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The followers of Odin were pious in their way. What is peculiar to chivalry arose, not from a union of war and religion, but from the nature of that religion which was here combined with the martial character. It was Christianity disguised, but not extinct, which was seen in this, to it so strange companionship,-it was this religion which was animating the valour of battle, presiding over the pomp of life, distributing the glories of the world. Other warriors had fought under their gods of war, the knights were heroes marshalled under the God of Peace. Self-renunciation and lowliness of heart-the perpetual prayer for pardon and for mercysorrow, and pain, and humiliation, made divine in the sacred object of his worship-such was the spirit, such the duty, such the contemplation of him who embraced the Christian faith. Strange and incongruous, indeed, seems the association of such a faith with the profession of arms-the combination of its self denying temper with the impetuosity of a military champion, and the boast of military triumph. But the association, incongruous as it may seem, took place. The Christian faith could not conquer the reigning passion for war, but it made close alliance with it. It pierced the stubborn heart of the warrior, though it could not turn it to peace. Disarm he would not, but he knelt in iron mail, and lowered his haughty crest, before the image of resignation and suffering, before the most tender objects of devotion, and the most affecting that ever were presented to the mind of man. And thus came forth the character of the knight -a bold instance of the resolution of moral forces. Christian humility was transmuted into the courtesy of knighthood; the patience of a disciple of the cross was sustaining the hardships of a camp; the self-renunciation of a Christian had become the devoted heroism of the soldier.
The Crusades brought out in full and sudden perfection this strange compound, this warrior-Christian. The knights were pilgrims, marching under spread banners to the tomb of Christ. Chivalry became all but a branch of the hierarchy; and indeed the two orders touched so closely at one point as to unite in the warriormonk, or the Knights of the Temple and St John. Over the whole insti
tution the Church affectionately watched. The priest assisted at the installation of its neophyte, who performed his vigils in the Church, and who received his arms from the altar. Many a form of external worship was devised in those days of sacred ritual, and the knight had his: when at mass, and while the Gospel was being read, the military champion of the cross held his drawn sword before him, the hilt upon his breast, and its point upwards-and so he worshipped.
But the enthusiasm of the Crusades could not be perpetuated, and the character of chivalry undergoes no slight modification as the scene of its exploits changes. The knight was not always in Palestine, nor did the church alone employ his sword. Amongst those who claimed the protection of his valour the weaker sex held a conspicuous place. The knight, with all his capacity for endurance and voluntary toil, was no ascetic, nor turned with horror from the loveliness of woman. What more natural than that he, who had relinquished all selfish advantage of his arms except their glory, should lay that glory itself as a tribute at the feet of beauty? The knight became the champion of the fair a service not barren of reward. God and the ladies! was his favourite VOW. Doubtless there was some imperfection in a theology which could mingle together these two objects of so different a species of devotion, but how fresh and single-hearted does the ejaculation sound! God and the ladies! How it tells of a free conscience along a joyous path of existence! of a spirit open to pleasure and to piety, and finding, perhaps, from a happy ignorance, no contradiction between them!
Disbanded from the Holy Wars, the knight frequently had no other resource than to offer his sword to the several potentates of Europe, whose contests found for it abundant employment. He was now the soldier of fortune; but if a true knight, he carried with him a high sense of honour that placed him above all fortune. With a steadfast, but certainly not too rigid piety,-with a heart prepared for danger, open to delight, he often wandered from court to court, partaking gaily of what pleasure or what battle might be found. The unsettled nature of the times fostered this spirit of independence and of jovial ease, com
bined with toughest fortitude. Quiet times breed timid hearts. The orderly progress of affairs brings with it so strict a dependence upon that very order that we dare trust nothing to fortune. And wisely are we distrustful. Fortune has nothing to bestow. Every thing is in the gift of sober industry, or devolves in due course of law. But the very violence of rude times which gives uncertainty to possession, and throws a fear upon the prosperous, takes also half the cloud from adversity, and, releasing the mind from its too anxious moorings, permits it at once to be adventurous and gay. The word of a knight! There was a moral re-action here which has not, perhaps, been sufficiently noticed. Notwithstanding the sacred or superstitious character which jurisprudence in the Middle Ages had assumed, and perhaps, indeed, owing in part to this very circumstance, there prevailed, according to all accounts, the most abundant perjury. Whatever was the cause of this evil, or whether it resulted solely from the ignorance and barbarity of the times, (though people as ignorant and barbarous have been renowned for speaking the truth,) certain it is that the remedy men persisted to apply, tended only to aggra vate the malady. Oaths were invented and imposed of still greater sanctity than those which had been found so unavailing. To swear by the cross of Canterbury, or on the relics of a saint, was peculiarly stringent; and thus it came to be a matter of general, of popular belief, that one oath was more binding than another. Now, to speak the truth, and adhere to your word in obedience to your vow, is all that in any case can be done; and if a distinction is to be made between two oaths, if more or less sacred, this can only be effected by sometimes breaking one of them. If to swear by the cross of Canterbury is more binding than a simple oath, the simple oath suffers disparagement. Besides which, every addition to the ceremonial of superstition increases that mischief, which is inherent in all superstition, namely, that it transfers the attention from the real virtue to be performed, to that which has in fact no value except as an auxiliary to the virtue. Never was the simple obligation of veracity so completely obscured and lost sight of in the attendant sanctions of the oath, as in these times. Robert
of France, a, pious prince, grieved at the amount of perjury committed, and that on the most sacred relics, had an empty reliquary made, that men might swear on that, and so be saved at least from the most heinous part of their offence. All kinds of subterfuges and tricks, such as not in reality touching the sacred emblem, were used by the swearer to exculpate himfrom what? from the crime of meditated falsehood, of which the very subterfuge convicted him. Sometimes the trick was played by the opposite party, and the swearer was made to take a greater oath than he thought for. When Harold went over to Normandy, William, then duke of that province, prevailed on him to swear that he would assist him in his future claims to the throne of England. Harold took the oath, laying his hand, as he thought, on a table merely covered with a cloth; on the cloth being removed, it was discovered that there had been secretly conveyed under it a box of relics of the most awful character. But in such matters there is happily a point of reaction in men's minds. When all this perjury and inefficient superstition was most rife, the knight stood forth, and challenged faith in his veracity on the simple word of a gentleman. And, from that day the word of a man of honour is the surest bond of confidence between man and man.
Why are these times of the knight and the monk so favoured of the poet, - why are they held pre-eminently entitled to the epithet, "romantic?" Mainly, we think, because in no period of history are the great varieties of human character so broadly distinguished; each being, at the same time, informed with its full complement of passion, and an undivided will. This, together with the circumstance that the external pomp of life was well fitted to figure forth to the eye this striking contrast of character, forms the secret charm which renders these ages so acceptable and captivating to all who court the exercise of imagination. Pass the procession in review-the feudal monarch, the feudal noble, the bishop, the monk, the knight, the burgess; when was life so varied, when was the individual allowed to deliver himself so entirely, and with so little self-contradiction, to the prevailing temper of his mind? He who craved solitude, and
longed to foster an exclusive sentiment of piety, threw himself into a cloister; he covered his head with a monk's hood, and the world understood and respected him; but if the blood was bounding in a man's veins, and he panted for enterprize, and for spectators for his enterprize, he joined, his steed and lance perhaps all his wealth, the banner of his sovereign, or some adventurous noble, and pricked forward with a heart as entirely selfsatisfied. The Church, that reproved all in turn, gave a free scope to all. We moderns are so educated by selfreflection and mutual observation, and are so familiar with the thoughts and passions of other men, in other positions, that what we ourselves are, we scarcely know. These men performed their part in life, doubtless with even more egregious blunders than we poor mortals commit, but with a heartiness and sincerity which more cogitating animals can never experience.
Let us be allowed to terminate this our glance at the Dark Ages by the portrait of one whose life and character display them very vividly in all their glory and superstition, in their high faith, in their absurd fears, in all their ignorance and heroism. It is Joan d'Arc, or the Maid of Orleans, we wish to call to remembrance, one whose character and exploits, marvellous as they are, we have ample means of understanding. The judicial examination both of herself and of other witnesses, taken when she was in captivity to the English, supply more certain materials for biography than are usually possessed. Mr Sharon Turner, who is invaluable for the diligence with which he collects his materials, and the impartiality with which he spreads them on his page, has, in his History of England, framed his account of Joan from these examinations, and his account we follow in the pre
In the village of Domremy, on the borders of Lorraine, there is a little girl of humble parents, who are not, however, as some relate, the keepers of an inn, but small farmers cultivating their own land. She is now about the age of thirteen or fourteen, and is remarkable for her amiable temper and singular piety. She prefers solitude and the sacred service to the village fete; and may often be found kneeling alone in the church before the crucifix or the Virgin Mary. There is a beautiful tree in the neighbourhood; they call it the fairy tree, and other children are afraid to pass by it unaccompanied; she takes her work and sits there by herself. She sees no fairies, but the forms of angels and of saints. St Margaret and St Catharine come and stand beside her, and smile so sweetly on her, that she weeps when the vision departs. At other times she sits watching her father's sheep; and so gentle is she, that the birds will come and feed from her hand, and so modest and bashful, that, if addressed by a stranger, she is utterly disconcerted.
Notwithstanding this susceptible temperament, she grows up into no weak and sickly frame. With this musing visionary mood she combines the rustic and invigorating labours of ner station; and now, as she rides her
father's horses, which she has frequent occasion to do, for the pond at which they drink is at some distance from the house, she arms herself with a wooden lance or long pole, and, ma. naging her steed in quite knightly fashion, she tilts at the trees or any other object she can make a mark of, and deals her blow with wondrous force and dexterity. Alone she prays, alone she muses, alone she rides and tilts, growing up in a complete world of her own of visionary religion and chivalrous exploit.
Henry V., the conqueror of Agincourt and the terror of France, is dead-his infant son has been crowned at Paris, King of France and England —to the Dauphin, now Charles VII., a very small share of his hereditary kingdom remains-Orleans is the only town of any magnitude that adheres to him-the Regent Bedford has laid siege to it—the siege is far advanced, the little court of Charles is in despair, and Charles himself meditates a flight from his lost dominions, into Spain or Scotland. The village of Domremy is far from the scene of contest, but is not without sharing its agitation. It lies on the borders of Burgundy, and the Duke of Burgundy is an ally of England. The very next village of Marcy is of the Burgundian faction;
and the youths of Domremy and Marcy have frequently met and fought each other upon this very quarrel. Joan d'Arc hears all this with beating heart, and grows up a warm friend of her native prince. Nay, there is a prophecy current, that from the borders of Lorraine a virgin should arise who would deliver France. When did France need deliverance more than now? She prays more devoutly than ever-visions and voices attend herand now it is not St Catharine only, and St Margaret, but the martial form of St Michael that enters on the scene. She begins to talk mysteriously to her friends of something that must be undertaken by one as yet unthought of she must go and raise the siege of Orleans, and crown the Dauphin, as she still calls him, in the city of Rheims!
But how is a peasant girl to introduce herself even, on the theatre of such exploits? In a neighbouring village, there dwells a Seigneur of some consequence in the world, Baudricourt by name. To him she will go, he will introduce her to Charles. In that same village she has an uncle, and through him she can be presented to Lord Baudricourt. The uncle is first gained; he takes his niece, a country girl, now about the age of eighteen, dressed, as we are told, in "her shabby red gown," and presents her to the Seigneur as the champion of France, commissioned by Heaven to deliver the kingdom from its enemies, and to crown its native sovereign. Baudricourt will not listen a momentbids the uncle" whip the girl, and send her back home.'
Home, however, Joan by no means goes. She stays at the village with her uncle-she talks of her divine mission-she is perpetual in her religious exercises. The old prophecy is brought up; people listen and believe; Lord Baudricourt holds serious discourse with the clergymen of the place; they visit her together. At this time the Duke of Lorraine is lying ill of a fever which his physicians do not understand, and thinks this maid may probably have some spell, some witchcraft, or saintcraft, by which to cure him. She is introduced to the Duke; but she declares she knows nothing of pharmacy-her business is with France, and to set her prince upon his throne. All this, however, increases her celebrity. Baudricourt is shaken. He consents, at length, to
give her letters to the King, and plies her with a horse, arms, and an escort. "Go," says the half-believing, half-doubting man; go! and let come what may of it."
The first step, which is proverbially so difficult, is achieved. Her fellowtravellers, being constant witnesses of her firmness, her intrepidity, her unshaken confidence in her holy mission, are made converts, and believe in her. All ranks visit her; and many who come in sceptical mood, return, declaring, with tears in their eyes, that "she is a creature of God." Dressed in male attire, her countenance pleasing, her shape beautiful, but yet proportioned rather for strength than gracefulness, she is introduced to Charles. His council are divided in opinion, but even those who share not the popular enthusiasm think fit to profit by it. Stories are circulated which, whether inventions of these cooler heads, or the genuine blunders of credulity, serve still further to promote that popular faith by which they gained their credence. Has she not whispered to the Dauphin a secret which none but himself could by natural means be acquainted with? Has she not sent her messenger for a sword concealed behind an altar of St Catherine; a sword whose existence none knew of, and concealed in a church where she herself had never been? The clergy solemnly examine her. To one, who requests a miracle to be performed instanter, in proof of her divine mission, she replies—“Conduct me to Orleans, and there I will show you for what I am sent." "The miracle," she said to another, "which is given me to do is to raise the seige of Orleans. Give me men-at-arms, in what number or as few as you please, and I will do it!"
How she went-how she won her way into the town—what brave sallies she made from it-how she turned the tide of hope and victory-is matter of very familiar history. She infused as much terror into the English as of confidence in the French. Not that our ancestors, good catholics as they were, could believe that Heaven had commissioned the Maid to scourge them out of France-no; but there were other powers, beside St Michael and the Virgin, very busily at work in those days. Dreadful things were done by magic and the influence of demons. As prayers and pious offer
like a hero, and been almost worshipped like a saint. Her enemies watched her conduct. They saw her, after
ings secured the assistance of a saint, so there were incantations and sacrilegious rites that would prompt and direct the malevolence of fiends. They suffered from her witchcraft. Her spells had withered their hearts, and paralysed their limbs.
When Joan had performed her promise, had raised the siege of Orleans, crowned the King at Rheims, and turned the tide of conquest decidedly in favour of her countrymen, she wished to retire from the scene. But the selfish policy of the King would not permit it; she must still animate his soldiers by her presence. Her career was, however, run-she was taken prisoner, and the angel of France was now the captive sorceress, forsaken of her demon. Bedford and others of the English council treated her with great cruelty. After having, by promises of pardon, on the one hand, and, on the other, by long confinement and the torture of repeated examinations, worn down the enthusiasm of her mind, and reduced her to the level of a sad, weak, and suffering woman-after having, by the influence of the clergy of their own faction, driven her to confess like a penitent, and lament as a sinful presumption the lofty imagination that had been the source of all her glory-after having thus destroyed all the charm that surrounded her, they nevertheless resolved upon her execution. To obtain some pretence for their breach of good faith, they tricked her into what they called a relapse into witchcraft. All her exploits had been performed in male attire, and with that dress were associated all her dreams of glory. Since her captivity she had been cloth ed in the usual garments of her sex. One night they conveyed into her cell that old attire in which she had fought
looking long at the once familiar dress, begin to put it on. They rushed into her presence and proclaimed her relapsed.
Do not the character and career of the Maid of Orleans illustrate with singular felicity the spirit of the times she lived in? The combination of qualities which she herself presents to our view is curious in the extreme; but the greater curiosity lies in the temper, and notions, and tendencies of the age, which could have brought such a person into the very foremost position of public life-placed her in the van of armies-at the head of councils. In the mind of the Maiden herself we see the noblest heroism, a courage undaunted, an ardour and perseverance fitted for the actual conduct of great enterprises, and all these animated by dreams, and fancies, and spectral illusions. Strange that a courage so real should have been under guidance of visions so weak! Strange that the imagination of a lonely girl should not have forsaken her on her entrance upon the palpable scene of military action! But still more strange that this nursling of solitude should find in the living world a theatre for the realization of her visionary hopes! But the world without was fantastic as the world within. The villager of Domremy, without quitting her dreams, leads the armies of France to conquest. Her supernatural power is undisputed either by friend or foe, but, alas! very differently construed. She places the crown with her own hands upon the brows of her monarch; and this admirable heroine dies, burnt at the stake for a pestilent witch!
Edinburgh: Printed by Ballantyne and Hughes, Paul's Work.