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the walls of a cloister. How very beneficial, how well adapted to the exigencies of human nature, were these religious institutions, is proved by the vigorous expansion of all human energies—by the harmonious development of all moral and intellectual faculties, which they promoted—by the prodigious height which individuals attained to in every department of art and science, and by the universally prosperous condition of trade, whether in intellectual or material merchandise, throughout the whole extent of Europe, and even to the remotest India.
JOHN VON MÜLLER,
Travels of the Popes.
A MIGHTY tempest of elevating, purifying emotions swept over Christendom. It is not easy for those who have never known, to understand what it must be for an age receptive of noble impressions to have a purpose and aim set before it, which claim all its energies, meet all its peculiar conditions, while, at the same time, lifting it above the commonplace and the mean, they are far loftier than any which men's minds have hitherto entertained. Such a purpose and aim was the Crusades, during well-nigh two centuries, for Europe; and the answer which Christian Europe made to the appeal is a signal testimony of the preparedness of the Middle Ages for noble thoughts and noble deeds.
To the high thoughts which they kindled in so many hearts, to the religious consecration which they gave to the bearing of arms, we are indebted for some of the fairest aspects of chivalry, as it lives on a potent and elevating tradition to the present day. Thus to them we owe the stately courtesies of gallant foes able to understand and to respect one another, with much else which has lifted up modern warfare into something better than a mere mutual butchery, even into a school of honor in which some of the gentlest and noblest men have been trained. The “Happy Warrior” of Wordsworth could never have been written, for such an ideal of the soldier could never have been conceived except for them.
THE same spirit of enterprise which had prompted so many gentlemen to take arms in defence of the oppressed pilgrims of Palestine, incited others to declare themselves the patrons and avengers of injured innocence at home. When the final reduction of the Holy Land under the dominion of infidels put an end to these foreign expeditions, the latter was the only employment left for the activity and courage of adventurers. To check the insolence of overgrown oppressors ; to rescue the helpless from captivity ; to protect or to avenge women, orphans, and ecclesiastics, who could not bear arms in their own defence; to redress wrongs and remove grievances: were deemed acts of the highest prowess and merit. Valor, humanity, courtesy, justice, honor, were the characteristic qualities of chivalry. Men were trained to knighthood by a long previous discipline; they were admitted into the Order by solemnities no less devout than pompous; every person of noble birth courted that honor; it was deemed a distinction superior to royalty; and monarchs were proud to receive it from the hands of private gentlemen.
The singular institution, in which valor, gallantry, and religion were so strangely blended, was wonderfully adapted to the taste and genius of martial nobles: and its effects were soon visible in their manners. War was carried on with less ferocity when humanity came to be deemed the ornament of knighthood no less than courage. More gentle and polished manners were introduced when courtesy was recommended as the most amiable of knightly virtues. Violence and oppression decreased when it was reckoned meritorious to check and to punish them. A scrupulous adherence to truth, with the most religious attention to fulfil every engagement, became the distinguishing characteristic of a gentleman; because chivalry was regarded as the school of honor, and inculcated the most delicate sensibility with respect to these points. The admiration of those qualities, together with the high distinctions and prerogatives conferred on knighthood in every part of Europe, inspired persons of noble birth on some occasions with a species of military fanaticism, and led them to extravagant enterprises. But they deeply imprinted on their