Imagens das páginas

indicate anything more than an unquestioning adherence to his royal master's verdict, which as a true servant he must regard as irrefragable.

Gibbon's extraordinary statement that " the characters of the two delatores, Basilius and Opilio, are illustrated not much to their honour in the epistles of Cassiodorus,"1 is not borne out by the facts. The quaestor, speaking for the king, does unhesitatingly hold them up to the admiration of his countrymen; but malo cum Platone errare, and I for one would rather have to condone an error of judgment or an easily explicable piece of time-serving in Cassiodorus, than be driven to brand Boethius a liar with his last breath.

Whatever view we may take of the trial of Boethius, whatever value we may place on his apology, it must be freely acknowledged that failure was the end of his career as a practical statesman. The teller of the story of his life has no words with which to close it other than those with which he began it—a real regret, that must be shared by all who even at this distance of time have learnt to know and admire "the last of the Eomans," that he should ever have chosen to forsake the life of contemplation for which he was so excellently fitted, for

1 Op. cit., chap, xxxix. n. 95.

one of action in times when tact was more necessary to success than truthfulness, and at a court where the breath of suspicion was so quickly fanned into the desolating blast of hatred. And his was not that barren contemplation where the thought is of the inferior quality which finds its proper expression in action, but that kind which Wordsworth praised as producing works "which, both from their independence in their origin upon accident, their nature, their duration, and the wide spread of their influence, are entitled rightly to take place of the noblest and most beneficent deeds of heroes, statesmen, legislators, or warriors." For an insight into the man's personal character, with its excellent qualities of devotion to wife and children, of loyalty to his friends, and unselfish zeal in the cause of the oppressed, we are indebted to the letters of Cassiodorus and Ennodius and his own great work. But we may search the pages of the ' Consolation' in vain for the Christian virtues of humility and long-suffering. He reproves himself through the mouth of his divine consoler for petulance and impatience: the hints he lets fall in the course of this book and elsewhere lead us to suppose that he was fully aware of his intellectual superiority over his contemporaries. It is doubtless true that every honest and sincere worker always knows the relative value of his powers, and of the results produced by them. A self-consciousness of this kind is not in itself in any way repugnant to the spirit of Christianity; it is nothing but the grateful acknowledgment of God's loan of talents. It is also true that the vaunted modesty of great minds, from Socrates downward, is too often assumed, and the merest affectation. But the total want of sympathy with the ignorance of the mass of mankind which our author everywhere betrays, is essentially opposed to the teaching of Him who thanked God that He had revealed unto babes the things that He had hid from the wise and prudent.

[ocr errors]



Rudolph Peiper has published a handy text with variants, &c, in the 'Biblioteca Teubneriana.' Leipzic, 1871. The vol. of Migne containing the 'De Cons.' is lxiii:

It is a relief to turn from these gloomy details of suffering and death to the famous work for which we are indebted to that short year of prison life. My excuse for disregarding the probable chronological order, and taking the 'Consolation of Philosophy ' before the religious tracts, lies in the obvious connection of that book with the sad story with which we have been occupied, in its indisputable authenticity, and in the larger insight it affords us into the character and mental attitude of the writer. For while, for reasons that shall presently appear, I cannot bring myself to see in the ' Consolation' Boethius's confession of faith, or a tacit rejection of Christianity; while I look upon both it and the dogmatic chapters rather in the light of prolusiones, though of very different scope, and composed under very different circumstances,—yet it has for us the higher value in that it contains a fairly systematic, and in some measure original, scheme of philosophy. The recollection of earlier studies and modes of thought is so palpable in the various themes of the 'Consolation,' that the book may well stand as the summary of Boethius's metaphysic; and there are gleams of spontaneity amid its general artificial constraint, which are noticeably absent from the other writings of the great Eoman translator. Thus the most important as well as the most grateful duty of the student of Boethius is to make himself early acquainted with this, his author's most characteristic utterance. To this end I purpose giving a short analysis of the five books: I shall then proceed to examine the philosophical system it encloses, endeavouring to show how far it was borrowed from existing systems, and to what extent it was influenced by that religion in which its founder was born and bred.

« AnteriorContinuar »