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This did the spirit of Chivalry accomplish in the highest degree. Never, either before or since, was man, individual man, elevated to a loftier position. Fiction never wore a brighter garland than he then realized. Embodying in himself no delegated authority from prince, or peer or populace, but animated with the spirit of heroism, and depending upon his own stout arm alone, he won his laurels in tilt and tournament, wooed his lady love in hall and bower, or charged down upon the ranks of the infidel for the recovery of the holy sepulchre, accountable for his actions only to the laws of honor. His entire physical happiness was dependent upon his bravery, his intellectual was couched in his virtue, and to their full and perfect development were devoted all his knightly prowess, energy, and self-discipline. Long and arduous, it is true, were the trials which tested his faith and worthiness ; yet when these were passed, they added still more lustre to his triumph. To the young esquire all hopes and aspirations clustered around the moment when he should attain the badge of knighthood. The period of his probation was the ordeal by which to test his hardihood and prove his virtue. This rendered meritorious a severe course of self-discipline and abstemiousness, by making it necessary to the attainment of a point of honor ; and thus that which, when pursued for an ideal good, would ordinarily be censured as fanatical, when a tangible object was held out as the reward, was looked upon with superstitious veneration and love. Had such a course been opposed to the common prejudices of men, (as some have intimated,) it is evident that it never would have been persisted in ; but a love of virtue had been engrafted in the proper manner upon the mind, and it demanded in turn a thorough approval of virtue. Hence it was that a trial so severe had to be encountered by the candidate for distinction; that through so many weary hours he was expected to keep his fasts and vigils, and that it was only when the beams of the rising sun glanced upon his burnished armor, that the accolade was given, that his worthiness was attested, and the heroes of many a hardsought field came forth to welcome him into their illustrious order.
Here, too, as we turn over the musty pages that chronicle those times, do we find in the effect of those institutions the origin of liberty, in all its genuineness and purity. That freedom can only exist where no barrier opposes the elevation of merit is perfectly evident, and that the entire drift of the sentiments of Chivalry was to promote this state of equal rights, to abrogate in a measure the distinctions of birth by enhancing the estimation of virtue and bravery, to weaken the feudal tenure, and insiead of the shackles of the bondsman, to institute the probationary period passed by the esquire, is even clearer still. Self-dependence, and, consequently, freedom of will in all temporal concerns, we find were the two grand moving causes at work in the minds of men. The former inspired them with a love of martial glory, and led them to seek fame in the tented field, while the latter exerted an equally healthsul and vivifying influence upon the mental faculties. The approach of a new order of things elicited thought, thought instigated action, and action brought to light latent power. The personal independence which had its origin in a few daring souls, gradually diffused through the mass. The rivalry of contending spirits, as they strove to rescue the feeble and oppressed, called forth the admiration of all, and this admiration in turn proved the talisman of further progress. In fact, it gave to the public mind a bias from which it has never yet wholly swerved, to wit: a determination at all hazards to urge and enforce its own legitimate claims. This, however, was only the germ, and seems to have had but little in common with that phase of liberty, which would now be termed“ progressive democracy.” It was then rational and sensible, and although confined to the narrow sphere of personal independence, yet still it worked wonders in reformation. Since that period it has expanded, its sphere has become enlarged, and, when guided aright, it has contributed more perhaps than any or all other features of government to perfect the symmetry of man's social and political (and would that we could add religious character.
Thus we see that the institutions of Chivalry, in their influence upon mankind, seem to have had chiefly two points in view; the one to engraft upon the mind a sentiment of honor which should persuade it into the path of rectitude and virtue ; the other to train the heart to a manly nobleness and generous warmth of sentiment, rather than by stilling the affections to make man a mere machine of thought.
This last brings us to another view of our subject, and in passing it may be worth while to notice the somewhat singular fact, that the spirit of Chivalry never animated the world but once. Other graces which have shed their charms around mankind, when their passing lustre was over, have withered away, and a new generation have blossomed forth with fresh beauty. The religion of nature first impelled man to devotion, and devotion elevated his being. Again, idolatry and hero-worship gave to devotion a tangible identity, and in after years the same feeling was called into play by the appearance of Christianity. Eras of Poetry with their refining influences have successively fashioned out new additions to the strength of national character. But Chivalry is a unit in the annals of time. In the past we can find for it no perfect archetype, while the future holds out no promise of its revival. The soft slumbers of the world in its noon-day repose were broken in upon by the sound of the clarion and the minstrel's lay. Its energies were roused, yet its violence was soothed, and from the whole arose that romantic though pleasing development of human nature, which now in the dim distance seems but the " shadow of a shade."
Among the many lessons which we strive to learn from a review of the past, one of the most important is the influence which passing events exert upon the formation of character. All who are desirous of leaving a name to posterity, eagerly seek to fathom those subtle phases which cast down the highest from positions of esteem and honor, while they elevate the lowliest. Care, culture, and education, all that tends to expand the intellect, are profusely lavished upon the infant mind, that it may become a light and a joy to mankind.
yet in most instances the futility of all these attempts must be apparent to every one. The master-minds which guide and direct the energies of a nation to some wise and noble end, nearly all spring forth as it were from the very darkness of obscurity. Genius seems to have strewn its most favored gifts in the pathway of poverty and ignorance, and to have chosen ever from the humblest ranks those destined to minister at its shrine and dispense blessings to the world. To attribute this to chance would be to blind our eyes to the facts which lie open before us—facts, too, which none can fail to perceive. Who that has mingled with a rising generation, and seen the youth with eye kindling with genius, and lip quivering with eloquence, the fond child of indulgence and affluence, spurning the plighted troth of virtue, yet prostituting the soul itself to lust, sneering at morality, yet clasping to his heart the grim form of sensuality, but can say, there in truth was " fallen greatness ?" Who that has seen this but knows-feels that moral turpitude has condemned to the shades below more sons of glory than ever yet prospered on earth? And does all this originate in mere chance ?" No! Away, then, with the gay delusion, and look the matter boldly in the face. Spurn the scarlet-robed iniquity, and admit the truth. Admit that in this age of haste and confusion we bestow, for the purpose of developing to the greatest extent the faculties of the mind, all that care and cultivation which by right should be devoted to perfecting the heart in all that is good and great; that while attention is closely confined to the expansion of intellect, the soul and the heart-seats of nobleness and virtue—are left untilled and uncared for. In this respect, what a deep-fraught lesson may we cull from the past! How changed is the scene, when we turn from the moral pestilence which desecrates our age, to those gentle and joyous days of love and arms, of truth and honor, when minstrel and iroubadour vied in sounding the praise of virtue and valor, and conjured brave knights to deeds of chevisance, by the faith they had sworn to their ladie love' and to the holy cross! If true greatness be the elevation of soul rather than mind, where do we find it purer or more exalted than in the annals of knighthood ? Its records abound in one continuous flow of honest and manly feeling. To this some would fain add, that if ignorance be bliss, surely Chivalry was the great elixir of happiness. The implication is plausible, but true only in part; while the real and correct charge is, that while the institution gave noble prominence to man's better nature, it contributed directly but little to the diffusion and extension of knowledge, though incidentally its effects were both beneficial and permanent. We must, however, crave indulgence for esteeming this one of its highest attributes ; not that we would derogate one jot or one tittle from the care and attention due to literary excellence, but discovering in all knowledge but one object-the assimilation of our nature to the perfect being, we cannot but think, that such an end would be far more surely attained infusing into the heart proper basis of morality, which should render truth, bravery, and generosity, the objects of contention, than by attempting to impose upon
the spirit of the age a ritual which appeals to neither sympathy or passion.
But the age of every · Heroism,' as well as that of Chivalry, has vanished before the progress of civilization. The triumph of time over the vestiges of antiquity is complete. Stalwort mind has at length chosen the new field of diplomacy in which to engage, and foresworn its allegiance to thought, manly, open, and free-to thought which fears not scrutiny. The better impulses of human nature have been swathed in the bandages of infancy, until, like the feet of the Chinese princess, they have become contemptible from their very diminutiveness. A strong and striking contrast now presents itself in every thing, and in nothing is the dissimilarity more marked than in the different means resorted to for the purpose of cultivating a love of virtue. The beneficent ends then accomplished by the spirit of Chivalry are now subserved by a formal code of morality, of which society at large are by no means the devotees. Temporal emoluments and honors are not linked as of yore with the precepts of religion, and hence it is that so much of hypocrisy and false-hearted compliance ensue. Whether in this light the world has benefited by the change; whether the rules of morality are now observed with the same punctuality as were formerly the behests of honor ; whether derelictions from duty are now looked upon by all with the same stern eye of repression, as when the knights' privileges were revoked for swerving from the path of rectitude, we leave others to decide for themselves. Yet still, when looking back upon an era which has passed with so much glory to itself, in which the fleeting visions of love and war seem united in harmony, and where knightly chevisance was ever the expression of virtue, we cannot but lament that the nobler elements of Chivalry have been suffered to decay 80 sadly in our own social system.
In conclusion, we cannot say that we would wish a return of that period, and the work of centuries undone ; but that some of the grace which then invested man—that some of the attributes which then ennobled him, characterized our own age, we do most heartily wish. Yes! in all sincerity and candor must the admission be made, even though it provoke the sneer of the utilitarian, that ever mournful and sad will the truth recur to us, that all those fine old “humanities” are fled, that the foundation of so much poetry and fiction is no more, and that those deep marks of character, Honor, Faith, and Charity, are now mistily obscured, and only linger with us, like spirits around the place of their former abode.
That mysterious and most subtle of all influences or principles in nature, life, is yet to be a subject of investigation. Light, electricity, gravitation, magnetism, and galvanic action, have all been reduced to what men call sciences; that is, a few of their principles of action, or a few modifications of their principles of action, have been ascertained and recorded in books which men term scientific treatises; but beyond this little is known of these mysterious and most subtle influences of nature.
Man erects bis lightning-rod, and the ethereal agent leaps to its point almost at his command ; he constructs his chain of batteries, and instantly perceives the electric circuit, the most obdurate metals yielding to a hitherto unknown principle of resolution, and Nature, bound by a law of adhesiveness that might seem to defy the hand of