G. G. (George Gordon) Coulton.

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

. (page 30 of 61)
Online LibraryG. G. (George Gordon) CoultonA medieval garner; human documents from the four centuries preceding the reformation → online text (page 30 of 61)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

theology, which requireth all human wisdom, as the
saints teach and as all wise men know. For, if truth
be anywhere, here is she found : here, if anywhere, is
falsehood condemned, as Augustine saith in his book
Of Christian Doctrine. These are boys of the two
Student Orders, as Albert and Thomas* and others,
who in many cases enter those Orders at or below the
age of twenty years. This is the common course,
from the English sea to the furthest confines of Chris-
tendom, and more especially beyond the realm of
France ; so that in Acquitaine, Provence, Spain, Italy,
Germany, Hungary, Denmark, and everywhere, boys
are promiscuously received into the Orders from their
tenth to their twentieth year ; boys too young to be able
to know anything worth knowing, even though they were
not already possessed with the aforesaid causes of human
error ; wherefore, at their entrance into the Orders,
they know nought that profiteth to theology. Many
thousands become friars who cannot read their Psalter
or their Donat ; yet, immediately after their admission,
they are set to study theology. Wherefore they must
of necessity fail to reap any great profit, especially
seeing that they have not taken lessons from others in
philosophy since their entrance ; and, most of all,

* i.e. Albertus afterwards called Magnus, and St. Thomas Aquinas.
Bacon (though no doubt he goes too far here in his disparagement)
anticipates the main lines of modern criticism on scholastic philosophy
— that it neglected almost altogether those physical and mathematical
sciences on which all true philosophy must be based, and that even its
principal sources — the Bible and Aristotle — were studied only in faulty
translations, and often fatally misunderstood.

344 A Medieval Garner.

because they have presumed in those Orders to enquire
into philosophy by themselves and without teachers,
so that they are become Masters in Theology and in
Philosophy before being disciples. Wherefore infinite
error reigneth among them, although for certain reasons
this is not apparent, by the Devil's instigation and by
God's permission. One cause of this appearance is that
the Orders have the outward show of great holiness ;
wherefore it is probable to the world that men in so holy
a state would not presume on such things as they could
not perform. Yet we see that all states are corrupted in
this age, as I have discoursed in detail above. . . .

Bacon then goes on to set forth, under a series of numbered heads,
the ahnost universal ignorance of Greek and Hebrew among Western
philosophers and theologians, the small quantity and detestable quality
of the accredited translations of Aristotle, and the consequent rottenness
of contemporary science at its very foundation.

Wherefore all who know anything at all neglect the
false translation of Aristotle, and seek such remedy as
they may. This is a truth which men lost in learning
wUl not consider ; but they seek consolation for their
ignorance like brute beasts. If I had power over the
books of Aristotle [as at present translated], I would
burn them all ; for to study therein is but lost time,
and a source of error and a multiplication of ignorance
beyond all human power to describe. And, seeing that
the labours of Aristotle are the foundation of all wisdom,
therefore no man may tell how much the Latins waste
now because they have accepted evil translations of
the Philosopher : wherefore there is no full remedy
anywhere. Whosoever will glory in Aristotle's science,
he must needs learn it in its own native tongue, since
false translations are everywhere, in theology as well as
in philosophy. For all the translators [of the Bible]
before St. Jerome erred cruelly, as he himself saith
over and over again. . . . We have few profitable
books of philosophy in Latin, for Aristotle wrote a
hundred volumes, as we read in his life, whereof we
possess only three of any importance : his Logic, his
Natural History, and his Metaphysics. . . . But the
vulgar herd of students, with their leaders, have nothing

Roger Bacon^s Despair. 345

to rouse them to any worthy effort : wherefore they
feebly dote over these false translations, losing every-
where their time, their labour, and their money. For
outward appearance alone possesseth them ; nor care
they what they know, but only what they may seem
to know in the eyes of the senseless multitude.

So likewise numberless matters of God's wisdom are
still wanting. For many books of Holy Writ are not
translated ; both two books of the Maccabees which I
know to exist in the Greek, and many other books of
many prophets, which are cited in the Books of Kings
and Clironicles. Moreover, Josephus in his Antiquities
is utterly false as to the course of time, without which
nothing can be known of the history of the Sacred
Text ; wherefore he is worthless until he be reformed
by a new translation, and sacred history perisheth.
Moreover, the Latins lack innumxcrable books of the
Hebrew and Greek expositors, as Origen, Basil, Gregory
Nazianzene, Damascenus, Dionysius, Chrysostom, and
other most noble doctors, in Hebrew as well as in
Greek. Therefore the Church slumbereth ; for in this
matter she doeth naught, nor hath done for these
seventy years past, except that the lord Robert
[Grosseteste] of holy memory, Bishop of Lincoln,
translated into Latin from the books of St. Dionysius,
and Damascenus, and a few other consecrated teachers.
We must marvel at the negligence of the Church ; for
there hath been no supreme Pontiff since the days of
Pope Damasus [a.d. 384], nor any inferior pontiff who
hath been solicitous for the profit of the Church through
translations, save only the above-mentioned glorious

The thirteenth cause why Latin students need the
knowledge of languages is the corruption which be-
setteth our studies through the ignorance of learned
languages in these days. This cause is complementary
of the Latins' error and ignorance. For such books of
divine and human wisdom as have been well translated
and truly expounded, are now become utterly faulty by
reason of the disuse of the aforesaid learned languages
in Latin countries. For thus, by the examples already

34^ A Medieval Garner.

cited, we may set forth clearly enough by way of
compendious introduction, and see in general terms,
how the Bible hath been corrupted. But he who would
go into details would not find a single sentence wherein
there is no falsehood, or at least no great uncertainty,
on account of the disagreement of correctors : and
this doubt falleth upon every wise man, even as we
name that " fear " which falleth even upon a constant
man. Yet there is falsehood wellnigh everywhere,
even though doubts be interspersed. And would not
these false or dubious passages be cleared away, to the
quantity of half the Bible, if we introduced some
certain method of proof, as the reasonable manner of
correction demandeth ? Wherefore all theologians now-
adays, whether reading or preaching, use false texts,
and cannot profit, and can consequently neither under-
stand nor teach anyiihing of any account.*

* In these last two sentences I have ventured on two emendations
which seem required by the sense ; viz, nonne for non and frojicere for
proferre. Bacon's complaint of the corruption of the medieval Vulgate
text, exaggerated as it may seem, is borne out by proved facts. The
late Sub-librarian of the Vatican, Father Denifle, wrote an article on
this subject, in which he said : " It ofiers a melancholy spectacle,
which would be still more darkened by a comparison of other manu-
scripts of the 13th century. . . . Koger Bacon was indeed right when
he exclaimed with regard to the accredited Paris text, (which followed
Correctorium E, and therefore contained the interpolations and be-
longed to the same family of MSS. as that above quoted), ' The text is
for the most part horribly corrupt in the Vulgate, that is the Parisian,
Exemplar.' ") Archiv. /. Litt. und Kirchengeschichte u.s.w., vol. IV.,
p. 567.

The 13th century MS. known as Carmina Burana was preserved for
centuries in a special cupboard of the monastery of Benediktbeuern in
Bavaria ; like other volumes which have come down to us in a similar
way, it contains the strangest mixture of piety, profanity, and obscenity.
The piece here translated (fol. 11a, Ed. Schmeller, p. 22) is the mildest
specimen of the parodies in which wandering clerks deUghted : it should
be compared with the Monk's Martyrdom in the Franciscan MS., Harl.,
913, fol. 60.

A Clerical Parody. 347

166.— Cf)e CartJinals' (Gospel.

HE Beginning of the Gospel according to
Marks of Silver. In those days said to the
Pope to the Romans : " When the Son of
]\Ian shall come to the seat of our majesty,
say first of all, ' Friend, wherefore art Thou
come hither ? ' And if He shall persevere in knocking
and giving you nought, cast him forth into outer
darkness." Now it came to pass that a certain poor
clerk came to the court of the lord Pope, and cried out
saying : " Have pity on me, have pity on me, at least
you the door-keepers of the Pope, because the hand of
poverty hath touched me. For I am poor and in
misery ; wherefore I beseech you to succour my
calamity and my wTctchedness." But they, hearing
this, were moved to indignation and said : " Friend,
thy poverty perish with thee : get thee behind me,
Satan ! for thou savourest not the things that be of
money. Verily, verily I say unto thee, thou shalt not
enter into the joy of the Lord until thou shalt have paid
unto the last farthing ! " The poor man therefore
departed, and sold his cloak and his coat and all that
he had, and gave to the cardinals and ushers and door-
keepers. But they said : " What is this among so
many ? " And they cast him forth from the doors :
and going forth he wept bitterly, as one that could not
be comforted. Afterwards there came to the court a
rich clerk, grown fat and thick and gross, who for
sedition's sake had committed murder. He gave first
to the doorkeeper, then to the usher, and thirdly to the
cardinals : but they thought within themselves that
they should have received more. Now the lord Pope,
hearing that his cardinals and ministers had received
many gifts from this clerk, grew sick unto death : but
the rich man sent unto him an electuary of gold and
silver, and forthwith he grew whole again. Then the
lord Pope called together his cardinals and ministers
and said unto them : " Brethren, take heed lest any
man deceive you with vain words. For I give you an
example, that as I take gifts, so should you do also."

348 A Medieval Garner.

Berthold von Eegensburg, or of Ratisbon, was born about 1220 of
a well-to-do citizen family. He joined the Franciscans while still a youth,
and became the favourite pupil of David of Augsburg, whose writings
were often attributed in the Middle Ages to St. Bonaventura. He
was already famous as a preacher in 1250 ; until his death in 1272 he
tramped from village to village, like a Whitefield or a Wesley, through
Bavaria, Rhineland, Switzerland, Swabia, Austria, Moravia, Bohemia,
Silesia, Thuringia and Franconia, His fame spread all over Europe ;
he is enthusiastically extolled in the chronicles of Sahmbene and
the XXIV Generals ; and Roger Bacon, speaking of contemporary
preaching in words which do not err on the side of compliment, expressly
excepts Berthold as one who " alone maketh more excellent profit in
preaching than almost all the other Friars of either Order " {Ofp.
Inedd. R.S., p. 310). A thick volume of Berthold's sermons, translated
into modern German, is in its 3rd edition as a book of living theology
(Regensburg, Manz. 1873). The text here used is that of Franz Pfeiffer
(2 vols., Vienna, 1862). In the first extract, I put together in an
abbreviated form what Berthold says on the same subject in three
different sermons. The abrupt changes from thou to ye are in the

167.— Cricfes of Crane.

(Pred. I, 146, 285, 478).

'HE first are ye that work in clothing, silks,
or wool or fur, shoes or gloves or girdles.
Men can in no wise dispense with you ; men
must needs have clothing, therefore should ye
so serve them as to do your work truly ; not
to steal half the cloth, or to use other guile, mixing hair
with your wool or stretching it out longer, whereby a
man thinketh to have gotten good cloth, yet thou hast
stretched it to be longer that it should be, and makest
a good cloth into useless stuff. Nowadays no man
can find a good hat for thy falsehood ; the rain will
pour down through the brim into his bosom. Even
such deceit is there in shoes, in furs, in curriers' work;
one man sells an old skin for a new, and how manifold
are your deceits no man knoweth so well as thou and
thy master the devil. Why should I come here to
teach thee frauds ? Thou knowest enough thyself.

The second folk are all such as work with iron tools,
goldsmiths, penny-smiths, and other smiths, and
carpenters or blacksmiths, and all manner of men that
smite, and stonemasons and turners, and all such as

Tricks of Trade. 349

use handicrafts with iron. Such should all be true and
trustworthy in their office, whether they work by the
day or the piece, as many carpenters and masons do.
When they labour by the day, they should not stand
all the more idle that they may multiply the days at
their work. If thou labourest by the piece, then thou
shouldest not hasten too soon therefrom, that thou
mayest be rid of the work as quickly as possible, and
that the house may fall down in a year or two ; thou
shouldest work at it truly, even as it were thine own.
Thou smith, thou wilt shoe a steed with a shoe that
is naught ; and the beast will go perchance scarce a
mile thereon when it is already broken, and the horse
may go lame, or a man be taken prisoner or lose his
life. Thou art a devil and an apostate ; thou must
go to the apostate angels. They fell not from one
Order only, but from all ten Orders ; and so fall many
thousand from these nine Orders. The tenth is utterly
fallen beyond recall ; I bar no man from contrition
and repentance, but, otherwise, such as beat out the
long knives wherewith men slay their fellow-men, such
may use deceit or not, may sell dear or cheap as they
will, yet for their soul there is no help.

The third are such as are busied with trade ; we
cannot do without them. They bring from one king-
dom to another what is good cheap there, and whatso-
ever is good cheap beyond the sea they bring to this
town, and whatsoever is good cheap here they carry
over the sea. Thus some bring us from Hungary,
others from France ; some on ships, some on waggons ;
driving beasts or bearing packs. Howsoever that be,
they all follow the same office. Thou, trader, shouldst
trust God that He will find thee a livelihood with true
winnings, for so much hath He promised thee with His
divine mouth. Yet now thou swearest so loudly how
good thy wares are, and what profit thou givest the
buyer thereby ; more than ten or thirty times takest
thou the names of all the saints in vain — God and all
His saints, for wares scarce worth five shillings ! That
which is worth five shillings thou sellest, maybe, sixpence
higher than if thou hadst not been a blasphemer of

2S^ A Medieval Garner.

our Lord, for thou swearest loud and boldly : "I have
been already offered far more for these wares " : and
that is a lie, and so often as thou swearest by God and
His saints, so often hast thou broken one of the Ten
Commandments ; that is a great mortal sin, whereof
thou committest perchance ten or more at one little
bargain. Now see how many those sins become ere
a year is past, and how many in ten years ! And all
those sins together thou couldst well have forborne,
for many men are so prudent of evil that, the more
thou swearest, the less they are willing to buy from
thee ; and thy worldly profit is small thereby, while
all the time thou damnest away thine own salvation ;
for he goeth oftentimes away without buying, howsoever
thou may est have sworn to him. And if thou wilt buy
anything from simple folk, thou turnest all thy mind
to see how thou mayest get it from him without money,
and weavest many lies before his face ; and thou
biddest thy partner go to the fair also, and goest then
a while away and sayest to thy partner what thou
wilt give the man for his wares, and biddest him come
and offer less. Then the simple country-fellow is
affrighted, and will gladly see thee come back ; so thou
gettest it untruly from him, and swearest all the while :
" Of a truth," thou sayest, " by all the saints, no man
will give thee so much for these as I ! " yet another
would have given more. If thou wouldst keep thyself
free from mortal sin in trade, see that thou swear not.
Thou shouldst say : "If thou wilt not buy it, perchance
another will " : and should thus sell honestly without
lie or deceit. Thus should a man keep himself in
trade ; for many thousand souls are damned thereby,
seeing that there is so much fraud and falsehood and
blasphemy that no man can tell it. Ye yourselves know
best what lies and frauds are busy in your trade !

The fourth are such as sell meat and drink, which
no man can disregard. Wherefore it is aU the more
needful that thou shouldst be true and honest therein ;
for other deceit dealeth only with earthly goods, but
this deceit with a man's body, which many would not
give for all the goods in the world. If thou offerest

Tricks of Trade. 351

measly or rotten flesh that thou hast kept so long until
it be corrupt, then art thou guilty perchance of one
man's life, perchance of ten. Or if thou offerest flesh
that was unwholesome before the slaughter, or unripe
of age, which thou knowest well and yet givest it for
sale, so that folk eat it into their clean souls which are
so dear a treasure to Almighty God, then dost thou
corrupt the noble treasure which God hath buried in
every man ; thou art guilty of the blood of these folk.
The same say I to him who selleth fish. Thou keepest
thy fish captive in water until Friday come, then they
are corrupt, and a man eateth his death by them, or
some great sickness. So are certain innkeepers and
cooks in the town, who keep their sodden flesh too
long, whereof a guest eateth and falleth sick thereafter
for his life long. So also do certain others betray folk
with corrupt wine or mouldy beer, or unsodden mead,
or give false measure, or mix water with the wine.
Certain others, again, bake rotten corn to bread ;
whereby a man may lightly eat his own death : and
they salt their bread, which is most unwholesome.
We read not that salt is so unwholesome and harmful
in any other food as in bread : and, the better it is
salted, the nearer to great sickness or death.

The fifth folk are such as till the earth for wine or
corn. Such should live truly towards their lords and
towards their fellows, and among each other ; not
plough one over the other's landmark, nor trespass
nor reap beyond the mark, nor feed their cattle to
another's harm, nor work any other deceit, one on the
other, nor betray their fellows to the lord. Fie,
traitor ! untrue man ! Where sittest thou before mine
eyes, thou Chusi, thou Achithophel ? And thou
shouldst be true to thy lord ; yet thou dost thy service
so sparingly and so slothfuUy and with such constraint !
and, when he chideth thee, then dost thou leave him
and flee to some other master. Sometimes the lords
also are guilty here. Ye lords, ye deal sometimes so
ill with your poor folk, and can never tax them too
high ; ye would fain ever tax them higher and higher.
It is far better for you that ye should take small taxes

2S^ A Medieval Garner.

every year, and take these all the more straitly. Ye
cannot till the land yourselves, therefore should ye so
deal with your folk that they gladly serve you ; and
it is their duty too to serve you truly and live truly
one with the other and sell truly among themselves. —
Thou boor, thou bringest to the town a load of wood
that is all full of crooked billets beneath ; so sellest
thou air for wood ! and the hay thou layest so cunningly
on the waggon that no man can profit thereby ; thou
art a right false deceiver. Moreover, thou layest fine
corn at the top of the sack, and the evil corn beneath ;
and all thy work is spoiled with deceit and hate and

The sixth folk are all that deal with medicine, and
these must take great heed against untruth, for in that
ofiice standeth no less at stake than body and soul.
He who is no good master of that art, let him in no wise
undertake it, or folks' blood will be on his head, the
blood of all men to whom he giveth his medicines at
a venture. Yet such as are not learned and under-
stand nothing — nay not even to deal with a wound —
such men presume to possess and exercise the inward
art, and must needs give drinks to folk. Take heed,
thou doctor, and keep thyself from this as thou lovest
the kingdom of heaven. For thou hast not the right
knowledge that a man should have ; thou wert as
easily hit upon the wrong as upon the right, for even
learned masters have enough to do here. — " 0, Brother
Berthold, four times already have I had all success ! "
Lo ! that was but a blow at a venture. Therefore if
thou wilt not let this matter go and study further in
the inward art, then the rulers of this world should
forbid it thee on pain of curse and banishment. We
have murderers enough without thee, to slay honest
folk. Deal with thy wounds for the present, and
practise the rest until thou be past master. Whether
they be children or old folk, thou hast much need of
good art before thou canst well cut them for the
stone. . . .

Almighty God send in His Grace that these nine
Orders be kept safe, for the tenth Order is utterly

Tricks of Trade. 353

fallen from us and become apostate. These are
buffoons, fiddlers, and timbrel-players, and all such
folk, whatsoever their name be, that sell their honour
for money. Such should have made up the tenth
Order ; but now they are apostate from us through
their falsehood. For such a man speaketh to another
the best words that he can before his face, and when
his back is turned he speaketh of him all evil that he
can or may ; and blameth full many a man who is
upright before God and the world, and praiseth another
who liveth to God's harm and the world's. For such
men have turned their whole lives only to sins and
shame. They blush not for any sin or shame ; yea,
thou buffoon, whatsoever the devil is ashamed to
speak, that speakest thou ; and all that the devil may
pour into thee thou lettest fall from thy mouth. Alas,
that ever Holy Baptism came upon thee, since thou
hast denied thy Baptism and thy Christendom ! And
all that men give to thee they give sinfully, and must
answer for it to God at the Last Day. If there be such
here, forth with him !

So are some men deceivers and liars like the craftsmen.
The shoemaker saith : " See, these are two most excel-
lent soles " : and he hath burned them before the
fire, and lieth and cheateth thee of thy money. And
the baker floods his dough with yeast, so that thou,
who dreamest to have bought bread, thou hast bought
mere air for bread. And the huxter pours beer some-
times, or water, into his oil ; and the butcher will sell
calves' flesh at times, saying : " It is three weeks old " :
and it is scarce a week old. ... Ye fishers, ye must
catch fish with manifold devices ; and these fish
betoken the poor folk ; for the fish is a very poor and
naked beast ; it is ever cold, and liveth ever in the
water, and is naked and cold and bare of all graces.
So are also the poor folk ; they, too, are helpless.
Wherefore the devils have set the bait for them that
is called untruth, because they are poor and helpless ;
with no bait could the devil have taken so many of
them as with this. Because the fishes are poor and
naked, therefore they devour one another in the water ;


354 A Medieval Garner.

so do also poor folk ; because they are helpless, therefore
have they divers wiles and invent many deceits. When
such a man would sell anything, he doth it untruly,
lying and deceiving and stealing. But the poor naked
folk that are called menservants and maidservants and
that serve your needs, such will steal your salt and
your bacon, your meal and your corn. Thou servant,
thou stealest eggs and cheese, thou stealest bread ; if
thou canst not steal a whole loaf thou stealest the
fragments and the half loaves and the half joints of
flesh ! And those too are false to whom thou bringest

Online LibraryG. G. (George Gordon) CoultonA medieval garner; human documents from the four centuries preceding the reformation → online text (page 30 of 61)