sâmbătă, 10 ianuarie 2009

The Crusade of Emperor Frederick II in Freidank’s Bescheidenheit

Freidank was a didactic poet who gave an eyewitness account of the city of Acre (mod. ‘Akko, Israel) during the Crusade of Emperor Frederick II (1227–1229) in his ethical compendium Bescheidenheit (“Wise Judgment”). His satirical verses attack the avarice andirreligious behavior of the Franks of the Holy Land, they deplore Pope Gregory IX’s hostility to Frederick II, they express Freidank’s disquiet over Frederick’s negotiated truce with al-Kamil, the Ayyubid sultan of Egypt, but despite all misgivings they assert the continuing validity of pilgrimage and crusade. The fallowing bit is jut to funny not to post:

“I have heard many a man express the wish: “If I might get
to Acre, and just see the Holy Land, I would not care if I died
there on the spot.” Now I see these folk glad to be alive and
anxious to get back to their homeland.
I advise those who intend to come here after us to be well
equipped: the first shock comes when you buy or exchange
something. Acre has gobbled up silver, gold, horses, and
clothes, and whatever a man may possess, nothing eludes
their clutches. Now they mock us and say, “Allez—off you
go home across the sea.” And if thirty armies came to Acre,
they would fare as we have fared; the locals would treat them
as they’ve treated us.
In Rome and Acre it’s the same business, which always
finds enough fools to exploit. In no time at all they’ve gobbled
so much treasure that I’m amazed it doesn’t burst out
of the houses.
Since Acre won’t relent, it’s better to be sheared than
skinned: if you get away with your hide intact, you can sing
for joy.
Acre is rich in diseases, death is quite at home there, and
if thousands died there every day, you’d hear nobody
lamenting for long.
The first question they ask when someone’s died is, “Sir,
where’s his money?” (And that’s the last word of mourning.
God send us a speedy end!)
If anyone doesn’t want to live long, I advise him to hurry
off to Acre.
There’s no difference between the Christians and the
heathen in Acre: all the crusaders’ might won’t disturb their
friendly alliance. Young and old all speak the heathen
tongue. They prefer the company of one heathen to two or
three Christians. So it’s no wonder that they’re treacherous.
In Acre I’m well acquainted with the food, the climate,
people and land: all are bad news to Germans. So many a
man slips away to the graveyard—there’s a friendly landlord
who’s never stuck for guests; he does his best to greet
all strangers. Acre is the pit of death, where there’s naught
but death and disease; and a dead donkey would be
mourned more in other places than a hundred thousand
who die there.
In Acre they live corrupt lives: if the pope has imposed
that on them as penance for their sins, then even Judas has
hope of salvation.
In Acre the citizens are treacherous: an army of a hundred
thousand will be more quickly sold there than ten oxen anywhere
The business they are up to in Jaffa is a good bargain for
the heathen, but it won’t help against the Christians who are
in league with the heathen. The allies of this land are showing
how far they can be trusted, and if it were up to them,
the talks at Jaffa would not be happening.
We were given the cross to protect against sin and to free
the Holy Sepulchre. Now the church wants to ban us from
doing that. So how shall we save our souls now?
No ban has more force in God’s eyes than is justified by
a man’s guilt. Obedience is only valid if the master acts justly;
if the master forces a man to desert God and do wrong, then
you must leave the master and cleave to what is right.
Though whether the church’s ban is wrong or right, it is to
be feared, that’s true.
It would be fitting if the emperor put a stop to the whispering
he and the Sultan have been carrying on. Can that lead
to a happy and honorable end without God’s help? It’s a strange matter, and fools don’t believe it—I hear wise folk
too say they’ll only believe it when they see it.
Mr. Mean and Mr. Stingy were supposed to share three
marks: Mean wanted the bigger half, Stingy wouldn’t give
up. The two misers still haven’t settled their quarrel. That’s
just how the emperor and the sultan are behaving.
When did an emperor ever go on a crusade banned by the
pope and without the princes’ support? And now he’s
reached a land where neither God nor man ever found a loyal
friend. And without treasure to help him he’s met much
opposition—may God settle it.
I don’t care how, so long as I glimpse the Holy Sepulchre:
then I’d return to Acre, stuff myself full of good food, and be
happy to board the first ship I found. I deplore all that’s ever
been told of this land, whether it was true or false; they’ve
enticed many a band of crusaders here.
I’d gladly go back over the sea and send another army
here—but I never want to return myself, because of the
treachery that goes on here.
What can an emperor achieve when heathen and clerics
alike fight against him? Solomon’s wisdom would be inadequate
there. Treachery is a birthright in this land, and the
natives have sworn to reinforce it with false counsel. Treachery,
arrogance, and enmity never run short in Syria. If the
emperor’s might is demonstrated here, all lands will fear
him; his honor will either soar or sink to the depths through
what happens here.
Whatever the emperor achieves here without sufficient
support, the help and cunning of the locals will be pitted
against him, so far as they dare.
Many an army has come to Acre, and all, I’ve been told,
perished without achieving honorable victory. The pope’s
ban and the cunning tricks of many Christians here wanted
to thwart us of success. Now God has won his own honor.
He was able to ensure without their help that sinners shall
see the Holy Sepulchre.
God and the emperor have freed that tomb and brought
comfort to all Christians. Since the emperor has done the best
he ever could, he should be released from the ban—but I
guess those in Rome don’t want that. If something good happens
without their consent, they don’t wish it to endure—
and now it’s happened against their wishes. All sinners agree
that no one should breach the peace treaty. Rome could do
us no greater honor than to affirm that too. Those who must
live and survive in this land, they did not want to be given it
back. What if a miracle happens and their arrogance is taken
way from them? Treachery will come to their rescue.
God has liberated the city that is the joy of our faith. What
more do sinners need but the Holy Sepulchre and the honor
of the cross? If those who tried to cheat him of his honor had
stood by the emperor, the Sepulchre and all this land would
have been in his hands: Nazareth and Bethlehem, the Jordan
and Jerusalem, and many a holy place where God’s own feet
trod, Syria and Judaea, many a fair land besides. The roads
all lie open before us that lead to the holy places.
It grieves the false hearted that the emperor did not let so
many armies be betrayed that would have perished defenseless
here. If a lord has men, might, and wealth and gives
these for God’s cause, it is a grievous sin when anyone gives
treacherous counsel.
A ban has no force if it is imposed out of enmity; a ban
that harms the faith can do no good. Acre has banned kettle
and frying pan, boiled meat and roast; may God provide for
us! The masters of our faith rant and rave. Lord God, where
shall we praise you, since we are banned from your city, in
which you, Lord Christ, were martyred and buried? The
honor of your faith is extinguished; sinners are deprived of
comfort; how shall we be rid of sin? All Christendom
despairs. Lord God, have pity on this inexcusable scandal.
This ban will bring scorn on the Sepulchre and all Christendom;
disbelief will prosper for it.
I witnessed Christ’s own land left without visible defense.
When we should be reconquering it, no one was prepared to
defend it. The devil has succored this land because no one
prevented it. It was the devil’s cunning that stopped more of
it from being won back. God punish those who are guilty for
us Germans being the laughing stock of the Franks. And if
the Germans might win back the land today, the Franks hate
them so much they would much rather the heathen kept it.
If anyone comes sick and poor to Acre, he will readily get
a lodging there—one seven feet long, where he can do
penance for his sins.
Nothing was ever better against sin than a pure-hearted
pilgrimage across the sea. Even if you never glimpse the Holy
Sepulchre, your reward is none the less for that. Anyone who
with devout intent bears his cross over the sea (this is my
firm belief) shall be freed from sin. Acre roasts the body yet
brings comfort to the soul. Have no doubt of this: if you die
a righteous death there, you shall be saved!

Kreuzzugsdichtung, ed. Ulrich Müller (Tübingen: Niemeyer,
1979), no. 72, pp. 102–109.

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