Friday, May 1, 2009

A Distant Mirror

I'm sure most of my august and erudite readers have come across this bit of medieval verse at some point, but for those of you who haven't I thought I'd post it here. I myself was recently reminded of it when reading Barbara Tuchman's excellent A Distant Mirror. For those of you looking to emphasize the alien, exotic nature of medieval thinking, there is little else that sums things up as succinctly.
"My heart is filled with gladness when I see
Strong castles besieged, stockades broken and overwhelmed,
Many vassals struck down,
Horses of the dead and wounded roving at random.
And when battle is joined, let all men of good lineage
Think of naught but the breaking of heads and arms,
For it is better to die than be vanquished and live. . . .
I tell you I have no such joy as when I hear the shout
'On! On!' from both sides and the neighing of riderless steeds,
And groans of 'Help me! Help me!'
And when I see both great and small
Fall in the ditches and on the grass
And see the dead transfixed by spear shafts!
Lords, mortgage your domains, castles, cities,
But never give up war!"
--Bertrand de Born, French aristocrat and troubadour
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