Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

en

They might have addressed their murderers in the immortal language of the Greeks : ως αποκτείναι μεν δύνανται- βλάψαι δε ου δύνανται, και γάρ ή τυχή δύναται νόσω περιβαλείν, αφελέσθαι χρήματα, διαβάλλειν προς δήμον ή τύραννον κακόν δε, και δειλον, και ταπεινόφρονα, και αγεννή, και φθονερόν, ου δύναται ποιήσαι τον αγαθόν, και ανδρώδη, kai peyalóyvxov. "The just man,” says the great Massillon, “is above the world, and superior to all events ; he commences in the present life to reign with Jesus Christ. All creatures are subject to him, and he is subject unto God alone.”

Of this more than regal dignity, the most illustrious human example that the world has ever beheld was presented by Louis IX. in prison. This meek and holy saint was more than conqueror over his enemies, who declared

que c'étoit le plus fier Chrétien qu'ils eussent jamais connu.” In vain did they threaten him with the most dreadful torture, that which they called putting him “ bernicles ;by means of which invention every bone of the body was gradually broken ; the king replied with modesty, “ Je suis prisonnier du Sultan, il peut faire de moi à son vouloir.” What an astonishing scene of horror and grandeur was that when the Sarassin rebel rushed into his prison after murdering the Sultan, with his hands dropping blood, and crying out with a ferocious voice, “ What will you give me for having made away with an enemy who would have put you to death if he had lived ?” Louis, more struck with horror at the crime than with fear for his own safety, remained motionless, and disdained to answer. Then the ruffian drawing his sword, presented him the point, saying with an accent of fury, “Choose either to die by this hand, or else to give me this very moment the order of knighthood." “ Fais-toi Chrétien,” replied the intrepid monarch, “et je te ferai chevalier.” The Mussulman rushed out of the prison.

In the romance of Huon de Bordeaux, when the two boys are on their journey, Huon encourages his brother, who was terrified by a dream : “Mon tres doux frere,”

" ne vous esbaissez en rien ains faictes bonne chere et joyeuse ; nostre Seigneur Jesus Christ nous guarantira et conduira à sauvement." They join company with the Abbot of Clugni; and when the conspirators

he says,

rush out upon them, the Abbot exclaims to the youths, “N'avez vous à nul homme fait tort ? pour Dieu, si vous sentez qu'ayez fait ou detenu aucune chose que pas ne soit vostre, mettez vous devant, et allez faire raison et vous offrir de l'amender." Sire,” said Huon of Bordeaux, "je ne sçay homme vivant au monde à qui moy ny mon frere aye fait aucun desplaisir, ne qui de nous soyons hais ;” and when Gerard is wounded, the author observes he was not mortally, “car nostre Seigneur garentit le jeune enfant :” and at a subsequent period, when Huon was going to meet his enemies at Mayence, he dismissed all his noble attendants, saying,

« Je ne veux mener avec moy personne que Dieu et ma bonne épée, ne vous ebahissez de rien, car celui qui toujours m'a aidé ne me laissera point.”

In the romance of Amadis de Gaul there is a passage of much beauty, that may serve to illustrate the real spirit and manners of the age. His son, Esplandian, who has nearly conquered Matroco, the infidel, in single combat, refrains his arm, and calls upon him to become a Christian : “ Le Dieu qui m'éclaire te poursuit par ma main : ce n'est point à moi que je te conjure de te rendre, c'est au Dieu vivant, qui te trouve digne d'être au nombre de ses enfans.”

Matroco falls upon his knees : “ Dieu des Chrétiens," he cries, “ tu triomphes ! O grand Dieu, que je reconnois, prends pitié de moi !" With these words he throws away his sword, and leaning on his left hand, he draws the figure of the cross with his right upon the sand, and prostrates himself in adoration. At this convincing mark of the divine grace, Esplandian falls upon his knees, and, presenting his sword to Matroco, with the handle towards him, “Ah! digne chevalier," he cries, “recevez cette épée comme un gage de la victoire que vous remportez sur vous même."

Robert, Duke of Normandy, father of William the Conqueror, was renowned for his piety and liberality. One day he was assisting at mass in a monastery; the Sacristan, after receiving his offering, went through the church, and at length came to a strange knight, who happened to be present, and who replied that he had not wherewithal to offer. The duke perceiving it, immediately sent a squire with the sum of 100 livres to present to the knight, who

instantly gave the whole in offering. Mass being over, the monk, astonished at the greatness of the sum, went to the knight, and asked him whether he was aware of the sum which he had given : he replied that he was, and that it was given to him for that purpose. The duke, admiring the nobleness of this strange knight, ordered him to be presented with a similar sum for himself. The brave knight, Raymon Muntaner, thus describes James, King of Arragon: “ He was the handsomest, wisest, and most generous and just prince of his age, beloved by all the world, by his subjects, and by strangers; and as long as the world lasts, he shall be styled the Good King James of Arragon. He loved and feared God above all things : and he who loves God, loves his neighbour also, and is just, true, and merciful : he was also an excellent warrior. I was witness of his virtues, and I can bear testimony to them.”! Mark the piety of the gentle Prince James I. of Scotland, related with such simplicity by himself:

And forth withal my pen in hand I took,

And made a t, and thus began my book.? Of the Mareschal de Boucicaut we read, “ Il prend grand plaisir de visiter les sainctes places et les bons preudes hommes qui servent Dieu. Il aime moult cherement toutes gens dont il est informé qu'ils meinent bonne et saincte vie et volontiers les visite et hante." Charlemagne, like a father of a family, declares, in his Capitularies, “ that he wishes all his people who are engaged in business and commerce to be admonished, that they should not consult more worldly lucre than eternal life ; for he who thinks more about earthly things than the salvation of his soul greatly errs from the way of truth.” Speaking of the death of Louis King of France, son of Philip, the Chronique de St. Denis says, “ Jesu Crist en ayt l'ame; car bon Crestien etoit, et avoit toujours este de grant sainctete et de grant purete tant comme il fut en vie." the model of a perfect knight, of grave and stately manners, lofty stature, excelling in all chivalrous exercises, of heroic valour, and of the most perfect grace. There was something in his whole person, and especially in his coun

Chronique de Muntaner, chap. vii. 2 The Quair of James I.

Tasso was

1

tenance, so noble and attractive, that even if a stranger had not been apprised of his extraordinary merit, he would have felt respect. But the qualities of his soul greatly surpassed his personal advantages. All historians agree in praise of his sincere piety, of the purity of his life and manners, of his sweetness of temper, his temperance, his candour, his veracity, his inviolable fidelity to his word, his total exemption from every bad passion, from every spirit of vengeance and malignity, of his attachment to his friends. “ His high spirit,” says Ginguéné,“ which made him look with horror upon every thing that resembled baseness, might have the air of pride; he evinced that he knew how to estimate himself, and to assume his proper place; born a gentleman, in an age when this title bore with it all its privileges, and a knight in heart, as well as by birth, he rendered all due honour to princes, but he considered himself the equal of all others, whatever favour they might enjoy."

Of less poetic mould, but of equal devotion and heroic virtue, was Ferdinand the Great, the conqueror of the Moors. He used to retire often to the celebrated convent of Sahagun, to occupy himself about the care of his soul. Like Charlemagne, he used to assist in the choir, even at midnight, and used to chant the psalms with the monks. He used to eat in the refectory, and would never permit any thing to be prepared for himself besides what was given to the society. When he perceived his death approaching, he caused himself to be carried into the principal church of Leon, and there, covered with the penitential sackcloth, with ashes on his head, and prostrate on the earth, after addressing his final prayer to God, he rendered both his crown and his life to Him from whom he had received both. St. Ferdinand was son to Alphonso King of Leon, and of Berangera of Castile, elder sister of Blanche, mother of St. Louis. By his second wife, Jane of Ponthieu, he had a daughter, Eleonora, who, on the death of her mother, became heiress of the countries of Ponthieu and Montreuil, and by marrying Edward I. of England, united them to that crown. No necessity could ever induce this religious king to impose any heavy tax upon his subjects. During his wars with the Moors, when he was advised to adopt a plan of raising an extraordinary supply,

he rejected the proposal with indignation, saying, “God would not fail to supply him by other ways; and that he feared more the curse of one poor woman than the whole army of the Moors.”

St. Elzear was of the ancient and illustrious famliy of Sabran in Provence. His father, Hermengand de Sabran, was created Count of Arian, in the kingdom of Naples. His mother was Lauduna of Albes, a family no less distinguished for its nobility. The count was born in 1295, at Ansois, his father's castle, in the diocese of Apt; and he was affianced in childhood to Delphina of Glandeves, daughter to the Lord of Pui-Michel. The following are among the regulations which were established in his family at this castle, where they resided. Every one in my house shall daily hear mass. If God be well served, nothing will be wanting. Let no one swear, or curse, or blaspheme, under pain of being severely chastised, and afterwards shamefully dismissed from my service. Can I hope that God will pour forth his heavenly blessings on my house, if it is filled with such miscreants, who devote themselves to the devil ? I will have no playing at dice, or any games of hazard. There are a thousand innocent diversions, though time passes away soon enough without being idly thrown away. Yet I desire not my castle to be a cloister, nor my people hermits. Let them be merry, and sometimes let them divert themselves, but never at the expense of conscience, or with danger of offending God. I will not have my coffers filled by emptying those of others, or by squeezing the blood out of the veins, and the marrow out of the bones, of the poor. Such bloodsucking wicked servants to enrich their masters damn both masters and themselves. Do you imagine that a master who giveth five shillings in alms wipeth away the theft of his servants who have torn out the entrails of the poor, whose cries for vengeance mount to heaven ?” St. Elzear would feign to be hunting the stag while he was in quest of poor people : he would mount his horse with his falconers, with his hawk on his fist, and his servants with the dogs, and presently he would slip aside into the forest, and seek the miserable hut to assist the poor. Though a great saint, he was not the less a chivalrous prince. He bore away the prize before the court of Naples; he conquered at many tournaments; he was a valiant commander,

« PoprzedniaDalej »