Page images
PDF
EPUB

ing the hours, and calling the sleepers to“ pray for the dead,” – scarcely interfered with the cutpurses and the pillagers of shops.

The robbers, assassins, beggars, vagabonds, were organized in corporations just like the honest folk. They had their regular chiefs, their rules of apprenticeship, their trials for the mastery, their places of reunion. In Paris they formed a State apart, - the Kingdom of Argot, — where was spoken the “ langue vert," and across the boundaries of which the archers of the watch did not venture. Their elected chief was the great Coësre or King of Thune, who was drawn in a cart by dogs. He held his court – his Court of Miracles — sometimes in the cul-de-sac Saint Sauveur, sometimes in the rue des Frams-Bourgeois, or near the Convent of the Filles-Dieu, or in the streets of Grande aud Petite Truanderie. He had in each province, like the king, his bailiff, — called the cagou. Sometimes he summoned a sort of States-General in the Pré aux Gueux (Beggars' Field) near Notre Dame d'Auray. His immense people, including all the beggars, blacklegs, and vagabonds of France, were divided into numerous classes. All paid a tribute to the King of Thune, and rendered him homage.

Another powerful monarch was the King of Egypt, sovereign of the Gipsies. In 1427 the advance guard of these mysterious Asiatics had appeared in Paris ; a duke, a count, ten knights, followed by a hundred men, women, and children. These people, known as Bohemians, Saracens, Egyptians, Tsiganes, were soon swarming on the roads and at the gates of the towns, as showmen of bears and apes, as tinkers, counterfeiters, fortune-tellers.

From these swarming crowds the army of crime was recruited. From time to time justice cast in her net, and exposed her capture in the pillory of the Halles or on the gibbet of Montfauçon; but the mass was not thereby diminished. If the prevost hung some scamp in broad day, the King of Thune in turn hung in broad night some rash bourgeois or too inquisitive sergeant.

As in India there were pariahs, despised even by the slare, and whose contact was pollution, so in France there were outcast races. These were called marrons in Auvergne; cagots or cagoux in the Pyrenees; gaffots, caffots, capots, in Béarn and Navarre ; cagueuz, cacuas, cacouz, in Bretagne; gahets, gaffets, in Guyenne. Whence came they, and who were they? Were they, as was said, descendants of the Mussulmans left in France by Abderrahman, or of the Spaniards who were driven from their homes by the Arabs, or of converted heretics, or of ancient lepers ? No one knew, not even those who persecuted them. The only sure thing is, that they were treated like veritable lepers, forbidden to frequent churches, taverns, public festivals ; forced in Bretagne and Béarn to wear a red costume, and not permitted to go barefoot on the roads or to carry arms. Marriage or any contact with them was refused. They lived in isolated villages hidden in the country, or in obscure valleys; intermarrying, hated by all and hating all the world.

Although ancient slavery had disappeared from our soil through transformation into serfdom, there was a tendency to reconstitute it in Europe at the expense of the infidels taken in war. The Italian republics trafficked in their captives. In the twelfth century they were sold at fairs in Champagne, and Saracen slaves were bequeathed in a will to the bishop of Béziers. In the thirteenth century, slaves were traded in Provence. The new slavery was then in force in Roussillon, - which was not French territory, — but royal France spurned it. Then was established the maxim by virtue of which every slave who touched French soil became free. In 1402 and in 1406 the municipality of Toulouse applied this to the profit of fugitive slaves from Perpignan.

In the Middle Ages, the duty of charity toward the poor was generally discharged. The pouch full of money which hung at the belts of nobles and bourgeois, men and woman, was called an alms-purse ; a chaplain was an almoner. Kings, nobles, and ladies were often surrounded, as they walked, by the poor whom they maintained. King Robert allowed them to enter so freely into his palace, to go under his table, to sit on the floor beside him, almost between his legs, that on a certain day one of them cut a gold acorn from his clothing. Not only did alms-givers aid the poor with money, food, and clothing; but seeing in them the image of suffering Christ, they gloried in sometimes serving them at table, and in washing their feet upon Holy Thursday. The religious orders, founded for the relief of the poor, consecrated to them at least a part of their revenues. In certain convents there were cells reserved for the poor; in nearly all, distributions of soup and bread were made at the door of the monastery.

Nevertheless, this charity of the Middle Ages was unintelligent enough. The kings would have done better to aid their people, instead of surrounding themselves with a few tatterdemalions; the monasteries, while distributing their charity, became, by seizing upon the land, a cause of impoverishment for a vast radius around them. They relieved a few poor people; but these were infinitely less to be pitied than thousands of peasants crushed under feudal laws, the ecclesiastical tenth, or the laws of the royal treasury. The problem of how to aid the poor without increasing pauperism and without offering a reward to idleness, so difficult even to modern France, was not one which the Middle Ages could solve. Moreover, the French of the thirteenth century, thoroughly imbued with religious ideas, were charitable not from philanthropy, but from piety; to secure salvation. The “ virtuous poor,” with knees worn callous by many prostrations, with mouths full of prayers, well trained and indoctrinated by the Church, always present on the skirts of the sanctuary, always ready to reap the benefit of a pious thought, were very convenient to whoever wished to aquit himself of the Christian duty of charity. Poverty was too wide-spread to be possibly diminished; at least one did what one was called upon to do, leaving the rest to God.

The sick formed a more limited category of the distressed, and charity toward them was more efficacious. From the Merovingian epoch, St. Clotilde and St. Aboflède, the wife and sister of Clovis ; St. Radegonde, the wife of Clotaire ; St. Bathilde, the wife of Clovis II., are cited as founders of hospitals. The hospitals were usually annexed to a monastery, as was that of Bathilde to the royal abbey of Chelles. At the time of the Crusades, the valiant Knights of St. John prided themselves above all upon being Hospitallers. The diffusion of leprosy in the twelfth century brought about the creation of special hospitals leper-houses. In the thirteenth century there were nearly two thousand of these in France. They were usually managed by Knights of St. Lazarus, another military order. Louis VII. established them at the end of the Faubourg St. Denis; their motherhouse was the domain of Boigny. He also created at Saussaie near Villejuif a convent of women to care for lepers. The kings made large benefactions to these houses : when they died, their personal linen and all their horses, mules, etc., belonged to the leper-house of La Saussaie. When Jean II. died in England, so that the house was deprived of his horses, his son paid it an indemnity. Later, Charles VI. bought back from this convent for twenty-five hundred francs the horses of his father Charles V. The knights showed themselves deserving of these favors by caring not only for the lepers, but for all kinds of invalids.

St. Louis was a Grand Hospitaller. It was he who enlarged and endowed the Maison-Dieu (Hotel-Dieu) of Paris, who founded the Hospital of the Quinze-Vingts for three bundred blind men, who instituted the hostelleries des postes in the principal towns of the kingdom. Devout nobles followed his example; and in the thirteenth century Elzéar de Sabran and his wife are cited as having given everything — life and fortune — to the service of the sick.

The Church did not content itself with offering prayers for travellers. In the most difficult passes of the mountains, in the snows of the Alps, rose pious hostelries : those of St. Bernard, of St. Gothard, of the Simplon, of Mont Cenis, are of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.

The wars with the Saracens, the Mussulman piracy on the Mediterranean, peopled the markets and prisons of the Orient and Africa with Christian captives. Religious orders, — the Mathurins, founded in 1198, and the Fathers of Mercy, founded in 1223,- went with money to ransom Christian prisoners.

9274

ALLAN RAMSAY.

RAMSAY, ALLAN, a Scottish poet; born at Leadhills, in Lanark. shire, October 15, 1686; died at Edinburgh, January 7, 1758. At the age of fifteen he was apprenticed to a barber. He afterward set up as a wig-maker at Edinburgh, and began to write small poems, the earliest being produced at the age of twenty-six. About 1716 he established a bookstore and circulating library, and was also an industrious editor. A volume of his collected “ Poems" was published in 1721. His most important work, “The Gentle Shepherd ” (1725), was suggested by the critique of Pope's “Windsor Forest” in “ The Guardian,” April 7, 1713. It has been called “ the first genuine pastoral after Theocritus.” Among his other works are “The Table Miscellany,” and “ The Evergreen,” the precursor of Percy's “Reliques" (1724); “Thirty Fables" (1730); and “Scots' Proverbs ” (1737). He retired from business in 1755.

BESSY BELL AND MARY GRAY.
OH, Bessy Bell and Mary Gray !

They are twa bonny lasses;
They bigged a bower on yon burn-brae,

And thecked it o'er with rashes :
Fair Bessy Bell I looed yestreen,

And thought I ne'er could alter,
But Mary Gray's twa pawky een

They gar my fancy falter.
Now Bessy's hair 's like a lint tap,

She smiles like a May morning,
When Phoebus starts frae Thetis's lap,

The hills with rays adorning;
White is her neck, saft is her hand,

Her waist and feet 's fou genty,
With ilka grace she can command;

Her lips, oh, wow ! they're dainty.
And Mary's locks are like the craw,

Her eyes like diamonds glances ;
She's aye sae clean red up and braw,

She kills whene'er she dances ;

« PreviousContinue »