Imatges de pÓgina

upon any individual as a means to anything incompatible with his own inner life. Christianity treated woman as the spiritual equal of man; indeed Christianity seized upon the abstract essence of the soul of man and was from the first suspicious of the sexual life as endangering the spiritual reality of the individual. The doctrine of the virgin birth of Jesus tended to banish the sexual from the moral life. Moreover, the idea that the end of the world was near persisted even into the Middle Ages.

But it is difficult to condemn sex and to idealize motherhood; and this was what the Church did. Of course the child of the Virgin was a divine child; nevertheless, the Virgin was a mother, so that with all its inconsistency the Church did idealize motherhood. The idea of a divine mother was never lost; and it is evident that the notion of the spirituality of asceticism and the ideal of the divinity of motherhood cannot remain forever apart! There were, therefore, elements in the Christian tradition that tended powerfully toward the spiritualizing of sex and motherhood. But there was another source of influence which added a distinct momentum in the same direction; we refer, of course, to the Germanic peoples.

In the agricultural life of the Germanic tribes women tilled the soil and domesticated the animals; men were left free for the chase and for war. The bond between father and child was not enduring; the relation between mother and child, on the other hand, was the central bond of society. The German woman was physically strong and her virtues have been set in strong contrast to the Roman vices by the historian Tacitus.


In early Germanic law woman's worth was equal to and in some cases three times that of man. The Visigoths were the only Germanic people who valued woman less than man, and even they gave her a higher value (wergeld) between the ages of fifteen and twenty. The unit of society was not the individual, but the family, consisting of those related by blood. Fines were paid not to the individual but to the family, and wrongs were avenged not by the individual but by the family. The family and tribe controlled the rights of the individual. Tacitus and Cæsar tell us that Germanic territory was not privately owned; among the Franks the land was not privately owned until the sixth century. 2 Roman law as modified by Stoicism was universal and treated individuals as having equal rights; amongst the Germans the individual secured his rights only through his membership in his family and clan.

This German ideal of woman and of the family was in marked contrast to the Roman and monastic ideals. The monastic ideal separated countless devotees from home, wife, and children. Only theoretically however were the clergy celibate, concubinage being the actual practice. The moral ideal of monasticism was at war with itself. On the one hand, woman was idealized; on the other hand, she was regarded as the very source of evil. With the development of monastic Christianity, woman lost the position of honor she had held in the older social life. The Romanic nations

'Rullkoeter, Legal Protection of Woman among the Ancient Germans. University of Chicago Press, p. 44.

Rullkoetter, Ibid., p. 90.

exemplify today the Roman, in contrast to the Germanic, view of woman. To the Germanic, rather than the Romanic, source we owe the idea of the family as the basic institution of society. This does not mean that asceticism and monasticism have not contributed elements to the Christian ideal of the family. Quite the contrary; the abstract spirituality of asceticism and the German family consciousness will yet unite to give a new type of family, just as Roman law and the Christian spirit have already partially united to suggest a new ideal of the state. The idealization of woman was the mainspring of chivalry. Unlike the Olympian games, the mediæval tournaments were attended by ladies who assisted wounded knights and gave the prize for bravery and skill. This idealization of love in chivalry was romantic and sentimental and tended to disintegrate the family; but as an addition to the Greek and Roman conception of love it was a unique ethical advance. Just as chivalry transformed the pagan ideal of military courage, by fusing it with the Christian ideal of service, so it idealized sexual passion by making it the medium of a religious devotion to womanhood. The animalism of sexual passion was transformed by the subtle alchemy of Christian idealism into the sentiment of love.

What chivalry did in the evolution of the sentiment of love is clearly seen in Chaucer's tale of the Knight. Seeing how Arcite and Palamon face death for his daughter's hand, Theseus exclaims: "Ah, the God of Love, Benedicite, how mighty and great a lord he is! Against his might no impediments avail; . . . of every heart he can make what he will. Lo here are this

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Palamon and this Arcite, that were all quit of my prison and might have loved royally in Thebes, and know that I am their mortal foe and that their death lies in my power; yet love has brought them hither both to die! . . . And yet they that serve love deem themselves full wise, for aught that may betide!" (The Knight's Tale, Modern Reader's Chaucer). Palamon in his prayer to Venus asks, if she denies him the love of his lady, that Arcite may spear him through the heart; for he would die in love's service! This is paganism, but it is a christianized paganism. Such sighing and lamenting, such warm feeling and tender devotion, has behind it a thousand years of Christian idealism. These knights are neither fierce barbarians nor Christians at heart; they are a mixture of both. The love of a tender lady is won in a lusty encounter with spears! Chaucer says that his knight had slain his foe in many mortal battles, yet he was a courteous, gentle knight. As Chaucer's prioress combines courtly manners and stately bearing with true Christian feeling; as his monk combines piety with a genuinely worldly love of the chase; so his knight combines honor, courtesy, and liberality in war with a deathless devotion to the sentiment of love. And this dying for love, this lifelong devotion to sentiment, did not exist in the ancient world; it was a new development in human experience. When Chaucer's knight at the temple of Venus offers his life in her service, he symbolizes the birth of a new experience in the life of the race. This new sentiment of love was wholly romantic; it was not made the basis of courtship; it was parasitic and often tended toward disor

ganization. But the important thing is that such a sentiment came into existence; for it is impossible for such a sentiment to exist permanently without being transferred to wives and mothers as well as to courtly ladies.

Architecture shows us this same fusion of pagan and Christian ideals. When Christianity left the catacombs its first churches were Roman basilicas, roofed and enclosed. Then followed the Romanesque type in which the roof of the antique basilica was made of stone instead of wood; there was a spherical vault, and high perpendicular walls, with a ground plan in the shape of a cross. Finally there came the Gothic type with its flying buttresses and lofty spires. In the mysticism and the sense of the beyond of the Gothic type architecture expressed in stone the medieval conception of the Christian ideal.

The development of language shows the same synthesis of the pagan and the Christian spirit; there is the same interpenetration of classic and Christian ideals. The attitude of the Christian toward classical forms and types varies all the way from the joyous synthesis. of an Origen or an Abelard to the bitter antagonism of a Tertullian. Jerome's dream, in which Christ appears to him with the rebuke: "Thou art a Ciceronian! Where thy heart is, there is thy treasure!" shows the new Christian consciousness pathetically struggling to free itself from the older pagan classical tongue! How eloquent is the inconsistency of Tertullian, exclaiming that Plato and Christ have nothing in common, and yet insisting on the necessity of the study of classical literature! The Greek language for ex

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