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Arnold Klein

After the Old and Middle French
(From prose versions published by the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies)

And then our Lord sent Vespasian a malady called chancre,
Which ate his nose and lips and stripped his beard and eyebrows.
And his people were appalled, and sent skilled men to treat it,
But these, the more they touched him with their hands
The worse the chancre grew,
Until they wished to touch him with their hands no longer.
And these skilled men informed him there was none could cure him,
Save perhaps the gods. And then the chancre worsened.
Where there had been ulcers only bone was showing,
And where he had been clean new crops of ulcers sprouted…

And then there came to Rome Jesus Christ's disciple Clement,
And one day preaching secretly of Jesus Christ
He converted Gaius, who was steward to Vespasian…

Sire, Gaius said, I think your gods are helpless.
But I have heard it preached that in Jerusalem a holy man,
Jesus Christ by name, worked many signs and wonders in his life,
Among them curing chancre. But the Jews,
Because they saw him work such wonders, worked his death,
And Pilate helped them. And also I have heard it said
That anyone who touches something he had touched is cured at once…

Vespasian replied, I beg you, go at once,
And if you find a thing that touched him, bring it here.
And know that if this holy prophet deign to cure me
I revenge his death, and will destroy those Jews
Thirty to the penny, since for thirty pennies they destroyed him.
And tell my provost Pilate I am much displeased…

And then, when Gaius came back from Jerusalem, he said,
Give thanks to God for I have found a sainted lady.
She has the image of this holy man and prophet
On a towel, by which towel she herself was cured.
And she was total leper…

And Vespasian was cured at once…

And he said, I will not be inmersed until I have avenged
This holy man and prophet. I will now avenge
The death of Jesus Christ…

Then Vespasian with all his people and his son, Titus,
Dug a ditch around the city of Jerusalem,
And no supplies could enter, nor could any leave,
Without their knowing. And when Pilate saw the host
That now beseiged them he was much appalled…

And soon there was a famine in Jerusalem, so complete,
That there were only weeds to eat, and few of those.
And people fell to eating dogs and horses that had starved to death.
People died in heaps, and every morning there were hundreds more.
And Pilate was appalled, for he had never seen such misery,
And had it cried, that anyone who had enough should help the starving,
And these, the poor, poured out into the city streets
And wheresoever they saw smoke, or smelled the smell of cooking
In they broke at once, and all they found devoured.
And in this way the city was completely ravaged.
Loaves were sold for gold, and so were apples.
And when at last these too ran out, and there was nothing,
They hunted rats and cats and gnawed on wood and soils,
And then they ate the leather on the city doors…

Now there was a woman in the city then whose name was Mary,
Widow to a king. She lived with her daughter and a noble woman
Her companion, named Clarice, who had a baby son.
And these two ladies and their infants had converted to the faith of Christ.
And they had ample means, and were provisioned as befit a queen,
That is, until the rabble Pilate loosed upon the city robbed them,
And left them only greens their mansion garden gave them,
On which greens they lived, until these too ran out.
And then the children of the ladies grew enfeebled,
And merely died of hunger, and for no other cause.
And the ladies sorrowed much, each about her child,
The queen about her daughter and her friend about her baby son.
Finally Clarice declared, Enough of sorrow.
Let us eat a portion of my baby son. This will save us.
And let us roast the portion, and then roast the rest, lest it spoil.
Now when the queen heard this she was much appalled. She swooned,
But an angel came and raised her up and told her, Lady,
You must do this thing, for God commands it.
For he said the day he entered here upon an ass
There would come such famine to Jerusalem
The mother would devour the child. And then the angel left.
And the ladies cut the shoulder portion of the son and roasted it.

Now Pilate, who was walking in the city thinking what to do,
Smelled the roasting and at once grew very hungry.
He called an officer and said, Go find this roast.
And tell whoever has it they should send me some,
For never in my life have I craved anything as much as this.
The officer smelled out the roast and found the ladies.
He said, My master Pilate craves this roast and asks you send him some,
For never in his life has he craved anything as much as this.
By God, friend, Clarice replied, we shall do more than that.
She then produced a cleaver and the uncooked portion of her son.
She told him, Chop away the piece you think will please him.
This way he can cook it any way he likes.
Now when the poor man saw the cut-up baby, and he understood
She wished to cut it up again to send to Pilate,
He was so appalled he almost lost his senses.
He fled the house and went to Pilate in a state of terror.
And Pilate asked him, How is it that you bring no roast.
And the officer replied, Sire, be advised
A woman has cut up her baby son and roasted some of that.
She offered to cut off another piece for you, which when I saw
I was so appalled I almost lost my senses, and I fled.
And when Pilate heard this he was much appalled,
And took to bed and lay there three whole days, for he was very sad.

And the ladies wept and moaned and then began to eat,
Because they were very hungry, and because God has said to.
And when they finished eating the companion's child
They ate the queen’s, which brought indeed great sorrow to the Queen,
And anyone who saw them grieving while they ate,
From the pity of it, would have grieved as well.

After three whole days in bed, sad and baffled, Pilate rose.
He called his barons and his counsellors and said to them,
I recommend we yield the city to the Emperor
And if he wants to kill me let him,
For I would rather die myself than let the city perish.
But there are hordes of precious stones here, gold and silver,
And the Emperor and his people think to have them all.
I think I know a way to see that they get nothing.
Let us grind them all in mortars made of bronze,
So finely, we can eat the treasure and not perish.
This way when the Emperor and his people enter they get nothing,
For we will get small mercy from them either way.
They all agreed, and did as Pilate counsel led,
Grinding up their silver, gold and precious stones and eating them.
And those who had too much to eat gave up their excess
To those who had too little. And when all was eaten
They went to Pilate and asked him what they should do next.
And Pilate was appalled, and wept before them all, and said,
Friends, you made me lord and provost of this city
And I ruined you. For God's sake pardon me.
And when the Jews saw Pilate weeping they were much appalled,
And there was none among them who did not weep with him.
And Pilate said, Take heart, and let us trust in God.
We must throw ourselves upon the Emperor’s mercy.
That at least is better than to die of hunger
And no day passes now without four hundred people dying so.
Who knows, he may take pity yet and not destroy us.

Then Pilate and his people left the city and approached the ditch.
And Titus, with his knights around him, galloped up,
And Pilate knew him, for his standard had an eagle on it.
And Pilate said, We beg you beg your father to be merciful.
We who are in tears ask you to pity us, and wash away
The evil that you know of us, but not the good.
And Titus sent two knights to tell his father, and his father came.
And Titus said, Sire, here is Pilate asking mercy
If he yield the town. And Vespasian replied to Pilate,
If you want to yield the city I will take it. But be advised,
I will pity you as much as you did pity Jesus Christ,
Whom you condemned to wrongful death by hanging on a cross.
Know that I am here to take revenge on you for Jesus Christ.
When Pilate and his people heard this answer they were much appalled,
And all that Pilate thought to say was, Take the city.

And Vespasian began to fill the ditch in, and when it was full
He sent 10, 000 knights to occupy the town and shut the gates.
Then Titus and his people came and captured Pilate.
And all the Jews and Jewesses were seized and roped,
And then the gates were opened, for they had been shut to stop the Jews,
So all the other people of Jerusalem could go about in freedom,
Which they did, comporting themselves joyfully, except the Jews.

And when the Emperor saw so many Jews his prisoners
He said, My knights, since Jesus Christ has shown us grace
By giving us this conquest of our enemies,
I wish now to avenge his death and sell the Jews.
And as they bought his death for thirty pennies I say they be sold
Thirty to the penny. And he had it cried
That whosoever wished to buy some Jews could go
To any of the dealers whom he had appointed,
To which dealers, as commission for the Jews they sold,
He gave a pennysworth of Jews, and let them choose them.

And when the word was out a knight went to the Emperor and said,
Sire, I will take a pennysworth of Jews, and he was given thirty.
And then he took his sword and went among the thirty he had bought
And ran one through the body, and the Jew fell dead.
But when the knight pulled out his sword he saw
Not blood emerging from the wound but glints of gold and silver.
And he marveled much, and took another Jew and said to him,
Tell me what this means. And the Jew replied, Sire,
If you save my life I will tell you. And the knight agreed.
And then the Jew informed the knight of Pilates 's plan,
How they ate their treasure to deny it to Vespasian
And to live, As, he said, for three weeks we had nothing else.
And this at once was told to all the Emperor's people
And everyone among them wished to buy some Jews
And the Emperor was pleased to sell them thirty each.
And all the Jews were sold and killed, for those who bought them
Bought them but to get the gold and silver that they had inside.
And it was Pilate's fault, for it was his advice to eat their treasure,
For had they not the buyers would have granted them
Abundant mercy…

And then Vespasian destroyed the city and returned to Rome…

And afterward Vespasian convoked the senate
And ordered them, according to his crimes, determine Pilate's fate.
And when they heard these read they took themselves to counsel.
Deliberations finished, they returned and said,
Sire, let us say at once, this man must die.
But by the orders of your father, Julius Sezar, sire,
Any man whose capital misdeeds were done outside of Rome
Must be executed at Vienne, by the justiciar.
So firstly, we decree that Pilate be transported
To Vienne, and that this same justiciar take charge of him.
Then we decree that he be killed in just this manner.
Let them build a pillar in the middle of the marketplace
Eighteen feet in height and thick, and six feet up
Let them drive a rod to which to fasten Pilate.
And let it be inscribed on top, This man is Pilate,
Who sentenced Jesus Christ to wrongful death by hanging on a cross.
Then bind him there upright and naked, smeared with oil,
And let his face be fixed all day upon the sun. And when it sets
Let them take him down and chop and ear off.
Then to prison take him, feed him well, and tend him as he needs,
That he may linger out the three weeks torment that he has in store.
Next morning let him breakfast and be taken back, and place the ear
Where he can observe it, and at sunset cut the other off.
The third day do the same, but cut his penis off and place it there.
The fourth day do the same, but let a hand be cut.
The fifth day do the same, but cut the other hand.
The sixth day do the same, but cut a strip of flesh
Running down his side until it reach his loins.
The seventh day the same, but cut the other side.
The eigth day do the same, but let a sole be cut.
The ninth day do the same, but cut the other sole.
The tenth day do the same, but cut a strip of flesh
Running from his navel up and down his back.
The eleventh day the same, but cut a strip around,
So he must bear a cross, as he made Jesus do.
The twelfth day do the same, but let an arm be cut.
The thirteenth day the same, but cut the other arm.
The fourteenth day the same, but chop a shoulder off.
The fifteenth day the same, but chop the other one.
The sixteenth day the same, but tear his hair and beard.
The seventeenth the same, but let a foot be cut.
The eighteenth day the same, but cut the other foot.
The nineteenth day the same, but let his thighs be broke,
For so he broke the thieves that hung with Jesus Christ.
The twentieth the same, but have him dragged and bound,
And let his tongue be cut, not slit, but cut completely.
The twenty-first the same, but let his head be slowly taken off,
In such a way he bleeds as long as bleed he can.
Then burn the corpse to ash, and throw it in the Rhone.
We think this sentence suitable to Pilate's crimes,
For he betrayed both God and you, and killed his people.

Then Vespasian had Pilate taken to Vienne
Guarded by a troop of knights, who carried letters
Telling the justiciar what he must do.
Which when he read he fastened Pilate to a mighty chair,
From which, though comfortable, he could not move,
And had the chair suspended halfway down a well.
And there the man remained until they made the pillar,
With ample food and water to sustain his life.
And while the pillar was preparing all rejoiced,
And every day the townsfolk of Vienne made feasts
In honor of the knights and in anticipation of the sentence.
And when the pillar finally was put in place,
So that execution of the sentence could begin next day,
They lifted Pilate from the well, but he was changed.
His face was now the face not of a man but of a dreadful devil.
And they put him in a mighty tower on a bridge
Which had three floors, and on the first and third they stationed Many knights,
with Pilate in the middle.

And when next day came
The town turned out in thousands to watch Pilate punished.
But when the knights and guards and the justiciar approached the tower,
Suddenly the tower, both inside and out,
Was filled with dreadful devils shouting, He is ours! He is ours!
And then the tower shook and all the people fled.
And then the tower sank, with Pilate still inside,
Down into the river Rhone, and straight to Hell. Amen.