Tuesday, November 16, 2004

The Portable Medieval Reader assembled and illuminated by James Bruce Ross and Mary Martin McLaughlin

Yeah, I’ll take that book. I love medieval literature. What the hell was I thinking? This is one of those books I forced myself to read a few pages of each night just to get through it. Why bother? No one knows. I started out at 10 pages and then dropped it down to four. 690 pages later, what do I remember? Impaling children alive on fence posts. As in:

They tore children from their mothers’ arms and impaled them on fence poles where the little ones died in great misery, kicking and screaming.
Unknown, How the Prussians Devastated the Lands of Duke Conrad of Masovia and Kujavia

Before having children, this is the kind of sentence I would have read over and forgotten just as quickly. Now that I’m a father, however, the visual image evoked by this statement troubled me a great deal. Because in my mind’s eye, it wasn’t just any child, but it was my child, torn from my wife's arms, impaled on a fence post, kicking and screaming in terror and agony. And I wonder, is there anything more horrible in the world than this, than the callous and sadistic murder of children in front of their parents? I don’t think so.

Here's a few other items I took a moment to note:

Come now, brother, what is this body which you clothe with such diligent care and nourish gently as if it were royal offspring? Is it not a mass of putrefaction, is it not worms, dust, and ashes? It is fit that the wise man consider not this which now is, but rather what it will be afterwards in the future, pus, slime, decay, and the filth of obscene corruption. What thanks will the worms render to you, who are about to devour the flesh you nourished so gently and tenderly?
Peter Damiani, The Monastic Ideal

It is well known that love is always increasing or decreasing.
Andreas Capellanus, The Art of Courtly Love

The source of merit is not in riches or in power; these are the gifts of fortune; but virtue only gives worth and excellence.
Heloise, On the Fame of Abelard

My youth was gone before I realized it; I was carried away by the strength of manhood; but a riper age brought me to my senses and taught me by experience the truth I had long before read in books, that youth and pleasure are vanity—nay, that the Author of all ages and times permits us miserable mortals, puffed up with emptiness, thus to wander about, until finally, coming to a tardy consciousness of our sins, we shall learn to know ourselves.
Francesco Petrarca, Letter to Posterity

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