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“The precepts of religion," says M. Ste. Palaye, who was certainly no prejudiced writer, “left at the bottom of the heart a kind of veneration for holy things which sooner or later acquired the ascendancy.” A love of the Christian faith became the very soul of chivalry. Every one has heard of the generous exclamation of Clovis, when he was first made acquainted with the passion and death of Christ—“ Had I been present at the head of my
valiant Franks, I would have revenged his injuries.” upon hearing the flagellation of our Saviour, with all its horrible circumstances, that the brave Crillon gave that celebrated proof of feeling; for he rose suddenly from his seat by an involuntary transport, and laying his hand on his sword, exclaimed in those well-known words which have passed into a proverb, “Où étois-tu, brave Crillon ?” This may not bespeak the clearness of their religious views; but it certainly evinced the sincerity and the affection of their hearts. And here it will be of importance to mark, that this peculiar character of chivalrous devotion
-the love of God-furnishes an evidence that the religion of our ancestors was far less removed from the true spirit of Christianity than many have too hastily concluded from an imperfect acquaintance with history. It is the motive rather than the action which is peculiar to the religion of Jesus Christ. Now, the religion of chivalry was altogether the religion of motives and of the heart. It was love, faith, hope, gratitude, joy, fidelity, honour, mercy; it was a devotion of mind and strength, of the whole man, of his soul and body, to the discharge of duty, and to the sacrifice of every selfish and dishonourable feeling that was contrary; it was to obey a commandment which was in unison with all the elevated sentiments of nature, and calculated most effectually to develop every quality that was the object of esteem and reverence. The knights of old had neither the inclination nor the ingenuity to determine the minimum of love which was compatible with the faith of Christ. They were not like men who regard it sufficient if they love God at any time before death, or on the festivals ; or if they keep the commandments and do not hate God; or who imagine that this burdensome obligation of loving him was part of the Mosaic law, which is dispensed with by the religion of nature and the Gospel. They had not
learned to reason with the sophist of old, saying that “religion is a gracious and an excellent thing when moderately pursued in youth ; but if afterwards it be loved overmuch, it is the ruin of men.”l They had not subsided into that state of profound indifference to the truths of religion which the eloquent Masillon has compared to the condition of Lazarus, when the disciples said, “Lord, if he sleeps he will do well ;” and were undeceived when Jesus said unto them plainly,
“ Lazarus is dead.” But their affections were warm, their gratitude was sincere ; and though their understanding on the doctrines of religion might sometimes fail them, their hearts did not. They were thankful under
every circumstance of life ; and like the prophet of old, it was their boast, “ The fig-tree shall not blossom, and there shall be no spring in the vines; the labour of the olive-tree shall fail, and the fields shall yield no food; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls ; but I will rejoice in the Lord, and I will rejoice in God my Jesus."
They were slain in battle, they were cut off in the flower of their youth, they were shut up in dark prisons from the light of the sun and from the solace of friendship; yet they could exult in the words of the Psalm, “Quid enim mihi est in cælo? et a te quid volui super terram ? Defecit caro mea et cor meum : Deus cordis mei, et pars mea Deus in æternum.” “ Thenne,” said Bors, “hit is more than yere and an half that I ne lay ten tymes where men dwelled, but in wylde forestes and in mountains, but God was ever my comforte.”2 Saint Louis having been baptised in the castle at Poissy would bear that name, and be called Louis of Poissy, and thus he signed his letters and despatches, esteeming this title more glorious than that of King of France; and St. Augustine speaking of the Emperor Theodosius says, “that he accounted himself more happy in being a member of the Church than emperor of the world.” Observe the exact and perfect loyalty with which God was served. After the captivity of the King Saint Louis, when the
Φιλοσοφία γάρ τοι εστίν, ώ Σώκρατες, χαρίεν, άν τις αυτού μετρίως άψηται εν τη ηλικία εάν δε περαιτέρω του δέοντος ενδιατρίψη, διαφθορά Twv åv pórw. Plato, Gorgias. 2 Morte d'Arthur, lib. xvii. c. 19.
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treaty was concluded by which he was to be delivered, the Sarassins prescribed an oath, which the king was to use in swearing to fulfil the conditions. The form was as follows : “Qu'au cas qu'il ne tint pas les choses promises, il fut reputé parjure, comme le Chrétien qui a renie Dieu, son baptême et sa loi, et qui en dépit de Dieu crache sur la croix et l'escache à ses pieds.” When the king, says Joinville, heard this oath, “il dit qui ja ne le feroit-il." In vain did his friends and enemies unite against this resolution. He was reminded that it would cause not only his own death, but also that of all his friends. “ Je vous aime," said he to the lords and prelates who remonstrated with him, “ Je vous aime comme mes frères ; je m'aime aussi ; MAIS À DIEU NE PLAISE, QUOI QU'IL EN PUISSE ARRIVER, QUE DE TELLES PAROLES
LA BOUCHE D'UN ROI DE FRANCE.” “Pour vous," he added, in addressing the Sarassin minister, “ allez dire à vos maitres qu'ils en peuvent faire à leurs volontés; que j'aime trop mieux mourir bon Chrétien, que de vivre aux courroux de Dieu, de sa mere, et ses saints.” The Emirs, distracted with rage and disappointment, rushed into his tent with their naked swords, crying out, “ You are our prisoner, and yet you treat us as if we were in irons; there is no medium, either death or the oath as we have drawn it.” Dieu vous a rendus maitres de mon corps,” replied the invincible Louis, « mais mon ame est entre ses mains ; vous ne pouvez rien sur elle.” The King prevailed, and the infidels relinquished their resolution of requiring the oath on those terms.
Gauthier de Brienne, being made prisoner by the infidels at the battle of Gaza, was led by them before Jaffa, which they hoped to enter by a cruel stratagem ; he was fastened to a cross and exposed to the view of the garrison, and threatened with death if resistance continued; but he exhorted the garrison to hold out to the last. duty,” he cried, “ to defend a Christian city; it is mine to die for you and for Jesus Christ.”] After the fatal battle in Hungary, when the Turks had defeated the Christian army, and had taken prisoners the valiant troop
6. It is your
| Michaud, Hist. des Crociades, iv. 37.
of French knights led by the Mareschal de Boucicaut and the Comte de Nevers, those brave and noble gentlemen were brought before Bajazet, who received them in his tent. “La estoit grand pitié,” says the old historian, “ à veoir ces nobles seigneurs, jeunes jouvenceaux, de si hault sang commi de la noble lignée royale de France amener liez de cordes estroitement tous desarmez en leurs petits pourpoints par ces chiens Sarrasins, laids et horribles, qui les tenoient durement devant ce tyran ennemy de la foy qui la seoit.” All but the Comte de Nevers and the Mareschal de Boucicaut were led out to martyrdom; they were horribly cut with great knives on the head, and breast, and shoulders, and so were all butchered in cold blood. To be thus faithful to God was the constant lesson impressed upon youth. “Sit tibi quoque Jesus semper in corde, et nunquam imago crucifixi ab animo tuo recedat.”] Guilhem des Amatries, a gentleman of Provence, begins one of his poems with a prayer, “God of my hope, my strength and only virtue, grant that I may never be opposed to thy pure and holy law, especially in times of danger, when a tempting enemy shall counsel me to forsake virtue.” Gilles de Rome says in his Miroir, that the knight and prince “ doibt considerer toutes ses æuvres ou actions, et toutes ses affections, intentions, et meditations, affin qu'il ne ayt rien latent qui offense la divine majeste ne courouce.' And King Perceforest says to his knights, that he learned from Pergamon the ancient hermit, that God deserves our love, 'pour l'amour qu'il a en nous, et non pas pour necessité qu'il ayt de nous.” It appeared on the trial of the Duc d'Alençon in the reign of Charles VII. that this prince had sent a servant to Italy, to ask a certain celebrated hermit how he should act to gain the good graces of the king. The holy man returned answer, “Let the Duc d'Alençon first of all gain the good grace of God, and then he will have that of all the world.” Adam Davy had reason therefore to say,
How gode men in olde tyme
1 S. Bernard. Formula honestæ vitæ.
This was the first precept of chivalrous education. The Instruction d'un jeune Prince, by the celebrated George Chatelain, counsellor of Philip le Bon and Charles le Hardi of Burgundy, is divided into eight books. The first inculcates the love of God; the second, the love of his people; the third, the love of justice; the fourth, the good choice of ministers; the fifth, the punishment of the guilty ; the sixth, the folly of unjust wars; the seventh is on finance and economy; the eighth, on chivalry. “ The fear of God,” says Busching," and love, were the main pillars of noble chivalry."! In the Wise King, Maximilian is placed by his father under “ a highly-learned master, of virtuous spiritual life, who instructs him in Latin, from whom he learns the discipline and fear of God.” “ The true point of honour,” says La Colombiere in his Theatre d'Honneur et de Chevalerie,
on which our renown must depend, is the being a good man; and that is the true natural honour ; and as for that which is acquired, it consists, like the first, in loving and fearing God, and in not imagining any honour which is not in His honour, which is the commencement of all wisdom; to serve his king faithfully, to obey the laws, and to fight bravely for him and for his country; to follow truth, reason, justice, and equity; to love and assist his neighbour ; to protect widows and orphans; to succour the poor
and oppressed ; to obey rulers, whether ecclesiastical, or military, or civil ; and in all his actions to evince that probity, that generosity, that virtue, the price and recompense of which is true honour, and it is useless to seek its identical point any where else. And if we wish to rise still higher above these precepts, we must imitate Jesus Christ our Saviour in forgiving our enemies, and then we shall possess not only the true temporal honour, but also that which is heavenly and eternal.” Such is the doctrine also of that great work, La Toison d'Or, composed by the Bishop of Tournay, Chancellor of the Order of the Golden Fleece, dedicated to the high and mighty Prince, Charles Duke of Burgundy, containing a vast multitude of examples of chivalrous virtue, of magnanimity, confidence in other men, justice, innocence, friendship, pity, humility, obe
1 Ritterzeit und Ritterwesen.