September 22: Guess Who's Coming To Poitiers

Rated I for "Almost all of these people were illiterate."

So maybe you're in a Starbucks or something and there's two leftie types at the next table -- I won't say "old hippies," but out here, they could be -- and one of them says something like, "You know, war is just boys playing with destructive toys," the other says something like, "Yes, and the so-called 'media' is just a way of manufacturing consent," and you, as a nonhippie, roll your eyes and think, "Then what the hell are you two doing in a Starbucks?"

Well, I hate to say it, but if I'm reading my Froissart correctly, they're onto something.

Today we have his chronicle of the Battle of Poitiers, and not only is it completely unclear what they're fighting for, or how, but they don't seem to be particularly energized by the cause, whatever it is. They just like fightin' and killin'. Here they've captured the French King and they bring him to the Prince of Wales:
When the two foresaid lords saw and heard that noise and strife among them, they came to them and said: ‘Sirs, what is the matter that ye strive for?’ ‘Sirs,’ said one of them, ‘it is for the French king, who is here taken prisoner, and there be more than ten knights and squires that challengeth the taking of him and of his son.’ Then the two lords entered into the press and caused every man to draw aback, and commanded them in the prince’s name on pain of their heads to make no more noise nor to approach the king no nearer, without they were commanded. Then every man gave room to the lords, and they alighted and did their reverence to the king.
Emphasis added. I suppose it's just like keeping Hirohito, and when your own country's power structure is based on hereditary principles, disrespecting another country's hereditary principle is bad in the long run, but it seems so...calm. Especially because a few minutes before the King was having at the English big-time:
The fighters on both sides endured much pain: king John with his own hands did that day marvels in arms: he had an axe in his hands wherewith he defended himself and fought in the breaking of the press.
An axe in his hands! One thing for these old-school nobles -- they didn't just talk the talk, they chopped the chop. But just the fact that he's doing marvels in arms makes me marvel: isn't there a better use for the king than just an axeman? After all, it wound up costing twice the GDP of France to ransom him back after he got captured. It makes you think that these powerful people were careless about their country's fate -- quite a contrast to our time!

I recommend this reading, also, to the medieval-fetishist, as the translation dates from 1525, I believe, and so has old-timey diction and plenty of people who are "hight" someone-or-other, and knights crying "Saint George!" and, of course, warlike churchmen:
The prince was informed that the cardinal’s men were on the field against him, the which was not pertaining to the right order of arms, for men of the church that cometh and goeth for treaty of peace ought not by reason to bear harness nor to fight for neither of the parties; they ought to be indifferent: and because these men had done so, the prince was displeased with the cardinal, and therefore he sent unto him his nephew the lord Robert of Duras dead: and the chatelain of Amposte was taken, and the prince would have had his head stricken off, because he was pertaining to the cardinal, but then the lord Chandos said: ‘Sir, suffer for a season: intend to a greater matter: and peradventure the cardinal will make such excuse that ye shall be content.’
"Peradventure (HIGH OFFICIAL X) will make such excuse that ye shall be content." Yeah, right. Those hippies in Starbucks might be onto something. Maybe the Pentagon should hold bake sales.

No comments: