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the one great thing in life. They did not have such a
We must place it to the credit of the warrior that he
But there were two flaws in the warrior's kind of courage. These were due to the fact that it was the courage of a class. The first was that the warrior's courage was shown in going with his group. It usually is far easier to go with our class, our party, our army, than to stand up alone for a cause which is not popular. Yet this kind of courage is often most needed. For, while it is more likely that I am wrong than that a large class or group is wrong, it is to be remembered that practically every reform, every protest against oppression, every struggle for liberty and justice, has begun with one, or with a few who were standing up against the general practice or against the majority of their class. Further, the fact that the warrior always was obeying orders prevented him from thinking for himself:
Defects in the warrior's courage
“ Theirs not to reason why,
The world needs a good many kinds of men. Sometimes it needs just the soldier's courage. But at other
times it needs men who do “ reason why and, if need be, will have courage to “make reply” to wrong commands. Our ancestors, in protesting against the king both in England and in America, showed this kind of courage, and it is interesting to note that those who protested were usually not soldiers by profession.
Another defect due to the warrior's class ideal of courage was that it allowed him to be cruel to those of other groups. He often treated them as though they had no rights; and he liked to show his power by torturing as well as killing the conquered. The ancient Assyrians did not feel ashamed, in fact they were proud to tell, of their cruelty to the conquered:
To the city of Kinabu,” says Assur-nasir-pal (888-885 B.c.), “I approached . .. I captured it.
I captured it. Six hundred of their fighting men I slew with the sword, 3000 of their captives I burned with fire. . . . The people of the country of Nirbu encouraged one another .. .. the city of Tela was very strong. 3000 of their fighting men I slew with the sword; their spoil, their goods, their oxen and their sheep I carried away; their numerous captives I burned with fire. I captured many of the soldiers alive with the hand. I cut off the hands and feet of some; I cut off the noses, the ears and the fingers of others; the eyes of numerous soldiers I put out.”
The Hebrew, the Greek, the Roman in the ancient world would kill the males and make slaves of the women and children. The English warriors who conquered Britain had no mercy. They killed priests as well as warriors. They were called “ seawolves that live on the pillage of the world.” The Northmen were among the bravest of warriors, but they were pirates and rob
* Sayce, Records of the Past, ii, pp. 145, 159, etc. Quoted in Hobhouse, Morals in Evolution, p. 249.
bers as well who raided the coasts and killed or enslaved peaceful dwellers whom they surprised. Our ancestors learned courage in the school of war, but they learned fierceness and cruelty also.
Next to courage, Loyalty. To be loyal is to be true to some superior. Or we sometimes speak of being loyal to a party, or to our country, or to a cause. The early men of the clans were loyal to their kinsmen. But, as with courage, so with loyalty; the band of warriors staked everything on this. The great business was fighting, and to fight successfully it was absolutely necessary to obey the leader and to follow him to death, if need be. The whole body of fighting men—the upper class, as contrasted with the serfs or workers—were trained from early years to be loyal to some superior. The plain soldier was a
of some 6 lord.” There was a solemn public ceremony in which the vassal did homage, as it was called; that is, acknowledged that he was the “man” (homage, i.e., from the Latin word meaning man") of the one whom he called his lord. He also swore a solemn oath of fealty, that is fidelity. The lord undertook to protect the vassal. It was on this basis that the land was largely held. The lord would let a piece of land to a tenant on condition that the tenant should do homage and swear fealty, that is, be his loyal vassal.
“ The tenant stands up with his hands on the gospels and says: ‘Hear this, my lord: I will be faithful to you of life and member, goods, chattels, and earthly worship, so help me God and these holy gospels of God.''
Loyalty to a lord was often stronger than the tie of blood or kindred. An old story in the English Chronicle illustrates this. Cynęwulf, king of the West
Saxons, when with a small company, was beset by a band of his enemies under Cyneheard and wounded to death. His thanes refused any reparation or quarter, but fought over his body till all were slain but one. The next day a large force gathered to avenge the dead king, and rode to where Cyneheard was. Cyneheard offered them great inducements to have him as king, and told them that kinsmen of theirs were with him that would never leave him. “But they declared that none of their kinsmen could be dearer to them than their lord, and that they would never follow their lord's slayer. And they offered their kinsmen to let them go safe. But the men with Cyneheard said that they would not do otherwise than those that had fallen with the king. So they fought about the gate till the avengers broke in and slew Cyneheard and all with him save one who was Osric's godson and he had many swords."
Loyalty, as a warrior ideal, like courage, had its Defects in flaws. For it was the loyalty of a class, and loyalty loyalty to a person, not to a cause. It did not aim to unite men under a cause that all could follow. To be loyal to the lord meant sometimes to help the lord oppress his villeins. To be loyal to the king meant to fight against other men just because the king had a quarrel. Gradually m'en changed the object of devotion from the king or the lord to the country, or to some cause like liberty or justice or truth. When we can be loyal to some one who leads us in the right direction, so as to secure good things that we could not secure without following a leader and working under him, then it is a splendid quality. But we need first to make sure of
The colonists who remained faithful to King George III at the time of the American Revolu
Chivalry and knight hood
tion were called loyalists. Most of us now think that the king in this case was opposing liberty and that those who were disloyal to him were in the right.
Chivalry combined the courage of the warrior and the loyalty of the vassal with something finer and broader. The knight was brought up to be faithful to his superior; he was also to be a brave warrior. But he was not loyal just to his superior, nor did he fight with the single idea of conquering, no matter how. The true knight must protect the weak. He must be especially courteous to ladies and help them in distress. If a woman were ill treated it was the part of the knight to right her wrongs.
Walter Scott represented the knight Ivanhoe as undertaking the cause of the Jewess Rebecca who had been accused of witchcraft. When a knight fought he must fight fair. He must be generous to his defeated foe, not kill him after he had yielded. To make a slave of his prisoners or of ladies whom he might capture would be contrary to his ideals. The knight indeed took vows, much as the priest took vows. When he was made a knight he handed over his sword to a priest who blessed it and gave it back. Chaucer describes a knight who “loved chivalrie, truthe and honour, freedom and curtoisie." a valiant fighter and yet he did not boast or abuse.
"He nevere yet no vileyne ne sayd:
In all his lyf, unto no manner wight.” Chevalier Bayard was a French type of the perfect knight, a gallant fighter for country, a passionate admirer of justice, " sans peur et sans reproche,”-without fear and without reproach. Later changes in the social order made the outer forms of chivalry as empty and meaningless as Don Quixote's charging the windmill.