an instrument to punish them for this disease of build-
ing : for the construction of comely and ample houses
is an invitation to proud guests. Even the granges of
the monks are oftentimes castellated in self-defence ;
and Religious oftentimes conceal the truth and leave
God's righteousness, lest they should lose such granges,
not daring to murmur against princes, since they have
lost their old freedom whereof the poet spake: "The
traveller that hath no money in his purse will sing in
the robber's presence." This (I say) they have lost for
the sake of rich granges and lands, suffering robbers
and usurers to build them dormitories and refectories,
for a sign and an eternal memorial of their covetous-
ness ; though they should not have suffered this even
had the money pertained to good men, but should
rather have bid them apply such moneys to the feeding
of the poor and the redemption of captives. Men sin
even in building churches ; for, seeing that their heads
should be more lowly than their bodies for the mystery's
sake (since our Head, which is Christ, is more lowly
than His Church), yet they are now built higher. t

* See Guibert de Nogent, in No. 17.

t Peter apparently refers here to the east end of the church, called
in French chevet, or head. The reconstruction of cathedrals often
began at this end, and the lofty choir would then contrast strangely
with the old nave, as in the well-known case of Cologne Cathedral for
more than five centuries after the completion of the choir in 1322.




Archiepiscopal Manners. 127

From the Chronicle of Gervase, a monk of Canterbury, R.S., vol. i.,
p. 258. A Church Council held in Westminster Abbey (1176 a.d.)
brought to a head the inveterate rivalry for precedence between the
Sees of Canterbury and York.

52— atcbiepiscopal a^annec0.

fN the month of March, about Mid-Lent, the
King came to London with his son Henry
and the Lord Uguccione, Legate of the
Pope, who purposed to call together the
clergy of England and hold a Council.
When therefore the Papal Legate had taken his seat
on a raised throne in the midst, and Richard Arch-
bishop of Canterbury, by right of his primacy, had sat
down on his right, then Roger Archbishop of York,
puffed up with his own innate arrogance to reject the
left-hand throne that was destined for him, strove
irreverently to sit down between the Legate and his
Grace of Canterbury, thrusting with the more uncomely
quarters of his body so that he sat down upon the lap
of his own Primate. Yet scarce had he struck my lord
of Canterbury with that elbow of his wherewith he had
been accustomed to fight, when he was ignominiously
seized by certain bishops, clerics, and laymen, and torn
from the Archbishop's lap, and cast upon the floor.
But, when staves and fists were now wielded on both
sides, the Archbishop of Canterbury sprang up and
returned good for evil, snatching away from this
disastrous conflict his own rival and the inveterate
enemy of his see. At length the contumacious Arch-
bishop of York, rising from the pavement with his cape
torn ignominiously by the struggle, fell down at the
king's feet and belched forth lying* calumnies against
the Archbishop of Canterbury.

* Mendosam should probably be mendacem.



Peter of Blois, descended from a noble Breton family, distinguished
himself greatly at the Universities of Paris and Bologna, and was invited
by Henry II. to England, where he became successively Archdeacon of
Bath and of London, and died in 1200. He earned a world-wide




128 A Medieval Garner.

reputation by Ms Letters, of which more than 200 have survived. The
following extract is from his 14th letter, " to the Royal Chaplains of
Henry II." He relates how his recent illness has opened his eyes to
the miseries of court life, where " these martyrs of the world, through
many tribulations, enter into the kingdom of hell." He therefore
exhorts his friends to retire hkewise from a place not only so perilous
to the soul, but so comfortless to the body. Bad enough are the racket
and disorder, the weariness of constant travel from manor to manor ;
but, to any man of deUcate perceptions, the meals are worst of all.

53.— a laopal 3lnfetno.

5' OR all who fight in the camp of ambition
have been taken prisoners by Nahash the
Ammonite, and have lost their right eyes
[1 Sam. xi. 2] ; for they are keen-sighted to
acquire worldly things, but pay no heed to
the loss of this passing life and to the imminent tor-
ments of everlasting death. . . . They are wise (saith
the Prophet) to do evils, but to do good they have no
knowledge. . . . This I marvel most, how any man
can suffer the miseries of court life who hath long been
used to the warfare of learning and the camp of univer-
sity discipline. For (to return to the courtiers) they
know neither order nor reason nor measure in their
meals, or in their ridings abroad, or in their nightly
watchings. Court chaplains and knights are served
with bread hastily made, without leaven, from the
dregs of the ale-tub — leaden bread, bread of tares,
bread unbaken. The wine is turned sour or mouldy ;
thick, greasy, stale, flat, and smacking of pitch [from
the cask]. I have sometimes seen even great lords
served with wine so muddy that a man must needs
close his eyes and clench his teeth, wry-mouthed and
shuddering, and filtering the stuff rather than drinking.
The ale which men drink in that place is horrid to the
taste and abominable to the sight. There also, (such
is the concourse of people), sick and whole beasts are
sold at random, with fishes even four days old ; yet
shall not all this corruption and stench abate one penny
of the price ; for the servants reck not whether an
unhappy guest fall sick or die, so that their lords'



A Royal Inferno. 129

tables be served with a multitude of dishes ; we who
sit at meat must needs fill our bellies with carrion, and
become graves (as it were) for sundry corpses. Many
more would die of such corrupt stuff, but that the
ravenous clamour of our maw, and the Scyllaean
whirlpool of that dark abyss, with the help of laborious
exercise, consumeth all at last. Yet even so, if the
court dwell longer than usual in any town, some
courtiers are ever left behind to die. I cannot endure
(to say nothing of others) the vexations of the royal
stewards — fawning flatterers, wicked backbiters, un-
principled extortioners : wearisome with their impor-
tunities for gifts, ungrateful for benefits received,
mahgnant to all such as are loth to give again and
again. I have known many who have dealt liberal
largesse to such stewards ; yet, when with much
labour they had sought their lodging after a long day's
journey, while their supper was yet half-cooked, or
again while they sat at meat — nay, even while they
slept on their bed, these stewards would come swelling
with pride and contumely, cut the horses' halters, cast
forth the baggage recklessly and perchance not without
grievous loss, and expel the guests with so little cere-
mony that these, (for all their wealth and their provision
of travelling bed-gear) had not where to lay their heads
that night. This again addeth to the courtiers' misery,
that if the king have promised to stay anywhere, and
especially if the herald have publicly proclaimed this
as the royal will, then be sure that he will set out at
daybreak, mocking all men's expectation by his sudden
change of purpose. Whereby it cometh frequently to
pass that such courtiers as have let themselves be bled,
or have taken some purgative, must yet follow their
prince forthwith without regard to their own bodies,
and, setting their life on the hazard of a die, hasten
blindfold to ruin for dread of losing that which they
have not, nor never shall have. Then may ye see men
rush forth like madmen, sumpter-mules jostUng sump-
ter-mules and chariots clashing against chariots in
frantic confusion, a very Pandemonium made visible.
Or again, if the Prince have proclaimed his purpose of



130 A Medieval Garner,

setting out for a certain place with the morrow's dawn,
then will he surely change his purpose ; doubt not but
that he will lie abed till mid-day. Here wait the
sumpters standing under their loads, the chariots idly
silent, the outriders asleep, the royal merchants in
anxious expectation, and all murmuring together :
men flock round the court prostitutes and vintners, (a
kind of courtiers who often know the palace secrets), to
get tidings of the king's journey. For the king's train
swarms with play-actors and washerwomen, dicers and
flatterers, taverners, waferers, buffoons, barbers, tumb-
lers, and all birds of that feather. Oftentimes have I
seen how, when the King slept and all things were in
quiet silence, there leapt down a word from the royal
quarters, not almighty indeed, yet all-awakening,*
and naming that city or town for which the court must
now set out. After the long weariness of delay and
suspense, we solaced ourselves with the expectation of
sleeping there, where (as we hoped) lodging and food
would abundantly be found : for so great was the
press, so confused and tumultuous the wandering
crowds of horse and foot, that the abyss seemed to have
been opened, and hell to vomit forth his legions. Yet,
when our outriders had now well-nigh or fully gone
the whole day's journey, then again would the king
change his purpose and lodge elsewhere, having per-
chance a single house and victuals enough for himself
alone, whereof no other might share : yea, and I verily
believe (if I may dare so to speak) that he hath found
in our anguish a keener zest to his own pleasures. We
therefore, wandering for three or four miles through
unknown forests, and oftentimes in the black darkness,
esteemed ourselves fortunate if perchance we fell upon
some vile and sordid hovel. Oftentimes the courtiers
would fight bitterly and obstinately for mere huts, and
contend with drawn swords for a lair which had been
unworthy of contention among swine. How we and
our beasts fared meanwhile on such a night may well be
imagined : I myself was so divided from my train that

* This is parodied from Wisdom xviii. 14.



The Earthly Paradise. 1 3 1

it was scarce possible to collect the scattered remnants
Avithin three days. Almighty God on high, Thou Who
art King of kings and Lord of lords, and terrible with
the kings of earth. Who takest away the spirit of
princes, Who givest health to kings, in Whose hand is
the king's heart and Who turnest it whithersoever Thou
wilt, turn now and convert the king's heart from this
his pestilent custom, that he may know himself to be
but a man, and may learn by use to show the grace of
royal liberaUty and the kindness of human compassion
to those men who are drawn after him not by ambition
but by necessity !



For Higden, the author of the Polychronicon, and Trevisa.^his trans-
lator, see Introduction to Extract No. 2. Numbers 54 — 60;_are from
the edition printed in the Rolls Series in eight volumes,

54.— Clje (ZBartblp IParaDise.

{U.S., vol. i, p. 67. 0/the Provinces of the World, and first of Paradise.

Chap. x).




fjOR the knowledge of earthly Paradise three
points must be i-knowe. Wherefore three
questions are asked : the first question
asketh. If any such place is on earth ? The
second asketh, Whitherwards or where
is Paradise in earth ? The third asketh. What country
or what place is Paradise in earth ? For the first four
manner witnesses we have that Paradise is in earth ;
first, stories that Uken Sodom, before it were over-
turned, to Paradise ; the second witness is of them
that assayed and wrote and said, that they had seen
that place ; the third witness is the four rivers, that
run out of Paradise ; for the head of these rivers is not
found in the sea, neither in fresh water, neither in land
wherein men live, though kings of Egypt and many
others laboured well oft and sought thereafter. . . .
Basilius, in Hexameron, Isidorus, Eth. lib. quarto
decimo, and Josephus, in his first book, say that waters
falling from the greatest hill of Paradise make a great



132 A Medieval Gamer.

pond, and out of that pond (as it were from a well) the
four rivers spring. . . . The most certain author,
Salustius, saith, that there cometh a well out of
Cerauneys, the hills of Armenia, and springeth out at
the foot of the hill that is yclept Caucasus ; and that
well is the head of two rivers of Tigris and Euphrates,
the which two rivers sometimes are parted asunder and
sometimes mingled together, and oft-times they are
swallowed into the earth, and eft spring up again, and
long after they go about Mesopotamia that land, and
downward into the Red Sea. And though men read
in books that Nilus cometh out of Paradise, yet some
men affirm and say that Nilus springeth in the west
side of the land of Ethiopia, not far from the hill that
is yclept Atlas, and goeth about Ethiopia and down-
ward by Egypt. (Seek the property of Nilus in the
chapter Egiptus [of this book].) The fourth witness
and proof, that such a place is in earth that is y-clept
Paradise, is old fame and long-during ; for men shall
trow old fame, that is not withsaid ; but fame of
Paradise hath y-dured without withsaying six thousand
year and more ; for from the beginning of the world
anon to our days it hath endured. And fame that is
false dureth not so long, for it falleth out of mind, or
is disproved by soothness y-knowe. Of the second
question, that asketh in which side of the world and in
what place Paradise should be ; though short-witted
men and httle of assay say that Paradise is a long
sailing- journey from earth that is habitable, and also
departed from the earth and is high as the moon, [yet]
it is not to be believed ; for land and reason both
withsay. For if Paradise were departed asunder from
the earth that men live in, neither water nor air might
bear such a burden. Also the fire occupieth all the
middle space between the air and the moon, then
Paradise is not there ; for then nothing might live
therein. Also if Paradise were so high, sometime it
should bereave the light, and make the ecHpse of the
moon ; but of such eclipse heard we never. Also if
Paradise were so high, and parted asunder from every
other land and earth, how should the four rivers that



The Earthly Paradise. 133

spring out of Paradise pass by the air and the wide sea
and come into lands that men dwell in ? And if men
say that Paradise is so high and in one place continued
to the earth that men dwell in, then must the earth be
even-long and not round all about, as wise men describe
it ; but that may not stand : for it is y-known by
experience and assay, that in every eclipse of the moon
the earth maketh a round shield. Therefore the earth,
with all his parts, must needs be round. And so wise
men conclude that Paradise is in the uttermost end of
the east, and that it is a great country of the earth no
less than Ind or Egypt ; a place large and convenable
for all mankind to dwell in, if mankind had not y-
sinned. Of the third that asketh of Paradise, what
manner place it should be, Isidore saith, lihro quarto
decimo, capitulo tertio, that this name Paradise y-turned
out of Greek into Latin is to-meaning an orchard.
But Paradise in Hebrew is yclept Eden, that is to-
meaning liking ; the which twain put together maketh
an orchard of liking. No wonder, for in that place is
all thing that accordeth to life. There is health, for
the air is in temper neither too hot nor too cold, so that
nothing that liveth may die therein : that witnesseth
Enoch and Elias, that yet be there on live. [As saith]
Johannes Damascenus, that place hath fair weather
and mirth, for it was the cellar and place of all fairness :
no manner of tree loseth there his leaves ; no flowers
there wither ; there is mirth and sweetness ; of fruit
and trees that grow there, in Genesis, secundo
capittdo, it is y-written : Every tree therein is sweet to
eat and fair to sight. Therein is sikernesse and surety,
for the place is high. Petrus [Comestor], capitulo
tertio decimo, saith that the water of the great flood
came not in Paradise. Though some men say that
Paradise is high as the moon, that is not sooth in words
and in deed ; but that speech is y-saved by an excusa-
cioun of speaking, that is yclept yperbolica : so that
they that so speak would mean, that Paradise in height
passeth all other lands. {Trevisa ; So we praise a
worldly man Jordan or John, and say that he was the
best man that ever was ; and yet he was never so good



134 A Medieval Garner.

as Christ. *So in words that subtle men will divine,
the meaning is true and good.)* But alas, as Isidore
saith, libro nonoy capitulo primo : Our way to Paradise
is fast y-stopped by cause of the sin of our former
father ; it is y-closed all about with a fiery wall, so
that the burning thereof reacheth to heaven, as some
men would ween. Paradise is y-closed with that wall
to hold out mankind ; angels stand on that wall to
keep well Paradise, that none evil ghosts may come
therein, f

* The translator often, as here, intercalates a remark of his own,
with his own name to distinguish it.

t There is a similar,, but much briefer, description of the Earthly-
Paradise in Vincent of Beauvais, Spec. Hist. lib. 1. c. 63. For a four-
teenth century legend, see No. 224.




55.— ancestrp of ©enrp M.

{R.S, viii, 31).

OR that every man that readeth in book
should have the less wonder of the un-
gracious issue and end of this king and of
his sons, we shall take heed of this king's
beginning, and whereof he came both on
father's side and mother's side. Also of the con-
dition of his wife, by whom he gat his sons. Geoffrey
Plantagenet came of the children of a countess of Anjou,
that was espoused only for fairness of body. She
would seldom come to church, and then unnethe she
would abide the secrets of the mass. The earl her
husband took her, and was ware of that doing, and
ordained four knights to hold her in church ; and she
threw away her mantle that she was y-holden by, and
left there her two sons under her right side of her
mantle, and with her other two sons that she had under
the left side of her mantle she flew out at the window of
the church in sight of all men, and was never y-seen
after that time. Afterward Richard king of England
told oft this tale, and said that it was no wonder though
they that cometh of such a kindred grieved each other,



Fair Rosamund. 1 3 5

as they that come of the devil and should go to the
devil. Also in a time king Henry sent a clerk to his son
Godfrey earl of Brittany, for to reform and make full
peace, and the son answered the clerk in this manner :
" Why art thou come to disinherit me of my right of
my kind birth ? knowest thou nought that it belongeth
to us properly by kind, and it is y-pight upon us by
kind of our forefathers, that none of us should love
other ? Then travail thou nought in vain to put away
kind." Also this king Henry's mother was y- wedded
to this Geoffrey, leaving her earher husband, that was
a pilgrim and lived as a hermit, and this king Henry
came of them twain in liis latter marriage. Also of
this Henry, while he was a child y-nourished in the
king's court of France, saint Bernard the abbot prophe-
sied and said in presence of the king : "Of the devil
he came, and to the devil he shall ; " and meaned
thereby both the tyranny of his father Geoffrey that
gelded the bishop of Seez, and his own cruelness that
slew St. Thomas of Canterbury.*

* Cf. Gibbon, Decline and Fall, chap. Ixix., note 15.




56.— iFait EosamunD,

{R.S., viii, 53).

jUT when king Henry had visited meekly
Thomas the martyr's tomb, William the
king of Scotland and the two earls of
Chester and of Lincoln were taken at
Alnwick. This mischief endured two
years, and was unnethe ceased, and he accounted the
ceasing thereof to his own strength, and not to God's
mercy, and he that had imprisoned his wife Eleanor
the queen, and was privily a spouse-breaker, hveth
now openly in spouse-breach, and is not ashamed to
misuse the wench Rosamund. To this fair wench the
king made at Woodstock a chamber of wonder craft,
wonderly y-made by Daedalus' work, lest the queen
should find and take Rosamond : but the wench died



13^ A Medieval Garner.

soon, and is buried in the chapter-house at Godstowe
beside Oxenford with such a writing on her tomb :

" Hie jacet in tumba rosa mundi, non rosa munda.
Non redolet, sed olet, quae redolere solet."

that is, Here Heth in tomb the rose of the world, nought
a clean rose ; it smelleth nought sweet, but it stinketh,
that was wont to smell full sweet. This wench had a
little coffer, scarcely of two feet long, made by a wonder
craft, that is yet y-seen there. Therein it seemeth
that giants fight, beasts startle, fowls flee, and fishes
move without men's hand-moving. . . .

(viii., 99.) In the year of our Lord God 1192,
St. Hugh, bishop of Lincoln, making visitations by
religious places in his diocese, came to the monastery
of Godstowe nigh to Oxenford. Which, entering into
the church to make his prayers, saw a tomb in the
midst of the choir before the high altar covered with
cloths of silk, and lamps and tapers burning about it.
And the bishop inquired anon what person was buried
there ;. people present answered, sa5dng that [it was]
Rosamond, friend to king Henry 11. , for whom the king
had done many great benefits to their church. Then
the bishop commanded that she should be buried out
of the church with other people, saying that she was an
harlot, lest the rehgion of Christ decrease, that ill-
disposed women may take example by her to avoid the
sin of adultery and of lechery.



57.— a Plain-spoken Patriarch.

(R.S., viii, 69).

HAT time [1185 a.d.] came Heraclius, patri-
arch of Jerusalem, into England to king
Henry, and prayed him help against the
Saracens in the name of all the Christian



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