So I was startled yesterday to read the phrase in Crispin: The Cross of Lead. This is a Newberry-prize winning children's book, by Avi. It is set in England in the 14th century. I think it conveys a good idea of the drudgery and isolation of village life at the time; the seemingly unchangable hierarchy; and the bustle, confusion, and filth of a city before modern plumbing. I also like that Christianity is presented as a form of life, a language that all we see cannot but help using.
So is Avi's use of the phrase an anachronism? Hill may reference it, but, if so, the people of his time were harking back to a previous one. Apparently, the phrase is associated with John Ball, the leader of the 1381 Peasants’ Revolt. I know nothing about the Peasants’ Revolt, although Hill does refer to it in one line. But John Ball does appear in Avi’s book. Crispin, our thirteen-year old hero, overhears him conspiring. John Ball says:
"...that no man, or woman either, shall be enslaved, but stand free and equal to one another. That all fees, obligations, and manorial rights be abolished immediately. That land must be given freely to all with a rent of no more than four pennies per acre per year. Unfair taxes must be abolished. Instead of petty tyrants, all laws shall be made by consent of a general commons of all true and righteous men.
Above all persons, our lawful king shall truly reign, but no privileged or corrupt parliaments or councilors.
The church, as it exists, should be allowed to wither. Corrupt priests and bishops must be expelled from our churches.. In their place will stand true and holy priests who shall have no wealth or rights above the common man..."
Update: I've learned a new vocabulary word: A Jacquerie is a peasants' revolt, named after the French peasants' revolt of 1358.