One of Vox Day’s readers argued:
As Dalrock has explained, all that cultural bomb-throwers have to do is to borrow from the Satanic inversion that is chivalry, that puts women in the place of Jesus.
Vox objected, responding:
That’s not what chivalry is. Dalrock is confusing the literary tradition with the actual military ethos. This is basic Wikipedia-level knowledge.
[Vox quotes Léon Gautier’s Ten Commandments of Chivalry]
There is nothing inversive about it. Ironically, Dalrock’s description of chivalry is the inversion of the concept.
The problem with Vox’s dismissal is that it isn’t me that is confusing literary tradition with history, it is the culture at large, and (as I will show in this post), Vox himself. It was this very confusion that Infogalactic tells us Gautier sought to stamp out when he wrote his ten commandments in 1883:
Léon Gautier, in his La Chevalerie, published for the first time in 1883, bemoaned the “invasion of Breton romans” which replaced the pure military ethos of the crusades with Arthurian fiction and courtly adventures. Gautier tries to give a “popular summary” of what he proposes was the “ancient code of chivalry” of the 11th and 12th centuries derived from the military ethos of the crusades which would evolve into the late medieval notion of chivalry. Gautier’s Ten Commandments of chivalry are…
The problem, as Infogalactic points out (and as I pointed out here), is the very strong tendency for modern readers to mistake fictional Arthurian tales for historical accounts. Yet we can’t blame this entirely on modern readers. This confusion was built in to the Arthurian literature itself. As CS Lewis explained in Allegory of Love (regarding Chrétien de Troyes and his Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart from circa 1177):
Chrétien de Troyes is its greatest representative. His Lancelot is the flower of the courtly tradition in France, as it was in its early maturity…
He was among the first to welcome the Arthurian stories; and to him, as much as to any single writer, we owe the colouring with which the ‘matter of Britain’ has come down to us. He was among the first (in northern France) to choose love as the central theme of a serious poem…
…combining this element with the Arthurian legend, he stamped upon men’s minds indelibly the conception of Arthur’s court as the home par excellence of true and noble love. What was theory for his own age had been practice for the knights of Britain. For it is interesting to notice that he places his ideal in the past. For him already ‘the age of chivalry is dead’.40 It always was: let no one think the worse of it on that account.
This confusion of Arthurian tales of what was much later termed courtly love with actual history is endemic, and has been from all but the very beginning. Wikipedia’s article on the term chivalry likewise explains:
Fans of chivalry have assumed since the late medieval period that there was a time in the past when chivalry was a living institution, when men acted chivalrically, when chivalry was alive and not dead, the imitation of which period would much improve the present. This is the mad mission of Don Quixote, protagonist of the most chivalric novel of all time and inspirer of the chivalry of Sir Walter Scott and of the U.S. South::205–223 to restore the age of chivalry, and thereby improve his country.:148 It is a version of the myth of the Golden Age.
With the birth of modern historical and literary research, scholars have found that however far back in time “The Age of Chivalry” is searched for, it is always further in the past, even back to the Roman Empire…
Sismondi alludes to the fictitious Arthurian romances about the imaginary Court of King Arthur, which were usually taken as factual presentations of a historical age of chivalry. He continues:
The more closely we look into history, the more clearly shall we perceive that the system of chivalry is an invention almost entirely poetical. It is impossible to distinguish the countries in which it is said to have prevailed. It is always represented as distant from us both in time and place, and whilst the contemporary historians give us a clear, detailed, and complete account of the vices of the court and the great, of the ferocity or corruption of the nobles, and of the servility of the people, we are astonished to find the poets, after a long lapse of time, adorning the very same ages with the most splendid fictions of grace, virtue, and loyalty…
And as I noted above, Vox himself encourages the false belief that Arthurian tales are descriptions of what chivalry was like in the middle ages. In his post 800 percent and rising, Vox was very proud to announce that he was adding back teaching on romantic chivalry to Castalia House’ 2020 edition of Junior Classics, as this would teach modern children about Christian history and values:
To explain why it is important, consider the following preface from Volume 4 of the 1918 edition, “Heroes and Heroines of Chivalry”, which was excised from the 1958 edition for reasons that will be obvious to anyone who is conversant with the concept of social justice convergence and the long-running cultural war against Christianity and the West. And it probably will not surprise you to know that all three of the stories referenced in this preface were also removed from the 1958 edition.
The preface and all four stories will, of course, appear in the 2020 edition.
The preface (and tales) Vox is so proud to have returned to the Junior Classics does exactly what Vox is accusing me of doing. It confuses pure fiction with historical fact. Even worse, it encourages young children to adopt this very confusion:
The word chivalry is taken from the French cheval, a horse. A knight was a young man, the son of a good family, who was allowed to wear arms. In the story “How the Child of the Sea was made Knight,” we are told how a boy of twelve became a page to the queen, and in the opening pages of the story “The Adventures of Sir Gareth,” we get a glimpse of a young man growing up at the court of King Arthur. It was not an easy life, that of a boy who wished to become a knight, but it made a man of him…
The preface goes on to explain that an essential part of making a man of a boy was to teach him to follow the ethic of courtly love:
His service to the ladies had now reached the point where he picked out a lady to serve loyally. His endeavor was to please her in all things, in order that he might be known as her knight, and wear her glove or scarf as a badge or favor when he entered the lists of a joust or tournament.
Finally the preface explains that the Arthurian version of chivialry, which combines both martial virtues and servility to women, is historical and is what the word chivalry means:
The same qualities that made a manful fighter then, make one now: to speak the truth, to perform a promise to the utmost, to reverence all women, to be constant in love, to despise luxury, to be simple and modest and gentle in heart, to help the weak and take no unfair advantage of an inferior. This was the ideal of the age, and chivalry is the word that expresses that ideal.
What is going on here is a classic game of Motte and Bailey. When Vox wants to sell courtly love as Christian, he points to Arthurian tales that teach chivalry, what it used to be like to become a man. This is nonsense, not only because Arthurian tales aren’t history (not even close), but also because the values of Arthurian tales aren’t remotely Christian. They are, in fact, a parody of Christianity, and were from the beginning. Courtly love was a devious joke decadent medieval nobles used to mock Christianity. As the 1918 preface to Junior Classics demonstrates, long ago Christians forgot that this was a mockery of Christianity and accepted it as not only Christian but history. The courtly love version of chivalry is the bailey that Vox is selling not just to his readers, but to their unsuspecting children. Yet when my assertion of the evil of courtly love is mentioned by one of his readers, Vox retreats to the motte, claiming that everyone knows the Arthurian/fictional/courtly love version of chivalry isn’t really chivalry at all! In the process, Vox accuses me of falling for the same misdirection that he is so proud to include his his revival of Junior Classics.
Vox needs to choose either the motte or the bailey when it comes to chivalry. Either we need to teach modern children Arthurian tales of courtly love in order to restore Christian culture and values, or we need to annihilate this abomination and replace it with the Ten Commandments of Chivalry Léon Gautier wrote in 1883 in a failed attempt to reframe chivalry to Christian values (away from the dominant fictional/Arthurian view of the term). If he wishes to do the latter, he will quite literally need to stop the presses.
H/T Sir Hamster