Thursday, January 23, 2020

Chivalry in Edmund Burkes Reflections on the Revolution in France Essa

Chivalry in Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France ...But the age of chivalry is gone... Amidst a wealth of metaphors and apocalyptic maxims, this line is perhaps the most memorable from Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France. He masterfully employs the concept of chivalry to express his anti-revolutionary sentiment, and he dramatically connects it to images of land, sex, birth and money to express the widespread disorder that accompanies a loss of chivalry. Nowhere is this idea more explicit than in the following passage: ...–But the age of chivalry is gone. —That of sophisters, oeconomists, and calculators, has succeeded and the glory of Europe is extinguished for ever. Never, never more, shall we behold that generous loyalty to rank and sex, that proud submission, that dignified obedience, that subordination of the heart, which kept alive, even in servitude itself, the spirit of an exalted freedom. The unbought grace of life, the cheap defence of nations, the nurse of manly sentiment and heroic enterprize is gone! It is gone, that sensibility of principle, that chastity of honour, which felt a stain like a wound, which inspired courage while it mitigated ferocity, which ennobled whatever it touched, and under which vice itself lost half its evil by losing all its grossness... (Mellor and Matlack, 16). To fully understand this passage, one must recognize Burke's rhetorical strategy as well as his choice of words beginning with the "age of chivalry" line. First, instead of declaring that this age of chivalry is "dead," he merely asserts that it is "gone." The temporality of this word is important as it sustains potential for chivalry to return. Burke l... ...rals and sentiments, no longer mix or when one takes over the other, as evinced by the French Revolution. Burke makes it explicitly clear that this divorce endangers order in all realms of life. And though the revolution does not exemplify a tragi-comedy, perhaps Burke's writing does. If his society heeds his forewarning and renews chivalry instead of adopting the infant-spirit of rebellion, it will avoid imminent tragedy and end happily in the comedic marriage of reason and emotion. Bibliography of Works Cited Brown, Lesley, ed. The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary on Historical Principles. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993. Holman, C. and William Harmon, eds. A Handbook to Literature. New York: MacMillan Publishing, 1986. Mellor, Anne K. and Richard E. Matlack, eds. British Literature: 1780-1830. Fort Worth; Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1996.

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