Merrie England – Pilgrimage To Canterbury

No loyal churchman visiting England is likely to forego the pilgrimage to Canterbury That is among his first duties, and is one of his chief pleasures. There is the cradle of English Christendom ; there, the throne of the primate and patriarch of the Anglican communion. If he seek but to gratify his love for history and art, here he will revel in associations and surroundings of rare and multiform nature, and in the splendor of religious imagination and skill will feel as Mohammed did concerning Damascus : “After Canterbury, only paradise.”

Our journey thitherward was made in a pleasant sunny morning. We could not, indeed, travel in the happy, leisurely way of dear old Chaucer’s pilgrims, but the run by rail from Charing Cross through the glorious Kentish land the country where the roses are redder and the grass is greener than in any other region in the kingdom is of satisfying charm. The district is rich in fertile fields, thick hedgerows, noble trees, great hop-gardens and pretty towns and villages. There are several tunnels one two miles and a half long within the first thirty miles. The road by which mine host of the Tabard led his guests is far to the north of this, and it is only the lack of time which compels one to avoid that long-honored highway to the shrine of the blissful St. Thomas.

But this, notwithstanding, does not keep the mind from Chaucer. The morning sunlight, soft and roseate, falls upon the open volume of The Canterbury Tales in our hand open, but, alas ! unread. Away fly the thoughts to the days when the Third Edward sat upon the throne of England, and, though many things, such as printing, railways, telegraphs, and sundry other inventions, have changed the appearances and conditions of life, yet one feels that nature and the inner and deeper flow of human existence remain very much the same. Man lives and loves the same, works, rejoices, sorrows and dies the same, through all the ages ; and the mysterious and monotonous life moves steadily on through the centuries and the millenniums, not so much changing itself as changing all around it. If there be one author more than another who convinces us of this fact, and in bringing us face to face with the men and the women of his day and generation shows us that they are of the same flesh and blood as ourselves, it is Geoffrey Chaucer. There is no more graphic picture of English life in the Middle Ages than that which he has given us. He introduces us, indeed, to a world differing widely from our own a world in which manners and customs appear strange and the charm and the power of the age of faith and of chivalry are still vigorous and enchanting. Much that goes to make up our modern civilization was then unknown. Warriors wore their armor and their coat of mail, and fought with bows and arrows, battering-rams and lances ; ships spread their white sails to the winds and thought not of the days of steam ; the minstrel strolled through the land from village to village, from castle to castle, and told the gossip of the court and the country, and sang his lays of heroes to admiring villains, retainers, churls and gentlemen; and the English people lived in a great wilderness-land with here and there roads running through the mighty primaevaI forests, and fens undrained, and hamlets built of wood and mud, and serfs bound to the soil, and abbeys hid away in woody glens, and quaint, busy towns, scattered along the river-banks or the great high-ways, for ever struggling for their rights and working out the beginnings of England’s urban and commercial splendor. But, in spite of all the differences, Chaucer teaches us that one feature changes not, and that is man. His characters are such as we may see any day of our life, or, to put it another way, were we transplanted to that age we would be the same as they whom he de-scribes.

Chaucer was born in the city of London about the year 1340. His father was a wine-merchant with sufficient wealth and influence to give his son a good education and introduce him to the society of the court. In his lifetime our author served in the camp, the custom-house and the Parliament; he tried his military prowess on continental battlefields and his diplomatic skill in foreign lands ; he mingled with the great and the learned, the witty and the wise, of his own and of other countries, and thus obtained a personal knowledge of human nature and character. He was a large, corpulent man with a small, fair and intelligent face, downcast, meditative eyes and a shy and weird expression of countenance. Though a diligent student and somewhat hermit-like in his mode of living, yet he loved good and pleasant society, enjoyed the pleasures of the festive board, entered heartily with his roguish genial humor and quaint fun into mirth and merrymaking, and was beloved by all who knew him. As a poet he does not stand beside the other princes of the art, Homer, Dante and Shakespeare, but he is among the first of those who come after them. Few can describe a scene or a character better than he, tell a more admirable story or write a truer or more melodious line of verse. ” His best tales “—if I may use the words of a master-critic–” run on like one of our inland rivers, sometimes hastening a little and turning upon themselves in eddies that dimple without retarding the current, sometimes loitering smoothly, while here and there a quiet thought, a tender feeling, a pleasant image, a golden-hearted verse, opens quietly as a water-lily, to float on the surface without breaking it into ripple.” Chaucer has little or nothing to do with those fields in which Dante and Mil-ton suffered their imagination to roam with such magnificent and sublime freedom. They lift the veil that hides the Unseen, and display, now to our delight and now to our horror, the mysteries of the eternal past and of heaven and hell. They lead the soul through dark-some, gruesome avenues and fearful, awe-subduing scenes full of shadows and suggestions that chill the blood and distress the mind. The faithful reader of the Divine Comedy and the Paradise Lost, while delighted with the glowing and finished imagery and the vast and splendid creations, will remain suspicious of the truth and half annoyed at the thought that the scenes before him are painted upon clouds, to be driven and scattered by the winds of reality. He will admit the general facts, but will question the verity or the verisimilitude of the poet’s coloring. This is in itself a defect of art perhaps inseparable from the kind of subject with which Milton and Dante dealt, though the latter, being the more skilful artist and the greater poet, has it less marked than the former. What I mean by this is, one can go with Dante through the Inferno and Paradiso almost, but not entirely, thinking it to be true and real ; with Milton this power to absorb and to entrance exists in a much less degree. But Chaucer avoids mystery, and therefore avoids these difficulties. There is not in his work unless, possibly, it is in some of his renderings of legendary or foreign stories a single impossible character. His creations are of flesh and blood of such flesh and blood as those of Shakespeare and those of our every day life. There is no question of truth or of falsehood : that does not arise ; and as an illustration of this it may be noted that to this day it is uncertain whether the prologue to the Canterbury Tales be fact or fiction. Defoe had the faculty of presenting fiction as truth his History of the Plague and his Robinson Crusoe are remarkable instances of this but I think, admitting the art, no one would maintain the reality. Certainly, a company of learned men would not sit down seriously to consider the fact or the invention of the hero of juvenile life. Here and there the robe is thrust aside and the void appears. But you may try your best with Chaucer’s prologue, apply to it every canon of criticism that you like, and you will utterly fail to decide that it is not true and literal.

What a group does the poet present to us in his Canterbury pilgrims ! How vivid and how real they appear ! All sorts and conditions are there men of war, ecclesiastics, shipmen, merchants, tradesmen, servants, farmers and women of both the world and the Church. Their idiosyncrasies are described and an individuality is imparted with true dramatic power. Once master the description of any one of them, and that one for ever remains distinct in the mind. No one can forget Madam Eglentyne, the prioress, ” that of her smiling was full simple and coy,” so expert in singing the ” service divine, entuned in her nose full seemly,” so gracious in her manner and learned in her language, and so tender-hearted that she wept over a mouse caught in a trap and fed her dogs with roasted flesh, milk and bread made of the finest flour. She had a long and well-proportioned nose, green eyes, a small mouth and a remarkable forehead. The goodwife of Bath, with her bold red face, her loud laugh and her remedies for love, was a very different personage. She wore sharp spurs on her feet, and, besides company in her youth, had had five husbands. But what strikes you is the distinctiveness of all the characters ; each has a strong personality. The good parson, the physician whose ” study was but little on the Bible,” the brown-hued sailor, the merry friar, the fat monk, the gentle pardoner, the choleric reeve and the brave knight stand out in the company as never to be for-gotten, as people whom we seem to have ourselves known and spoken to old friends, indeed, as familiar, every one of them, as Sir John Falstaff, Samuel Pick-wick, Esq., and the meddlesome old gentleman of St. Rowan’s Well.

There is in Chaucer an absence of introspection and subjectivity, so painful in many poets and so popular with many people. It may seem a small thing for a man to look within or without within, upon his own self, his thoughts, emotions, powers, sins, virtues, and so-forth ; or without, upon the world of men and nature with its multiform life; but the result is great. Perhaps the most unhealthful tendency of certain religious types is this constant morbid looking within, dissecting and testing feelings, analyzing conceptions of truth and motives of vice and virtue; it is popular, but is neither soul-strengthening nor soul-developing. Its root is selfishness. As if self were the all-important thing in the universe, the most wonderful of God’s creations and the object of his exclusive care ! Under the plea of being spiritual and having adroitly fastened the epithet ” moral ” which is supposed to imply awful and intelligent depravity upon its opponent, it spends its time in taking care of dear self both for time and for eternity. As far as the world is concerned, it is not worth a thought, and may go on to ruin and to death. When you meet with one having this tendency, if you are fortunate enough in having a soul otherwise constituted, you feel that there is a great gulf between you. There is no touch, no affinity. You have no common ground of interest. To the one, self is but as a plumed seed drifting hither and thither on the autumn winds. Hence you read many writers, and you lay aside their books as being good, indeed, but not exactly what you want ; you cannot get into them. But Chaucer is not of this kind. You read his lines, and you are at once face to face with things that are to you real and living.

Take his patriotism. Chaucer lays the framework of his Canterbury Tales in the country of his birth and his love, and in doing so he makes his framework thoroughly English. It is true Boccaccio had done the same with his tales they are in themselves Italian and set in an Italian background; but Boccaccio’s background is repulsive to an English mind. Florence is suffering from a plague of which the author gives a most powerful and ghastly description, and while the plague is devastating the city, filling its homes with bitterest sorrow and its streets with neglected dead, the Florentines are away in a country villa amusing themselves with the recital of tales, of the morality of which the least said the better. Of course Boccaccio’s object was artistic, and he has made the contrast decided and terrible; but I venture to say that no English mind can endure a contrast so great and so awful. It is like dancing on the graves of the dead like minstrelsy in the house of mourning. There is a heartlessness in the whole work : its teaching is heartless ; the best, perhaps the only redeeming, story in the collection that of Griselda is a piece of heartlessness impossible except, perchance, in an Italian. Boccaccio was true to his natural instincts and to his age ; so was Chaucer, and, thank God ! England is not Italy. Our great poet has no black canvas on which to set his creations, no harrowing contrasts wherewith to produce his effects. Instead of a plague-stricken city, it is a pilgrimage of happy, light-hearted English people along a highway in the bright springtime through the sweet Kentish land to the shrine of England’s national saint, Thomas A Becket. Twenty-nine men and women met at the Tabard Inn, in Southwark, and agreed to travel together to Canterbury and to beguile the journey with the recital of tales of adventure or legend. It may seem odd to us of the nineteenth century that such merrymaking should associate itself with a religious under-taking, but English people had not then heard, and they have not learned yet, that religion is not to enter into everything, and that in everything, even common things such as eating and drinking, there is not a religious element. They saw no incongruity between a gay journey and devotion to St. Thomas of Canterbury; joy and piety were both gifts of God. And note that devotion to St. Thomas. Of course most of us have been taught that he was a bad man, a proud, arrogant abomination not one word of which is true but we must remember that immediately after his death and for three centuries he was England’s popular saint. The people thronged to his shrine. The cathedral of Canterbury was enriched by the oblations of the thousands who bowed the knee there. Churches were dedicated to him, not only in England, but even in Scotland and in distant Iceland. He was the beloved martyr of the Church of England beloved in his own age and in succeeding ages, till at last there arose a generation that loved the patrimony of St. Thomas better than it loved his memory and desired rather his gold than his blessing. Since then Thomas a Becket has been esteemed the vilest of the vile, and the ten generations of Englishmen that honored him have been considered the foolishest of the foolish and the blindest of the blind. But Chaucer did not foresee these latter days, and his faith in the national saint was strong and his devotion great. He has little sympathy with those who seek for foreign shrines ; the ” holy blisful martir ” of Canterbury was enough for him a spice of contempt for everything un-English so characteristic of our forefathers.

Yonder rises the cathedral high above the city around it, grander than when the pilgrims beheld it five hundred years ago. A feeling of laudable pride moves the soul a moment in which one thanks God that one is a member of the Church which has its earthly centre in a structure so magnificent and so hallowed. The traveller enters the city through the west gate, built by Archbishop Simon of Sudbury, and the only city gate remaining. Hence he passes through St. Peter’s street into High street, on the left-hand side of which he will find the narrow way called Mercery lane, down which the pilgrims went to the cathedral. Here they bought relics and tokens of St. Thomas, and some of the wealthier among them found hospitality at the Chequers Inn, at the corner of High street. In the present heavy, antique building some parts of the ancient hostelry remain, but, alas! instead of silvern and. leaden images of the holy martyr, guide-books and baby-linen are now the staple articles of merchandise. There are in this day no sounds of joyous revelry, no busy throng of worshippers from all parts of Christendom, no signs that this was once the liveliest part of Canterbury ; all is quiet, sleepy, dull pleasantly and attractively so. Walk leisurely through the narrow lane with its old overhanging houses on both sides, and think of the days when thronging multitudes frequented the shrine of England’s greatest saint. There, at the end, is the gate, erected in the reign of Henry VIII., leading into the precincts. The cathedral appears in all its massive splendor a glorious pile the vastness of which can best be realized by walking around it be-fore seeing the inside. The more one looks, the greater and more wonderful the building becomes. It grows as the minutes pass by. Gradually the fact possesses the mind that in bygone ages churches were built, not for convenience only, not merely for shelter against wind and rain, but that they might teach great lessons and hand on from generation to generation rich and profitable associations.

Before I speak further of this sacred edifice suffer me to prepare the way by imparting somewhat of the spirit which loves to linger amongst the glories of the past, and to see in architecture and in symbolism lessons of deepest interest and greatest value.

No one contends that buildings are essential to Christianity. The early Christians had none; their system made no provision for material temples. God was everywhere, and he could be worshipped everywhere —as well on the hillside, in the desert or by the ocean-shore as within the deftly-covered walls and beneath the ceiling of cedar in Jerusalem. They worshipped in secret, in the catacombs, the caves of the earth, the wilds of the forest and the little upper chamber. The missionary who preached the gospel in the open air presented the truth to his hearers as purely and as truly as did they who spoke in the basilicas of Christian Rome. • The twining branches of the woodland trees or the blue vaulted sky itself gave him a roof as grand for the nonce as he could wish whose mind was full of weighty truths and whose soul burned with celestial fire. Upon a mound of earth or on a rough-hewn stone he placed the symbol of salvation, and as he pointed men to that and told them of Him who had died thereon hard hearts were softened and proud knees bent in penitence upon the green sward or on the dusty ground. Many a soul-stirring sermon was preached and many an impressive service held in Nature’s own grand sanctuary long before cathedral was seen in the land. Even in our own day an open-air service is not without its charm and power, while in cottage-rooms, on board ships, in factories and plain little chapels, Christianity still retains its converting, ennobling and beautifying strength. You will find the begrimed miner come from the gathering of two or three worshippers in a corner of the dark mine a better and a happier man ; you will feel the divine afflatus in the little company who by the riverside in the summer evening have sought to speak one to another of the mysteries and the love of God.

But, for all that, a building in which the graces and the symbolic truths of architecture are displayed can-not fail to produce a beneficial effect upon the soul and to impart a fuller and a sublimer conception of Christianity. It was in the nature of things that with prosperity and influence changes should come. Art could not leave untouched the most beautiful conception ever given to man. So soon as Christianity drew to itself the culture and the wealth of Greece and of Rome, so soon the bridal-dress was placed upon the Bride of Christ. Intellect, imagination and genius went to the enrichment of the religion of Jesus ; art, with the skill of a heavenly enchantress, helped to bring out its beauty and to express its thought. One cannot worship within a minster where the devout and loving imagination has wrought its mystic poem and not be moved. There is a something which steals upon the soul and fills it with reverence. The very walls seem to speak ; the many-colored windows and the lines of stately shafts suggest thoughts of hallowed meaning. Fancy fills the mighty solitude with spirits from heaven’s bright land, and their songs break upon the silence. The magnificence and the beauty bring one into unearthly scenes and pour into the heart sweetness and satisfaction akin to that which angels have. Such a building is an expression of God : his glory rests upon it; his presence dwells within it.

These religious edifices the very embodiment of symbolism are not only marvels in themselves, but also wonders of the age in which they were built. How they were conceived and constructed is a mystery. Our forefathers were rough, uncouth and coarse; they were ignorant and superstitious. Their towns and their villages were the haunts of misery and of distress. In the narrow undrained streets pestilence lurked; in the wretched cottages discomfort reigned. Yet in that past of poverty and rudeness and in those scenes of filthiness and want arose these beautiful structures, grander than Egyptian, Grecian or Roman temple, more artistic than aught we of the nineteenth century can devise. Nothing was left undone, no cost or labor was spared, that was calculated to move the spirit of devotion or to show honor to God. Earth had nothing too valuable for the purpose. Princes and barons gave of the abundance of their wealth; yeomen and serfs contributed according to their substance. Nor was it the mere love of display that led to this magnificence ; on the contrary, in a rich symbolism they sought to perpetuate and to manifest their ideal of religion. Everything had a meaning and a purpose; everything was sacred and eternal. If on the outside walls of the church hideous figures were carved to denote the evil spirits fleeing from the abode of God’s presence, inside the sweetest grace in pillar, arch and tracery suggested the beauty and the majesty of God’s love and mercy to man. The ground-plan of the building was that of a cross, reminding man of the mystery of redemption, and oftentimes with a deflection in the lines of the walls at the east end, to denote the drooping head of the Saviour in his last moments. The spire pointing ever to the sky told of the unity of the faith and of the appealing prayer and constancy of the worshippers, while the bird of warning upon its top recalled the Master’s solemn charge to his people. The nave by name and by form spoke of the ” ark of Christ’s Church ;” the aisles, of the wings or the sails of the same. None but men possessed of a high conception of Christianity could have devised such lessons or produced such buildings. They must have realized some-thing of the beauty of holiness, o( the majesty of God, of the awfulness of eternity and of the sweetness of paradise when they sought to express those truths in the rough stone and the plastic clay.

And the effect of such sanctuaries upon them must have been great. When they knelt within the nave or walked along the aisles, they must have risen to heights of devotion they could not have reached in their own miserable homes. They must have felt that God was very near them ; that here the angels brought comforting messages from the far-off land to the weary and the heavy laden; that within these consecrated walls the Lord Jesus was present for evermore. The light which streamed through the pictured windows came to them from no earthly sun, but from the throne whereon sat the Everlasting Glory, its tinted hues contrasting the beauty of grace with the coldness of nature. The faces which looked down from lofty clerestory were no figures cut in stones, but the spirits of the holy ones who from the highest heaven look back to the beloved friends of earth; those upon the windows, of angel-minstrels, of the King’s messengers. The imagination, subdued and taught by the earthly temple, read therein the evangelical lessons of Christ. There was cast from the chancel-screen upon the nave the shadow of the cross beneath which all must pass who would enter the holy place. There were the seats around the altar, recalling the vision of the exile of Patmos. The orient rays resting upon the sacred place where in hallowed sacrament lay the body of the Lord spoke of the rainbow-circled throne where he sits crowned above all the kings of the earth. And, while the thoughtful soul was thus exalted to the higher world, there came the recollection that beneath this magnificence and glory was the silent crypt into which the flesh must enter, but from which the God of power shall bring back his own. These things, wrought so wonderfully by art, could not fail to touch even the man whose brain had devised and whose hand had executed. They educated and made nobler and better the mind, and taught the world that ” the King’s daughter is all-glorious within; her clothing is of wrought gold.”

The devout Christian of the present day will not think that buildings of this sublime character are the webs which superstition weaves around the soul and which time hardens into fetters of iron, but he will see in them signs of mystic meaning, the fosterers of devotion, the interpreters of doctrine, the foreshadowings of heaven. They have served to mould his and his fathers’ religion. They have aided his imagination and strengthened his affection. They have taught him that essential virtue of all religion, reverence. They have given him suggestions which have helped him heavenward and led him farther into the mysteries of God. The triumphs of Christian architecture, the grace and the charm which adorn the outer temple, must at least speak to him of that integrity of purpose and that symmetry of character which should beautify the heart wherein the Holy Ghost is pleased to dwell.

The same magnificence and symbolism that adorned the buildings extended themselves to the services. Doubtless the people loved ornate display, but there was a far deeper feeling than that. They may have gazed with wonder and with fear upon the mystic sanctuary where, amid the clouds of incense, white-robed choir and blaze of candles, the priest, arrayed in gorgeous vestments, consecrated the sacred Host, but they were in hearty sympathy and doubted nothing. They bowed with deepest reverence as the procession of priests and monks and singers, bearing cross and banner, holy relic or mysterious sacrament, passed by, reminding them of man’s pilgrimage through this world. The organ sent its music echoing through the aisles, now in subdued strains of hushed supplication, now in thundering peals of glad praise, and with hallowed chant and well-sung anthem moved and softened the roughest nature and made the weary heart long to sing its song and mingle its voice with the great multitude above. Nor were these services rare things : they came daily, and many times a day. The churches were ever open, the lamp before the altar was ever burning. At no time, day or night, was silent the voice of prayer for the Church’s safety, the nation’s welfare, the preservation of travellers, the conversion of the heathen or the everlasting rest of the departed. In the monasteries the twenty-four hours were one round of devotion. Lauds, prime, tierce, sext, nones and compline were sung in every religious house in the Iand. At daybreak matins, at sunset evensong, brought rough hind and belted knight, rustic maiden and high-born lady, to their beads and their meditation. Ever and anon there broke upon the air the sweet melody of the murmuring chimes, telling of joy and gladness, or perchance the heavy, sad tone of the passing-bell, speaking of mortality and of the duty to pray for the dying. And even now, in these days of hurry and faithlessness, a sweet restfulness and a gentle awe steal upon us when, with the door closed upon the outer world, we stand within the ancient sanctuary. A holy peace falls upon the soul, the Divine Presence is felt, the knee bends and the heart in joyous emotion pours itself out to Him whom we may have sought in the world in fields and in gardens, but have found only in his temple.

Perhaps the highest inspiration which an edifice full of beauty and luxuriant in symbolic art can give is to be had in the calm, moonlit eventide. As the pale beams fall upon its walls, shading the outline of tower, pinnacle, nave and chancel and dimly realizing the tracery of the windows, the carved gargoyles and the arched doorway, the imagination sits upon Fancy’s throne and begins its happy revellings. There are suggestions that the soul loves to encourage, thoughts that come to one like dreamy music in the gloaming. The silence of the place reminds one of the mysterious stillness into which all things living must enter. Not now, as in earlier hours, does the sound of chanting voices fall upon the ear like the roll of- wave-floods on the beach ; no brightness flows in streams of liquid beauty through the antique windows ; no sign is there of the great world, so noisy in its bustle, so troubled in its life. There comes no melody of murmuring chimes, telling of joy and gladness, and no sad tone of passing-bell, speaking of mortality and of the duty to pray for the dying. The scene is impressively unearthly. In the deep shadows mingling with the soft light you see the mysteries which are ever and anon thrown across the gospel-page mysteries which we cannot fathom, and would not if we could. As you turn away you realize the grace and the power of the system which demands such a tribute of beauty, you gain an insight into the spirit of symbolism, and more than ever the fact of religion and the ideal of Christianity impress themselves upon you.

Nor are the associations of Christian buildings less calculated to deepen and to strengthen the religious spirit. The comparative changelessness of the building helps to this end. While things around are passing away, while generation follows generation and the sea-sons run their courses, these sacred walls remind us of the permanence and the stability of religion. Sunday after Sunday, year after year, the eye rests upon the same hallowed surroundings and the beating heart is hushed in the same solemn stillness. Here worshipped others of our race men and women who have long since passed into the Eternal Presence. Here hymn was sung and prayer offered long, long ago, as to-day. Here, now as then, the echoes of the gospel die amid the sweeping arches and within the dark bosom of the groined roof. It is the same as ever. And in olden time, when the dead were laid to rest, sometimes within the consecrated building, sometimes in the yard around it, and sculptured monuments and jewelled shrines commemorated departed worth and grandeur, there was that which brought home very closely the fact of mortality and the doctrine of the communion of saints. They who lay in the fast-closed vaults or in the green-clad graves were the links which bound not only the present to the past, but also earth to heaven. The rudest spirit was hushed when in a place hallowed by associations such as these; the most irreverent could not but bow the head when walking along aisles which once had been trodden by those whose ashes were mouldering beneath the lettered pavement. Nor could the thoughtful man think of the time when he would be borne within the temple, or look upon the spot where he would be laid to rest, without tender emotion emotion which could be stilled only when the eye fell upon some object which taught that Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life.

It is impossible to wander in such an Eden of pleas-ant delights as I have sought to suggest here in the very shadow of Canterbury without thinking of the times in which lived the men who wrought these structures. It was not the building only, but everything else, that marked the reality of those ages of faith and devotion. Maxims such as these were enjoined upon all Christian men : ” Arise early, serve God devoutly and the world busily ; do thy work wisely, give thine alms secretly, and go by the way sadly.” Letters of those days are interesting for the deep reverential spirit of their greeting perhaps too often formal, but still a quaint, sweet form. The knight was charged by the dignity of his order to uphold the rights of maidens and of widows, truly to hold his promise to his friend and his foe, to honor his father and his mother, to do no harm to the poor, but to be merciful and to hold with the sacrifice of the great God of heaven. Nor were the clergy ignorant either of necessary doctrinal truth or of their duty to the people. They taught the people at least the stories and general truths of Scripture, and undoubtedly sought, according to the light they had, the good of the Church and the nation. In a period strongly marked by caste they moved between the court and the cabin, from the mansion of the peer to the mud hut of the peasant, and endeavored to soften the pride of the one and to better the hard lot of the other, and to bind all together in a true Christian brotherhood. The monks, too, were far from deserving that wholesale condemnation which later times passed upon them. Early members of their orders had gone out into the wilderness and the barren places, far away from the haunts of men, where they might worship God in peace and live in solitude. The richest and the most beautiful of modern abbey-lands had originally been desolate, uninhabited and worthless. In some deep sequestered glen, the home of the wild boar, the bittern and the crane, or be-side the waters of some almost unknown stream, or by the shore of the great, lonely ocean itself, they built their house and their sanctuary, and lived roughly and rudely by the labors of their hands. Here they gradually gathered around them a village of artisans and laborers, who depended upon them for support and protection. The most liberal hospitality was given to all who needed it. The Fathers cared for the poor and the sick, administered justice and kept good order on their estates, and sup-plied the neighboring villages with the ministrations of religion.