Obrazy na stronie

served ; but it is in the pages of Louis of Granada, rich with the beauties of his purified and heavenly imagination, that we should study the object and effect of these compositions, which contributed to build up that beautiful fabric of chivalry, which though now indeed in decay and ruin, is still an object to fix the eye of man, to captivate his fancy, and to correct his heart, while passing on, a weary traveller, through this lower valley of tears and death. It is therefore in the sublime mystery of human redemption that we shall discover the cause of that elevation of the female sex which has distinguished the nations embracing Christianity from all other people of the earth. St. Augustine in few words explains this, when he says, “ Et ne quis forte sexus a suo Creatore se contemtum putaret, virum suscepit, natus ex femina.”] St. Anselm points out the same origin. Loquar unde jucundatur cor meum ? an silebo, ne de elatione arguatur os meum ? Sed quod credo amando, cur non confitebor laudando ? Dicam igitur non superbiendo, sed gratias agendo. Judex noster est frater noster; Salvator mundi est frater noster; denique Deus noster est, factus per Mariam frater noster.” Again he breaks out, “Non est reconciliatio, nisi quam tu casta concepisti : non est justificatio, nisi quam tu integra in utero fovisti : non est salus, nisi quam tu virgo peperisti.” Hence the words of the hymn were the natural effusions of every feeling heart:

Non amo te, regina augusta, quando
Non vivo in pace et in silentio fido;

Non amo te, quando non vivo amando. That this affection extended to all women, and that women were honoured and loved also in an especial manner from this religious consideration, appears upon sufficient evidence. Among “ the poets in praise of women, who flourished in Germany under the Suabian emperors, Henry of Mainz, celebrated under the name of Doctor Frauenlob, composed a poem in praise of women, which he dedicated to the Emperor, Henry VII. “ In this,” he says, motives which oblige Christians to love the blessed Virgin should bind them also to honour and love all women.” So says Chaucer,

1 Lib. de Vera Religione, 30.


" the

For in reverence of the heavens queene
We ought to worship all women that beene,
For of all creatures that ever wer yet, and borne,
This wote ye well, a woman was the best;
By her was recovered the blisse that we had lorne,
And through the woman shall we come to rest,
And been ysaved, if that our selfe lest.
Wherefore me thinketh, if that we had grace,

We oughten honour women in every place. And that this exalted sentiment was found even in the most rude and ignorant class of man, we may infer from what was sung of the famous freebooter,

Robyn loved our dere Lady:
For doute of dedely synne,
Wolde he never do company harme
That ony woman was ynne;
For the loffe of our Ladey,

All women werschep he. The conduct and sentiments which women adopted from the first in respect to the Christian religion contributed to confirm men in this judgment, and to secure for themselves the love and veneration of all who worshipped Christ. William of Paris points out the peculiar devotion with which women followed our blessed Saviour.2 From his birth to his death and resurrection, they were ever pressing to adore and serve him. After his crucifixion, on the morning of the third day, when it was yet dark, the holy women were at the sepulchre ; and, as a great modern, commenting on this passage, says, “It was their zeal which was rewarded with the first-fruits of the apparition of Jesus :” and then he concludes, that

women, and less knowing persons, and tender dispositions, and pliant natures, will make up a greater number in heaven than the severe, and wary, and inquiring people, who sometimes love because they believe, and believe because they can demonstrate, but never believe because they love." “ Martha,” says Southwell, was unwilling that the grave of her own brother should be opened ; but her sister was not afraid to embrace the dead corse of her Lord.” Women, from the first moment of the visitation, were rewarded by God with even a glorious renown in this world. How

1 Robin Hood and the Potter,

Serm. in die S. Paschal.

What are

many kings, though great benefactors to mankind, are now buried in oblivion ! how many queens and illustrious princesses, whose names and actions are forgotten, as though they had never been! But the poor woman who poured the ointment on our Saviour's feet, is celebrated throughout the world. After his ascension, women still continued to serve him in the persons of the poor, and to honour him by fostering and extending his religion. What are churches without that crowd of holy women, who seem to have them as their only home in this life? these sublime processions without the meek angelic voices which draw tears from every hearer, and the long white veils falling to the ground, which bespeak the angel sanctity of those modest and humble suppliants, who follow the banner of the Virgin and the Holy Child ? “ All virtue lies in woman,” says a knight, or and the health of the world. God has created nothing so good as a woman. No one can find a limit to the praise of women. He who can tell where the sunshine ends may proclaim also the end of their praise. Women are pure, and good, and fair ; they impart worthiness, and make men worthy. Nothing is so like the angels as their beautiful form, and even the mind of an angel dwells in woman. An infidel historian has observed, “ Christianity must acknowledge important obligations to female devotion.” Unquestionably. It was Prisca and Valeria, empress and daughter of Dioclesian, who protected the Christians of that early time. It was Clotilda who converted Clovis King of France to the faith ; it was the Princess of Olga who introduced Christianity into Russia. I should never finish were I to attempt a record of their benefits. Among which must be remembered, perhaps as the most glorious, their never having founded sects or broken unity. Their character now assumed new graces, by the addition of angelic dignity, which they acquired from their conforming more or less to the spotless pattern which was set before them.

“ It is not in a crowd or in idle conversation that the angel finds our Lady: no; she is alone in her house with the door shut ;” and as St. Ambrose says, “ he must be an angel that gets entrance there.” What a vast multitude of women in all subsequent ages


1 Ulrich von Lichtenstein's Frauendienst, Tieck.

to whom this description would apply ; who “ carried their chapel in their heart, and their danger in their eyes, and their souls in their hands, and God in all their actions !” Their devotion was well known to chivalry, as Gilles de Rome bears witness, saying, “ Et combien que elles (femmes) ne soient mye moult expertes en negoces de secularitez, en gouvernement de royaulmes, en dispositions de batailles, toutefois en choses spirituelles et qui touchent conscience elles conseillent bien souventifois ou par industrie naturelle, ou pour ce quelles sont de Dieu enseignees ou informees des hommes, et pour ce quelles ont tendres consciences et doubtans Dieu." Women were taught even by poets to regard the blessed Virgin as a standard of female perfection :

Par tous moyens dame doit paix chercher
La Vierge ou Dieu vint prendre humaine chair

Traicta la paix. Nor must we omit to acknowledge that religion was not ungrateful for the benefits she derived from women. Not to mention the asylums which were opened for helpless innocence, in all the relations of life, religion was their grand refuge, and her ministers their only sure and efficient protectors. It was the popes who fearlessly defended their rights, and who would make any sacrifice rather than suffer them to be trampled upon. Take the example of Queen Catherine of England ; of Blanche, Countess of Champagne, protected by the pope after her husband's death; or of Ingeburge, sister of Canute King of Denmark, married to Philip Augustus, so cruelly treated and rejected by him, till the interference of Pope Innocent III. obliged him to restore his innocent wife to her just rights. The history of the middle ages, tombs, family portraits, records of public foundations, all are associated with the piety of our female ancestors. Their devotion and charity furnish frequently the only means of tracing genealogies. The names of persons who are not distinguished for these qualities can hardly be expected to endure like those of Elizabeth de Clare, Mary Countess of Pembroke, Margaret Countess of Richmond, and many others which are immortalised in the records of our universities. Of the latter

1 Le Doctrinal des Princesses et Nobles Dames.

princess, Bishop Fisher says that he has often heard her say, that if the Christian princes had again to make war with the infidels, “she wolde be glad yet to go, followe the hoost, and helpe to wash theyr clothes for the love of Jhesu.” Elvira of Castile, Countess of Toulouse, followed her husband to the Holy Land. The Dame de Poitiers, the Countess of Brittany, Ioland of Burgundy, Jeanne of Toulouse, Isabelle de France, Amicie of Courtenay, were in the host of St. Louis. Duke Robert, son of William the Conqueror, being wounded by a poisoned arrow on the right arm before Jerusalem, and the physicians pronouncing it incurable, the Duchess, who followed her husband, loved him so dearly, that she availed herself of the intervals of his sleep to suck the wound, “ et partant de fois que le dit seigneur en fut guéri et n'en print aucun mal à ladite dame.' The beautiful Countesses of Flanders and of Blois were in the crusade ; Florine, daughter of the Duke of Burgundy, followed her illustrious suitor, and was slain fighting by his side ; Gandechilde, wife of Baudouin, Ide Comtess de Hainaut, Batilde queen of Eric III. King of Denmark, and the Margravine of Atriche, were also with the host. The Countess of Richmond used to rise “not long after five of the clock," says Bishop Fisher, “then for the poore creatures, albeit she did not receive into her house our Savyour in his own person, as the blessed Martha dyde, she nevertheless receyved them that doth represent his person, of whom he sayth himself, quod uni ex minimis meis fecistis, mihi fecistis. Poore folkes to the nombre of twelve, she dayly and nyghtly kepte in her house, gyvyng them lodgyng, mete, and drynke, and clothynge, vysyting them as often as conveniently she myght; and in their sykeness, vysytynge them and comfortynge them, and mynystrynge unto them with her owne hands : and when it pleased God to call any of them out of this wretched worlde, she wolde be present, to see them departe, and to lerne to deye, and likewyse bring them unto the erthe." Chaucer's description of Custance is remarkable.

In hire is high beaute withouten pride,
Youth withouten grenehed or folie,

1 Fisher's Funeral Sermon on the Death of Margaret Countess of Richmond.

« PoprzedniaDalej »