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A Tale of Ancient Times

This is a tale of ancient times And a knight of valiant heraldry Who followed true his knightly code, The weight of righteousness his load, All sheathed in heaven's grace he rode, And practiced naught save chivalry. From the Pope a rally call went out, A Crusade to the Holy Land. A Christian force endorsed by God, His might would be their shield and rod, To travel to where Jesus trod And rescue it from Muslim hands. With hand on heart the knight stepped forth, And allegiance to the cause he swore. He came in piety enthralled, Pledging fortune, honor, life, his all In answer to Pope Urban's call To fight in this most holy war. The "holiness" of war wears thin When it endures for three full years. The knight felt doubt begin to brew, Still would he slash, and hack, and hew, And pray for his and each benighted soul he slew, And wonder why his God would not allay his fears. Not all who fought were soldiers of the Cross like he, Many came for just what they could take. Though claiming to be blessed and heaven sent, The knight soon kenned their chief intent. He watched them, kill, and rape, and pillage as they went, Leaving ruined lives and mutilated corpses in their wake. His faith now frayed, the knight, dismayed, One day his shield failed to deflect a fatal spear. His eyes sought heaven ere he died. Was this for naught, had the Pontiff lied? In anguish, "Wherefore, God?" he cried, Then falling to his knees, but not in prayer, he perished there. Two hundred years the battles raged With no real Christian victory attained. The ones who died there now are dust, No matter if the cause was just, The Crusades failed, and at what cost, For so much lost, so little gained. Here ends my tale of ancient times And a knight who died vaingloriously. His life was brief, his ending sad, He learned too late, as Jesus had, He'd trusted in an unjust God, And Death cares naught for chivalry. Historical note: In 1095 Pope Urban II called for the First Crusade, encouraging military support for the Byzantine empire. One of its aims was to guarantee pilgrims access to Eastern Mediterranean holy sites that were under Muslim control. Some scholars say, however, that Urban's strategy may have been to unite the Eastern and Western branches of Christendom and establish himself as head of the unified Church. In any event, the response to his preachings was enthusiastic among all classes in Western Europe. Volunteers became Crusaders by taking a public vow and receiving plenary (full) indulgences from the Church. Some even hoped for a mass ascension into heaven at Jerusalem or God's forgiveness for their sins. On a more elemental level, others participated to satisfy feudal obligations, obtain glory and honor, or to seek economic and political gain. And there were some, no doubt, who simply enjoyed a good fight…the bloodier the better. The two-century endeavor ended in failure. Following the First (1096-1099), there were six additional major Crusades and numerous less significant ones. Because no records were kept of non-combatants, i.e. family members, servants, etc., who traveled with the Crusader soldiers, there is no real estimate of how many actually lost their lives during those horrendously dark and tumultuous years. Whatever the number, even one would have been too many for such an ignoble cause. What more shameful oxymoron: a holy war. (Wikipedia…and me)

Copyright © | Year Posted 2022

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Date: 9/29/2022 9:37:00 PM
Wow. What a superior job of scholarship you've given us on the P.S. site, Jim. As a member of a minority viciously slaughtered (oops) by the rampaging Crusaders, I've known about this since my teens, but I find that most have/had no idea. I hope that folks will read what you've published. It's well worth their while. An ignominious era in the history of (dis)organized religion, if ever there was. Thank you, Gershon
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Jim Slaughter
Date: 9/30/2022 5:55:00 AM
Thank you, G. In truth, this is an expanded version of a piece I wrote for a Senior English class assignment...also in "ancient times". I didn't know as much about the subject then, so it was much shorter. But I guess it had some merit because the teacher, Mrs. Gibson, read it aloud in class. I'm so glad you enjoyed it.
Date: 9/21/2022 6:30:00 PM
A very sad story. The knight who obeyed the Pope's command finally realizes the futility of war, but is too late. Sad his enthsiasm waned and he died an inglorious death. Powerful narration, Jim
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Jim Slaughter
Date: 9/22/2022 10:52:00 AM
Thank you, Valsa.