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their own use. These two-thirds were distributed by the chief, in different proportions, among his followers, to be held by them during life, under the name of benefices or fiefs, on condition that they rendered military services, when called on, of a duration proportioned to the value of the fief. The holders of these fiefs were called Leodes, or Freemen. The original inhabitants, occupying the remaining third of the soil, bore generally the name of serfs, or bondmen. They carried on almost the whole agriculture of the country, and sustained, too, the entire burden of taxation. The freeman, exempt from labor and tribute, hunted and fished, or engaged in military expeditions, either at his superior's call, or of his own inclination. Such was the state of things, previous to the reign of Charlemagne, which covered the latter part of the eighth and the fore part of the ninth centuries.
This great man stands preeminent and alone in the European annals of his time. Rising out of the midst of darkness, he filled the whole neighboring world with light, and with the extinction of his life, the light of Europe seemed also to go out. We do not, indeed, think with Mr. James, that the condition of mankind, after his death, was as though he had never been. For it is our faith, be it wisdom or folly, that no truly great mind ever beams on earth in vain, or expends its energies for nought. The fruits of its labors may, indeed, opparently be destroyed. So may you see the mighty Mississippi dissever and sweep away whole acres of its banks, with all their goodly garniture. The stately trees, the growth of innumerable years, with the clambering plants that were their decoration, are swallowed up and disappear in the turbid current. But the end is not yet. Following the stream downward, you will at last find these trees and shrubs lodged against some projecting headland, or shallow part of the river's bed. On this solid basis, the soil gradually accumulates and rises above the brim of the waters. By-and-by a soft green steals over the surface, and shrubs put out, and young trees lift their heads, till at last a complete and fruitful landscape greets our sight. And could we track as well the course of moral, as of physical phenomena, we might, beyond all doubt, assign to the splendid genius of Charlemagne a specific and important agency in the development of modern civilization.
But however this may be, certain it is, that the times immediately following his death, were peculiarly times of confusion and anarchy. The heirs of his throne were a feeble race; and presuming on their weakness, the great crown-vassals, dukes, marquises, and counts, put forward and made good the then novel claim, that the vassal owned an hereditary interest in the fief derived from the crown, sessed, therefore, the right of transmitting it to the eldest son, subject only to the performance of the original conditions. Hence they proceeded to apportion their lands to smaller proprietors, on the same conditions as they had received them, viz., the rendering of military service to themselves. Thus every great vassal established for himself the prerogatives of a sovereign prince, such as administering justice, making laws, coining money, and the like. These petty princes were often at war with one another, and yet at all times agreed in encroaching on the less powerful chiefs, who were unable effectually to resist them. Hence it resulted, that many of the smaller, as
also some of the larger barons, resorted to a half-robber life, building strong-holds among inaccessible rocks, and then sallying forth to ravage and spoil, plundering the defenceless traveller, and carrying off captives, and holding them to ransom. In this universal predominance of might over right, it was inevitable that the smaller allodial proprietors, who held immediately of the kings, and the serfs descended from the original conquered inhabitants, should occupy a most precarious position ; since, attached to none of the great barons, they were exposed to be harassed and pillaged by all.
At such a crisis it was, and out of the bosom of such turmoil and distress, that Chivalry arose. Some poor barons, compassionating the misery about them, and probably, too, suffering under the oppression of more powerful lords, banded together for the express purpose of redressing wrongs, and protecting the helpless innocent. This their object, distinctly avowed and put prominently forward, appealed directly and forcibly to those generous feelings, which no condition of society can utterly extinguish in man. The Church, which, however faulty, bas, to do it justice, been generally found the friend of the friendless, and the protector of the weak, gave its benediction to an undertaking so noble; and thus chivalry, at its outset, was clothed with somewhat of the sanctity of religion. The populace hailed with reverent enthusiasm those who thus stood forth as their champions; nor, indeed, could any class withhold respect from men, who, from no motive of possible self-interest, but from the impulse of simple philanthropy, thus struck for innocence and right. The chivalrous spirit spread, and applications became frequent for admission into this heroic band. Each knight originally had the prerogative of creating others without limit, so that, from being a simple engagement among a few brave, generous men, chivalry soon expanded into a mighty institution. In consequence, however, of this so rapid growth, it soon became manifestly needful to frame such rules as might bar the intrusion of unworthy members. We have no documents specifying the precise period when the chivalric order was first distinguished from others by fixed regulations. All concur, however, in fixing this
period somewhere in the eleventh century. The laws and ceremonies which marked the institution, were probably introduced slowiy, and at irregular intervals, as occasion might dictate; and being at last collected and arranged, constituted the body of its ceremonial law. The members of the order are, in our tongue, called knights; a word derived from the Anglo-Saxon knecht,' signifying servant, and used to distinguish the select attendants of a prince. The French, chevalier, horseman, and the German, ritter, rider, better define the thing meant; for the knight was, by distinction, a mounted warrior. Among the Celtic tribes originally occupying Gaul, the cavalry service took precedence of all others. And among the Romans, the equites, or horsemen, constituted one order of nobility in the state. So that the honor thus habitually associated with the equestrian service, together with the necessities of the roving life of the knighthood, account for the fact of the knights being horse-back warriors. The character of chivalry, in its palmy state, may perhaps best be gathered from a glance at the leading features of the discipline to which its aspirants were subjected. The ranks of the order were recruited, with few
exceptions, from the descendants of the northern conquerors of the soil. The future knight entered, at the early age of seven, on the specitic routine of knightly training. He was usually sent from home, even the most opulent parents preferring to commit the education of their sons to those whom parental tenderness would not bias to mitigate the severity of the discipline needful to fit the pupil for his after
The prevalence of the feudal system having made of each baron's household a smaller court, there was, of course, found there much of the polish and courtesy of manners naturally pertaining to royal circles. The boy's first place, on entering such a household, was that of page, or valet, which, though including every sort of attendance on his lord's person, even to the serving at table, was counted not degrading, but honorable, and was filled by the baron's own children and kindred. Meanwhile, he was put to all gymnastic exercises suited to invigorate the body, while, by continually mingling with the castle-guests, and rendering them all needful service, he gradually acquired that peculiar grace of manner, which was an essential trait in the character of the true knight. He was much, too, among the women of the household, who gave their special and systematic attention to instructing him in his duty to God and to the ladies, instilling into his susceptible mind that refined Platonic idea of love, which constituted so prominent a feature of chivalry. The influence of chivalry on the condition of woman was so remarkable in itself, and has been so favorite a theme with such as have preceded us on this subject, that we feel bound to give it, in brief, a special consideration.
Among heathen nations generally, woman has been barred of her true place. The savage has made her a drudge. Even the cultivated Greek and Roman were far from counting her an equal. At best, she was but a rare flower, to be set in a costly vase; a singingbird, to be prisoned in a gilded cage. But the German tribes, especially the Goths, the subverters of Rome's western empire, were in this respect a singular exception to savage life in general. Their women, Tacitus tells us, were not only respected, but beld in veneration, and regarded as the recipients, often, of the spirit of divination. Respect for woman, then, was an inheritance of the chivalrous order from its remote ancestry.
Another cause working toward the same result, was the consideration awarded to the Virgin Mary, in the then prevailing Catholic religion. As the mystic maid and mother - the virgin parent of the immaculate One -- she was regarded with a mingling of tenderness, and love, and religious awe. By this ber apotheosis, a hallowing influence was reflected on her whole sex, and in the firmament of chivalry woman was set as 'a bright, particular star,' shedding inspiration and guidance alike on the child and the man.
Again : the very purpose of chivalry, which was the vindication of weakness and innocence, naturally bore a very special reference to woman. For, however potent in her influence over those alive to her charms, against brute violence she has no defence. To an order, then, whose vocation it was to champion the defenceless, woman advanced claims of all others the most undeniable. From these causes combined, a high and mystical homage to the fair sex, sublimed often into
the fantastic and extravagant, became a prominent feature of chivalry. The knight was accustomed to elect some fair one, as the object of liis Platonic devotion, and to clothe her, in his enthusiastic imagination, with all ideal virtues and graces. In honor of her, he braved every hazard, and wrought all noble deeds; and to receive from her a smile, an approving word, or a simple coronet of flowers, was to him an exceeding great reward. Such views and sentiments were assiduously inculcated on the young candidate for knighthood, from his earliest years.
At fourteen, the page was usually advanced to the higher grade of Squire, and with the accompaniment of solemn religious rites, his short dagger was exchanged for the manly sword. The severity of his physical discipline was increased. The muscular strength and power of endurance, thus gradually formed, were such as, in these effeminate days, would seem incredible. We read of one fighting from noon till sunset, under the burning sun of Palestine, cased in thick iron, and another swimming against a torrent, armed cap-à-pie. The knights of the recent Eglintoun tournament, as we read, could not, without aid, mount on horse-back, when clad in that armor in which their prototypes were wont to mount without even putting foot in stirrup. The Squire, while he continued to perform many of the duties of the page, was also allowed to follow his lord to battle, and render various services there. In the ordinary course, he received the honor of knighthood at the age of twenty-one. For some great and gallant feat, he was often admitted into the order earlier, and on rare occasions, was made knight, with abridged ceremonies, even on the battle-field. But ordinarily his initiation took place at times of some great military ceremony, or on days consecrated by the church to some peculiar solemnity, as Easter, Pentecost, or Christmas. The ceremonial of his induction was of the most imposing description, and fitted to impress deeply the duties then voluntarily assumed. It was with similar views, that the German tribes were accustomed publicly to invest their young men with arms, on coming of age, as the Roman youth had, on the same occasion, been publicly clothed with the toga virilis.
Among the knight's vows at his induction, was an oath to protect, at his utmost risk, the cause of religion ; to redress such wrongs, and extirpate such evil customs, as fell within his reach; to defend the widow and the orphan, and protect the female sex generally; to be loyal to his king, chief, or lord ; and finally, to hold fast to the strictest purity, temperance, and integrity.
The first thing after receiving knighthood was usually a long journey into foreign countries, for the trial of his strength and skill in jousting with other knights; for perfecting himself in the requisitions of chivalry, by studying the demeanor of such celebrated champions as he met; and for fuelling his chivalrous ardor by the hearing of the famous exploits of the day, which, through these knightly rovers, were sounded over the world. The romantic literature of the middle ages, dealing so largely in giants, enchanters, and diablerie, owes not a little to this custom of knights wandering armed through Europe. It required no great stretch of imagination to find enchanted castles in the strong-holds of the robber-chiefs perched among the difficult
crags, or buried in the pathless forests; to see in these barbarous chiefs, giants delighting in the groans of helpless innocence shut up in prison by devilish magic; and in the knight, whose strong arm unbarred the dungeon, and set free the prisoned warrior, or lady bright, to behold a more than mortal prowess.
Another means of strengthening chivalrous sentiments, and of perfecting the knight in the use of arms, was the tournament, in its several kinds. After the descriptions of this exercise furnished by more than one writer of our day, we shall not, as we need not, attempt it. Suffice it to say, it was a scene most imposing and animating, and admirably suited to effect its aim. It was indeed, a rough sport (for rarely did one pass without loss of life,) but then silken plays would ill have matched an age of iron.
Such was the education of the knights ; such the spirit of chivalry. Within the compass of the eleventh century, chivalry wrought its way through the several countries of Europe. Allied, as it was with the two leading principles of society, the church and the feudal system, one thing only was needed to enthrone it as the predominant power of the European world, and that was some great enterprise, of which it should be both the origin and the actuating soul. At the close of this century, such an enterprise did in fact offer itself.
That Palestine, the scene of such transcendant manifestations of the divine
purposes, should be an object of reverence to Christians, was natural enough. Accordingly, from the recognition of Christianity by Constantine, at the beginning of the fourth century, we find the subjects of the Roman empire esteeming it almost a sacred duty to visit the scenes of our Saviour's earthly career. While the Holy Land was a Roman province, this pilgrimage was tolerably easy and safe. But, about the middle of the seventh century, it passed beneath the sway of the Saracens. Still a considerable measure of tolerance was extended to Christian pilgrims, by several successive Califs, especially by Haroun al Raschid, the hero of oriental story, and contemporary of Charlemagne, between whom and himself there passed many acts of friendly courtesy, refreshing to witness in that barbarous age. But under the Califs of the Fatemite dynasty, commencing A. D., 878, the pilgrims began to suffer persecution, and with the subjugation of Palestine, A. D., 1065, by the Turks from Central Asia, the insults, extortions, and cruelties heaped on the pilgrims, made their journey extremely perilous and painful. The passion for pilgrimage was not, however, thus extinguished, and about this time, it was tenfold augmented by the misinterpretation of an Apocalyptic prophecy, whence it was inferred that the millenium of Christ's earthly reign being completed, the day of judgment was at hand. The survivors of this hazardous pilgrimage brought back accounts of gross insults cast on the Christian faith, and of savage cruelties inflicted both on the pilgrims and on the Christian inhabitants of Palestine. By these narratives all Europe came at length to be agitated, and a train was laid, needing but a fit hand to fire it, in order to explode in desolating wrath on the persecuting infidel.
The identical man for the crisis had been fashioned by the times, in Peter the Hermit, a native of Amiens, in Northern France. Of his early history little is known, save that, being first a soldier, he beVOL. XV.