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Chivalry and the Crusades,
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Sixteenth Volume of the KNICKER-
540 | Works of CHIEF JUSTICE MARSHALL, 157
CHIVALRY AND THE CRUSADES.
A GENTLEMAN of excellent breeding, of admirable discourse, of great admittance; authentic in place and person, generally allowed for many war-like, court-like, and learned preparations.'
We propose, in the present paper, to present to our readers some account of the institution of Chivalry, and of the times that produced it. The theme may to some appear trite. To us it is not so; and we trust, before we have done, to bring others to our mind. In turning to the records of chivalry, we feel, (and we have faith we are not alone,) as if recurring to the pleasant dreams of our youth. Nor do we envy those whose imaginations never kindled, and whose hearts never beat thick, at the recital of the
pageantry, the brilliant daring and gallant exploits, of the old chivalrous times.
The knight so brave and yet so gentle; in the battle-shock a tower of iron ; in lady's bower, swayed, like his morion's plume, by the faintest breath of beauty; the tournament, with its ring of loveliness, and its champions proving in friendly conflict their strength and skill in arms, amid the exhilarating shouts of the multitude, and beneath the glances of bright eyes,' which
“Rain influence and award the prize;'
the knight's adventurous wanderings in quest of opportunity to right the wrong, to spoil the spoiler, to chastise the oppressor, and to throw over innocence and weakness the protecting shield; all this furnishes a picture well fitted to captivate the fancy of our early years. Still farther : the old chivalrous and feudal age, with its sharp contrasts, its strong lights and deep shades, its exaggerated strain of sentiment and feeling, and its unsettled, revolutionary state ; how striking a counterpart to the imaginative mind of youth! For has not youth its romantic visions ; its dreams of glory to be achieved, and beauty's smile to be won; its eager wishes and resolves to crusade against cruelly and oppression, and be a right arm of defence to the innocent and weak? Imagination, and Love, and Hope, are the feudal lords of the youthful spirit, and the whole troop of thoughts and passions are their loyalfetainers, prompt to dare, at their behest all deeds of high emprize. The chivalrous spirit, then, instead of having gone long since to its cemetery, yet lives and abides in every
young mind, endowed with any portion of the diviner principle. It does, indeed, indicate an elementary state, where the passions are in conflict both with each other, and with the actual world without, and yet a state full of hope ; for it evinces that the soul's powers are in a healthful ferment and stir, and that its several elements, through collision among themselves, and conflict with the exterior world, are gradually expurging whatever is factitious and false, and tending toward a state of fit subordination and concurrent action. The history of chivalry, then, is not merely the history of a particular institution of a particular age. The philosopher also sees in it a type of the tumultuous yet interesting youth of the individual mind, in every age. Leaving it to our readers to verify this suggestion, we proceed at once to the task in hand.
Chivalry was the growth of the Middle or Dark Ages, that vast abyss, which was alike the grave of ancient, and the cradle of modern civilization. This tract of time, stretching from the beginning of the sixth to the close of the sixteenth century, may be well named the fabulous age of the modern world. Athwart its gloom, men are seen to move as trees walking,' and its incidents come like 'certain strange things to our ears.' It was a period characterized by strong individuality; by gigantic virtues and gigantic crimes; by picturesque institutions and fantastic customs; by frequent revolution and incessant change. The steady march of government, the supremacy and equal administration of law, the undisturbed procession of peaceful business and pleasures, which mark our time, were then unknown.
In these respects, indeed, the Middle Ages resemble the early age of every people, the times heralding every civilized state of society. A moment's digression, for which the light thereby cast on our subject will win our pardon, will show that the chivalry of the eleventh century of our era was not without some parallel at a vastly more early date. The magnificent day of Grecian civilization emerged from the dun twilight of the age of Orpheus and Hercules, of Minos and Rhadamanthus, and of the heroes of the Trojan war. Tradition, dim and uncertain, yet shows plainly enough that this was an age of convulsion and anarchy, which, intolerant of the wholesome restraints of law, suffered avarice and cruelty, ambition and lust, to stalk abroad, and ravage at their will.
But as in the order of Providence, the world's desperate necessity is ever the sure precursor of a Redeemer, so now the elder chivalry was born to help and to save. In the half-fabulous Hercules, Orpheus, and Minos, we find its three elementary principles impersonated. Physical force put forth for the chastisement of cruelty and oppression; the influence of art and religion, bent to softening and refining the rugged temper of the time, and a wise and equitable legislation, seeking to gather up into harmonious wholeness the severed and discordant principles of society. And in Agamemnon and Achilles, Ulysses and Ajax, Hector and Sarpedon, we behold the feudal chiefs of a primitive day, the Pagan prototypes of Christian knighthood, exhibiting the same daring and individual prowess, distinguished by the same sensitiveness of honor, and burning with the same thirst for adventure, and enthusiasm for military glory. If their spirit fell below that of Christian chivalry, it was because they lacked that pure womanly influence, and that inspiration from a better