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we see plainly signs of a new order, a new way of living, and a new conception of life. We cannot study the history of this time without finding traces of the new spirit growing under the old forms, which it will presently break and utterly destroy.
Chivalry. — Chivalry, for instance, was a peculiarly medieval institution, and in the fourteenth century chivalry still flourished in even more than its former pomp and splendor. In England, the reign of Edward III was marked by a showy magnificence. In that reign the war between England and France, known as the Hundred Years' War, was begun, and this contest between two powerful and chivalric nations was the occasion of a great display of knightly deeds. Then, as Froissart wrote, were many “ honorable and noble adventures of feats of arms, done and admired.” It was in this reign that Edward, the Black Prince, when a boy of sixteen, won his spurs at Creçy, and that the blind king of Bohemia was guided by his own command into the thick of the battle “ that he might strike one stroke with his sword.” The heart of the old chronicler Froissart kindles as he recites the names of the gallant knights who fought for England: “they in all their deeds were so valiant that they ought to be reputed as sovereigns in all chivalry.” In England the outward forms and shows of chivalry were yet an accepted part of the nation's life. King Edward was a patron of the tournament; he had a Round Table at Windsor, in emulation of that of King Arthur; and he instituted the famous chivalric Order of the Garter.
Chaucer's England. There were many other things in this England of the fourteenth century to remind us that Chaucer lived in a medieval world. If we find the splendor and romance of the Middle Ages, we find
also the dirt and squalor, the crude ignorance and the unspeakable coarseness, which were at least equally characteristic of that time. The land itself was in part sheer wilderness. There were great stretches of forest, the haunts of the deer, the gray wolf, the boar, and the wild bull; there were marshes, such as the great fens of Lincolnshire and Somerset, untenanted as yet save by the birds. It was a rough, cruel world, and life was none too safe even on the king's highway. The townspeople dwelt within walls and shut the gates at curfew. At
Newcastle-on-Tyne, near the Scotch border, where marauding bands swooped down, as the Douglas did against the Percies, a hundred armed citizens kept nightly watch upon the walls. London itself, except on the side towards the river, was still a walled town; the houses were chiefly of wood and timber; the streets, narrow and unpaved, sloped to a gutter or open sewer in the middle, foul with refuse; but the Thames was still clear and beautiful, and beyond the city gates lanes led the Londoners through fair meadows, where the tender spring green of the grass was starred by the daisies that Master Chaucer loved to greet and honor. A stone bridge, with houses built on either side of its
narrow roadway, connected Chaucer's London with Southwark on the opposite side of the Thames. At Southwark there were fields and gardens, and round wooden buildings for bear-baiting or cock-fighting; there, near the end of the bridge, was the old Tabard Inn, in whose square courtyard motley companies of pilgrims were wont to gather on their way to the shrine of St. Thomas à Becket at Canterbury.
The New Order. — But this strange, picturesque, and narrow world of the Middle Ages was already near its end. Already the new world was beginning to push it aside. While Edward was founding a new order of chivalry, his Knights of the Garter (1344), a new instrument of destruction, the cannon, was being introduced into warfare which was to revolutionize the art of war. Before long this new invention, unimportant at first, was to shatter the solid masonry of the feudal castles and make the armor of the knight a useless encumbrance. Meanwhile the supremacy of the knight was threatened by a new power, the rising power of the English people. There are many signs of this. The battles in the Hundred Years' War are memorable not merely for their display of chivalric courage and courtesy, but also for the great part played in them by the people of England. The truly significant feature of these battles is indeed not the splendid spectacle of knightly gallantry; it is rather the effectiveness of the English yeomen, the archers whose "gray-goose shafts" did so much to turn the day at Creçy and Poitiers. It has been said that this national character of the English army, this triumph of the foot-soldier over cavalry, was "the death-knell of Feudalism.”
The Rise of the People. — The popular spirit, asserting itself in unconscious rivalry or in open opposition
to the feudal power of king and barons, found at the same time a political expression in the establishment of the Commons as a separate branch of the Parliament. Beneath all the magnificence of the early part of Edward's reign, we see the transfer of the real power from the king to the people. Finally, in the “Good Parliament ” of 1376, we find the “ Commons " united against their feudal superiors, the Baronage and the King.
The Black Death. – Many things combined to produce a demand for liberty and equality among the people, but the chief causes of this popular uprising were probably the unsettled state of labor, and the bitter discontent and growing importance of the working-classes, which followed the successive visitations of a terrible plague called “The Black Death.” It is difficult for us who live in a world made comparatively clean, comfortable, and decent to imagine the abject misery to which the English people were reduced by this loathsome and often fatal disease. The first of this awful series of pestilences reached England from southern Europe in 1348, two years after the brilliant victory of Creçy, and from that time until nearly the end of the century the land was desolated by periodical recurrences of the disease. The number of deaths was very great, for, besides those who died of the plague, many more perished miserably from want and hunger. Famine followed the pestilence, as some farms had been left untilled, some had but scanty crops, and on others, for want of laborers, the harvests rotted in the fields. The land was filled with vagrants, driven by illness and starvation to beggary or theft. The organization of labor was unsettled, and the very foundations of society seemed shaken. The people, thus laden with a burden that seemed almost too heavy to bear, were called upon
to pay a heavy tax to defray the cost of the French war. The poor were arrayed against the rich; they questioned and scoffed at the class distinctions that were so inseparable a part of the feudal society, and rose in armed revolt. The age of the courtly Froissart is thus also the age of a peasantry pushed forward by new economic conditions to fight against the old order of society. While the French chronicler celebrates the glories of Knighthood, the English people are singing the crude rhyme:
'When Adam delved and Eve span,
The New Democracy. - This feeling found a spokesman in the revolutionary teachings of John Ball, “the mad Priest of Kent." Crowds gathered about Ball in the cloisters of Canterbury Cathedral, and “many of the mean people loved him ” and affirmed that he saith truth.” Inside the great cathedral was the rich shrine of St. Thomas à Becket, the goal of many a medieval pilgrimage, but outside in the cloisters the voice of the preacher seems to be the voice of the modern world. “What have we deserved, or why should we be kept thus in servage ? We be all come from one father and mother, Adam and Eve: whereby can they say or show that they be greater lords than we be, saving by that they cause us to win and labor for that they dispose? They are clothed in velvet and camlet furred with grise, and we be vestured with poor cloth; they have their wines, spices, and good bread, and we have the drawing out of the chaff and drink water; they dwell in fair houses, and we have the pain and travail, the rain and wind, in the fields; and by that that cometh of our labors they keep and maintain their