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A. Stewart (Alexander Stewart) Walsh.

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will still revel amid the ideals of painters, and some will be gladdened
still more by truth’s complete presentment which words alone can make.




CHAPTER II.

THE PILGRIM, CRUSADER AND VIRGIN.

“There is a fire—
And motion of the soul which will not dwell,
In its own narrow being, but aspire
Beyond the fitting medium of desire;
And but once kindled, quenchless ever more,
Preys upon high adventure, nor can tire
Of aught but rest.”—“_Childe Harold._”


There is something very fascinating about the contemplation of life as a
continuous pilgrimage, and the fascination grows on one as the conviction
of the truth of the conception is deepened by study of it. The course of
our race has been a series of processions from continent to continent,
from age to age, from barbarism to refinement, from darkness toward
light. Whether measuring the little arcs of individuals from birth to
dust, or following along the mighty marches of our universe with all its
grouping hosts of whirling constellations, we have before us ever this
constant truth; man moves willingly or unwillingly onward, as a pilgrim
amid pilgrims. “Move on” is the constant mandate and necessity of being.
Man’s course is mapped; onward from the swaddling clothes to the shroud,
from life to dust; then onward again; while all the mighty planet fleets
of which the earth-ship is but one, move along their courses, over
trackless oceans, toward destinations, all unknown, yet concededly in a
grand as well as in an inexorable pilgrimage. Partly because the motions
of his earth-ship makes him restless, partly because he is a being that
hopes and so comes to try to find by distant quests hope’s fruitions, and
more largely because he is of a religious nature, which impels him to
seek things beyond himself, the man becomes a pilgrim. He that is content
as and where he is, always, is regarded as a fool playing with the toys
of a child, by wise men; by religionists, lack of holy restlessness is
ever adjudged to be a sign of depravity. Hence almost all religions,
whether false or true, have given birth to the pilgrim spirit. The zeal
to express and to utilize this spirit has been often pitiful to behold.
Multitudes, failing to grasp the fact that life itself is a pilgrimage,
have invented other pilgrimages and gone aside to useless, needless
miseries. But all the time they attested human nature seeking something
beyond itself, better than its present. So the tribes that lived in the
lowlands nourished traditions of descent from gods or ancestors who abode
on the mountains, and they inaugurated pilgrimages to seek inspiration
or a golden age “on high places, far away.” The chosen people of God
thus constantly were allured from the worship of the Everywhere and One
Jehovah by the enthusiasm of the heathen devotees who flocked to the
mountain fanes. Turn which way one will in the night of the ages and
the spectacle of the pilgrim is before him. Ancient Hinduism, followed
by that of to-day, witnessed annually, pilgrims counted by hundreds of
thousands to the temple of murderous Juggernaut, the Ganga Sagor, or isle
of Sacred Ganges. The Buddhists journey to Adam’s Peak in Ceylon, and
the Lamaists of Thibet travel adoringly to their Lha-Isa; the Japanese
have their pilgrim shrines amid perilous approaches at Istje, while the
Chinese, who claim to be sons of the mountains, clamber with naked knees
the rugged sides of Kicou-hou-chan. The pilgrimages of the Jews occupy
many chapters of Holy Writ, for all their ancient worthies “_not having
received the promises, but seeing them afar off ... confessed that they
were pilgrims and strangers_.” Christ confronted the pilgrim spirit
perverted in the person of the woman of Samaria, at the eastern foot of
Gerezim. She and her people rested their hopes in pilgrimages to their
supposed to be sacred places, but the Saviour declared to her by Jacob’s
well, truths, both grand and revolutionary, in these words: “The hour ...
now is when the true worshiper shall worship the Father in spirit ... not
in this mountain nor in Jerusalem.” “Go call thy husband and come hither.
Whosoever drinketh the water I shall give shall never thirst.” There were
volumes in the golden sentences and they plainly said no need to travel
far to find the Everywhere God Who ever comes where men are to satisfy
their every thirst. “Go call thy husband.” Go to thy home and find the
water of life through doing God’s will; it is better to be a missionary
than a pilgrim unless the pilgrim be also missioner. But the truths of
that hour have found tardy acceptance among many. The children of Jacob
are pilgrims throughout the earth, and the disciples of Christ, since
His departure, have gone pilgriming often, as did their fathers before
them. Constantine, the Roman emperor, and his mother, Helena, by example
and precept, urged Christendom to re-embark in such pious journeys, and
at the end of the first thousand years of its existence, Christianity
had hosts of disciples actuated by the same old passion that sent
religionists everywhere to seek shrines, fanes and blessings. Then the
belief began to be held everywhere among Christians that the millennial
period was at hand. Multitudes abandoned friends, sold or gave away their
possessions, and hastened toward the Holy Land, where they believed
Jesus Christ was to appear to judge the world. Here two pilgrim tides,
utterly opposed to each other, met; the Christian and the Mohammedan.
The followers of the False Prophet, like other men, were imbued with
the pilgrim spirit. Some of these thought perfection could be attained
only within the precincts of Babylon or Bagdad, and others sincerely
believed that they could find peculiar nearness to heaven about the
stone-walled Kaaba of Mecca. It was held to be not only a privilege but
a duty, incumbent upon all, to take these religious journeys; hence men
and women, young and old, undertook them. Even the decrepit were under
the obligation, and they must either undertake the work, though failure
by death were certain, or hire a proxy to go in their behalf. So was
rolled up stupendously the numbers of pilgrim graves which have marked
this earth of ours. The Christian pilgrims for a time thronged toward
Palestine, first as a small stream, then as a torrent. Europe at large
was aroused, and all impulses converged toward the Holy Sepulcher. The
soldiers of the Cross soon added swords to their equipments; the flashing
of spears outshone the altar lights, and almost before they realized it
the priests and pious pilgrims were transformed to mailed knights. There
was a root to the impulse, and that the universally felt need of ideals,
patterns, personages of heroic mold in all goodness, to show men how to
live. The pilgrims turned their eyes to the worthies of the past, and
soon came to believe that they could best imbibe their spirit amid their
tombs and former abodes. Like most religionists they grew to believe God
their especial friend, and they therefore soon came to feel that, against
all odds, He would help them to victory. Then they easily grew to believe
that death in their crusades would merit the martyr’s crown. Their
courage was unbounded, for many went out with a passion to die in the
cause they had embraced. The following crusades were marked by conflicts
between Moslem and Christian, filled with fanatical and merciless fury,
though both the opposing hosts claimed to be doing all they did in God’s
name and under his especial direction. “_Deus vult_,” “God wills it,”
was the war-cry of a mighty army, each of which bore on his banner and
on his breast the sign of the Cross, the emblem eternally exalted by the
Prince of Peace, who willingly died that others might live; but these
soldiers were bent on slaying those they could not convert. They were in
a transitional state, passing from being pilgrims to being missionaries,
but the course was a bloody one. They promoted their self-complacency by
persuading themselves that it was a heaven-offending wrong to continue
to suffer heretics to occupy the places made sacred by the Saviour when
in the world. Then multitudes of Christian priests taught that the pious
needed free course to visit the holy places of the East, that they
might upbuild their faith and their grasp of theological abstractions
by beholding objects associated with the tenets they had adopted. The
Moslems had no interest in these proceedings beyond a desire to thwart
them. The Christians, to be sure, had the moral disadvantage of being
invaders, but then censure of them is mitigated by the fact that Syria
was stolen property to the Turk. The latter held it by the stern title
deed of the sword. The reader of this summary will be chiefly advantaged
by remembering that this conflict was one of the mightiest efforts in
the direction of missionary work ever attempted by man, and that being
attempted by force it failed utterly. Now the Crusaders were believers
in Christ and devoted to Mary. These facts awaken questions as to how,
since the spirits of these twain are finally to conquer all hearts, their
champions were so defeated? The Crusaders desired to promote the glory of
the Man of men and the woman of women, but sought it by aims only weakly
worthy, and means often atrocious. It never matters to Christ’s kingdom
who possesses His grave if He only possesses all hearts. The Crusaders,
beginning with a warm sentiment of respect for the Virgin, suffered
their sentimentality to run mad, and mad sentiment is ripe for folly and
defilement. An opal, they say, will change its color when its wearer is
sick; so a man wearing a priceless virtue on the sleeve of his creed,
will find its luster bedimmed when evil sickens his heart. The Crusaders
had grand banners, mottoes, war-cries and ideals, but they did not know
how to honestly and truly apply them. Their efforts and results well
serve to emphasize the truth that moral advances are made with grander
forces than those of the sword; that in the end the heroes and heroines
of the world’s regeneration will appear potent and regnant solely in
the sweetness, truth and exaltation of personal character. Crusader and
Moslem, at heart, were each desirous of making the world better, but they
each, in fact for a time made it fearfully worse. Probably the followers
of the Cross and the followers of the Crescent would have been glad to
have bestowed all kindness each on the other, if only the one would have
accepted the creed of the other. But the humanity and charity of each
were as to the other eclipsed utterly by a zeal for theories. There was
need to both that there arise a harmonizing ideal. It would seem as if
Providence suffered these opposing pilgrims to peel each other until each
in sheer disgust was driven to seek some better way. An able historian
affirms that the Crusades did not “change the fate of a single dynasty,
nor the boundaries and relative strength of a nation”—but they did leave
a history, the contemplation of which affords rare thought-food. The
conflict ended in the utter route and flight of the Christians. The
tragedy ended at Acre, but there were left some things that took shape in
men’s thinking, and the world was made thereby better. The populations
and properties of Christian Europe had been squandered to a startling
degree in these religious wars, and it was fitting that there be some
return to compensate. The result of all others, that grew out of the
Crusades, and was indeed also a leading cause of their vigor, was the
rising of the spirit of chivalry. The dawn of chivalry first begat brave
fighting, but in time the chivalrous discovered a theater for their
activity amid the amenities of peace. Chivalry was a rebound from the
rugged, barbarous belief of the semi-civilized, whose trust was in brute
force and whose constant _dictum_ was, “Might makes right.” Men became
impressed with a spirit of tenderness, and, little by little the duty
and beauty of the strong’s helping the weak dawned upon humanity. To
be chivalrous, by the unwritten laws of custom, became the obligation
of every man who sought popular respect. Chivalry was in the creed of
the noble and brave, and men delighted to become the companions of lone
pilgrims, patrons of beggars, protectors of children and defenders of
women. Toward the gentler sex, the spirit of chivalry finely expressed
itself by not only defending helpless females amid physical perils, but
by according to womankind distinguished courtesy, refined politeness,
and all those proper respects that so appropriately garnish and ornament
the social intercourse of the sexes in properly cultivated societies.
Before the advent of this chivalric time, women had been deemed as
generally every way inferior to men; chiefly desirable as ministers to
the necessities or appetites of their lords; useful as mothers, but
worthy of very little respect, confidence or lasting admiration. The dawn
of this new and fine gallantry was a step toward woman’s disinthrallment.
Chivalry tried to express itself in the Crusades; defeated, its ardor
still burned, and Europe felt its beneficent glow long after the
conflict for Syrian sepulchers had ceased. And here it is of the utmost
importance that the reader forget not the key fact, that before the
advent of the attractive spirit of chivalry, men’s minds in Christian
communities were profoundly penetrated and wondrously incited by a deep
and new regard for the _Queenly woman Mary, the mother of Jesus_! She
had been almost rediscovered. By a common consent, Christian pulpits
had begun sounding her praises, as the ideal woman; a woman worthy of
the veneration and emulation of all. The various religious communities
vied with each other in doing her honor. The Cistercians declared her
purity by wearing white, the Servi wore black to commemorate her touching
sorrows, and other bodies elected as their distinguishing badges, various
garbs or signs solely to proclaim their allegiance to their ideal woman.
A popular moral coronation of Mary resulted. The Crusaders outran all
others in their adulation of, and committal to, the wondrous woman. They
were the first to call her “Our Lady.” She was THE Lady of the hearts
of all. These chivalrous soldiers to her spoke their pious vows, from
her besought holy favors, and in her name, with sacred oaths, committed
their all to effort to wrest all Palestine from the enemies of Mary’s
Son.[1] Now these millions of men were not mad, nor in pursuit of a
phantom. It was all very real to them. They desired to express a long
pent-up natural feeling, and they found an object all satisfactory in
Mary. The Crusaders returned finally and for good from battling with
Moslem; they returned thoroughly, disastrously defeated: but with their
love for Mary all aglow. When they first called her “Our Lady,” there
may have been an admixture of irreverence and dilettante in the thought
of many; they were purged of these in the hurricane of battle and in the
terrors of that inhospitable land of their pilgrimages. Amid trials,
far away from his home, often in severe want, frequently confronting
slavery and death, the Christian knight while adding “_Ave Marie_” to his
“_Patre Nostre_,” learned to think of the Madonna as his mother. Missing
the latter keenly, worshiping the other unfeignedly, woman took a high
throne in his esteem. Sword conquest began to seem to the war-wearied
soldier very insignificant as compared to a ministry of comfort, peace
and good will. The defeated Crusaders returned to scatter through all
Europe a new gospel of humanity. They exalted the Queen of David’s line
and forgot to recount the fortunes of war in the East in expounding the
dawning beauties of the woman that entranced them and the queenship this
ideal had gained over their minds. So they prepared multitudes of the
sterner sex for a lasting belief in the worthfulness of true womanhood
at its best. The Christian world was ripe for such a revival, when the
priests began to thunder “On to Jerusalem!” but men needed not so much
war as conversion; not so much relics and tombs as loving principles
exemplified. It is wonderful how conversion womanizes some men. That
is a triumph of the spiritual over the sensual, the beautiful over the
gross. It will make a man of brutal, selfish fiber, in time, as tender
as a mother toward her child and as self-denying as a maid toward her
lover. The Crusaders started out to rescue the tomb of the dead Saviour
from unbelievers and failed, but they returned to herald the renaissance
of Mary, the disenslaving of woman; to call the state, the home and
individuals to all the refinements which the exaltation of such an ideal
of necessity offered. Toward this advening the rising spirit of chivalry
was bending the finest hearts when the clarions of war, sounded from
altar and baptistry, summoned all to raise the red banner against the
Moslem. Right here it is worthy of notice that God’s providence presented
other, though allied, principles in the conflict against the Orientals.
Two pilgrim hosts, thinking to choose their own ways, were wisely led to
better goals than they knew. The Turk presented the throng of the harem
as his family; the Christian was committed to the union of only two in
holy wedlock. One party presented a banner with a Cross, forever the
emblem of self-sacrifice; the other the Crescent, emblem of youthfulness
increasing, a hint ever of the hope of endless lust, whether borne of the
master of a harem or by the heathen follower of the ancient moon-horned
Astarte. The last at Acre, by the Syrian border of the Mediterranean Sea,
the Saracen hugged victory and the Cross-bearers were utterly routed.
So reads human history, but in truth the defeat was only apparent and
local. The followers of the Crescent, holding the creed of lust and
making pleasure of sense their end came surely toward their destruction
when successes encouraged them in their courses; the followers of the
Cross, on the other hand, had within some germs of truth, life-giving in
themselves and too beautiful to be suffered to die from the earth. Trial
and defeat watered these germs and the knightly hosts returned to Europe
by thousands to proclaim finer doctrines than those by which the priest
had incited them to war. The returning soldiers were transformed from
pilgrims to missionaries, from being taught to teaching, from restorers
of Palestine’s graves to restorers of European society. Of the “Teutonic
Knights of Saint Mary,” a fine and representative order, an impartial
historian writes: “They defended Christianity against the barbarians of
Eastern Europe.” “After many bloody encounters introduced German manners,
language and morals.” Of the Knighthood, as a whole, says another, “the
institution that could breed such characters as these, obviously rendered
an enduring service to humanity. Its spirit lives on, offering examples
which the young still welcome in their joyous, dreamy days. The ideal
still remains, purified by time, freed from its frailties, and aids in
fashioning modern sentiment to the conception and admiration of the
Christian gentleman.”




CHAPTER III.

ARMAGEDDON; THE KEY AND SICKLE.

“From the moist regions of the western star,
The wandering hermits wake the storm of war;
Their limbs all iron, their souls all flame;
A countless host the Red Cross warriors came.”—REGINALD HEBER.


As a traveler climbs the mountain to see the sunrise, so he that would
overlook the past or present must needs clamber to some lofty point of
vision in a significant era or historic location. There are two plains in
Syria; one lying along the Mediterranean, the other jutting out from the
base of the former toward Jordan; the two together, in shape very like
a sickle, have witnessed events wonderfully instructive and determinate
to the student of the philosophy of time’s course. These two plains
are known respectively as Esdrælon and Acre. The sea and the mountains
give these plains their sickle shape, and the geographical outlines are
constantly suggestively before the mind as one remembers these plateaus
not only as the highways but the battle-fields of the ancient nations.
For while, as one says, “the face of nature smiles”—“no spot on earth
more fertile,” he also says “no field on earth was so fattened by the
blood of the slain.” There the Philistines, the Ptolemys, Antiochus, the
Maccabees, Herod, Baldwin, King of Jerusalem, Salah-ed-din, Cœur-de-Lion,
Melek-Seruf and Napoleon, each in turn, put their ambitions and their
beliefs to the stern arbitrament of swords. There the kingdom of the
House of David struggled for life; there the splendid dream of the
Crusaders ended as a nightmare.

As a jewel in the haft of the sickle, at the northerly end of the plain
by the sea, sits the city of Acre. This city compels the attention of
the preacher and student of history and gives theme to him who blends
symbol into song. Acre gave its name to its adjacent country round about,
and though both city and plain witnessed many a change of master in the
past, those changing masters, to gratify their whims or strengthen their
policies from time to time, giving the places various names. The Knights
of Saint John made it their elect city, honoring it as Saint Jean de
Acre, the martyr maid of France. From the city itself one may look out
over the sea-highway of nations; from the drear and lofty mountains of
its surrounding country one may look over many memorable places. Acre was
often called the “Key of Palestine” by the soldier strategists and by the
chroniclers of events. To their testimony is added that of the inspired
writers and prophets who made it their key and mountain of outlook
frequently.

These plains, dotted all about by sacred places, memorable for two great
victories; Barak over the Canaanites and Gideon over the Midianites; and
two great disasters, the death of Saul and the death of Josiah, became
to the Jews the symbol of the conflict of right and wrong. Prophetically,
and in the serene hope that righteousness at last would prevail, the
plain was called Armageddon, “the Mountain of the Gospel.” We hear the
rapt Zechariah thus descanting: “The Lord also shall save the glory of
the house of David and the house of David shall be as God.” “And it
shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the
nations that come against Jerusalem. And I will pour upon the house of
David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of
supplications; and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and
they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be
in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his first-born.”

The prophet looked forth to the Pentecostal day of salvation and the
assured victories of David’s great successor. Following this ancient
seer, John the beloved, in the Visions of the Apocalypse repeats, these
oracles. During the wars of the Crusaders, Acre was sometimes in their
possession and sometimes held by their Turkish foes. In the year 1191
Richard the Lion Heart wrested it from the infidel leader Salah-ed-din.
The Christians held it firmly until 1291, the time when the last wave
of the Crusader advance ebbed, in bloody defeat, from the shores of
the Holy Land. For two hundred years the believer of the West and the
Moslem grappled with each other in deadly conflict; war’s fortunes
often changing, but the awful price in human misery and human blood was
inexorably exacted at every stage of the conflict. Acre was the focus
toward which the eddying tides ever and anon moved; therefore it saw not
only the end but the worst of the Crusades.

Our story begins A. D. 1291 at Acre, the Key of Palestine, in Armageddon,
“the mountain of the Gospel.” The situation may be briefly depicted:
Acre was filled with a mixed and un-homogeneous population. There were
the ubiquitous Galilean traders, without politics; shrewd to the last
degree in traffic and courtly as a Parisian; there some secret, sullen,
silent enemies of the Christian invaders, awaiting the coming end; there
hundreds of those camp-following nondescript “good lord and good devil”
characters, and there the remnants of the Crusader armies. The latter
were not only diminished as to numbers but greatly degraded in moral
tone. Their warfare had been belittled to a defense and a retreat. The



Online LibraryA. Stewart (Alexander Stewart) WalshMary: The Queen of the House of David and Mother of Jesus → online text (page 3 of 40)