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Character Building - Chivalry

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

MAY not the twentieth-century mother bring her lad or maiden, a lesson from the brave days of old? The maxim of the knight of medieval chivalry was devotion to arms, compassion for the oppressed, and regard for women. The boy of seven became the lady's page; if he proved faithful, at fourteen the rank of squire was conferred upon him; and at twenty-one he was dubbed "Sir Knight." A romantic light is thrown over these ancient warriors; their feats of arms and brilliant tournaments; and if we inquire into the moral of their deeds, we will find it revealed in Spenser's "Faerie Queen," or in Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales "-pictures of chivalric life, full of lessons of truth and friendship, of justice and courtesy.

And these lessons are more needed to-day than in the age when fierce temptations assailed the intrepid knight. It is true, that we do not commit our page to the mistress of the lordly castle; but does he not in his own home find constant opportunity to practise obedience, courage, truthfulness, and courtesy, and those other virtues that make for prompt and humane action? Our young squire with wheel, ball game, and races may easily become athletic for life's physical contests; and the knightly armor should always be ready, with its coat of mail, strong in its greaves and linkings of truth, its breastplate of character, its shield of faith, and its sword of purpose and courage. The knight need not sally forth on deeds of errantry and adventure, or seek the spoils of war; his valor may be displayed in deeds of kindness, and in fearlessness in resisting temptation.

And then his purest chivalric expression is found in his devotion to women. And what is more lovely than the love for mother that should be deeply implanted in the heart of every youth and maiden? At a feast once given in a baronial hall, each knight was asked to drink to his "ladye fair." And St. Leon, the noblest of the guests, "envied by some, admired by all," pledged his mother! Every loyal mother by her winning personality may claim the same holy love and reverence from her true knight. A chivalrous character early implanted in any boy or girl develops a heroic manhood and brave womanhood. And as life is full of surprises, be prompt and vigilant. Adopt the motto of the noble Black Prince: "I Serve!" and let the service be like that of Chevalier Bayard: "Without fear and without reproach."

For nursery folks a few simple threads of chivalry are woven into "Sleeping Beauty" and "Pretty Goldilocks," both in Volume I of the Library; and in Volume II there are stories of wider appeal illustrating this splendid spirit-read "Perseus," the King Arthur stories, "Roland," and "Robin Hood." In Volume III are "Don Quixote," Chaucer's " Emelia, " and the chapter "Hector and Andromache," in the "Iliad." Volume IV contains "Wee Willie Winkie" and "Undine." "The Forty-seven Rônins" in Volume VII is a stirring chapter of Japanese chivalry; and with that volume in hand read the essay on "Sir Philip Sidney." Poems bearing on the subject in Volume XI are "Lochinvar," "Marmion and Douglas," "The Glove and the Lions," and "Sir Galahad."

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