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officium," said Jerome, and a monk, as such, had no business, and did not, in fact, pretend, to teach anybody or anything. This, though strictly applicable only to the original state of things, may be, in some degree, applied to the subsequent condition of monastic institutions, when most of the monks were priests ; because the real and practical difference is between those who live in the world with, and for the sake of, the cure of souls, and those who, either for devotion or for any other reason, live out of the world in the cell or the cloister. *
Notwithstanding—or, perhaps, I ought rather to say, by reason of-this, the monks took the lead in learning. It is not worth while here to enter into all the reasons of this, while there is one that is so obvious-namely, that they led quiet, retired, and regular lives ; and that if they could not be originally, or at all times, said to have more leisure than the secular clergy, their employments and habits were of a nature less unfriendly to study. Instead, therefore, of now entering into this matter, let us come at once to a question which must be met if we are to understand each other or the subject,—for I cannot help fearing that I (while speaking of the dark ages) and some, at least, of my readers may be thinking of very different things, under the same name-What is learning ? or, to put the question in a more limited and less troublesome form-What did the people of the dark ages think on this subject? It might, I think, be shewn that there were a good many persons in those ages not so destitute of all that is now called learning as some have asserted, and many without much inquiry believe. I might ask, how does it happen that the classics, and the older works on art or science, now exist? and I might, with still greater force (but obviously with intolerable prolixity), appeal to the works of writers of those ages to shew that they know the meaning of that which, no one can deny, they preserved and multiplied. But this is not to our present purpose ; and the proper answer is, that they were brought up with views respecting profane learning which it is necessary for
That which St. Jerome so pithily expressed, is more diffusely stated by St. Ambrose—“Namque hæc duo in adtentiore christianorum devotione præstantiora esse quis ambigat, clericorum officia, et monachorum instituta? Ista ad commoditatem et moralitatem disciplina, illa ad abstinentiam adsuefacta atque patientiam : hæc velut in quodam theatro, illa in secreto : spectatur ista, illa absconditur Hæc ergo vita in stadio, illa in spelunca ; hæc adversus confusionem sæculi, illa adversus carnis appetentiam : hæc subjiciens, illa refugiens corporis voluptates : hæc gratior, illa tutior : hæc seipsam regens, illa semet ipsam coercens : utraque tamen se abnegans, ut fiat Christi ; quia perfectis dictum est : Qui vult post me venire, abnegat seipsum sibi, et tollat crucem suam, et sequatur me.' Hæc ergo dimicat, illa se removet : hæc illecebras vincit, illa refugit: huic mundus triumphatur, illi exsulat : huic mundus crucifigitur, vel ipsa mundo, illi ignoratur : huic plura tentamenta, et ideo major victoria ; illi infrequentior lapsus, facilior custodia.”—Ep. lxiii., tom ii.,
us to understand before we form our judgment of the men ; and, as I have never seen these views clearly stated, I will take leave to say a few words about them.
“Quid ergo Athenis et Hierosolymis ? quid Academiæ et Ecclesiæ ? quid hæreticis et Christianis ? Nostra institutio de porticu Salomonis est : qui et ipse tradiderat, Dominum in simplicitate cordis esse quærendum. Viderint qui Stoicum, et Platonicum, et Dialecticum Christianismum protulerunt. Nobis curiositate opus non est, post Christum Jesum, nec inquisitione, post evangelium. Cum credimus, nihil desideramus ultra credere. Hoc enim prius credimus, non esse, quod ultra credere debemus." These are not the words of a monk of the tenth century, but of a priest of the second ; and how far it might have been better or worse if the Christian church had maintained, and acted on, the feeling which they express, this is not the place to discuss. In point of fact, the rigour of the law here laid down was much softened,-or perhaps I should say that an excuse was soon provided for those who were enamoured of profane learning. They were not to go down to Egypt for help. Undoubtedly; but they might spoil the Egyptians, and bring that silver and gold which, wherever they may be found, are the Lord's, into the camp of his people. They were not to contract alliances with the heathen. Certainly not; but if, in the course of war, they should see among the spoil a beautiful captive, it was lawful to bring her home; and, when her head had been shaved, and her nails pared, to take her to wife. These fancies were, as far as I know, excogitated by Origen,—the man, perhaps, of all others most bound and best able to devise some excuse for a practice which the severe and exclusive purity of primitive Christianity had condemned.**
In his letter to Gregory (tom i., p. 30), he suggests that this might be really intended by the command given to the Israelites to borrow from the Egyptians. As to the captive, after quoting the law (Deut. xxi. 10), he says—" And to say the truth, I also have frequently gone out to battle against my enemies, and there I have seen, among the spoil, a woman beautiful to behold. For whatever we find that is well and rationally said in the works of our enemies, if we read anything that is said wisely and according to knowledge, we ought to cleanse it, and from that knowledge which they possess to remove and cut off all that is dead and useless,- for such are all the hair of the head, and the nails of the woman taken out of the spoils of the enemy,—and then at length to make her our wife, when she no longer has any of those things which for their infidelity are called dead. Nothing dead on her head or in her hands; so that neither in senses, nor in action, she should have anything that is unclean or dead about her.” In Levit. Hom. VII. tom. ii., p. 227. If Origen's plaything were not the Word of God, one might often be amused with his childish fooleries; but when we consider what mischief has been done to truth by the way of allegorizing (or, as it is now called, spiritualizing) the Bible, it can. not be looked on without disgust. Of course, the next step is to despise and get rid of the letter of Scripture, as Jerome does most unceremoniously (not to say blasphemously) in this very case. After telling us that the husks, in the parable of the prodigal son may mean poetry, rhetoric, and the wisdom of this world, he adds-“ Hujus sapientiæ typus et in Deuteronomio sub mulieris captivæ figura describitur : de qua divina vox præcipit : ut si Israelites eam habere voluerit uxorem, calvitium
VOL. IX.-Jan. 1836.
Whether it was entirely valid or not, however, this was, for more than a thousand
years, the standing excuse of those who were conscious (not to say vain) of their heathenish acquirements. Take, for instance—and as a specimen of the feeling at a period with which we are at present more concerned than with that of Tertullian or Origen-a letter and answer which passed between a prior and an abbot, in the year 1150 :-“ To his Lord, the Venerable Abbot of
Ř. wishes health and happiness. Although you desire to have the books of Tully, I know that you are a Christian and not a Ciceronian. But you go over to the camp of the enemy, not as a deserter, but as a spy. I should, therefore, have sent you the books of Tully which we have De Re Agraria, Philippics and Epistles, but that it is not our custom that
any books should be lent to any person without good pledges. Send us, therefore, the Noctes Atticæ of Aulus Gellius, and Origen on the Canticles. The books which we have just brought from France, if you wish for any of them, I will send you.” The Abbot replied - Brother
by the grace of God what he is in the Catholic Church, to his friend R., the venerable Prior of H -., blessing and life eternal. You have rightly reminded me, brother, that though I may have the books of Cicero, yet I should remember that I am a Christian ; and as you have written (and as your Seneca says of himself) I go over sometimes to the enemies' camp, not as a deserter or traitor, but as a spy, and one who is desirous of spoil, if haply I may take prisoner some Midianitish woman, whom, after her head has been shaved, and her nails have been pared, I may lawfully take to wife. And though I deserve only to be a stranger-or, indeed, an exile-in a far country, nevertheless I desire rather to be filled with that bread which came down from heaven, than to fill my belly with the husks which the swine do eat. The dishes prepared by Cicero do not form the principal, or the first, course at my table; but if, at any
ei faciat, ungues præsecet, et pilos auferat : et cum munda fuerit effecta tunc transeat in in victoris amplexus. Hæc si secundum literam intelligimus nonne ridicula sunt? Itaque et nos hoc facere solemus quando philosophos legimus," &c.— Ad Damas, tom. iii., p. 44, M. My object here, however, is only to shew whence certain opinions and feelings of the dark ages were derived. The reader who thinks what I have said insufficient may see the account which Jerome gives, in his epistle to Eustochium, of his being brought before the judgment-seat, and punished as a Ciceronian. The story is too long to be extracted here, and too well known, perhaps, to require it. At all events, it was well known in the dark ages. He introduces it by saying—“ Quæ enim communicatio luci ad tenebras ? qui consensus Christo cum Balial ? Quid facit cum Psalterio Horatius? cum Evangeliis, Maro ? Cum Apostolis, Cicero ?" &c.—tom i., p. 51, C. To this we may add, the first book of Augustine's Confessions, c. 12, and thenceforth stronger things than these fathers wrote are not, I believe, to be found in the writings of the dark ages. Some of what Jerome says it would hardly do to produce in the present day--for instance, “At nunc etiam sacerdotes Dei, omissis evangeliis et prophetis, videmus comedias legere, amatoria Bucolicorum versuum verba canere, tenere Virgilium : et id quod in pueris necessitatis est, crimen in se facere voluptatis," &c.
time, when filled with better food, anything of his pleases me, I take it as one does the trifles which are set on the table after dinner. For it is even a kind of pleasure to me not to be idle. Nor, indeed (to say nothing of any other reasons) can I bear that that noble genius, those splendid imaginations, such great beauties both of thought and language, should be lost in oblivion and neglect; but I want to make into one volume all his works which can be found; for I have no sympathy with those who, neglecting all liberal studies, are careful only for transitory things; and who collect that they may disperse, and disperse that they may collect. They are like men playing at ball-they catch eagerly, and throw away quickly; so that they have no moderation either in catching or in throwing away. Although their doctrine is praised by secular persons of bad character, yet if you love me, you will avoid it as poison, and the death of the soul. I have sent you as pledges for your books, Origen on the Canticles, and instead of Aulus Gellius, (which I could not have at this time,) a book which is called, in Greek, Strategematon, which is military.”
It must be observed, however that this excuse would scarcely serve—indeed, strictly speaking, it could not be admitted at all — for reading heathen works of fiction. The Midianitish captive might have beauty, and might be loved, if she assumed the form of philosophy or history, art or science. Truth, wherever found, is truth and beauty ; but when the captive appeared in the meretricious form of poetry, and that, too, poetry about false gods-or, more plainly, nonsense about nonentities—or even, coarsely as they would have expressed it, lies about devils—when this was the case they thought that the less Christians had to do with it the better. Beside this, they thought that Virgil and Horace (to say nothing of some others) spoke of things whereof it is a shame to speak—things which children should not be taught, and which it were better that Christian men should not know. This was their feeling and conviction ; and on this they acted. It was not, as modern conceit loves to talk, that they were ignorant that such books existed, or that they were men so destitute of brains and passions as not to admire the language in which the heathen poets described, and the images in which they personified, ambition, rage, lust, intemperance, and a variety of other things quite contrary to the Rules of St. Benedict and St. Chrodegang. I grant that they had not that extravagant and factitious admiration for the poets of antiquity, which they probably would have had if they had been brought up to read them before they could understand them, and to admire them as a necessary matter of taste, before they could form any intellectual or moral estimate of them ; they thought too that there were worse things in the world than false quantities, and preferred running the risque of them to some other risques which they apprehended ;* but yet there are instances enough of the classics (even the poets) being taught in schools, and read by individuals ; and it cannot be doubted that they might have been, and would have been, read by more, but for the prevalence of that feeling which I have described ; and which, notwithstanding these exceptions, was very general. Modern, and, as it is supposed, more enlightened, views of education, have decided that this was all wrong ; but let us not set down what was at most an error of judgment, as mere stupidity and a proof of total barbarism. If the modern ecclesiastic should ever meet with a crop-eared monk of the tenth century, he may, if he pleases, laugh at him for not having read Virgil ; but if he should himself be led to confess that, though a priest of Christ's catholic church, and nourished in the languages of Greece and Rome till they were almost as familiar to him
as his own, he had never read a single page of Chrysostom or Basil, of Augustine or Jerome, of Ambrose or Hilary—if he should confess this, I am of opinion that the poor monk would cross himself, and make off without looking behind him.
So different are the feelings of men, and I doubt whether it is possible for any man in the present day to form a complete idea of the state of feeling on this subject which existed for many centuries, but it is very desirable that it should be understood, and perhaps it may be illustrated by a few extracts from writers of different periods.
Pope Gregory wrote a letter to Desiderius, a Bishop of Gaul, which begins thus :—“Having received much pleasing information respecting your studies, such joy arose in my heart that I could not on any account think of refusing what you, my brother, requested. But after this I was informed (what I cannot repeat without shame) that you, my brother, teach certain persons
• When our Archbishop Lanfranc was a monk at Bec, but at a time when the most renowned teachers of Latin were coming to him for instruction-clerici accurrunt, Ducum filii, nominatissimi scholarum latinitatis magistri—he was one day officiating as reader at table, when the prior corrected, or thought that he corrected, him for a false quantity. It was, says his biographer, “ as if he had said docēre with the middle syllable long, as it is; and he [the prior] would bave corrected it, by shortening the middle syllable to docěre, which it is not, for that prior was not learned. But the wise man, knowing that obedience was due to Christ rather than to Donatus, gave up the right pronunciation, and said as he was improperly told to say. For he knew that a false quantity was not a capital crime, but that to disobey one who commanded him in God's stead (jubenti ex parte Dei) was no trilling sin."Mub. A. S. IX. 635. By way of a set-off to some things which I have quoted, and a specimen of the exceptions of which I speak, I may add what the biographer of Herluin (who was Abbot of Bec at this time) says of this confluence of learned
He tells us that the monastery increased in a variety of ways, as to fame, revenue, &c.—“Viris litteratis undecumque confluentibus cum ornamentis et spoliis quibus spoliaverant Ægyptum, quæ cultui tabernaculi postmodum forent accommoda. Poetarum quippe figmenta, philosophorum scientia ei artium liberalium disciplina Scripturis sacris intelligendis valde sunt necessaria."— Ibid., 364.