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Geoffrey de Vinsauf
Itinerary of Richard I and others to the Holy Land
commonly called an angevin, and with that only they wished to purchase something to eat; but what could they do? It was a mere trifle, and worth little, even if there had been abundance of all sorts of good things; and they had nothing else but their armour and clothing. They considered for a long time very thoughtfully what they should buy with that one little piece, and how it could be done to ward off the pressing evil of the day. They at last came to the resolution of buying some beans, since nothing was to be bought of less value; with difficulty, therefore, they obtained, after much entreaty, thirteen beans for their denier, one of which on returning home they found consumed by maggots, and therefore unfit for eating. Upon this, by mutual agreement, they went a long distance in search of the seller, who consented not without difficulty and after much supplication, to give them a whole bean in exchange. How strange this exchange of such a thing after a long search, and at such a distance! From those beans, which were consumed in a moment, how much benefit do we think could accrue to the hungry? We judge that must be weighed more by the opinion of the hearer than described by the pen. Then they execrated the marquis for the violation of his covenant, and prayed for evil on him and mortal woe.
Chapter LXXVII. - How the famished ate karrubles, and died from drinking wine.
There was exposed for sale a kind of fruit growing on trees; a grain enclosed in a pod like a pea, which the common people called karruble, sweet to the taste, and very pleasant to eat. The hungry were recruited by them, because there was a greater abundance of them than other things, whence the way to buy them was much frequented; for although they were of inferior value, they were something. Of those who lay weak and ate little, either because they had nothing to eat, or because they could not eat, the wine which they drank heated them so much that many were suffocated, either from the violence of the liquor, which was not tempered with food, or from being too weak to support its strength and goodness. There was a tolerable supply of wine for sale, but, much wine is not good for the preservation of the body with little food; for it is necessary to proportion the one to the other. But inasmuch as the marquis was the cause of the scarcity, they ceased not to curse him and execrate him for the violation of his covenant, and invoked evil on him and mortal woe.
Chapter LXXVIII. - How the famished ate flesh during Lent.
Some were driven by the pressure of the famine to eat flesh in the beginning of Lent, on what is commonly called Ash-Wednesday, - not because they had plenty of it, but because it was more easily obtained: afterwards, however, as the famine slackened, they repented and made proportionate penitence. Above all these things, during the whole of that winter, the charity of all was so cooled by the fear of want of money, that a man did not even share his necessaries with his friend, their little faith leading them to doubt God’s love, and to believe that if they shared with others, they themselves would lack the necessaries of life. To such a degree the vice of parsimony, and the concealment of their stores increased, that even they hid what they had, and those that had were thought not to have
at all. What did the voice of so many in want then imprecate on the marquis? Who did not think him the cause of so many being in jeopardy?
Chapter LXXIX. - The exhortation of the bishop of Salisbury and some others to the rich, to make collections to assist the poor.
The intercourse of the faithful becoming beyond measure checked, and no one taking thought or notice of the poor and needy, the infamy of this want of faith extended itself to all. The bishop of Salisbury was active in shewing that nothing was greater than charity, nothing more acceptable to God, nothing more fruitful than to give; and to this end he induced all, by his powerful persuasion, to open their hands and distribute to their neighbours, to give to the needy, and support the perishing, lest, if they neglected the wants of others, they should not obtain their own; for it is said that he who heeds them not when he may, is the cause of death to the languishing: he shewed that he was guilty of another man’s death, who refused to assist him when he could; for we are commanded to give drink to our enemy when thirsty, and to feed him when hungry. And the bishops of Nerrona and Faenza in Italy, earnestly assisted in his exhortation. In consequence of the exhortation and urgency of these men, a collection was made for distribution amongst the poor, and so many and so great were the hearts God moved to contribute to the support of the needy, that the hungry were greatly recruited; and the substance of the givers, also, by the grace of God co-operating, was not diminished. Then arose fresh joy, then the lips of many blessed the givers, then were benefits multiplied, then it is said that pity was turned gratefully towards them, whilst the powerful yearned with compassion over the afflicted. Among the most active in
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