A Man's Oath:

The latest discussion on chivalry has generated well over a hundred comments, plus now two poetic oaths from readers. Fiacha put forward this one:

Come dance with me...

Is it evil? For I believe in that which is better than I. Willing to strive for that which I cannot show proof. To suffer from a disease called faith. You say I am evil, for I have killed, I have caused harm, and I proclaim I will do so again, for I know the cost. You say I am a monster? Come dance with me...
I tell you this my soul is not beautiful, I carry shame for that I could not stop, guilt for the harm I have caused,and despair is burdan twists my spirit, I do not blame others for those things that I cannot change. I chose action instead of letting others carry the sword. I bring fire instead living in darkness. Come dance with me...

I have the tarnished and broken armor, and sword of one who works and builds and wants to selfishly protect what others have made. I gather to feed those I love, and to support the causes I believe. I am a monster because I am willing to make hard decisions and not expect others to do it for me. For those that call me monster, come dance with me...
Let me show you what truly is in a monsters heart, and learn about the darkness.
Please; you who call me monster bring me the key... for you are willing to sacrafice another, a child, while I am willing to sacrafice myself, and you call me monster? Come dance with me...

The lock and chains I wear are those I forge myself, off love, and friends, of hope, and faith, the codes and oaths and chants of old help me bind myself, so please bring me the key if a monster you wish to be...

For when I look into the lake, the reflection of a paladin is what I wish to see...
It's not that often, these days, that you see tough men moved to poetry. I write poems on rare occasion -- I wrote one on 9/11, for example, which will be reposted soon on the anniversary. It was once a man's business, poetry, and still today if you list the greatest poets, you'll go a long way down the list before you hit the first woman (Emily Dickinson? But how far below Homer and Shakespeare does she come?). We normally think of poetry as a female endeavor today, but that is really quite new.

I though Douglas had an insightful comment as well:
I'll have to work on this, but it will take time. We take many oaths, though- Wedding vows, Pledge of Allegiance, Boy Scout Oaths, Religious Creeds (the Apostle's Creed for me, as I'm Catholic). I always make an effort, any time I'm repeating one of those- like the pledge, or the creed, that I not simply repeat it from rote, but consider what it means, and mean what I say. I only wish others would give such oaths the reverence they deserve, along with the deep consideration they require.

The idea of the personal oath is an interesting one. It reminds me of the admonishment from an instructor in Architecture school that an artist should do a self-portrait at least once a year. The introspection required is a good excercise, and the product a good record of our growth (hopefully). This strikes me as another means of self-portrait. A useful exercise indeed.
I think I agree. And with the anniversary of 9/11 coming up fast, we have a proper occasion for swearing oaths, and rededicating ourselves to certain tasks.

So: what oaths can you think of that we should consider? Every man might well write his own, but many have come before us, and had good ideas to consider. One of my favorites is from the old Boy Scout Handbook, written by Sir Baden-Powell (a knight himself, note). As far as I know, it does not have the historical accuracy that the Boy Scouts claimed for it -- Baden-Powell had a right to write a "Knight's Code" on his own, being one, but there seems to be no one before him that used it. Aside from that -- and a clumsy last verse -- it has some good qualities.
The Knight's Code

BE ALWAYS READY with your armor on, except when you are taking your rest at night.
Defend the poor, and help them that cannot defend themselves.
Do nothing to hurt or offend anyone else.
Be prepared to fight in defense of your country.
At whatever you are working, try to win honor and a name for honesty.
Never break your promise.
Maintain the honor of your country with your life.
Rather die honestly than live shamelessly.
Chivalry requireth that youth should be trained to perform the most laborious and humble offices with cheerfulness and grace; and to do good unto others.

The odd clumsiness of the last verse does not detract from the truth of it. It is true that young men in training were asked to do a great deal of humble tasks, from helping their lords dress and arm, to serving them at table. This teaches the high truth, "Respect your elders," but it also does a great deal to undercut the false pride that comes of high birth.

This is as true today as ever: Americans are of "high birth," the very highest, because we are free men and because we are citizens with a vote in the running of the most powerful government on earth; and because we are powerfully rich. Just yesterday I got a toy catalog in the mail with any number of toys for children of all ages, many priced over a hundred dollars each, some priced several hundred dollars each, and my wife remarked: "How rich we are! People have that kind of money to spend on toys for their four year old!" And more yet when he's five -- well, I don't, but obviously quite a few people have.

So, engendering pride and an ethic of service in the young is a good thing. Most of what is phrased here are good things. I think "not offending" is more an English than an American value (or necessarily a chivalrous value -- D'Artagnan was advised to fight duels at the drop of a hat).

There's the oath of enlistment. What else should we look at?

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