Page—Esquire—Knight - Marion Lansing


"Some doubted its historic truth,

But while they doubted, ne'ertheless

Saw in it gleams of truthfulness."


The chronicles, romances, and histories cited below are the sources from which the stories of individual heroes have been drawn, but these were written for contemporary readers who were familiar with the customs and standards of knighthood. In order to present clear and vivid pictures of the scenes and ceremonies of a knightly career, it has been necessary to consult many treatises on chivalric orders which cannot here be mentioned.

Page 5. The Drawing of the Sword. The story of the miraculous appearance of the sword and of the coming of the boy king is told from the version in Malory's Morte D'Arthur. The material from which Arthurian legends are drawn is so varied in character, and often so unsuitable for children, that the writer must do as did the story tellers of old,—treat it as a storehouse out of which he may draw that which suits his individual need and purpose. In the present tales the symbolism of Malory and Tennyson has been kept in the background, and King Arthur has been presented in what is his rightful guise as regards the development of chivalry, as a strong and noble king, divinely appointed, and gladly received by the people, who proved himself more than worthy of the choice.

Page 15. The Founding of the Round Table. A combination of Malory and Tennyson which preserves the simplicity of the former and the idealism of the latter.

Page 21. Perceval. The stories of Malory and Tennyson, the usual source books for tales of King Arthur's knights, are so closely interwoven one with another, and all with the Grail legend, that it has seemed best to give the stories of two of the noblest knights of the Round Table, the tales of Perceval and of Gawain, as they are found in other and simpler Arthurian romance. The story of Perceval has won for itself a place among the world's great tales. It is the best of a cycle of romances in which a young hero is brought up in the forest in ignorance of the world and its ways. An English minstrel tells in quaint verse and simple, direct fashion the story of Syr Percyvelle, and his poem is the basis for our version. But much is introduced in the way of detail and setting from the more elaborate romances of Chretien de Troyes and Wolfram von Eschenbach, as well as from Marie de France's Lay of Tyolet. The return of the hero to his mother is a pleasing feature found only in the original English Perceval legend.

Page 46. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. "Of all the heroes of British Romance," writes Dr. W. II. Schofield, "Gawain is the most admirable and most interesting. In the early poems of the cycle he is invariably represented as the mirror of courtesy, a truly noble knight, without fear or reproach." he is "gay, gracious, and good," the beloved of all. Of this cycle of which he is the hero, Dr. Schofield goes on to say that Sir Gawayne and the Grene Knight, the old English poem of 2500 lines on which our tale is based, "is incomparably the best of the English romances, and one of the finest in any language." We have followed as closely as possible the quaint and delightful style of the author, and have found the story especially valuable for use in this collection because it gives a perfect picture of King Arthur's hall in holiday time, of the way adventures came to his knights without the seeking, and of a typical quest of the best type. A more charming picture of knightly life it would be hard to find.

Page 75. The Passing of Arthur. The causes of the downfall of the Round Table are here lightly touched upon. Verse in this and the other tales of Arthur is adapted from Tennyson.

Page 79. Roland, a Knight of France. Roland is a hero of Italy as well as of France, and it is from Italian literature that we take the tale of his childhood. His first experience on the battle field comes from the old English romance of Ogier the Dane, and the incident of his combat with Oliver is found in the French account of the revolt of Guerin de Montglave against Charlemagne. Together the three chapters give an interesting account of the beginning of his famous knightly career, and present an opportunity to recount the ceremonies of dubbing a knight and to tell of the friendship between Roland and Oliver. The Charlemagne cycle is most confused and difficult of access to modern readers.

Page 101. A Steed! A Steed! From Motherwell's Ancient Minstrelsy.

Page 103. The Battle of Ronceval. This story is much abridged from the Chanson de Roland; the selections in verse are adapted from the beautiful translation of John O'Hagan. This is one of the classics of literature as well as of chivalry.

Page 125. Godfrey, a Knight of the Crusades. Michaud's History of the Crusades  and Caxton's reprint of William of Tyre's history of Godfrey de Bouillon are the sources for the stories of the beginnings of the first Crusade and of its hero Godfrey. The chronicles of that period are vivid and picturesque.

Page 143. The Troubadour. An old song of crusading days.

Page 144. The Order of St. George. The story of St. George and the dragon is told in prose in the histories of the seven champions of Christendom, and in verse in a ballad in Percy's Reliques. The account of the founding of the Order of St. George is given in Froissart and other chroniclers. This is the period when chivalry as an institution attained its highest perfection.

Page 155. Chevalier Bayard. Bayard was fortunate in having a "loyal servitor," who set forth the history of his master's life in admiring and entertaining fashion. There are several modern French and English translations of this ancient book, which gives a good picture of medieval life in the period when, as Ben Jonson puts it, "every house became an academy of honor," and when the training of page, esquire, and knight was the ideal method of education, for where could he better

"learn to vault, to ride, to fence,

To move his body grace fuller, to speak

His language purer, or to tune his mind

Or manners more to the harmony of nature,

Than in these nurseries of nobility?"

Another picture of ideal chivalry is given in this ballad from the French of Eustace Decamps, a poet of the fourteenth century. The English version is from Guizot's History of France.

"Amend your lives, ye who would fain

The order of the knights attain;

Devoutly watch, devoutly pray;

From pride and sin, oh, turn away!

Shun all that's base; the Church defend;

Be the widow's and the orphan's friend;

Be good and ideal; take naught by might;

Be bold and guard the people's right;—

This is the rule for the gallant knight.

Be meek of heart; work day by day;

Tread, ever tread, the knightly way;

Make lawful war; long travel dare;

Tourney and joust for lady fair;

To everlasting honor cling,

That none the barbs of blame may fling;

Be never slack in work or fight;

Be ever least in self's own sight;—

This is the rule for the gallant knight.

Love the liege lord; with might and main

His rights above all else maintain;

Be open handed, just and true;

The paths of upright men pursue;

No deaf ear to their precepts turn; T

he prowess of the valiant learn;

That ye may do things great and bright,

As did Great Alexander bight;—

This is the rule for the gallant knight."