Слике страница

was protected by a thick glove. The ladies and the clergy loved him. By many a mere fat abbots ambled on their ponies over the swampy soil, and sweet shrill voices cheered the long-winged hawk, as he darted off in pursuit of the soaring quarry.

The author of Ivanhoe and kindred pens have made the tournament a picture familiar to all readers of romance. It therefore needs no long description here. It was held in honour of some great event —a coronation, wedding, or victory. Having practised well during squirehood at the quintain,* the knight, clad in full armour, with visor barred and the colours of his lady on crest and scarf, rode into the lists, for which some level green was chosen and surrounded with a palisade. For days before, his shield had been hanging in a neighbouring church, as a sign of his intention to compete in this great game of chivalry. If any stain lay on his knighthood, a lady, by touching the suspended shield with a wand, could debar him from a share in the jousting. And if, when he had entered the lists, he was rude to a lady, or broke in any way the etiquette of the tilt-yard, he was beaten from the lists with the ashwood lances of the knights. The simple joust was the shock of two knights, who galloped with levelled spears at each other, aiming at breast or head, with the object either of unhorsing the antagonist, or, if he sat his charger well, of splintering the lance upon his helmet or his shield. The mellay (mêlée) hurled together, at the dropping of the prince's baton, two parties of knights, who hacked away at each other with axe and mace and sword, often gashing limbs and breaking bones in the wild excitement of the fray. Bright eyes glanced from the surrounding scaffolds upon the brutal sport; and when the victor, with broken plume, and dusty, battered, red-splashed armour, dragged his wearied or wounded limbs to the footstool of the beauty who presided as Queen over the festival, her white hands decorated him with the meed of his achievements.

The Normans probably dined at nine in the morning. When

The Quintain was a revolving wooden figure-often representing a Saracen, -which, if not struck right in the centre with the blunted lance, whirled rapidly on its pivot, and dealt the awkward marksman a smart stroke of its outstretched wooden sword.

they rose they took a light meal; and ate something also after their day's work, immediately before going to bed. Goose and garlic formed a favourite dish. Their cookery was more elaborate, and, in comparison, more delicate, than the preparations for a Saxon feed. But the character for temperance, which they brought with them from the Continent, soon vanished; for they learned from the conquered Saxons to gorge and swill till they were sick. The poorer classes hardly ever ate flesh, living principally on bread, butter, and cheese; a social fact which seems to underlie that usage of our tongue by which the living animals in field or stall bore Anglo-Saxon names-ox, sheep, calf, pig, deer-while their flesh, promoted to Norman dishes, rejoiced in names of French origin-beef, mutton, veal, pork, venison. Round cakes, piously marked with a cross, piled the tables, on which pastry of various kinds also appeared. In good houses cups of glass held the wine, which was borne from the cellar below in jugs. Squatted round the door or on the stair leading to the Norman dining-hall, which was often on an upper floor, was a crowd of beggars or lickers (lecheurs), who grew so insolent in the days of Rufus, that ushers armed with rods were posted outside to beat back the noisy throng, who thought little of snatching the dishes as the cooks carried them to table!

The jougleur, who under the Normans filled the place of the Saxon gleeman, tumbled, sang, and balanced knives in the hall, or out in the bailey of an afternoon displayed the acquirements of his trained monkey or bear. The fool, too, clad in coloured patch-work, cracked his ribald jokes and shook his cap and bells at the elbow of roaring barons, when the board was spread and the circles of the wine began.

While knights hunted in the greenwood or tilted in the lists, and jougleurs tumbled in the noisy hall, the monk in the quiet Scriptorium compiled chronicles of passing events, copied valuable manuscripts, and painted rich borderings and brilliant initials on every page. These illuminations form a valuable set of materials for our pictures of life in the Middle Ages. Monasteries served many useful purposes at the time of which I write. Besides their

manifest value as centres of study and literary work, they gave alms to the poor, a supper and a bed to travellers; their tenants were better off and better treated than the tenants of the nobles; the monks could store grain, grow apples, and cultivate their flower-beds with little risk of injury from war, because they had spiritual thunders at their call which awed the superstitious soldiery into a respect for sacred property. Splendid structures these monasteries generally were, since that vivid taste for architecture which the Norman possessed in a high degree, and which could not find room for its display in the naked strength of the solid keep, lavished its entire energy and grace upon buildings lying in the safe shadow of the Cross. Nor was architectural taste the only reason for their magnificence. Since they were nearly all erected as offerings to Heaven, the religion of the age, such as it was, impelled the pious builders to spare no cost in decorating the exterior with fretwork and sculpture of Caen stone, the interior with gilded cornices and windows of painted glass.

As schools, too, the monasteries did no trifling service to society in the Middle Ages. In addition to their influence as great centres of learning, Anglo-Saxon law had enjoined every mass-priest to keep a school in his parish church, where all the young committed to his care might be instructed. This custom continued long after the Norman Conquest. In the Trinity College Psalter we have a picture of a Norman school, where the pupils sit in a circular row round the master as he lectures to them from a long roll of manuscript. Two writers sit by the desk, busy with copies resembling that the teacher holds. The youth of the middle classes, destined for the cloister or the merchant's stall, chiefly thronged these schools. The aristocracy cared little for book-learning. Very few indeed of the barons could read or write. But all could ride, fence, tilt, play, and carve extremely well; for to these accomplishments many years of pagehood and squirehood were given. The University of Oxford was fast growing into a formidable rival of the great school at Paris. But the latter still sent forth the greatest men of the age. Becket, and that noted English monk born near St. Albans,-Nicholas Breakspear, who became Pope in

1154 under the name of Adrian IV.,- were both distinguished students of Paris.

The only Norman coin we have is the silver penny. Round halfpence and farthings were probably issued. As in Saxon days, the gold was foreign. In the reign of the Conqueror, and for some time afterwards, tax-collectors and merchants reckoned money after the Saxon fashion. COLLIER.


THE proud Norman was not successful in imposing his own tongue upon the subjugated nation, when the fatal day of Hastings placed the British realm in the hands of his race. In vain was NormanFrench spoken from throne, pulpit, and judgment-seat; in vain did the Norman nobles long disdain to learn the language of the enslaved Saxon. For a time the two idioms lived side by side, though in very different conditions; the one, the language of the master, at court and in the castles of the soldiers who had become noble lords and powerful barons; the other, the language of the conquered, spoken only in the lowly hut of the subjugated people. The Norman altered and increased the latter, but he could not extirpate it. To defend his conquest, he took possession of the country; and, master of the soil, he erected fortresses and castles, and attempted to introduce new terms. The universe and the firmament, the planets, comets, and meteors, the atmosphere and the seasons, all were impressed with the seal of the conqueror. Hills became mountains, and dales valleys; streams were called rivers, and brooks rivulets; waterfalls changed into cascades, and woods into forests. The deer, the ox, the calf, the swine, and the sheep appeared on his sumptuous table as venison, beef, veal, pork, and mutton. Salmon, sturgeon, lamprey, and trout became known as delicacies; serpents and lizards, squirrels, falcons and herons, cocks and pigeons, stallions and mules, were added to the animal kingdom. Earls and lords were placed in rank below his dukes and marquises.

New titles and dignities, of viscount, baron and baronet, squire and master, were created; and the mayor presided over the Saxon aldermen and sheriff; the chancellor and the peer, the ambassador and the chamberlain, the general and the admiral beaded the list of officers of the government. The king alone retained his name, but the state and the court became French: the administration was carried on according to the constitution; treaties were concluded by the ministers in their cabinet and submitted for approval to the sovereign; the privy council was consulted on the affairs of the empire, and loyal subjects sent representatives to parliament. Here the members debated on matters of grave importance, on peace and war, ordered the army and the navy, disposed of the national treasury, contracted debts, and had their sessions and their parties. At brilliant feasts and splendid tournaments collected the flower of chivalry; magnificent balls, where beauty and delicious music enchanted the assembled nobles, gave new splendour to society, polished the manners and excited the admiration of the ancient inhabitants, who, charmed by such elegance, recognized in their conquerors persons of superior intelligence, admired them, and endeavoured to imitate their fashions.

But the dominion of the Norman did not extend to the home of the Saxon; it stopped at the threshold of his house: there, around the fireside in his kitchen and the hearth in his room, he met his beloved kindred; the bride, the wife, and the husband, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, tied to each other by love, friendship, and kind feelings, knew nothing dearer than their own sweet home. The Saxon's flocks, still grazing in his fields and meadows, gave him milk and butter, meat and wool; the herdsman watched them in spring and summer; the ploughman drew his furrows, and used his harrows, and, in harvest, the cart and the flail; the reaper plied his scythe, piled up sheaves and hauled his wheat, oats, and rye to the barn. The waggoner drove his wain, with its wheels, felloes, spokes, and nave, and his team bent heavily under their yoke. In his trade by land and sea, he still sold and bought; in the store or the shop, the market or the street, he cheapened his goods and had all his dealings, as peddler or weaver, baker or cooper,

« ПретходнаНастави »