Beacon Lights of History eBook

John Lord
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 326 pages of information about Beacon Lights of History.
and retained her influence by securing his respect.  In antiquity, there was no respect for the sex, even when Aspasia enthralled Pericles by the fascinations of blended intellect and beauty; but there was respect in the feudal ages, when women were unlettered and unpolished.  And this respect was alike the basis of friendship and the key to power.  It was not elegance of manners, nor intellectual culture, nor physical beauty which elevated the women of chivalry, but their courage, their fidelity, their sympathy, their devotion to duty,—­qualities which no civilization ought to obscure, and for the loss of which no refinements of life can make up.

Thus Chivalry,—­the most interesting institution of the Middle Ages, rejoicing in deeds of daring, guided by honor and renown, executing enterprises almost extravagant, battling injustice and wrong, binding together the souls of a great fraternity, scorning lies, revering truth, devoted to the Church,—­could not help elevating the sex to which its proudest efforts were pledged, by cherishing elevated conceptions of love, by offering all the courtesies of friendship, by coming to the rescue of innocence, by stimulating admiration of all that is heroic, and by asserting the honor of the loved ones, even at the risk of life and limb.  In the dark ages of European society woman takes her place, for the first time in the world, as the equal and friend of man, not by physical beauty, not by graces of manner, not even by intellectual culture, but by the solid virtues of the heart, brought to light by danger, isolation, and practical duties, and by that influence which radiated from the Cross.  Divest chivalry of the religious element, and you take away its glory and its fascination.  The knight would be only a hard-hearted warrior, oppressing the poor and miserable, and only interesting from his deeds of valor.  But Christianity softened him and made him human, while it dignified the partner of his toils, and gave birth to virtues which commanded reverence.  The soul of chivalry, closely examined, in its influence over men or over women, after all, was that power which is and will be through all the ages the hope and glory of our world.

Thus with all the miseries, cruelties, injustices, and hardships of feudal life, there were some bright spots showing that Providence never deserts the world, and that though progress may be slow in the infancy of races, yet with the light of Christianity, even if it be darkened, this progress is certain, and will be more and more rapid as Christianity achieves its victories.


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Beacon Lights of History from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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