Imagens das páginas

just empire of the Will: Amaury and Agnes the different movements of concupiscence, which corrupt the innocence of the Will by their inducements and their charms," &c.

So it may be assumed as proven that at any rate in some common matters and manners of education the Dark Ages were not remarkably inferior to these more brilliant periods; not wholly distinct, in their educational tastes, from the age of Plato or the age of Bacon. The Dark Ages did not invent their absurdities. The elementary classical commonplaces, the popular methods of explanation, are preserved and continued during the Dark Ages. If there is anything ludicrous in them, it belongs almost as much to the days of Queen Elizabeth or Louis XIV. as to the early mediaeval centuries.

Perhaps the most singular thing in all this part

of the subject is the predominance of Ehetoric in

education, or, to speak more exactly, of

The Triviuvi

Grammar and Rhetoric, in the senses proper to these two parts of the old Trivium. The third art, Dialectic, was generally less important in the scheme of studies.

One is prepared for barbarism in the Middle Ages, for the decline of Latin, the loss of Greek, for a general confusion of tenses and cases; we know what to expect, or rather what not to expect, from Franks or Saxons imitating Cicero or Virgil. But on the other hand it is difficult to appreciate rightly the extraordinary care and affection bestowed on the preparation for literature; Grammar being the proper comprehensive name for that study, with Ehetoric to continue it. The classical tradition of the rudiments of polite learning was embodied in Martianus Capella, and in those works of Cassiodorus and Isidorus which were devoted to this part of their Encyclopedia. It took possession of Ireland; it came back from Ireland to Britain and Germany. It might languish in some places and times, but it was never quenched. At Clonmacnoise or in the palace of Charlemagne, at York or St Gall or Fulda, the old liberal arts were cultivated and kept alive. Instruction in grammar was to be obtained from many masters, with phonetics even as a basis, for Martianus Capella attends to this, like the tutor of M. Jourdain—"B labris per spiritus impetum reclusis edicimus," and so forth. The figures of speech were generally a favourite subject, as they were in Elizabethan days and afterwards, when they helped to form the Complete Gentleman. The Venerable Bede's early work in this field is carried on by Puttenham in The Art of Poetry and by Eichard Blome in The Gentleman's Recreation (1686), which begins with Grammar, Poetry, and Khetorick, and goes on to everything else, through Chronology, Fortification, Opticks, and other things, down to Cock-Fighting.

Bede's handbook of Prosody represents another much cultivated department of literature: the eccentricities of mediaeval Latin verse are not to be excused by the want of proper instruction in the rules. The rules were well known and frequently explained, sometimes perhaps, as was also the case in the teach


ing of Figures, with a rather inordinate relish for the technical terms: thus Aldhelm, in quoting a verse, must stop to remark "brachycatalectic," and plays the terms penthemimeris and hephthemimeris apparently for their pure ornamental value as " beautiful words." One most interesting effect of the rhetorical studies of the Dark Ages was the attention /paid to literary decoration of all kinds in original composition, frequently with great profusion of all the available resources in different inflammatory ways, but not always without sobriety. The extravagances of style in the Dark Ages might in most cases refer to some ancient if not reputable author for their precedents. Their florid exercises are derived from models of the classical period; ultimately, as has been shown with great learning in a recent German treatise,1 from Gorgias himself. Gorgias is responsible for a good deal of Aldhelm, as well as for Euphues: the old joke of Plato's Symposium, "turned to stone by the head of Gorgias," might be taken all but literally of the whole mass of rhetorical decoration in the Middle Ages. Chiefly the mediaeval taste in Latin prose was derived from Apuleius and his school, Martianus Capella having probably more effect in this way than any other writer. The Marriage of Mercury and Philology was a book that no library could be without, and it is not wonderful that the barbarians were attracted by the exorbitant riches of its language, nor that they should have gone much further than their masters in the use of emphasis and gaudy words. They tried everything. They "did somewhat affect the letter, for it argueth facility," and the alliterative amusements of Elizabethan Euphuism, the alliterative passages that so charmed Don Quixote in his favourite authors, are of the same school as Aldhelm. The extraordinary foreign vocabulary used in a certain order of mediaeval Latin prose and verse, in some of the old English charters, in Abbo's poem on the siege of Paris, was founded long ago in the experiments of Apuleius. There was a continuous process of development. The whole efflorescence of language in the Dark Ages, even the ineffable Hisperica Famina,1 is the completion of what had begun in the first conscious efforts of Greek prose.

1 Norden, Die antike Kunstprosa vom vi. Jahrhundert v. Chr. bis in die Zeit der Renaissance, 1898.

1 The Hisperica Famina (ed. Stowasser, Vienna, 1887), as perhaps the most extreme thing in mediseval Latin, ought to be described here, if description were possible. A short quotation will probably suffice to show the nature of the work: "Novello temporei globaminis cyclo hispericum arripere tonui sceptrum; ob hoc rudem Btemico logum ac exiguus serpit per ora rivus. Quod si amplo temporalis aevi studio ausonica me alligasset catena sonoreus faminis per guttura popularet haustus ac immensus urbani tenoris manasset faucibus tollus," &c. It appears to be a student's exercise. There are extant pieces of three different versions where the same themes are treated apparently under the same rhetorical rules. Thus one asks, "Non ausonica me subligat catena?" and another affirms, "Nam strictus romani tenoris me septricat nexus," both in this strange way boasting that they have the Latin of Italy, which is what is meant by Hesperic and Ausonian. The several subjects treated are first the day of a student (lex diei), and then a number of common themes—Sea, fire, earth, wind, clothes, tavern, table, &c. The rules are, first, always to put a verb between adjective and noun; and secondly, to find for every simple idea a word from the " Hisperic" vocabulary, which is that of Apuleius, Florus, and Martianus Capella, exaggerated out of all measure. Dr Zimmer thinks that these essays possibly come from the school at

It is not wonderful that the vernacular languages, when they began to be used for literature, should have copied in their own way the prestige of the Latin eloquence, especially when, like the Teutonic and the Celtic languages, they were subject in their older native verse to the charm of alliteration. The poetical prose of iElfric, which is English in its rhythm and founded upon the model of Teutonic verse, is also greatly under the influence of the ornamented and rhythmical Latin prose: without that example it might not have occurred to an Englishman to beautify his sermons in that particular manner.

The over-ornamented styles are of course far from universally prevalent or obligatory in the Middle Ages. Then, as at other times, though certain customs of expression may become traditionary, there are indefinite possibilities of variation, and style remains the character of the man himself, where a character can be discerned.

The educational work of the sixth or the ninth century is (with notable additions and improvements)

Llantwit Major in Glamorgan, where Gildas and St David were educated. The manner of writing was certainly in favour in Britain, as is shown by the Latin of the Anglo-Saxon charters, and to a less degree by that of Gildas in one century and Asser in another. The whole subject is discussed by Dr Zimmer in Gbttingische Nachrichten, 1895, and in Nennius Vindicatus, appendix. See also the Papers of Henry Bradshaw, the Crawford Collection of Early Charters, ed. Napier and Stevenson, and Journal of Philology, xxviii. 209, an article by Mr Eobinson Ellis. A new edition of Hisperica Fami/na is promised by Mr Jenkinson at the Cambridge Press.

« AnteriorContinuar »