The knight is . . . not a compromise or happy mean between ferocity and meekness; he is fierce to the nth and meek to the nth. . . .
The medieval ideal brought together two things which have no natural tendency to gravitate towards one another. It brought them together for that very reason. It taught humility and forbearance to the great warrior because everyone knew by experience how much he usually needed that lesson. It demanded valour of the urbane and modest man because everyone knew that he was as likely as not to be a milksop. . . .
If we cannot produce Launcelots, humanity falls into two sections -- those who can deal in blood and iron but cannot be "meek in hall", and those who are "meek in hall" but useless in battle -- for the third class, who are both brutal in peace and cowardly in war, need not here be discussed. When this disassociation of the two halves of Launcelot occurs, history becomes a horribly simple affair. The ancient history of the Near East is like that. Hardy barbarians swarm down from their highlands and obliterate a civilization. Then they become civilized themselves and go soft. Then a new wave of barbarians comes down and obliterates them. . . .
The ideal embodied in Launcelot is "escapism" in a sense never dreamed of by those who use that word; it offers the only possible escape from a world divided between wolves who do not understand, and sheep who cannot defend, the things which make life desirable.~ Present Concerns, "The Necessity of Chivalry" (1st published in Time and Tide, Aug. 1940).