~ Historical & Classical Poetry ~
Norman and Saxon
"My son," said the Norman
Baron, "I am dying, and you will be heir
To all the broad acres in England that William gave me for share
When he conquered the Saxon at Hastings, and a nice little handful it is.
But before you go over to rule it I want you to understand this:--
"The Saxon is not like us Normans.
His manners are not so polite.
But he never means anything serious till he talks about justice right.
When he stands like an ox in the furrow--with his sullen set eyes on your own,
And grumbles, 'This isn't fair dealing,' my son, leave the Saxon alone.
"You can horsewhip your Gascony
archers, or torture your Picardy spears;
But don't try that game on the Saxon; you'll have the whole brood round your
From the richest old Thane in the county to the poorest chained serf in the
They'll be at you and on you like hornets, and, if you are wise, you will yield.
"But first you must master their
language, their dialect, proverbs and songs.
Don't trust any clerk to interpret when they come with the tale of their own
Let them know that you know what they are saying; let them feel that you know
what to say.
Yes, even when you want to go hunting, hear 'em out if it takes you all day.
They'll drink every hour of the
daylight and poach every hour of the dark.
It's the sport not the rabbits they're after (we've plenty of game in the park).
Don't hang them or cut off their fingers. That's wasteful as well as unkind,
For a hard-bitten, South-country poacher makes the best man-at-arms you can
"Appear with your wife and the
children at their weddings and funerals and feasts.
Be polite but not friendly to Bishops; be good to all poor parish priests.
Say 'we,' 'us' and 'ours' when you're talking, instead of 'you fellows' and 'I.'
Don't ride over seeds; keep your temper; and never you tell 'em a lie!"