Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace


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Monday, May 12, 2008

Part I: Journey to a Tourney- A Medieval Merchant's Realistic Experience

“The names Rory. Are ya ready? We’ve got to hurry, we’re goin to the tourney today!

You know the tourney don’t ya? You don’t? Where have you been? I s’pose we’ve a few minutes for me to explain. We’re going to a tournament, you know, the chivalrous play fighting of the knights. Jousting, sword fighting, and the like. Well it’s always got lots of people, lords, ladies, merchants like meself and Gerald, and even the lowly peasants attend…

But we must get goin or I won’t be able to set up me shop and show you around. Come on now!”

Rory hustled the odd group of people into the back of her wagon filled with all her wares. She didn’t know where this group had come from, but she was forever being tested by the merchant’s guild and didn’t want to cause any problems.

Music, laughter and the clanging of armor could be heard before the tournament was even in sight. As they drew closer, she pointed to the tents, covering the fields, with flags for each knight posted. A field was sectioned off with special seating for the nobility and stands for lesser folk.

Upon entering the masses of people and tents Rory’s husband, Gerald handed her the reins and hopped off the wagon. “This’ll be where we set up love.”

She nodded giving him a loving smile, she was so pleased to be married to Gerald, he treated her like a partner rather than a servant. She turned from him to study the people in the back of her wagon.

“Now you folks just sit tight, after we have everything set up, I’ll take you around to see the entertainments.”

Rory glanced from the corner of her eye at the strangers who watched in open mouthed anticipation as she and Gerald erected their tent and tables. She smirked, remembering her own first time at a tourney. She’d have to show this lot a good time.

She helped her husband meticulously spread out their wares. She was still in wonder herself at the opulence of their goods. Bolts of the most beautiful fabrics and scarves for any lady who may have forgotten one, or desired another. Brocades, in bright opulent colors and rich designs, velvets in rich blues and reds, some with aglets of silver gilt, bordered with spangles, silks and fine wools, and soft linens. Noble ladies walked by, arms linked with their husbands or courtiers and eyed the products on display. She called out to them to come and have a look.

Peasants looked out of the corners of their eyes, their gazes devouring and wishing they could just have a feel of the fine fabrics. To them she gave a glower, not wanting their kind to put their grimy fingers on her livelihood.

“Welcome to the tournament,” a strolling minstrel said to her entourage, making grand gestures with his hands. The group seemed enthralled by his grand manor. “Be sure to come and watch my lord, the Earl of Stafford joust this afternoon. He is by far the most talented knight, a most excellent horseman, and very pleasing to the eye.” He winked to the ladies in the wagon, and then strolled away, stopping to praise his lord to another group of tourney visitors.

“All set, my love. Go and help those poor folks,” Gerald said waving his hand in the direction of the wagon before turning to the crowd. “Ladies and gentleman!” shouted Gerald with a huge smile on his face. “Come and see me wares! I have the finest fabrics from France, the Orient and places you can only dream about. Feel their fine lines and gaze upon their rich designs.”

As if pulled by a magnet, people began to mill about as Gerald the merchant advertised his products.

A drum roll began in the distance which shook the strangers from their attention on her husband. Rory rushed to the wagon, time to give this group an introduction to the grandest of entertainments. “Come on folks, there’s a joust about to begin, lets go and see.”

The group jumped with enthusiasm from the wagon and followed Rory through the throngs of people. The smell of baked goods, smoking meats, herbs, flowers and leather wafted all around them. A few in the group exchanged coins with a baker for sweet rolls, while a couple more were drawn into the evocative jokes of the jester.

Rory stopped short to stare and call out at a passing acrobat who flipped through the air, and another who balanced himself on blunted sword tips. It was a wonder to her that they didn’t slice their feet off or break a bone.

Her attention was caught again by a bawdy musician singing. She couldn’t help but laugh at the words or the astonished looks on her guests face.


[Lambeth MS. 306, leaf 135.]

Women, women, loue of women,
Make bare purs1 with some men,
Some be nyse as a nonne hene,2
Yit al thei be nat soo.
some be lewde,
some all be schrewde;
Go schrewes wher thei goo.

Sum be nyse, and some be fonde,3
And some be tame, y vndirstonde,
And some can take brede of a manes hande,
Yit all thei be nat soo.
some be lewde,
some all be schrewde;
Go schrewes wher thei goo.

Some cane part with-outen hire,4
And some make bate in eueri chire,5
And some cheke mate with oure Sire6,
Yet all thei be nat so.
Some be lewde,
and sume be schreuede,
go wher thei goo.

Som be browne, and some be whit,
And some be tender as a tripe,
And some of theym be chiry ripe,7
Yet all thei be not soo.
Sume be lewde,
and some be schrewede,
go wher thei goo.

Some of them be treue of love8
Beneth the gerdell, but nat above,9
And in a hode aboue can chove,10
Yet all thei do nat soo.
Some be lewde,
and some be schreude,
go where thei goo.

Some cane whister11, & some cane crie,
Some cane flater, and some can lye,
And some cane sette the moke awrie,12
Yet all thei do nat soo.
Sume be lewde,
and sume be schreuede,
go where thei goo.

He that made this songe full good,
Came of the north and of sothern blode,
And some-what kyne to Robyn Hode,13
Yit all we be nat soo.
Some be lewde,
and some be schrewede,
go where thei goo.

Some be lewde, some be schrwde,
Go where thei goo.

(For translation of some of the lines visit: http://www.luminarium.org/medlit/medlyric/women.php)

The atmosphere was jubilant and there was not a moment to spare to boredom. Entertainments were everywhere. Bear-baiting, cock-fighting, jugglers, mimes, troubadours, and contortionists. It was easy to get lost along the way to the field to watch the jousting, and an hour went by with the group of odd folks and Rory wandering from entertainment to entertainment.

“Well we’ve missed a few of the jousts, lets head on over there, before we miss the whole day!” Rory hollered to the group trying to round them up.

After their initial shock and awe, this group was truly enjoying the festivities. A few waved her off, too busy in their cups of ale and watching the amusements. One of the tipsy fools even took it upon himself to try and juggle daggers…it didn’t end in death, but it didn’t end well either.

What few were able to make it to the tournament made it just in time. Rory got them seated close to the field.

“Huzzah! Huzzah! Huzzah!” the crowd shouted, and Rory encouraged her followers to join in.

A knight decked out in the finest of armor on a beautiful stallion approached the seat of noble lady. He bowed to her, his lance outstretched and waited patiently as she elegantly tied a gold silk scarf to the tip. She blew him a kiss which he captured and held to his heart. Rory couldn’t help but sigh, it really was very romantic. She named him the Golden Knight.

The Heralds toted their respective knights valor, family lines, and talents. And then it began. The two horses facing each other from opposite ends braced their lanced and then CHARGE! The hoof beats on the ground vibrated Rory’s seat, and she felt the familiar buzz of exhilaration in her blood.

Within an instant the Golden Knight, thrust his blunt tipped lance into his opponent, who was unseated and fell heavily to the ground. Her breath caught in her throat. The crowd gasped and then grew silent as they waited. Although these games were meant merely for practice, they could be deadly.

The Golden Knight rounded his horse to stand next to his fallen opponent. The fallen knight lifted his head slightly and shouted, “Good tactics, my lord!”

“Thank you, my lord, for allowing me to display my skill, I am equally impressed with your horsemanship.”
With that they knights parted ways. The Golden Knight dipped his head to the noble lady in the stands, who blushed pink from his attention.

Rory sighed again, the knights were certainly of a different standard. So chivalrous to each other, end ever the romantics... She turned to her acquaintances. “Well my fine folks, I must be heading back to Gerald. He’ll be wanting to take part in some of the festivities as well. Good day to you.”

With that, she meandered her way back through the crowd to peddle more of her wares.


Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

Excellent post Eliza and what a unusual and interesting way to introduce people to the idea of medieval tourney. I felt like I was right there on the wagon.

Shannon Robinson said...

Absolutely delightful Eliza! I was pulled into the story and envisioned it perfectly. Great writing - thanks for sharing the details with us.

Eliza Knight said...

I'm glad you guys enjoyed it! I'm going to try to do things a little different every once in awhile to keep you on your toes *wink*

Holly Greenfield said...

I'm a little behind in my blog reading...

This was a great post. Very nicely told. :0) I was there with Rory.