Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

by the following illumination in the manuscript, descriptive of the formation of Eve from the side of Adam as he slept; and in order that the reader might make no mistake as to the interpretation of the drawing, the scribe has added, in the margins, a

[graphic][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed]

brief statement of what was intended to be understood by each part of the picture. At the head of the illumination, in Anglo-Saxon, we are told "Here God's Angels proceed from Heaven into Paradise." On the right-hand side are the words, "Here the Lord cast sleep upon Adam and took a rib from his

side and created his wife from that rib"; and on the left hand we read, "Here the Lord created Adam's wife, Eve."

From this illumination, as well as from the wording of the poem, we must suppose that the poet intended this "Starry Sphere" as attached, at its north pole or zenith, to the Gates of the Empyrean by a celestial stairway, so that, along this channel of communication, a flood of light, darting downwards from the Empyrean into Chaos, through the opened Gates, and commingling with the shimmer of the Spheres below, would make the upper pole of this Starry Universe a blaze of golden mist.

The whole of this part of the poem, presupposes the Ptolemaic system of astronomy;-the only system taught in Cadmon's day, or indeed for nearly a thousand years subsequently. Even so late as Milton's time, as we shall subsequently see, the Copernican system was far from being universally acknowledged by the scientific world, and both Dante and Milton built their poems, as Cædmon did, on the erroneous, though popular, astronomy of their own day.

According to the Ptolemaic system, what we have called the Starry Universe, hanging close by the Empyrean, was supposed to be an immense sphere cut or carved out of infinite space, and consisting of

eight concentric parallel Spheres, diminishing gradually in size, and wheeling one within the other, like a nest of Chinese balls, with our Earth, surrounded by its atmosphere, at the centre. The Ptolemaic system of astronomy, thus viewed the whole visible

[blocks in formation]

Universe from the Earth as the immovable centre of all things.

Such a sphere, as we have just described, if cut through at right angles to its polar axis, would show a plane or surface diagram similar to many which

may be seen in the old text-books or manuals on Astronomy such as Milton used in teaching his pupils.*

At the centre, is the Earth, fixed and immovable while the eight concentric heavenly Spheres (represented on this plane surface as concentric circles) revolve around this fixed centre.

It is almost needless to say that the lines dividing the Spheres one from another, as marked out in the above diagram, are mathematical lines, i. e., popularly speaking, purely imaginary lines; each planet, sun or belt of fixed stars, keeping to its own well-defined Sphere or orbit, but with no visible lines of demarcation between such orbits.

To one descending the celestial steps from the Gates of the Empyrean, and gazing down into the heart of this great globe of concentric Spheres through the opening or entrance at its zenith, the scene presented would be one of surpassing grandeur. The first thing that would strike the eye would be the dazzling belt of the glittering dust of the Fixed Stars; then below, Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars bounding along in their enormous parallel Spheres or orbits; below this again, the blinding splendour of the circuit of the Sun; still lower, the calmer pathways of Venus and Mercury; then the Sphere of the * Vide Note I.

pale Moon, the satellite, with her reflected silver light; and finally, at the centre, at the very heart of these bewildering immensities of space, the impassive Earth with her veil of atmosphere and fire and water, the abode of God's creative masterpiece.

Of course, we know that, astronomically, this is all wrong; and yet it has served as the setting for three of the grandest sacred poems of which literature can boast.

In the third section of the poem, Cædmon returns to the point at which he had broken off the narrative to describe the creation of Man; and now resumes the thread of his story, recapitulating, with fuller details, the origin of the rebellion in Heaven and the expulsion of the rebel hosts.

He begins his fuller outburst of song by telling of the creation of the ten Angel-tribes whom God had

Moulded in his own similitude,

and had endowed with every heavenly grace. One of this angelic host, it seems, the Deity had raised to the highest pinnacle of intelligence and power; the most highly favoured subject of all the immortal denizens of the Empyrean. This Archangel, the trusted Vicegerent of the Deity, in course of time, begins to harbour dark and traitorous thoughts, until, at length, he frowns and becomes a rebel.

« AnteriorContinuar »