“Whan Adam dalf, and Eve span,
Who was thanne a gentilman?”
Yes, indeed, when Adam delved (dug the ground), there were no gentlemen. In fact there were no classes in society at all. How they arose is beyond the remit of this Post! As I sit at my keyboard creating Zingcreed, I can look up and see a poster on my wall produced on the 600th anniversary of the Peasants revolt, led by Wat Tyler of Kent. It bears another quote from John Bull or Ball above a woodcut of grim faced peasant women marching on London with babies on their backs and pitchforks in their hands.
“Things cannot go well in England, nor ever will until everything shall be held in common.”
There are (a few) occasions when I am proud of my country’s history, and the Peasants’ Revolt is one of them. Needless to say, I was not taught about it in school!
An account of John Ball’s sermons given ‘oftentimes on the Sundays after mass.’
“My good friends, matters cannot go well in England until all things shall be in common; when there shall be neither vassals nor lords; when the lords shall be no more masters than ourselves. How ill they behave to us! for what reason do they hold us thus in bondage? Are we not all descended from the same parents, Adam and Eve? And what can they show, or what reason can they give, why they should be more masters than ourselves? They are clothed in velvet and rich stuffs, ornamented with ermine and other furs, while we are forced to wear poor clothing. They have wines, spices and fine breads, while we have only rye and the refuse of the straw; and when we drink it must be water. They have handsome seats and manors, while we must brave the wind and rain n our labours in the field; and it is by our labour that they have wherewith to support their pomp. We are called slaves, and if we do not perform our service we are beaten, and we have no sovereign to whom we can complain or who would be wiling to hear us. Let us go to the king and remonstrate with him; he is young, and from him we may obtain a favourable answer, and if not we must ourselves seek to amend our condition.”
Froissart “The Chronicles” ( c.1381) quoted in Benn, Tony “Writings on the wall. A radical and socialist anthology 1215-1984” Faber & Faber (1984)
Related Zingcreed Posts:
Alphabetical index of all other ‘Red Christian document’ Posts
[310, indexed & linked, t&c]