15 Pages


I NTO this state of things suddenly came the 1/ Black Death" of 1348-9, the most terrible plague that ever raged in Christendom. This was at once hailed by moralists as God's long-delayed punishment upon a society rotten to the core. At first the world was startled into seriousness. Many of the clergy fought the plague with that self-sacrificing devotion which, in all denominations, a large fraction of the Christian clergy has always shown at similar moments. But there is no evidence to show that the priests died in sensibly larger proportions than their flocks; and many contemporary chroniclers expressly record that the sick were commonly deserted even by their spiritual pastors. After the first shock was over, the multitude relapsed into a licence proportionate to their first terror-a reaction described most vividly by Boccaccio, but with equal emphasis by other chroniclers. Many good men, in their bitter disappointment, complained that the world was grown more careless and irreligious than before the Plague; but this can hardly be the verdict of most modern students who look carefully into the mass of surviving evidence.