Chronicles of the Crusades/Chapter 1

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To the Venerable Father Robert, his very good Lord, formerly Prior of the Church of Winchester, health to persevere in the good work he has begun, his faithful servant Richard, surnamed of Devizes, sends greeting:

Sect.1. After you had happily proceeded to the Charter House[1] from our church of Winchester, much and often did I desire to follow you who had thus departed, peradventure to remain with you, but certainly to behold what you were about, how you lived, and whether the Carthusian cell is more exalted and nearer heaven than the cloister of Winchester. It pleased God at length to satisfy my wish. I came, and oh that I had come alone! I went thither making the third, and those who went with me were the cause of my return. My desire displeased them, and they caused my fervour, I will not say error, to grow cold. I saw with you that which elsewhere I had not seen, which I could not have believed, and which I could not sufficiently admire. In each of your cells there is one door according to custom, which you are permitted to open at pleasure, but to go out by it is not permitted, except so much as that one foot should always remain in the cell within the threshold. The brethren may step out with one foot, whichever they lease, but the other must remain in the cell. A great and solemn oath is to be taken that the door by which it is not permitted to enter or depart should be kept open. I am astonished also at another thing; abounding in all the good things of this world, as having nothing, yet possessing all things, more compassionate and humane than all men, having the most perfect love one to another, you divide the affection of charity to strangers, you bless without giving supplies to your guests. Nor do I less admire, in the third place, that living to yourselves apart out of society, and singly, you understand all the great things achieved in the world as they happen, and even sometimes you know them prior to their being accomplished. Do not, however, consider it want of respect in me to your more than Pythagorean taciturnity, if I shall dare presume to address men of so great gravity, and so arduous profession, rather with the trifles of the world than mere idle gossip.

Sect. 2. Nevertheless, although, as it is thought, the Omniscient God is with you and in you, and through Him you know all things, and not from man, nor yet by man, you were pleased, as you said, that my essay would be a solace to you, inasmuch as in the first place I should write to you a history of the fresh changes, which the world has produced, turning squares into circles (more especially since your transmigration to the celled heaven, by means of which the world may appear more worthless to you, having its fickleness before your eyes), and, secondly, that a well-known hand might recal to you the memory of one beloved.

Oh! what delight! if that holy spirit, if the angel of the Lord, if the deified man who is become already of the number of the gods, should deign to remember me before the great God, me, who am scarcely worthy to be accounted a man. I have done that which you desired, do that which you have promised. And that the little book may have a commencement of some importance, I have begun a little higher than was stipulated, making our Royal house troubled like that of Œdipus, the bounds of my work, commencing at the latter part, not daring to hope to unravel the whole. Why, and how, and when, the father may have crowned his son; how great things and of what importance thence ensued; who and how often and what regions they embroiled; with what success they all ended I have left to those who produce greater works; my narrative serves only for the living.

  1. At Witham.