The Song of Lewes is arguably the first great masterpiece of political literature in England and yet its composition in Latin has prevented it from wider renown today. The choice of language reflects the anonymous author’s intention to spread the word about the miraculous victory of Simon de Montfort over the forces of King Henry III and his son the Lord Edward. The friar who composed it wanted all of Europe to rejoice in the victory, and for that he needed the lingua franca at the time. And rejoice he does.
‘The faith and fidelity of Simon alone is become the security of the peace of all England; the rebels he humbles, he raises those lying in despair; the realm he reconciles, repressing the proud; he squeezes out the red juice by fighting, for truth compelled him to fight.’
Thank God, he continues, because what is to become of England when Edward ascends the throne?
‘Treachery or falsehood whereby he is advanced he calls prudence; the way whereby he arrives, crooked though it be, is regarded as straight; wrong gives him pleasure and is called right; whatever he likes he says is lawful, and he thinks that he is above law, as though he were greater than the King.’