Son. The last time that I had a talk with you, sire, I heard a wise speech from your lips, one that should profit every man who intends to follow the craft with which our conversation was concerned. Since then I have meditated on that speech, and I believe that I have fixed firmly in memory most of the facts that were brought out at the time, whatever luck I may have later in trying to apply them. No doubt I ought, like everyone else, to observe carefully all the good which I have been taught; and more is to be expected from those who take thought than from those who forget. But whatever success or good fortune I may have in the practice, I delight to learn while I have the opportunity. Now I still have some subjects in mind which I wish to inquire about, but I am going to ask your consent to a discussion before I bring up the questions in which I am now interested; and when I have presented these, I shall await your answers.
Father. When we last met and talked about the doings and mode of living of merchants, we mentioned, I believe, most of the things that were in real need of discussion; and I feel sure that no man will have ill repute from his conduct who everywhere observes with care what was then brought out. But if you still wish and are anxious to make further inquiries into these matters, I shall be glad to answer, if I can. And even if you wish to open another discussion, I shall also be glad to answer, as far as I have knowledge. You have permission, therefore, to ask just as you like; aud on my side there shall be such replies as God enables me to give.
Son. The talk that I last heard you give concerning the business of merchants was delivered with more evident wisdom in the answers than in the questions; and I shall now let that subject rest. As I have in mind, with your permission, to try that business, it may be that a very long time will pass between our conversations. And when I am far away from you, I shall have no opportunity to seek your advice, though I should wish to do so, in case my mind should turn to some craft or business other than that of the merchant's trade. But though, God willing, we may meet again in good health, it seems to me advisable to ask about those things that I am interested in, while I have sure opportunity to learn. And while there is opportunity we should learn what we do not know, for this reason especially, that we cannot be sure of a chance to inquire when it seems most needful to seek knowledge. Now after having learned the trader's mode of living and how to travel in unknown lands, it might happen that I should want to visit the king's court, where I could see more perfect manners than those to be seen on my commercial tours; and therefore I should like to learn from you, while here at home, such manners as are most needful to know, when one is at court, though it is not sure that I shall have to use them. Now if such an interest does not seem worthless to you, I should like to have you inform me as to those customs that I have mentioned.
Father. It cannot be called worthless curiosity to wish to know
what customs prevail and must be observed at the king's court; for all
courtesy and proper conduct have their origin there, if the mode of life
is as it ought to be and as it was ordained of old. Still, customs at court
are by no means of one sort only, for there is a multitude of services
and offices about the king, and those of his men who are less in rank are
usually not held to strict manners. Those who are higher in the service
often differ much in manners and deportment, so that the men who observe
the better customs are, unfortunately, fewer, as a rule, than those who
are moderately courteous, or scarcely so much. Now I do not know whose
conduct you are interested in, that of the more mannerly or of the greater
Father. If it should be your fate to serve at court and you wish to be called courtly and polite, you will need to beware of what happens to those who come to court without manners and leave without refinement. But since you have asked how the services and the usages at a royal court differ, I shall now explain that to you, and also show why some return thence rude and unpolished. When a dull man fares to court, it is as when an ignorant fellow travels to Jerusalem, or a simpleton enters a good school. An ignorant man who has been to Jerusalem believes himself well informed and tells many things about his journey, though chiefly what seems worthless to a knowing man, or mere sport and foolery. In the same way the simpleton who comes from school believes himself to be perfectly educated; he struts about and shows great disdain whenever he meets one who knows nothing. But when he meets one who is a real scholar, he himself knows naught. So it is, too, when stupid men come to the king's court: they promptly seek out men of their own kind and learn from them such things as are most easily grasped and into which they had gotten some insight earlier; but this is mere folly and unwisdom. And when they return from court, they will display such manners and courtesy as they learned there. And yet, many who come from strange places, whether from other lands or courts, will behave in this way; but when those who have remained at home find that these men bring great tidings, they come to regard them at once as thoroughly informed, both as to customs and happenings, seeing that they have visited alien peoples and foreign lands; and this is most often the case with dull men. Now if you aim at good breeding, beware lest you fall into such unwisdom. We may now take up the question how the duties of the men at court differ and what belongs to each service.
All the men who have gone to the king's hand ~ are housecarles; but
honors and authority are distributed among them according to the merits
of each and as the king wishes to grant. Thus one class of housecarles
is made up of men who are always present at court, but draw no wages, and
do not eat and drink where the hirdmen take their meals. They have to do
such service in the king's garth as the steward shall assign, whether it
be to go on a journey or to do manual labor in the garth.
Son. I pray you, sire, not to regard me as thoughtless or as wishing to interrupt your discourse, if I inquire briefly about the duties of these men.
Father. While we are on this subject, you had better ask what you like, or you may regret it later, having come away ill informed about what you wanted to hear, because you did not inquire sufficiently.
Son. Since those whom you have just mentioned live by labor and manual toil in the king's garth and have no greater honors than at home in the country, what advantage do they find in being with the king more than in serving their parents or kinsmen in the country or engaging in trade and winning wealth in that way?
Father. There are many reasons why such men would rather be at court than live in the country or engage in trade. Some prefer being at court to living in the country (though in the king's service their labor is as burdensome, or more so) because, though they are of excellent kinship, they have little wealth and cannot engage in trade on account of their poverty. If they take up work in the country, they find many who have more wealth, though they are no higher in kinship, or scarcely so high. And when quarrels arise, the rich find protection in their wealth and thrust the poor aside, so that these can get no justice in their law suits. Consequently such men think it better to toil in security at court than without protection in the country. Others may have committed manslaughter or have come into other difficulties which make it urgent for them to seek security in the king's power. Some there are, too, who always find pleasure in being in a throng; they also feel more secure there, whatever may happen. When these come back to the country where earlier they seemed so utterly defenseless, they regard themselves as the peers of every one, because of the protection which they enjoy as kings-men. If one of them is slain in single combat, the king will take forty marks in thegn money for him as for his other thegns, and, in addition, one mark gold as housecarle fine, which he exacts whenever a housecarle is slain.
You shall also know that many come to court from the country who were
considered of little consequence there; and yet, it often happens that
the king gives high honors to such men in return for their service, if
they perform it well, though they are but slightly honored in their own
homes. Those, on the other hand, whom the cotters in the country seemed
to value highly for their wealth, kindred, and fellowship, are often no
more regarded at the royal court than in their home communities and sometimes
even less. Indeed, those who come to the king with riches are often honored
less than those who come in poverty. Frequently, men who come to court
with little wealth or none at all and have no choice but to accept what
the king graciously offers are set so high in riches and power that they
tower above their kinsmen, though before they came to the king they were
not regarded as their equals. They win this either by bravery in warfare
and good deportment at court, or by being faithful to the king in all things
and striving to be discreet and loving toward him. For the king helps and
promotes those whom he finds to be anxious to remain truly affectionate
toward him and to serve him in loyal friendship. For these reasons a king
by an act of grace, will very often exalt those who are lacking in riches;
and therefore many such are encouraged to seek service at court, where
they all expect to win rewards, high honors, and marked advancement in
Father. That is surely possible, and since you are interested in such matters, I shall give you what information I have concerning them. There are certain other housecarles at the king's court, who, in addition to the housecarle's title, have a by-name and are called "gests." They have this name from their manifold duties; for they visit the homes of many, though not always with friendly intent. These men are also in the king's pay and get half the wages of "hirdmen." These are the duties that belong to the office of these men: they serve as spies throughout the king's domain to make sure whether he has any enemies in his kingdom; and if such are found, the gests are to slay them, if they are able to do so. But if the king sends his gests upon his enemies and those against whom they are sent are slain, they are to have for their trouble as much of the enemies' wealth as they can carry away at the time, only no gold, for that is the king's, as is all the rest that the gests are unable to bring away. And whenever the king becomes aware of an enemy, it is the gest's duty to pursue the foeman and thus to cleanse the realm. When-ever they are present at court, they keep the various watches about the king, lust as the others do who share the king's bounty in the royal garth, except the head-ward; this they do not keep; nor do they sit at table to eat or drink in the house where the king dines with his hirdmen, except at Christmas and Easter, when they are to eat with the hirdmen in the king's hall, but at no other time. If any of these men be slain in single combat, the king exacts as large a fine both in thegn money and housecarle fine as for the death of those whom we discussed earlier.
There is still another class of royal housecarles who do not share the king's tables and but rarely come to court; these receive nothing from the king but protection and support in securing justice from others; but these, too, are kingsmen. In case any of these are slain, the king exacts the same housecarle fine in addition to the thegn money as in the case of those housecarles who dine at his tables. These men come into his service from various walks of life: some are peasants, some merchants, and some laymen. But this service they owe the king before all his other subjects, namely, that wherever the king's officials come at his command to present the king's causes or business, and these housecarles of whom we are speaking are present, they must join the retinue of these officials and render such assistance as they can in all the king's business. These, too, may claim support from the kingsmen in their efforts to obtain justice, wherever they have suits to bring up. Likewise if any of these men are slain, the fines due the king will be increased as much as for those whom we spoke of earlier.
There is another class of royal housecarles who receive money payments from the king, some twelve aura, some two marks, some three marks, and others more, in proportion as the king finds them likely to add to his strength and credit. These men do not dine with the king at court; they are abroad in the realm in a sort of official capacity, for some of them are sons of the king's landedmen, while others are peasants, though so wealthy that they seem to rank with the landedmen. These royal housecarles owe the king the same kind of service as those whom we have lust mentioned, but more, inasmuch as they have greater prestige and enjoy greater favors from the king; and the fines due the king in case these men are ill used will be increased about as much as has been stated before. From all these kingsmen that we have now told about, who do not dine at his tables, the king may demand such service as he finds each capable of: some are called to pilot the long-ships when the king sets out on a naval campaign; some are sent abroad in embassies to foreign rulers and other princes; while others are sent out upon the sea as traders with the king's wares or ships. These are the duties that they are bound to perform with such other duties as may arise out of the king's needs.
Now I have told you about several classes of the king's servants, and you will have to determine which of those enumerated seem to you most likely to know much about courtly behavior and the manners that ought by right to be found at a king's court; they are all kingsmen, however. And from this you will observe that every man cannot become perfect in all courtly customs and manners just as soon as he sees the king and his men; for a man will have to be both quickwitted and quick to learn, who, if he lacks in breeding, is to learn perfect courtliness in a year's time, even though every day of the year is spent at court among the hirdmen in the king's own presence. Now you shall know this of a truth, that there are many at court who have spent a large part of their lives there and have daily opportunities to see good deportment, and yet they never become either courtly or well-bred.
Father. I should say that you have not inquired very wisely into this matter; still, as you do not appear to be well informed on this subject, I think it better for you to question than to remain ignorant, and since you have inquired I ought to answer. There are many reasons, as we have already said, why men would rather be kings-men than be called by the peasant's name only. The first reply must be that the king owns the entire kingdom as well as all the people in it, so that all the men who are in his kingdom owe him service whenever his needs demand it. Thus the king has a right to call upon every freeman, who seems fitted for it or is found to possess suitable insight, to serve in embassies to foreign lords; likewise, when the king calls upon the freemen to pilot his ship in warfare, each one who is appointed must attend, though he be the king's henchman only so far as he is his subject. Even if a king should order a clerk or a bishop of his kingdom to fare as envoy to another king or to the pope, if such is his wish, the one who is called must set out, unless he is willing to risk the king's enmity and to be driven from the kingdom.
Now since all the men of the realm are thus bound to the royal service,
why should not every sensible man regard it a greater advantage to be in
the king's full protection and friendship, no matter what may happen in
his intercourse with other men, and to be superior to his comrades and
hold them loyal to the king if they will not otherwise obey, than to be
called a mere cotter who is constantly under the control of others, though
he still owes nearly the same duties as otherwise ? Verily you must know
that to be called a king's housecarle is not to be despised as a title
of derision; but it is a name of great honor to everyone who bears it.
For neither landedmen nor hirdmen, though because of some infirmity or
because they are tired of warfare they prefer to cultivate an estate in
the country, are willing to surrender the housecarle name because of its
honor and security. Now if there is any phase of this subject that seems
insufficiently inquired into or explained, we may extend the conversation
if you wish.
Father. We must now speak about those of the king's housecarles who, if they give proper attention, are best able to acquire knowledge as to what is counted good manners in royal circles. They too, however, differ in character, and those are very often the fewer who should be the more numerous. These kingsmen that we are now to discuss have, in addition to the housecarle name, the title of hirdmen. Some bear that title rightfully, but to many it is a nickname. The one who originated the name placed it on a sound basis; for hirdman means the same as keeper and guardian; and those who wish to possess this title rightfully should be true keepers and guardians both of the king's person and of all his kingship. They should guard the bounds of equity among all the men of the realm, wherever they are present when suits at law are heard. They should also observe good and courtly behavior and every useful custom, for they are at all times nearest the king in all matters. They guard the king's life and person both night and day; they are always about the king at the table when he eats and drinks, at public assemblies, and at all general gatherings, like near kinsmen.
These men ought of right to be addressed as lords by all men who bear lesser titles than they do; for they are, in a sense, stewards of the realm, if they observe the customs that are suited to their title. They should be chosen from all classes and not from wealthy or distinguished families only; but those who are chosen to this dignity should be perfect in all things, both in ancestry and wealth, and in nobility of mind and courtesy, but above all in conduct. They ought, furthermore, before all others to observe righteousness in every form, so that they may be able to discern clearly what should be loved as belonging to honor and good deportment and what should be shunned as leading to dishonor and shame. For wherever they are present, the eyes of all men are turned upon their manners and behavior; all incline their ears to their words; and all expect, as they ought, to find them so much more excellent than other men in deeds and deportment as they stand nearer the king in service and regard than his other men. And if these men wish by right to enjoy the titles which are given them along with the housecarle name, they must shun vulgarity and rudeness; they must also, more than other men, avoid many things which a foolish desire might suggest. For many things become a disgrace both in words and deeds to well-bred men, which are not a disgrace to the vulgar who behave in that way; wherefore such men must keep watch over their tongues and their behavior.
It also frequently happens that well trained envoys from other lands
come to visit the king and his court; and the more polished they are, the
more carefully they observe the royal service as well as the manners of
the king and his courtiers and all the customs that prevail at the court.
On returning to their own lands, they will describe the customs and relate
the happenings which they saw or heard at the court to which they were
sent. But all the rumors that travel to other lands and are circulated
about a lord, if they be truthful, will usually either bring him ridicule
and contumely or be turned to his honor. It may also frequently come to
pass that the kings themselves need to meet in conference to discuss such
rules and arrangements as must be kept jointly by the kingdoms. Wherever
kings meet, there the best men are always assembled; for the kings bring
their chief men with them to such conferences: archbishops, bishops, earls,
landedmen, and hirdmen or knights. And the conduct and breeding of those
who assemble are carefully noted, first the manners of the mighty ones,
and then those of all the rest; for everyone watches closely the behavior
of all the others. And if one of the kings or one of his principal men
is found indecorous, he soon becomes the subject of ridicule and contempt
and is regarded as a common churl. And if a king's retinue is found to
be poorly trained and is lacking in polish, especially if the service of
the king's apartments is not performed in a comely and proper manner, then
the king himself is pronounced unfit; for it will be held that if he himself
were polite and perfect in manners, all would acquire good breeding from
him. Consequently it is possible for a courtly chief to suffer great shame
from a vulgar and indecent man; wherefore it is very important that those
who wish to bear a comely and honorable title in the royal presence should
be well informed as to what is becoming or unbecoming. For one cannot hope
for great honors from a king, if he has at any time disgraced him where
many honorable men were assembled and where it seemed very important to
maintain the king's honor, which is everywhere, for a king must nowhere
suffer shame. Heedlessness and evil conduct are therefore ill becoming
to a man, if they bring him shame and enmity and cause him to lose his
honorable name, his good repute, and his fair service, even though life
and limb be spared. And he can even bring such deep dishonor upon his king
that with many of his kindred he will be made to suffer a well deserved
but ignominious death. Such grades there are both in the duties and in
the titles at the royal court as you have now heard described. But if it
seems to you that everything has not yet been thoroughly examined, you
may inquire further, if you like.
Son. It seems to me that we should not fail to continue this discussion and I shall now direct my remarks and questions toward some theme that may help me to see more clearly how one, who comes to seek honors, should appear in the king's presence and how he must afterwards demean himself in order to attain all those distinctions of which you have just told. Now it may happen that I shall want to fare to court and join the king's service; for since my father and my kinsmen served the king before me and gained honor and high esteem for their service, it is likely that I shall wish to do what my kinsmen achieved before me. Now inasmuch as that is likely, I want to ask you to tell me how I ought to begin my speech when I come to seek audience with a king. State it as clearly as if you were to accompany me to the royal presence, and inform me as to my gestures, my dress, my manner of speech and all matters of deportment that are becoming in the king's company. Now this time I have asked as I thought best; but even though I have inquired less wisely than I ought, kindly do as before, giving thought to the questions on my part and to the replies from your side.
Father. Your questions on this subject are not so unwise that one may not very well answer them; for many have need to make such inquiries, if they mean to have their suits brought up before lords and to have them planned as carefully as need be. Now I shall try to clear up these matters that you have asked about, stating what seems most truthful and advisable. When you come, then, to where the king resides, intending to become his man, you should inquire carefully who the men are in the king's company that arc best able to present men's business to the king in such a way that their speeches please him the most. As soon as you have learned who they are, you must first make their acquaintance and cultivate their friendship; after that make your errand known and ask them to undertake your suit. If they undertake your business, they can best find time and occasion for audience and speech with the king, as they often have speech with him. If you are to present your request at a time when the king is at the table, get sure information whether he is in good spirits and pleasant humor. If you should observe that his disposition is somewhat irritable, or that he is displeased about something, or that he has such important affairs to consider that you think your business for that reason cannot be taken up, then let your suit rest for the time being and seek to find the king in better humor some other day. But if you find that he is in merry mood and has no business to take up of such importance that you may not very well state your errand, wait, nevertheless, till he has nearly finished his meal.
Your costume you should plan beforehand in such a way that you come fully dressed in good apparel, the smartest that you have, and wearing fine trousers and shoes. You must not come without your coat; and also wear a mantle, the best that you have. For trousers always select cloth of a brown dye. It seems quite proper also to wear trousers of black fur, but not of any other sort of cloth, unless it be scarlet. Your coat should be of brown color or green or red, and all such clothes are good and proper. Your linen should be made of good linen stuff, but with little cloth used; your shirt should be short, and all your linen rather light. Your shirt should be cut somewhat shorter than your coat; for no man of taste can deck himself out in flax or hemp. Before you enter the royal presence be sure to have your hair and beard carefully trimmed according to the fashions of the court when you join the same. When I was at court it was fashionable to have the hair trimmed short just above the earlaps and then combed down as each hair would naturally lie; but later it was cut shorter in front above the eyebrows. It was the style at that time to wear a short beard and a small mustache; but later the cheeks were shaved according to the German mode; and I doubt that any style will ever come which is more becoming or more suitable in warfare.
Now when you seem to be in proper state to appear before the king both as to dress and other matters, and if you come at a suitable time and have permission from the doorkeeper to enter, you must have your coming planned in such a way that some capable servant can accompany you. But though you are both allowed to enter, do not let him follow you farther than inside the door or, at the farthest, up to the staller's seat, and leave him there to keep your mantle. Leave your mantle behind when you go before the king and be careful to have your hair brushed smooth, and your beard combed with care. You must have neither hat nor cap nor other covering on your head; for one must appear before lords with uncovered head and ungloved hands, with a blithe face and with limbs and body thoroughly bathed. You should also have the men with you who are to present your suit. Form the habit of holding your head up and your whole body erect when walking; strike a dignified gait, but do not walk too slowly.
When you come into the king's presence, bow humbly before him and address him in these words: "God give you a good day, my lord king!" If the king is at the table when you appear before him, be careful not to lean against the king's board, as so many a simpleton does; and above all do not lean forward across it as unmannerly churls do, but remain standing far enough away from it so that the service belonging to the royal table may have sufficient space to pass between the table and yourself. But if the king is not at the table, approach his seat only so near as to leave abundant space for all the service between yourself and the footstools that are before the king's seat. When standing before the king, you should dispose of your hands in such a way that the thumb and forefinger of the right will grasp the left wrist; and then let your hands drop slowly before you as seems most comfortable. Thereupon the men chosen for that purpose shall present your errand to the king. And if fortune allows your suit to prosper immediately according to your wishes, you shall go to the king's hand and thereafter enter the fellowship of the hird according to the customs which those who plead your case will teach you. But if the king makes promise and fixes a day when you are to appear and the matter is to be settled, it must rest till that time. If the king postpones the decision, saying as is not unlikely: "I know nothing about this man, either as to repute or manners, and cannot reply at once to his request but must first observe clearly his ways of thinking and doing;" then the matter is closed for the time being. But you may, if you are so disposed, continue your suit and try to find a more convenient time, when your affairs may have a more favorable outcome. However, while you are seeking to gain the king's favor, you will need above all to keep close to the best and most discreet men, and you should often be seen in the company of those who are dearest to the king. But pay all the necessary outlay out of your own means, how-ever long this probation may last, unless you should sometime be invited by the king's order to his tables. And let it not be true in your case as is true in the case of many an unwise man, that the more often you find yourself invited, the more you begin to long for another's fare, lest upright men come to regard you as selfish and impertinent, and those become hostile who were formerly your friends and comrades. Walk uprightly, therefore, and be heedful in all such matters, lest evil befall you through lack of foresight.
Son. If you permit, I will ask to be allowed a few words in this discussion. On what do you base your statement that it is considered good deportment among princes for a man to come bareheaded and without a mantle when he conies to seek audience with them. If anyone did thus in the country, the mob would say that the man was a fool to run about in that way without a cloak like a ninny.
Father. I told you a little earlier in our conversation that many a man goes about in ignorance as to what is fitting in a king's house, because many things look stupid to the multitude which are considered proper in the presence of kings and other great men. Now you shall know of a truth, not only that it is fitting to come without a mantle when one appears for the first time before a king, but also that in many places it is as proper to wear one's mantle in the royal presence as to leave it off. But since you have asked the reason why it should seem more decorous to appear before princes without one's mantle than to wear it, it might be a more than sufficient answer to say that it is the custom wherever well bred men appear in the presence of mighty lords to come without a mantle, and that whoever is ignorant of that custom is there called a churl.
But these facts may serve as an additional answer: if a man appears before magnates wrapped in his cloak, he shows in that way that he regards himself as an equal to them in whose presence he is; for he comes clad in all his finery like a lord, and acts as if he need not serve any one. But if he lays aside his cloak, he shows that he is ready for service, if the one who is entitled to receive rather than to do service is willing to accept it. Likewise there are instances of this other fact, which often necessitates caution, that many are envious of a king; and if his enemy is rash and bold, he can indeed come before the king with hidden perils and murderous weapons, if he is allowed to wear his mantle; but he cannot easily accomplish this if he comes without his cloak. It is therefore evident that he was a wise man who first ordained the formality that a man should appear without a mantle before great lords and especially before kings. For that custom has since led to greater security against secret treason which could easily be hidden under the cloak, if it were Worn. The custom has also promoted fair dealing and concord among men, for in this matter they all enjoy the same rights; and this being the accepted custom, one is not suspected or searched more than others.
Son. Although this custom seemed strange to me before I heard your comment, it now looks as if it were founded on good sense and is not to be dispensed with; and therefore it will be well if you will continue to recount and point out to me all the forms of speech and conduct which one needs to observe in the presence of kings and other great men.
Father. Keep carefully in mind, while in the king's presence, that you ought not to engage in conversation with other men and thus fail to pay heed to everything that the king says, lest it happen, if he addresses a remark to you, that you have to ask what he said. For it always looks ill for one to be so inattentive that the words spoken to him must be repeated before he can hear; and it looks particularly bad in the presence of important men. Still, it can very often come to pass, when one is in a lord's presence, that other men crowd about him and ask questions of many sorts; sometimes this is due to the stupidity of those who do thus, but often the reason may be that he who acts in this way would not be displeased if something should be found to be censured in him who has a plea to make.
Now if it should happen while you are standing before a king that some
one in the meantime should try to address a question or other remark to
you, have friendly words ready on your lips and reply in this wise: "Wait
a moment, my good man, while I listen a while to what the king says; later
I shall be pleased to talk with you as long as you wish." If he still tries
to have further words with you, speak no more to him then until the king
has finished his remarks. If it now should happen that the king has a few
words to say to you, be very careful in your answer not to use plural terms
in phrases that refer to yourself, though you do use the plural, as is
proper, in all phrases referring to the king. But even more you need to
beware of what fools frequently do, namely using the plural in phrases
referring to yourself, while you employ the singular in those that refer
to the king. And if the king should happen to speak a few words to you
which you did not catch, and you have to ask what he said, do not say "Eh?"
or "What?" or make a fuss about it, but use only the word "Sire;" or if
you prefer to ask in more words: "My lord, be not offended if I ask what
you said to me, but I did not quite catch it." But see to it that it happens
in rare cases only that the king need to repeat his remarks to you more
than once before you grasp them.
Son. On what ground is it thought better to phrase all remarks addressed to lords in the plural than in the singular? When one directs a prayer to God, Who is higher and more excellent than all others, the expressions that refer to Him are all phrased in the singular; for everyone who makes his prayer to God speaks in this wise: "Almighty God, my Lord, hear Thou my prayer and be Thou more merciful toward me than I deserve." But I hear no one form his words in this wise: "My Lord, hear my prayer and deal better with me because of Your mercy than I deserve." Now I am not sure that my question is a very wise one; still, since you have allowed me to ask whatever I desire to know, I shall look for an informing reply as before, even though I ask like a child.
Father. I shall indeed be glad to explain everything to you as
far as I am able; but I do not see why you are searching into this matter
so closely that one shall even have to give reasons for the choice of terms
in holy prayer. For the teachers of the church are far better able to interpret
matters that belong to divinity than I. But since every question looks
toward a reply, I shall explain this to you in a few words, as it seems
most reasonable to me; and I shall take up first what seems to me the most
important. Now I believe the terms used in sacred prayers are chosen so
that we call upon the divine name in the singular rather than in the plural,
in order that all who believe in God may clearly understand that we believe
in one true God and not in numerous idols like the heathen who formerly
called upon seven gods. For they held that one god ruled the heavens; another,
the heavenly bodies; a third, the earth and its fruits; a fourth, the sea
and its waters; a fifth, the air and the winds; a sixth, learning and eloquence;
a seventh, death and hell. Now we should honor the one true God Whom all
creation serves and call upon Him in singular terms, lest false gods obtain
our worship, if when calling upon the divine name we use plural terms,
as if there were more than one God. There is this added reason, that simple-minded
folk may conclude that there are more gods than one if His name be invoked
in plural terms. Thus it is rightfully and wisely ordered, so that a simple
and holy faith shall have no cause to stray away from the true highway.
Now if you do not fully grasp this speech, we shall find more to say; but
if it has led you to clearer insight, we may as well direct our thoughts
to the other matters that you have asked about.
Son. These things seem very clear to me and it appears both reasonable and necessary that one should use the singular rather than the plural in addressing God, lest the true faith be debased by the use of plural expressions and the cunning adversaries obtain the worship that a simple and true faith refuses them. But now I wish to have you turn to what I asked about the mighty men of this world, and explain why it seems better to address them in plural than in singular terms.
Father. It might be a sufficient answer to state that it seems better to address princes in plural than in singular terms for the reason that well-bred people have found it so from the beginning; and it has since become a custom among all discreet and courteous men, and is done in honor of those who are addressed and are entitled to a deferential mode of address. But this is the thought which they had in mind who originated these expressions, that men of power are not like all others who have only themselves and their households to care for and are responsible for a few men only. For chieftains are responsible for all those who are subject to them in service or authority, and they have not only one man's answer on the tongue but have indeed to answer for many. And when a good chief departs this life, it is not as if one man is lost, but it is a great loss to all those who received support and honors from him; and they seem to be of less consequence after they have lost their chief than before while he was living, unless one shall come into his stead who will be as gracious to them as the departed one was. Now since great lords both maintain the honor of many and have great cares and liabilities on their account, it is surely proper to honor them by using the plural forms of address in all speech that those who are humbler and of less consequence may have to address to them. But there remain those things which were learned or thought of when this custom was first ordained: that kings and other powerful men are not alone in their deliberations but are associated with many other wise and distinguished men; and therefore, when a chief is addressed in plural terms, it may be thought that the words are not addressed to the king alone, but also to all those who sit in his councils as his advisers.
In my last speech I also mentioned that you must have care never to use the plural in expressions referring to yourself, lest you seem to regard yourself as on an equality with the one to whom you are speaking, if he is of higher rank than you are. And even when you talk with an equal or with a humbler man than you are, it is not fitting for you to honor yourself with plural terms. You must also beware when in the presence of princes, lest you become too verbose in your talk; for great lords and all discreet men are displeased with prolixity and regard it as tedious and worthless folly. Further, if you have a matter to present, whether it concerns yourself or others, present it clearly but with quick utterance and in the fewest possible words; for constantly there comes before kings and other lords such a great mass of business respecting the manifold needs of their subjects, that they have neither time nor inclination to hear a case discussed in a long, detailed speech. And it is very evident that, if a man is clever and fluent in speech, he will find it easy to state his case in a few rapidly spoken words, so that the one who is to reply will grasp it readily. Then, too, if one is not an orator and, even more, is awkward in speech, the briefer the errand on his tongue, the better it is; for a man can somehow manage to get through with a few words and thus conceal his awkwardness from those to whom it is unknown. But when a man makes an elaborate effort, he will surely seem the more unskillful the longer he talks.
Now such things there are and others like them into which a man, if
he wishes to be called well-bred, must get some insight and which he ought
to learn at home before he goes very often to have conversation with great
lords. And from all this you will see how courtly and cultured they ought
to be in their manners and conduct who are constantly to be near a king
in all manner of honorable intercourse, since it has appeared to knowing
men as if one is scarcely prepared to come into the king's presence to
converse with him unless he has mastered all these things that we have
now talked about, except he should be a perfect boor, and not to be reckoned
or classed among well-bred people but among the very churls. Still, you
must know this, too, that there are many who have spent a long time at
court, and know but little or nothing about these things. And this is true
of those who bear the hirdman's name and should be very close to the king,
as well as of those who have lesser titles and rarely see the king. It
must have been of such as these last mentioned that you spoke earlier in
our conversation when you remarked that those who came from the court seemed
no more polished 6r cultured, or even less, than those who had never been
at court. To that I replied, and with truth, that everyone who wishes to
be proper in his conduct needs to guard against such ignorance as they
are guilty of, who know not the meaning of shame or honor or courtesy,
and learn nothing from the conduct of good and courtly men, even though
they see it daily before their eyes.
Son. It is a fact that I have met some who, though they came from court, either concealed the sort of manners that you have now discussed, if they knew them, or had, as I remarked, never gained insight into such matters. Now it is not strange that those who remain at home in ignorance or are not of an inquiring mind know little or nothing about such things; but it is more to be wondered at, as you have just said, that many remain a long time with the king and close to him in service, and still do not learn either what courtesy means or what courtly manners are. Therefore, since you have warned me to beware of such ignorance, I want to ask you how this can be and how a king who is well-bred and courteous can be willing to keep men about his person to serve him, who refuse to live according to good manners. For I have thought that, if a king is courteous and refined, all would imitate him in decorum, and that he would not care much for churlish men.
Father. It may happen sometimes that a husband-man who is accustomed to eat good bread and clean food has to mix chaff or bran with his flour so as to make his bread and that of his household last longer than common; and at such times he must, though reluctant, partake of such food as is set before him in the same thankful spirit as earlier, when he was given good and clean food; and such cases result from grinding necessity, that is, from crop failures. But scarcity arises in many ways. Sometimes there is dearth of grain, even when the earth continues to yield grass and straw, though at times it gives neither. There are times, too, when the earth gives good and sufficient fruitage, and yet no one is profited, for dearth is in the air, and bad weather ruins the crops at harvest time. Sometimes smut causes trouble, though the crop is plentiful and the weather good. It can also happen at times that vegetation flourishes at its best, and there is no dearth; and yet there may be great scarcity on some man's farm or among his cattle, or in the ocean, or in the fresh waters, or in the hunting forests. Sometimes when everything goes wrong, it may even come to pass that all these failures occur together; and then bran will be as dear among men as clean flour was earlier, when times were good, or even dearer than that. All these forms of dearth which I have now recounted must be regarded as great calamities in every land where they occur; and it would mean almost complete ruin if they should all appear at the same time and continue for a period of three years.
There remains another kind of dearth which alone is more distressing than all those which I have enumerated: dearth may come upon the people who in-habit the land, or, what is worse, there may come failure in the morals, the intelligence, or the counsels of those who are to govern the land. For something can be done to help a country where there is famine, if capable men are in control and there is prosperity in the neighboring lands. But if dearth comes upon the people or the morals of the nation, far greater misfortunes will arise. For one cannot buy from other countries with money either morals or insight, if what was formerly in the land should be lost or destroyed. But even though there be failure of harvest on a peasant's farm, which has always been good and which he and his kinsmen before him have owned a long time, he will not take such an angry dislike to it that, caring no longer what becomes of it, he will proceed forthwith to dispose of it; much rather will he plan to garner and store grass and chaff as carefully as he once garnered good and clean grain, or even more so, and in this way provide for his household as best he can, until God wills that times shall improve. In this way, too, a king must act, if he should suffer the misfortune of dearth upon the morals or the intelligence of his realm: he must not renounce the kingdom, but necessity may force him to rate the men of little wit as high as the wise were rated earlier while the kingdom stood highest in prosperity and morals. Sometimes punishment will serve and sometimes prayer; something may also be gained through instruction; but the land must be maintained in every way possible until God wills that times shall improve.
Son. I see clearly now that troubles may befall men in many ways, the mighty as well as the humble, kings as well as cotters. But as you have given me this freedom and have allowed me to question you in our conversation, I shall ask you to enlarge somewhat fully upon this speech before we take up another. What is your opinion as to the causes of such a severe dearth as may come upon the minds of men, so that all is ruined at the same time, insight and national morals ? And do you think such losses should be traced to the people who inhabit the realm or to the king and the men who manage the state with him?
Father. What you have now asked about has its origin in various facts and occurrences of a harmful character. I believe, however, that such misfortunes would rarely appear among the people who inhabit and till the land, if the men who govern the realm were discreet and the king himself were wise. But When God, because of the sins of the people, determines to visit a land with a punishment that means destruction to morals and intellect, He will carry out His decision promptly, though in various ways, as soon as He wills it. Instances of this have occurred frequently and in various places, where trouble has come when a chieftain, who possessed both wealth and wisdom and who had been highly honored by the king, having sat in his council and shared largely with him in the government, departed this life leaving four or five sons in his p]ace, all in their early youth or child-hood. Then the king and the whole realm have suffered immediate injury: the king has lost a good friend, an excellent adviser, and a strong bulwark. Next the man 5 possessions are divided into five parts, and all his projects are disturbed. His household sinks in importance, since each of the sons has but a fifth of all the power that the father derived from his means while he was living, and has even less of his insight and knowledge of manners, being a mere child. Greater still will the change be if he leaves no son at his decease but as many daughters as I have now counted sons; but the very greatest change will come if neither sons nor daughters survive him; for then it is likely that his possessions will be split up among distant relatives, unless a near kinsman be found.
Now if many such events should occur at one time in a kingdom, vigor would disappear from the king's council, though he himself be very capable. And if it should happen (for there are cases of such events as well as of the others) that a king depart this life and leave a young son who succeeds to the paternal kingdom, though a mere child, and young counselors come into the places of the old and wise advisers who were before, if all these things that we have now recounted should happen at one time, then it is highly probable that all the government of the realm would be stricken with dearth, and that, when the government goes to ruin, the morals of the nation would also fail to some extent.
There still remains the one contingency which is most likely to bring on such years of dearth as produce the greatest evils; and unfortunately there are no fewer instances of such issues than of those that we have just mentioned. If a king who has governed a kingdom should happen to die, and leave behind three or four sons, and the men who are likely to be made counselors be all young and full of temerity, though wealthy and of good ancestry, since they have sprung from families that formerly conducted the government with the king, - now if a kingdom should come into such unfortunate circumstances as have been described, with several heirs at the same time, and the evil counsel is furthermore taken to give them all the royal title and dignity, then that realm must be called a rudderless ship or a decayed estate; it may be regarded almost as a ruined kingdom, for it is sown with the worst seeds of famine and the grains of unpeace. For the petty kings, having rent the realm asunder, will quickly divide the loyalty of the people who inhabit the land, both of the rich and of the poor; and each of these lords will then try to draw friends about him, as many as he can. Thereupon each will begin to survey his realm as to population and wealth; and when he recalls what his predecessor possessed, each will feel that he has too little. Then the friends, too, of each one will remind him of and tell about how much the king who ruled before him possessed in wealth and numbers and what great undertakings he set out upon; and it seems as if in every suggestion each one tries to urge his lord to seize upon more than he already has. After that these lords begin to treasure those riches that are of the least profit to the kingdom, namely envy: trivial matters are carefully garnered and great wrath is blown out of them. Soon the love of kinship begins to decay; he who was earlier called friend and relative is now looked upon as an evil-doer, for soon each one begins to be suspicious of the others. But when suspicion and evil rumors begin to appear, wicked men think that good times are at hand, and they all bring out their plows. Before long the seeds of hostility begin to sprout, avarice and iniquity flourish, and men grow bold in manslaying, high-handed robbery, and theft.
Now if it happens that one of these princes should wish to punish the aforesaid vices in his kingdom, the wicked take refuge in the service of some other master; and, though they have been driven from home because of their misdeeds, they pretend to have come in innocence to escape the cruel wrath of their lord. The one to whom they have fled gives protection in temerity rather than in mercy; for he wishes to acquire friends in the other's realm, who may prove useful to himself and hostile to the other in case they should come to disagreement. But those who had to flee because of their evil conduct and lawbreaking soon begin to show hostility toward the lord whose subjects they formerly were and to rouse as much enmity as they can between him and the one to whom they have come. They take revenge for their exile by carrying murder, rapine, and plundering into the kingdom, as if they were guiltless and all the blame lay with the lord. Soon immorality begins to multiply, for God shows His wrath in this way, that where the four boundaries of the territories of these chiefs touch, he places a moving wheel which turns on a restless axle. After that each one forgets all brotherly love, and kinship is wrecked. Nothing is now spared, for whenever the people are divided into many factions through loyalty to different chiefs, and these fall out, the masses will rashly pursue their desires, and the morals of the nation go to ruin. For then everyone makes his own moral code according to his own way of thinking; and no one fears punishment any longer when the rulers fall out and are weakened thereby.
When each one looks only to his own tricks and wiles, great misfortunes of all kinds will come upon the land. Murder and quarrels will multiply; many women will be carried off as captives of war and violated, while others will be ensnared and seduced into fornication; children will be begotten in adultery and unlawful cohabitation. Some take their kinswomen or sisters-inlaw, while others seduce wives away from their husbands; and thus all forms of whoredom are committed and degeneracy will come to light in all the generations that are begotten in such immorality. Every form of crime will be committed. Peasants and subjects become defiant and disobedient; they are not careful to avoid crimes, and though they commit many, they atone for few only. Trusting in their own strength and numbers, they attend seditious meetings; and they choose as their part what is likely to bring a dangerous outcome, for they place all men on the same level, the discreet and decent ones with the coarse and stupid, and they screen foolish and iniquitous men from punishment, though these deserve it every day. And this they do either by swearing falsely and giving false witness in their behalf, or by making a foolhardy and crafty defence at the court of trial, so that the guilty have to answer for nothing before the kingsmen who assist the king in carrying out the law. For the unthinking mob seem to imagine that the king was appointed to be their opponent; and a foolish man regards himself fortunate and highly favored in the eyes of thoughtless people, if he can maintain himself for some time in opposition to royal authority and the prescriptions of law. And if such men have disputes to settle anywhere, the wicked will support the foolish one, so that he may prevail in the controversy; thus the upright and the peaceful are robbed of their dues. If the greedy or the quarrelsome is slain because of his avarice, his stupid kinsmen who survive him will feel that their family has been greatly injured and impaired thereby; and if at some earlier time there was slain one of their family who was both wise and peaceful, and whose wisdom and even temper proved useful to many, and if this one was atoned for with a payment to the kindred, they will now ask as large a fine for the unwise as what was formerly taken for the prudent one; otherwise there will be revenge by man-slaying.
But when God sees that such misjudgments, born of perversity and unwisdom, are decreed, He turns the injustice back upon those who first began to pass unfair and unfounded judgments. For as soon as the foolish or the avaricious sees that he is held in high regard, even more than the wise with his even temper, and that his avarice and folly are turned to honor and advancement, he will do according to his nature and the custom of all foolish men: he will become more grasping and will operate more widely in his greed. And when the mob begins to regard that as worthy of praise and renown which is evil and should be hated by all, the second and the third will learn it and the one after the other, until it becomes common custom; and he alone will be counted a worthy man who is grasping and knows how to detract unjustly from another's honor to his own profit. After that the one deals greedily with the other, till misfortune turns against the very ones whose folly and wickedness originally began these evil practices. For one will finally bring evil upon another, wounds or other afflictions, and thus all old and lawful ordinances must decay. Now everyone holds that the king and other great lords should temper the severity of the laws with mercy; but none of the commoners seems willing to deal justly with another; indeed, each would rather demand more than what he was entitled to from the beginning. But when all lawful ordinances and right punishments are ignored and unlaw and malice take their place, and this condition becomes so general that, God is wearied, He applies the punishment that is able to reach all, since the guilt has touched all. He throws hatred and enmity down among the chiefs who are placed in control of the realm; when things go ill there may also come failure of crops; and the chiefs soon begin to quarrel, for each finds complaints in the other's kingdom, which are finally settled with slaughter and strife.
But whenever famine, murder, and warfare begin to arrive together and
visit all those who inhabit the realm, the kingdom will be brought near
to utter weakness and ruin, if the period should continue any length of
time. Though laws and useful customs may have been observed and maintained
to some extent in the times mentioned earlier, they will be wholly forgotten
whenever such times appear as those that we have just now described; for
in warfare the best men and those of the noblest kinship are destroyed.
But failure of crops, rapine, and unpeace of every sort that may then appear
will rob those of wealth who are in possession of it and have acquired
it honestly, while he gets it who can most readily deprive others by theft
and plunder. And when such a time comes upon a nation, it will suffer loss
in good morals and capable men, wealth and security, and every blessing
as long as God permits the plague to continue. But He metes out according
to His mercy, for He is able to save such a country, when He finds that
the people have been sufficiently chastised for their sins. Now you can
imagine how highly moral the people will become, if such a nation is saved
by God's grace and again brought under the rule of a single monarch, and
how prosperous the realm may become in the period immediately following
such an unrest as I have just described. For then the kingdom was rent,
the morals of the people were confused, and their loyalty was divided among
a number of lords, each one of whom was striving to contrive and employ
against the others cunning, deception, disloyalty, and evil in every form.
Son. It is perfectly evident that if all these misfortunes should befall a kingdom and the period of trouble were to continue for some time, the realm would decline. There surely must be instances of such an issue, and we may safely conclude that wherever such events come to pass, there will be much evil and manifold misfortunes before they cease. I also see clearly that if the morals or laws of a kingdom are undermined by such troubles as you have described, even though God should purpose to rescue it finally from distress and unpeace and bring it again under one ruler after such troublous times, the people who survive are likely to be both wicked and vicious; and there will surely be need, as you have said, of good instruction and at times even of very severe punishment. Furthermore, even if the kingdom did possess tolerable morals for a time before the unpeace came, he who is to undertake the government, though he be very wise, will need to use great determination and severity for a long period, if the realm is to be replaced on its earlier footing.
I have been deeply interested in your discussion of what may bring the greatest damage to a kingdom (and it may be rendered worthless through loss of morals, population, and wealth, if such conditions should arise); and I have now been sufficiently informed as to how matters may shape themselves, if misfortune means to come; and I see clearly what great losses and damage may follow such events. Now it seems to me that we have dwelt rather long upon facts which must bring distress to everyone who wishes to be reputed a moral man (wherefore all, both rich and poor, should implore the Lord to let no such times come. in their days), and I will therefore return to what I began with and ask you to point out the manners and customs which you think would be becoming to me, if I were employed in the royal service, no matter what times might come, though I will pray the Lord that as long as I live there may be peace and quiet and prosperous times.
Father. No one knows how God will order such things during the days of any man 5 lifetime. But if a man determines to be a kingsman and there happens to be much distress and many disasters at the time because of too many rulers or unpeace in some form, he must be careful to join the service of the one who has obtained the power in the most legal manner and is most likely to observe the customs that rightful and well-bred kings have observed before his day. He is then least likely to incur danger in accounting for his service, whether he be called to account in this world or in the next. But you have asked what customs you should observe if you were bound to a royal service, and on that point I can very well inform you.
This should be the first principle of all your conduct, never to let your heart be wanting in reverence and fear of God, to love him above everything else, and next to him to love righteousness. Train yourself to be fair, upright, and temperate in all things. Always keep in mind the day of death and guard carefully against vices. Remember that many a man lives but a brief time, while his deeds live long after him; and it is of great importance what is remembered about him. Some have reached fame through good deeds, and these always live after them, for one's honor lives forever, though the man himself be dead. Some win fame by evil deeds and these men, though they be dead, bear a burden of lasting disgrace when their deeds are recalled; their kinsmen, too, and all their descendants after their days have to bear the same dishonor. Those, however, are most numerous who drop away like cattle and are remembered neither for good nor for evil; but you shall know of a truth that such is surely not the purpose of mankind; for all other creatures were made for the pleasure and subsistence of man, while man was created to enjoy the glories of both this and the other world, if he is to realize the purpose of his creation. Every one, therefore, while he still lives, should strive to leave a few such deeds after him as will cause him to be remembered with favor after he has departed this life. But this is above all the duty of kings and other mighty chiefs and of all those who seek their society and enter their service; for after that a man is no longer looked upon as a churl, but is honored as a governor or a chief; and thus he ought to be honored, if he strives to observe the customs that are becoming to himself and his dignity.
Take heed lest you vacillate 'in friendship among several chiefs, as fickle men do; for no one who acts thus can be firm in purpose. Love your lord highly and without guile as long as you stay in his service, and never seek the society or the confidence of his enemies, if you wish to remain a man of honor. Above your lord you must love God alone, but no other man. These are the things that you must especially avoid, lest they bring you an evil name: perjury and false testimony, brothels, drinking bouts, except in the king's house or in decent gatherings, casting dice for silver, lust after bribes, and all other evil covetousness; for these things are a great disgrace to every kingsman in this world and his soul will be in peril in the other world, if he is found guilty of such vices. Never get drunk, wherever you are; for it may fall out at any time that you will be summoned to hear a dispute or to supervise something, or that you will have important business of your own to look after. Now if such demands should come to a man while he is drunk, he will be found wholly incompetent; wherefore drunkenness should be avoided by everyone, and most of all by kingsmen and others who wish to be reputed as worthy men, for such are most frequently called to hear suits at law and to other important duties. Moreover, they ought to set good examples for all, as some may wish to learn decorum from their behavior.
If you are a kingsman you must observe the same prudence in your address and habits, and do not forget this. You should frequently be seen in your lord's presence. Early in the morning you must escort him to church, if he observes that custom, as by right he ought to do; listen attentively to the service while you are in the church, and call devoutly upon God for mercy. When the king leaves the church, join him at once and keep sufficiently near him to be in sight, so that he may be able to call you for any purpose, if he should wish to do so. But do not keep so close to him as to make him feel annoyed by your presence, when he wishes to speak with men whom he has called to converse with him, or to discuss such matters as he wishes to keep secret. Never show an interest in those affairs which you see that your lord wishes to keep to himself, unless he summons you to share knowledge with him. But if anything should come up that your lord confides to you but wishes to have kept secret, keep it carefully in discreet silence; do not babble about such affairs as should be hidden in your fidelity.
You must also make a habit of going to the royal apartments early in the morning before the king has arisen; but be sure to come carefully washed and bathed and wearing your best raiment; and wait near the king's chamber until he has arisen. Go into the king's chamber if he calls you, but at no other time; but wherever it is that the king summons you, you must come into his presence without your mantle. If it is early in the morning and you have not seen him before, wish him a good day in the words that I have already taught you; but approach only so near as to leave him sufficient room to confer with the men who are nearest to him, and remain standing there. But if he calls you to come nearer, wishing to speak with you in private, then kneel before him but only so near that you can readily hear his words; and come without your mantle. however, if he invites you to be seated, you may put on your cloak, if you like, and be seated where he indicates.
Now when it happens that the king goes out to seek diversion, whether
it be in town or in the country, or wherever he is sojourning, and you
and your comrades accompany him, the retinue looks best, whether you are
armed or not, if you walk in equal numbers on either side of the king,
though never in compact groups. Wherever you go he should walk in your
you and your companions should be arranged in equal numbers before and behind him and on either side. But none of you must walk so near the king that he has not sufficient space to converse with those whom he summons to him, whether he wishes to speak with them openly or in private. And even though he call no one to have speech with him, keep the order such that there is plenty of space around him on all sides. But when the king rides out for amusement and you and your comrades accompany him, arrange the order of riding in the way that I have suggested about your walking; only keep at a greater distance, so that no dirt can splash from your horses upon the king, even though you ride quite rapidly.
If the king should call you by name, be careful not to answer by "Eh ? " or "Hm ? " or "What ? " but rather speak in this wise: "Yes, my lord, I am glad to listen !" Also take good heed not to rush away early in the morning to eat and drink with greedy and unmannerly men. Wait, as custom demands, till the king's meal time, and take your seat at the royal tables, whenever you are present at court. But when the king sits down to eat with his hirdmen, these ought all to observe good manners and decent order, and the one should never run in ahead of the other like an ill-bred man; but each ought to know his right place and table companion; and the men should sit at the table in the same order as when they are out walking. The men should go by twos, those who sit together, to lave their hands, whether the washing is done within the hall or without, and then to the table, each in the order and to the seat that he knows was assigned to him in the beginning. The hirdmen ought to speak in a low tone at the table so that not a single word will be heard by those who sit on either side of the two who wish to converse; let each one speak to his partner so softly that none shall hear but those who are conversing; then there will be good deportment and quiet in the king's hall. You may, however, partake freely and quickly of both the food and the drink on the table according to your needs without suffering any discredit to your manners; but always take good heed not to get drunk. You should cast frequent glances toward the king's seat to see how his service is going forward, and always note carefully when the king raises the beaker to his lips, for you must not eat while he is drinking. If you have a cup in your hand, set it down and do not drink just then. You must show the queen everywhere the same honor as you show the king according as I have told you. And if the king has a guest at his table who ought to be shown the same deference, whether he be a king, an earl, an archbishop, or a bishop, you should observe these same customs which I have just taught you. However, if the number of distinguished people at the royal table should be large, you need not observe this custom as to drinking unless you wish, except when the king or the queen drinks, or when there is another king at the table with them.
Now if the king's hirdmen happen to be seated together in the royal hall but with no tables before them and certain lords come in whom the king is pleased to receive with honor, it is the duty of all men to rise before them just as before their own lords and to give them such cordial greetings as they know that the king desires. But this is an honor which every kingsman owes to his fellows: when one who has been absent comes in and walks toward the seat where he has his proper place and position, the two who sit nearest to him on either side should rise, receive him in a friendly manner, and bid him welcome among them. Wherever the kingsmen are much in the eyes of other men, whether they sit together at a feast, or walk in the king's escort, or go out together to make merry, they ought always to speak in rather low tones, to be proper in their actions and elegant in their speech, and to avoid all indecent talk. All these rules which I have now recounted must be learned and observed by all kingsmen who wish to be known for good breeding. But no matter how others behave, be sure that you observe carefully all that I have taught you, and be willing to teach others who may wish to learn from you.
Now if your comrades are planning to go from the king's apartments to some drinking bout or other merrymaking, and you, too, have the king's permission to seek diversion, you should prefer the forms of amusement which I shall now point out to you. If you are sojourning where horses may be ridden and you have your own horse, put on heavy armor and, mounting your horse, train yourself in the art of sitting on horseback in the firmest and most handsome manner. Train yourself to press the foot firmly into the stirrup; keep your leg stiff and the heel a little lower than the toes, except when you have to guard against thrusts from the front; and practice sitting firmly with the thighs pressed close. Cover your breast and limbs carefully with a curved shield. Train your left hand to grasp firmly the bridle and the grip of the shield, and your right hand to direct the spear-thrust so that all your bodily strength will support it. Train your good steed to veer about when in full gallop; keep him clean and in good condition; keep him shod firmly and well, and provide him with a strong and handsome harness.
But if you are in a borough or some such place where horses cannot be used for recreation, you should take up this form of amusement: go to your chambers and put on heavy armor; next look up some fellow henchman (he may be a native or an alien) who likes to drill with you and whom you know to be well trained to fight behind a shield or a buckler. Always bring heavy armor to this exercise, either chain-mail or a thick gambison, and carry a heavy sword and a weighty shield or buckler in your hand. In this game you should strive to learn suitable thrusts and such counterstrokes as are good, necessary, and convenient. Learn precisely how to cover yourself with the shield, so that you may be able to guard well when you have to deal with a foeman. If you feel that it is important to be well trained in these activities, go through the exercise twice a day, if it is convenient; but let no day pass, except holidays, without practicing this drill at least once; for it is counted proper for all kingsmen to master this art and, moreover, it must be mastered if it is to be of service. If the drill tires you and makes you thirsty, drink a little now and then, enough to quench your thirst; but while the game is on, be careful not to drink till you are drunk or even merry.
If you should like to try a variety of drills and pastimes, there are certain sports that one can take up out of doors, if that is thought more diverting. For one thing, you may have a pole prepared, somewhat heavier than a spear shaft, and put up a mark some distance away for a target; with these you can determine how far and how accurately you can throw a spear and do it effectively. It is also counted rare sport and pastime to take one's bow and go with other men to practice archery. Another pleasant and useful diversion is to practice throwing with a sling both for distance and for accuracy, and with a staff sling as well as with a hand sling, and to practice throwing stone missiles. Formerly the custom was for all who wished to become expert in such arts and thoroughly proficient in war and chivalry to train both hands alike to the use of weapons. Strive after the same skill, if you find yourself gifted for it, inasmuch as those who are trained in that way are the most perfect in these activities and the most dangerous to their enemies.
You should abhor and avoid manslaying in every form except as a lawful punishment or in common warfare. But in ordinary warfare on the lawful command of your chief, you need to shun manslaying no more than any other deed which you know to be right and good. Show courage and bravery in battle; fight with proper and effective blows, such as you have already learned, as if in the best of humor, though filled with noble wrath. Never fight with feigned strokes, needless thrusts, or uncertain shots like a frightened man. Heed these things well that you may be able to match your opponent's skill in fighting. Be resolute in combat but not hot-headed and least of all boastful. Always remember that there may be those who can give good testimony in your behalf; but never praise your own deeds, lest after a time it should come to pass that you are pursued for the slaughter of men whose death is rated a great loss and the revenge is directed toward you by your own words.
If you are fighting on foot in a land battle and are placed at the point of a wedge-shaped column, it is very important to watch the closed shield line in the first onset, lest it become disarranged or broken. Take heed never to bind the front edge of your shield under that of another. You must also be specially careful, when in the battle line, never to throw your spear, unless you have two, for in battle array on land one spear is more effective than two swords. But if the fight is on shipboard, select two spears which are not to be thrown, one with a shaft long enough to reach easily from ship to ship and one with a shorter shaft, which you will find particularly serviceable when you try to board the enemy's ship. Various kinds of darts should be kept on ships, both heavy javelins and lighter ones. Try to strike your opponent's shield with a heavy javelin, and if the shield glides aside, attack him with a light javelin, unless you are able to reach him with a long-shafted spear. Fight on sea as on land with an even temper and with proper strokes only; and never waste your weapons by hurling them to no purpose.
Weapons of many sorts may be used to advantage on shipboard, which one
has no occasion to use on land, except in a fortress or castle. Longhandled
scythes and long-shafted broadaxes, "war-beams "and staff slings, darts,:
and missiles of every sort are serviceable on ships. Crossbows and longbows
are useful as well as all other forms of shooting weapons; but coal and
sulphur are, however, the most effective munitions of all that I have named.
Caltrops cast in lead and good halberds are also effective weapons on shipboard.
A tower joined to the mast will be serviceable along with these and
many other defenses, as is also a beam cloven into four parts and set with
prongs of hard steel, which is drawn up against the mast. A "prow-boar":
with an ironclad snout is also useful in naval battles. But it is well
for men to be carefully trained in handling these before they have to use
them; for one knows neither the time nor the hour when he shall have to
make use of any particular kind of weapons. But take good heed to collect
as many types of weapons as possible, while you still have no need of them;
for it is always a distinction to have good weapons, and, furthermore,
they are a good possession in times of necessity when one has to use them.
For a ship's defense the following arrangement is necessary: it should
be fortified strongly with beams and logs built up into a high rampart,
through which there should be four openings, each so large and wide that
one or two men in full armor can leap through them; but outside and along
the rampart on both sides of the ship there should he laid a level walk
of planks to stand upon. This breastwork must be firmly and carefully braced
so that it cannot be shaken though one leaps violently upon it. Wide shields
and chain mail of every sort are good defensive weapons on shipboard; the
chief protection, however, is the gambison made of soft linen thoroughly
blackened, good helmets, and low caps of steel. There are many other weapons
that can be used in naval fights, but it seems needless to discuss more
than those which I have now enumerated.
Son. Since we now have before us a discussion which teaches chiefly how a man must prepare himself to meet his enemies in attack and defense, it seems to me that it would be well to say something about how one has to fight on land, on horse or on foot, and in attacking and defending castles. Therefore, if you feel disposed to say anything about such matters, I shall be glad to listen.
Father. The man who is to fight on horseback needs to make sure, as we have already stated, that he is thoroughly trained in all the arts of mounted warfare. For his horse he will need to provide this equipment he must keep him carefully and firmly shod; he must also make sure that the saddle is strong, made with high bows, and provided with strong girths and other saddlegear, including a durable surcingle across the middle and a breast strap in front. The horse should be protected in such a way both in front of the saddle arid behind it that he will not be exposed to weapons, spear thrust or stroke, or any other form of attack. He should also have a good shabrack made like a gambison of soft and thoroughly blackened linen cloth, for this is a good protection against all kinds of weapons. It may be decorated as one likes, and over the shabrack there should be a good harness of mail. With this equipment every part of the horse should be covered, head, loins, breast, belly, and the entire beast, so that no man, even if on foot, shall be able to reach him with deadly weapons. The horse should have a strong bridle, one that can be gripped firmly and used to rein him in or throw him when necessary. Over the bridle and about the entire head of the horse and around the neck back to the saddle, there should be a harness made like a gambison of firm linen cloth, so that no man shall be able to take away the bridle or the horse by stealth.:
The rider himself should be equipped in this wise: he should wear good soft breeches made of soft and thoroughly blackened linen cloth, which should reach up to the belt; outside these, good mail hose which should come up high enough to be girded on with a double strap; over these he must have good trousers made of linen cloth of the sort that I have already described; finally, over these he should have good knee-pieces madeof thick iron and rivets hard as steel. Above and next to the body he should Wear a soft gambison, which need not come lower than to the middle of, the thigh. Over this he must have a strong breastplate made of good iron covering the body from the nipples to the trousers belt; outside this, a well-made hauberk and over the hauberk a firm gambison made in the manner which I have already described but without sleeves. He must have a dirk § and two swords, one girded on and another hanging from the pommel of the saddle. On his head he must have a dependable helmet made of good steel and provided with a visor. He must also have a strong, thick shield fastened to a durable shoulder belt and, in addition, a good sharp spear with a firm shaft and pointed with fine steel. Now it seems needless to speak further about the equipment of men who fight on horseback; there are, however, other weapons which a mounted warrior may use, if he wishes; among these are the "horn bow" and the weaker crossbow, which a man can easily draw even when on horseback, and certain other weapons, too, if he should want them.
Son. Inasmuch as you seem to think that you have described most of the weapons which are convenient to have in naval warfare or in fighting on horseback, I will now ask you to say something about those which you think are most effective in besieging or defending castles.
Father. All the weapons that we have just discussed as useful on ships or on horseback can also be used in attacking and defending castles; but there are many other kinds. If one is to attack a castle with the weapons which I have enumerated, he will also have need of trebuckets: a few powerful ones with which to throw large rocks against stone walls to determine whether they are able to resist such violent blows, and weaker trebuckets for throwing missiles over the walls to demolish the houses within the castle. But if one is unable to break down or shatter a stone wall with trebuckets, he will have to try another engine, namely the iron-headed ram, for very few stone walls can withstand its attack. If this engine fails to batter down or shake the wall, it may be advisable to set the cat to work. A tower raised on wheels is useful in besieging castles, if it is constructed so that it rises above the wall which is to be stormed, even though the difference in height be only seven ells; but the higher it is, the more effective it will be in attacking another tower. Scaling ladders on wheels which may be moved backward and forward are also useful for this purpose, if they are boarded up underneath and have good ropes on both sides. And we may say briefly about this craft, that in besieging castles use will be found for all sorts of military engines. But Whoever wishes to join in this must be sure that he knows precisely even to the very hour when he shall have need for each device.
Those who have to defend a castle may also make use of these weapons which I have now enumerated and many more: trebuckets both large and small, hand slings and staff slings. They will find crossbows and other bows, too, very effective, as well as every other type of shooting weapons, such as spears and javelins both light and heavy. But to resist the trebuckets, the cat, and the engine called the ram, it is well to strengthen the entire stone wall on the inside with large oaken timbers; though if earth and clay are plentiful, these materials had better be used. Those who have to defend castles are also in the habit of making curtains of large oak boughs, three or even five deep, to cover the entire wall; and the curtain should be thoroughly plastered with good sticky clay. To defeat the attacks of the ram, men have sometimes filled large bags with hay or straw and lowered them with light iron chains in front of the ram where it sought to pierce the wall. It sometimes happens that the shots fall so rapidly upon a fortress that the defenders are unable to remain at the battlements; it is then advisable to hang out brattices made of light planks and built high enough to reach two ells above the openings in the parapet and three ells below them. They should be wide enough to enable the men to fight with any sort of weapons between the parapet and the brattice wall, and they should be hung from slender beams in such a way that they may be readily drawn in and hung out again later, as one may wish.
The "hedgehog" will be found an effective device in defending a castle. It is made of large, heavy beams armed along the ridge with a brush of pointed oak nails; it is hung outside the parapet to be dropped on anyone who comes too near the wall. Turnpikes made of large heavy logs armed with sharp teeth of hard oak may be raised on end near the battlements and kept ready to be dropped upon those who approach the castle. Another good device is the "briar," which is made of good iron and has curved thorns as hard as steel with a barb on every thorn; and the chain, from which it hangs, as high up as a man can reach must be made of spiked links, so that it can be neither held nor hewn; higher up any kind of rope that seems suitable may be used, only, it must be firm and strong. This briar is thrown down among the enemy in the hope of catching one or more of them and then it is pulled up again. A running wheel " is also a good weapon for those who defend castles: it is made of two millstones with an axle of tough oak joining them. Planks sloping downward are laid out through the openings in the wall; the wheel is rolled out upon these and then down upon the enemy.
A "shot wagon " is also a good device. This is made like any other wagon with two or four wheels as one likes and is intended to carry a load of stones, hot or cold as one may prefer. It must also be provided with two firm and strong chains, one on each side, which can be depended on to check the wagon even where it has a long track to run upon. It is meant to run on planks set with a downward slope, but one must be careful to keep the wheels from skidding off the planks. When the chains check the speed, the wagon shoots its load out upon the men below. The more uneven the stones are, some large and some small, the more effective the load will be. Canny men, who are set to defend a wall and wish to throw rocks down upon the attacking line or upon the penthouse, make these rocks of clay with pebbles, slingstones, and other hard stones placed inside. The clay is burned hard enough on the outside to endure the flight while the load is being thrown; but as soon as the rocks fall they break into fragments and consequently cannot be hurled back again. To break down stone walls, however, large, hard rocks are required. Similarly, when one hurls missiles from a stone fortress against an opposing wooden tower or upon the axletrees which support siege engines, towers, scaling ladders, cats, or any other engine on wheels, the larger and harder the rocks that are used, the more effective they will be.
Boiling water, molten glass, and molten lead are also useful in defending walls. But if a cat or any other covered engine which cannot be damaged by hot water is being pushed toward a castle, it is a good plan, if the engine is lower than the walls, to provide beams carefully shod with iron underneath and in addition armed with large, sharp, red-hot plowshares. These are to be thrown down upon the wooden engine in which the plowshares are likely to stick fast, while the beams may be hoisted up again. This attack should be followed up with pitch, sulphur, or boiling tar.
Mines dug in the neighborhood of a castle are also an excellent protection; the deeper and narrower they are, the better it is; and where men are shoving mounted engines toward the walls, it were well if there were many mines. All mines should have a number of small openings, which must be covered so as not to be visible on the surface. They should be filled with fuel of the most in-flammable sort, peat or anything else that burns readily. When a castle is attacked at night either from wooden towers or with scaling ladders or any other engine on wheels, the defenders should steal out and fire the mines.
Now if it should happen that the enemy's stones come over the battlements with such violence that the men cannot remain in the open to defend the wall, it is a good plan to set up strong posts cut from thick oak and to lay large and tough cross beams upon these, then to roof the whole over with firm oak timbers, and finally to cover the roofing with a layer of earth not less than three or four ells in depth, upon which the rocks may be allowed to drop. In like manner the attack of a wooden tower that is moving toward a castle may be foiled by setting up strong, firm posts rising considerably higher than the attacking tower. But a more effective contrivance than all the engines that I have now described is a stooping shield-giant which breathes forth flame and fire. And now we shall close our account of the engines that are useful in defending castle walls with the reminder that every sort of weapon with which one can shoot, hurl, hew, or thrust, and every kind that can be used in attack or defense may be brought into service.
Son. Since you seem to think that sufficient has been said about weapons both for attack and defense, how they should be made or built, and on what occasion each kind should be used (and after your comments these things are very clear to me), I now wish to ask whether there may not be other subjects which you think ought to be discussed, such as pertain to customs that one must observe in the presence of great men or at royal courts.
Father. There still remain a number of things which a man should not fail to hear discussed and to reflect upon, if he is to attend on kings or other magnates and wishes to be ranked among them as a worthy man. But there are three things (which are, however, almost the same in reality) which one must observe with care: they are wisdom, good breeding, and courtesy. It is courtesy to be friendly, humble, ready to serve, and elegant in speech; to know how to behave properly while conversing or making merry with other men; to know precisely, when a man is conversing with women, whether they be young or older in years, of gentle or humble estate, how to select such expressions as are suited to their rank and are as proper for them to hear as for him to use. In like manner when one speaks with men, whether they be young or old, gentle or humble, it is well to know how to employ fitting words and how to determine what expressions are proper for each one to take note of. Even when mere pleasantry is intended, it is well to choose fair and decent words. It is also courtesy to know how to discriminate in language, when to use plural and when to use singular forms in addressing the men with whom one is conversing; to know how to select one's clothes both as to color and other considerations; and to know when to stand or sit, when to rise or kneel. It is also courtesy to know when a man ought to let his hands drop gently and to keep them quiet, or when he ought to move them about in service for himself or for others; to know in what direction to turn his face and breast, and how to turn his back and shoulders. It is courtesy to know precisely when he is free to wear his cloak, hat, or coif, if he has one, and when these are not to be worn; also to know, when at the table, whether good breeding demands that one must watch the great men partake of food, or whether one may eat and drink freely in any way that seems convenient and proper. It is also courtesy to refrain from sneers and contemptuous jests, to know clearly what churlishness is and to avoid it carefully.
It is good breeding to be agreeable and never obstinate when one is with other men, and to be modest in demeanor; to walk a proper gait when on foot and to watch one's limbs carefully wherever one goes to make sure that each will move correctly and yet in a natural way. It is good breeding, too, when one strolls about in a city among strangers, to keep silence and use few words, to shun turmoil and disgraceful tippling, to punish theft and robbery and all other foolish rioting. It is also good breeding to avoid profanity, cursing, scolding, and all other pernicious talk. Be careful also never to appear as the advocate of stupid and dishonest men and especially not to support them in their impudence, but rather to show hatred for wickedness in every form. It is good breeding to shun chess and dice, brothels and perjury, false testimony, and other lasciviousness or filthy behavior. It shows good breeding to be cleanly in food and clothes; to take good care of the ships, horses, weapons, and buildings that one may possess; to be cautious and never rash and to be undismayed in times of stress; never to be ostentatious, domineering, or envious; and to shun arrogance and affectation in every form. But the chief point in all conduct is to love God and holy church, to hear mass regularly, to be diligent in divine service, and to implore mercy for oneself and all other Christian people.
No one can attain to all these virtues which we have now enumerated as belonging to courtesy and good breeding, unless he is also endowed with wisdom. These gifts will accompany wisdom: elegance in speech, eloquence, insight into proper conduct, and ability to discriminate between good manners and what passes for such in the sayings of foolish men, though they are in fact bad manners. It is also wisdom, when one is present at the law court, or some other place where men congregate, and hears the speeches and the suits of men, to be able to discern clearly what suits or what speeches delivered there are based on reason and which ones are merely glib palaver and senseless verbosity. It is also wisdom to have a clear appreciation, when decrees are rendered in the disputes of men, of how these are stated, so that not a word will be added or taken away, if one should need to know them at some later time. It is also wisdom to keep faithfully in mind what facts were discussed and what agreements were reached. It is wisdom to know the law thoroughly, to have clear perceptions of what is actual law and what is merely called law, being nothing but quibble and subterfuge. It is also wisdom, if one has a request to make, to be able to determine what he may ask for that will prove serviceable and is proper for the other to grant; also, if one meets a request, to know precisely what he may grant with propriety and in what matters he must be careful not to bind himself or those who come after him, such things, namely, as may prove a disgrace to him rather than a distinction. Finally, it is wisdom not to be strait-handed about things which one may just as well dispose of, lest such stint or stinginess bring shame upon him.
There is also great wisdom in moderation and righteousness. All forms
of learning, insight, and good foresight which is necessary to courtesy
and good breeding, to stewardship, government and the enforcement of law,
- these, too, are akin to wisdom. And you will need to learn all this thoroughly,
if you wish to be known among kings and chieftains as an estimable man,
for all who know these things are received with favor among the great.
Furthermore, the lives of men who have mastered this knowledge may bring
great honor to themselves and profit to many others. But wisdom has many
forms, for it springs from roots which have many branches. And from these
roots of wisdom rises the mightiest of all stems, which again divides into
large boughs, many branches, and a multitude of twigs of different sizes,
some small and some large. These are later distributed among men in such
a way that some obtain the larger and some the smaller ones, and these
riches have their value according as they are loved. He who is sure to
appreciate this wealth and share it freely receives a large amount; for
the nature of this possession is such that it is most attracted to him
who loves it most and uses it most liberally. And if men knew how to value
and appreciate these riches properly, gold and silver would seem to them
like rust, clay, or ashes, when compared with these treasures. But he who
wishes to secure this wealth must begin in this way: he must fear Almighty
God and love Him above all things.
Son. It was clearly well-advised to continue this inquiry, for now I have gotten both useful and precise information; and this speech will surely help every man who is at least somewhat intelligent to more definite ideas than he had before. Moreover, those who have received only slender wands from the boughs of wisdom are more numerous than those who have received large branches, some getting but the tiniest twigs, and some a mere leaf, while those who get nothing must indeed be few. Therefore I wish to ask you to instruct me further in the art of choosing and laying hold on those branches which may prove useful to myself and others.
Father. The virtues that I have just enumerated grow especially on the boughs of wisdom, but they ramify into a great many good branches and twigs. Now these are the branches which are most useful: a rational outlook, a temperate mind, and the capacity to determine judiciously what one owes to every other man. If you are angry with any man because of a law suit or some evil deed, take careful thought before seeking revenge, as to how important the matter really is and how great a retribution it is worth. When you hear things in the speech of other men which offend you much, be sure to investigate with reasonable care whether the tales be true or false; but if they prove to be true and it is proper for you to seek revenge, take it with reason and moderation and never when heated or irritated. Even though you hear tidings which seem damaging to yourself or your business, such as loss of property or men, always bear it with a calm and undaunted temper. Let the loss of wealth seem least to you, for you must bear in mind that it is sinful to worship wealth or to love it too highly, even though it returns a man's love and comes abundantly into his keeping. And to love wealth much, when it seems inclined to turn away from a man and does not return his love, is surely sinful and will lead to grief. Remember, too, that all come destitute into the world; and our mode of departure from this life is such that wealth cannot follow us out of the world. Nevertheless, you must take heed that nothing is lost through your neglect or indifference. And never grieve so deeply over a loss that you cannot be hopeful and cheerful as before.
If you suffer loss of men, bear that loss, too, with a calm spirit; for remember that every man in departing this life fulfills a law in human nature, inasmuch as no one is created to live forever in this world. Let it grieve you more, if an acquaintance of yours who has not lived as he ought here on earth, should die in that state and leave the world in disgrace; but most of all if you fear that his soul is in peril; for such things are rather to be lamented than that in dying he pays a debt to nature. But if he lived uprightly while on earth and made proper provision for his soul before he died, then you may take comfort in the good repute that lives after him, and even more in the blissful happiness which you believe he will enjoy with God in the other world. In the same way you must keep your spirit calm and in good control when such events come to pass as may seem profitable to you and stir your heart to joy and gladness, whether it be the death of men whom you have hated, or other happenings in which you might seem to find pleasure. But if you should happen to hear of the death of a man whom you counted an enemy and to whom you had planned to do evil, if opportunity should be found, rejoice much more in that God has saved you from a threefold sin than in the death of him who has departed. For you should be glad that God has prevented your hands from committing the sinful deed that was in your purpose, and has relieved your mind of the long-continued wrath and bitterness which you cherished against your enemy while he lived.
Likewise, if high honors and dignities should come to you from a king
or from other magnates, it is important that you should know how to receive
them with modesty, lest what befalls so many an indiscreet man should also
happen to you. For it is often the case that when one who is lacking in
good sense receives any preferment from great men, he will rate himself
so high in his pride and avarice that he counts no other man his equal.
But such pretension leads to the downfall of everyone who behaves in this
way; inasmuch as it is God's purpose to strike down immoderate pride with
sacred humility; and everyone who is too proud and greedy in his behavior
will surely find God a constant opponent. Now if you should be so fortunate
as to receive preferments from a king or other princes, remember it is
God's method and purpose, by prompting them (for He holds the minds and
hearts of chiefs in His hand), to elevate such men as He wishes to honor
and dignity. On the other hand, it is also the duty of every man to assist
all those who have less strength than he. Keep in mind, then, if God should
raise you up to any place of honor, that it must be to the profit of all
who are less capable than yourself, except such as hate morality and right
counsel; to them it should be a hindrance for a just man to be given power
and authority. If God gives you wisdom and clear insight and you have also
the good fortune to be awarded honors by great men, there are certain vices
which you need especially to guard against: arrogant self-esteem, avarice
that yearns for bribes, and forgetful neglect of the needs of men who are
less capable than yourself. Keep constantly before your eyes as a warning
the misfortunes of those who have fallen into disgrace because of immoderate
pride. Also keep in mind, as a comforting hope, the careers of men who
have received constant honors because of their steadfast justice and humility.
Son. I see clearly that God creates men unequal in power and wisdom because He wishes to see how each one is going to use what He has endowed him with, whether in high living for the glorification of self, or in bountiful kindness toward those who have need of him and have not received such gifts from God. And now I want to ask you to cite a few examples both of men whose good sense and humility have brought them honor and of such as have suffered destruction through vain pride.
Father. There have been so many cases of that sort, that we should have to extend our talk to a great length, if we were to mention all those of either class which we know could serve as examples to show how these things have worked out. I shall therefore name a few only, though some of each kind, for in that way a long discourse may be the sooner finished. The following instances arc ancient and easily remembered. When Joseph was sold into Egypt, a mighty lord bought him; but after he had purchased him he found that Joseph was a discreet man, and he preferred and honored him above all his other servants, not only above those whom he kept in bondage, but even above his freeborn kinsmen; and he gave into his hands the oversight of his wealth and property, house and home, and all his welfare. But because Joseph was a handsome man, kind and courteous in behavior, and sensible in speech, he won the love and friendship of all who knew him and were subject to the same lord who was Joseph's master.
The wife of this mighty man loved Joseph more than was proper, and impelled by evil desire, she sought to commit a vile sin against her husband, because of the love that she bore for Joseph; and she was not ashamed in her bold passion to intimate to him what she had in mind. But when he learned her purpose, he replied in this wise: "We cannot deal with each other as equals, for you are my lady and I am your thrall; and it would be a very great disgrace for you to submit yourself to me and too bold and rash in me to bring such dishonor upon you. But even worse is the unfaithfulness toward my lord which I should be guilty of, if I were to reward his kindness in this way like a treacherous thrall. For he has trusted me, his servant, so far as to give all his wealth and riches into my hands and keeping, and I must not deceive my lawful master with shameful treachery, unless I should wish to prove the saying in daily use that it is ill to have a thrall as a chosen friend." But when the woman saw that Joseph was a good man and wished to be faithful, she thought it a shame that he should know her faithlessness, and, prompted by enmity and not by justice, she became anxious to work his ruin, if possible. So she told her husband that Joseph had made an unseemly request and added that it showed great audacity in a thrall to make such bold remarks to his lady. She was believed as a good wife, and Joseph was cast into prison strongly fettered and heavily chained, the purpose being to let him end his days by rotting alive because of his pride and faithlessness. But when God, Who always loves justice and humility, saw the faithfulness of Joseph whom He knew to be innocent, He shaped the outcome so that Joseph profited by the condemnation that he had suffered though innocent. For God saved him from prison under such circumstances that he was elevated to far greater prominence than before; and God prompted King Pharaoh to make Joseph master and judge of all Egypt next to the king himself; and this office he held into his old age and as long as he lived.
Long after this and in another place, a somewhat similar experience came to a famous king, who ruled over many realms. He was called by three names, because the languages differed in the lands that he ruled over: in one place he was called Artaxerxes; in another place, Cyrus; and some tell us that to him God spoke these kind words by the mouth of his prophet: "To mine anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings," etc. Others, however, maintain that it was another Cyrus who is referred to in this scripture; but we shall not discuss this any longer, since we cannot be sure whether it was written about this Cyrus or another. But in a third place the king was called Ahasuerus. And whereas he himself was mighty and excellent, he also had a wealthy wife named Vashti, who was his queen. Once when the king was absent in distant warfare to extend his dominion, he had appointed Queen Vashti to govern that part of his kingdom where his court resided. On his return home with a wealth of spoils, he made a great feast to gladden all those among his lords who had accompanied him on the campaign; and Queen Vashti made another feast for her own lords, who had remained at home to assist her in the government. Then the king commanded Vashti to appear before him in his hall in all her regalia and arrayed in all the beauty of queenly raiment and thus to show her joy in his home-coming and do honor to his feast. But Queen Vashti refused to obey the king's command, saying that she could not leave her own feast, having invited many good chiefs. When the king saw her arrogance and pride, he concluded that she esteemed him no more highly for the perilous toil that he had endured while extending his frontiers than she esteemed herself for having remained quietly at home with the regency, which he had left in her hands. Because of this presumption the king became so wrathful, that he decreed that Vashti had forfeited the office of queen and all the authority which she possessed. And he found a captive maiden of the people of Israel, whose name was Esther, who was then in bondage in his kingdom, though she had sprung from a prominent family in her native land, and this maiden the king placed in Vashti's seat, endowing her with all the power that Vashti had once possessed; and he made Esther queen of all his kingdom.
A few days later another event occurred at this same court. There was a famous and powerful chief named Haman and he was with King Ahasuerus. So highly did the king esteem Haman that all the people were ordered to obey him and bow down before him as before the king himself. Now there was also a man named Mordecai, a captive of the people of Israel, who was Queen Esther's uncle; but inasmuch as he was both poor and in bondage, he dared not make known his kinship to the queen; nor dared the queen show greater deference to him than to any other in the royal service. Then it happened one day, when Haman the prince came to see the king, that on his return home his way passed near where Mordecai sat. But Mordecai was brooding over the bondage in which he had been placed along with the people who had been taken captive out of Israel; and being in deep thought he failed to notice that Haman was passing so near, and consequently did not rise to bow before him. But when Haman saw that an alien thrall neglected to bow the knee before him, he became so wrathful that as soon as he came home he ordered a high gallows to be raised near his house, on which he intended to hang Mordecai. He also caused letters to be sent throughout the realm permitting every man to deal with the people of Israel as he liked: who-ever wished to do so might plunder them, or force them into bondage and servitude, or even slay them.
When the news of this came to Mordecai, necessity compelled him to deal more boldly with the queen than before: he came to wait upon her, and, throwing himself at her feet, he told these tidings with much sorrow. When the queen heard that the entire nation from which she had sprung was condemned, she called upon God with all her soul; next she sought the king's presence, robed in the stately apparel of a queen, and fell humbly at his feet. But when the queen had entered and the king saw that she came in such deep humility and with troubled countenance, he perceived that she had a matter of such great importance to bring before him that she would have to find the courage in his favor to state what concerned her. Taking her hand he raised her up, spoke gently to her, seated her beside him, and bade her state clearly all the details of her errand. Queen Esther did as the king commanded and related the whole event just as it had occurred; and then she begged him to take action according to royal mercy rather than according to Haman's excessive anger. When the king saw Haman's boundless ambition and arrogant wrath, he caused Haman himself to be hanged upon the gal-lows which he had intended for Mordecai, and sent orders throughout the entire realm that the people of Israel be allowed to live in complete freedom according to the ordinances of their sacred laws; and he gave to Mordecai all the authority that Haman had once possessed.
From this you will observe that God demands moderation and fairness, humility, justice, and fidelity as a duty from those whom he raises to honor. For Joseph, as we said before, was rewarded with splendid honors and great advancement because of his faithfulness and humility, although he had been sold for money like a thrall into a strange land; but God soon raised him by the king's command to be a lord and the highest judge in all Egypt next to the king himself. One may also observe from this how much it is contrary to God's will to exalt oneself through vain conceit; for Queen Vashti lost her queenship and all her power in a single day be-cause of her pride, while a captive maiden of a strange people was appointed in her stead; and Haman lost all his authority in a single day because of his excessive vanity, while his dignities were given to a stranger, a captive thrall. Now if you should win honors from great lords, beware of an outcome like those in the stories which you have just heard, and there are many such; but make good use of the story that I told you earlier about Joseph.
There are still other examples which go far back into the days of Emperor Constantine: for God had appointed him ruler of all the world, and he turned to righteousness and Christianity as soon as he came to understand the holy faith. He gave his mother, Queen Helena, a kingdom east of the sea in the land of the Jews. But because her realm and dominion were there, she came to be persuaded that no faith concerning God could be correct but that held by the Jews; and as letters passed between them, the queen and her son the emperor, they began to realize that they differed somewhat in the beliefs which each of them held concerning God. Then the emperor commanded the queen to come over the sea from the east with her wise and learned men and many other lords to a meeting in Rome, where the verities of the holy faith should be examined. But when the queen arrived with her company, the emperor had called together many bishops including Pope Sylvester and many wise men, both Christians and heathen. When the conference had begun and a court had been appointed to decide between the emperor and the queen, it became evident to both that there was likely to be a violent dispute between the Christian bishops and the learned Jews and other wise men who had come with the queen from the east, in view of the fact that each side would produce weighty arguments from its books against the other to prove and confirm its own learning and holy faith. They saw clearly, therefore, that it would be necessary for the assembly to appoint upright judges, who could weigh in a tolerant and rational spirit all the arguments that might be offered on either side.
But whereas the emperor with the pope and the Christian bishops was the defender of holy Christianity and the queen the protecting shield of the Jewish faith, it was clear to both that it would be improper for them to subject themselves to temptation by acting as judges in this dispute. 80 they ordered a careful search to be made among the wise men to find whether there might be some in all their number who were so reliable in wisdom, judgment, and rightmindedness, that all those present could trust them to judge rightly in their contest. But when the entire multitude had been examined, only two men were found whom the people dared choose to be judges in these important matters; and both of these men were heathen and bound neither to the law of the Christians nor to the Jewish faith. One of them was named Craton: he was a great philosopher and thoroughly versed in all learning; he was a friend of mighty men and enjoyed their favor; but never had he cared for more of this world's riches than what he needed for clothes and food. And when great men sometimes gave him more than he required, he would give away what he did not consume to such as were needy. It was also in his nature to speak little but truthfully, and no man knew that falsehood had ever been found on his lips; wherefore all felt that the merits of wisdom and good character which he possessed would surely make him worthy to judge in these important matters. The other who was chosen judge was named Zenophilus; he was a famous and powerful prince, and where he directed the government it was not known that he had ever swerved from justice. He was a great master of eloquence and learned in all science, friendly in speech and affable, though a man of authority. Nor could anyone recall that falsehood had ever been found on his lips. These having been chosen to act as judges in behalf of all present, the Christians and the Jews held a court; and these two decided all the disputes, as they were chosen to do, and it was found as before that in no wise did they deviate from justice.
I have cited these instances that you might appreciate the humility and rightmindedness of both the emperor and the queen; for though they were lords of the entire world, they regarded it as proper to sit in obedience to chosen judges who were much inferior to themselves in both power and wealth and every other respect. Likewise you are to appreciate what great honor these men gained through their wisdom and uprightness; for though they were both heathen, they were superior to all others as to insight into the holy faith and the world's welfare. And now you will appreciate what I told you earlier in our conversation, namely, that much depends on the example that a man leaves after him. Joseph lived before the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ; he was sold for money into Egypt as an alien thrall; but his faithfulness and humility pleased God so highly that he was made ruler next to the king of all those who were native to the land and had wealth and kinsmen there, whether they were rich or poor. It is many hundred winters since Joseph died, but his glory still lives and is daily recalled among all thoughtful people throughout the world. Queen Vashti died long before the birth of Christ, as did Haman the prince; but the disgrace that came upon them because of their pride and folly still lives. Queen Esther bears even to this day the living honor which she gained through her humility; though she was brought to India as a captive bondmaiden, she was later made queen over many large kingdoms and seated upon the throne from which Queen Vashti was banished.
Although the events that we last related in speaking of Emperor Constantine
and his mother Queen Helena happened after the birth of Christ, it was
still so long ago that no man can recall them because of their antiquity;
yet they are bright with honor even to this day. Craton and Zenophilus,
though they are dead, are celebrated for their wisdom and righteousness.
Though both were heathen men, they were chosen to be judges over nearly
all the people who were in the world, and were even trusted in behalf of
all men, both Christians and Jews, to pass judgment on those laws which
neither of them kept, but upon which the welfare of the world nevertheless
depended. From such occurrences you will realize that God holds in His
hand the tiller with which He turns and moves the hearts of great lords
whenever He wishes, and controls all their thoughts according to His will.
For King Pharaoh raised up Joseph to a dominion above that of all the other
princes who were in the kingdom before him. Ahasuerus deprived Vashti of
her queenship, though she was both wealthy and high-born, and appointed
Esther queen in her stead. He also hanged Haman, the renowned prince, and
gave all his power to Mordecai, who was once a bondman brought captive
from a strange land. Emperor Constantine placed Craton and Zenophilus,
two heathen men, in the judgment seat and trusted them to pass judgment
on the verities and the interpretation of the holy faith. Now you shall
know of a truth that all these events have come to pass through God's providence
and secret commands; and all these things are noted down for the memory
of men in the future, so that all may learn and derive profit from the
good examples, but shun the evil ones. And if it should be your fortune
to become a kings-man, remember these examples that I have now shown you
(and there are a great many others like them which we have not mentioned
in this speech); and be sure to follow all those which you see are likely
to profit you.
Return to Table of Contents