The knight’s oath is vital to the survival of knighthood. Through the use of arms and martial prowess, knights possess power. As a result, they have the ability to both help and harm those who are weaker than they are. Protection, oppression, or indifference are the three options available for those in power. Indifference, however, allows the weak to be trampled on by other people in a position of power, thus indifference becomes oppression. Therefore the knight has but two options; he must choose between protecting or oppressing those weaker than him. Unfortunately, people are prone to use their power for oppression, hence the invention of the knightly oath. The oath of a knight is a declaration that those in power have a responsibility to protect those who are weaker, forcing those in power to act based on what is right, rather than based on the exercise of their desire. The most well-known oath of knighthood is the Pentecostal Oath, sworn by Arthur and his knights of the Round Table. As Thomas Malory describes in Le Morte D’Arthur,
“The king stablished all his knights, and gave them that were of lands not rich, he gave them lands, and charged them never to do outrageousity nor murder, and always to flee treason; also, by no mean to be cruel, but to give mercy unto him that asketh mercy, upon pain of forfeiture of their worship and lordship of King Arthur for evermore; and always to do ladies, damosels, and gentlewomen succor upon pain of death. Also, that no man take no battles in a wrongful quarrel for no law, ne for no world’s goods. Unto this were all the knights sworn of the Table Round, both old and young. And every year were they sworn at the high feast of Pentecost.”
~Thomas Malory Le Morte D’Arthur Book 3 Chapter 15
Just as the knight of Arthur, we have power. Perhaps it is not as pronounced as the power tempered steel gives to a knight, but every action we take affects those we come into contact with. We have the ability to shape how others view the world, and are accountable for what our influence creates. By our actions, we can either protect or oppress. Just as the knight is responsible to protect those around him, so are we responsible to protect those around us. We ought to stand alongside Arthur in a confirmation of our duties. In the next few weeks, I plan to examine the Pentecostal oath, and call both you and myself to action. Let us swear oaths with Arthur, that we may act in a manner worthy of a knight.