Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

At thy rank minstrelsy. A poor low cottage :
Only a poor low cottage where, 1 ween,
A poor low maiden blesses Walter Tyrrel.

Tyrrel. It may be so.

Rufus. No ; it may not be so.
My orders were that all should be removed;
And, out of special favour, special trust
In thee, Sir Walter, I consign'd the care
Into thy hands, of razing thy own house
And those about it ; since thou hast another
Fairer and newer, and more lands around.

Tyrrel. Hall, chapel, chamber, cellar, turret, grange, Are level with the grass.

Rufus. What negligence
To leave the work then incomplete, when little
Was there remaining ! Strip that roof, and start
Thy petty game from cover.

el. O my liege : Command not this Rufus. Make me no confidant Of thy base loves. Tyrrel. Nor you, my liege nor any: None such hath Walter Tyrrel. Rufus. Thou'rt at bay;

[ocr errors]

Thou hast forgotten thy avowal, man

Tyrrel. My father's house is (like my father) gone: But in that house, and from that father's heart Mine grew into that likeness, and held thence Its rich possessions — God forgive my boast ! He bade me help the needy, raise the low—.

Rufus. And stand against thy king !

Tyrrel. How many yokes
Of oxen, from how many villages
For miles around, brought I, at my own charge,
To bear away the rafters and the beams
That were above my cradle at my birth,
And rang when I was christened, to the carouse
Of that glad father and his loyal friends !

Rufus. He kept good cheer, they tell me.

Tyrrel. Yonder thatch
Covers the worn-out woman at whose breast
I hung, an infant.

Rufus. Ay! and none beside 1
Tyrrel. Four sons have fallen in the wars.
Rufus. Brave dogs
Tyrrel. She hath none left.

Rufus. No daughter?
Tyrrel. One.

Rufus. I thought it.

Unkennel her.
Tyrrel. Grace pity! mercy on her
Rufus. I will not have hot scents about my chase.

Tyrrel. A virtuous daughter of a virtuous mother Deserves not this, my liege

Rufus. Am I to learn What any subject at my hand deserves |

Tyrrel. Happy, who dares to teach it, and who can

Rufus. And thou, forsooth !

Tyrrel. I have done my duty, sire!

Rufus. Not half: perform the rest, or bide my wrath.

Tyrrel. What, break athwart my knee the staff of age 7

Rufus. Question me, villain :

Tyrrel. Willain I am none.

Rufus. Retort my words! By all the saints thou diest,
False traitor |

Tyrrel. Sire no private wrong, no word
Spoken in angriness, no threat against
My life or honour, urge me—.

Rufus. Urge to what ?
Dismountest ?
Tyrrel. On my knees, as best beseems,

I ask — not pardon, sire but spare, oh spare
The child devoted, the deserted mother
Rufus. Take her; take both.
Tyrrel. She loves her home ; her limbs
Fail her; her husband sleeps in that churchyard;
Her youngest child, born many years the last,
Lies (not half-length) along the father's coffin.
Such separate love grows stronger in the stem
(I have heard say) than others close together,
And that, where pass these funerals, all life's spring
Vanishes from behind them, all the fruits
Of riper age are shrivel’d, every sheaf
Husky; no gleaning left. She would die here,
Where from her bed she looks on his ; no more
Able to rise, poor little soul! than he.
Rufus. Who would disturb them, child or father ? where
Is the churchyard thou speakest of
Tyrrel. Among
Yon nettles: we have levell'd all the graves.
Rufus. Right: or our horses might have stumbled on them.
Tyrrel. Your grace oft spares the guilty; spare the innocent
Rufus. Up from the dew thy voice is hoarse already.
Tyrrel. Yet God hath heard it. It entreats again,
Once more, once only; spare this wretched house.
Rufus. No, nor thee neither.
Tyrrel. Speed me, God and judge
O thou! between the oppressor and opprest!
[He pierces Rufus with an arrow.

48.-CHARACTER OF RUFUS. SwsFT.

He was in stature somewhat below the usual size and big-bellied; but he Was well and strongly knit. His hair was yellow or sandy, his face red, which got him the name of Rufus, his forehead flat; his eyes were spotted and appeared of different colours; he was apt to stutter in speaking, especially when he was angry; he was vigorous and active and very hardy to endure fatigues, which he owed to a good constitution of health and the frequent exercise of hunting; in his dress he affected gaiety and expense, which having been first introduced by this prince into his court and kingdom, grew in succeeding reigns an intolerable grievance. He also first brought in among us the luxury and profusion of great tables. There was in him as in all other men a mixture of virtues and vices and that in a pretty equal degree; only the misfortune was that the latter, although not more numerous, were yet much more prevalent than the former. For being entirely a man of pleasure, this made him sacrifice all his good qualities and gave him too many occasions of producing his ill ones. He had one very singular virtue for a prince, which was that of being true to his word and promise; he was of undoubted personal valour, whereof the writers in those ages produce several instances, nor did he want skill and conduct in the process of war. But his peculiar excellency was that of great despatch, which, however usually decried and allowed to be only a happy temerity, does often answer all the ends of secrecy and counsel in a great commander by surprising and daunting an enemy when he least expects it, as may appear by the greatest actions and events upon the records of every nation.

He was a man of sound natural sense, as well as of wit and humour upon occasion. There were several tenets in the Romish church he could not digest, particularly that of the saints' intercession, and living in an age overrun with superstition, he went so far into the other extreme as to be censured for an atheist. The day before his death, a monk relating a terrible dream which seemed to forbode him some misfortune, the king being told the matter turned it into a jest; said the man was a monk, and dreamt like a monk for lucre sake; and therefore commanded Fitzhamon to give him one hundred shillings, that he might not complain he had dreamt to no purpose.

His vices appear to have been rather derived from the temper of his body than from any original depravity of mind, for being of a sanguine complexion, wholly bent upon his pleasures and prodigal in his nature, he became engaged in great expenses. To supply these the people were perpetually oppressed with illegal taxes and exactions; but that sort of avarice which arises from prodigality and vice, as it is always needy, so it is much more ravenous and violent than the other, which put the king and his evil instruments (among whom Ralph, bishop of Durham is of special infamy) upon those pernicious methods of gratifying his extravagancies by all manner of oppression, whereof some are already mentioned, and others are too foul to relate.

He is generally taxed by writers for discovering a contempt of religion in his common discourse and behaviour, which I take to have risen from the same fountain, being a point of art and a known expedient for men who cannot quit their immoralities, at least to banish all reflection that might disturb them in the enjoy. ment, which must be dome either by not thinking of religion at all, or if it will intrude by putting it out of countenance.

Yet there is one instance that might show him to have some sense of religion as well as justice. When two monks were outvying each other in canting the price of an abbey, he observed a third at some distance who said never a word; the king

demanded why he would not offer The monk said he was poor, and besides would give nothing if he were ever so rich; the king replied, then you are the fittest person to have it, and immediately gave it him. But this is perhaps with reason enough assigned more to caprice than conscience, for he was under the power of every humour and passion that possessed him for the present, which made him obstinate in his resolves and unsteady in the prosecution.

He had one vice or folly that seemed rooted in his mind and of all others most unbefitting a prince; this was a proud, disdainful manner, both in his words and gesture, and having already lost the love of his subjects by his avarice and oppression, this finished the work by bringing him into contempt and hatred among his servants, so that few among the worst of princes have had the luck to be so illbeloved or so little lamented.

49.--THE CRUSADES. HUME.

After Mahomet had, by means of his pretended revelations, united the dispersed Arabians under one head, they issued forth from their deserts in great multitudes: and being animated with zeal for their new religion, and supported by the vigour of their new government, they made deep impression on the eastern empire, which was far in the decline, with regard both to military discipline, and to civil policy. Jerusalem by its situation, became one of their most early conquests; and the Christians had the mortification to see the holy sepulchre, and the other places, consecrated by the presence of their religious founder, fallen into the possession of infidels. But the Arabians or Saracens were so employed in military enterprises, by which they spread their empire in a few years from the banks of the Ganges to the Straits of Gibraltar, that they had no leisure for theological controversy: And though the Alcoran, the original monument of their faith, seems to contain some violent precepts, they were much less infected with the spirit of bigotry, and persecution than the indolent and speculative Greeks, who were continually refining on the several articles of their religious system. They gave little disturbance to those zealous pilgrims, who daily flocked to Jerusalem; and they allowed every man, after paying a moderate tribute, to visit the holy sepulchre, to perform his religious duties, and to return in peace. But the Turcomans or Turks, a tribe of Tartars, who had embraced Mahometanism, having wrested Syria from the Saracens, and having in the year 1065, made themselves masters of Jerusalem, rendered the pilgrimage much more difficult and dangerous to the Christians. The barbarity of their manners, and the confusions attending their unsettled government, exposed the pilgrims to many insults, robberies, and extortions: and these zealots, returning from their meritorious fatigues and sufferings, filled all Christendom with indignation against the infidels, who profaned the holy city by their presence, and derided the sacred mysteries in the very place of their completion. Gregory VII. among the other vast ideas which he entertained, had formed the design of uniting all the Western Christians against the Mahometans; but the egregious and violent invasions of that pontiff on the civil power of princes, had created him so many enemies and had rendered his schemes so suspicious, that he was not able to make great progress in this undertaking. The work was reserved for a meaner instrument, whose low condition in life exposed him to no jealousy, and whose folly was well calculated to coincide with the prevailing principles of the times.

Peter, commonly called the Hermit, a native of Amiens in Picardy, had made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Being deeply affected with the dangers to which that act of piety now exposed the pilgrims, as well as with the instances of oppression under which the eastern Christians laboured, he entertained the bold, and in all

appearance impracticable project of leading into Asia, from the farthest extremities of the West, armies sufficient to subdue those potent and warlike nations which now held the holy city in subjection. He proposed his views to Martin II. who filled the Papal chair, and who, though sensible of the advantages which the head of the Christian religion must reap from a religious war, and though he esteemed the blind zeal of Peter a proper means for effecting the purpose, resolved not to interpose his authority, till he saw a greater probability of success. He summoned a council at Plauntia, which consisted of four thousand ecclesiastics, and thirty thousand seculars; and which was so numerous that no hall could contain the multitude, and it was necessary to hold the assembly in a plain. The harangues of the pope, and of Peter himself, representing the dismal situation of their brethren in the east, and the indignity suffered by the Christian name, in allowing the holy city to remain in the hands of infidels, here found the minds of men so well prepared, that the whole multitude suddenly and violently declared for the war, and solemnly devoted themselves to perform this service, so meritorious, as they believed it, to God and religion. But though Italy seemed thus to have zealously embraced this enterprise, Martin knew, that, in order to ensure success, it was necessary to enlist the greater and more warlike nations in the same engagement ; and having previously exhorted Peter to visit the chief cities and sovereigns of Christendom, he summoned another council at Clermont in Auvergne. The fame of this great and pious design being now universally diffused, procured the attendance of the greatest prelates, nobles, and princes; and when the pope and the hermit renewed their pathetic exhortations, the whole assembly as if impelled by an immediate inspiration, not moved by their preceding impressions, exclaimed with one voice, It is the will of God, It is the will of God/ Words deemed so memorable, and so much the result of a divine influence, that they were employed as the signal of rendezvous and battle in all the future exploits of those adventurers. Men of all ranks flew to arms with the utmost ardour; and an exterior symbol too, a circumstance of chief moment, was here chosen by the devoted combatants. The sign of the cross, which had been hitherto so much revered among Christians, and which, the more it was an object of reproach among the Pagan world, was the more passionately cherished by them, became the badge of union, and was affixed to their right shoulder, by all who enlisted themselves in this sacred warfare. Europe was at this time sunk into profound ignorance and superstition. The ecclesiastics had acquired the greatest ascendant over the human mind: the people, who, being little restrained by honour, and less by law, abandoned themselves to the worst crimes and disorders, knew of no other expiation than the observances imposed on them by their spiritual pastors: and it was easy to represent the holy war as an equivalent for all penances, and an atonement for every violation of justice and humanity. But amidst the abject superstition which now prevailed, the military spirit also had universally diffused itself: and though not supported by art or discipline. was become the general passion of the nations governed by the feudal law. All the great lords possessed the right of peace and war: They were engaged in perpetual hostilities with each other : The open country was become a scene of outrage and disorder: The cities, still mean and poor, were neither guarded by walls nor protected byprivileges, and were exposed to every insult: Individuals were obliged to depend for safety on their own force, or their private alliances: And valour was the only excellence which was held in esteem, or gave one man the pre-eminence above another. When all the particular superstitions, therefore were here united in one great object, the ardour for military enterprises took the same direction;

« ForrigeFortsett »