A Character of King Richard I of England

The Lord of the ages had given him (Richard) such generosity of soul and endued him with such virtues that he seemed rather to belong to earlier times than these. . His was the valor of Hector, the magnanimity of Achilles ; he was no whit inferior to Alexander,! or less than Roland in manhood. Of a truth he easily surpassed the more praiseworthy characters of our time in many ways. His right hand, like that of a second Titus, scattered riches, and — a thing that is, as a rule, but very rarely found in so famous a knight — the tongue of a Nestor and the prudence of a Ulysses (as they well might) rightly rendered him better than other men in all kinds of business, whether eloquence or action was required. His military science did not slacken his inclination * Richard I (1189-1199). was born Sept. 8, 1157, at Oxford. About August, 1187 , he was made duke of Aquitaine. He took the cross in Nov. 1187, and died Tuesday, April 6, 1199.

The allusions here are to various chansons de geste which seem to have been favorite reading with this writer. The twelfth century derived its knowledge of the Trojan war from the spurious prose writings of Dictys Cretensis and Dares Phrygrius. Both works profess to have been written by contemporaries of the events they describe, but were really composed, or translated into Latin, after the Christian era. Benoit de St. Maur's Roman de Troie in octosyllabic French verse dates from about 1180. The Chanson de Roland belongs to the latter half of the eleventh century. The Geste d' } Alexandre, which is said to have given its name to the French Alexandrian metre, was woven together out of earlier octosyllabic or decasyllabic poems by Alexander de Bernay or de Paris before the year 1191.

The for vigorous action ; nor did his readiness for action ever throw a doubt upon his military prudence. If any one chances to think him open to the charge of rashness, the answer is simple : for, in this respect, a mind that does not know how to acknowledge itself beaten, a mind impatient of injury, urged on by its inborn high-spirit to claim its lawful rights, may well claim excuse. Success made him all the better suited for accomplishing exploits, since fortune helps the brave. And though fortune wreaks her spleen on whomsoever she pleases, yet was not he to be drowned for all his adverse waves.

He was lofty in stature, of a shapely build, with hair half-way between red and yellow. His limbs were straight and flexible, his arms somewhat long and, for this very reason, better fitted than those of most folk to draw or wield the sword. Moreover he had long legs, matching the character of his whole frame. His features showed the ruler, while his manners and his bearing added not a little to his general presence. Not only could he claim the loftiest position and praise in virtue of his noble birth, but also by reason of his virtues. But why should I extol so great a man with labored praise ?

He far surpassed other men in the courtesy of his manners and the vastness of his strength; memorable was he for his warlike deeds and power, while his splendid achievements would throw a shade over the greatest praise we could give them. Surely he might have been reckoned happy (I speak as a man) had not rivals envied his glorious deeds — rivals whose sole cause of hatred was his princely disposition ; for of a truth there is no surer way of annoying the envious than by observing virtue.

Itinerarium Regis Ricardi, ii., c. 45.

Archer (T. A.), The Crusade of Richard I, London, 1889.