means “your mercy is craved.” It was usual in former times to
decide controversies by an appeal to battle. The combatants fought with
bâtons, and if the accused could either kill his adversary or maintain
the fight till sundown, he was acquitted. If he wished to call off, he
cried out “Craven!” and was held infamous, while the defendant was
advanced to honour. (Blackstone.)
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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