Corrections to the blogosphere, the consensus, and the world

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Blood Libel

No, that's not a blood libel: this is a blood libel.

x. About Hubert de Burgh his Opinions concerning the Giwen

The Giwen are the curse of the kingdom of England, because they know not how to be faithful and honest when they are treated fairly and generously. They have quicker wits than other men: which is all very well; and I do not vituperate them for that.
But they are also more crafty, more avaricious, and quite devoid of scruples; and they gibe at the bare notion of keeping faith, except among themselves, if then. In brief, they are beasts prey by nature, and spoilers by open profession. They allege that they spring from the seed of Messire Saint Abraham, a Patriarch of Hierusalem in ancient times, to whom the earth was promised by Divine Providence in a vision. I do not dream of denying this, since we have the fact recorded in the Sacred Scriptures. But they say, also, that we Christians, who hold any part of the said earth, are simply usurpers of their said divinely-promised rights, whom their laws oblige and encourage them to harass and embarrass and dispossess by any and every means. This doctrine, I utterly spit upon and abhor from: because it is capable of being stretched out so as to include (with approval) such crimes as cheating and fraud and even murder.

We Englishmen do not like being despoiled by shrewd unscrupulous very-undesirable aliens; and it is our custom to treat the Giwen (who thrust their company upon us) as dangerous animals, kept encaged and enchained, but allowed to live and to thrive under suitable restrictions: it being a sin for us to take human life, excepting in a good cause, for we by no means believe it lawful for a Christian to slay (with impunity, according to his pleasure), any Giwe who behaves as he ought.

We Christians are forbidden (by our religion) to commit the sin of usury: but, with the Giwe, it is far otherwise. His religion (which we respect, and damn), permits and approves of usury; and he does a thriving trade by outwitting and nefariously oppressing us. O manners. Not that I blame clergymen, not that I blame magnates, who borrow money from Giwen: for, thereby, many important abbeys and castles are builded; and clergymen and magnates are strong enough (as a rule) to protect themselves from knavery. But the Giwen are wont to inveigle poor needy knights and burgesses to their ruin; and thus they have thrust themselves under the displeasure of the major part of our nation.

Hence, because the devout fervour of the English (irritated beyond toleration, by the crimes of the slippery Giwen), used to revolt against them, and to beat them badly (perhaps sometimes rather more than justice strictly demanded), then, the kings of the English deigned to take the said Giwen under their regal protection entirely, as tributaries, dividing them from the rest of the nation, making them a nation apart, giving them separate laws whereby (and separate sites whereon) they might live and flourish in perfect security. Yet they are not content: but, ever and again, they burst out in scorn of us Christians, committing hideous crimes and outrages against us and our holy religion. For, in their canonical books it is written (as it is written in the Sacred Scriptures) that, without bloodshed, there can be no remission. But they, swayed by the devil, perfidiously distort this saying, so as to mean that they may never return to their dear fatherland unless they shed Christian blood. O generation of vipers. Hence, it was laid down by them in antique times, that, every year, they must sacrifice a Christian, in some part of the world, to The Most High God, in scorn and contempt of Christ, so that they might revenge their sufferings on Him, inasmuch as it was because of His Death that they had been shut out from their fatherland and were in exile in foreign countries. Wherefore, the princes and rabbis of the Giwen, who dwell in Spain, assemble at Narbonne, where their regal seed is and they are held in highest esteem; and they cast lots for all the countries which the Giwen inhabit; and the metropolis of that country, upon which the lot falls, has to carry out the same method with the other towns and cities; and the place, whose lot is drawn, has to fulfil the duty imposed by the said decree. And this means to say that, at the time of their Passover, which is the Paschal Season, they must take a Christian, spotless and virginal, whom they must afflict as their forefathers afflicted the Human Person of The Lord our God, with mocking and scourging and crowning with thorn and crucifixion and with such other torment as their demons may suggest to them.

In the year 1144 of Redemption, when King Stephen Bowman was reigning thus did the Giwen of Norwich with Messire Sweet Saint William the Martyr, who (as everyone well knows) is illustrated with wondrous and unspeakable miracles even at this very day. I myself have seen the close-clustered ruddy flowers which sprang from his boyish body (dripping with blood) in the wood where they hid it on Mousehold Heath. I myself have offered at his shrine a candle of my own weight in virgin wax, the work of the mother-bee, to gratify the natural love for candles of him who was born on Candlemas Day. And my lord the king has frequently done the same. What more true? When King Henry fil-Empress was reigning in England, the Giwen became boundless in audacity.
In the year 1165 of Redemption, it is said that they crucified Messire Saint Harold of Gloucester. In the year 1181 of Redemption, it is said that they crucified both Messire Saint Robert a boy of Bury Saint Edmund's, and Messire Saint Herebert a boy of Huntingdon. In the year 1182 of Redemption, it would seem that the lot fell upon France: for we hear how they crucified Messire Saint Richard, a boy of Pontoise, whose sacred body was first enshrined in the church of the Holy Innocents at Paris, until King Henry fil-Empress translated it with awful pomp to Rouen, leaving the head only to the Franks. And I well remember hearing how (in the year 1192 of Redemption), when King Richard Lionheart was reigning in England, the Giwen did the same atrocious sacrilege and homicide on the virginal body of Messire Saint Yvo, a boy of Winchester, who came from Armorica to get a living as a mime in that regal city.
Now there ate several individuals still at large-whether they be puzzolent pestiferous turpilucricupidous knaves, like Softsword, or merely sentimental fools, like that maggotty-witted Roches, it is not for me to say-who fondly affirm that these things are either fables invented by clergymen in despite of the Giwen, or (if not fables) they are only rather-questionable indiscretions committed by the Giwen in the sheer madness of revenge and despair, to which we Christians have goaded them by our unprovoked unmerited atrocities. And, in this, I say, out loud, and at once, that these knaves or fools lie foully in their hairy throats. No Christian ought to make such allegations of Christians, nor Englishmen of men of England. In any case, I fearlessly affirm that we Christians ought not to be called upon to respond to an accusation of this sort, before the Giwen are purged from the murder of one of us, of which they are known to have been accused ere now, and they are not purged.80 I speak of the Martyrdom of Messire Sweet Saint William. Nevertheless, I will make a certain answer.
In the first place, let us consider that it is only a fool who kills the goose which lays him golden eggs; and I say that clergymen are not such fools as to damage the Giwen, from whom the Cistercians alone could and did borrow the money for building no fewer than nine of their northern abbeys, namely, Rievalle, Revesby, Ruford, Rupe, Newminster, Kirkested, Kirkestall, Parcolude, Betlesden.
In the second place, concerning the alleged cruelties wherewith we Christians goaded the Giwen as far as homicidal mania, I simply demand, What cruelties? Let us take things in the proper order. All the people of England are under the protection of the kings of the English: but the Giwen have a special and particular protection. The question is this: Do they languish thereunder, or do they flourish? And here is the answer. The Giwen were the first men in this kingdom to be rich enough to build their houses of stone: all the rest of the nation, exeepting the few who had castles, were obliged to dwell in walls of wood or wattle or mud. The Giwen came to us as mendicants and guests, piteously whimpering for hospitality. It was granted to them, full measure, pressed down, and running over the pottle, so that less fortunate Christians actually envied them. And, from the stronghold of their incalculable riches entirely gained nefariously under our own kings' protection, they spoil the widow and the fatherless, rob the orphan, oppress the poor, and mock our holy religion. Is it surprizing, then, that Christian patience occasionally gives way to passionate outbreaks of carnage, as at York?

Let us next consider the difference between the king's protection of Christians and of Giwen. Both are liable to affiiction under a bad king. But, whereas the king is the only tyrant whom the Giwen have to fear, excepting when they (by their ungrateful mal-practices) wilfully and wantonly incur the ire of the mobile vulgar, Christians suffer as much from a tyrannous king, and, also, from that tyrannous king's tyrannous Giwen.

Of what, precisely, do the querelous cantankerous Giwen complain? They complain, forsooth, that they may not hold offices of state in England. That is true. England is a Christian kingdom. The Giwens are invaders of it, generously tolerated, but not wanted. As Christians, we enforce Christian laws. The officer of a Christian king swears fidelity in The Name of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Which oath, the Giwen will not swear; and, so, they debar themselves from office. Are we excessively unreasonable herein? Are the Giwen more easy and less strict in this respect? I think not. Hear me spue my scorn upon such presumptuous chicanery. When a Christian (diabolically swayed) lusts to become a Giwe, is he admitted to their conjuration without test? Ho no, indeed. What of those two Cistercian monks, demoniacs of our own times, who, worn out by the sweet light burthen of Christ His easy yoke, fled to the synagogue of Satan, home of damnation, asylum of depraved and pestiferous rites. To cut short the wretched story, upon which I dilate merely to express my detestation, the said monks were forced to renounce the sacred laver of their baptism, and to submit to a physical diminution, before the Giwen would receive them.

Now let us consider the singular privileges and advantages enjoyed by the Giwen under the king's protection. They are quite free (as no other man is free) to accumulate wealth; and the king jealously guards it for them against all interference. No one may meddle with any Giwe, for good or evil, excepting at the king's own bidding. In the year 1194 of Redemption, King Richard Lionheart made and confirmed an Ordinance for the Giwerie, stablishing a special exchequer called Giuudeorum Saccarium at Westminster, where they might keep their parchments which they call Starrs and have their lawsuits tried before twO jusriciars of their own. They have jurisdiction among themselves, according to rabbinic law, excepting for the major felonies; and their rabbis advise the regal exchequer on points of rabbinic law. In the chief cities of the kingdom, they have their Chests kept for them by the king's officers. And, above all, they are exempted altogether from all tolls and taxes and fines of justice. Is it wonderful that they suck up the gold of England as a sponge sucks up water? Could anyone fail to accumulate riches, when he is helped thus to take, and exempted from giving? But what do the Giwen give, in return for these tremendous and unheard-of favours? One thing only, namely, the tallages, reliefs, fines, and amercements, which (be it noted) the king levies on all his dependants alike, Christians as well as Giwen. The Giwen have suffered hideously from bad kings. Ho yes. But so also have we Christians, and far more hideously: for we have suffered both from bad kings and from those bad kings' bad and protected Giwen as well.

God knows how hard it is for a man to make good laws for men. I know a great deal about it myself, having made a many laws, good and bad, in my time. But I am unable to imagine fairer or more righteous or more desirable laws, than those which the kings of the English have made for their Giwen, to the detriment and at the expense of their Christians.

And, as for the gross ingratitude which the Giwen (with their whoopings and their whinings) show in return for our ridiculous generosity, I cannot conceive of anything more deservedly reprehensible as being quite contrary to decorum or good manners. And I repeat: the Giwen are the curse of the kingdom of England. That is my opinion of the Giwen. I have spoken. Let it stand.

XI. About a third Wickedness of the Wicked Uncle

Softsword himself, as I have said, dealt with the king's Giwen.

But he did more than to take the proper dues from them this time, he being undoubtedly swayed by the devil and inspired by the diabolical prepotence of Legion. For, he sent to all the cities where the Giwen had their Chests; and he took note of the parchments stored therein: from which he informed himself of the cities which contained the richest Giweries, and of the Giweries which kenneled the richest Giwen. And, from the last, he demanded Dona, gifts of bullion, most flagitiously.

When the said rich Giwen demurred, he squeezed them till they exuded gold, ill-gotten (it is true) and now ill-taken. Of the chief of them, one Ysaak of the Bristol Giwerie, he required no less than ten thousand marks. The Giwe, being reluctant to pay, was accommodated in a dungeon of the castle, where he sustained cold, hunger, stenches, and attacks of toads, for quite a long time: but persevered in his recalcitrant behaviour. John, then, took to tearing a tooth out of the back of his jaw, one every day after mass, seven in all; and the tearing was not done tenderly. On the eighth day, Ysaak was found to have lost his face, only a festering swelling representing it, nor was any mouth seen whereby the tongs might enter. The tormentor, therefore, began to slit what he took to be a cheek: but the first snap of his scissors caused so much and so profound displeasure, that the Giwe cheerfully submitted to Soft¬sword's indefensible illegalities.

Seeing, then, how the Giwen might be parted from their wealth, and, knowing exactly how much each Giwe had in hoard from which he might be parted, Softsword decided to go further in this direction. But he wished to be affable, if they would let him: for some bishop had told him that the wise grazier shears his sheep without flaying them, and that bargains are more pleasant than pillage and more profitable than plunder. The said Ysaak of Bristol having been healed, he, with two other Giwen named Yomtob of Lincoln and Beleasez of Oxford, who were among the most eminent Giwen in the kingdom, were brought to the Wild Ass in his castle of Corfe: for he had a most horrible plan in his mind, and dispensed with his trumpets on this occasion.

"Sir Giwe," says he to Ysaak, "I desire, making you amends for your teeth, to sell you a male lamb without blemish for your passover: for I hear that your nation has not been able to find a sacrifice worth your buying, or one which ye could buy with security, these nine years." The Giwen began to tremble at these frightful words: for they suspected snares. But Softsword was excessively affable, and gave clear tokens that he was in earnest. Therefore, they proceeded cautelously, neither denying him, nor incriminating themselves, being anxious to propitiate him, as well as to satisfy their own religion and their own cupidity. Mortain then bade the Giwen to observe Duke Arthur, now a gigantic flower of boyhood, who (by chance) was strolling in the outer bailey: but, all the while, he spoke of the lamb which he had for sale, saying that it was an orphan, merely an encumbrance to its present owner on account of its rarity, he preferring a commoner sort of sheep of which he had already as many flocks as he could manage. The Giwen timidly inquired the price of this lamb. To whom Softsword answered that the price must be a high one, seeing that the said lamb was perfect even in the most minute particulars, and to be sold for sacrifice and nothing else. And he bade them to say what sum they were willing to offer. Then Be1easez of Oxford was very bold: for he saw all which was intended, the dastardly cupidity of John desiring to be ridded of his nephew, and the glory to accrue to the Bristol Giwerie by so magnificent a victim; and he spoke up like a man, giving a famous answer. "Our forefathers," says he, " paid thirty silver marks for a Lamb a long while ago; and we, more generous than they, will pay thirty-thousand silver marks for this lamb."

See reincarnate Judas: see now a second Herod. Sixteen days later, Earl John pouched the price of blood; and my lord the king, his pages and his cotterels having been pushed into the castle-oven and baked, was delivered by night, gagged and bound, to the myrmidons of the Giwen, who conveyed him secretly to Bristol, and sent word of the impending sacrifice to all their synagogues in the kingdom. For, considering the highness of their victim and the splendour of his every perfection, they expected no less than the redemption of their whole race on account of so magnificent a sacrifice. All this, I had from Beleasez of Oxford himself, when (much later) he was engaged in dying.

And just in case anybody thought this was other than as reported, here is the sacrifice:


XIIII. About Duke Arthur his Most glorious Martyrdom
The night was dark, moonless, and starless. We armed ourselves from head to foot. Fulk flamed with a torch by my side; and I led the way. The gate of the Giwerie was guarded by two, who fled inward at my approach. We saw many lights witllin the gate. We heard multitudinous murmuring. I felt myself directly inspired by The Lord God. I gave the word to draw longswords, and to slay without mercy. So, we rode in at full gallop, using our weapons like scythes. The Giwen ran like rabbits to an inner gateway. Fulk followed me; and, flinging off my horse, I entered also. The crime was in the very article of perpetration.

There were about thirty Giwen in the small courtyard, twenty ancients with torches, ten young and lusty otherwise occupied. Their backs were toward me; and they were engaged on the ground before them. There, lay a huge cross of oaken timber. On the cross, was the Regal Majesty of my lord the king, naked as born, bleeding from weals, crowned with thorn.

His left knee was bent, and his left foot nailed flat to the cross. His right leg was pulled long and straight, and tied to the wood with cordage. A great filthy Giwe was riding straddled on his belly, pressing his shoulders down to the transom. His left arm was pulled long and straight, and tied to that transom with cordage. Every part of him, which was not nailed or corded, writhed and struggled most awfully. His well-toothed head darted, and bit, and cursed, with the anger of all the Angevins and the passions of all the Plantagenets.

Two stout young Giwen were gripping the finger and thumb of his right hand, lying on their bestial backs with their hooves in his armpit, stretching and straining his right arm out at full length on the transom. Another Giwe, much younger, kneeled near by, pointing a nail into the palm of the open hand. A fourth Giwe had swung up his heavy hammer. It came down. The nail shuddered, screeching, through regal flesh, and hid its shamed point in the wood.

All this, I saw in the flash of an eye. Then, I got to work with both hands and my long-sword, sweeping round and round irresistibly.


From Hubert's Arthur, by Fr. Rolfe. Written between 1906 and 1913, first published by Cassell, 1935, with an introduction by A.J.A Symons.

The most striking feature of the book for a modern reader has to be these sections on the Jews. Symons comments that 'Hubert's attitudes towards the "Giwen", which reflects Corvo's own, gives us hints towards a further knowledge of Fr. Rolfe's warped and complex nature.' Which hardly seems, with the wisdom of hindsight, enough.

Also must be just about the first novel to feature a hero who uses karate; Hubert's pal Fulk -- "And Earl Fulk's hands finished him in an instant: the left, with its hardened hand-edge, chopping his nape: the right, jabbing with fingers rigid as iron just below his hairy breast-bone, both producing separate and dismally painful deaths."

Skills learned from the Assassins, evidently.

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