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CHI V A L RY;
THE HISTORY OF THE CRUSADES, ETC., ETC.
and he has scattered up and down his little volume and a half many curious notices of ancient manners.
The other work is written in the German language, and for that reason is but very little known in this country. It is called Ritterzeit und Ritterwesen, (two volumes, octavo, Leipzig, 1823,) and is the substance of a course of lectures on chivalry delivered by the author, Mr. Büsching, to his pupils of the High School at Breslau. The style of the work is the garrulous, slovenly, ungrammatical style which lecturers, in all countries, and upon all subjects, think themselves privileged to use. A large portion of the book is borrowed from Sainte Palaye ; much of the remainder relates to feudalism and other matters distinct from chivalry : but when the writer treats of the state of knighthood in Germany I have found his facts and observations of very great value.
Attention to the subjects of the middle ages of Europe has for many years been growing among us. It was first excited by Warton's History of our National Verse, and Percy's edition of the Relics of Ancient English Poetry. The romances of chivalry, both in prose and metre, and the numberless works on the Troubadour, and every other description of literature during the middle ages which have been published within the last few years, have sustained the interest. The poems of Scott convinced the world that the chivalric times of Europe can strike the moral imagination as powerfully and pleasingly in respect of character, passion, and picturesqueness of effect, as the heroic ages of Greece; and even very recently the glories of chivalry have been sung by a poetess whom Ariosto himself would have been delighted to honour. * Still, however, no attempt has been hitherto made to describe at large the institutions of knighthood, the foundation of all that elegant superstructure of poetry and romance which we admire, and to mark the history of chivalry in the various countries of Europe. Those institutions have, indeed, been allowed a few pages in our encyclopædias ; and some of the sketches of them are drawn with such boldness and precision of outline, that we may regret the authors did not present us with finished pictures. Our popular historians have but hastily alluded to the subject; for they were so much busied with feudalism and politics, that they could afford but a small space for the play of the lighter graces of chivalry.
For a description, indeed, of antique manners, our materials are not so ample as for that of their public lives. But still the subject is not without its witnesses. The monkish chroniclers sometimes give us a glimpse of the castles of our ances. tors. Many of the knights in days of yore had their biographers ; and, for the most interesting time of chivalry, we possess a historian, who, for vividness of delineation, kindliness of feeling, and naïveté of language, is the Herodotus of the middle ages.
“ Did you ever read Froissart ?"
so I have half a mind,” rejoined Claverhouse, “ to contrive that you should have six months' imprisonment, in order to procure you that pleasure. His chapters inspire me with more enthusiasm than even poetry itself.”
Froissart'st history extends from the year 1316 to 1400. It was begun by him when he was twenty years old, at the command of his dear lord and master, Sir Robert of Namur, Lord of Beaufort. The annals from 1326 to 1356 are founded on the Chronicles compiled by him whom he calls - The Right Reverend, discreet, and sage Master John la Bele, some time canon in St. Lambertis of Liege, who with good heart and due diligence did his true devoir in writing his book ; and heard of many fair and noble adventures from his being well beloved, and of the secret counsel of the Lord Sir John of Hainault." Froissart corrected all this borrowed matter on the information of the barons and knights of his time re
* The Troubadour, &c. By L. E. L., author of the Improvisatrice. 12mo.
† Jean Froissart, called Sir Jean Froissart (the title, Sir, being in the middle ages common to all who were either in the holy orders of the church or in the holy order of knighthood), was born at Valenciennes in the year 1337, and died in 1397.
garding their families' gestes and prowesses. He is the chronicler both of political events and of chivalric manners. Of his merits in the first part of his character it falls not within my province to speak. For the office of historian of chivalry no man could present such fair pretensions. His father being a herald-painter, he was initiated in his very early years into that singular form of life which he describes with such picturesque beauty. " Well I loved," as he says of his youth, in one of his poems, " to see dances and carolling, and to hear the songs of minstrels and tales of glee. It pleased me to attach myself to those who took delight in hounds and hawks. I was wont to toy with my fair companions at school, and methought I had the art well to win the grace of maidens." — "My ears quickened at the sound of opening the wine-flask, for I look great pleasure in drinking, and in fair array, and in fresh and delicate viands. I loved to see (as is reason the early violets, and the white and red roses, and also chambers brilliantly lighted ; dances and late vigils, and fair beds for my refreshment; and for my better repose, I joyously quaffed a night-draught of claret, or Rochelle wine mingled with spice.”
Froissart wrote his Chronicles " to the intent that the honourable and noble adventures of feats of arms, done and achieved in the wars of France and England, should notably be enregistered, and put in perpetual memory ; whereby the preux and hardy might have ensample to encourage them in their well-doing,''* To accomplish his purpose, he followed and frequented the company of divers noble and great lords, as well in France, England, and Scotland, as in other countries; and in their chivalric festivals he inquired for tales of arms and amours. For three years he was clerk of the chamber to Philippa of Hainault, wife of Edward III. He travelled into Scotland ; and, though mounted only on a simple palfrey, with his trunk placed on the hinder part of his saddle, after the fashion in which a squire carried the mail-harness of a knight, and attended only by a greyhound, the favourite dog of the time, instead of a train of varlets, yet the fame of his literary abilities introduced him to the castle of Dalkeith, and the court of the Scottish king.
He generally lived in the society of nobles and knights, — at the courts of the Duke of Brabant, the Count of Namur, and the Earl of Blois. He knew and admired the Black Prince, Du Guesclin, the Douglas, and Hotspur ; and while this various acquaintance fitted him to describe the circumstances and manners of his times, it prevented him from the bias of particular favouritism. The character of his mind, rather than his station in life, determined his pursuits. His profession was that of the church : he was a while curate of Lestines, in the diocess of Liege ; and, at the time of his death, he was canon and treasurer of the collegiate church of Chimay. But he was a greater reader of romances than of his breviary ; and, churchman though he was, knighthood itself could not boast of a more devoted admirer of dames and danisels. He was, therefore, the very man to describe the chivalric features of his time.
The romances of chivalry are another source of information. Favyn says, with truth and fancy, “ The greater part of antiquities are to be sought for and derived out of the most ancient tales, as well in prose as verse, like pearls out of the smoky papers of Ennius.” The romance-writers were to the middle ages of Europe what the ancient poets were to Greece, the painters of the manners of their times. As Sir Walter Scott observes, “ We have no hesitation in quoting the romances of chivalry as good evidence of the laws and customs of knighthood. The authors, like the artists of the period, invented nothing, but, copying the manners of the age in which they lived, transferred them, without doubt or scruple, to the period and personages of whom they treated.”
From all these sources of information I have done my devoir, in the following pages, to describe the origin of chivalry; and, after escaping from the dark times in which it arose, to mark the various degrees of the personal nobility of knighthood. An inquiry into the nature and duty of the chivalric character then wil
* The Prologue of Froissart – Lord Berners's translation,