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came afterward a priest, and finally a hermit, noted far and near for his sanctity. Like others, he made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and his vehement temper was wrought up to frenzy by witnessing Turkish sacrilege and cruelty. He conferred much with Simeon, the Christian patriarch of Jerusalem, and it was agreed between them that Peter should endeavor to stir up Europe to the redemption of the Holy City. Bearing letters from the patriarch to Pope Urban II. and the European princes, Peter sped back to Italy. The Pope entered warmly into his views, promised to second him with his whole influence, and despatched him through Europe to preach the deliverance of Palestine.
The Hermit's fervid eloquence was not poured forth in vain. The heart of Europe beat tumultuously with a sympathetic enthusiasm, and the loud and unanimous call of the nations was to arms. The Pope followed up the impulse thus communicated, by convoking two successive councils, and urging on the priests, princes, and nobles of Europe, with the whole power both of his office and his eloquence, the holy enterprise of redeeming the captivity of Zion. By these, the joint efforts of the Hermit and the Pope, a motion and direction were imparted to the enthusiasm of Europe, which issued in six successive crusades.
The history of these crusades neither our limits permit, nor our purpose requires us to relate. For a summary narrative, well executed, we would refer our readers to Mr. James. Their immediate result was to rescue the Holy Land, and to establish on the throne of David a dynasty of Christian kings. But only seventy years after Godfrey of Bouillon had grasped the sceptre of Jerusalem, the star of the splendid Saladin went up, and the cross veiled before the crescent. But though the labors and blood of millions were thus lavished in vain, as concerning their immediate object, the permanent deliverance of Palestine, yet it is not the less true, that the crusades were, on the whole, as beneficial in their effects, as worthy in their design. At the time of the preaching of the first crusade at the Council of Clermont, all Europe was in a state of convulsion. The feudal barons were universally at war, and mutual pillage, sack, and massacre, were the order of the day. The drawing off of their jarring energies into one great foreign enterprise, was followed by comparative domestic quiet, and some scope was afforded for the healing and illuminating ministrations of peace. The crusades, too, may be set down as causing the abolition of the worst features of the feudal system, and the more equal diffusion of liberty and property, since, in order to raise money for these expeditions, the barons had recourse to selling their estates, and kings to selling immunities to towns and corporations. The transportation of the immense multitudes of the crusaders from Europe to Asia, and the opening of a free intercourse between the east and west, communicated an impulse to ship-building, navigation, commerce, and the arts, to which we are indebted not a little for that immense commerce, which now girdles the globe, the physical science, which has explored so successfully the hiding-places of nature, and the arts, which have tamed the elements, and made them the bond-servants of man.
Again, the light of Roman civilization had not yet gone out in the
east, for a descendant of the Cæsars still held, though with an uncertain grasp, the
the sceptre of Constantinople. The crusading hosts, therefore, were brought in contact with modes of life, and social usages, far more refined and polished than their own. Some germs of civility were thus plucked from the very bosom of war, and being transplanted to Europe, there took root and sprang up, and contributed not a little to the furtherance of social improvement.
And then, as to the justice of the crusading wars, which it is fashionable to decry, and as to their ostensible grounds, which it is customary to pronounce altogether frivolous, it ought to be said plainly, that if ever wars are justifiable, these were so; and if ever the motives to war are praiseworthy, the motives to these deserve the title. The spirit which arrayed Europe against Asia, was compassion for brethren cruelly oppressed, and the object aimed at was to wrest from a barbarous race a territory which they held only by the right of the sword, and to roll back from Europe the encroaching tide of aggression, by a people whose invariable alternatives to the conquered were the Koran, bondage, or death. Compare the spirit and the avowed grounds of that thirty years' war, in which thousands died by fraternal hands to determine whether the white or the red rose should bloom on the brow of English royalty, or of that war, in which millions were sacrificed to decide whether a disgusting Bourbon, or a selfish Bonaparte, should wear the diadem of France; with the spirit and grounds of a war, to which men were urged by pity for the woes, and indignation at the wrongs, of their brethren; by the desire to secure for Christian piety the opportunity to pour itself out on the very spot sanctified by the footsteps of the Redeemer; make this comparison, and then pronounce whether the grounds of the great conflicts of the comparatively civilized fifteenth, and the vauntingly illuminated nineteenth centuries, do not, in the nobleness and elevation, fall far beneath those of the crusading wars of the benighted eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth centuries. But, in the crusades, we behold the culmination of chivalry. Its course thenceforward was one of decline. It had fulfilled its mission, and like all outward vehicles of human energy, must needs go down to its dust.
The first in date among the causes that wrought its downfall, was the substitution of worldly rewards for that simple glory which was the knight's original inspiration. Princes naturally coveted the aid of a body so potent as the knighthood, and to secure it, proposed external honors and motives, wholly at variance with the primitive spirit of chivalry. Thus metamorphosed into a political engine, chivalry fared as religion has ever done, when allied with the state ; it lost its simplicity and its healthful energies.
Again: the invention of gunpowder in the fourteenth century so revolutionized the art of war, as to render nought all knightly powers. For what availed individual bravery, and strength, and skill in arms, when the cowardly manikin, whose trembling finger could scarce pull his trigger, was an overmatch for Arthur Pendragon's self, with excalibar and casing steel ?
And, finally, the development of civilization, by reducing to order the warring elements of society, and strengthening the bands of government and law, withdrew the very props on which the insti.
tution of chivalry leaned. The functions of the knight were assumed by the civil magistrate, and the chastisement of wrong-doers, alas, for romance ! was transferred to the hands of sheriff, jailor and hangman. And so chivalry, having fulfilled its allotment, went down into the cemetery of departed things:
"The knights are dust,
Their good swords rust,
Their souls are with the saints, we trust.' It now remains only to trace the relation of chivalry and of the age in which it flourished, to modern civilization. It is the custom to speak of the middle ages, as times of barbarism unredeemed, presenting to the historical student little else than one solid mass of gloom. With this custom we cannot fall in. Be they called ages
of darkness, but it was the darkness of a cloud burdened with the fertilizing treasures of the rain ; the darkness of a current floating a bark freighted with all precious things. It ill beseems the lusty summer and foodful autumn to slur the barren winter and the immature spring. And, in the middle ages, what do we behold, but the winter and the spring, that preceded and prepared our riper time? A season when Nature was carrying on her mysterious processes in secret, and her central fire was burning and working toward the surface, there finally to break out in the green exuberance that gladdens our sight? The middle ages were not, indeed, marked by the diffusion and equalization of intelligence, that characterize our day. But its firmament was by no means bare of luminaries, as is avouched by the names of Charlemagne and Alfred, of Abelard and Aquinas, of Roger Bacon and Wickliff, and of Dante, Petrarch, Boccacio, and Chaucer. Such men were no minims in the world of genius and learning, nor did the contemporaries of such stumble in utter darkness. In truth, of all those profuse and magnificent growths in science, literature and art, which are the enjoyment and glory of our time, there is scarce one for the planting of which we are not indebted to the middle ages. And therefore do we protest against the imputation of sheer barbarism, which it is customary to stamp upon them.
Milton has rendered a noble testimony to the influence of their literature, by reckoning it among the means of nourishing within him that sublime virtue which made him a glory to humanity. 'I betook myself,' says he, among those lofty fables and romances, which recount in solemn cantos the deeds of knighthood founded by our victorious kings, and from thence had in renown all over christendom. There I read it in the oath of every knight, that he should defend, at the expense of his best blood, or of his life, if it so befel him, the honor and chastity of virgin or matron, from whence even then I learned what a noble virtue chastity sure must be, to the defence of which so many worthies, by such a dear adventure of themselves, had sworn. So that these books proved to me so many incitements to the love and steadfast observation of virtue.'
We shall dismiss our subject with a brief consideration of the alleged defects of the institution of chivalry, and of the benefits it unquestionably conferred upon the world.
It has been one charge against chivalry, that it was warlike, and ever
appealed to the sword to decide the conflicting pretensions of justice. Were chivalry to be looked at as an external and a permanent institution, the charge would be valid. But, regarded as an institution created by the circumstances of a particular age, and taking a shape suited to the wants of that age, the charge is nought. That the knight grasped the sword, was not from the impulse of the essential spirit of chivalry, but on compulsion of the times, that made him knight. Different states of society demand different means to work the same results. To effect certain purposes, both noble and useful, Chivalry grasped the instruments, and the only instruments, which the age had fashioned to its hands. These instruments were those of war.
And what is war? Simply the shock of antagonist forces, be these what they may, opinions, passions, tastes, or what not. These opposing forces, by a natural necessity, covet the annihilation, or the subjection of each other, and this they may aim to effect either with or without the intervening concussion of physical masses. In the former case, we designate their collision by the technical term war; in the latter, by controversy, or some equivalent term. But it is clear they are both equally manifestations of the self-same radical principle. There is, therefore, as much war in the world now, though the Temple of Janus has so long been shut, as in any former age. long as men shall differ in opinion, feelings, or taste
- and when or how can it be otherwise ? — so long must there be war on the earth.
However, in a highly civilized and thoroughly christianized society, such differences are put forward in the spirit of peace, and their collision serves to strike out truth, and open up the way of improvement. But in rude and primitive times, adverse principles are too vehement and sharp, environed with too few restraining and modifying influênces, to adjust their hostility merely by argumentation, or any other weapon from the armory of spiritual conflict. The weapons of their warfare are carnal. Their antipathy betakes itself to the intermediation of physical masses; and differing men meet and impinge in the shock of battle.
Just so it is with the tamers of a virgin soil. They must needs struggle incessantly and fiercely with beast and reptile; with hunger, and cold, and storm; with sickness, privation, and casualty in its thousand forms. With the clearing up of the country, and the gathering of its population into villages, the wild animal is exterminated or expelled; and so, though a contest must still be waged with physical wants and elementary inclemencies, man is better furnished with appliances to wage it successfully. In the immaturity, then, of society, war, which, in some guise, holds perpetual fellowship with humanity, takes the peculiar modification of clashing physical forces. Chivalry, therefore, was warlike from the necessity of the times that produced it. It did not, however, stand forth as the advocate and friend of war, but rather as the friend and harbinger of peace to come. For it grasped a rod of chastisement for the spoiler and oppressor, and proclaimed itself the champion and vindicator of weakness, defencelessness, and right. It did, indeed, cast the sword into one side of the scales of justice, but, unlike the juggling Gaul, it did so because cru
elty and wrong weighed down the other. It mitigated the ferocity of war by mingling with its usages a courtesy, humanity, and fairness unknown before, and thus, by diminishing the springs that feed it, wrought toward its final extinction. So do our woodmen kindle on the outskirts of a burning forest antagonist fires, which serve to check the spread of the conflagration, and cause it to die out with the consumption of the material already seized upon. The military character of chivalry cannot, then, be counted a stigma on an institution born of an age of war, and aiming to work out peace by the only fitting implements in its possession. Little, therefore, too little to call for present notice, remains to qualify, in our contemplation, the nobleness of the spirit that produced it, and the beneficence of the results it accomplished.
One effect of chivalry was to redeem from almost a dead letter to life and vigorous activity, the second great law of the christian statute book; the law of brotherly love ; the law of sympathy with, and interest in, man simply as man. To love their friends and hate their foes, was the prime precept of the Pagan code. The bounds of kindred and country, the lines traced by pride, interest, and other personal considerations, pagan charity rarely overstepped. Christian love was of a far other strain. It passed the flaming bounds of space and time ;' it owned no restrictions on its exercise ; it had a hearing ear, a responsive heart, and a helping hand, for wronged and suffering humanity, in whatever clime and under every sky. That a principle so high and pure should have been obstructed in its action, and indeed almost buried from sight by the falsities of the Pagan philosophy, and the crude notions of a thousand barbarous tribes, that obtruded their joint companionship on the religion of Christ, was in no wise to be marvelled at. It but shared the lot of its divine Author. In redeeming it from its thraldom, and sending it abroad on its mission of good, chivalry exerted a most conspicuous agency. For it openly and avowedly took its stand on the side of the innocent, the helpless, the wronged. It acknowledged their rightful and indefeasible claims to its services. And whether on the narrow field of an unsettled district, or on the broad battle-ground of the crusades, it put forth its best might from the impulse of a disinterestedness but slightly tainted with personal alloy.
Again, as we have hinted before, chivalry served as the agent of christianity in redeeming woman to the possession of something like equality in right and privilege with the stronger sex. By that might, which makes the right of ruder times, woman, inferior in brute strength to man, has been held by him in subjection. Save in the remarkable exception of the German tribes, we are not aware that savage life furnishes an instance, where woman has been dealt with as man's equal companion. Nor does heathen civilization much vary the picture. We, indeed, meet with individuals like Semiramis, Aspasia, and Zenobia, Volumuia, Portia, and Cornelia, women who have broken the bonds of proscription, and vindicated for themselves a determinate and equal allotment in society. But where do we find indications that the sex, as such, were ever counted worthy the confidence and equal companionship of man? It is a remark of the