Imágenes de página

the sound of trumpets: a little further the chanting of psalms and canticles. From the Tiber to the sea, from the Rhine to beyond the Pyrenees, nothing could be seen but troops of men, invested with the cross, swearing to exterminate the Saracens, and singing their conquests by anticipation. On all sides was heard the war cry of the crusaders, God wills it! Dieu le veut, Dicu le veut.

“ Fathers led their children themselves, and made them swear to conquer or die for Jesus Christ. Warriors tore themselves from the arms of their wives and families, and promised to come back victorious. Women and old men, whose weakness was left without support, accompanied their sons or their husbands to the nearest town, and, unable to separate themselves from the objects of their affection, took the determination of following them to Jerusalem. Those who remained in Europe envied the fate of the crusaders, and could not restrain their tears; those who went to seek death in Asia were full of hope and gladness.* Whole families, whole villages, took their des parture for Palestine, and carried away in their march all they met with on their

passage. They marched without foresight, and refused to believe that he who nourishes the young ones of birds would suffer his pilgrims, sanctified by the cross, to perish from misery. Their ignorance added to their illusion, and lent to all objects they contemplated an air of enchantment; they continually fancied that they were drawing near the end of their pilgrimage. The children of the villagers, whenever a town or a castle presented itself to their eyes, asked if that were Jerusalem. Many great lords, who had passed their lives in their rural dungeons, were as much uninformed as their vassals; they caused their fishing and hunting tackle to be carried with them, and rode with their spaniel before them, and a hawk on their fists. They hoped to reach Jerusalem with abundance of merriment, and to display to all Asia the coarse luxury of their castles.

“ Amidst the universal delirium, not a single sage was heard to utter the voice of reason; nobody was then astonished at what now causes our surprise. These scenes, so strange, in which all the world acted a part, were to be a spectacle only for posterity.” P. 113-115. .

“Quel prodige, en effet,” observes our author in another place,“ doit plus étonner le philosophe, que le spectacle de l'Europe, qui s'agite, pour ainsi dire, jusque dans ses fondemens, se deplace tout entière, et se lève comme un seul homme pour marcher en armes vers l'Orient?"

All the narratives of the first crusade are exceedingly confused and perplexed whenever they attempt to describe the several distinct corps of which the great expedition was composed, and the

[ocr errors]

Tristitia remanentibus, gaudium autem euntibus erat. (Fulc. Carnot.)

Videres mirum quiddam ; ipsos infantulos, dum obviam habent quælibet castella vel urbes, si hæc esset Jerusalem, ad quam tenderent, rogitare. (Guibert Abb.)


precise routes which they respectively pursued in their progress to Constantinople, which appears to have been the place of ultimate rendezvous to all

. M. Michaud adverts to this deficiency in former historians; but he has by no means redeemed the pledge, which he seems to give, of supplying, or even of endeavouring to supply it. He enables us to follow with tolerable accuracy the . course of the first great tumultuary army, led by Peter the Hermit and Gaultier sans avoir, the last remnants of which were dispersed and annihilated in the plains of Bithynia ; and the hordes subsequently collected under the priest Godeschall and Count Emicon,* are sufficiently distinguished from all the rest, and from each other by their different distinctions and catastrophes. But when he comes to give an account of the more regular expeditions commanded by Godfrey of Bouillon, Raymond of Thoulouse, and Bohemond, we expect to meet with a method and order in the narration which we are far from finding, and are condemned at last to alight in the midst of the imperial city, and meet each several corps already assembled there before us, without any distinct knowledge of their respective progress, or of the manner in which they overcame the obstacles and difficulties which we know to have lain in their way. The want of perspicuity which we remark in this part of the narrative, and on which we should have forborne to observe, were it not that the author appears to claim some merit for having, remedied the defects of former historians, is amply supplied by the dramatic effect which he has given to his subject by displaying the various characters of his principal personages at their first introduction on the historical theatre. These several pictures are strikingly. coloured, without any appearance of labour in the detail, and with the strictest fidelity to the features of the original portraits. It is thus, for instance, that he has delineated the hero of the Gerusalemme liberata.


* We cannot pass over the mention of this last-named army of crusaders, without noticing what has struck us as a remarkable piece of disingenuity in Voltaire, whose antipathy to the crusaders seems to partake not a little of his general spirit of philosophical bigotry. He dwells with manifest pleasure on the horrible persecution of the Jews which these deluded fanatics substituted in the room of their intended expedition to Jerusalem, “ astonished," as our author says, “that people should go to make war upon the Mussulmans, who only kept possession of the sepulchre of Christ, while they left in peace a people which had crucified its God;" but he takes care not to inform us that, while these enormities were committed by a disorderly multitude of the lowest classes of society, headed by a few individuals of notoriously profligate and abandoned principles, there were found in that unenlightened age, christian prelates (the Bishops of Worms, Treves, Spire, and Mayence) sufficiently imbued with the true spirit of their religion to open their churches and palaces for the protection of the miserable victims of persecution. Such examples as these, though thinly scattered through the annals of superstition and ignorance, are too precious to be overTooked or neglected, except by those who wish to find, in the history of christianity, only the details of its abuses, and the crimes and errors of its weak and fallible professors.

[ocr errors][merged small]

“ The cotemporary history, which has transmitted to us his portrait, informs us, that he united the bravery and the virtues of a hero to the simplicity of a Cænobite.* His address in battle, an extraordinary strength of body, made him be admired in the midst of camps. Pru-dence and moderation tempered his valour; his devotion was sincere and disinterested, and never in the holy war did he exercise his courage and his vengeance except against the enemies of Christ. Faithful to his word, liberal, affable, full of humanity, princes and knights looked up to bim as their model, and his soldiers as their father; all

the warriors wished to fight under his banners. If he was not the chief of the crusades, as some historians have pretended, he at least obtained the command which virtue confers. In the midst of their divisions and quarrels, the princes and barons often implored the wisdom of Godfrey, and in the dangers of war, his counsels were regarded as absolute orders." P. 144.

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

Others of the principal crusaders are characterized no less successfully.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

“ The people of Vermandois marched with the subjects of Philip, under the colours of their Count Hugh, a young prince whose brilliant qualities had been the admiration of the court. Proud of his rank as brother to the king of France, and first of the French knights, he made himself be remarked by his bravery and the ostentation of his manners. He displayed an invincible courage in the field, but suffered himself to be too easily overcome by flattery, and wanted perseverance under reverses. Although poorly appanaged by fortune, no hero of the crusade gave evidence of intentions more noble and more disinterested. If he had not merited by his exploits the surname of Great, which history has given him, he might have obtained it for having listened only to his zeal, and sought glory alone in a war which offered kingdoms to the ambition of princes and even of simple knights.

“ Robert, surnamed Curthose, Duke of Normandy, who conducted his vassals to the holy war, was the eldest son of William the Conqueror. He united to noble qualities defects the most reprehensible in a prince. In his youth he was unable to bear the paternal authority; but more led away by the love of independence than by a real ambition, after having made war on his father in order to reign in Normandy, he neglected the opportunity of ascending the throne on the death of William. His lightness, his inconstancy, and weakness, made him the object of contempt to his subjects and to his enemies. His profuseness ruined his

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

* An anonymous historian of the crusades expresses himself in these terms, speaking of Godfrey: Tantum lenis ut magis in monachum quam militem figuraret Guibert says, moreover, cujus mirą humilitas et monachis jam imitanda modestia, (See Bopgars, p. 548.)



people and reduced himself, if Ordericus Vitalis is to be believed, to a state bordering on indigence. The historian I have just cited reports a circumstance which it will be difficult to believe, but which is equally descriptive of the prince and of the age he lived in;—He sometimes lay a-bed for want of clothes, and often missed the mass because his nakedness prevented him from his assisting at it.' It was not the ambition of conquering kingdoms in Asia, but his inconstant and adventurous humour that made him take the cross. The Normans, a restless and warlike people, who had rendered themselves remarkable among all the nations of Europe by the devotion of pilgrimages, ran together in crowds under his banners. As Duke Robert had not wherewithal to defray the expenses of his armament, he pledged Normandy in the hands of his brother, William Rufus. William, whom the age he lived in accused of impiety, and who derided the knight errantry of the crusaders, seized with joy upon the opportunity of governing a province which he hoped one day to reunite to his kingdom. He raised contributions on the clergy which he did not love, and melted down the church silver to pay the sum of 10,000 marks to Robert, who took his departure for the Holy Land, followed by almost all the nobility of his dukedom.” P. 153.

The characters of Robert, Earl of Flanders, surnamed “The Lance and Sword of the Christians," and of the rich Count of Blois and Chartres, the number of whose castles was compared to that of the days in the year, but who was more nobly distinguished in this rude age by the protection which he afforded, and the inclination which he evinced, to learning and learned individuals, we are unable to dwell

for the
present, and


to a more eminent and im. portant personage.

First, of the princes of Italy, whose zeal was awakened by the passage of the French crusades through their dominions,


“ Bohemond, Prince of Tarentum, determined to partake in their fortunes and in the glory of this holy enterprise.”

“ He had neither less courage nor less genius than his father, Robert Guiscard. Cotemporary authors, who never fail to speak of the physical qualities of their heroes, inform us, that he surpassed in stature the tallest of his followers; his eyes were blue, and appeared full of anger and arrogance. His presence, says Anna Comnena, struck the sight as much as his reputation astonished the mind. When he spoke, one would have said that he had studied the art of eloquence; when he showed himself under arms, it might have been believed that he had passed his life in learning the management of the lance and sword. Educated in the school of the Norman heroes, he concealed the combinations of policy under the exterior of violence; and, although by nature fierce and haughty, he knew how to dissemble an injury when vengeance was unprofitable to him.

« Whatever could lead to the accomplishment of his designs appeared to him to be just. He had learned of his father to regard as his enemies all those whose estates or riches were the objects of his covetousness: he was restrained, neither by the fear of God, nor by the opinion of men, nor by his own oaths. He had followed Robert in the war against the Emperor Alexis, and had distinguished himself in the battles of Durazzo and Larissa : but, disinherited by will, nothing remained for him at the death of his father but the remembrance of his exploits, and the example of his family. He had declared war against his brother Roger, and had just compelled him to cede the principality of Tarentum, when they began to speak in Europe about the expedition to the east. The deliverance of the sepulchre of Jesus Christ was not that which inflamed his zeal, or decided him to take the cross. As he had vowed an eternal hatred against the Grecian emperors, he smiled at the idea of traversing their empire at the head of an army; and, full of confidence in his fortune, he hoped to erect for himself a kingdom before he should arrive at Jerusalem." P. 159.

This artful and ambitious character is poetically contrasted with that of the most celebrated of the knights who ranged themselves under his standard, and who furnished the model for one of the most interesting personages in the immortal poem of Tasso.

All these warriors were already renowned for their exploits; but none among them deserved to fix the attention of posterity so much as the brave Tancred.* Although he belonged to a family in which ambition was hereditary, he had no other passion than that of combating the infidels. Piety, glory, and perhaps his friendship for Bohemond, were alone able to conduct him into Asia. His cotemporaries admired his romantic loftiness, and his uncultivated pride. He never yielded except to the empire of virtue and sometimes to that of beauty. A stranger to all considerations and all the interests of policy, he knew no law but those of religion and honour, and was always ready to lay down his life for their sake. The annals of chivalry offer no model more accomplished; poetry and history have joined in his celebration, and have bestowed on him the same praises." P. 162.

[ocr errors]

We should add to these the pictures of the warlike Bishop of Puy, (Adhemar de Monteil,) and of Raymond, Count of Toulouse, the Nestor of Tasso. But, for want of room, we pass them over, and hasten to that of the Emperor Alexis Comnenus, which our author appears to have estimated with more impartiality than either the zeal of the cotemporary Latin bistorians, or the equally unjust though less pardonable prejudices of modern philosophers, would admit.

* Raoul de Caen has written, half in prose, half in verse, the Acts of Tancred. (See the Thesaurus Novus Anecdotorum of Martenne, Tom. 1. or the Collection of Muratori, Tom. III.)

VOL. III. New Series. 57

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »