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Richard of Devizes Chronicle

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Richard of Devizes
page 19

eagerly, even the absent canons, around the church spacious and lofty villas, perhaps for their own use, if even once in their lives any chance should offer a cause for visiting the place. None of the prebendaries regularly resided there any more than they do elsewhere; but doing great things for the gates of palaces, they have left to poor vicars, induced by a trifling remuneration, to insult God; to them have they intrusted the holy chant and vanquished household gods and bare church walls.

Sect. 85. This forsooth is true religion; this should the church imitate and emulate. It will be permitted the secular canon to be absent from his church as long as he may please, and to consume the patrimony of Christ where, and when, in whatsoever luxuries he may list. Let them only provide this, that a frequent vociferation be heard in the house of the Lord. If the stranger should knock at the doors of such, if the poor should cry, he who lives before the doors will answer (he himself being a sufficiently needy vicar), "Pass on, and seek elsewhere for alms, for the master of the house is not at home." This is that glorious religion of the clerks, for the sake of which the bishop of Chester, the first of men that durst commit so great iniquity, expelled his monks from Coventry. For the sake of clerks irregularly regular - that is to say, of canons, he capriciously turned out the monks; monks who, not with another's, but with their own mouth praised the Lord, who dwelt and walked in the house of the Lord with unanimity all the days of their life, who beyond their food and raiment knew nothing earthly, whose bread was always for the poor, whose door was at all times open to every traveller: nor did they thus please the bishop, who never loved either monks or their order. A man of bitter jocularity, who even, though he might sometimes spare, never ceased to worry the monks. O what a fat morsel, and not to be absorbed, is a monk! many a thousand has that bit choked, while the wicked at their death have had it for their viaticum. If as often as a monk was calumniated and reproached he was consumed, all religion would be absorbed before many ages. At all times and in every place, whether the bishop spoke in earnest or in jest, a monk was some part of his discourse. Nor did the expulsion of his own monks satisfy him, but ever after, true to himself, he continued censuring the monks as before. But as he could not desist from speaking of them, lest he should incur the opprobrium of a detractor, if in their absence he should carp at their order, he resolved to keep some monk abiding with him in his court; that his conversation about them might be made less offensive, by the presence and audience of one of them. So he took as his quasi chaplain a certain monk, scarcely of age, but yet who had professed at Burton, whom to the scandal of religion he generally took about with him. O excess of sorrow! Even among the angels of God is found iniquity. The monk, wise and prudent, seduced to the delusion, hardened his forehead as a harlot, that he a monk should not blush when monks were reviled. Alas! how great a thirst for roving and riding! Hear me and attend a little; you shall see how the riding of this rider concluded. On a certain day, as the bishop was standing over his workmen at Coventry, his monk attending close by his side, on whom the bishop familiarly resting, said, "Is it not proper and expedient, my monk, even in your judgment, that the great beauty of so fair a church, that such a comely edifice, should rather be appropriated to gods than devils?" And while the monk was hesitating at the obscurity of the words, he added, "I," said he, "call my clerks gods, and monks devils!" And presently putting forth the forefinger of his right hand towards his clerks, who were standing round him, he continued, "I say ye are gods, and ye are all the children of the Highest! " And having turned again to the left, concluded to the monk, "But ye monks shall die like devils; and as one and the greatest of your princes ye shall fall away into hell, because ye are devils upon earth. Truly if it should befal me to officiate for a dead monk, which I should be very unwilling to do, I would commend his body and soul not to God, but to the devil! " The monk, who was standing in the very place that the monks had been plundered of, did not refute the insult on the monks, and because on such an occasion he was silent, met, as he deserved, with the reward of eternal silence being imposed upon him. For suddenly a stone falling from the steeple of the church, dashed out the brains of the monk who was attending on the bishop, the bishop being preserved in safety for some greater judgment.

Sect. 86. The king of the English, Richard, had already completed two years in conquering the region around Jerusalem, and during all that time there had no aid been sent to him from any of his kingdoms. Nor yet were his only and uterine brother, John, earl of Mortain, nor his justiciaries, nor his other nobles, observed to take any care to send him any part of his revenues; but they did not even think of his return. However, prayer was made without ceasing by the church to God for him. The king's army was decreased daily in the Land of Promise, and besides those who were slain with the sword, many thousands of the people perished every month by the too sudden extremities of the nightly cold and the daily heat. When it appeared that they would all have to die there, every one had to choose whether he would die as a coward or in battle. On the other side, the strength of the Gentiles greatly increased, and their confidence was strengthened by the misfortunes of the Christians; their army was relieved at certain times by fresh troops; the weather was natural to them; the place was their native country; their labour, health; their frugality, medicine. Amongst the Normans, on the contrary, that became a disadvantage which to the adversaries brought gain. For if our people lived sparingly even once in a week, they were rendered less effective for seven weeks after. The mingled nation of French and English fared sumptuously every day, and (saving the reverence of the French) even to loathing, at whatever cost, while their treasure lasted; and the well-known custom of the English being continually kept up even under the very clarions and the clangour of the trumpet or horn, they gaped with due devotion while the chalices were emptied to the dregs. The merchants of the country, who brought the victuals to the camp, were astonished at their wonderful and extraordinary habits, and could scarcely believe even what they saw to be true, that one people, and that small in number, consumed threefold the bread and a hundred-fold the wine more than that whereon many nations of the Gentiles had been sustained, and some of those nations innumerable. And the hand of the Lord was deservedly laid upon them according to their merits. So great want of food followed their great gluttony, that their teeth

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