Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

masses and prayers for him, which they readily promised; but they all mourned and wept, especially because he said, “They should no more see his face in this world.” They rejoiced for that he said, “ It is time that I return to Him who formed me out of nothing: I have lived long; my merciful Judge well foresaw my life for me; the time of my dissolution draws nigh; for I desire to die and to be with Christ.” Having said much more, he passed the day joyfully till the evening; and the boy, above mentioned, said: “Dear master, there is yet one sentence not written." He answered, “Write quickly.” Soon after, the boy said, “ The sentence is now written.” He replied, "It is well, you have said the truth. It is ended. Receive my head into your hands, for it is a great satisfaction to me to sit facing my holy place, where I was wont to pray, that I may also sitting call upon my Father.” And thus on the pavement of his little cell, singing, “ Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost,” when he had named the Holy Ghost, he breathed his last, and so departed to the heavenly kingdom. Al who were present at the death of the blessed father, said they had never seen any other person expire with so much devotion, and in so tranquil a frame of mind. For as you have heard, so long as the soul animated his body, he never ceased to give thanks to the true and living God, with expanded hands exclaiming, “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost!" with other spiritual ejaculations. But know this, dearest brother, that I could say much concerning him, if my want of learning did not cut short my discourse. Nevertheless, by the grace of God, I purpose shortly to write more concerning him; particularly of those things which I saw with my own eyes, and heard with my own ears.

for himself was “ the humble Levite." He was in
a position favourable in the highest degree to self-
seeking, but there is not a trace in his life or writing
of any thought that set advantage of his own before
the well-being of humanity. He gathered to himself
no riches, but spent shrewd energies, that would
have enabled him to compass any low object of
worldly ambition, in strenuous labour to serve God
by establishing His kingdom in the hearts of men.
Alcuin died in the year 804. One of his books
(written in Latin) is a short treatise “On the
Virtues and Vices," written for Wido, Margrave of
Brittany, governor, therefore, of the province that
contained the Abbey of Tours, in which Alcuin died.
This treatise, written at Wido's request to help him in
the government of his own life, began with Wisdom

.Vlill:

The torch passed from Bede to Alcuin, borr., probably, in the year of the death of Bede, A.D. 735. Alcuin, like Cædmon and Bede, was a North countryman. He was taken as an infant into the monastery at York, there trained to the service of the Church, and when his studious character had declared itself, he acquired charge over the minster school and the library, then one of the best in England. On

TREASURE OF WISDOM. (From the MS. of Cædmon.) the library wall Alcuin caused four lines to this effect to be inscribed in Latin verses of his own :

and the three great Christian virtues— Faith, Hope,

Charity—then in a series of short chapters gave the ON A LIBRARY.

characters of the chief virtues and vices, with prac “ Small is the space which contains the gifts of heavenly

tical counsel upon them, enforced by citations of Wisdom

Scripture. There are six-and-thirty chapters in the Which you, Reader, rejoice piously here to receive;

book, of which these are the last two: Richer than richest gifts of the kings this treasure of

Wisdom; Light, for the seeker of this, shines on the road to FROM ALCUIN'S BOOK ON THE VIRTUES AND VICES the Day."

Chapter XXXV.- The Four Virtues.! Charlemagne was in those days establishing his rule; First is to be known what Virtue is. Virtue is a state and looking to First-English civilisation for the

of the soul, a grace of nature, a reason in life, a piety in guidance of his own attempts to civilise his empire,

manners, the worship of the Deity, the honour of the man, he drew to his side the learned Yorkshireman as the deserving of eternal happiness. The parts of it, as # a sort of Minister of Public Instruction. Alcuin have said, are four in chief-Prudence, Justice, Courags. established discipline in the monasteries under Temperance. Prudence is knowledge of divine and humus Charlemagne's dominion, wrote text-books for their schools, attacked what he believed to be heresies of

1 The Four Virtues. He menns the four Virtues called cardi! the time, was not less religious than Bede, though less

which were Prudence or Wisdom, Justice, Courage, Temperance I gentle, for he was stern of opinion and energetic in Plato's Republic the orders in a state are said to be three-Guariis, administration, while recognising all the Christian Auxiliaries, Producers; the virtues of a state three-Wisdom (quality

of the Guardians), Courage (of the Auxiliaries), Temperance of the graces, and labouring to temper even Charlemagne's

Producers and of all); Justice, the fourth Virtue, being the Harmony delight in war with the spirit of mercy. His phrase | of All. These virtues correspond also, said Plato, in the individual a

things, as far as that is given to man; by which is to be l Apart from Cædmon's Paraphrase, the religious understood what a man should avoid, or what he should do: poetry of the First English is now chiefly in two and this is what is read in the Psalm, Depart from evil and collections : the one known as the “ Vercelli Book," do good. Justice is a nobility of the mind, ascribing to because it was discovered in 1823 by Dr. Friedrich each thing its proper dignity. By this, the study of divinity, Blume, in a monastery at Vercelli; the other known rights of humanity, just judgments, and the equity of our

as the “ Exeter Book,” because it is in the Chapter whole life may be preserved. Courage is a great patience of

Library of Exeter Cathedral, to which it was given, the mind and long suffering, with perseverance in good

with other volumes, by Bishop Leofric between the works, and victory over all kinds of vices. Temperance is

years 1046 and 1073. The “ Exeter Book” begins ihe measure of the whole life, lest a man love or hate too

with a fine poem, in nearly 3,400 lines, on Christ, by much, but that a considerate attention temper all varieties

Cynewulf, who is represented also in the “ Exeter of life. But to those who shall keep these in faith and

Book" by a long poem on the Legend of St. charity, are promised the rewards of eternal glory by the

Juliana, and in the “Vercelli Book" by nearly 3,000 truth itself in Christ Jesus. There is no better Prudence than

lines on the Legend of St. Helen, or the Finding that by which God is understood and feared according to

of the Cross. Jacob Grimm was probably right in the measure of the human mind, and his future judgment is believed. And what is more Just than to love God and keep

suggesting that this poet was a Cynewulf, Bishop of his commandments ? through whom, when we were not, we

Lindisfarne, who died in the year 780. He assowere created, and when we were lost we were created anew,

ciated his name with his work by scattering the and freed from the bondage of sin; who freely gave us all

letters of it conspicuously over some short passage the good we have. And in this Courage what is better than

in each of his longer poems. Other metrical legends to overcome the devil, and triumph over all his suggestions, in these books are that of St. Andrew, in 3,444 to bear firmly in God's name all the troubles of the world ? lines, and a shorter legend of St. Guthlac. There A very noble virtue is Temperance, in which stands among are also two poems of a form that survived Firstmen all the honour of this life; that a man shall, in what English times, Addresses of the Soul to the Body, ever cause, think, speak, and do all things with regard to his several religious allegories, of the Phænix, of the well-being. But these things are light and sweet to the man Panther, concerning whom a fable is applied to the loving God, who says, Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly Resurrection, and the Whale, “ cruel and fierce to of heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls; for my seafarers," who is described as a type of the Devil. yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Is it not better and Of him the fable is that he draws his prey by sendhappier to love God, who is eternal beauty, eternal fra- | ing a sweet odour from his mouth. “ Then suddenly grance, eternal rapture, eternal harmony, eternal sweetness,

around the prey the grim gums crash together. So honour perpetual and happiness without an end, than to love

it is to every man who often and negligently in this the vain shows and disquiets of this age-the fair appear.

stormy world lets himself be deceived by Sweet ances, sweet savours, soft sounds, fragrant odours and things

odour. ... Hell's latticed doors have not return or pleasant to the touch, the passing delights and honours of

escape, or any outlet for those who enter, any more the world, that all recede and vanish as a flying shadow,

than the fishes sporting in ocean can turn back deceive the lover of himself, and send him to eternal misery?

from the whale's grip.” In the First-English artist's But he who faithfully loves God and the Lord, unceasingly

illustration to Cadmon's Fall of the Angels' and worships Him, and steadily fulfils His commandments, shall

other drawings of his, the open jaws of the whale be made worthy to possess eternal glory with His angels.

represent the mouth of hell. We shall find this

symbol retained in medieval literature. Among the CHAPTER XXXVI.--Peroration of the Work.

shorter poems is one called “ The Sea-farer." This These things have I set down for you, my sweetest son, in

builds an allegory upon our English desire towards short discourse, as you requested; that you may have them

the sea, and represents under the figure of seafaring always in your sight as a little handbook, in which you may

the leaving earth behind and its unstable joys, for consider with yourself what you ought to avoid, or what to

lonely watching and striving, against all cold discoudo, and be exhorted in each prosperous or adverse accident ragements and through all trial in the tumults of of this world how you should mount to the height of perfec the spiritual storm, uncared for by those who choose tion. And do not let the quality of the lay habit or secular | earth and its pleasures. Let me try to translate companionship deter you, as if in that dress you could not enter the gates of heaven. Since there are preached, equally

THE SEAFARER. to all, the blessings of the kingdom of God, so to every sex,

I may sing of myself now age, and person equally, according to the height of merit,

A song that is true, does the way into the kingdom of God lie open. There it is

Can tell of wide travel, not distinguished who was in this world layman or clerk,

Of hard days of toil; rich man or poor, youth or elder, master or slave; but each

How oft through long seasons one according to the merit of his deeds shall be crowned

I suffered and strove, with eternal glory. Amen.

Abiding within my breast

Bitterest care; three qualities-Wisdom to the Rational, Courage to the Spirited,

How I sailed among sorrows Temperance to the Appetitive; while Injustice disturbs their Har.

In many a sea; mony. It is the Just aim alike of a Man and of a State to be Tem.

The wild rise of the waves, perate, Brave, and Wise. In his Protagoras Plato added to these four

The close watch through the night cardinal virtues Holiness (00 10This); the evoeßera frequently men. tioned as a virtue by the Socrates of Xenophon. Aristotle omitted

------this, distinctly separating Ethics from Religion.

See page 7.

10

At the dark prow in danger
Of dashing on rock,
Folded in by the frost,
My feet bound by the cold
In chill bands, in the breast
The heart burning with care.
The soul of the sea weary
Hunger assailed.

80

[blocks in formation]

90

Knows not he who finds happiest
Home upon earth
How I lived through long winters
In labour and care,
On the icy-cold ocean,
An exile from joy,
Cut off from dear kindred,
Encompassed with ice.
Hail flew in hard showers,
And nothing I heard
But the wrath of the waters,
The icy-cold way;
At times the swan's song;
In the scream of the gannet
I sought for my joy,
In the moan of the sea-whelp
For laughter of men,
In the song of the sea-mew
For drinking of mead.
Starlings answered the storm
Beating stones on the cliff,
Icy-feathered, and often
The eagle would shriek,
Wet of wing.
Not one home-friend could feel
With the desolate soul;
For he little believes
To whom life's joy belongs
In the town, lightly troubled
With dangerous tracks,
Vain with high spirit
And wanton with wine,
How often I wearily
Held my sea-way.

Groves bud with green,
The hills grow fair,
Gay shine the fields,
The world's astir:
All this but warns
The willing mind
To set the sail,
For so he thinks
Far on the waves
To win his way.
With woeful note
The cuckoo warns,
The summer's warden sings,
And sorrow rules
The heart-store bitterly,
No man can know,
Nursed in soft ease,
The burden borne
By those who fare
The farthest from their friends.

100

[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

The night shadows darkened, It snowed from the north ; The rime bound the rocks ; The hail rolled upon earth, Coldest of corn: Therefore now is high heaving In thoughts of my heart, That my lot is, to learn The wide joy of waters The whirl of salt spray. Often desire drives My soid to depart, That the home of the strangers Far hence I may seek.

For my will to my Master's pleasure
Is warmer than this dead life
That is lent us on land.
I believe not
That earth-blessings ever abide.
Ever of three things one,
To each ere the severing hour:
Old age, sickness, or slaughter,
Will force the doomed soul to depart.

130

There is no man among us So proud in his mind, Nor so good in his gifts, Nor so gay in his youth, Nor so during in deeds, Nor so dear to his lord, That his soul never stirred

Therefore for each of the earls,
Of those who shall afterwards name them,
This is best laud from the living
In last words spoken about himn :-
He worked ere he went his way,
When on earth, against wiles of the foe,
With brave deeds overcoming the devil.
His memory cherished
By children of men,
His glory grows ever

If every man
Kept measure in mind
With friend and with foe,2

140

More force is in fate,
In the Maker more might,
Than in thought of a man.

With angels of God,
In life everlasting
Of bliss with the bold.
Passed are the days of the pride
Of the kingdoms of earth.
Kings are no more, and kaisers.
None count out,
As once they did, their gifts of gold
When that made them most great,
And Man judged that they lived .
As Lords most High.
That fame is all fallen,
Those joys are all fled;
The weak ones abiding
Lay hold on the world:
By their labour they win.

150

[blocks in formation]

160

High fortune is humbled ;
Earth's haughtiness ages
And wastes, -as now withers
Each Man from the world:
Old Age is upon him
And bleaches his face ;
He is gray-haired and grieves,
Knows he now must give up
The old friends he cherished,
Chief children of earth.
The husk of flesh,
When life is fled,
Shall taste no sweetness,
Feel no sore;
Is in its hand no touch;
Is in its brain no thought.
Though his born brother
Strew gold in the grave,
Bury him pompously
Borne to the dead,
Entomb him with treasure,
The trouble is vain :
The soul of the sinful
His gold may not save
From the awe before God,
Though he hoarded it heedfully
While he lived here.

170

Cynewulf's “ Christ,” of which the original opening is lost, begins for us with praise of Christ as the corner-stone that the builders rejected, and with looking to Christ from the prison of this world. The poet then dwells on the mystery of the pure birth of the Saviour, and passes to a hymning of praise of the Virgin, “the delight of women among all the hosts of heaven.” The theme of the Nativity is approached with an imagined dialogue between Joseph and Mary, and passes again into a strain of joyous hymning. In the one measure common to all FirstEnglish poetry, which I put into another form without change of his thoughts, Cynewulf sings his

[blocks in formation]

Great awe is in presence of God.'
The firm ground trembles before Him
Who strongly fixed its foundations,
The limits of earth and the heavens.
Fool is he without fear of the Lord ;
To him will come death unforeseen:
Happy he who is lowly of life;
To him will come honour from heaven :
The Creator will strengthen his soul
Because he put trust in His power.

[blocks in formation]

Rude will should be ruled
And restrained within bound
And clean in its ways with men.

With fangs of death the accursed wolf hath scattered, Lord,

the flock That with Thy blood, in time of old, O Master, thou hast

bought; He has us in fierce clutch; we are his prey, his mock, He scorns our soul's desire; wherefore, to Thee is all our

thought.

i This line begins a new leaf, and although there is no sign of its removal, Mr. Thorpe supposed that a leaf had been lost from the book between the preceding line and this, which he believed to belong to the close of another poem. But surely there is a clear sequence of thought.

· Though written without break, the original is here defective, through some oversight of the copyist.

Thee, our Preserver, earnestly we pray that Thou devise

For sad exiles a speedy help; let the dark spirit fall
To depths of hell; but let thy work, Creator, let man rise

Justly to that high realm whence the Accursed drew us all.

to the eighth century, and was, perhaps, by Aldhelm. I give one of these versified Psalms of David—the sixty-seventh-as an example of First English.

Through love of sin he drew us that, bereft of heaven's | FIRST-ENGLISH METRICAL VERSION OF PSALM LXVII." light,

Verse 1. Miltsa us, mihtig drihten, We suffer endless miseries, betrayed for evermore, l'nless Thou come to save us from the slayer, Lord of Might!

and us on móde eác Shelter of Man! O Living God! come soon, our need is

gebletsa nu!

beorhte leóhte sore!

thinne andwlítan and us

on móde weorth Cynewulf then continuing the theme of the Nativity

thuruh thíne mycelnesse with renewed praise of the Virgin, passes to the

milde and blíthe! resurrection, the ascension, the descent into hell,

2. And we thæs on eorthan and liberation of the souls who there awaited the

andgyt habbath Lord's coming; and he closes his poem with hymns

and úre wegaś wide of praise and thanksgiving to God who gives us food

geond thás wertheóde and all blessings of this life, the sun and moon, the

on thinre hælo dew and rain, the increase of the earth, and the

healdan mótan. salvation of the soul through Christ.

3. Fole the andette! Outside the Exeter and Vercelli Books, the most

thu eart fæle God; important First-English religious poem is a fragment

and the andetten on the story of Judith, which, although a fragment,

ealle theóda! includes the part to which the poet gave his highest energy, the slaying of Holofernes, and the welcoming of Judith by the city she had saved. This poem is 1 Miltsa, Be merciful. “Milts,” mercy; "milts-ian," to pity, 10 in the same MS. which contains the great poem of

be gracious. Allied to the word “mild."- Mihtig, mighty; the h

having been strongly aspirated is now represented by gh, the softened Beowulf, not religious, but a record of the Northern

g by y.-Drihten, Lord; “driht,” a household; “ drihten," lori, as the supreme father and ruler. - On móde, in mind (mood).Gobletsa nu, bless now.-Beorhte, brightly; e, a case-ending, passed

dverbial sign.-Leóhte, make shine.-Thinne andulitan, thy face "andwlita" = German “antlitz." It is a masculine noun ending in a, and therefore of the first declension, which consists only of pouns ending in the vowels a or e, and is thus inflected

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

TH PRALMIST.
From a Piller of the Tenth century, Cotton MS. Tiberius, C. vi.

life of our forefathers before they had received Christianity. The place for some representation of Beowulf will be in the section of this Library that describes our larger works in verse and prose. There are also First-English hymns and prayers in various MSS., and a version of the Psalms, partly in prose,

Plu,

Nom. & Acc.
Gen.
Dat. & Abl.

um
Weorth, become; "weorthan," to become, be. The word is used in
such a phrase as “woe worth the day."-- Tharuh thine mycelness,
through thy( mickleness) greatness. Thæs (adverb), for this.-Andgyl.
understanding.-We habbath, we have, or shall have. There was no
future teuse in First English, the present represented it. -
was the plural sign in the present indicative of verbs where the pro
noun preceded the verb, « if the pronoun followed. The present
of “habban," to have, in which the v is formed by soft pronunciation
of the b, shows the original softening of the b into an ), which has
since been softened out of existence altogether. Ic habbe or bæble
= have ; thu hæfst-ha(f)st; he hæfth-ha (i)th; we, ge or hi hab.
bath, or babbe we, ge or hi. So in the past “ bælde" becomes
“ha(f)d."_Ure vejas, our ways. “Weg," way, x masculine noun
endius in a consonant, is of the second declension, which contains

« AnteriorContinuar »