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property, and claimed their lands : on these occasions the ladies were often treated in a barbarous manner.
A remarkable instance of this may be found in Shakspeare's Tragedy of Macbeth. Macbeth, a Scottish nobleman, invited Duncan, king of Scotland, to his castle, and there murdered him, that he might be king instead of Duncan. On the murder of the king, his two sons fled from Scotland in fear of their lives. Macduff, a Scottish lord, followed Malcolm, one of the young princes, into England ; upon which the usurper Macbeth was so enraged that he vowed to revenge himself upon Macduff for his desertion. In order to do this, Macbeth resolved upon killing Macduff's innocent family, which he had left behind, and he accordingly gave orders for this cruel act. When the bloody work was done, Rosse, a friend of the unfortunate family, escaped into England to inform Macduff of it. He found him talking to Malcolm, and after preparing his mind, relates the event.
“ Rosse. Your castle is surprised, your wife and babes savagely slaughtered !
Malcolm. Merciful heaven!
Rosse. Wife, children, servants, all
Macd. And I must be from thence !My wife kill'd too ?
Rosse. I have said.
Mai. Let us make medicine of our great revenge, To cure this deadly grief.
Macd. He has no children !-- All my pretty ones ?
Macbeth, Act IV., Scene 3.
you say all ?
Malcolm, it may be observed, proposes to make amends for this cruel injury by some great revenge," that is, by some act of equal cruelty to the murderers of Macduff's wife and children. This was the way in which people at that time usually endeavoured to satisfy themselves, but they only continued a strife which the descendants of both parties felt bound never to forget nor forgive ; and which, many long years after the first offence was given, caused fresh quarrels, murders, and destruction of property.
In this state of violence and danger many people lived in constant and great fear, and were always prepared to expect, and to
defend themselves against an enemy. The rich lived in strong castles, surrounded by walls and gates, a watch was kept to look out for the approach of their foes; and, before the discovery of gunpowder and the use of fire arms, the knights—that is, the gentlemen soldiers—used generally to wear armour.
Then, as at all times, there were good men—some who were not weak and timid, or ferocious and cruel, who could not see the acts of these barbarians without indignation against them, and compassion for the unfortunate victims of their cruelty. The distress of the ladies, above all, inspired the just and the generous with a desire to serve them, and to save them from the dreadful calamities to which they were exposed. Many noblemen and brave soldiers devoted themselves to the redress of injuries inflicted upon all good persons, and particularly upon the young and the beautiful of the female sex. These formed what is called the order of Chivalry. .
The young men who composed the order of Chivalry could not be admitted into it unless they possessed strength and courage, and were distinguished by truth and honour ; and this being known, made ambitious youths desirous to be so distinguished, that they might be worthy to assert justice, and to defend innocence ; that they might become objects of admiration and praise, and form at once the protectors and ornaments of society. To be all this it was necessary that they should not only be fearless and powerful, but that they should also be pleasing and interesting ; that they should perfectly understand the use of arms to prevail over their enemies, and be masters of every graceful accomplishment to inspire the affection of their friends.
Many arts of little use at this time, were then necessary, and these arts exhibited much grace and skill. The management of fiery horses, the throwing of the pike, (a sharp instrument used in ancient warfare,) and the exercise of the bow, were taught to young men with as much, and more pains than dancing, fencing, and music now require. Horsemanship, archery, &c. require great presence of mind and strength of body, and show elegance of person and quickness of thought to the utmost advantage.
For a long time Chivalry did much good, but at length it went out of use, because laws were made and enforced that compelled people to live peaceably together, so that the arts that belonged to Chivalry only served for amusement, and Knights or Champions used to practise a sort of mock fighting, as a mere trial of strength and skill, not intending to kill one another, but to spare the life of him who should be proved the weakest ; and the most beautiful lady present at the encounter, used to give a prize to the victorious knight. These public spectacles were at last given up, but not all at once, for so late as the year 1600, and afterwards, we read of young gentlemen who were taught all the exercises of Chivalry.
These remarks do not refer exclusively to the preceding extract from Spenser, but they also serve to explain other pieces in this collection. The distressed condition of Una exemplifies the sufferings to which the young and beautiful were exposed in a rude age, and the devotedness of her attendant is a further illustration of the sentiments and services of a disinterested knight-errant in behalf of endangered innocence.
FABLE OF THE OAK AND THE BRIAR.
“ There grew an aged tree on the
Hard by his side grew a bragging Breere,
"Why stand'st there (quoth he) thou brutish block ?
† Many acorns.
Seest how fresh my flowers been spread,
So spake this bold Breere with great disdain,
It chaunced after upon a day,
O my liege Lord! the god of my life,
Greatly aghast with this piteous plea, Him rested the good man on the lea. And bad the Breere in his plaint proceed. With painted words then gan this proud weed (As most used ambitions folk) His coloured crime with craft to cloke.
Ah, my Sovereign ! lord of creatures all, Thou placer of plants both humble and tall, Was not I planted of thine own hand, To be the primrose of all thy land, With flowering blossoms to furnish the prime, And scarlet berries in sommer-time ? How falls it then that this faded Oak,
† Dejected. § Consider.
# Triumphed over Il Grief.
Whose body is sore, whose branches broke,
To this the Oak cast him to reply
The axe's edge did oft turn again,
* Wreath of flowers, chaplet.
† Would not.