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nation learned to respect each other. The English barons first disputed the arbitrary power of the kings, and the people learned from their example to consider themselves men; and all classes in society, because they knew better, left off preying upon their weaker neighbours.
The English nobility, when fighting began to be less needed as a defence, began to take care of their estates, and at length they gave up the military service of the vassals, who continued peaceable labourers upon the grounds of the land holders. The laws and the public opinion no longer permitted men to take up arms except in the service of the state, when the Parliament and the king should order them to do so.
The evils which had disturbed society, for the want of knowledge, and the want of laws properly administered, ceased to exist; but the amusement and public spectacles which had been connected with Chivalry, though Chivalry no longer continued as the profession of gentlemen, still interested people. The most memorable of the exhibitions connected with Chivalry, was the Tournament, or Passage of Arms. This was a trial of strength and skill at the various exercises which the Knights-errant and gentlemensoldiers had practised in actual warfare. The tournament was usually held by the desire of some prince or distinguished nobleman, and was practised in France and England. The novel of Ivanhoe gives a delightful description of a tournament held at Ashby in the county of Leicester in England.
For the purpose of exhibiting the tournament, a smooth surface of ground of considerable extent was chosen, and an oblong square, about a quarter of a mile in length, and an eighth of a mile in breadth, was enclosed by palisades :—gates at the opposite ends of this enclosure admitted the combatants. The tents or pavilions of these champions were ornamented with flags and pennons - these were of the particular colour which was usually worn by the Knights. “ The cords of the tents were of the same colour. Before each pavilion was suspended the shield of the Knight by whom it was occupied, and besides it stood his squire, quaintly disguised as a savage or sylvan man, or in some other fantastic dress, according to the taste of his master, and the character which he was pleased to assume during the game. From the entrance into the lists, a gently sloping passage led up to the platform on which the tents were pitched, and the whole was guarded by men-at-arms."
The whole enclosed space was called the Lists. To regulate the proceedings, and to preserve order, trumpeters, heralds, and armed men were disposed in suitable places within the lists. To enter the lists, is a figurative expression still used to signify entering into competition with others in a difficult undertaking.
The champions were the challengers -- those who defied others to contend with them for the mastery in certain exercises. At one extremity of the lists, opposite to that occupied by the champions, was a space reserved for such " Knights as might be disposed to enter the lists with the challengers, behind which were placed tents containing refreshments of every kind for their accommodation, with armourers, farriers, and other attendants in readiness to give their services wherever they might be necessary.
“ The exterior of the lists was in part occupied by temporary galleries spread with tapestry and carpets, and accommodated with cushions for the convenience of those ladies and nobles who attended the tournament. A narrow space, betwixt these galleries and the lists, gave accommodation for yeomanry and spectators of a better degree than the mere vulgar, and might be compared to the pit of a theatre. The promiscuous multitude arranged themselves upon large banks of turf prepared for the purpose, which, aided by the natural elevation of the ground, enabled them to look over the galleries and obtain a fair view into the lists. Besides the accommodation which these situations afforded, many hundreds perched themselves on the branches of surrounding trees, and even the steeple of the neighbouring church was crowded with spectators.” “ Neither duty nor infirmity could keep youth or age from such exhibitions."
A gallery, more distinguished and adorned than the others, was, on these occasions, fitted up for the presiding prince and his retinue ; and opposite to it was another gallery for the accommodation of the most noble and beautiful ladies. From among these the conquering Knight was expected to choose the fairest, whose office it was to crown the hero of the day with her own hand—and this lady, after she had been thus distinguished, was considered as the Queen of Love and Beauty. These
“ Such sights as poets dream
On summer eve by haunted stream." It was assemblies collected upon such brilliant occasions, concerning which Milton wrote, that,
throngs of knights and barons bold
Of wit or arms, while both contend
To win her grace whom all commend." Tournaments have been compared to the Olympic games of ancient Greece, but the circumstance of admitting the ladies, and that of clothing the combatants with art and elegance, made the tournament a far more beautiful spectacle than the contests of Greece.
The design of the combatants at the tournaments was for one of the antagonists to disable the other, either, by throwing him from his horse or breaking his lance. The skill which was mutually displayed in managing the horse, and in maintaining a long contest with grace and activity, made these exhibitions very interesting ; and, as it always happened, that for some reason or other, one of the antagonists would, at the commencement of the trial, be preferred to the other, the hopes and fears of his admirers formed great part of the pleasure derived from the exhibition.
The challengers proposed to others who would come, the defiance—which means, that they declared their personal dignity and skill in arms superior to any adversary's, unless it should be found upon trial that those who dared to encounter were able to vanquish them.
The number of challengers mentioned in Ivanhoe was five. The challengers were not to refuse to encounter any that should propose themselves. Any Knight who should come might select his antagonist by touching his shield with his lance. If the touch was made with the blunt end of the lance, that intimated that the combat was to be conducted without a designed attack upon the life of either combatant; but if the shield was touched with the sharp end, it intimated that the Knights were to fight as in actual battle.
“ When the Knights present had accomplished their vow, by each of them breaking five lances, the Prince who should preside at the tournament was to declare the victor in the first day's tour. ney, who should receive, as prize, a war-horse of exquisite beauty and matchless strength ; and in addition to this reward of valour, it was announced he should have the peculiar honour of naming the Queen of Love and Beauty, by whom the prize should be given on the ensuing day.
" It was also announced that on the second day, there should be a general tournament, in which all the Knights present, who were desirous to win praise, might take part ; and being divided into two bands of equal numbers, might fight it out manfully, until the signal was given by the Prince to cease the combat. The elected Queen of Love and Beauty was then to crown the Knight whom the Prince should adjudge to have borne himself best in this second day, with a coronet composed of thin gold plate, cut into the shape of a laurel crown. On this second day the knightly games ceased. But on that which followed, feats of archery, of bull-baiting and other popular amusements were to be practised for the more immediate amusement of the populace.
" The lists presented a most splendid spectacle. The sloping galleries were crowded with all that was noble, great, wealthy, and beautiful in the country : and the contrast of the various dresses of these dignified spectators, rendered the view as gay as it was rich, while the interior and lower space, filled with the substantial burgesses and yeomen of merry England, formed, in their more plain attire, a dark fringe, or border, around this circle of brilliant embroidery, relieving, and, at the same time, setting off its splendour.
“ Before the commencement of the tournament the laws which regulated it were proclaimed by a herald, and order was preserved by men-at-arms, or marshals, who carried battle axes in their hands, and sometimes struck the disorderly with the pommel of their swords.
“ The heralds ceased their proclamation with their usual cry of Largesse, largesse, gallant Knights ;' and gold and silver pieces were showered on them from the galleries, it being a high point of chivalry to exhibit liberality towards those who were accounted the brightest ornaments of their age. The bounty of the spectators was acknowledged by the customary shouts of Love of Ladies--Death of Champions - Honour to the Generous - Glory to the Brave!' To which the more humble spectators added their acclamations, and a numerous band of trumpeters the fourish of their martial instruments.
"When these sounds had ceased, the heralds withdrew from tho lists in gay and glittering procession, and none remained within them save the marshals of the field, who, armed cap-a-pee, sat on horseback, motionless as statues, at the opposite ends of the lists. Meantime, the enclosed space at the northern extremity of the lists, large as it was, was completely crowded with Knights desirous to prove their skill against the challengers, and, when viewed from the galleries, presented the appearance of a sea of waving plumage, intermixed with glistening helmets, and tall lances, to the extremities of which were, in many cases, attach. ed small pennons of about a span's-breadth, which, fluttering in the air as the breeze caught them, joined with the restless motion of the feathers to add liveliness to the scene.
“ At length the barriers were opened, and five Knights, chosen by lot, advanced slowly into the area ; a single champion riding in front, and the other four following in pairs."
The foregoing description is borrowed from Ivanhoe : it leaves the tournament at its commencement, but it tells the uninformed what a tournament was. All that was proclaimed was done — the strife followed—some were defeated and some were victorious—some retired from the field covered with blood and wounds, mortified and disgraced ; others went off in due time, followed by looks of admiration and acclamations of praise. The crown of that day was the renown of all their days, and the name of the Knight was not afterwards mentioned without that of the field of his glory. But
“ The Knights are dust,
And their good swords are rust." and all that they did, lives only in the page of the poet. “ Their escutcheons have long mouldered from the walls of their castles. Their castles themselves are but green mounds and shattered ruins—the place that once knew them knows them no more--nay, many a race since theirs has died out and been forgotten in the very land which they occupied, with all the authority of feudal proprietors and feudal lords. What then would it avail the reader to know their names, or the evanescent symbols of their martial rank !"
Theirs was not true glory. There is another glory, the most durable and the most estimable—it is that which follows great services rendered to mankind by great goodness and great genius. That navigator who gave one half of the world to the other halfthat poet whom Milton calls, " Dear son of memory, great heir of fame"—those defenders of religion who feared not principalities and powers, but counted their lives cheap, so that they showed the truth and established it; and that peaceful legislator who
gave his name to the wild woods, and laid the foundation of a state, according to the rules of the gospel, have all benefited mankind, and inherit true fame.—One by his immortal pen has sweetened and gladdened life, and the others by their divers labours, have relieved men from burthens grievous to be borne. --They have taken off fetters from the human understanding, have given a wider sphere to human intelligence, and a better direction to human conduct.