Posted by: Democratic Thinker | March 23, 2014

Weekly Story: A Party-Coloured Shield

Weekly Story

An Eighteenth Century scholar publishes a fable dated from the early days of Britian.

It happened, one day, that two knights, completely armed, one in black armor, the other in white, arrived from opposite parts of the country at this statue, just about the same time.

A Fable


IN the days of knight-errantry and paganism, one of the old British princes set up a statue to the Goddess of Victory, in a point where four roads met together. In her right hand she held a spear, and her left hand rested upon a shield; the outside of this shield was of gold, and the inside of silver. On the former was inscribed, in the old British language, “To the goddess ever favorable;” and on the other, “For four victories obtained successively over the Picts and other inhabitants of the northern islands.”

It happened, one day, that two knights, completely armed, one in black armor, the other in white, arrived from opposite parts of the country at this statue, just about the same time; and, as neither of them had seen it before, they stopped to read the inscription, and observe the excellence of its workmanship.

After contemplating it for some time, “This golden shield,”—says the black knight— “Golden shield!” cried the white knight, who was as strictly observing the opposite side, “Why, if I have my eyes, it is silver.”— “I know nothing of your eyes,” replied the black knight; “but, if ever I saw a golden shield in my life, this is one.”— “Yes,” returned the white knight, smiling, “it is very probable, indeed, that they should expose a shield of gold in so public a place as this! For my part, I wonder even a silver one is not too strong a temptation for the devotion of some people who pass this way; and it appears, by the date, that this has been here above three years.”

The black knight could not bear the smile with which this was delivered, and grew so warm in the dispute, that it soon ended in a challenge: they both, therefore, turned their horses, and rode back so far as to have sufficient space for their career; then, fixing their spears in their rests, they flew at each other with the greatest fury and impetuosity. Their shock was so rude, and the blow on each side so effectual, that they both fell to the ground much wounded and bruised; and lay there for some time, as in a trance.

A good Druid, who was travelling that way, found them in this condition. The Druids were the physicians of those times, as well as the priests. He had a sovereign balsam about him, which he had composed himself; for he was very skilful in all the plants that grew in the fields or in the forests: he staunched their blood, applied his balsam to their wounds, and brought them, as it were, from death to life again. As soon as they were sufficiently recovered, he began to inquire into the occasion of their quarrel. “Why, this man,” cried the black knight, “will have it that yonder shield is silver.”— “And he will have it,” replied the white knight, “that it is gold.” And then they told him all the particulars of the affair.

“Ah!” said the Druid, with a sigh, “you are both of you in the right and both of you in the wrong; had either of you given himself time to look upon the opposite side of the shield as well as that which first presented itself to his view, all this passion and bloodshed might have been avoided; however, there is a very good lesson to be learned from the evils that have befallen you on this occasion. Permit me, therefore; to entreat you by all our Gods, and by this Goddess of Victory in particular, never to enter into any dispute for the future till you have fairly considered both sides of the question.

—Beaumont [Joseph Spence], Moralities (1753).

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