Thursday, 4 February 2016

Becket's Early Life according to Garnier

Stanzas 34-79  

34 Saint Thomas, the archbishop, on whom you are about to hear me deliver a discourse, it is completely true that he was given birth to in the City of London, and was descended from and raised amongst the barons of the City: and his father was called Gilbert Becket, and his mother, Mathilda. He was the offspring of refined people. 

35  When the lady first conceived the child, she dreamt that all the waters of the Thames entered her breast [womb?]. She told this to a savant, who explained the meaning to her "Your heir will govern many people." But I interpret this as meaning that within her belly [womb?] a spring of pure water ran..

36 God revealed to her yet another very beautiful dream. She saw herself coming to the [Church of the] Holy Trinity [Canterbury cathedral]; but as she tried to cross the threshold, her belly was so swollen that she could not enter. It seems to me, in truth, that the whole of Sion could not contain the goodness of Thomas.

37 On another occasion, just before she was about to conceive the child, she dreamt that the twelve great stars of heaven fell before her chair. This was of great significance because all the twelve tribes [of Israel] bowed down before him, and he would become one of the twelve who would judge them.

38 After she had given birth to the child, the woman had yet another dream: the child was found lying bare in his cradle; taking great pity, she begged the wet-nurse to cover him, but the nurse replied that he was already well covered by a large folded pall.

39 The pall was scarlet. Both got up and proceeded firmly and hurriedly to unwrap the cloth. The room was small: so they passed on through into the house; but that refuge was too constricted, and so they went out into the street; even that proved much too narrow: so they went to Smithfield.

40 Even Smithfield was still too small for this pall. Then descending upon them from heaven they heard a voice saying that all England could not hold the grandeur of this pall. Well can we understand  that  the blood of the saint had spread throughout the world.

41 Thomas was put into school a very young age. He studied grammar after he had finished with the psalter, he studied the arts and a little singing. He worked diligently, and suffered much pain, but did not dwell for long in the schools.

42 Richier de L'Aigle was wont to lodge at his father's house.  Thomas often went hunting with him in the woods and along river banks, and stayed together with him for well half a year, as I have heard told. It was then that he began to love hounds and falcons very much.

43 One day the child went with him hunting along the river banks: he wanted to learn how to cast off hawks and their behaviour. They reached a wide stream where there was neither bridge nor ferry, but only a plank [passerelle] by which people could cross over on foot. The baron went in front, and the child followed behind.

44 After the knight had crossed over the plank, Thomas followed after, all hooded, but his horse lost its foothold: both he and the horse tumbled over into the water; having come off his saddle he floated downstream..

45 Beside the plank, there was a mill fully grinding away. Into the large ravine [of the mill race?] he went. Thomas came there floating, where he would have fallen head first onto the mill wheel.  The miller, having just finished grinding, shut the sluice gate. Thus it was in this manner God saved the child from death.

46 Because God wanted to protect and save him for the great good to be done, God suffers some others to live and saves even those who may come to perform a very great evil, as well as those who have the need to perform a very great good..

47 According to testimony, he was twenty-one or more when he left college. By very great misfortune he found himself destitute, with very little to live on, because his father and his mother [their enterprise] had foundered in a storm, from which they could never rise again to find a safe haven.

48 For his father had once been a very rich man, and his mother a beautiful lady, in body and looks. They came from well to-do families, and had been very successful; but fire had done this and brought both destruction and loss. So often had they had fires that many times they had nearly been broke.

49 He went to live with one of his kinsmen, Osbern Huit-Deniers, a wealthy Londoner, well known to both the French and English. Afterwards he became one of his scriveners, for two or three years, I know not; it was then he began to be both wise and courteous.

50 But Thomas did so much toing and froing [up and down] that he was introduced to the archbishop by one of his marshals, who was wont many times to lodge at his father's. He came to him finely dressed and well mounted on a horse with the assistance of the spiritual King.

51 Thomas was cunning, and he advanced much with God's help and advice. Day and night he stayed awake; he took pains to serve his master whenever he could. For his advice he was keenly sought by all, while the archbishop often summoned him.

52 Roger de Pont-Évêque became jealous of him, and either by himself or through others had him sent away. Many times he used to refer to him as the clerk of Porte Hache [Hatchet Man]. (This was the name of the man who had brought him to that court.) But Thomas was clever, and outsmarted him.

53 Archbishop Theobald took him to Rome, and then sent him there with his messages often. but whilst there, and elsewhere, he served him so well that the archbishop brought him by his side, and abandoned his private council.

54 When William, the archbishop of York, died, Theobald worked hard to procure the position for his archdeacon, Roger de Pont-Évêque, whom he invested and consecrated.. As for the archdeaconry, he gave this to his clerk, Thomas.

55 He also obtained for him the provostship of Beverley, and gave him the income from many churches and places because he had never found anyone before who served him so well. God gave him the aspiration and he always strove for honour, wisdom and the good.

56 Well he loved the worldly sports, to hunt with hounds and birds of prey; he was bountiful and valiant, and had an alive reason and bright intelligence, but he did not refuse anyone who wished to give him something, just as others do who have the power to nourish or to put matters right, and want to rise in the world by means of their own wealth.

57 And the archbishop Theobald had not forgotten him and put him in alliance with king Henry II, who gave him the post of running his chancellery. And it was thus that his honour and estate increased all the time, but he never forgot his place that he was in the service of the king.

58 He served the king very willingly in whatever he could,  both in thought and in deed he was completely wholesome. Whatever riches he possessed, whether it was silver, money, gold, cloth, or horses, he gave it to the knights. Greatly was he humble in the heart, but in looks he was very proud.

59 Towards the poor he was humble, towards those of higher rank he presented a proud disposition. He was a lamb on the inside, but on the outside he was like a leopard. Happily he did not hesitate to be in the king's service day or night.  But, whatever he seemed to be on the outside, there was no malice in him: his inner spiritual half was ever reserved for God.

60 Although he was both conceited and vain in his worldly duties and outward semblance, he was chaste in body and of sound mind; and although he was fully in the service of the king, he was, as far as possible, the right hand of Holy Church.

61 At that time, king Henry the Second of England was in Staffordshire. And he loved a woman, the most beautiful in the empire. Avice de Stafford she was called, it was said; but although on the part of the king she saw that love had diminished.

62 On the part of the king although his eagerness had lessened , the woman was suffering because to her the king was very dear. Thomas, the chancellor, was then at Stoke. The lady often sent to him her messengers. The host  [where he was staying] who was quite simple thought there was something sinful happening.

63 At Vivian the Cleric's, where Thomas was lodged, when he saw that his [Thomas'] bed had that night been made up with a silk quilt and expensive fine cloth, his host imagined that the lady had slept there, that she had come there to acquaint herself of him [Thomas].

64 When he believed that our hero might still be asleep, and had fulfilled all the good pleasures with the woman, he wanted to know for sure whether a wrongdoing had been done to the king. He took his lantern and went straight to where the bed was, and was amazed to find no one there;

65 Indeed, all the bedding was quite undisturbed, just as it had been made up the previous evening,. He at once thought that our hero had himself gone to the lady, and moving his candle forward to ascertain more there by the bed on the ground lay the wise Thomas,

66 There he was wrapped in a mantle made from fine haberget, with his legs and feet uncovered. His body had been hard at work in prayers and he was lying on the ground rightly fully exhausted.  He was fast asleep because he had stayed awake much in vigil.

67 The more Thomas rose in the secular world, the more humble he became in his heart, whatever he might have appeared to the people. Often and in many places, he committed misdeeds on behalf of the king, but he made amendments for these before God privately at night, for God had fashioned him on a firm foundation.

68 Not one of his closest friends, clerks or companions, neither chamberlain nor servant, steward nor valet,no matter how long they may have served in his household, none could assert or prove that he was engaged in such wrongdoings, and none of whom have ever seen him involved in such crimes. 

69 He was a very elegant cleric and greatly given to ostentation.  Even king Henry, who owns a large part of the world with all its riches, could not match his grandeur, and neither could you fail to appreciate this.  And neither would you come by a man so wise even if you were to spend the whole of this year looking ! While serving the king he suffered many a hardship.

70 He maintained a large number of vassal knights in his household. upon whom he heaped both gifts and liveries. He also retained mercenaries, archers and men at arms. He led them straying into error and did great wrongdoings. He bore down heavily upon the king's enemies

71 He took by assault castles, mottes and fortifications. He both burned towns and vills, and assailed cities. He remained so long in the saddle upon his charger clad in his hauberk, that he was often severely bruised, for arrows were shot at him but which could not pierce him.

72 He was a long time in Gascony making war, and made the Gascons abandon their castles. In Normandy he did his duty well for his lord. And I witnessed it myself several times charging the French on horseback. By his clarion [buisine] calls he did much to further the king.

73 This world is evil, as well you can see it. And the more that a man has, the less he cares for wisdom. And the more power he has in the world, the less he values God's authority. because then he forgets and neglects God. He wants to embrace the world. The world wants to possess him.

74 It is a fact that the evil one [Satan] is always on the look out to deceive the Christian. And how much more determinedly he tries with an honourable man and alms-giver to make him sin, so that along with him he can be cast down into hell.

75 This Thomas, of whom I speak, who then was so powerful, before he became chancellor was not an evil doer. He was plain-spoken with all, to the lowly as well as the grand. Now he was for his overlord keenly enterprising. And in everything he did he was at pains to please him.

76 The chancellor served the king in all at his pleasure. And whatever he did he did it willingly for him. He was privy to his [the king's] secret plans. And [the king]  acted on his [Thomas'] advice, of which nothing was concealed from him [Thomas]. At that time the king loved no one more than him.

77 And he [the king] even made him [Thomas] the guardian [foster father] of Henry, his eldest son; and he was to take up from all the barons their fealty, and if there was anyone absolutely in all of the kingdom so foolhardy or audacious who did not want to do this he [Thomas] was immediately to lay siege to him: this he [the king] ordered him [Thomas] to do.

78 And there was no one who could outsmart him. When the king complained about a rich knight, or an earl or baron whom he wanted to be avenged of, the king noticed that the chancellor would never do anything to assist this person..
79 <<So has he run off?>> he [Thomas] said, <<so has he strayed against you? Certainly many have been foolhardy before to have thought of this, be they rich men, or of great power, or amongst the many who have served you. And well they must now make amends. It is time they are summoned to suffer whence the truth can be satisfied.>>


La vie de Saint Thomas le martyr p.8- Walberg

Guernes de Pont Sainte-Maxence (1859). C. Hippeau, ed. La vie de saint Thomas le martyr: archevêque de Canterbury. Chez A. Aubry. pp. 7–.

I. Bekker, ed. (1845). Abhandlungen der Preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften. Akademie der Wissenschaften

Guernes (de Pont-Sainte-Maxence); Tr. Ian Short (2013). A Life of Thomas Becket in Verse. Pontifical Intsitute of Mediaeval Studies. ISBN 978-0-88844-306-9. 

Janet Shirley (1975). Garnier's Becket: Translated from the 12th-century Vie Saint Thomas Le Martyr de Cantorbire of Garnier of Pont-Sainte-Maxence. Llanerch. ISBN 978-1-86143-023-6.

Guernes (de Pont-Sainte-Maxence); Jean-Guy Gouttebroze; Ambroise Queffélec (1990). La vie de saint Thomas Becket. Libr. H. Champion. ISBN 978-2-85203-111-1.

Guernes (de Pont-Sainte-Maxence); Jacques Thomas (2002). La vie de Saint Thomas de Canterbury. Volume 1. Peeters. ISBN 978-90-429-1188-8.

Platelle Henri. Guernes De Pont-Sainte-Maxence. La vie de saint Thomas de Canterbury. (éditée, traduite et annotée par Jacques T-E. Thomas). In: Revue belge de philologie et d'histoire, tome 82, fasc. 4, 2004. Histoire medievale, moderne et contemporaine - Middeleeuwse. moderne en hedendaagse geschiedenis. pp. 1073-1075.

DEMAULES, M. (2006). Songes et visions dans La vie de saint Thomas Becket de Guernes de Pont-Sainte-Maxence. À la quête du sens: études littéraires, historiques et linguistiques en hommage à Christiane Marchello-Nizia, p. 321-

Buisine - Wikipedia

Haberget = Woollen twill
University of Manchester, Lexis of Cloth & Clothing Project, Search Result For 'haberjet'
Archive Link 


Anglo-Norman Net

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