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Cold grows my shirt of mail: I ween this mirky night
Will soon be at an end, and the morning sun shine bright. It is not strange that this silence seemed to the ancients somewhat divine ; lucos atque in iis silentia ipsa adoramus,' says Pliny. You would be glad to observe the first streaks of the dawn, though it would only present you with faint images of kneeling knights, and strange uncertain forms of death. As you passed out of the portal again to meet the duties and the perils of life, you might have applied to yourself these lines, which would seem to be uttered from the sanctuary :
αλλ' ίτον εξ αδύτοιο, κακοίς δ' επικίδνατε θυμόν.»! Upon the whole, the greatest enemy to romance and imagination will be compelled to confess that there was much to admire in this practice of chivalry. It had been handed down from a patriarchal age; it formed part of our Lord's religious exercise ; it was sanctioned by the authority of the early church ; it harmonised with philosophy, and certainly with the spirit of the Christian revelation,- for it tended to awaken and confirm piety ; to give men a taste of contemplation; to check that habit of sloth, and luxury, and comfort, as it is called, which enervates the soul; to keep alive the sentiment of spiritual existence and the desire of heaven ; to nourish the presentiment of a mysterious side of nature, of an invisible world around us ;-it accorded with all the lofty raptures of poetic genius, reviving the recollections of youth, though
When musing on companions gone,
We doubly feel ourselves alone; serving in some degree to set before men the beauty of serener climates, the scenes and men of former time,
Filling the soul with sentiments august,
The beautiful, the brave, the holy, and the just. It inspired courage to face terrors, which it is profane to ridicule, though proper to overcome ; to cherish that general religious and lofty tone of feeling which, while it shuns the epicurean and affected security of the sceptic, will lead us to confide in the protection of that Almighty
1 Herod. vii. 140.
Being whose we are in this life, and to whose merciful disposal death can do nothing but consign us.
But to return from these dreams of poetry, if they must be so, to the more ordinary realities of life. How changed were the thoughts of Wolsey after his fall, when all he wanted was the hair-shirt which Sir Roger Lassels brought him to the abbey of Pomfret! Cavendish relates, that in the beginning of Lent, after his disgrace at court, the cardinal removed into the charter-house at Richmond, and in the evenings he would sit in contemplation with one of the most ancient fathers of that house, in their cells, who converted him, and caused him to despise the vain glory of the world ; and it was after his abode there, in goodly contemplation, that he rode northward, and visited his diocese of York, to the edification of the country. It must not be concluded that all penitent knights had been guilty of crimes. St. Bobo was a warrior of Provence, the father of the
poor, and the protector of his country against the Saracens, whom he often defeated, when they poured into Provence by sea from Spain and Africa. He afterwards led a penitential contemplative life for many years, and being on a pilgrimage to Rome, he died at Voghera, near Pavia, in 985. Nor is it to be inferred from some examples that men presumed generally upon the efficacy of these late conversions, after a life of crime. The fathers, the scholastic doctors, all the clergy, warned men not to trust to the repentance of old age. Certes they who had read Lewis Grenadensis were sufficiently instructed on this point. Nieremberg quotes St. Augustine, whose words were continually from time to time pressed upon the attention of men. “Repentance in death is very dangerous ; for in the Holy Scriptures there is but one only found, to wit, the good thief, who had true repentance in his end. There is one found, that none should despair, and but one, that none should presume.” But for those who still had years before them, the Church held out every encourage, ment. “Penitent tears,” said Southwell,“ are sweetened by grace, and rendered more purely beautiful by returning innocence. It is the dew of devotion, which the sun of justice draweth
what face soever it falleth, it maketh it amiable in the eye of God.”
What a scene must it have been to see Abelard die in the priory of St.
Marcel at Chalons, in his 63d year, and in the disposition of a true Christian !! But on all occasions there was a depth and a solemnity in the religion of these men which produced most remarkable effects. The King of Arragon was hearing mass in the convent of St. Magdalen at Naples, early in the morning of the 27th of October, during the siege of that city, when a ball passed in and killed the Infant Don Pedro. The king, apprised of the tragical event by the cries of horror, notwithstanding his emotion, remained on his knees till the holy sacrifice was finished; and then rising up, he fell on the body of the infant, embraced it in his arms, wept, and cried out, “O my brother! 0
my friend ! in you we have lost the flower of chivalry, and the most worthy ornament of Spain ! May God grant thee eternal rest !”2 Sir Thomas More being sent for by the king when he was at his prayers in public, returned answer, that he would attend him when he had first performed his service to the King of kings. Of the Mareschal de Boucicaut, we read in the old Memoirs, “ Nul n'oseroit parler à luy tandis qu'il est à ses messes, et qu'il dit son service, et moult devotement prie Dieu. Et à brief dire, tant donne bon exemple de devotion a ceulx qui le voyent, que grands et petits s'y mirent. Tant que tous les varlets de son hostel servent Dieu en jeunes et devotions, et se contiennent à l'Eglise aussi devotieusement que feroient religieux. Et de tels y a qui ne souloient sçavoir mot de lettre, qui ont appris leurs heures et soigneusement les disent. Ebroin, mayor of the palace to Theodoric King of France, who succeeded Dagobert II., was murdered by an injured nobleman called Hermenfred, who lay in wait for him on Sunday before it was light, as he came out of his house to matins. Fleury takes occasion from this to remark, that even those princes who were most employed, and who had the least sense of religion (for Ebroin was a persecutor of the clergy), did not exempt themselves from attending at divine service even in the night. When the courtiers are withdrawing on the arrival of the confessor, the learned guardian of a convent of St. Francis, whom the dying empress in Tirante the White had sent for, “No," says the penitent, “ let all the
1 Petr. Clun. Epist. iv. ? Hist. de René de Anjou, par le Vicomte de Villeneuve, i. 275.
world stay here. Your presence will not prevent me from disclosing things which the presence of God, whom I adore, did not prevent me from committing.” This reverential spirit was continually manifested; at the name of the Saviour of the world, every man gave signs of his love and humility. “Illud nomen quandocumque recolitur, flectant
genua cordis sui, quod cum capitis inclinatione testentur.' At the remembrance of his cross, the strongest passions were subdued. Richard de l'Aigle found a hundred of his enemies grouped round a cross on the highway, and he left them at liberty out of respect for the emblem. Vain swearing was among the vices which Juvencel said “ doivent être en horreur au chevalier ;" who must refrain, in like manner, “de toute parole vilaine ou injurieuse." “I have lived,” says Joinville, speaking of St. Louis,
twenty-two years in his company, and never during that time have I heard him swear or blaspheme God, or the Virgin, or any saint, whatever might have been his passion or provocation. When he wished to affirm any thing, he used to say, "Truly it is so, or truly it is not so.' The remark which Joinville adds on this occasion is curious. “Et est une tres honteuse chose au royaume de France de celui cas, et aux princes de le souffrir ne oyr nommer, car vous verrez que l'un ne dira pas trois motz à l'autre par mal, qu'il ne die; va de par le diable, ou en autres langaiges." Nor was it sufficient if the knights exercised these virtues themselves, without attending to influence their dependants. After Saint Louis had published his ordinance against swearers, Joinville, to whom such characters were odious, made a regulation for the interior management of his house, “que celui de ses gens qui jureroit seulement par le diable seroit puni d’un soufflet ou d'un coup de poing." “ En l'hotel de Joinville,” says the Joinville Mss. "qui dit telle parole, reçoit la sufle ou la paumelle.”
Bayard reproving two pages who blasphemed in his presence, it was said that he made much of a little matter.
Certes," he replied, “ ce n'est pas petite chose, mauvaise coustume apprise de jeunesse.' Of the Mareschal Boucicaut we read, “ Jamais souffriroit jurer à nul de son
Statuta Synod. Eccles. Constantiensis, 58. Martene, Vet. Scriptor. Collect.
hostel ;” and in the camp he used to command, “ n'y jure vilainement Dieu. Et si aucun le faict, il est grefvement puny."
It was from a devout and reverential spirit, that oaths were forbidden to chivalry, and not merely from an idea that they were contrary to good man
The same spirit induced knights and princes to pay all devout honour to the seasons and festivals of the Church. In the Anglo-Saxon times, a law says, “Sunday is most holily to be kept ; but if it happen that a man must of necessity travel, he may ride or sail, but on condition that he hear mass.” Louis le Débonnaire renewed the primitive laws of the Church, which commanded the cessation of every servile work on Sunday; and he even endeavoured to prevent all public assemblies for amusement. The ancient laws of the Bavarians forbid any one to travel by land or water on Sunday, under pain of twelve shillings fine. In a council held by Cuthbert, Archbishop of Canterbury, in 747, all priests and monks are forbidden to travel on Sundays, unless on urgent necessity. The council of Paris in 1557, decreed, that all plays, dances, drinkings, and idle discourse, be avoided on festivals ; and St. Augustine even said, “they would have done better to dig the whole day, than to dance the whole day.” Theodosius the Elder, in 386, forbade even pagans to be gratified on Sundays with any exhibition of gladiators, or stage-plays, or horse-racing, or fighting of wild beasts; and his grandson, Theodosius the Younger, extended the prohibition to all the other great festivals of the year ; nor would he allow any exception to be made in honour of the emperor's birth-day, or the anniversary of his accession, if it should fall on a festival ; adding, that no greater honour can be paid to the imperial majesty on earth, than by shewing a just veneration to the majesty of Almighty God in heaven. The Greek and Latin Churches have universally condemned the violation of the Sunday and other festivals. The religious shows were first represented in Paris, under Francis I.; but it was only in the voluptuous court of Henry III. that regular comedians were established. The Church condemned both, on the festivals, in 1579 at Melun, at Bourges in 1584, at Avignon in 1594,
1 Wilk. Concil, 273.