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DECAY OF CHIVALRY.
men departed from its first principles. Nothing could seem more severely logical than the union of monk and knight in the Templars. But the order was a caste; it struck at the very existence of common society; it joined in one the Janissary and Jesuit. An outburst of wrath throughout Europe swept it from the earth. Nothing could be more natural than that knighthood should be looked upon as a mere ornament of position and wealth; that the noble should take it up with his coronet. But men felt that birth, which conferred precedence and power, could not give honour; a poet of the people noted the change that was coming in as early as the beginning of the fourteenth century, and sang sorrowfully:-1
"Knights should weare weden in their manere,
Knightship is debased, and diversely y-dight,
Can a boy now break a spear, he shall be called a knight.
And envenometh that order, that should be so good."
There were periods of revival under Edward III. and Henry V.; earl Rivers was a knight of the old stamp. But a change was coming upon the world; old faiths and old systems were broken up; and chivalry was left to the graves where the stone warriors lie, with their hands folded crosswise. Honour, manhood, and tenderness are imperishable, and have survived knighthood.
'Wright's Political Songs, p. 335 (Camd. Soc.) The preceding stanza had aid, "they should go to the Holy Land. And fight there for the cross, and show the order of knight, and avenge Jesus Christ," &c.
TENDENCIES OF ANGLO-NORMAN LITERATURE.-CONSTRUCTIVE CHARACTER OF PHILOSOPHY.-ANSELM' METAPHYSICS.-INFLUENCES OF PHILOSOPHY ON RELIGION. CHARACTERISTICS OF MEDLÆVAL HISTORY.-CYCLE OF POLITICAL ROMANCES.-GEOFFREY OF MONMOUTH.-DISCOVERY OF ARTHUR'S REMAINS. -CHIVALROUS ROMANCES ABOUT ARTHUR.-EXTENT AND DIFFUSION MEDIEVAL LITERATURE.
WITHIN a hundred years from the Norman conquest, four important literary movements inspired English thought with new energies, and diverted it into new channels. The study of the best Latin authors produced a classical renaissance, which may be traced in the historical narratives of the time. The Christian church, freed from the danger of pagan conquerors, began to remodel its philosophical creed, and to occupy itself with the doubts of sceptical believers and the polemics of Jewish writers. In the dearth of experimental science, and under the influences of monastic life, the highest speculative thought of the times was concentrated on theology. The metaphysics of the schoolmen may be said to date from Anselm; his predecessors were few and far between; but the golden chain of subtle disputants is unbroken from Anselm downwards to the fifteenth century. Men of more secular or more practical habits of mind occupied themselves with Roman law, and
1 Anselm tells us, in the preface to his "Monologium,” that it was written at the request of his pupils, who wanted an independent proof of Christianity. In the preface to his "Cur Deus homo," he says that his first book is an answer to the objections of infidels who reject Christianity as irrational. Gilbert, abbot of Westminster and a contemporary of Anselm, wrote a " Disputatio Judæi cum Christiano," the report of an actual discussion, which seems to have converted a Jew present. Compare Malmesbury, lib. iv., p. 500, and the story of a knight in Joinville (p. 16, ed. Michel), who stops a controversy between Jews and Christians, "Car ** avoit il séans grant foison de bons chrétiens qui s'en feussent parti touz miscréanz," &c.
438 VARIED LITERATURE OF THE TWELFTH CENTURY.
interwove it with English feudalism. For one who wrote like Glanville or lectured like Vacarius, we may be certain there were twenty educated men, like Roger of Salisbury or Becket, who studied law to fit themselves for state business. It would scarcely be wonderful if the movements derived from Cæsar and Virgil, from Plato, and from Justinian, had absorbed the intellect of the age, and hindered the beginnings of a national literature. But the facts are otherwise. English history found a native poet in Layamon. Norman chivalry created that splendid romance-literature which has made Arthur an undying name, and whose thoughts and incidents are more than ever household words, at the end of six centuries. The songs, epigrams and metrical stories which formed, so to speak, the periodical press of the times, are in great measure lost to us. The chances were terribly against literary immortality when so many men could write, when the means of multiplying a good book were small, and when the publicity that enables the world to compare good with bad works was almost unattainable. The writings of Giraldus Cambrensis have come down to us in a single manuscript, and much that Roger Bacon wrote has perished. It is therefore remarkable that we should still be able to count up nearly two hundred Anglo-Norman writers who flourished between the reigns of the Conqueror and John. These are of very unequal merit; but the highest names among them include some of which any age might be proud. Anselm as a thinker may be placed by the side of Kant. The vivid style and descriptive power of Giraldus Cambrensis remind us, in his autobiography, of Montaigne; in his geographies, of Herodotus; and in his narratives, of Clarendon. Glanville is still a classical name in law. There is a want of artistic finish about Anglo-Norman poetry; but
1 Roger Vacarius, a Lombard by birth, was brought over in Stephen's reign, by archbishop Theobald, to assist him in his contest with Henry of Winchester about their respective privileges. Vacarius took advantage of his stay in England to read lectures on Roman law in Oxford. He was made abbot of Bec in 1149 A.D., and in 1173 A.D. refused the primacy of England.-Selden, Dissert. ad Fletam., cap. 7; Wood's Athen. Oxon., p. 52.
RELATIONS OF MEDIEVAL FAITH AND CRITICISM.
the main conception of the "Quest of the Sangréal," and the chief traits of the story, entitle its author, Walter de Mapes, to the rank of an epic poet. Had those romances ever been remodelled by a Dante, instead of a Malory, the world would have judged the middle ages more truly.
The philosophy of Anselm is, in a certain sense, the keynote to all mediæval literature. To understand it, we must start from the circumstances of the times. Criticism was beginning to assail the fabric of religion, which a thousand years had built up. But criticism, unfurnished with philosophy or a knowledge of history, was reduced to a priori arguments on the nature of God and the world. Even such a man as Abelard, who collected contradictory passages in Scripture, and placed them in witness against one another, attached no importance to the difficulties he conjured up; they were rather exercises for logical subtlety than stumbling-blocks to faith. In other words, the truths of Christianity, Scripture, and the church, were so interwoven in the popular apprehension, that they stood or fell together the doubter was either a Deist or a Jew at heart. Now, in a contest between the faith and its opponents, the advantage in the twelfth century lay altogether with the defence. The Bible and St. Augustine only needed to be expounded by Anselm, in the century of the crusades, for the impotence of all scepticism to be exposed. But this strength of the church gives the works of its advocates a constructive character. They aim not so much at demolishing an adversary, as at exhibiting their own theory in completeness and majesty. "I believe in order that I may understand," is the key-note of Anselm's philosophy. The truth, if it be but known, will speak for itself. Moreover, the true metaphysician is the poet of the universe. The relations of the finite and the infinite, of God and the world, are the subject-matter of his art. Hence, if he be a true workman, he will never rest satisfied with barren dialectical victories: he demolishes on constraint, but
"Neque enim quæro intelligere ut credam; sed credo ut intelligam."Proslog., c. 1.
ANSELM'S PROOF OF GOD.
he produces from the natural impulse to endow the world with something perfect which it wanted. His greatness and his failure lie in the effort to know and explain God as law.
In proving God's existence, Anselm commits the usual error of basing his proof on the facts of human consciousness. Assuming that there is some one point in which all desirable things agree, he arrives at the conception of absolute goodness which underlies them. Similarly the principle of existence, if it be not distinct in everything that exists, must be absolute. Now, as the cause of existence is the cause of the existence of good, the cause of all existence will be the highest good. Even if there be several supereminent natures, they must agree in some common point of excellence, and that agreement is deity.1 Again, the mere fact that there are certain ideas which by their nature transcend finite experience, the belief in an infinite Being, or in infinite goodness, is a proof that there is some existence independent of the mind, and yet underlying all consciousness. The mere thought of God is a proof that he exists. A tacit assumption that right reason and absolute truth coincide, is the basis of all these arguments. Supposing them to be irrefragable, they only demonstrate that the conception of God is a necessity of human thought. This does not impair their practical value, as we cannot think out of ourselves, but it demolishes the whole transcendental fabric, and leaves religion on no higher basis than the physical sciences.
But Anselm did not regard the reason as the only, or even the most perfect, reflex of the divine mind. The superiority of the Christian doctor to the Platonist appears in his higher view of human character. It is the threefold man-compounded of memory, understanding, and love—who, in proportion as he is perfect, is the mirror and image of the Trinity. Reason in
2 Proslog., c. 2-15. Anselm distinguishes the capacity to comprehend the ideas of deity, from that actual comprehension which follows faith. "Aliud est enim rem esse in intellectu; aliud intelligere rem esse."
* Monolog., c. 59, 60. The curious prominence here given to memory may be regarded as a tribute to the importance of facts or experiences. We are not only a compound of reason and emotion, but the sum of our past lives is a part