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Friday, January 05, 2007

the long awaited post...

The Necessity of Chivalry

The word chivalry has meant at different times a good many different things – from heavy cavalry to giving a woman a seat on a train. But if we want to understand chivalry as an ideal distinct from other ideals – if we want to isolate that particular conception of the man comme il faut which was the special contribution of the Middle Ages to our culture – we cannot do better than turn to the words addressed to the greatest of all imaginary knights in Malory’s Morte d’Arthur “Thou wert the meekest man”, says Sir Ector to the dead Lancelot. “Thou wert the meekest man that ever ate in hall among ladies; and thou wert the sternest knight to thy mortal foe that ever put spear in the rest.”

The important thing about this ideal is, of course, the double demand it makes on human nature. The knight is a man of blood and iron, a man familiar with the sight of smashed faces and the ragged stumps of lopped-off limbs; he is also a demure, almost a maidenlike, a guest in hall, a gentle, modest, unobtrusive man. He is not a compromise or happy mean between ferocity and meekness; he is fierce to the nth and meek to the nth. When Lancelot head himself pronounced the best knight in the world, “he wept as he had been a child that had been beaten”.

What, you may ask, is the relevance of this ideal to the modern world? It is terribly relevant. It may or may not be practicable – the Middle Ages notoriously failed to obey it – but it is certainly practical’ practical as the fact that men in a desert must find water or die.

Let us be quite clear that the ideal is a paradox. Most of us, having grown up among the ruins of the chivalrous tradition, were taught in our youth that a bully is always a coward. Our first week at school refuted this lie, along with its corollary that a truly brave man is always gentle. It is a pernicious lie because it misses the real novelty and originality of the medieval demand upon human nature. Worse still, it represents as a natural fact something which is really a human ideal, nowhere fully attained, and nowhere attained at all without arduous discipline. It is refuted by history and experience. Homer’s Achilles knows nothing of the demand that the brave should also be the modest and the merciful. He kills men as they cry for quarter or takes them prisoner to kill them at leisure. The heroes of the sagas know nothing of it; they are as “stern to inflict” as they are “stubborn to endure”. Attila “had a custom of fiercely rolling his eyes, as if he wished to enjoy the terror which he inspired”. Even the Romans, when gallant enemies fell into their hands, led them through the streets for a show, and cut their throats in cellars when the show was over. At school we found that the hero of the First XV might well be a noisy, arrogant, overbearing bully. In the last war we often found that the man who was “invaluable in a show” was a man for whom in peacetime we could not easily find room except in Dartmoor. Such is heroism by nature – heroism outside the chivalrous tradition.

The medieval ideal brought together two things which have no natural tendency to gravitate towards one another. It brought them together for that very reason. It taught humility and forbearance to the great warrior (muscly teenage boys with massive egos) because everyone knew by experience how much he usually needed the lesson. It demanded valour of the urbane and modest man because everyone knew that he was as likely as not to be a milksop.

In so doing, the Middle Ages fixed on the one hope of the world. It may or may not be possible to produce by the thousand men who combine the two sides of Lancelot’s character. But if it is not possible, then all talk of any lasting happiness or dignity in human society is pure moonshine.

If we cannot produce Launcelots, humanity falls into two sections – those who can deal in blood and iron but cannot be “meek in hall”, and those who are “meek in hall” but useless in battle – for the third class, who are both brutal in peace and cowardly in war, need not be here discussed. When this dissociation of the two halves of Lancelot occurs, history becomes a horribly simple affair. The ancient history of the Near East is like that. Hardy barbarians swarm down from their highlands and obliterate a civilization. Then they become civilized themselves and go soft. Then a new wave of barbarians comes down and obliterates them. Then the cycle begins over again. Modern machinery will not change this cycle; it will only enable the same thing to happen on a larger scale. Indeed, nothing much else can ever happen if the “stern” and the “meek” fall into two mutually exclusive classes. And never forget that this is their natural condition. The man who combines both characters is a work not of nature but of art; of that art which has human beings, instead of canvas or marble, for its medium.

In the world today there is a “liberal” or “enlightened” tradition which regards the combative sides of man’s nature as a pure, atavistic evil, and scouts the chivalrous sentiment as part of the “false glamour” of war. And there is also a neo-heroic sentimentality, which would raise from its grave (it’s shallow and unquiet grave!) the pre-Christian ferocity of Achilles by a “modern invocation”. Already in our own Kipling (Artemis Fowl) qualities of his favourite subalterns are dangerously removed from meekness and urbanity. One cannot quite imagine the adult Stalkey in the same room with the best of Nelson’s captains, still less with Sidney! These two tendencies between them weave the world’s shroud.

There is still life in the tradition which the Middle Ages inaugurated. But the maintenance of that life depends, in part, on knowing that knightly character is art not nature – something that needs to be achieved, not something that can be relied upon to happen. And this knowledge is especially necessary as we grow more democratic. In previous centuries the vestiges of chivalry were kept alive by a specialized class, from whom they spread to other classes partly by imitation and partly by coercion. Now, it seems, the people must either be chivalrous on its own resources, or else choose between the two remaining alternatives of brutality and softness. I have tried to show that chivalry is practical and vital. The ideal embodied in Lancelot is “escapism” in a sense never dreamed of by those who use that word; it offers the only possible escape from a world divided between wolves who do not understand, and sheep who cannot defend, the things which make life desirable. There was, to be sure, a rumour in the last century that wolves would gradually become extinct by some natural process; but this seems to have been an exaggeration.

I emailed this to several guys i no, just to see the response i got.

Jon - okay i will try to be more chivalrous

Tim - i will bear that in mind when i am being chivalrous

Josh and Dave - something along the lines of your such an loser, i deleted it as soon as i saw it, i didn't even read it, you suck

i think we can see who will grow up to be real gentlemen...

The Twelve Chief Rules in Love
From The Art of Courtly Love by Andreas Capellanus

Thou shalt avoid avarice like the deadly pestilence and shalt embrace its opposite.
Thou shalt keep thyself chaste for the sake of her whom thou lovest.
Thou shalt not knowingly strive to break up a correct love affair that someone else is engaged in. Thou shalt not chose for thy love anyone whom a natural sense of shame forbids thee to marry.
Be mindful completely to avoid falsehood.
Thou shalt not have many who know of thy love affair.
Being obedient in all things to the commands of ladies, thou shalt ever strive to ally thyself to the service of Love.
In giving and receiving love's solaces let modesty be ever present.
Thou shalt speak no evil.
Thou shalt not be a revealer of love affairs.Thou shalt be in all things polite and courteous.
In practising the solaces of love thou shalt not exceed the desires of thy lover.

The Art of Courtly Love
From The Art of Courtly Love by Andreas Capellanus

Marriage is no real excuse for not loving.
He who is not jealous cannot love.
No one can be bound by a double love.
It is well known that love is always increasing or decreasing.
That which a lover takes against the will of his beloved has no relish.
Boys do not love until they reach the age of maturity.
When one lover dies, a widowhood of two years is required of the survivor.
No one should be deprived of love without the very best of reasons.
No one can love unless he is propelled by the persuasion of love.
Love is always a stranger in the home of avarice.
It is not proper to love any woman whom one would be ashamed to seek to marry.
A true lover does not desire to embrace in love anyone except his beloved.
When made public love rarely endures.
The easy attainment of love makes it of little value: difficulty of attainment makes it prized.
Every lover regularly turns pale in the presence of his beloved.
When a lover suddenly catches sight of his beloved his heart palpitates.
A new love puts an old one to flight.
Good character alone makes any man worthy of love.
If love diminishes, it quickly fails and rarely revives.
A man in love is always apprehensive.
Real jealousy always increases the feeling of love.
Jealousy increases when one suspects his beloved.
He whom the thought of love vexes eats and sleeps very little.
Every act of a lover ends in the thought of his beloved.
A true lover considers nothing good except what he thinks will please his beloved.
Love can deny nothing to love.
A lover can never have enough of the solaces of his beloved.
A slight presumption causes a lover to suspect his beloved.
A man who is vexed by too much passion usually does not love.
A true lover is constantly and without intermission possessed by the thought of his beloved.
Nothing forbids one woman being loved by two men or one man by two women.


like any of those? i thought they were very funny actually, and some of them were true.

Chivalry. My favourite hobby horse. i could go on for days, but i won't bore you, as i want people to read this blog. So suffice it to say that boy nowadays are pretty pathetic with their stupid egos, when they haven't got anything to be egotistical anyways. okay, there are some exceptions, but they are rare. The whole thing about chivalry and why it has died is partly because people ( not just guys) have become much more selfish, and generally people look after themselves, and don't care about others. And the other reason is women fighting to be 'equal' with men. They are but they have different roles i.e. feminists. (they do my head in, it says in the bible that wives have to be submissive, but that husbands have to be loving, it makes sense!!!) So...(she says, trying to draw a conclusion but wanting to go on for days)... guys, there are lots of examples to follow, like robin hood...:p o/j but i wouldn't mind it if some guy i knew turned into Kevin Costner :P

chivalry is nearly dead. but not yet, last Saturday, we are on the new years day walk with church. only Chloe turned up out of yp, and we were both tired, since we had no sleep the night before, and lo and behold the skies were rent asunder and the rain came down soooo hard, it was not nice, we just had a load of just dripping off us, and this guy waited for us to catch up with him and he said " here, you should have the umbrella" :O yeah, that's right we found a chivalrous guy. why can't there be more :( oh well, least Gerald, Noah and Bartholomew are :D

63 Comments:

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    Long Comment ...
    But Too Long For Me Too hard & for me to Read ... Write A short one especially for me ... ABout Summit Random Cause im always on yur blog readin & writin Comments! But yer, iv commented nyway...Yu know when I aint visited then ... I always post never ending, pointless comments! but yer, gettin to the point, nice blogging! love nomie x

     
  • At 06 January, 2007, Anonymous Becky said…

    Finally Abi! I have been looking forward to this post for ages. i am in total agreement about the utter rubbishness of boys today!!! obviously there are exceptions, but they are very few and far between!!well, hopefully some guys will actually bother to read this post, and make an effort to be more chivalrous in future!! since chivalry is one of my favourite subjects as well, i had better shut up now, or this comment will get to long!! luv ya abi

     
  • At 06 January, 2007, Anonymous Si said…

    Chiva what?

     
  • At 06 January, 2007, Blogger AbiKateMackenzie x said…

    BTW the essay was written by CS Lewis.

    Yep, guys are rubbish, you included simon :P

     
  • At 06 January, 2007, Anonymous Lol said…

    Who was this chivalrous umbrella offering gent?

     
  • At 07 January, 2007, Blogger Jon said…

    Chivalry is totally selfish... Guys only act chivalrous when they want a girl... Once they get her they couldn't care less...

     
  • At 09 January, 2007, Anonymous Kate said…

    That is totally the wrong use of chivalry, to get a girl! gentlemen should not distinguish any young ladies, well maybe they can, well as long as they are politely chivalrous to all ladies... :S i'm not to good at explaining it...

     
  • At 10 January, 2007, Anonymous simon said…

    chivalry is an excuse for girls to think that there less than boys i dont know why they would want to be asked if they wanted a seat instead of asking themselves its totally old fashioned and i think you should find something else to moan about

     
  • At 12 January, 2007, Blogger AbiKateMackenzie x said…

    like you maybe!!!!! shame on you Simon... saying chivalry is a load of rubbish

     
  • At 08 February, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I think you are quite correct Abi. Well said! Chivalry and respect go hand in hand!
    When us boys let the side down, please let us know. We may not act upon it immediately but usually we will remember and try for tomorrow.

    Farmer Tim Farmer

     
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