Chivalry

ChivalryThis mediaeval [sic] institution arose out of the feudal system in the eighth century, and perished with it. It was at its height from the twelfth to the fifteenth century, and did much to refine the manners of western Europe during the Middle Ages. It also elevated the position of women, and spread abroad a spirit of courtesy and kindliness, which had a powerful and salutary effect upon modern society.

Of the Troubadours, the poets of love and gallantry who flourished chiefly in France and Italy during the twelfth and thirteenth century, Mrs. Jameson says:

“The eruptions of the northern nations, among whom our sex was far better appreciated than among the polished Greeks and Romans; the rise of Christianity, and the institution of chivalry, by changing the moral condition of women, gave also a totally different character to the homage addressed to them. It was in the ages called gothic and barbarous – in that era of high feelings and fierce passions – of love, war, and wild adventure, that the sex began to take their true station in society. From the midst of ignorance, superstition, and ferocity, sprang up that enthusiasm, that exaggeration of sentiment, that serious, passionate, and imaginative adoration of women, which was the very fountain of all that is most elevated and elegant in modern poetry, and most graceful and refined in modern manners.

“The amatory poetry of Provence had the same source with the national poetry of Spain; both were derived from the Arabians. To them we trace not only the use of rhyme, and the various forms of stanzas employed by the early lyric poets, but by a strange revolution, it was from the East, where women are now held in seclusion, as mere soulless slaves of the passions and caprices of their masters, that the slaves of the passions and caprices of their masters, that the sentimental devotion paid to our sex in the chivalrous ages was derived.

“The poetry of the Troubadours kept alive the tone of feeling on which it was founded, and though their songs exist only in the collections of the antiquarian, and the very language in which they wrote has passed away, and ma be accounted dead – so is not the spirit they left behind; as the founders of a new school of amatory poetry, we are under obligations to their memory, which throw a strong interest around their personal adventures, and the women they celebrated.

“The tenderness of feeling and delicacy of expression in some of these old Provencal poets are more touching, when we recollect that the writers were sometimes kings and princes, and often knights and warriors, famed for their hardihood and exploits – and the extravagance of passion and boundless devotion to the fair sex, which the Troubadours sang in their lays, they not infrequently illustrated by their actions.”

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Reference: Famous Women; An Outline of Feminine Achievement Through the Ages With Life Stories of Five Hundred Noted Women By Joseph Adelman. Copyright, 1926 by Ellis M. Lonow Company.

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