Зображення сторінки

Monarch pretended to seek for peace. He was believed by the credulous pilgrims; and, on the promise of supply and safety, they surrendered all their arins. Their pretended friends immediately rushed upon them. Their entreaties, their tears, their appeals to the hallowed sign they carried, were all in vain. The foe was pitiless, and only remembered their own excesses, and the robberies and murders of those by whom they had been preceded. An indiscriminate massacre took place, from which only a few of the whole twenty thousand escaped.

But the tale of horror, though only referring to preliminary movements, is not yet complete. A fourth company was collected by a Priest, named Volkmar, and a Count Emicon, who hoped by this pilgrimage to expiate the irregularities of his youth. This army was still more undisciplined and seditious that those of Peter and Gotschalk. They belonged to the most ignorant class of the people, and comprised a large number of vagabonds and adventurers who, in those days of civil commotion, abounded all over Europe, particularly in Germany. They believed that the Crusade would atone for all sins; that they who did not engage in this holy enterprise deserved to be punished as its enemies; and that the war against the Turks would be so agreeable to God, and so serviceable to the church, that all the goods of the earth would scarcely be sufficient for rewards to those who had undertaken it. The religious errors of the day became exaggerated to their utmost bounds; the worst passions of corrupt nature which they excited, assumed even the appearance of virtue; and a frightful fanaticism, capable of the most enormous crimes, was the issue. New objects of hatred were presented to their ferocious imagination, when their march had scarcely commenced. “The Jews,” they said, “are not less the enemies of the cross than are the infidel Turks ;” and against these were directed the first outbreaks of their fury, heightened by the desire of the plunder which they supposed would amply provide for the journey that was before them. One of the old chroniclers of the times represents one of these Crusaders as saying, “What! shall we go to the ends of the earth to seek for the enemies of God, when, here at home, we see the Jews, than whom greater enemies to him cannot be found?” When it is said that in Germany many Jews dwelt, that as yet commerce was mostly in their hands, and that they possessed or disposed of the greater part of the gold then circulating in Europe; the dreadful consequences of this direction to them of a rage which had become diabolically ferocious, may easily be conceived. In those German cities in which they were congregated, horrible massacres took place. Many thousands were slaughtered. Some set their houses on fire, and chose rather to perish in the flames, than fall into the hands of their pitiless foes; while others sought a similar method of escape by fastening heavy stones to their garments, and casting themselves and their treasures into the Rhine and the Moselle. Mothers strangled their infants at the breast, saying that it was better to send them thus to Abraham's bosom, than to leave them exposed to Christian rage! At Worms, Treves, Mentz, and Spire, the Bishops opened their palaces to afford a refuge to this hunted race; and, in some cases, admitted of feignied conversions, if by any means they might save them from the violence of their blood-thirsty executioners.

At length they prosecuted their march eastward. By some unknown freak of superstition, a goat and a goose were elevated on spears, and became the standards which they followed. They advanced towards the plains of Hungary like a storm. The people everywhere fled at their approach. At Merseburg they were at length resisted. The gates of the city were shut against them, provisions were refused, and the inhabitants prepared for their own defence. The assault was vehement, and at first appeared to promise success; but suddenly, some trifling occurrence produced a panic among some of the assailants, and this spread so rapidly, that in a short time the whole multitude fled, and were pursued by the besieged, who slew them without mercy. Many were engulfed in the marshes which almost surrounded the place; and the Leytha, which runs by Merseburg, and at a small distance falls into the Danube, carried actually a crimson stream into the larger river, down which, likewise, floated large numbers of carcases.

Of this large assemblage, few remained at the close of this fatal day. Some of these returned to their own country. The others proceeded on their route; but as they everywhere found enemies, or made them, the number of those who reached Constantinople was extremely reduced. They told the tale of their disasters; but the Greeks had already suffered so much from the excesses of the Crusaders who were encamped near the city, that they heard the details with joy, thankful that the whole body was not there, exulting in past success. If they could not preserve order when thus reduced in numbers, and depressed in spirits, what would have been the consequence, the citizens asked, had they arrived in their full strength ? At Constantinople they had been joined by many who had come by sea from Venice, Pisa, and Genoa; and they numbered, after all their losses, a hundred thousand combatants. For some time they had respected the laws of hospitality; but idleness, abundance, and the view of the riches of the city, had at length awakened the thirst for licence, and pillage and violence became so frequent, that Alexis, for the safety of his capital, provided them with means for passing the Bosphorus. The richer portion of the city was thus preserved; but the inhabitants of the coast on its Asiatic side, soon found that they were visited by a terrible scourge. Horrible crimes were committed, their ravages became insupportable, and all the subjects of Alexis rejoiced when the time came for their departure.

The final catastrophe of this tragic drama was at hand, both as to time and place much nearer than the Crusaders anticipated. Their numbers would have constituted a powerful army had it been disciplined, and submissive to wiselydirecting authority. Capable they were indeed of committing great ravages on those who were unable to defend themselves; but they were utterly unable to cope with Solyman, the Sultan of Nice, in Asia-Minor, not far distant from the place where they had encamped when they had passed over the Bosphorus. Solyman had heard of their arrival, and was prepared to encounter their wild fury. And their ignorant obstinacy contributed to their own destruction. It is the character of active enthusiasm like theirs to despise counsel

Vol. XI. Second Series. f

and reject control. Walter Have-nought sought to enforce order, and insisted on the need of caution, but in vain. In their infatuation they expected that the Turks would flee on their first appearance, and hastened promiscuously on their road. The wary Sultan had posted ambushes in the forests and defiles of the hills which skirted the extensive plain on which his capital stood, and where the main body of his troops awaited the coming of their victims. Great numbers were slain in crossing the mountains; and when the others had advanced into the plain, the Turkish horsemen surrounded them, and poured in their arrows on masses who were there as a certain mark for their deadly aim, and who could not arrive at their wily and well-mounted foes, either for attack or defence. When so many had fallen that the remainder were no longer formidable, the foot-soldiers closed in upon them, and the most dreadful carnage ensued, so that scarcely three thousand were able to save themselves by flight. Peter, at length brought to sobriety, had seen that the first combat would be the last, as leaving no more combatants : he had previously, therefore, returned in sadness to Constantinople, and thus saved his own life. The triumphant Sultan ordered the bones of the slain to be collected, and formed with them a wild and awful pyramid, an ominous and melancholy trophy, which, as a way-mark, pointed out the road to Jerusalem to the regular army of Crusaders when they descended into the plains of Nice. More than three hundred thousand had already perished; and if those whom they had slaughtered on their way are added, the total amount would be frightful indeed. And the Crusades, properly speaking, had not yet commenced !*

[ocr errors]

* This paper is much longer than we intended, but every portion of the narrative is so deeply interesting, that we even thought it due to our readers not to carry our desire of brevity too far. Our materials would have

Orded large additions without diluting the account in the smallest degree. And the subject is full of instruction. We are shown the terrible effects of ignorance and superstition when excited to fanaticism. The thought is dreadful that to Jews and Turks such was the form in which they were called to view Christianity. And this form was the natural development of the system which the masses of Europe had embraced. Even the more

[ocr errors]


Extract XV. [Now let us have another chat with our good old gossip, Jocelin of Brakelond. He not only tells us of the doings of his brethren in the abbey, but also gives us what is really a valuable insight into the manners of the age. We see how the commonalty of the town were accustomed to conduct themselves. History tells us of the more public proceedings of the nation, acting by the state : it is not often we can see every-day life. We like to see, too, the principles whose development formed the general character of the people. Abbot Sampson appears to have been a good judge of human nature. He was also careful to enforce order; and as he knew what weapons to employ, so he was not unwilling to employ them on what he judged to be fitting occasions. Both parts of the following extract are as valuable as they are interesting. Sampson was, after his way, a sternly honest man. At the same time, it is plain that the friends of dying men were not very fond of having their lords and masters, who could open or shut heaven to them, too busy about the dying bed of their friends. It is amusing to see him ordering the horse about his business. At the same time, his swearing is not an insignificant feature in the character of the sanctity of the day.

And he knew the way, too, of making noisy, drinking quarrellers be quiet. Really, it was a sight worthy the pencil of a Cruikshanks, had there been one in the town, when the hundred men, almost naked, were there, at the abbey gates, trembling under the Abbot's curse, and imploring mercy;

pious connected self-inflicted sufferings with sanctity and merit: what would the effect be of such views when set to work on human nature unregenerated and uninstructed ? Such a stern asceticism, not shrinking from acute pain, would, in the ignorant and vulgar, harden the heart, make pity a crime, and rouse all the passions of the heart to insatiable blood-thirstiness. The superstition of those ages led to ignorance and cruelty, and its character was exhibited in the blood-stained path of the deluded multitude, conducting to the pyramid of death in the plains of Nice. Such is the effect of departure from truth. The preaching of the cross of Christ, with apostolic light and zeal, would have abundantly proved that “the Son of Man came, not to destroy men's lives, but to save them.”

« НазадПродовжити »