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Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions — Volume 2 by Charles Mackay
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All in a moment through the gloom were seen
Ten thousand banners rise into the air,
With orient colours waving. With them rose
A forest huge of spears; and thronging helms
Appear'd, and serried shields, in thick array,
Of depth immeasurable.

Paradise Lost.

Every age has its peculiar folly -- some scheme, project, or
phantasy into which it plunges, spurred on either by the love of gain,
the necessity of excitement, or the mere force of imitation. Failing
in these, it has some madness, to which it is goaded by political or
religious causes, or both combined. Every one of these causes
influenced the Crusades, and conspired to render them the most
extraordinary instance upon record of the extent to which popular
enthusiasm can be carried. History in her solemn page informs us, that
the crusaders were but ignorant and savage men, that their motives
were those of bigotry unmitigated, and that their pathway was one of
blood and tears. Romance, on the other hand, dilates upon their piety
and heroism and pourtrays in her most glowing and impassioned hues
their virtue and magnanimity, the imperishable honour they acquired
for themselves, and the great services they rendered to Christianity.
In the following pages we shall ransack the stores of both, to
discover the true spirit that animated the motley multitude who took
up arms in the service of the Cross, leaving history to vouch for
facts, but not disdaining the aid of contemporary poetry and romance
to throw light upon feelings, motives, and opinions.
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