Friday, February 4, 2011

Linguistic Borrowing in Fulcher of Chartres!

I am finally back to tend to my blog now that work is settling down and the holidays are behind me!

As I had promised in an earlier post, Fridays will be devoted to random but compelling medieval soundbites. Today's offering comes from the Historia Heirosolymitana by Fulcher of Chartres, the famous chronicler of the First Crusade. As I was reading through the chronicle this week, I was struck by the following passage for a number of reasons, one of which being Fulcher's mentioning of linguistic borrowing in the Levant. His argument that geographic and ethnic identities are ultimately replaceable is also rather compelling and would, I sense, be of interest to those who study issues of medieval colonialism/postcolonialsim:

"A that time the sun appeared to us in dazzling color for almost one hour. It was changed by a new hyacinthine beauty and transformed into the shape of the moon as in a two-pronged eclipse. This happened on the third day before the Ides of August when the ninth hour of the day was waning.

Therefore do not marvel when you see signs in the heavens because God works miracles there as he does on earth. For just as in the heavens so also on earth He transforms and arranges all things as He wills. For if those things which he made are wonderful, more wonderful is He who made them. Consider, I pray, and reflect how in our time God has transformed the Occident into the Orient.

For we who were Occidentals have now become Orientals. He who was Roman or a Frank has in this land been made into a Galilean or a Palestinean. He who was of Rheims or Chartres had now become a citizen of Tyre ro Antioch. We have already forgotten the places of our birth; already these are unknown to many of us or not mentioned any more.

Some already possess homes or households by inheritance. Some have taken wives not only of their own people but Syrians or Armenians or even Saracens who have obtained the grace of baptism. One has his father-in-law as well as his daughter-in-law living with him, or his own child if not his step-son or step-father. Out here there are grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Some tend vineyards, others till fields.

People use the eloquence and idioms of diverse languages in conversing back and forth. Words of different languages have become common property known to each nationality, and mutual faith unites those who are ignorant of their descent. Indeed it is written "The lion and the ox shall eat straw together" [Isai.62:25]. He who was born a stranger is now as one born here; he who was born an alien has become as a native.

Our relatives and parents join us from time to time, sacrificing, even though reluctantly, all that they formerly possessed. Those who were poor in the Occident, God makes rich in this land. Those who had little money there have countless bezants here, and those who did not have a villa possess here by the gift of God a city.

Therefore why should one return to the Occident who has found the Orient like this? God does not wish those to suffer want who with their crosses dedicated themselves to follow Him, nay even to the end.

You see therefore that it is a great miracle and one which the whole world ought to admire. Who has heard anything like this? God wishes to enrich us all and draw us to Himself as His dearest friends. And because He wishes it we also freely desire it, and what is pleasing to Him we do with a loving and submissive heart in order that we may reign with him throughout eternity."

(From A History of the Expedition to Jerusalem, translated by Frances Rita Ryan, edited by Harold S. Fink (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1969), III.xxiii, 272-73).

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