G. G. (George Gordon) Coulton.

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

. (page 47 of 61)
Online LibraryG. G. (George Gordon) CoultonA medieval garner; human documents from the four centuries preceding the reformation → online text (page 47 of 61)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Bertrand loved right heartily. Bertrand went to see
them in their high hall, and came right close to his
mother ; for he is bent on having jewels, silver, and fine
gold to buy harness and a noble war-horse withal. Yea,
he said openly that, if his mother set not her money

* Here and again on p. 39, where the Editor reads the verb remuer
this is an obvious misreading for remirer.



Capture of Fougcray, 549

thereto, he would break her coffer and take her jewel-
casket. So spake Bertrand, and worked so well that
his mother, his aunt, and his friends gave him harness,
a shield, and a spear, with an ambling hackney that was
not too good. Not a joust nor a tourney was held now
in Brittany, if only Bertrand heard tidings thereof, but
he would ride thither on the best mare that his father
had : for his little hackney endured but a brief while ;
so soon as he lacked money, he sold his own steed, and
then fell back on his father for a mare ; jewels too he
would take where he knew to find them, and freely he
would sell them when he came to the lists. If he
heard of a dinner of noble array, then he would take
wine and send it to the house where he knew the
squires : in the name of Bertrand du Guesclin the wine
would be served up ; all then made him good cheer,
all feasted him well. He was but seventeen years old
when he bore himself thus ; so he won much acquaint-
ance, and all men honoured him.



The most brilliant exploit of Du Guesclin's earlier career, (while he
was only a guerilla captain in his 30th year,) was this capture, at a
moment when the castellan, Robert Brembro, was absent on an expedi-
tion. Bertrand and his men disguised themselves as a party of wood-
cutters with their wives, bringing faggots for sale at the castle.

255.— Capture of tbe Castle of jFougerap,

(I, 35, A.D. 1350).

HEN each man hid his armour and his sword,
and loaded himself with brushwood bound
in faggots. Full thirty of them are together
in the main band, and several more are
posted in the valley ; the band divides into
four parts, and their plan is clearly ordered. Bertrand,
in front, bore on his shoulders a great load of true
faggots, as all would say who had seen him that day :
manfully he strode forward to reach the castle. The
men of the castle are aware now of the strangers, and
the watchman has sounded his horn ; Bertrand' s



1


1



550 A Medieval Garner.

comrades hear them assemble, and many among them
would rather be now in the salt sea. But they mark
how Bertrand has quickened his step ; it were better
to go on in good faith without faltering ; already in his
forward thoughts Bertrand saw himself in the castle,
seated in the tapestried room and setting the flesh to
roast before the great fire ! Meanwhile his comrades,
straggling behind, carry mg their brushwood and faggots,
dare neither to turn back nor to fall away for Bertrand' s
sake, whom they see drawing near to the castle.
" Gentles ! " said Bertrand, " have a care that ye do
your work ; this night ye shall sup with me in the
castle, and I will give you wine of the best in the cellar.'*
Yet some said, " God vouchsafe us His help ! methinks
they will sell us this wine right dearly " : for the watch-
man with his horn dismayed them all ; wherefore
Bertrand began to sing for the comfort of their spirits.
Meanwhile the men of the castle took counsel to-
gether : " We must open the castle," said they, " to
take these faggots in, for we have need thereof. These
are the woodmen who come and supply us, and their
wives also, straight come from church ; lo ! they are
clad in white. Let us go and unbar the doors ; these
are no folk that know aught of war ; great folly would
it be to fear them." Then they gave word forthwith
to the porter, who went to open the gate and let down
the bridge ; hastily he went, with but three men at his
back ; soon the gate was unbarred, and the chains fell.
Then Bertrand came first under the vaulted arch, and
cast down his load at the gate ; right on the threshold
he cast down his great load of faggots, so that none
could bar his further entry. Then he cried, " Ah,
whoreson knaves ! ye shall buy this wood dear ; I will
heat the vessels for your bath, but it shall be in your
own blood, which I will draw from your veins ! "
Therewith he drew his blade of tempered steel and
smote the porter withal ; little he spared him, but cleft
through brainpan and half-way to the chine : then he
cried his rough war-cry, " Guesclin ! — forward, my
friends, leave your loads, cast all to earth and come to
my succour : here is good wine within, that needs but



I



Capture of Fougcray. 551

the tapping." Then said his fellows, "He is a good
stark warrior ! " Over the bridge they came like good
knights : now the gate is won, and they pain them to
press on. Down rushed the English in hot wrath, full
a hundred men in all — cooks and turnspits, boys and
varlets, and good men at arms : they came about
Bertrand like bees, and cast great flint-stones to smite
him do\\Ti. . . . An English squire raised his axe and
smote one of Bertrand' s comrades on the ear ; where-
with he fell asleep on the highroad, never to wake again
for all that men might cry in his ear. To him Bertrand
came without more ado, and drove with his bright
sword through lungs and liver at a single thrust : down
he fell dead. Bertrand seized the axe ; he would not
have given it up for all the gold of Pa via ; " Guesclin ! "
he cried, " the day is ours ! " He drove the English
into a sheep-pen ; there was he shut in on every side
with cooks and buttery-boys, pantlers and grooms and
suchlike rabble ; one wielded a pitchfork, another a
pointed pole ; many a shrewd stroke he had from spit
and pestle, but all his fellows gave him good help.
Then it might have sped ill with their bodies and lives,
but up there rode up a troop of horse, drawn to the
castle by the shouting of the fray. When therefore
the horsemen were come by the gate where Bertrand's
men had mounted, then these cried aloud to them :
" Enter not herein but if ye be of the party of Charles
de Blois ! If ye be English, go your way with all
speed, ye are but dead men if ye tarry here ; for here is
the noble du Guesclin with five hundred French, con-
fessing the English of their sins ! " " Ha, God ! "
cried these French, "it is he whom we sought ! " . . .
Meanwhile Bertrand was hard bested : not a shred of
his harness but was broken in pieces, and his blood
reddened the earth ; for the English smote upon him
with axe and spear, thrusting and hewing to make an
end of his life ; " Guesclin ! " he cried, for he had sore
need of help. Then said one to another : " Mark his
fury ! never was such a squire as this in the wide
world ! " Then, seeing how hard he was pressed, they
said : " Let us go straight to him ; ours were the blame



55^ A Medieval Garner.

if such a champion were slain." Bertrand was now at
such a pass as no tongue can tell ; he had lost his axe,
and defended himself with his two hands ; then came
a knight who knew him well, and broke through the
press sword in hand ; he cleared around him so wide a
space that he came to Bertrand and cried, " Squire,
come hither and follow me forthwith." Bertrand
saw nought for the blood that blinded his eyes. Men
drew him apart, and all were fain to dress his wounds ;
one would have bound up his sores, another wiped his
face, but he was so wroth to be thus held that he would
not suffer them to do him good. Yet when this troop
was come to the rescue, then they slew outright all that
they found in the castle . . . then forthwith they
closed the gates, let down the bridge, and sent for wine
to pass round among themselves. . . . Each made
ready to eat and drink ; Bertrand drank the good wine
and took good heart, for he had good wine to his fill,
and drank with the rest.



John of France was prisoner in England ; tlie castle of Melun had
been surprised by Charles the Bad, King of Navarre, who was now an
ally of the English. Three queens were in the castle, which was defended
by Bertrand's old enemy the Bascon de Mareuil. The Dauphin, or
Duke of Normandy, soon to be King Charles the Wise, commanded the
siege in person ; the still existing treasury-accounts show that he drew
from his arsenal 20,000 crossbow-bolts, 10,000 arrows, and two great
cannons for this occasion ; and here for the first time he witnessed the
prowess of du GuescHn, who in later years was his chief instrument in
driving the English out of France.

256.— cj)e ^iege of ^elun.

(I, 126, A.D. 1359).



i|HEN the Duke of Normandy prepared for a
general assault. . . . On the morrow his men
were drawn up on the sand ; in the van
were ranged the good crossbowmen, having
great shields to cover themselves withal ;
and the garrison for their part took their appointed
posts. Then began the general assault, that it was
A^^onde^ to see. The Bastard of Mareuil and all his




The Siege of Melun.



553



soldiers stood unabashed on the wall ; they hurled
down stones to maim our men, and shot their bolts as
stout crossbowmen ; thicker flew the bolts than winter
rain. The Bastard spared nought : down he cast the
stones like a stout workman ; none could behold
him without dismay. Bertrand at last perceived the




STORM OF AUBENTON.

From au early 15tb-century MS. reproduced in Viollet-le-Duc's Did. cle V Architecture,
I, 383. (Note the barriers, or outwork of palisades).



Knight, and cried : " Ha, God ! good Father of
Justice, never was I so thirsty for drink nor for meat as
my soul thirsteth now to come to hand-grips with that
man ; gladly would I try his flesh with this dagger of
mine ! "



554 A Medieval Garner.

Valiantly our men maintained the assault ; stoutly
men shot, and down they cast their stones ; into the
moat they plunged, some four hundred or more, bearing
ladders to set against the walls ; but many a man went
up who was sore grieved at heart. The Bastard,
fulfilled of all valour, cried aloud, " Shoot ye down
there, or ye are lost ! " But sore was the assault, and
long was it sustained. The Duke leaned at his window
hard by and made his complaint to the one true God :
" Now is this realm of France confounded ; now is the
King my father, the noble, the redoubtable, kept a
prisoner in England. . . . Now forward ! " said the
Duke, "and labour with a good will; assault them
sore, cost what cost may ! "

Then might ye see many a noble knight rush mightily
to the assault with shot of shaft and javelin, and strive
to rear the ladders against the walls. Those within
the castle defended themselves like wild boars ; long
will the memory live in men's minds. Our Frenchmen
must needs give wholly backwards, for the stones that
men rolled down from the walls. Bertrand beheld
them plunge into the moat to break the wall ; but all
in vain, they could not make a mine. Then looked he
at the Bastard, at whose sight our men were wholly
dismayed : " Ha, God ! " cried Bertrand, " may I find
thee ? By the faith that I ought to bear to Jesus
Christ, either ye shall deal with my body in such wise
that no succour nor comfort shall ever avail, or I will
mount to those battlements, and speak with thee face
to face ! "

Then Bertrand withdrew a space ; a ladder he chose,
and reared it in his arms : swiftly and nimbly he laid it
on his neck ; and, what with others' help, what with
his own travail, he set it up to the wall and seized a
shield to cover his head. When the Duke saw him, he
asked of his people : " Who is this man " (said the
Duke) " who thus mounteth yonder ? " To whom a
knight replied, " Ye have heard long since of Bertrand
du Guesclin, whose prowess is so great, and who endured
such travail in the wars of Brittany for your cousin
Charles the lord of that land." " Is that he," said the



The Siege of Melun. SSS

Duke, " by God who created us all ? " " Yea, sire,
by God, never was there so doughty a warrior." " By
my head ! " said the Duke, " there is a good knight ! "
Meanwhile Bertrand hath not tarried ; he is mounted
fearlessly on the ladder. The Bastard of Mareuil was
aware of his coming, and cried to his men, who stood
thick around him, " Good sirs, do quickly and stay not
your hands ; bring me forthwith a stone of weight,
the weightiest of all that ye can find." Then answered
they, " What say ye ? Behold, all that ye require is
before you : on one side great beams and stout, and
on the other barrels filled to the brim with stones ; ye
may not fail, smite at a venture upon this boor who
mounts so sturdilj'. See how great and short and square
he is, big and bulging like a hog in armour ! Ah God !
how properly he would fall into the moat, and how his
heart would burst with the fall ! Give him good
measure and running over ; for in very truth he is
fashioned like a Paris street-porter, all bloated under
his canvas slop ! "

Meanwhile Bertrand came up : small account they
made of him ; j^et those who scoffed knew him but ill.
With his shield at his neck and the good blade in his
hand, he cried aloud to the Bastard of Mareuil : " Ho,
Bastard ! let me come forthwith to the battlements,
and I will prove that thou commandest here against all
right ! or come thou down hither into this alder-grove,
there will we fight with a right good heart ! for I will
prove to thee, if that hour come, that thou dost ill and
unjustly towards the Duke of Normandy." To this
the Bastard gave no friendly word : without further
ado he discharged a mighty herring-barrel full of stones
plumip upon Bertrand as he mounted his ladder. So
boisterous was the blow that the ladder brake, and
Bertrand fell headlong to the ground : head-foremost
plunged he into the moat, where he had leisure to
drink his fill : thus he tarried awhile with his two feet
in the air. Bertrand was stunned ; he knew not where
he was ; loud cried the Duke : " Succour me my
Bertrand, to whom all honour is due ; certes, it would
be pity that he should die thus ! " Then came a squire



^S^ A Medieval Garner.

and drew him by the feet ; so long he drew, and so
lustily, that he dragged him forth from the water.
Forth came Bertrand's head all covered with mud ; so
stunned was he that he knew not where he was ; sooth
to say, he seemed more dead than alive. Forth from
thence they bore him by main force, and laid him for
his comfort within a warm dung-heap, until he came
to himself again and stretched his limbs, and asked
aloud of those who kept him : " Lordings, what vile
devil hath brought me hither ? Is our assault come
to nought ? We must hasten to the front ! " " Alas ! "
said a squire who knew him well : " you have
your belly-full, Bertrand ; be ye content therewith ! "
Lightly rose he then from his dung-heap, with a good
will to join in the assault. Already some of the French
retreated ; and men said to Bertrand, " Sir, be advised ;
go no more to the assault, for within a little while all
will be finished." But Bertrand answered that he
would go to the barriers ; truly he spake it, and truly
he went. There was no man so hardy, of all who were
there, who would have dared to go whither Bertrand
thrust himself forward ; sword in hand, and by main
force, he drove the foe back to the barriers ; many he
felled to the earth : then they closed their barriers and
raised the drawbridge. Thus long did the assault
last ; then at nightfall they sounded the retreat until
to-morrow's sunrising. Then they held a parley ; a
treaty was made, and the noble Duke went back to
Paris.



The Blessed Giovanni Colombini, a Sienese merchant of good family,
was married to a lady who claimed collateral descent from the family
of Pope Alexander III. He passed through many offices in his republic
and became at last either Gonfalonier or one of the Priors. Hitherto
he had shown himself only a particularly hard-headed man of business ;
but his sudden conversion threw him into an equal extreme of self-
denial and asceticism. He founded the Order of Jesuats, or Clerks
Apostolic of St. Jerome, which received Papal confirmation in 1367. So
vast was the number of those who abandoned the world at his persuasion
that (according to his biographer) the Sienese authorities banished him
in 1357 lest the city should be depopulated. For two centuries the




A Saint^s Conversion. 557

Jesuats remained simple lay-brethren ; but Paul V. granted them leave
to receive Holy Orders. The Order was suppressed by Clement IX in
1668. The following extract is translated from the ancient Vita di San
Giovanni Colurnbini quoted by Professor Del Lungo in his preface to the
Leggende del Secolo XIV (Florence, 1863), p. XXI.

257.-9 faint's Conuetsion.

N the year of our Lord 1355, Giovanni returned
home one day with the desire of eating
forthwith ; and, not finding the table laid or
the food ready as usual, he began to quarrel
with his wife and his servant, chiding them
for their slowness and saying that he had pressing
affairs which compelled him to be solicitous about
returning to his merchandise. Whereunto his wife
answered benignly, saying, " Thou hast much wealth
and few expenses ; wherefore dost thou trouble thyself
so sore ? " Moreover she prayed him to have a little
patience, for he would very soon be able to eat ; and
she added, " while I am setting the meats in order, do
thou take this book and read awhile ; " and therewith
she laid before him a volume containing certain Saints'
lives. But Giovanni was wroth and took the book and
cast it into the midst of the hall, saying, " Thy thoughts
are onl}^ upon legends ; but I must soon return to my
counting-house." This he said, and other words beside ;
and then his conscience began to smite him, so that he
took the book from the ground and sat himself down.
Having opened the book, he fell (as God would have it)
upon the pleasant story of St. Mary the Egyptian, that
great sinner who was converted by God's marvellous
pity. While Giovanni read this, his wife prepared his
dinner, and cried to him that it might please him now
to set himself to the table. Then he made answer,
" tarry thou awhile, until I shall have read all this
legend ! " and, notwithstanding that the story was
long, yet being full of heavenly melody it began to
sweeten his heart, nor would he cease from his reading
until he was come to the end. Meanwhile his wife,
considering him in silence, was much rejoiced to see
how earnestly he read, hoping that this would profit to



SS^ A Medieval Garner.

the edification of his mind, for it was not his wont to
read such books. And so indeed it came to pass, by
the operation of divine grace ; for this story so impressed
itself upon his soul that he meditated thereon day and
night without ceasing ; and, in this fixed thought, the
God of all grace so touched his heart that he began to
despise the things of this world, and no longer to cumber
himself so much with them ; nay, to do the very
contrary of that which had been his wont.



Eustaclie Deschamps, Chaucer's French contemporary and panegyrist,
IS a voluminous poet who, without much inspiration, gives many vivid
pictures of contemporary life. The first of the halades here translated
voices the complaint, (at least as old as that great growth of material
prosperity which marks the 13th century) of the growing power of
money in the world ; the third is all the more significant because
Deschamps represents ordinary orthodox lay opinion, and his murmured
complaint was repeated a generation later by the great Gerson. The
edition quoted is that of the Sdciete des Anciens Textes Fran^ais.

258.— Cf)c aimigi)tp Dollar.

(I, 229). Balade.
71iat all men in these days seek only to grow rich.

FEAR sore that dear times will come, and that
we shall have an evil year, when I see many
men gather corn together and store it apart.
I see the fields fail, the air corrupted, the land
in disarray, evil plowing and rotting seed,
weakling horses whose labour drags ; on the other hand
the rich man crieth Check ! Wherefore poor folk must
needs go begging, for no man careth but to fill his bags.
Each man is selfish and covetous in his own fashion ;
their lives are disordered ; all is snatched away by
violence of great men, nor doth any creature under the
sun seek the common good. Do men govern the land
according to reason ? Nay ! for law is perished.
Truth faileth, I see Lying reign among us, and the
greatest men are drowned in this lake [of sin] ; the
earth is ruined by covetise, for no man careth but to fill
his bags.




The Almighty Dollar. 5S9

Therefore the innocent must die of hunger, with
whom these great wolves daily fill their maw ; those
who heap up false treasures by the hundred and the
thousand. This grain, this corn, what is it but the
blood and bones of the poor folk who have ploughed
the land ? wherefore their spirit crieth on God for
vengeance. Woe to the lords, the councillors, and all
who steer us thus, and woe to all such as are of their
party ; for no man careth now but to fill his bags.

L'ENVOY.

Prince, short is the span of this life, and a man dieth
as suddenly as one may say " clac " ; whither will the
poor abashed soul go ? for no man careth now but to
fill his bags.



259.— Onitjcrsitp OBjcpenses.

(VIII, 9fi). Balade.
Of the Scholars at Orleans,

HUS runs the Orleans Scholar's Letter :

" Well-beloved father, I have not a penny,

nor can I get any save through you, for all

things at the University are so dear : nor

can I study in my Code or my Digest, for

they are all tattered. Moreover, I owe ten crowns in

dues to the Provost, and can find no man to lend them

to me ; I send you word of greetings and of money.*

The Student hath need of many things if he will
profit here ; his father and his kin must needs supply
him freely, that he be not compelled to pawn his books,
but have ready money in his purse, with gowns and furs
and decent clothing, or he will be damned for a beggar ;
wherefore, that men may not take me for a beast, I send
you word of greetings and of money.

Wines are dear, and hostels, and other good things ;
I owe in every street, and am hard bested to free myself
from such snares. Dear father, deign to help me ! I

* There is a pun here : Saluz meant a kind of gold coin as well as
greetings.




S^o A Medieval Garner.

fear to be excommunicated ; already have I been cited,
and there is not even a dry bone in my larder. If I find
not the money before this feast of Easter, the church
door will be shut in my face : wherefore grant my
supplication, for I send you word of greetings and of
money.

L'ENVOY.

Well-beloved father, to ease my debts contracted at
the tavern, at the baker's, with the doctor and the
bedells, and to pay my subscriptions to the laundress
and the barber, I send you word of greetings and of
money."



260.— (^raticn images.

(VIII, 201). Balade.

That loe should set up no graven images in the churches, save only the Crucifix
and the Virgin, for fear of idolatry.




jnjAKE no gods of silver or gold, of stocks or
Ml stones or brass, which make men fall into
idolatry ; for it is man's handiwork wherein
I the heathen vainly believed, adoring false
idols from whose mouths the devils gave
them doubtful answers by parables ; warned by their
false beliefs, we will have no such images.

For the work is pleasing to the eye ; their paintings
(of which I complain), and the beauty of glittering
gold, make many wavering folk believe that these are
gods for certain ; and fond thoughts are stirred by
such images which stand around like dancers in the
minsters,* where we set up too many of them ; which
indeed is very ill done, for, to speak briefly, we will
have no such images.

The Cross, the representation of Jesus Christ, with
that of the Virgin alone, sufficeth fully in church for
the sanest folk, without this leaven of wickedness,
without believing in so many puppets and grinning

* The same simile occurs in the Metrical Life of St. Hugh of Lincoln,
where the writer describes the slender marble shafts standing round
the great columns Uke dancers in a ring.



Marital Amenities. 561

figures and niches, wherewith we too often commit
idolatry against God's commandments ; we will have
no such images.

L'ENVOY.

Prince, let us believe in one God only, and we shall
have Him perfectly in the fields, everywhere, for that
is reason ; not in false gods of iron or adamant, stones
which have no understanding ; we will have no such
images.



Geoffrey de la Tour-Landry fought in the Hundred Years' War at
least as early as 1346 and as late as 1383. He wrote in 1371, for the



Online LibraryG. G. (George Gordon) CoultonA medieval garner; human documents from the four centuries preceding the reformation → online text (page 47 of 61)