The Age of Fable eBook

Thomas Bulfinch
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 980 pages of information about The Age of Fable.
and in wrestling, tilting with spears, and performing other military exercises on horseback.  At fourteen the page became an esquire, and began a course of severer and more laborious exercises.  To vault on a horse in heavy armor; to run, to scale walls, and spring over ditches, under the same encumbrance; to wrestle, to wield the battle-axe for a length of time, without raising the visor or taking breath; to perform with grace all the evolutions of horsemanship,—­were necessary preliminaries to the reception of knighthood, which was usually conferred at twenty-one years of age, when the young man’s education was supposed to be completed.  In the meantime, the esquires were no less assiduously engaged in acquiring all those refinements of civility which formed what was in that age called courtesy.  The same castle in which they received their education was usually thronged with young persons of the other sex, and the page was encouraged, at a very early age, to select some lady of the court as the mistress of his heart, to whom he was taught to refer all his sentiments, words, and actions.  The service of his mistress was the glory and occupation of a knight, and her smiles, bestowed at once by affection and gratitude, were held out as the recompense of his well-directed valor.  Religion united its influence with those of loyalty and love, and the order of knighthood, endowed with all the sanctity and religious awe that attended the priesthood, became an object of ambition to the greatest sovereigns.

The ceremonies of initiation were peculiarly solemn.  After undergoing a severe fast, and spending whole nights in prayer, the candidate confessed, and received the sacrament.  He then clothed himself in snow-white garments, and repaired to the church, or the hall, where the ceremony was to take place, bearing a knightly sword suspended from his neck, which the officiating priest took and blessed, and then returned to him.  The candidate then, with folded arms, knelt before the presiding knight, who, after some questions about his motives and purposes in requesting admission, administered to him the oaths, and granted his request.  Some of the knights present, sometimes even ladies and damsels, handed to him in succession the spurs, the coat of mail, the hauberk, the armlet and gauntlet, and lastly he girded on the sword.  He then knelt again before the president, who, rising from his seat, gave him the “accolade,” which consisted of three strokes, with the flat of a sword, on the shoulder or neck of the candidate, accompanied by the words:  “In the name of God, of St. Michael, and St. George, I make thee a knight; be valiant, courteous, and loyal!” Then he received his helmet, his shield, and spear; and thus the investiture ended.

FREEMEN, VILLAINS, SERFS, AND CLERKS

The other classes of which society was composed were, first, freemen, owners of small portions of land independent, though they sometimes voluntarily became the vassals of their more opulent neighbors, whose power was necessary for their protection.  The other two classes, which were much the most numerous, were either serfs or villains, both of which were slaves.

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The Age of Fable from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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