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GEOFFREY VINSAUF Itinerary of Richard I and others to the Holy Land

 
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GEOFFREY VINSAUF
Itinerary of Richard I and others to the Holy Land
page 37

give what price you please, so that you give us plenty of bread." For each asked to be served first, offering a price in exchange for bread, and each violently struggling to snatch from the others what they had not yet received, and perhaps never would. But as often as it happened that any of the rich bought much bread, then arose mourning, and sorrow, and clamour among the poor, united in one voice of wailing, when they saw that quantity of bread carried away by the rich, which, if distributed in portions, might have done good to the poor as far as it would go. They eagerly offered the price of the bread at the will of the seller; but, because any moderate quantity was not enough for so great a multitude, there arose frequent and angry disputes, quarrels, Firstions, jealousies, and sometimes fights around the oven which contained the bread and they contended for it like dogs before they were sure of obtaining it. O, then, the voice of the people, cursing the perfidy of the marquis, for he cared not for the wretchedness of a perishing people!

Chapter LXXIII. - How they gnawed and ate up dirty bones which had been already gnawed by dogs.

But who can write or set forth how great their misery was how great the general suffering, when some were seen from the pressure of famine running about like rabid dogs and snatching up bones that had been gnawed by dogs for three days together, and sucking and licking them when there was nothing on them to be gnawed, not because they did them any good, but because they gratified the imagination with the remembrance of flesh? What need we add to these horrors? The enemy, harassing them by constant attacks from both sides, when they slew them suddenly,were held less terrible than the violence of so great a famine; for the former put an end to their lives and their miseries by the edge of the sword and at once, whereas by the famine they pined away in lengthened torments. Oftentimes, in the sight of all, they whom hunger had stripped of shame, fed upon abominable and filthy things, found by chance, and which cannot be named; yet they deemed them delicious food, though unlawful for man to make use of. O the voice of the people, cursing the perfidy of the marquis, for he cared not for the wretchedness of a perishing people!

Chapter LXXIV. - How noblemen also, when they had not wherewith to buy bread, stole it.

From some other instances worth relating, the magnitude of the famine may be estimated; for in those who endured it patiently according to the flesh, it may be not undeservedly considered martyrdom, unless perchance by murmuring, they diminished the credit which they would thus have received. The pressure of necessity moreover led to the commission of many disgraceful acts; and some even of noble extraction, who were on that account ashamed to beg openly, feared not to sin in secret to obtain the subsistence so difficult to got honestly, and were in the habit of stealing bread. Thus it happened that one man was caught in this kind of robbery, and was bound tightly with thongs, in which condition he was placed in custody in the house of the man who had caught him, who was a baker; and while the family was very much engaged in domestic matters, by some movement or other, the captive managed to get his hands loose, and as he was placed by chance close by a heap of new loaves, he ate his full unperceived by any one, and then escaping with one loaf in his hand, returned unpunished to his friends; and after telling his story distributed the bread he had in his hand to them to eat. But what was this among so many? Want irritated the appetite, and exasperated rather than quieted hunger. O then the voice of the people, cursing the perfidy of the marquis, because he cared not for the wretchedness of a perishing people!

Chapter LXXV. - How many turn apostates from the bitterness of the famine.

What was still worse, some of our men, and it cannot be told or heard without great grief, gave way to the severity of the famine, and in paying attention to their corporeal safety incurred the damnation of their souls. For after having overcome a great part of their tribulation, some of our men taking refuge among the Turks, did not hesitate to turn apostates, and to procure for themselves by wicked blasphemies eternal death, that they might enjoy a little longer this mortal life. O pernicious exchange! O crime for which no punishment can suffice! O foolish men like unto senseless beasts! while ye fled from the death, which must soon come, you took no care against the death that is without end! For if a just man liveth by faith, perfidy is accounted death, but the conscience of all who act foolishly must be purged. Then they execrate the marquis for breaking his covenant, and imprecate evil on him and mortal woe.

Chapter LXXVI. - How two friends buy thirteen beans for a denier.

There were two friends, comrades in misfortune as well as in war, so needy and distressed that the two possessed only one piece of money,

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