The Mediaeval Mind: A History of the Development of Thought and Emotion in the Middle Ages - Vol. 2

By Henry Osborn Taylor | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXV
PARZIVAL, THE BRAVE MAN SLOWLY WISE

THE instances of romantic chivalry and courtly love reviewed in the last chapter exemplify ideals of conduct in some respects opposed to Christian ethics. But there is still a famous poem of chivalry in which the romantic ideal has gained in ethical consideration and achieved a hard-won agreement with the teachings of mediaeval Christianity, and yet has not become monkish or lost its knightly character. This poem told of a struggle toward wisdom and toward peace; and the victory when won rested upon the broadest mediaeval thoughts of life, and therefore necessarily included the soul's reconcilement to the saving ways of God. Yet it was knighthood's battle, won on earth by strength of arm, by steadfast courage, and by loyalty to whatsoever through the weary years the man's increasing wisdom recognized as right. A monk, seeking salvation, casts himself on God; the man that battles in the world is conscious that his own endeavour helps, and knows that God is ally to the valiant and not to him who lets his hands drop -- even in the lap of God.

Among the romances presumably having a remote Breton origin, and somehow connected with the Court of Arthur, was the tale of Parzival, the princely youth reared in foolish ignorance of life, who learned all knighthood's lessons in the end, and became a perfect worshipful knight. This tale was told and retold. The adventures of another knight, Gawain, were interwoven in it. Possibly the French poet, Chrétien de Troies, about the year 1170, in his retelling, first brought into the story the conception of that thing, that magic dish, which in the course of its retellings

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