Seven Medieval Kings. Henry II.

Jeg vil idag begynde at se på nogle af bøgerne fra sommerens hollandske udsalg i Fiolstræde. Jeg har besøgt Vangsgaards permanente udsalg adskillige gange gennem de sidste par måneder, og har vistnok hjembragt lidt for mange bøger. Det har alt i alt måske været lidt for dyrt, og bøgerne fylder vistnok allerede for meget her i min midlertidige bolig på Finsensvej; de skal jo flyttes igen inden så længe.

Prisen for hver enkelt bog kan jeg ikke længere oplyse præcist, idet jeg ikke fører regnskab over erhvervelserne. Jeg regner med, at en gennemsnitspris på i omegnen af 35 kr tænkeligt vil være nogenlunde rigtig.

De smagsprøver jeg gengiver fra bøgerne er som sædvanligt kun udtog resp. udpluk, og jeg kan have ændret eller udeladt enkelte forældede ord eller steder. Mine egne tilføjelser vil stå i dobbeltparentets.

1. SEVEN MEDIEVAL KINGS. Af Joseph Dahmus. London, George Allen & Unwin Ltd, 1967, 344 s.

Efter et stempel på forbladet har bogen tilhørt: “Juncker, Overgård pr. Havndal”, det må sikkert være den bekendte Fl. Juncker, forf. til bl.a. “En gård skifter ejer”.

Der er i Joseph Dahmus’ værk tale om en helt udsædvanlig levende historieskrivning omkr. middelalderlige personer, og den ærede læser kan ikke noksom anbefales selv at læse bogen. Jeg gengiver som appetitvækker et par steder fra kapitlet om HENRY II. (s.148ff):

“Henry was now twenty-one years of age, a strong, stocky, broad-shouldered young man of above moderate height, with thick chest and legs. His was clearly a frame made for physical work and endurance. The garrulous Gerald of Wales likened the muscles of his arms to those of a gladiator.

“His hands, too, were not those of a king, but rough and reddened, which he never bothered to glove except when hawking. Close-cropped reddish hair which he may never have lost, since no one later speaks of his baldness, covered his well-shaped head. His carriage was not dignified, rather the hurried, vigorous stride of a man who has many things to do.

“While Henry was not unkempt or untidy, he gave little concern to his personal appearance, neither had he any more concern about personal popularity. His clothes were plain and no better than those of his courtiers. If he gave some thought to avoiding corpulency, a condition which often slowed medieval monarchs, his worry did not rise from vanity but from a desire to retain his health and mobility.

“The same interest in health, or it may have been heredity, made Henry moderate in his eating and drinking. It would not have been to his palace, but to that of his chancellor, Thomas Becket, that the visiting gourmet would go for at sumptuous meal. There is even the hint of parsimony about the table he set, undoubtedly from the pen of men who viewed providing a luxurious board to be the peculiar duty of royalty.

“Among Henry’s most valuable gifts were his tremendous vigor and capacity for work. So enormous was his store of nervous energy that he was never tired, even after a long day of hunting when his companions lay around in the straw in a state of exhaustion. When absorbed in some wexing problem he would stay up all night. His restless energy revealed itself even at Mass. (He selected priests known for their speed in saying Mass.) If he did not spend the time at Mass carrying on a low conversation with his attendants, he would doodle in impatience and draw pictures until the service had ended.

“Henry seldom sat down except at meals, but was forever on his feet. This trait his attendants found wearying, even more so the violent speed with which he traveled about the country, always in haste to reach his destination and often riding far into the night with no adequate lodging awaiting him when he finally stopped. What also vexed his attendants was the suddenness with which he might set out on a trip or, after all preparations had been made, might cancel it. Few men knew his itineray, perhaps not always Henry himself. His anxious nobles and sheriffs could never be sure when he might turn up.

“He was, fortunately, neither haughty by temperament nor impatient, and usually maintained an amazing degree of equanimity before troubles and vexations which would have tried many ordinary men. When crossed in a matter, however, upon which he had set his mind, or when someone spoke commendingly of a personal eneny, let the culprit beware!

“In the paroxysms of rage that such circumstances might provoke, he would throw himself upon the ground, curse and moan, and beat the ground in helpless rage. Once when a courtier spoke well of the king of Scotland with whom Henry happened to be feuding, the king tore off his clothes and the covering from his bed, and began to gnaw the straw in the mattress. With respect to friendships and enmities Henry had a long memory. Only after repeated cause would he turn against a friend, while someone he once disliked might be a lifetime endeavoring to prove he was a friend.

“Henry was affable and respectful, even humble. He disliked pomp and ostentation and made no pretense to being of better stuff than his people. When he walked about London he permitted men and women to approach him, indeed to jostle him im their eagerness to get close, and he would bear patiently with their questions and importunities. They automatically warmed to his lack of pretense.

“He earned their respect and loyalty because of the sound, just administration he provided them, even though few took his part in his conflict with Thomas Becket. Yet though he worked long and diligently to establish a strong regime, his first objekctive was to achieve that power which God and nature had decreed should be a king’s. While this necessitated furnishing his subjects peace and justice, in Henry’s judgment the attainment of those blessings remained secondary. A contented people constituted the best assurance of a successful reign for himself. That personal affection which Louis IX of France had for his people Henry seems never to have felt.

“In all of twelfth-century Christendom there was no more learned king than Henry. Both his father and mother gave earnest attention to his education.

“Walter Map may have been exaggerating when he credited Henry with a knowledge of all the languages spoken from the Bay of Biscay to the Jordan, but there is no question concerning his ability to read and speak both Latin and French (his native tongue). Henry enjoyed reading serious literature, and he liked especially to dispute with the clerks of his court and with scholars who happened by. He was even something of a patron of the arts. The poet Wace composed his epic of the dukes of Normandy upon Henry’s request.

“In a life beset with more than its share of harassment and disappointment, nothing provided Henry so rich a source of misery and frustation as his own family. “For thirty-six years,” wrote one chronicler, he reigned without defeat or injury “except for the sorrows which his sons caused him.”

“Those modern phychologists who emphasize heredity in the analysis of personal traits will have no hesitation positing in the ancestry of Henry’s sons a rich assortment of obstinate, unscrupulous, treacherous, unfilial, ruthless, and quarrelsome progenitors. Less sophisticated readers may attribute the lack of discipline and respect in Henry’s sons to their father’s indulgence as well as to the machinations of their mother Eleanor and the French kings, Louis VII and Philip Augustus.

“Henry had great love for all his children, most of all for John, his youngest. All four of his sons brought him grief. His three daughters occasioned him no trouble. Girls rarely did in the Middle Ages; their roles were clearly set. Their purpose was to establich diplomatic ties with other regimes and this service Henry’s daughters provided without protest. His eldest daughter, Matilda, married the duke of Bavaria; his second daughter, Eleanor, became the wife of the king of Castile, while Joan, the third daughter, married the king of Sicily.”

Ovenstående skulle være nok til at belyse forf. Joseph Dahmus’ tilsyneladende unikke viden og evne til at fortælle om de her omhandlede middelalderlige personer. Hans sproglige stil er, formodentligt bl.a. i medfør af hans overlegne beherskelse af stoffet, enkel og kyrstalklar, uden obskure gloser og konstruktioner. Fin bog!

Forresten tør vi vel herefter holde for ret sandsynlig, at den engelske konge Henry II (1133-89) har været en værdig ægtefælle for sin berømte dronning Eleonore af Aquitatien (1137-1204), hvem jeg tidligere har omtalt kort i https://blocnotesimma.wordpress.com/2013/11/30/nok-lidt-flytterod-1-del/ (under pkt.1 MIDDELALDERLITERATUREN – EN ORIENTERING) samt
https://blocnotesimma.wordpress.com/2013/07/25/saxo-kulturhistoria-for-skaneland-m-m/ (under pkt.3 HISTOIRE DE L’ANJOU, her berøres tillige Henry’s fædrende slægt).

(fortsættes)

(Min nye blog http://www.gamleboeger.dk er endnu under opsætning).

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