G. G. (George Gordon) Coulton.

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

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(fol. 130, p. 130).

HAVE heard how certain abominable traitors,
having received payment to furnish the pil-
grims with victuals even to the port [of their
destination], have stocked their ships with
but little meat, and then, after a few days'
journey, have starved their pilgrims to death and cast
them ashore on an island, or (most cruel of all) have
sold them as manservants or maidservants to the
Saracens. I have known certain sailors bound for the
city of Acre who had hired a ship from a man on condi-
tion that, if it perished on the sea, they should be
bound to pay naught. When therefore they were
within a short distance of the haven, without the
knowledge of those pilgrims and merchants who were
on board, they pierced the hold and entered into a boat
while the ship was sinking. All the passengers were

Wedding Customs. 199

dro\Mied ; and the sailors, having laden their boats
with the money and goods of the pilgrims, put on
feigned faces of sadness when they drew near unto the
haven. Therefore, having drowned the pilgrims and
carried away their wealth, they paid not the hire of the
ship, saying that they were not bound thereunto unless
the vessel should come safe and sound to haven.

96.— Cbe 3Ieto ann tbe TBlaspbemer.

(fol. 134, p. 91).

HAVE heard that a certain Jew, playing at
dice with a Christian and hearing how he blas-
phemed God when he lost, stopped his ears
and rose from the game and fied, leaving his
money on the table. For the Jews not only
will not blaspheme God, but will not even listen to
blasphemers. How wretched are those taverners who,
for a little gain, suffer such blasphemous fellows, worse
than Jews, to revile God in their houses ! Would they
not lose all patience and give rein to wrath, if as many
injurious words were spoken against their wives as are
spoken against the Blessed Virgin and the Saints ? If
such things were said of their parents or any one of
their kinsfolk, as are said of God, they would not suffer
it, but would cast the fellows forth from their houses.

97.— 2jQct)timg Customs.

(fol. 145, p. 112i.

jlN some parts I have seen how, when women
came home from the church after a wedding,
others threw corn in their faces as they enter-
ed their house, crying in the French tongue,
plente, plente, (which is being interpreted
abundance) ; yet for all this, before the year was past,
they remained poor and needy for the most part, and
had no abundance of any goods whatsoever.*

* Compare the Bologna statute of 1289, re-enacted four times within
the next 70 years, against those who at weddings threw " snow, grain,
paper-cuttings, sawdust, street-sweepings and other impurities."
(Frati, La Vita Privata di Bologna, p. 50.)


A Medieval Garner*

98.— TBrofeen ©otosi.

(fol. 147, p. 116).

HAVE heard how certain folk promise much
to God, binding themselves by vows which
they afterwards violate to the detriment of
their souls, and seeking to mock Him with
deceit. Such were a man and his wife who
vowed to God that they would not drink wine save on
solemn feast-days or when they had chanced to make a
bargain. When therefore they had drunk water for a
few days, then the man began to say to his wife : " We
cannot abstain altogether to-day ; let us make a bar-
gain, that we may drink wine." So he sold his ass to
the wife. Next day the wife said to her good man,
" Buy back thine ass, and let us drink wine." Thus
they bargained daily, that they might drink wine.

This fraud is committed by many. Such was the
man who had vowed that he would eat no flesh save
when he had guests ; wherefore he invited guests for
every day whereon men are wont to eat flesh. Such
also are certain monks who, being forbidden to eat any
flesh save hunted game, set hounds to chase their own
home-bred swine through the monastery after the
fashion of a hunting-party ; and who thus, eating such
flesh, fraudulently break their vows.

99.— Cfte Petilousi jFamiUatitp of MJomen.

(fol. 148, p. 117).

CERTAIN most religious man told me, how
in the parts where he had dwelt it came to
pass that a certain honest and God-fearing
matron, coming oftentimes to church by day
and night, served God with right good devo-
tion, and how a certain monk, the guardian and treasurer
of the monastery, had a great name for religion, and
was in truth what he seemed. But as they frequently
spoke together in church of things appertaining to

A Scandal Healed. 201

religion, then the devil, envying their honesty and
their good report, beset them with vehement tempta-
tions, so that their spiritual was turned to carnal love ;
wherefore they agreed together and assigned a night
wherein the monk should run away from his cloister
with the treasure of the church, and the matron from
home with a sum of money which she should secretly
steal from her husband. When therefore they had
thus fled stealthily away, the monks, rising to matins,
found the chests broken open and the church treasure
carried off ; and, not finding the monk, they pursued
hastily after him. The husband also, seemg his chest
open and his money gone, followed after his wife : so
that, having caught the monk and the woman together
with the treasures, they brought them back and cast
them into a strait dungeon. But so great was the
scandal throughout the region round about, and so
sorely did all men backbite the Religious, that there
was far more harm from the evil report and scandal
than from the sin itself. Then the monk came to
himself, and began with many tears to call upon the
blessed Virgm, whom he had ever served from his
childhood upwards, and nought of this kind had
befallen him. Likewise also the aforesaid matron
began to implore instantly the help of the blessed
Virgin, whom she had been wont to salute frequently
by day and night, and to kneel before her image. At
length the blessed Virgin appeared to them in great
^vrath, and, after rebuking them bitterly, she spake
thus : "I might obtain from my Son the remission of
your sin ; but what can I do for so great a scandal ?
for ye have made the name of the Religious to stink in
the nostrils of the whole people, so that men w^ill have
no faith in them from henceforth : Avhich is an almost
irreparable loss." At length the pitiful Virgin, over-
come by their prayers, summoned to her presence the
demons who had instigated this sin, and enjoined upon
them, even as they had brought Religion into disrepute,
even so to put an end to this evil fame. They there-
fore, unable to resist her commands, found after long
and anxious thought a way whereby the ill-repute

202 A Medieval Garner.

might cease. They brought back the monk by night
to his church, repairing the broken chest and restoring
the treasure as it was before ; so also they locked again
the chest which the matron had opened, and restored
the money, and set the lady in her own chamber, in the
place where she was wont to pray. When therefore
the monks had found the treasure of their church, with
the monk praying to the Lord as usual ; and the
husband his wife and his wealth even as it was before,
then all were amazed and bewildered ; and hastening
to the prison they found the monk and the lady in
chains, even as they had left them : — so at least it
seemed ; for one demon had taken the form of the
monk, and another that of the lady. When therefore
the whole city was gathered together to see these
miracles, then said the demons in all men's hearing :
" Let us depart now, for we have deluded them long
enough and given cause for evil thoughts enough con-
cerning Religious folk " : Having thus spoken, they
suddenly disappeared : and all men fell at the feet
of the monk and the lady and besought their pardon.
Behold how great infamy and scandal and inestimable
damage the Devil would have procured to persons of
Religion but for the succour of the blessed Virgin.*

* This was a very popular tale in the Middle Ages : see the other
versions referred to by Lecoy de la Marche in his edition of the Anecdotes
of Etienne de Bourbon. (1877, p. 449.)

100.— a ^uckmg^ipnncc.

Collection des poetes franqais du M.A., La Chanson du Chevalier du
Cygne et de Godefroid de Bouillon, p. 26. Count Eustace of Boulogne
married Ydain or Yde, daughter of the Knight of the Swan ; she bore
him three sons, Eustace, Godfrey, and Baldwin, all of whom, in her
extreme devotion, she always suckled at her own breast. Godfrey

'i't:ij-A'/D .!«•'


From a MS. of about 1300 (.J. Quicheraf s Costume en France, p. 183).

A Sucking-Prince. 203

became Duke of Lorraine and (if he had willed it) King of Jerusalem ;
Baldwin, again, King of Jerusalem ; while Eustace (through a mis-
fortune here recounted) remained a mere Count.

EVER did Countess Yde, who was so good
and fair, suffer that one of her three sons, for
any cause whatsoever, should be suckled by
waiting-woman or damosel ; all three were
suckled at her own breast. One day the lady
went to hear mass at her chapel, and commended her
three sons to one of her maidens. One of the three,
awakening, wailed sore and howled ; wherefore the
maiden called a damosel and bade her suckle the child.
Better had it been for her that she had been at Nivelles
that day ! The Countess came back and called the
maiden : " Tell me now wherefore this child hath
wetted his chin ? " " My lady, he awoke but now ;
sore and loud were his cries, and I bade a damosel give
him of her milk." When the Countess heard this, all
her heart shook ; for the pain that she had, she fell
upon a seat ; sore gasped her heart under her breast,
and when she would have spoken, she called herself a
poor leper !* Swiftly she flew, all trembling with rage,
and caught her child under the arms : the child of
tender flesh, she caught him in her hands, her face was
black as a coal with the wrath that seethed within.
. . . There on a mighty table she bade them spread
out a purple quilt, and hold the child : there she rolled
him and caught him by the shoulders, that he delayed
not to give up the milk which he had sucked. Yet
ever after were his deeds and his renown the less, even
to the day of his death. The maiden stood more
benumbed than a worm in winter-time : full dearly
shall she pay this antic to her lady ! nevertheless she
fled before the bursting of the storm ; not until August
was past, and September in its train, only then did she
dare to return to court and face the lady Countess.
Then this saintly and devout countess laid the child in
the place where he should be, and suckled him so long
until she had laid him to rest, and all three were covered
with her ermine mantle.

* i.e., looked upon this defilement as hopeless.

204 A Medieval Garner.

101.— Cjje Course of Crue Lotjc.

" This Romance [of Flamenca,] " writes Paul Meyer, " occupies a
place by itself in Provengal literature. ... It is the creation of a
clever man who wished to write a pretty book representing court life
in the 12th century on its most brilliant side. It was a romance of
contemporary manners." Later critics, while dating the book rather
from the early 13th century, have otherwise endorsed Meyer's verdict.
Archambaut, Lord of Bourbon, married the good and beautiful
Flamenca, against whom a jealous queen soon poisoned his mind. He
therefore shut her up in a tower, which she left for moments only to go
to church on Sundays and feast-days under the husband's own eye.
The most handsome, liberal, learned and adventurous young knight of
the day, Guillaume de Nevers, heard of this oppressed lady, to whom
he vowed love and deliverance. By a series of ingenious subterfuges
he first came to speech with her and then arranged a series of stolen
interviews almost under the eyes of the jealous monster ; and finally
Flamenca was suffered to go free like other ladies, after swearing to her
husband on the holy relics the subtly equivocal oath, " that she would
keep herself henceforth as surely as he, the husband, had hitherto
guarded her." The following passage (1. 2232 fi.) describes how Guil-
laume came to stay at Bourbon under pretext of the famous medicinal
baths which still exist there ; and how, after talk with the host of his
inn, Pierre Gui, he managed at last to catch sight of his lady's face at

EANWHILE came Master Pierre Gui into
his room and cried : " Good Sir, I give you
good morning and may God give you other
good hours ! but lo ! how early you are
arisen ! There will be a long hour yet ere
mass be sung ; men delay it for my lady's sake, who
would fain hear it."* Then Guillaume fetched a sigh

* One of the worst misstatements in Abbot Gasquet's Parish Life in
Medieval England is that on p. 7, " To ' Holy Mother Church ' all were
the same ; and within God's house the tenant, the villein, and the serf
stood side by side with the overlord and master." English church synods
enact that the great man alone might claim a sitting in church for his
own ; he alone might sit in the chancel among the clergy ; he alone might
be buried within the church. For him or his lady the whole parish had
often to wait for hours before mass could be said ; cf . the two very curious
tales in La Tour Landry (chaps. 30 and 31) referred to even in such a well-
known book as Cutts's Parish Priests and Their People : " I haue herde of
a knight & of a lady that in her youthe delited hem to rise late. And so
they used longe, tille many tymes that thei loste her masse, and made
other of her parisshe to lese it, for the knight was lorde and patron of
the chirche, and therfor the preest durst not disobeye hym," &c., &c.

True Love. 205

and said : " Fair host, yet let us go straightway to the
church and pray there ; then will we go forth and
desport ourselves till the bell shall ring for mass."
Both went straight to the minster ; but the thoughts
of their hearts were far apart ; for Guillaume had set
his thoughts all on love, since he had no other mind ;
while the host thought of gain and how he would
prepare his bath ; for he doubted not but that his
guest would bathe there on the morrow. Into the
minster went Guillaume ; and, kneeling before St.
Clement's altar, he prayed devoutly to God and our
Lady St. Mary, to St. Michael and all his company,
and all the Saints, that they would be his good helpers.
Then said he three Paternosters and a little prayer
that a holy hermit had taught him : a little prayer of
the seventy-and-two names of God, even as men say
it in Hebrew and Latin and Greek.* This prayer
keepeth a man fresh and hearty in the love of God,
that he may do nought but good every day : every
man who sayeth it with faith shall find mercy from
the Lord God ; nor shall he ever come to an evil end
if in his heart he trust therein or carry it written about
him. When Guillaume had said this prayer, he took
a psalter and opened it ; a verse he found whereof he
was right joyful, the verse, " I have loved, because the
Lord will hear the voice of my prayer " [Ps. 114, 1.
Vulg.]. " God knoweth my heart's desire ! " cried he
as he shut the book. Then he kept his eyes fixed on
the ground ; and, ere he left the church, he looked well
at the lady's customary seat when she came thither ;
but little he dreamed how she was kept immured in

* On tliis Prof. Meyer notes (p. 316), " This petition still exists. It
has been preserved in a collection of prayers often printed since the 16th
century, both in Latin and French, under the name of Pope Leo III.,
and has become at last a chap-book. ... In this little book, which is
still bought by country-folk, the prayer of the 72 names of God is
preceded by this following rubric : ' Here are the names of Jesus Christ ;
whosoever shall carry them upon him on a journey, whether by land or
sea, shall be preserved from all kinds of dangers and perils, if he say
them with faith and devotion.' "


206 A Medieval Garner.

that church !* Then said mine host, " Ey, sir ! thou
knowest to pray many prayers. We have here a rich
and holy altar and many glorious relics ; this you
have doubtless seen well, since you know much of
letters." " Host, I know them well, but I am not
therefore too lifted up in heart, that I can read my
psalter aright, or sing a responsory, or say a lesson
from a legendary." " My Lord, you are all the better
for that . . ."

With this they passed over the public square, and
went forth into a garden where the nightingale took his
disport for the sweet season's sake and for the spring
green. Guillaume cast himself down in the cool shade
beneath a fair apple-tree in flower. Mine host marked
how all his colour was gone, and believed him to be
pale with that sickness whereof he had spoken the
other day ; he prayed fast to God that He might
restore his health and grant him his heart's desire.
Guillaume heard only the nightingale, and not the
host's prayers : for in truth Love bereaveth a man of
sight and hearing, and maketh men to take him for a
fool when he thinketh to have his best mind. Guillaume
had nor sight nor hearing nor sense ; with eyes unmoved
and open mouth he felt a sweet pain pierce his heart
with the song of that nightingale. ... At last the
gentle bird lowered his voice, and soon left his song
when the bells began to ring for mass. " My Lord, it
is high time to pray," quoth the host ; "let us now go
to mass." Guillaume heard him, for his thoughts were
fled, and said, " Host, at thy good pleasure ; for I
would fain be at church ere the mass begin, that the
crowd of folk hinder us not." " My Lord, we shall
be in good time, and you and I will go into the choir ;
for I know somewhat of reading and chant, though not
too plainly." " Ah, fair Host, may good hap befall
thee ! wherefore didst thou conceal this from me ? For

* Cf. line 1426 above. " And there was neither knight nor clerk who
could speak with her ; for in the minster [Archambaut] made her sit
in a dark, dark corner with walls on either side ; and in front he had
fixed a screen, tall and close, which reached well to her chin."

True Love. 207

thy love I will sing there with thee, for I know to chant
right well."

To the minster went they both, and met neither man
nor woman but said to them, " God save thee ! " for
it is a custom at Eastertide that each man gladly
greeteth his fellow. When they were come to the
minster they entered together into the chou:, where
Guillaume could spy unseen through a little hole.
There he watched and waited till Flamenca should
come in, fully persuaded that he would know her at
once. . . . There he waited with sore beatings of
heart ; for at each shadow that darkened the portal he
thought to see the Lord Archambaut. The people took
their places one by one ; all were come in, and the third
bell had sounded, when that fierce devil entered,
haggard, staring, and shaggy ; had he but borne a
])oar-spear in his hand, men might have taken him for
those scarecrow figures that the peasants make with
old rags to affright the wild boars in the mountains.
By his side went his spouse, the fair Flamenca ; yet
she held her as far as might be from her husband, for
the grief that he made her. Under the portal she
stayed a moment and bent in deep humility ; then,
for the first time, did Guillaume de Nevers see her, so
far as she might be seen. . . . Then he lowered his gaze,
for the lady was come into her closet, and knelt down.
The priest sang Asperges me ; Guillaume fell in at the
Domine, and sang the whole versicle as it had never
been sung before in that minster. Then the priest
Avent out of the choir, and a villein bare the holy water :
to Archambaut he went with his hand raised to sprinkle
first. Then all the chant remauied with Guillaume
and mine host his helper ; yet this hindered not but
that his eyes dwelt still on the loophole in the closet
screen. The chaplain sprinkled with the hyssop,
casting the salt water, as best he could, straight upon
Flamenca' s head ; who for her part made an opening |
right in the midst of her parted hair, that she might j
the better receive it. Her skin was white and tender as
a babe's, her hair was fair and radiant ; and the sun
did her great courtesy, lighting straight down upon her

2o8 A Medieval Garner.

at that moment with one of his golden rays. When
Guillaume saw this fair sample of the rich treasure
which Love held in store, then his heart laughed and
leapt for joy, and he chanted forth the Signum salutis.
. . . Then Nicholas, [the little clerk], took a breviary
wherein were psalms, hymns, gospels, prayers, responses,
versicles, and lessons ; with which book he gave the
pax* to Flamenca. As she kissed it, Guillaume saw
y/ her sweet vermeil mouth through the loophole, though
one might have filled it with one's little finger. . . .
When Nicholas had fulfilled his round, then Guillaume
thought in his heart how he might get that book. . . .
He hath found a subtle device. "It is good that I
teach others in order that I may be taught myself :
Clerk, wherewith giveth thou the pax ? for thou shouldst
give it with the Psalter, if it may be." " Yea, lord, so
I do, and it is thus that I give it," and showed him the
leaf and the place withal. Guillaume needed no more :
he fell into prayer and kissed the book more than a
thousand times : the whole world seemed his, and his
cup of joy was wellnigh full ; if only he might have
kept his eyes on the page and on the loophole at the
same moment, his bliss had been the greater. In these
thoughts he dwelt so long, and took such delight in
that contemplation, that he heard no word until the
priest sang /^e, missa est ; sore was he then abashed.

* All exchanged the kiss of peace at the Mass by applying their lips
to the same object in turn — usually an engraved tablet of metal or
marble, but here a book. " It was introduced into England about the
middle of the 13th century. . . . But the use was almost extinct
[about 1700 A.D.] on account of the absurd contentions for precedency
to which it gave rise." Arnold and Addis, Catholic Dictionary, s.v. Pax.

Caesarius of Heisterbach was possibly born, and certainly educated,
at Cologne, then one of the richest and busiest cities of Europe. After
some inward struggles, he was at last converted by the story of the
harvester-monks and the Virgin Mary (No. 29 of this book) ; upon
which he entered the Cistercian monastery of Heisterbach in the Sieben-
gebirge. In this house, then at the height of its efficiency and influence,
he finally became Prior and Teacher of the Novices, for whose special
guidance he wrote his deUghtful Dialogus Miraculorum, one of the most

Conversion. 209

intimate documents of tlie Middle Ages. He also wrote a few biographi-
cal and chronological treatises, and a book of Homilies. All these were
apparently written between 1220 and 1235 : the last dated event he
mentions occurred in 1233, The Dialogue was printed five or six times
between 1475 and 1605 ; the Homilies only once, in 1615. The author's
faults are those of his time ; his virtues of earnestness and vividness
will perhaps be apparent even from these extracts. Father B. Tissier,
reprinting him in 1662 in the Bihliotheca Patrum Cisterciensium, praises
him as just the author to arouse the slumbering embers of strict Cister-
cian observance, and adds " yet it is lamentable that this authority,
who has deserved so excellently of the Church, should now at last, after
80 many centuries, be called not only fabulous but even erroneous ;
whereas, if he be attentively read even by a jealous critic, nothing can
be found in him strange to Catholic doctrine." (Tom. II., Preface.)
The modern view is rather that of Father Karl Unkel. " The almost
scrupulous love of truth which Caesarius shows in his anecdotes is well
known, but equally so is his great credulousness," {Annalen des His-
torischen Vereins /. d. Niederrhein, Heft 34, 1879, p. 5). The inter-
locutors in the Dialogue are Caesarius himself, and a novice whom he
is instructing. I quote by volume and page from Joseph Strange's
critical edition (Cologne, 1851).

1 02.— Cbe anatomp of (ZTontJecgion.

(Caes. Heist. I, 11).

ANY are the causes of conversion :* some
seem to be converted by the sole call or
inspiration of God, others by the sole impulse
of the Evil Spirit ; some by a certain levity
of mind ; very many also are converted
through the ministry of other men, viz. by the word of
exhortation, by the virtue of prayer, and by religious
example. There are numberless folk also who are
drawn to the Order by manifold necessities, as sickness,
poverty, prison, shame for some fault, peril of death,

Online LibraryG. G. (George Gordon) CoultonA medieval garner; human documents from the four centuries preceding the reformation → online text (page 18 of 61)