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The sword is in chivalry the ensign or symbol of knighthood. Thus Monstrelet says: "The sons of the Kings of France are knights at the font of baptism, being regarded as the chiefs of Knighthood and they receive, from the cradle the sword which is the Sign thereof." Saint Palaye calls the sword "the most honorable badge of chivalry, and a symbol of the labor the knight was to encounter."
No man was considered a knight until the ceremony of presenting him the sword had been performed; and when this weapon was presented, it was accompanied with the declaration that the person receiving it was thereby made a knight. "The lord or knight," says Saint Palaye, "on the girding on of the sword, pronounced these or similar words: In the name of God, Saint Michael, and Saint George, I make thee a knight."
So important an ensign of knighthood as the sword must have been accompanied with some symbolic meaning, for in the Middle Ages symbolism was referred to on all occasions. Francisco Redi, an Italian poet of the Seventeenth century, gives, in his Bacco in Toscano, an account, from a Latin manuscript, of an investiture with knighthood in the year 1260, which deseribes the Symbolic meaning of all the insignia used on that occasion. or the sword it says:
"Let him be girded with the sword as a sign of severity against the devil; and the two edges of the blade signify right and law, that the poor are to be defended from the rich and the weali from the strong." But there is a still better definition of the symbolism of the sword of knighthood in an old manuscript in the library of the London College of Arms to the following effect: "Unto a knight, which is the most honorable office above all other, is given a sword, which is made like unto a crosse for the redemption of mankynde in signifying that like as our Lord God died uppon the crosse for the redemption of mankynde, even so a knight ought to defend the crosse and to overcome and destroie the enemies of the same; and it hath two edges in tokening that with the sword he ought to mayntayne knighthood and justice." Hence in Masonic Templarism we find that this Symbolism has been preserved, and that the sword With which the modern knight is created is said to be endowed with the qualities of justice, fortitude, and merey.
The charge to a Knights Templar, that he should never draw his sword unless convinced of the justice of the cause in w hich he is engaged, nor to sheathe it until his enemies were subdued, finds also its origin in the custom of the Middle Ages. Swords were generally manufactured with a legend on the blade. Among the most common of these legends was that used on swords made in Spain, many examples of which are still to be found in modern collections.
That legend is: No me sages sin rason. No me embaines sin honor; that-is, Do not draw me without justice. Do not sheathe me unthout honor. So highly was the sword esteemed in the Middle Ages as a part of a knight's equipment that Special names were given to those of the most celebrated heroes, which have been transmitted to us in the ballads and romances of that period. Thus we have among the warriors of Scandinavia, the following swords and their owners: Foot-breaath, of Thoralf Skolinson; Quern-biter, of King Hako; Balmung, of Siegfried, and Angurvardal, of Frithiof.
To the first two, Longfellow alludes in the following lines:
Quern-biter of Hakom the Good Wherewith at a stroke he hewed The millstone through and through And Foot-breaath of Thoralf the Strong Were neither so broad nor so long Nor so true.
And among the Knights of Chivalry we have also known the following swords by their names and their owners: Durandal, of Orlando; Balisardo, of Ruggiero; Colado, of the Cid; Aroun- dight, of Lancelot du Sac; Joyeuse, of Charlemagne, and Excalibur, of King Arthur.
Of the last of these, the well-known legend is, that it was found embedded in a stone as its sheath, on which was an inscription that it could be drawn only by him who was the rightful heir to the throne of Britain After two hundred and one of the strongest knights had essayed in vain, it was at once drawn forth by Arthur, who was then proclaimed King by acelamation. On his deathbed, he ordered it to be thrown into a neighboring lake; but as it fell, an arm issued from the waters, and, seizing it by the hilt, waved it thrice, and then it sank never again to appear. Thare are many other famous swords in these old romances for the knight invariably gave to his sword, as he did to his horse, a name expressive of its qualities or of the deeds which he expected to accomplish with it.
In Freemasonry, the use of the sword as a part of the Masonic clothing is confined to the advanced Degrees and the Degrees of chivalry, when, of course, it is worn as a part of the insignia of knighthood. In the symbolic Degrees its appearance in the Lodge, except as a symbol, is strictly prohibited. The Masonic prints engraved in the eighteenth century, when the sword, at least as late as 1780, constituted a part of the dress of every gentleman, show that it was discarded by the members w hen they entered the Lodge. The official swords of the Tiler and the Pursuivant or Sword-Bearer are the only exceptions. This rule is carried so far, that military men, when visiting a dodges are required to divest themselves of their swords, which are to be left in the Tiler's room.
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