Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

of literature and divinity; indeed the phrase, "furatis horulis a diversis occupationum distensionibus*," which he uses in describing the composition of his work on predestination, implies an ardor in the cause of learning, which in a more propitious age might have led to the most noble results.

The latter half of the century, however, presents to our notice in the monasteries of France two illustrious names, whose distinction has no small weight in softening the severe judgment which posterity has passed on the general ignorance of their country, Abbo, Abbot of Fleuri, and his more famous successor in the same monastery f and in the pursuit of the same sciences, Gerbert, who afterwards occupied the papal chair as Sylvester II. The latter, with whom closes the intellectual history of the centuries through which we have passed, presents to us a rare combination of vast scientific and theologic acquirements with political talents which raised him ultimately to the highest pinnacle of clerical ambition. The learned distinction he attained may alone incline us to hesitate in believing the accounts which so many historians have given of the excessive darkness of his age1.

* Id. t. v. p. 554. Life of Hinemar.

+ Though it does not appear that Gerbert taught permanently at Fleuri, yet it was undoubtedly one of the schools to which he imparted the Arab science he had acquired.

1 Hincmar's letter to pope Nicholas ( Frodoard, Hist. Ecc. Rem. lib. iii. c. 14. ap. Guizot, Coll. des Mem. v. 300, 301; Couvenier, p. 376) against Gottschalk bears sufficient testimony to the learning of the accused. And Hincmar's successor Fulk restored at His writings, though to us unknown beyond the mere titles, exercised a powerful influence over the intellectual world of his day, and that mathematical lore which he had drawn from the Arab schools of Cordova, and which established his fame as a magician among the ignorant laity of his time, was, as we may be well assured, not thrown away on his clerical contemporaries*. But to the historical student he is chiefly known, not as the restorer of geometrical or arithmetical skill, nor as the voluminous theological writer, but as the first to call attention to the desolation of the Holy Land by the Saracens, and to direct the eyes of the rising chivalry of Europe to the conquest of the East. Thus with him fitly closes the ecclesiastical history of these early days of national development, since we may reasonably look upon him as stationed at the very commencement of that great era of the Crusades, the most characteristic portion of mediaeval history.

If from the continental countries we turn to our own island, we shall meet with a prospect which, though never illuminated by such splendid talents as those which gave

Rheims two almost ruined schools, one for the canons of the place and the other for the clergy of the neighbourhood, and sent for Remigius of Auxerre to teach the liberal arts (ibid. lib. iv. c. 9. p. 528. Guizot; p. 642. Couvenier). Seulf, a pupil of Remigius and likewise a bishop of Rheims, is described as sufficiently instructed in the ecclesiastical and secular sciences (ibid. c. 18, p. 538. Guizot; p. 654. Couvenier).

* See the elaborate life of Gerbert in the Hist. Lit. de France, t. vi. p. 559.

so much lustre to the age of Charlemagne, is at the same time free from the gloomy and revolting features so prominent in France during the tenth century1. The whole literary history of England during the period preceding the Norman Conquest leads us to believe that the wide distinction between the intellectual acquirements of the clergy and the laity, which we have remarked as checking the full influence of the Church on the Continent, existed to a far more limited degree among our Anglo-Saxon progenitors, though that it existed to a certain extent appears from the popular suspicion of unlawful science which attached to Dunstan as it did to his great contemporary Gerbert2. The greater closeness of the intellectual bond uniting the two orders of society may be inferred from the circumstance that the Anglo-Saxon clergy, not content with making use of a dead language to express their thoughts, whether in the graver matters of ecclesiastical discipline or in their literary performances, brought into frequent requisition the language of the common people3. This is perhaps only one of the remote conse

1 In 984 Egelric, abbot of Croyland after Turtekul, gave "communi bibliothecse claustralium monachorum magna volumina diversorum doctorum originalia numero quadraginta, minora vero volumina de diversis tractatibus et historiis, qute numerum centenarium excedebant" (Hist. Ing. ap. Gale, Rer. Ang. Scr. i. 53).

2 See Ducange's account (Preface to his Glossary, c. 32) of the depressed state of literature in England, owing to Danish invasions, till restored by the exertions of Dunstan and Ethelwold.

5 "Et quidem omnes, qui Latinam linguam lectionis usu didicerunt, etiam hsec [sc. fidem catholicam, que apostolorum symbolo continetur, et Dominicam orationem] optime didicisse certissimum

Q quences of that radical difference between the social position of the English and the Continental clergy to which we have already referred. It would have been vain to expect any great results from the intellectual action on the laity of France or Germany of a priesthood who looked upon the tongue of their ancestors as a barbarian idiom, incapable of expressing those great moral or theological truths which they laboured to disseminate among their clerical brethren alone. In England there was no such difficulty to be overcome, and the laity could there find no difficulty in understanding the Anglo-Saxon poetry of Aldhelm, or the numerous translations which they owed to the literary zeal of their greatest sovereign; indeed, if the clergy had kept the key of knowledge in their own hand, we can hardly imagine why so distin

est; sed idiotas, hoc est, eos qui propria tantum linguse notitiam habent, hsec ipsa sua lingua dicere ac sedulo decantare facito. Quod non solum de laicis, id est, in populari adhuc vita constitutis, verum etiam de clericis sive monachis, qui Latinie sunt linguse expertes, fieri oportet. Sic enim fit ut coetus omnis fidelium quomodo fidelis esse, qua se firmitate credendi contra immundorum spirituum certamina munire atque armare debeat discat; sic ut chorus omnis Deo supplicantium quid maxime a divina dementia quseri oporteat agnoscat. Propter quod et ipse multis ssepe sacerdotibus idiotis hsec utraque, et symbolum videlicet et Dominicam. orationem>inlinguam Anglorum translatam obtuli." Bede, Ep. ad Ecgbert. 6. Later it would appear that priests sometimes knew only the language of the laity: "It behoves us bishops that we disclose to you priests in the English tongue the divine doctrine which our canon prescribes to us, and which also the book of Christ teaches us; because ye cannot all understand the Latin" (iElfric, Past. Ep. i. ap. Thorpe. Anc. Laws, p. 452).

guished a scholar as King Alfred should have considered it not beneath him to turn the works of Boethius, Orosius, Bede, and Gregory into a language not a whit more accessible to his clerical subjects than the original Latin. On the whole, we find that the remark we have already made as to the more healthy influence exerted over the Anglo-Saxon nation by their spiritual teachers in matters political holds equally good in matters intellectual; as in the former they amalgamated freely with the other members of the state, and tacitly ruled without domineering, so in the latter they diffused, as far as with such imperfect means of communication they could, the blessings of the knowledge they possessed through every order of society, from King Alfred, who rejoiced no less than Charlemagne in the company of his learned bishops, to the literary ladies whom Aldhelm* did not think it beneath his dignity to instruct by his treatise "De Laude Virginitatis."

But before we conclude our investigation of their moral and intellectual action, we must say a few words concerning that aesthetic influence of the clergy which must be attributed to them as patrons and restorers of art even during those years of destroying Vandalism. We have spoken of the blessings conferred on the barbarian nations by the monkish restorers of agriculture and all that is most practically useful in society; less important, but not less unquestionable, is the revival within the sheltering walls of so many religious houses * See Wright, Anglo-Saxon Lit. Biog. pp. 32, 33.

« AnteriorContinuar »