Posts Tagged ‘confidence’

How to Stop a Bully (VI)

Tuesday, June 3rd, 1079

The codex Renbaudus was found in 1962 in Southeastern France. It contains the memoirs in Latin of an 11th century Norman knight, Renbaudus of Bernay. The codex mainly narrates his pilgrimage to Jerusalem between 1095 and 1099.

Even though many pages of the codex have been lost, it is now understood that it originally contained different sections. In one of the few surviving ones, Renbaudus describes his childhood and the lessons he learned from the Benedictine monks who raised him at Cluny abbey.

As a codicologist, my aim is to translate and share with you what he wrote more than 10 centuries ago, hoping these timeless lessons will be useful. I have taken some stylish liberties and you can find a glossary at the bottom for place names, difficult words and Latin words. You may also hover over the dotted-underlined words to get the definitions.

G.B.

XVJ

The next day, Clementia invited us to partake of some pottage to thank us for supporting her son. Henry and I joined Josseran and we all enjoyed an early evening talk.

Revisiting the last few weeks’ events, we agreed that Henry’s plan hadn’t worked, but it did put Otto in the uncomfortable position of knowing that soon the truth would be known.

“What do you think will happen?” I asked Henry.

“Otto is lying,” he said. “It is common for kings and other leaders not to be able to read and write. That’s what scribes are for. Otto is pretending to do so, and has been signing charters unaware of their contents.”

Josseran, who was finishing his bowl of pottage, chimed in. “People think he can do so since he studied at the schola.”

“Well, we should say attended rather than studied!” joked Henry.

The three of us laughed while drinking our juice.

A rap at the door stopped us.

Clementia went to open it. When she did, the shape of a tall monk appeared in the dusk. His hood hid his face. He entered and signaled Clementia to close the door. Impressed, she complied.

Then he slowly pushed back his hood. Our faces reflected our surprise as we recognized Otto.

Otto the Red. The new and all-too-powerful Duke of Burgundy. Our now former classmate.

Nobody moved. He didn’t have his sword, but he slowly produced a dagger from one of his large sleeves. He carefully moved toward the three of us. We were trapped behind the table and too stunned by his sudden presence to be able to react.

When he reached the table, he put down the dagger and opened his arms. “I came peacefully,” he said. “To talk.”

We looked at each other, still unsure about his intentions. He looked at Henry.

“Can we sit and talk?”

“That’s what you came for?” asked Henry.

“Yes.” the Duke answered.

Clementia, who had been awestruck, regained her wits. “My Lord, it is an honor to have one of your rank visit such an unworthy place.”

She helped him be seated on a stool. Henry, Josseran, and I sat on the other side of the table, on the bed. Clementia shooed away a couple of hens that had become too curious about the new visitor. She brought back some grape juice for the Duke.

Otto thanked her. He was making a  great effort to restrain himself, something he was not used to. Finally he looked at Josseran, who quickly cringed. Then he spoke.

“I accept your help.”

XVIJ

We looked at each other, incredulous. Henry asked his brother: “You want Josseran to help you read and write?”

“Yes, but this has to be a secret. Nobody must know or…” he said, regaining his usual threatening tone. He caught himself, paused and started again with a softer voice.

“I would like to keep this matter between us. I am sure I can trust all of my subjects in this room. It is for the greater good of the Duchy.”

Josseran spoke for the first time.

“How…how do you want to do it? How do we keep this a secret?”

“At night the scriptorium will be the perfect place,” said Otto. “You are used to spending many hours there, right? So nobody will suspect you. An incognitus monk will join you, as I just did, and a few of my milites will be hiding around the place.”

“How can we trust you?” I asked.

“I came here tonight, alone.”

Josseran nodded. “I am willing to help you. But before we start,” he said, “I want to hear an apology for the beating. My face still hurts. I also want Ranulf and Toly to apologize.”

Furious, Otto stood up, unable to restrain himself. “Do you know who you are talking to? I made enough effort just by coming here. You will not get an apology from me or my friends!”

“No apology, no help,” the little Lord of Bagé answered.

Henry and I looked at him, surprised. Otto was getting angry. And the dagger was still at the center of the table.

“This apology doesn’t have to be made now,” I offered. “You can discuss it together in the scriptorium.”

“I am sure asking forgiveness through a penance can be considered as an apology too,” said Henry as he nudged Josseran. The latter slowly nodded. Otto sat back, still upset.

No one spoke for a while. Otto, trying to regain a ducal composure, drank every last drop of his juice, then wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.

Josseran was not done yet.

“What is your real level of reading and writing?”

Otto grew uncomfortable.

“Ahem. I can read but I am too slow for the mountain of documents that awaits me every day. As for writing, I got pretty good at signing. For the rest…” He extended his opened hand.

“So we will have to start with the basics,” said Josseran. “I expect you to do your homework.”

The Duke of Burgundy, growing impatient again, gave a quick nod.

“Finally,” said Josseran, “I want my family and my friends here never, ever to be bullied by you! Do I have your word?”

“I swear to God,” was Otto’s answer. We knew how faithful he was.

“Tomorrow evening at the scriptorium, then.”

Otto almost said “Thank you,” but caught himself and nodded slightly as a Duke should.

XVIIJ

As soon as Otto left, a wave of relief swept over us.

Josseran let himself fall back on the bed, breathing hard. We were still stunned by Otto’s visit.

Clementia was the first one to react. “Iesu! That was scary. I worry that my Josseran will spend his nights alone with this brute, but you all handled the Duke well. Here is an apple tart I made yesterday. Please have some.”

The sweet smell of the apples energized us up and we started wolfing down the tart. Between mouthfuls, I managed to talk. “Henry, in the end, your plan was perfect! Otto will no longer be a nuisance.”

Henry, gulping down his share of tart, added: “We can thank Father Eusebius for his help. He pushed us beyond our fear of Otto. He helped us see that even in a bleak situation there is hope!”

Josseran, who was eating like I had never seen him eat before, stopped a moment. “Looking at the situation from a different point of view helped us shift our thinking.”

“Tomorrow I will go to Berzé. I will bring word about the final events to Father Eusebius. I am sure he will be pleased. That was quite a challenge!”

“Nolle videre in somnis, fi,” chimed in Josseran.

We kept chatting for a while, enjoying the sweetness of victory, of having succeeded in our goal to get rid of Otto’s bullying.

“We have to share this. Other children need help around Burgundy,” said Henry. “Renbaudus, are you still writing your diarium?”

“Yes, I am.”

“We should make copies of this story from your diarium and send them to the scholas of other cluniac abbeys.”

And so we did.

The following weeks and months would prove very interesting, especially regarding the relationship between Josseran and Otto, the new Duke of Burgundy. But that is another story.

I here close the Diarum Renbaude for today.

How to Stop a Bully (V)

Tuesday, June 3rd, 1079

The codex Renbaudus was found in 1962 in Southeastern France. It contains the memoirs in Latin of an 11th century Norman knight, Renbaudus of Bernay. The codex mainly narrates his pilgrimage to Jerusalem between 1095 and 1099.

Even though many pages of the codex have been lost, it is now understood that it originally contained different sections. In one of the few surviving ones, Renbaudus describes his childhood and the lessons he learned from the Benedictine monks who raised him at Cluny abbey.

As a codicologist, my aim is to translate and share with you what he wrote more than 10 centuries ago, hoping these timeless lessons will be useful. I have taken some stylish liberties and you can find a glossary at the bottom for place names, difficult words and Latin words. You may also hover over the dotted-underlined words to get the definitions.

G.B.

XIIJ

“A butterfly? Father Eusebius said that?” Josseran asked.

It had been several days since the news had spread and he hadn’t come back to the schola. Henry, who was feeling better, and I had decided to pay another visit to Josseran.

While his mother Clementia served us some bread and honey, I gave a quick summary of the good Father’s conversation.

“That’s what he said. We could turn him into a butterfly.”

“This, I cannot believe. Soon he will be Duke of Burgundy and nobody will have control over him, except the pope.”

Henry disagreed. “My brother will not listen to the pope. The only person I see having some sort of control over him is the great abbot.”

“True,” I said. “I remember how he talked to Otto in the church. He was not impressed by his new title.”

Josseran was doubtful. “He said that Otto the Red lacks self-confidence? I find that difficult to believe.”

“I think it is possible,” said Henry. “After the death of our father, Hugh and Otto were directly taken care by our grandfather Robert. You know his reputation. He was violent and couldn’t bear any opposition to his will. Otto had a hard time with him because of his strong personality. My grandfather hit him many times because he was not obeying. That doesn’t help feeling good about oneself and maybe deep down Otto has a lot of doubts.”

“But this doesn’t excuse his behavior!” countered Josseran. He remembered too well how much he had suffered from his last beating.

“No, Otto is not excused for what he did. We are trying to understand why he is a bully. Father Eusebius might be right. The new duke has no confidence. That’s something we should use.”

“How does someone get confident?” asked Henry, suddenly more alert.

“Father Eusebius has told me many times that self-confidence is the best gift to give to a child. Amazingly not a good sword or a promising horse. He is adamant about that. But I trust him. The way to get more confident is to do things that make us feel good.”

“Like eating?”

“No, Henry. It has to be related to someone else or for the greater good of Christendom.”

Henry stood up banging one hand into the other one. “I think I know how to turn my brother into a butterfly and at the same time solve all of our problems!”

We were scrutinizing him, waiting. Henry looked squarely at Josseran. “You are the solution my friend. You will become Otto’ best friend!”

XIIIJ

We had not seen Otto since the church incident. He was now about to be the new duke and there were lots of preparations for the festivities. Cluny was busy helping drawing new charters, sending messages all over Christendom in order to notify and invite crowned heads to participate in the ceremonies. The scriptorium itself was like a ruche. Monks relaying themselves with the writing and the copying.

Finally, we heard that the new Duke of Burgundy had arrived from Dole the previous night and would spend his morning signing all the documents that needed to be sent.

When we arrived in the scriptorium, Otto was busy signing a charter handed to him by Brother Servius. The new Duke was not enjoying this. Nearby, Bernhardus, the chamberlain, was waiting nervously with a few men-at arms. We pushed Josseran towards Otto and stayed behind, half hidden in the shadows.

Josseran, pale as snow, walked slowly towards the desk where Otto was, with great difficulty, signing  his name. When he saw the little Lord of Bâgé in the middle of the candlelight, he first was surprised and then barked, “You, get out of here!”

Josseran, even though he wanted to, didn’t move.

Otto lowered his voice into a growl. “I said, get out of here right now. I am busy but I am not forgetting about you. Wait until all of this is over,” he said, gesturing at the mountain of parchments on his pulpit.

“I can help,” whispered Josseran.

“What?”

“I can help you manage this work, said Josseran, his voice growing stronger.” I can read and write. You…you cannot.”

Protests emerged from the others. One of the man-at-arms was already unsheathing his sword. Brother Servius intervened.

“Josseran! You are insulting the Duke. Apologize right now!”

The little Lord of Bâgé was about to open his mouth again when Otto stood up. “Everyone, get out of the scriptorium!” he commanded. “I am going to personally take care of this little vermin!”

“You cannot read!”

The high pitch tone of Josseran’s voice startled everyone in the room. I was not expecting him to answer back like this. He seemed on a roll now. “Read the charter you just signed,” he said pointing to the parchment still in Otto’ hand.

The new Duke threw it on the pulpit as if it were burning his hand.

“How dare you give me an order?” he said.

“It is not an order my Lord. I am just a fervent vassal of yours who is worried about the future of Burgundy.”

Otto broke into a smile.

“I love when my subjects care about the dukedom.” He opened his arms inviting everyone to leave. “I want…I would like to have a word in private with my vassal, the Lord of Bâgé.”

There was no way to oppose the Duke’s orders. Henry and I reluctantly left the room with everyone else, leaving Josseran alone with Otto. We both were panicked. It was like having a mouse trapped with a cat…in a cage.

XV

Outside, in the cloister, the sun was bright, contrasting with the darkness of the scriptorium. We all waited, nobody talking, but all of us worrying. At least we didn’t hear screams from Josseran.

The great abbot Hugh who happened to walk nearby, surprised to see such a group of people outside the scriptorium, came to us and asked what was happening. The chamberlain, Bernhardus, told him. Frowning, the great abbot walked towards the door of the scriptorium.

“Father, I apologize but you can’t enter. The Duke gave an order,” said the chamberlain.

“Inside the walls of Cluny, I take orders only from God and the pope,” was the abbot’s answer. As he opened the door, he noticed my presence and gestured for me to follow him, which I did.

Our eyes had to get used to the darkness of the room. We noticed Josseran and Otto in one corner, the little Lord of Bâgé against the wall and the new Duke of Burgundy sword in hand, as if ready to strike.

“Stop this!” warned the abbot.

Surprised, Otto lowered his sword while Josseran ran towards us.

“In the name of God, Otto, can you start behaving as a Duke?”

“I was dealing with one of my lower vassals, as per my right.”

“No. You can’t do that. This is sacred ground and I am fully in charge here.”

Otto sheathed his sword, upset. Abbot Hugh was not done yet. “And what is this rumor about your reading and writing?”

Turning to Josseran he said: “You cannot tell a lie just to hurt people, my son. Every word of every sentence has a value. Why did you say that?”

Josseran didn’t hesitate: “Because it is true.”

“Nonsense!” shouted Otto.

The abbot was not about to get carried into a fight.

“There is no need to scream and accuse each other.” He looked around, picked up a small book of prayers and handed it to Otto, who started to step back. “Will my Lord, the Duke of Burgundy, be gracious enough to read for us a few lines?”

Otto was still retreating, starting to panic.

“I don’t…I don’t have to obey to you.”

“Of course you don’t have to, my Lord. It was just a polite invitation.” He looked at me and I slowly nodded.

“Perfect! We should all leave this room. Terce has already rung and it’s time for prayer.”

The Duke of Burgundy was more than happy to comply as were Josseran and I. As we were leaving, the great abbot said: “My Lord, I apologize for asking you to read. We will be more than happy to listen to you reading the breviary on the first Sunday of Lent as it is our tradition with the House of Burgundy.”

He then threw open the doors and the sun bathed us as we joined the rest of the group, still waiting outside.

Otto didn’t move. He stood frozen inside the scriptorium.