Sunday, May 08, 2011

The Twofold Branches of the Palm

The Knights of Saint John
by Friedrich Schiller
translated by Edward Bulwer Lytton


Oh, nobly shone the fearful Cross upon your mail afar,
When Rhodes and Acre hail'd your might, O lions of the war!
When leading many a pilgrim horde, through wastes of Syrian gloom;
Or standing with the Cherub's sword before the Holy Tomb.
Yet on your forms the Apron seem'd a nobler armour far,
When by the sick man's bed ye stood, O lions of the war!
When ye, the high-born, bow'd your pride to tend the lowly weakness,
The duty, though it brought no fame, fulfilled by Christian meekness—
Religion of the Cross, thou blend'st, as in a single flower,
The twofold branches of the palm—Humility And Power.

The Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, of course, are the Hospitallers, the one significant religious military order that both had a primary non-military mission (tending the sick) and stuck to it despite temptation. They are also, unsurprisingly, the only religious military order that is still around today.

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