The violence of medieval Europe via a poem of Bertrand de Born, noble troubadour

Last Updated: Feb 15, 2024

My heart is filled with gladness when I see
Strong castles besieged, stockades broken down and overwhelmed,
Many vassals struck down,
Horses of the dead and wounded roving at random.
And when the battle is joined, let all men of good lineage
Think of naught but the breaking of heads and arms,
For it is better to die than be vanquished and live…
I tell you I have no such joy as when I hear the shout
“On! On!” from both sides and the neighing of riderless steeds,
And groans of “Help me! Help me!”
And when I see both great and small
Fall in the ditches and on the grass
And see the dead transfixed by spear shafts!
Lords, mortgage your domains, castles, cities,
But never give up war!

Dante pictured Bertrand in Hell, carrying his severed head before him as a lantern.

excerpt from A Distant Mirror by Barbara Tuchman