Society and the home are founded on the influence of sex. From it are developed benevolence, softness and magnanimity. The sense of decorum proceeds from the animal instinct of cleanliness, and this in turn from the sexual instinct for display. " That delicate and ardent love," as Winwood Reade beautifully says,1 "which can become a religion of the heart, which can sanctify and soften a man's whole life; the affection which is so noble, and so pure, and so free from all sensual stain, is yet derived from that desire which impels the male animal to seek a mate; and the sexual timidity which makes the female flee from the male is finally transformed into the maiden modesty which not only preserves from vice, but which conceals, beneath a chaste and honorable reticence, the fiery love that bums within; which compels the true woman to pine in sorrow, and perhaps languish into death, rather than betray a passion that is not returned."
That chivalry which Cervantes "laughed out of Europe," which was a direct and splendid development of the religio-sexual life, and which for two hundred years, in the Crusades, championed the monogamy of the West against the polygyny of the East, was not the idle thing the great Castilian painted it. It was an illustrious phase in the evolution of society, to whose knightly customs and courtly manners we trace the pedigree of the modern lady and gentleman.
* "The Martyrdom of Man," p. 305.
The latter was at first a page. He learned to handle his charger with grace and skill, to use crossbow and sword, to wind the notes of venery on his horn, to tread the stately measures of the minuet, to tilt against a rival, or the quintaine, with lance in rest, and to shout Ma Dame et Man Dieut as he entered the combat, with his lady's glove on his lance; even as the Moslem knight mingled the name of his mistress with his Allah Akbart her embroidered scarf speaking to him, in the smoke of battle, of his love-dream by the moonlit Xenil, or the Zambra.
It was his duty to wait upon the ladies, who took care to tutor hia youthful mind in other matters than the chase and battle. He was taught elegance; trained in all the mysteries of courtship, love and marriage; made to select a mistress from among the demoiselles, and to adore and serve her with a patience and fidelity which, if history err not, seldom failed of its legitimate reward at last.
But vice ceases to be vice when it is only reached through a long discipline in virtue. Afterward, he became an esquire; attended his patron on all hia military adventures, and at the age of twenty-one—like the German who at the same age was solemnly invested with spear and shield—he received the much coveted accolade of knighthood. Thus arose the sentiment of honor—the institution of chivalry—which made women chaste and men brave; teaching each to aspire only to possess those qualities which the other loved and approved.
Women admire above all things courage, truth, constancy, in men. Therefore men became courageous, true, constant. Men admire above all things modesty, virtue, refinement, in women. Therefore women became virtuous, modest, refined. It all grew out of sex. Religion had much to do with purifying men's morals; but it was the Queen of Beauty and of Love, the splintering of lances and the shout of the herald—"Stand forth, gallant knights! Fair eyes look upon your deeds!" that made them spring to the " Laissez aller," with flashing eyes and throbbing hearts. It was this sentiment of chivalry which demanded, and ultimately established, not only a higher standard of social propriety, but of sexual purity. That which had once been a harmless amusement became a vice; and unchastity, once regarded as the private wrong of a husband, was stigmatized as a sin against society.'
1 Plato held that the love of Venus made Mars brave; that Ariadne's love made Theseus adventurous; that the beauty of Medea made Jason victorious; and history
There will always be remarked an exact relation between the sexual life and the moral health or decadence of a people. Effeminacy and sensuality are sure concomitants of that social luxury which always precedes national decay. The pelits crčves, or spindle-legged dandies of Paris, who cohabited with and called each other mon cśur, and ma there Belle, as well as the pale girls of the Faubourgs, with wax penises and dildos in their pockets, were weeds that grew quite naturally in the shadow of *the king's guillotine. Greece, Rome, Babylon, and France under Henry III and Louis XIV, present striking instances of the luxury and licentiousness which always mark the beginning of national decay;1 and it is not difficult to trace the latter, in each case, to those psycho-pathological, or neuro-pathological, conditions which, perverting sexuality, robbed the people of the physical and moral qualities necessary to its resistance.