Saturday, November 29, 2008

C.S. Lewis on chivalry and history


Two and a half years ago, early in my blogging career, I was preparing for the first presentation of the chivalry seminar for fourth-year students. One of the secondary sources I was considering using was C.S. Lewis's famous essay on courtly love. I remembered it being good, but I was taken aback by how lively and well expressed it was. I was inspired to include a quotation from the essay in one of my earlier blog entries. You can see the post here.

About a week ago, reviewing material for a new run-through of that chivalry seminar, I read the essay once more, and once again found it worthwhile. I was especially impressed by this passage, which is part of his discussion of the pioneering romance poet, Chretien de Troyes. I include it here for your enjoyment and contemplation

For him already 'the age of chivalry is dead'. It always was: let no one think the worse of it on that account. These phantom periods for which the historian searches in vain—the Rome and Greece that the Middle Ages believed in, the British past of Malory and Spenser, the Middle Age itself as it was conceived by the romantic revival—all these have their place in a history more momentous than that which com­monly bears the name.
Image: a courtly German knight, Der Schenk von Limpurg,from the early 14th-century Manesse Codex.

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