Children of Clovis, Where Art Thou?

The code of chivalry fused Christianity and the ethos of the German warrior (1). This is evident in the two rituals by which a man was ordained a knight: the German dubbing, by which his sword was placed in the service of his king, and the Christian vigil, by which it was placed in the service of his God. We must not, of course, mistake the code for the actual conduct of knights, since many of those who rode out cased in iron were simple barbarians. But neither should we dismiss the code as a mere fancy wrought in minstrels’ dreams.

We can see this fusion in The Education of the Children of Clovis, a painting by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1861). The young princes are learning to throw the ax, under the eye of warriors in the costumes of Roman and Teutonic soldiers, but will shortly repair to lessons with the monk, who is waiting by the loggia, book in hand.

clovis

All men of the West have been, in a sense, children of Clovis, and they remain children of Clovis so long as they can throw the ax and take their lessons from monk. This was what Edmund Burke meant when he wrote:

“Nothing is more certain, than that our manners, our civilization, and all the good things . . . in this European world of ours, depended for ages upon two principles: and were indeed the result of both combined; I mean the spirit of the gentleman, and the spirit of religion” (2).

There is no West, if there are no children of Clovis. There is no West, if there is no code of chivalry.

There is, to be sure, a tension in this code of chivalry. Christianity teaches a low regard for earthly pomp, power and prowess, as Nietzsche correctly perceived. Meanwhile, the ethos of the German warrior gives all such things their due regard. It does not hold them in the highest estimation, and distains them as trash when they are stained by dishonor, but it teaches respect for crowns, and for swords, and for mighty blows.

When the code of chivalry is in balance, Christianity has tempered the warrior and the warrior ethos has tempered the Christian. By directing the warrior’s attention to ultimate matters, Christianity saved him from savagery. By directing the Christian’s attention to immediate matters, the warrior ethos saved him from suicide. The one whispered, “gentle as doves,” the other, “wise as serpents.”

When the code falls out of balance, the West descends into savagery or suicide.

* * * * *

Everyone knows, solicitude for the female sex was at the heart of the code of chivalry. The honor of defending a lady derived from barbarian tradition (see Tacitus), veneration of the Virgin, and the notion that the Church is the “bride of Christ.” Thus, to a chivalrous knight, nothing could be finer than to rescue a damsel in distress while under the admiring eyes (even if only in imagination) of his one and special “lady love.”

As Sir Walter Scott put it:

“The defense of the female sex in general, the regard due to their honor, the subservience paid to their commands, the reverent awe and courtesy, which, in their presence, forbear all unseemly words and actions, were so blended with the institution of chivalry, as to form its very essence” (3).

It is this sweet sentiment that has curdled into what I called, in my previous post, the estrogenic cloud. I would be very long in telling just how this curdling happened, but a short answer would be that the tension in the code of chivalry led to a tear, and when the West was torn, the children of Clovis were no more.

 

(1) See Léon Gautier, Chivalry (1891)

(2) Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790)

(3) Sir Walter Scott, Essays on Chivalry, Romance and Drama (1834)

 

11 thoughts on “Children of Clovis, Where Art Thou?

  1. Pingback: Children of Clovis, Where Art Thou? | Aus-Alt-Right

  2. Scott gives us one of the great parables of chivalry, when, in Ivanhoe, his eponymous hero and Saxon knight defends Rebecca of York.

  3. The children of Clovis were no more. Because of that, the code of chivalry was no more and, in its place, we now have the estrogenic cloud.

    • The children of Clovis fought at the Battle of Tours under Charles Martel. Je m’appelle Bertonneau; je suis descendant de Clovis et Charles. Et vous?

      Vive la Chevalerie!

  4. From the start, the modern State suppressed the warrior and priestly castes- the two main barriers to its power- in the act of establishing itself, and then embarked on a project of destroying all vestiges of the ethos of both castes. This project is still underway, and won’t be abandoned until the day the whole modern edifice collapses. It is the truth behind what Nietzsche accurately characterized as “slave morality”, but whose etiology he misdiagnosed as badly as he possibly could have.

  5. Pingback: Children of Clovis, Where Art Thou? | Reaction Times

  6. Orthospherically-minded folk need in some way to practice the discipline of what Charles Williams called the Way of the Affirmation of Images.

    Arthur Machen gave a concise clue to this in his take on the prayer that goes thus: “O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”

    Typically this prayer is taken to be a prayer that we should, by God’s grace, pass by temporal things without losing our focus on eternal things; that we shouldn’t pay them more than due attention. And of course this is a true interpretation of the prayer.

    But Machen also understood it to say: May we, by grace, discern in the “images” of time and space, the reality of things eternal. Here his thought connected with that of the Victorian poet Coventry Patmore, a great celebrator of married love, and that of Wordsworth vis-à-vis nature, etc. It goes back to Dante and beyond him to the Fathers who expounded the Song of Songs, etc.

    This Affirmation of Images links naturally to a wholesome chivalry. If something or someone is an image of eternity, the sensory an image of the supersensible, then we ought to regard such things with courtesy and seek to protect it, in some way, from what would defile it, deny it as a window or portal to the eternal.

    Of course Williams balanced the Affirmative Way with the Way of Rejection of Images. “Eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.” For example, the Angel in the House is a woman who has ordinary creaturely needs and failings. But she “participates” the eternal even so. She shall retain this truth and, should she attain heaven, be fully transfigured by it; or she shall be damned and then at last be nothing but whatever the damned are, where there is nothing then to love or pity.

    Dale Nelson

    • Nicely put. It’s hard to stay on the knife edge and not fall into thinking, either that the visible world is an illusion, or that the visible world signifies nothing but itself.

      • The perfect exemplar of modern habits is the “plastinator” whose museum exhibitions display corpses having sex, etc. to crowds of oglers.

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