Friday, November 2, 2012

The Medievalists

I’m not a fan of prompts, but I found Kristina Marie Darling’s one intriguing: "Choose any scholarly discipline and give an account of its history.  The account be of any length you wish, and it can take any form you see fit" (Thanks Storialist as usual for the Friday read).

They’ve spent hundreds of years in this tavern
conjuring those better days, those uncouth
centuries, reviving the light beside dark paneled walls
of Petrarch’s “dark ages” over mead and grog, fidelity oaths
sworn to mendicant sects and the Roman de la Rose,
as they chase the Magyars, Hussites and Cathars
with the Visigoth Laws, wielding pipe rolls and privy purses,
Aethelbert writs, dooms of the North People, assizes
from shire reeves, these defenders of their Holy Sepulcher
waved pewter chalices at the fiasco at Damascus, the capture
of Constantinople, Barbarossa overreach, the imperial precaria,
the outrage at Anagni, the Avignon papacy, the pragmatic sanction, 
the praise of folly,
the Age of Bede v. the Age of Alfred, Joan d’Arc martyrology.
Roaming their eyes o’er vast fiefdoms and vassalages,
handing down coin of tithes and indulgences,
they hoist pints in praise of bald men,
Charles the Fat and Peter the Hermit,
Theodoric, Gologras and Gawain,
proclaiming bulls of approbation straight out of the Inquisitor’s Manual,
proscribing the ordeal of boiling water for Abelard’s cabbage and ham,
reciting the Booke of Margery Kempe, the Condemnation of Wycliffe
and Wycliffe’s Reply,
re-discovering the head of John the Baptist in a stall, 
the perpetual virginity of the Virgin Mary in a fungi.
Did laws precede kings, Islam precede Christianity,
individuality predate serfdom, freedom predate property?
They scavenged in slippery bicker treasures already mined
by the likes of the Nazarenes, Pre-Raphaelites, Prosper Merimee,
for the secrets of nations, the legends in their blood,
the roots of local rivalries, the truth in modern stories
of tournaments and plagues, saints and ladies, wizards and fools, 
jacks and kings —
Arden, Maitland, Duhem, Lapesa, Kibansky, Le Goff,
Duby, Ganshof, Lucien Febvre, Schlabach, MacIntyre, Cabell, Bloch,
Bedier, Pidal, Braudel, Ladurie,
Lewis, Moore, Pirenne, Sesini,
Tolkien, Gilson, Schramm, Kantorowitz —
their names are like the deerheads on the walls.
Their grandchildren play with virtual dragons and swords
and the youngest crave gargoyles and darkness still
but no one remembers what this legion of men once said,
the arguments never resolved, of a past no one knew,
the one they invented
before the hangover dawns.


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Rusty Kjarvik said...

i agree with the anonymous comment above: more.

i'd love to read a book in this vein, with supporting preambles (or not) related to the prompt.

you have a keen eye for subjective history.

many appreciations for your diligent commentary on my site. as always, i'm humbled by your regard.

best wishes.