Imágenes de páginas

endeavoring to free thyself from the fetters rel in a cage, thou turnest to and fro in thy of clerical domination.

insurrections, without any chance of esShake off the prejudices of superstition, cape. Above all, it is thy love of strong become a man first, and an Irishman after drink that makes thee poor ; in it thy poor wards. Then it will be that by thy free, head and thy country also are alike drownintelligent, and energetic association with ed. other men, by whatever name they may My decided opinion may be summed up be called—English, American, or French in one word—the alliance of Ireland with —thy country will be restored to thee in England on one common platform; the one universal fatherland.

enfranchisement of both by one common Learn the true significance of solidarity. bond of brotherhood. In hoc signo vinces. This is the first article So long as the people of England and in our creed. Labor as a member of the Ireland shall stand looking upon each other great universal family. Thy nearest neigh- like two dogs ready to fly at each other, bor, England, will be the first who will the English aristocracy will despise both stretch out her hand and make the Irish one and the other, will rub their hands and Question her own.

laugh at both. Until then it is in vain that, like a squir

[From Fraser's Magazine.



It may


guage, and religion of the nations of WestTOWARD the close of the fifth century

ern Europe, had been as actively at work of our era the Roman Empire of the West

for centuries before, undermining and corformally came to an end by the resignation rupting the whole system, political, social, of the puppet-monarch who, by a strange

and religious, of Imperial Rome; and the irony of fate, bore the name of Romulus. fall of the last Augustus was an event only

A certain number, or rather an uncer important as furnishing a convenient epoch tain number, of centuries which follow

for the conclusion or the beginning of the ed, are known in history as “ the Mid

historian's survey. It is not so easy to dle Ages.” Such designations, necessary agree upon an epoch at which the Middle though they be, are apt to be misleading Ages may be supposed to cease. unless we bear in mind that they are mere

be convenient, with some writers, to fix ly conventional terms, adopted for the con

upon the year 1400, which has the advanvenience of the historian, who must mark tage of being a round number, and thereout his portion of the boundless field, and

fore easily remembered. If we want a fix somewhere his point of departure and date which has a more serious justification, his goal. But in using them, we must re

we must first inquire what great event, or member that there are, in fact, no breaks in

events, had the most influence in turning the long chain of cause and effect; no

the thoughts and energies of men into new pauses in the activity of man, any more

channels, and in remoulding their social than in that of nature; no cataclysm and

and political life after a new pattern. Shall re-creation, but endless evolution; old

we say the revival of classical literature forms decaying and new forms growing, in

and art ? or the growth of a national litobedience to laws which the faith of Sci- erature among the several nations of the ence holds to be eternal and immutable,

West? or the destruction of feudalism? like their Divine Author, even though the

or the change in warfare brought about by complexity of the phenomena may baffle the use of artillery? or the invention of her efforts to classify them and refer them printing? or the discovery of America ? to their causes. The hidden forces which

or the Reformation ? It is obvious that wrought during the Middle Ages, silently the historian would choose by preference and gradually changing the life, the lan

one or other of these events as the point

of contrary flexure, marking the end of the * Two Lectures delivered before the Edinburgh

mediæval and the beginning of the modLiterary and Philosophical Institution.

ern world, in reference to his own special

theme, according as he was writing upon ages which are dark to us, with respect to forms of government, or military tactics, which we are in the dark. As a humble or letters, or commerce, or art, or religion. confession of ignorance this would be unAnd it is equally clear that our modern life objectionable, only we might have to exis the product of all these in combination, tend the term to other ages. But it is gentogether with many minor events which erally used with a feeling of complacent escape our notice, and many occult forces superiority on the part of the scholar which defy our penetration.

toward people who wrote barbarous Latin Again, the Middle Ages may be said to and could not read Greek, or on the part have terminated at different times in differ- of the enlightened Protestant toward beent countries, according to their advance- nighted Papists. I know not who inventment in the arts of war and peace. Fored the phrase, but the feeling of contempt example, the national literature of Italy which prompted it is very conspicuous in owes its rise to the Sicilian poets at the the Italian literature of the Renaissance, court of Frederick II., at the beginning of ard in the French and English literature the thirteenth century, and to Brunetto of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuLatini and the predecessors of Dante at its ries. When John Evelyn sees a great close, a hundred years before Wicliff and cathedral, he condescendingly says that Chaucer created a literature in England. it is “ Gothic, but fair.” The very word The origin of French and Provençal litera- “Gothic,” which to us expresses the most ture is still earlier than that of Italy, while beautiful style of architecture, was first apthe latter country unquestionably takes the plied in contempt. The term “dark ages” lead of all in the revival of classical learn- is frequently used by Gibbon, (e.g. iii. 346,) ing and art. Germany claims the inven- who despised them more for what they tion of printing, but a national German knew than for what they did not know, literature can scarcely be said to have ex- more for their devotion to Christian the. isted before the time of Luther. The Re- ology than for their indifference to ancient formation, which really reformed England, learning. I believe it was Doctor Johnson Scotland, and North-Germany, and pro- who said, “I know nothing of those ages foundly affected France, never gained a which knew nothing," and thought his igserious hold on Italy. In England the norance a proof of wisdom. But for the civilization begun by Chaucer and Wicliff last fifty years or more, a great reaction was quenched by cruel persecution and has been in progress, due to many confludisastrous civil war, so that the historian of ent tendencies of the age, most powerfully mediæval England could not fitly end his helped forward in Britain by the genius of task before the battle of Bosworth Field in Walter Scott, but felt in all the nations of 1485. The“ Canterbury Tales” belong to Western Europe; and now men are ready modern literature, but the Wars of the to adore what their fathers would willingly Roses to the Middle Ages.

have burned. Our architects build houses On the whole, we can not say when the for us after a mediæval pattern,“ with winMiddle Ages ended, but we may use the dows that exclude the light, and passages term as a convenient notation generally that lead to nothing," with battlements intelligible. We know what “spring” and and loopholes highly suitable for bow and “winter” mean, though we can not say arrow practice against an assailing enemy, when the one begins and the other ends. but not otherwise useful.

And one great We may fix March 21st as a convenient writer, in his “ Past and Present,” contrasts date, though many a spring-like day may the thirteenth century as an age of manly come before, and many a wintry day after. earnestness and honest sincerity with our And the snow may lie thick upon the nineteenth century as an age of shams, highlands long after the violets and prim- hypocrisies, and make-believes. Let us roses of the valleys have stolen into bloom. guard against exaggeration on either side.

For us the Middle Ages mean specially To affirm that these Middle Ages had no the period which elapsed between the de- light of reason and conscience for their cline of ancient learning and its revival. guide, no culture and no art, is to slander

But from this point of view the Middle Christianity and natural religion, to ignore Ages are commonly called by another the evidence of extant monuments and of name which is more questionable—“the history; to say on the other hand that we dark ages.” Now this might mean the must look to them as guides and examples,

not only in art, but in politics and religion, inces of the Western continent, which is to deny the great consoling doctrine of speedily reconquered Britain, and by and human progress proclaimed by the poet: by extended its sway far beyond the “Yet, I doubt not, through the ages one increas. limits of the ancient empire. Besides ing purpose runs,

this, the Roman civil law, the noblest And the thoughts of men are widened by the and most enduring monument of anprocess of the suns.

cient genius, continued to maintain itself Even in the darkest period of the dark as the rule of civic life and the bond of ages the light of ancient literature and an- social order. Here and there, if tempocient civilization was never wholly extin- rarily abolished by violence and compelled guished. Successive hordes of barbarians to yield to the customary law of barbarian first wasted and ravaged and held to ran- conquerors, it re-asserted its claims, prov. som, then conquered and settled in Italy, ed its rights to rule men by its reasonableFrance, and Spain, but they ended by ness and its completeness, and has been learning the language and adopting the the basis on which every legislator of the manners of the conquered. In Britain, continent has founded his code, from indeed, the Angles and Saxons swept away Theodosius to Napoleon. Every one all trace of Roman culture, but then in all who studied law must needs acquaint himlikelihood Britain had never been so com- self with Latin, and that not superficially pletely romanized as France or Spain, and but accurately, so as to discriminate beits invaders bore a far larger proportion to tween the meanings and shades of meanthe native inhabitants. In Italy, France, ing which each word bears according to and Spain, the conquerors, chiefly of Teu- its context. Again, all sacred and all protonic origin, like those of Britain, and be- fane literature in Western Europe was longing to a race naturally tenacious of written in Latin. And the amount was old customs, were forced by their paucity enormous. If any one will take the trouof numbers to learn the language of their ble to glance over the footnotes and the subjects, into which they imported their indices to Gibbon's Decline and Fall, or own vocabulary so far as it concerned Milman's History of Latin Christianity, war and the chase. But while they learn- he may convince himself that even in the ed the Latin language, nothing could make darkest and most troubled times there was them learn the Latin grammar. The cases no century, scarcely a decade, which did of nouns and the declensions of verbs not contribute some work still extant to were in great part lost, and the result was theology, philosophy, or history. These a debased jargon, available for the or- works may now be obsolete and unreaddinary intercourse of daily life, but scorn- able; but to become obsolete and unreaded by all who had any pretensions to learn- able is the lot of all, except the happy ing, and held to be utterly unfit to be a few in whom genius is combined with a vehicle of accurate reasoning or lofty elo- favorable opportunity and good fortune. quence. Centuries were to elapse before They prove at all events that learning was these vulgar tongues shaped themselves never extinct, because the authors wrote into Italian, French, and Spanish, each in a language very different from their having its own special forms, and each be- mother-tongue. coming the vehicle of a literature stamped Not only the laws and language, but with the characteristic genius of the peo- many other traditions of the old Empire, ple.

survived its fall. Cities continued to be But side by side with this popular lan- governed by the old municipal regulaguage, a more classical Latin maintained tions; the "potestas," or magistrate, reits ground, chiefly by the influence of the mained in the “podestà;" and the petty Church. The rich and varied ritual, the princes who seized upon separate provauthorized version of the Holy Scriptures, inces, sought for a kind of sanction for and the voluminous works of the West- their usurpations by taking the titles of ern Fathers, were all in Latin, which if not Duke, Count or Viscount, which the later pure, according to the standard of Cicero Emperors had granted to the officers who or Quintilian, yet observed in the main exercised authority in their name. the old rules of grammar and syntax. La- Amid the incessant wars, restrictions and tin was the language of the Church, which vexations, which the division into small never lost its hold on the Roman prov- principalities brought upon the people,

they looked fondly back to the time when turies later the same ruins, or rather the the whole empire was united under one ruins of these ruins, inspired Petrarch with strong central government, as to a golden his zeal for the revival of the ancient learnage; and hence it was that Charlemagne ing, and Rienzi with his plan for the refound enthusiastic support when in his own storation of the ancient polity of Rome. person he revived the Holy Roman Em- It was among the ruins of Rome that pire.

Gibbon first conceived the idea of his imRome was in the eyes of men a Holy niortal history; here Byron found a theme City, quite as much because the Cæsars for some of his noblest poetry; and the had reigned there as because it held the traveler of the present day, though he has tombs of the martyred Apostles. It was, seen and admired the chief architectural indeed, the longing for unity and peace, monuments of mediæval and modern such as the popular imagination believed times, receives from the contemplation of to have been realized in Imperial Rome, the relics of ancient Rome an impression the Pax Romana, which enabled the Popes different in kind, deeper, and more lasting. to found their spiritual empire. ' It was I have already alluded to the fact that from sound policy and not in mere vanity the Church, while struggling for supremathat they transferred to themselves the title cy, and after that supremacy was won but of Pontifex Maximus, which had belong- not yet fully assured, had the worldly wised to the Emperors, and thus invested dom to compromise with Paganism. When their ceremonies and decrees with the au- it took possession of the pagan temples it thority of the most venerable pagan tra- adopted the accustomed holy days, the dition.

priestly vestments, the altars, the incense, Nor were the material monuments of the chanted ritual, and even a semblance the ancient empire without their effect of the sacrifice. The deification which upon the imaginations of men ; especially Paul and Barnabas had rejected with horduring the earlier period of the Middle ror at Lystra, was complacently acquiesced Ages, when these monuments remained in. The benificent attributes of pagan almost unimpaired in their colossal gran- gods and heroes were transferred with deur, and before returning wealth and re- their shrines to Christian saints. The Maviving skill enabled men to build struc- ter Dolorosa took the place of the mourntures for themselves almost as colossal ing Ceres, the Virgin and Child. were suband as grand. The military roads which stituted for Isis and Horus, and the Bestretched across morass and over mountain, loved Physician was worshiped in the straight to their mark like the purposes of stead of Afsculapius. destiny, but now leading from desert to desert; the fragments of bridges of stone

“St. Peter's keys a christened Jove adorn,

And Pan to Moses lends his pagan horn." which once spanned the mightiest rivers, as the Rhine and the Danube; the un- Even pagan literature was pressed into the tenanted castles and abandoned cities; service of the Church. A treatise still extemples and amphitheatres towering amid tant, attributed to the Emperor Constanthe wilderness, where now there were no tine, appeals to the oracles of the sibyls priests and no worshipers for the one, no and to the famous fourth Eclogue of Vircombatants and no spectators for the oth- gil as Gentile prophecies of the coming of er,-must have impressed men with the the Saviour. But when the Church had belief that they were “piled by the hands secured its domination and had nothing of giants for god-like kings of old," and more to fear, it showed a very different with the feeling that they themselves be- spirit and became implacably hostile to all longed to a degenerate and inferior race. that savored of pagan antiquity, whether Especially did the great buildings in Rome in literature or art. Sallust, Cicero, Livy, itself, the Coliseum, the Palace of the Virgil, Terence, Horace, had been the textCæsars, the baths of Diocletian and Ca- books in every shool. There was very racalla, the Pantheon of Agrippa and the little in these authors from which the most Mausoleum of Hadrian, strike pilgrims perverse ingenuity could extract an ecclefrom distant lands with awe and wonder. siastical moral, so the Church never rested Bede records the profound astonishment till they were superseded by Augustine and with which English pilgrims gazed on the Prudentius. Gregory the Great (590-604 mighty circuit of the Coliseum. Cen- A.D.) fulminated his anathemas against all pagan literature, and is said to have scat- scribed works of pagan authors found a tered to the winds what remained of the place—furtively, it is true, and under proPalatine library founded by Augustus. In test, but thus acquiring the additional the eyes of the devout Churchman the flavor of forbidden fruit. gods of the heathen were evil demons, and Again and again reformers arose- -Benthe heathen books which recognized their edict of Aniane, Odilo of Cluny, Gualdivinity were to be consigned to the flames berto of Vallombrosa, Hildebrand, (afteras impious and heretical.

ward Pope Gregory VII.,) Hugh of And yet it is to the Church, though in Cluny, Stephen Harding of Citeau, and the Church's despite, that we owe the pre- Bernárd of Clairvaux-who endeavored to servation of these ancient authors. This restore the rigid discipline of the founder is a paradox, but it is undoubtedly true: of the order. But there is a saying of and it came about through the influence of Horace which has grown into a proverb, the monastic orders.

“ Drive nature out with a pitchfork, still Monasticism is not a product of Chris- she will come back.” Precisely what had tianity. Before the time of Christ in Syria happened at Monte Casino happened at and Palestine and Egypt there were monks Cluny, Citeaux, Clairvaux, and Fountains, and hermits, both communities of Cæno- and the Benedictine writers by their nubites and solitary Anchorites, who had re- merous quotations seem to have been tired into the desert, to escape from the proud of the learning thus surreptitiously temptations of the world, to devote their acquired. Among the rules of the Abbey lives to prayer and fasting, and, by hum- of Cluny, where silence was enforced, or bling the intellect and conquering the pas- supposed to be enforced, there is a code sions, to merit an eternity of reward. If of signs by which the monks were to make the example of Christ, who found tempta- their wants known. If one wanted a book tion in the wilderness and His field of from the library, he was to make a motion action among the haunts of men, was with his hand as if turning over the leaves. opposed to such a course, many isolated There were special signs to indicate that texts of the Old and New Testaments he wanted a missal or a psalter, or a theomight seem to sanction it. It was at Pat- logical treatise ; but if he wanted a promos, not at Ephesus, that the Apocalypse fane work written by a pagan, he was to was vouchsafed to St. John. The monas- scratch his ear like a dog, “ quia nec imtic life, which in the earliest ages of Chris- merito infideles tali animanti comparantianity spread widely in the East, was en

tur." forced in the West by the authority of This may remind us how St. Jerome in Athanasius and the example of Jerome. his retreat at Bethlehem endeavored to cure A more powerful impulse still was given to his mind of its hankering after classical litthe system by St. Benedict, born at Nur- erature by submitting his body to repeated sia in 480, who founded first the monas- flagellations, the very method which in our tery of Subiaco and then that of Monte public schools is applied, quite as ineffecCasino, which to this day the traveler from tually, for the opposite purpose. Rome to Naples sees two thousand feet There was not a single monastic order above him, like a little city along the which did not speedily lapse from the mountain ridge. The rule of St. Benedict, austerity of its founder's rule. The disowhich rigidly parceled out each day be- bedience and worldliness of the Benedic. tween religious worship and manual labor, tines especially took the noble form of a left no room for profane studies. But gra- devotion to literature. In spite of St. Bendually the rule was relaxed; pious dona- edict and St. Bernard, the brethren of the tions and bequests poured wealth upon the Benedictine convents vied with each other monks; the humble sheds which had shel- in the formation of splendid libraries, of tered the earliest brethren expanded into which that of Monte Casino remains to the magnificent monastery with its church, this day, not indeed intact, but still rich in refectory, guest-chamber, and a palace for treasures both sacred and profane. And its Abbot. The monks, now lords of wide the French Benedictines have preserved domains, performed their manual labors even to our own times the noble tradition by deputy, and amused their leisure with of their order. literary pursuits, reading, copying, and col- The eleventh and twelfth centuries were lating manuscripts, among which the pro- marked by a great revival of Latin classi

« AnteriorContinuar »