Excerpt from Franois Villon: His Life and Times, 1431-1463
As we step back from the Past and stand here today before the old French chateau, glance for a moment at the country around us. To-day the word country calls up pleasant visions to the human mind. To-day poets sing of the beauty of the fields, and trees, and rivers, and mountains even to-daywe find some murmurings about verdure and ?owers in the tapestries and songs of the folk who lived protected in the Chateaux of 1431, but the country beyond the chateau garden was a grim place, where men, women, and children lived the lives of beasts, half starved, overworked, and ever followed by three phantoms - the soldier, the wolf, and the robber.
A peasant existed by virtue of his poverty - he was not worth killing or robbing; a wolf by virtue of his heels or his teeth; a soldier by the length of his sword; a noble by the strength of his castle;and a robber by the Sharpness of his dagger and his wits.
The country, in fact, in the year of our Lord 1431 and for many years after, was a desolation between two cities, a place where corn was grown and men were robbed, where the lamb came into the world and the wolf came out of the wood. The wolves were perhaps the first among the visible terrors of the country, and one may gauge their ferocity from the fact that they attacked the towns. They fought the dogs in the streets of Paris itself, and slew women and children within the walls. After the wolf came the soldier. War was always looming up in the form of armed bands: now the English; now the Burgundians, more savage than the English; now the Arma gnacs, more savage than the Burgundians. And War to the poor man in the country did not come as war; he knew nothing of the name of the thing or the glory of the thing; he only knew it as an evil that added to the misery of life, - armed men breaking from among the trees, raiding the ?ocks, emptying the larder, firing the thatch; women ravished, children slain.
In England the countryman was in comparative peace and safety, free from invasion and the sword. But here the soldier was one of the worst problems of a bitter life, and after the soldier the robber.
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