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rative of an adventure during the Crusades, we shall find all the rites and ceremonies of the investiture of a knight very fully and correctly described. Chivalry and the Crusades were always closely connected together. At the same time that the political institutions of the country gave birth to chivalry, the war of the Crusades in the Holy Land, and in other countries of the East, opened a wide field for its development, and permitted the imagination to rove unconfined in dreams of those far-distant and marvellous countries. The conquests of empires and of kingdoms, with which the chivalric romances are filled, are, in truth, nothing but realities founded on facts. They are all of them close copies of the well-known historical events of the Marquis of Montserrat becoming king of Thessalonica, and Baldwin, emperor of Constantinople.
But let us return to our tale, which we would consider as an historical document. It presents us with the picture of Saladin invested with all the honours of knighthood. This, at first, astonishes us. It seems indeed, at the first blush, one of those gross absurdities and anachronisms so common in the writers of the middle ages. That Saladin, the hero of the Mahometan faith, and the destroyer of the Christian kingdom of Jerusalem, should submit himself to all the pious ceremonies of a knight, would appear incredible: and yet all the old chronicles authenticate the fact, that Saladin really and truly was dubbed a knight by a French nobleman.
On this anecdote, and on the authority of these AngloNorman historians, one of the Trouveres has formed a tale which, in our translation from the old French, we certainly do not present as a chef-d'æuvre of literary composition, but as a very faithful and correct account of the forms and ceremonies of the investiture of a knight according to the established ritual of chivalry.
“It pleases me to rhyme a tale, which I have often heard related of a king who, in Pagan land, was formerly a very powerful and very true Sanazian. His name was Saladin. He was cruel, and did much evil to our faith, and much damage to our nation, by his pride and violence. It once happened that a prince appeared in battle against him, whose name was Hugh de Tabarie. With this prince was a numerous company of knights of Galilee; for Sir Hugh was lord of all that country. Many glorious feats of arms they performed that day; but it did not please the Creator,
whom we call the King of Glory, that our people should then obtain the victory, for there the prince Hugh was taken prisoner, and carried immediately along the streets before Saladin, who saluted him in Latin, for the Paynim chief understood that language well.
“Hugh,” said he, “I am glad I have thee fast, for by Mahomet I promise thee one thing, — thou shalt either die or pay me a heavy ransom.” The prince Hugh answered: "Since thou givest me the choice, I choose the ransom, if I had wherewith to pay it.” “Yes," replied the king; "a hundred thousand bezants thou shalt pay me." “Ah, sire! I could never make up this sum, even were I to sell all my lands.” “O yes, you can, very well !” “How, sire ? “Why, you are a man of true courage, and a noble knight! and no brave man will refuse to contribute handsomely towards your ransom, if you ask him, and thus will
be able to discharge the amount.”
“But then give me leave to ask you, how am I to get away from hence to go into my own country to beg my ransom ?”
Saladin then answered him by saying, “Hugh, thou shalt pledge me thy faith and honour as a true knight, that thou wilt return hither, without fail, in two years from this day with thy ransom, or else remain my prisoner. So thou mayest go thy ways.” “Sire,” returned Syr Hugh, "many thanks! I promise as you require.” Then, taking his leave, he would immediately have departed for his own country. ' But the king took him by the hand, and led him into his chamber, and gently accosting him, said, “Hugh, by the faith that thou owest to thy God, instruct me, for I have a very great desire to know, how knights are created.”
"Fair sir,” replied Syr Hugh, “I cannot do so; and I must tell you why. The sacred order of knighthood would be very improperly conferred upon you, for you are of the bad law, and have neither baptism nor faith, and I should commit a great folly to dress up a dunghill in silken robes. I should make myself for ever despicable were I to invest you with the order of knighthood, and should be for ever blamed for it.” “How, Hugh!” exclaimed Saladin; "you will not do it. There can be no harm in your doing my will, for you are my prisoner.” “Sire, since you will take no denial, I must instantly comply."
Then Syr Hugh began to instruct and prepare the king in
every thing, by arranging his hair, his beard, and his countenance, as befitting a candidate for the honour of knighthood, and then Hugh made him take a bath. The Soldan now began to inquire what this might mean. Hugh de Tabarie replied: "Sire, this bath, wherein you have just bathed yourself, signifies that, as a child comes from the font pure from sin after he is baptized, so you come from out of this bath washed pure and clean from all villany, for the bath is a bath of courtesy and goodness.”
“This beginning is very fine, by the great God!” said the king: and after he had quitted the bath, he was placed on a beautiful bed, which gave him great pleasure. "Hugh,” said he," tell me truly what this bed means ?” “Sire, this bed signifies that you must conquer, by chivalry, that repose which God grants in Paradise to those who are dear to him. It is indeed a bed of repose, and he who attains it not must be a great fool.”
After he had remained a little while in bed, Syr Hugh caused him to be dressed in fine white linen garments, and then said to him, in Latin, “Sire, do not despise these linen clothes, for they give you to understand, that a knight should always keep his flesh, if he wishes to arrive in Paradise.”
Afterwards, he put him on a scarlet robe. Saladin, much astonished at this, said, “Hugh, what means this robe of vermilion ? “Sire,” replied Hugh, “it teaches you that a true knight ought to be prepared to shed the last drop of his blood in the defence of holy church, and to prevent her suffering any wrong; for all this a true knight ought to do, if he wishes to please heaven.”
Then he put on the king's feet a pair of sandals of black stuff, and told him, “Sire, these black sandals remind you of death, and of the earth from whence you came, and to which
must return. Your eyes should often be turned down to them, to prevent your falling into pride, for pride ought not to reign in the heart of a knight, but all simplicity and true humility.”
“All this is very beautiful to hear,” said the king; "it displeases me not at all.” He then arose and stood upright, and put on a white girdle. Then Hugh placed two spurs on his two heels, and said, “Şire, as you would wish your charger to gallop fast when you urge him on with these spurs, so are they meant to signify, that you should be animated and spurred forward to serve God all your life.”
He then girded on his sword, &c. &c.
This is only a very short extract: the symbolical ceremony continues. At last Syr Hugh says to the Soldan, “ Now Í am your friend, and since I am your friend, I have a right to borrow of you; and I therefore borrow of
the amount of my ransom.” There were fifty emirs there present, who were all knights, such as they were, good, bad, and indifferent. Now these fifty emirs hastened to offer their contributions. Syr Hugh accepted all their presents, and offered them to Saladin, for his ransom; but the king returned them back to him, together with his freedom.
We learn from this tale what use the trouveres made of the rites and ceremonies of chivalry, and of the narratives of the Crusades. We have here no display of imagination, no harmonious numbers, no talent, but arch simplicity, a certain bonhommie, together with a scrupulous fidelity in relating and depicting whatever they saw around them, mixed up with a little of the marvellous, taken from the crusading adventures, and from fairy tales.
We are naturally led to inquire, whether this species of literature was prolific in its productions. There are thousands of manuscripts of this description in the French king's library, in Paris. They contain the whole life and spirit of the times which they describe: it only requires a little patience to extract out of these ruins a complete statue of the antiquity of the middle ages. But that which would be a fitting occupation for an historian, we cannot venture to attempt in a short literary essay. We cannot even pretend to analise the smallest portion of this immense reservoir of manuscripts, all of which are unpublished, except, perhaps, a few fragments. We must content ourselves, therefore, with a mere reference to them, as a proof of the singular activity of the human mind, and of the development it had now acquired.
Fauchet, a French scholar of the 16th century, has written the lives of all the French poets who flourished before the year 1300. These biographical sketches are more than a hundred in number.
Christian of Troy, the most prolific among them, composed several huge romances of chivalry, each of them consisting of ten or twelve thousand French verses. Many other poets, the mention of whose names alone would afford us no information, were the contemporaries of “ Christian de
Troyes,” and although eclipsed by his more brilliant reputation, yet they all obtained some portion of favor and success in the courts of princes.
Philip Augustus, politic and ambitious, was a great protector of literature and the arts. For the age in which he lived, he was, to the full, as magnificent a patron of men of letters, as was Louis the XIV th afterwards, in his day. Philip was, in his way, particularly fond of intellectual amusemnents. After a tournament, it was the custom of his court for the monarch and his courtiers to assemble together in the great hall of the palace, to listen to the recitals made by the poets of their own verses, and to the narratives of the prose romanciers. It was there they applauded the poetic tales of Christian of Troy, or laughed at the facetious ballads of the Jongleurs.
The king had his favorite bard, his poet-laureat, whose name was Helinant, and who received a regular pension. This is all that, at this distant date, can be ascertained of his talents. He appears, however, to have been so much admired in his time, that, by a strange anachronism, his name is introduced into the poem of the Alexandreid. He is there made to recite one of his poetical compositions at the table of Alexander the Great. But it is true, indeed, that Isabella, the consort of Philip Augustus, also makes her appearance in the same poem to embroider a tent for Darius, king of Persia.
Together with the reading aloud of these long serious poems, the singular allusions in which served to amuse the court, there were mingled the sportive sallies of the trouveres. These, at the period we are now speaking of, were a sort of ambulatory comedians, or itinerant actors. They were received for several days in the palaces and the castles, where they represented tales and fables in action, recited romances of chivalry, and sometimes parodied some of the most sacred ceremonies of the Catholic religion. Among others, they had one very singular tale, the story of a fox: this fox makes a very rapid progress in the world; he becomes a bishop, archbishop, and pope. This kind of entertainment obtained a great vogue, and highly diverted the lordly knights and fashionable ladies of the court of Philip Augustus.
The reign of this monarch most unquestionably marks a period in which French literature made a considerable progress. These long, and to us tedious, poems, listened to with