Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

of the vanities of False Wit there are the truths of imagination :

“Like golden lamps in a green night.”

Among the diversions of mediaeval learning few are more popular than the moral history of birds and beasts and precious stones. The chief work of this description is known generally as Physiologus; otherwise the Bestiary. It spread as far as the stories of Alexander and the jests of Marcolf; its methods, far from outworn in the Middle Ages, reappeared in the book which expresses, best of all, the commonplaces of the Renaissance—Euphues, the Anatomy of Wit. The moral interpretation of the lion, the eagle, the ant, the spider, &c., which agreed so well with mediaeval tastes, was continued by Euphues, and proved to be almost too attractive a novelty, though it was as old as the language itself and had been repeated for centuries unsparingly. The original Physiologus was most probably compiled in Egypt:" the animals of the first collection are Egyptian. Later versions show, through words strangely corrupted, how the creatures themselves have been transformed: thus the whale by its name Fastitocalon, in the Anglo-Saxon poem, proves its identity with the original sea-turtle, the aspidochelone, whose broad back is mistaken for an island and turned to a convenient and successful allegory,

The Bestiary.

* See Physiologus in the Encyclopedia Britannica, by Dr Land of Leyden.

though the whale, later, usurped the turtle's claim. Other treatises in like manner expounded the virtues of precious stones, and in like manner were translated and circulated everywhere. The old Italian poem L'Intelligenza, attributed to Dino Compagni, includes an allegorical Lapidary along with the adventures of Julius Cæsar and other themes of romance. These tastes and habits of the Dark Ages were as fresh as ever in the time of Dante.

1 Cf. Les Lapidaires français du moyen âge, ed. L. Pannier, 1882.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

THE SIXTH CENTURY-BOETHIUS—CASSIODORUS-FORTUNATUS-GREGORY

OF TOURS—GREGORY THE GREAT—THE DARK AGE--ISIDORE-BEDE

- ADAMNAN—THE REVIVAL OF LEARNING UNDER CHARLES THE GREAT — ALCUIN — THE PHILOSOPHY OF ERIGENA — THE CAROLINE POETS—THEODULFUS—ERMOLDUS NIGELLUS—WALAFRID STRABO— HISTORIANS–EINHARD-PAULUS DIACONUS—THE MONK OF ST GALL -THE AGE OF THE SAXON EMPERORS—HROTSWITHA-LIUTPRANDWIDUKIND-RICHER-EKKEHARD-GERBERT.

THE HISTORY OF POPULAR LATIN VERSE-BEDE'S PROSODY OF RHYTHMICAL POETRY—THE AMBROSIAN HYMNS–ST AUGUSTINETHE SEQUENCES — VARIOUS EXPERIMENTS — NORTHERN THEMES IN LATIN-WALTHARIUS-RUODLIEB_MODUS FLORUM, ETC.

It is impossible in this space to give even a bare catalogue of the Latin works written in the Dark Ages. What is attempted here is a review of the more interesting writers, with reference to their value either as representatives of their time, or as models for those who came after, or simply as writers of things worth reading for their own sake. Of these latter there are more than is commonly supposed ; but generally it must be allowed there is need for

Some sense of duty, some unliterary, historical or scientific, motive, to carry the student through. Taking the prose authors first, it is fairly easy to classify their works as far as their matter is conLatin Prose cerned, and as most of them are occupied Science. with instruction, this kind of division is a natural one. One group is formed of the treatises that explain the sciences, from the encyclopedic works of Cassiodorus and Isidore to short essays like that of Bede on the rules of Verse. Along with those technical writings may be included, for the sake of their matter, philosophical authors as different in their method as Boethius and Erigena. The large body of exposition and interpretation, the work of Gregory the Great, Alcuin, Hraban, Walafrid Strabo, and many more, is closely related to the more abstract scientific or philosophical books; though of course the expositors have to follow a different method in their commentaries from that required in dealing with general principles; they have to follow their texts from point to point. History might conveniently be left separate from the common educational stock, from the books concerned with the liberal arts, with philosophy or theology. History, “immersed in matter,” gave the writers of the Dark Ages a chance of describing real things, and also of using imagination. The historians who have to do with action and life, in adventures and dialogues, belong to a different class from the purely didactic authors. Of course, there are many who, like Bede, are enG

History.

gaged in all the kinds, history as well as science and divinity. Romance is not wholly wanting in Latin prose; besides the Apollonius of Tyre and Alexander the Great, there are the various legends already spoken of above, and a great quantity besides. Oratory may be represented by all the homilies. Letter-writing in the Dark Ages belongs to literature, oratory and and there is a large amount of it of differLetters. ent sorts: the show pieces of Cassiodorus in his office of Quaestor, the correspondence of Alcuin and other scholars of the circle of Charles the Great, of Hraban and Lupus of Ferrières, of Rather of Verona, of Gerbert. Latin verse is less easy to classify, even roughly: division according to subject-matter is reasonable in the history of prose, because in prose the matter generally determines the form; but it is less relevant in verse. And in mediaeval Latin verse the forms are confused; the old-fashioned classifications fail. The great distinction is that of Bede, between “metrical” and “rhythmical”—i.e., between the verse that intends to follow classical precedent and that which pays no regard to quantity, or rather makes new principles of its own. But although the unclassical Latin verse may form a species by itself with various distinct types included in it, the opposite kind, the verse of the classical tradition, is not classical enough for a comfortable and summary description. There is too much mixture in it; the pedigree is seldom clear.

Romance.

Latim Verse.

« AnteriorContinuar »