On Truculent Peasantry

A recent survey suggests that the truculence of peasants comes top in a list of baronial dissatisfactions. A huge percentage of barons expressed the view that a truculent peasantry caused them greater mental anguish than the crumbling of castle crenellations, outbreaks of disease in cows, and torrential rainfall.

Elspeth Grimpenmire, of pollsters YouBaron, said “This is an important finding. It shows that subjugation of the peasantry is high on the list of policy initiatives most barons would support. For the king to faff about with pie in the sky ideas about improving the lot of belligerent rustics shows just how out of touch he is.”

The king has not issued an official statement in response, although a palace spokeschamberlain insisted that plans were well under way for increased smiting, burning of villages, destruction of crops and associated mayhem.

No one from the peasantry was available for comment. That doesn’t really matter, as they are all illiterate and would be incapable of reading any snag-toothed babble reported here in any case.

Questions were raised about the reliability of the survey, however, when it came to light that only three barons were polled, each of whom was an empanelled official of the Association of Brutish Barons. From its grim headquarters in a castle keep on the edge of a marsh known locally for the poisonous vapours which hover in a mist o’er it, the Association regularly sends out marauding gangs of ruffians to bash up and lop the limbs off selected peasants. These gangs will usually haul back to the castle carts piled high with whatever agricultural produce they can gather from the peasantry’s pitiful patches of tillage, together with a few hostages.

An Association spokesbrute explained “If we don’t terrorise the peasantry, who will?”

Doctor Dust, an alchemist and necromancer retained by the Association as a consultant, recently passed his hands in oddly significant sweeping movements over a bowl containing a decoction of boiled amphibians, herbs, blood, semen, twigs and black bile and, after gazing into it for an hour, announced something which, unfortunately, came out as gibberish. But it is thought his eldritch manoeuvres, accompanied by various portents seen in the sky, suggest an uprising of the peasants at a future time.

“What Doctor Dust can see in his mysterious bowl is all the more reason to suppress the rabble in the here and now,” said a brutish baron, sharpening the blade of his bloodstained axe upon a whetstone, “We should certainly pay no heed to those so-called enlightened barons.”

The reference is to a newly formed groupuscule, the Association of Enlightened Barons, whose castle headquarters, far from being engulfed by poisonous marsh vapours, is decorated with pretty pink flags billowing in a balmy breeze.

“We like to think of the peasantry as stakeholders,” said one enlightened baron, “And though it may be hard to do blue sky thinking under this leaden pall, with threats of a downpour, we are convinced that they need not be truculent and belligerent, if treated with a little loving kindness and offered the prospect of a future world with many enticing leisure and retail facilities.”

Interestingly, even the peasants themselves ridicule this fatuity. We cannot quote them for obvious reasons, and as it happens most of the peasants we approached for an interview were to be found drunk out of their heads on some gruesome brew, fighting among each other, or lying unconscious in ditches.

Such scenes are welcome to the brutish barons, who will take the opportunity to charge out of their castles on horseback and trample the distracted and insensible peasantry under the clattering hooves of their mighty steeds.

“I often find it gives my horse quite a fillip if I let him crush the skulls of a few peasants while out on an afternoon gallop,” said one baron, “Though of course that is not the only method we use to crush their skulls and other bones. That is why we have dark dank dungeons in our castles, where the more truculent peasantry can be subjected to episodes of barbaric cruelty that would make the devil himself blanch. Even the most belligerent rustic tends to be a little more tractable after he’s had most of his bones crushed.”

In spite of the galloping horses and the dungeons, there has to date been no diminution in the truculence of the peasantry. Some commentators put this down to social factors such as the baronial tendency to have great feasts, with hunks of venison and pig’s heads and puddings made from wrens and quail and coot and partridge and widgeon, and foaming tankards of mead, while the peasants subsist on gruel. Others claim this is the natural order of things, and to tamper with it would turn the world upside down and bring chaos and, ultimately, undermine our entire understanding of the cosmos.

One enlightened baron pops his head over the parapet to offer a different view.

“It can seem one must be on the side either of the brutish barons or of the truculent peasantry,” he opines, “But luckily there is a so-called Blairite third way. It will come to pass.”

We shall see.

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