Saturday, March 31, 2012

85. The Renaissance

Intellectual horizons slowly widened.
Humans became important with rediscoveries of the old Greek writings.
Information exploded with the printing press.
Books became more available.
Dante wrote his great work.
Shakespeare wrote his plays.
The Globe was founded.
The structure of the universe was changed and challenged.
Copernicus developed the sun-centered solar system.
Galileo agreed
Was sentenced to house arrest.
Artists learned new tricks.
Realistic images with color and brush were made.
Perspective expanded.
No longer were pictures flat and lifeless.
No longer were statues trapped in their dais.
They were free to walk about
They were free to be experienced.
New nobles emerged.
To make their way in the world of trade and banking.
The Medici became rich.
They commissioned paintings.
Lived like royalty.
Italy broke into republics.
Burgundy expanded.
Civil war broke out in England.
Isabella and Ferdinand ended division in Spain.
France was not well after the war of a hundred years
But managed to slowly dress their wounds.
The horizons of the known world started to expand.

Friday, March 30, 2012

84. Rebirth

More uprisings ripped through Europe.
More plagues.
Europe went through growing pains.
New states were formed.
Spain grew into Iberia.
A second schism
There were two popes.
The pope of Rome and the pope of Avignon
Causing conflict in the church.
A sainted woman made her problems known.
They tried to piece together the church
But couldn’t.
A council was called.
A third pope
Then a fourth antipope
Who found the stake to be too hot.
He’s a pope,
You’re a pope,
I’m a pope,
Everyone’s a pope.
All popes were deposed and a final one was chosen.
The systems of Europe broke down
Then rebuilt into new ones.
Religion continued in its authority.
Plagues came and went.
Wars were fought and new things began to form.
The Dark Ages of the Medieval period drew to a close.
Chaos slowly settled to order.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

83. The Black Death

After the War of a Hundred Years
Things went well for Europe.
They started to emerge from the darkness.
Then the world changed.
Trade with China made people rich
But a problem soon arose.
The merchants with goods and wares
Brought rats with fleas and disease.
A plague swept through Europe from the east.
Not a single place was safe.
No one could escape
Death’s horrible black cloak
Or his sharpened shining scythe.
The bravest act a man saw
Was a woman sewing herself into her own shroud.
Death and destruction ran rampant through the streets.
Peasants rioted and revolted.
“It’s the end of the world!”
An Italian would say.
Nothing could be done.
Passion plays were performed.
Self-abuse inflicted.
People blamed others.
They blamed Jews.
Placing them with heretics and witches.
People went on pilgrimages
As Chaucer’s Tales
Kept them entertained
With stories long ago.
The plague continued to wreak havoc
In the countries
Demolishing old ways.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

82. Joan of Arc

All felt lost
In this tragic war.
France needed a hero.
A noble knight to save France from England’s tyranny.
A young lady
Waiting to be married,
In her thirteenth year,
Received a call from God.
“Go,” he said,
“England is not meant to have French land.”
The maiden of Orleans
Was terrified at first
But came around eventually.
She went to the Dolphin court
Presenting her plan to save France.
The Dolphin was impressed
She was dressed
In armor and given a horse.
At the battle of Orleans
She proved her mettle
With the long fought victory.
She persuaded her Dolphin
To march to their enemy Burgandy
Receiving the crown of the seventh Charles.
She promised to capture Paris
But Burgandy’s and England’s forces
Were way too strong.
They captured her
Accused her of witchcraft
Burning her at the stake.
Her passion lived on
As symbol for France
Driving them to win the war
Ridding England from the continent.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

81. Agincourt

The fifth Henry came along
To continue the war.
Under failure of relations and peace.
Through his grandfather
He made a claim to France.
He demanded tribute for John
Along with lost continental lands.
France refused
Offering the hand of his daughter and a dowry.
The fifth Henry was insulted
Breaking the second peace.
He spread the word to his people
Promising glory.
Promising victories and plunder.
Messages sent all over the island
Brought people poor and rich alike
Across the English Channel.
Harfleur resisted
But was defeated in the end.
Henry’s army weakened
They bade him go back
As the snows of winter came in.
“We will push on my brethren!”
He said,
“I have a claim here!”
“Its not just on paper!”
“Bloody fighting”
“Has killed many of my men”
“But I must push onward.”
He moved eastward to Calais
But found his supplies running low.
At Agincourt he made his stand
With the Dolphin constable.
The French tried to stall
They pleaded with him
The fifth Henry didn’t listen.
“Your words mean nothing to me!”
He said,
“My paper claim to your continent”
“Will be honored.”
Henry and the Dolphin met in the gorge
But for three hours there was no fight.
France thought they’d run away.
They held their ground.
To march would be suicide.
Henry forced himself to step forward
Though weak from hunger.
France’s cavalry charged unsuccessfully
Then the army of five thousand men
Walking through an arrow hail.
Henry was pushed back for a time
But the Dolphin constable
Was no match for Henry’s men.

Monday, March 26, 2012

80. The Hundred Years War

Through politics and marriage,
France came to serve England
As vassal to the king.
France reorganized
They had enough of the English
Lording over them
So they took Aquitaine away.
The third Edward,
Wanting that land back,
Claimed the seat where France sat.
Promising plunder and victories
Flowed through the English countryside.
The people mobilized
Crossing the Channel
To start the War of a Hundred Years.
For a time England triumphed
Gaining ground in the continent.
A victory by England’s king
In the land of Crecy
Then at Poitiers
Where the old king was captured.
They crowned the Dolphin man
To bring control to the continent.
Mad kings of France and England
Held the fighting at bay.
In the short lived first peace,
Small raids were made
While France and others
Fought their Levantine crusades.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

79. Marco Polo

Europe worried about the Golden Horde.
To her the enemy was at the gates
Waiting to come in.
Eyeing his prey
As they moved and carried on with business.
They needed emissaries.
The Polo family
Famous for their merchant voyages
Took young Marco eastward.
China told them they were interested.
“Go back to your land,”
The emperor said,
“Bring your religion, science and arts to me.”
“I must see them.”
They went back
Hoping to see the emperor again.
With the pope’s blessing
A trek of three and a half years
Brought Marco to Xanadu
Where the Great Khan sat.
The Polos fashioned new weapons
As Marco became the ambassador.
He learned many things in Asia
As he traveled to distant lands.
He helped escort a princess.
He told of his adventures
On his way back home.
They were told under lock and key
As prisoner of war
Then written down
As a free man
Telling of his famous journey.
Countries got rich with what he learned
Inspiring future explorers to seek out new lands.
He brought back a wonderful drug
As his stories inspired generations
The Silk Road was opened.
Then Kublai Khan fell to the dust of time
The Mongol empire fell with him
Disappearing under its sandy dunes.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

78. The Mongol Empire

Out of the steppes of Central Asia
Came violent nomads
When drought turned grass to dust.
Their animals starved in famine
Their way of life was threatened.
Thunderous hooves of horses
Flowed in all directions
Like a dust storm
They ripped through cities
Setting fire with abrasive sand
Trampling on poor helpless victims.
They crossed the wall in China,
Scaled the mountains in Tibet,
Cornered the people of Korea,
Fought the blistering heat and sands of Iran
Braved the winters of Russia.
All countries fell to the great Khans.
Then rose the great Golden Horde.
Planted in the center of Asia.
Their navies tried for Japan
But the divine winds weren’t with them.
For two days the typhoon blew
Decimating the Khan’s mighty fragile fleet.
The Mongols threatened Europe
Like hungry wolves at Europe’s doorstep
Waiting for their victim to come out
They threatened the people
Only nipping and biting at her heals.
They could go no further.
The death of a king
Quieted the thunderous wave
Of men and horses.

Friday, March 23, 2012

77. The Last Crusades

The pope and the people
Rallied for more crusades.
Rulers left their lands.
Frederick, the Emperor.
Leopold, the Austrian.
Richard, the Lion Heart.
An insult caused a rift
Between the Austrian and Lion Heart.
The Lion Heart was captured.
Held for ransom.
The lion’s heart broke
Mourning the loss of a friend turned enemy.
“I would sell London,”
He whispered in his shackles,
“If I could find a suitable purchaser.”
The Emperor drowned
Harassing the Roman son.
The cause that the urban on preached
Was lost.
Many people died.
Some at the hands of Christian men
Who did the unspeakable in the name of God.
God wasn’t directing those men.
Greed, pride and prejudice were their leaders.
No one was safe.
Jew and Turk alike were killed.
It was alright as long as they said their prayers and go to church
Anointing themselves in Christ’s waters.
The priests protested.
True believers of the cause tried to do right.
It was no use.
God was no longer on their side.
As knights stole relics from Constantine’s city
“Never,” they said,
“Was so great an enterprise.”
They came because God told them to.
They stayed to get rich.
They crossed themselves with one hand
Pocketing gold with the other
“So everything from common houses to the Church of God.”
“Were filled with men of the enemy.”
“This is an affront to God,”
The pope shouted.
Then he whispered behind his back,
“See if they can wrap it with a nice bow.”
Many still believed in the righteousness of the cause.
Remember the good people who believed in the cause.
Remember the ones who did it for God.
Not for greed.
Still fighting erupted in other places.
Spain reconquered Iberia.
Children tried for the Holy Land
But were captured by pirates.
Danes tried to cleanse their neighbors
Of “heathen” people.
God may not have given them the kingdom
But he did give them something else.
In the end the inner pilgrimage became important.
Remember the lessons learned here.
Otherwise old wounds be opened.