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Sed lex dona coerceat, know no respect for any man, but punish every Nec, dum Tartara liquerit, man according to his deeds; and of whom they Fas sit lumina flectere. say, that they control every man's fortune. Then Quis legem det amantibus ! began he to implore their mercy. Then began Major lex fit amor sibi. they to weep with him. Then went he farther, Heu ! noctis prope terminos and all the inhabitants of hell ran towards him, Orpheus Eurydicem suam and led him to their king; and all began to speak Vidit, perdidit, occidit. with him, and to pray that which he prayed. Vos hæc fabula respicit, And the restless wheel which Ixion, the king of Quicunque in superum diem the Lapithæ, was bound to for his guilt, that Mentem ducere quæritis. stood still for his harping. And Tantalus the Nam qui tartareum in specus king, who in this world was immoderately greedy, Victus lumina flexerit, and whom that same vice of greediness followed Quidquid præcipuum trahit there, he became quiet. And the vulture should Perdit, dum videt inferos.' cease, so that he tore not the liver of Tityus the Book iii. Metre 12. king, which before therewith tormented him.
And all the punishments of the inhabitants of hell were suspended, whilst he harped before the king. When he long and long had harped, then spoke the king of the inhabitants of hell, and said, Let us give the man his wife, for he has earned her by his harping. He then commanded him that he should well observe that he never looked backwards after he departed thence; and said, if he looked backwards, that he should lose the woman. But men can with great difficulty, if at all, restrain love! Wellaway! What! Orpheus then led his wife with him till he came to the boundary of light and darkness. Then went his wife after him. When he came forth into the light, then looked he behind his back towards the woman. Then was she immediately lost to him. This fable teaches every man who desires to fly the darkness of hell, and to come to the light of the true good, that he look not about him to his old vices, so that he practise them again as fully as he did before. For whosoever with full will turns his mind to the vices which he had before forsaken, and practises them, and they then fully please him, and he never thinks of forsaking them ; then loses he all his former good unless he again amend it.'1
One speaks thus when an indistinct idea has to be impressed upon the mind. Boethius had for his audience senators, men of culture, who understood as well as we the slightest mythological allusion. Alfred is obliged to take them up and develop them, like a father or a master, who draws his little boy between his knees, and relates to him names, qualities, crimes and their punishments, which the Latin only hints at. But the ignorance is such that the teacher himself needs correction. He takes the Parce for the Erinyes, and gives Charon three heads like Cerberus. There is no adornment in his version; no finesse as in the original. Alfred himself has hard work to be understood. What, for instance, becomes of the noble Platonic moral, the apt interpretation after the style of Iamblichus and Porphyry? It is altogether dulled. He has to call everything by its name, and turn the eyes of his people to tangible and visible things. It is a sermon suited to his audience of thanes; the Danes whom he had converted by the sword needed a clear
moral. If he had translated for them exactly the fine words of Boethius, they would have opened wide their big stupid eyes and failen asleep.
For the whole talent of an uncultivated mind lies in the force and oneness of its sensations. Beyond that it is powerless. The art of thinking and reasoning lies above it. These men lost all genius when they lost their fever-heat. They spun out awkwardly and heavily dry chronicles, a sort of historical almanacks. You might think them peasants, who, returning from their toil, came and scribbled with chalk on a smoky table the date of a year of scarcity, the price of corn, the changes in the weather, a death. Even so, side by side with the meagre Bible chronicles, which set down the successions of kings, and of Jewish massacres, are exhibited the exaltation of the psalms and the transports of prophecy. The same lyric poet can be at one time a brute and a genius, because his genius comes and goes like a disease, and instead of having it he simply is ruled by it.
•'A.D. 611. This year Cynegils succeeded to the government in Wessex, and held it one-and-thirty winters. Cynegils was the son of Ceol, Ceol of Cutha, Cutha of Cynric.
614. This year Cynegils and Cnichelm fought at Bampton, and slew two thousand and forty-six of the Welsh.
678. This year appeared the comet-star in August, and shone every morning during three months like a sunbeam. Bishop Wilfrid being driven from his bishopric by King Everth, two bishops were consecrated in his stead.
6901. This year died Alfred, the son of Ethelwulf, six nights before the mass of All Saints. He was king over all the English nation, except that part that was under the power of the Danes. He held the government one year and a half less than thirty winters; and then Edward his son took to the government.
902. This year there was the great fight at the Holme, between the men of Kent and the Danes.
1077. This year were reconciled the King of the Franks, and William, King of England. But it continued only a little while. This year was London burned, one night before the Assumption of St. Mary, so terribly as it never was before since it was built.'1
It is thus the poor monks speak, with monotonous dryness, who after Alfred's time gather up and take note of great visible events ; sparsely scattered we find a few moral reflections, a passionate emotion, nothing more. In the tenth century we see King Edgar give a manor to a bishop, on condition that he will put into Saxon the monastic regulation written in Latin by Saint Benedict. Alfred himself was almost the last man of culture; he, like Charlemagne, became so only by dint of determination and patience. In vain the great spirits of this age endeavour to link themselves to the relics of the old civilisation, and to raise themselves above the chaotic and muddy ignorance in which the others wallow. They rise almost alone, and on their death the rest are again enveloped in the mire. It is the human beast that
1 All these extracts are taken from Ingram's Saxon Chronicle, 1823.
remains master; genius cannot find a place amidst revolt and bloodthirstiness, gluttony and brute force. Even in the little circle where he moves, his labour comes to nought. The model which he proposed to himself oppresses and enchains him in a cramping imitation; he aspires but to be a good copyist; he produces a gathering of centos which he calls Latin verses; he applies himself to the discovery of expressions, sanctioned by good models; he succeeds only in elaborating an emphatic, spoiled Latin, bristling with incongruities. In place of ideas, the most profound amongst them serve up the defunct doctrines of defunct authors. They compile religious manuals and philosophical manuals from the Fathers. Erigena, the most learned, goes to the extent of reproducing the old complicated dreams of Alexandrian metaphysics. How far these speculations and reminiscences soar above the barbarous crowd which howls and bustles in the plain below, no words can express. There was a certain king of Kent in the seventh century who could not write. Imagine bachelors of theology discussing before an audience of waggoners in Paris, not Parisian waggoners, but such as survive in Auvergne or in the Vosges. Among these clerks, who think like studious scholars in accordance with their favourite authors, and are doubly separated from the world as collegians and monks, Alfred alone, by his position as a layman and a practical man, descends in his Saxon translations and his Saxon verses to the common level ; and we have seen that his effort, like that of Charlemagne, was fruitless. There was an impassable wall between the old learned literature and the present chaotic barbarism. Incapable, yet compelled, to fit into the ancient mould, they gave it a twist. Unable to reproduce ideas, they reproduced a metre. They tried to eclipse their rivals in versification by the refinement of their composition, and the prestige of a difficulty overcome. So, in our own colleges, the good scholars imitate the clever divisions and symmetries of Claudian rather than the ease and variety of Virgil. They put their feet in irons, and showed their smartness by 'running in shackles; they weighted themselves with rules of modern rhyme and rules of ancient metre; they added the necessity of beginning each verse with the same letter that began the last. A few, like Adhelm, wrote square acrostics, in which the first line, repeated at the end, was found also to the left and right of the piece. Thus made up of the first and last letters of each verse, it forms a border to the whole piece, and the morsel of verse is like a morsel of tapestry. Strange literary tricks, which changed the poet into an artisan! They bear witness to the contrariety which then impeded culture and nature, and spoiled at once the Latin form and the Saxon genius.
Beyond this barrier, which drew an impassable line between civilisation and barbarism, there was another, no less impassable, between the Latin and Saxon genius. The strong German imagination, in which glowing and obscure visions suddenly meet and violently clash, was
says, retained regular ordaing spirit, in
in contrast with the reasoning spirit, in which ideas gather and are developed in a regular order; so that if the barbarian, in his classical essays, retained any part of his primitive instincts, he succeeded only in producing a grotesque and frightful monster. One of them, this very Adhelm, a relative of King Ina, who sang on the town-bridge profane and sacred hymns alternately, too much imbued with Saxon poesy, simply to imitate the antique models, adorned his Latin prose and verse with all the ` English magnificence. You might compare him to a barbarian who seizes a flute from the skilled hands of a player of Augustus' court, in order to blow on it with inflated lungs, as if it were the bellowing horn of an aurochs. The sober speech of the Roman orators and senators becomes in his hands full of exaggerated and incoherent images; he heaps up his colours, and gives vent to the extraordinary and unintelligible nonsense of the later Skalds,-in short, he is a latinised Skald, dragging into his new tongue the ornaments of Scandinavian poetry, such as alliteration, by dint of which he congregates in one of his epistles fifteen consecutive words, all beginning with the saine letter; and in order to make up his fifteen, he introduces a barbarous Græcism amongst the Latin words. Many times amongst the others, the writers of legends, you will meet with deformation of Latin, distorted by the outbreak of a too vivid imagination; it breaks out even in their scholastic and scientific writing. Alcuin, in the dialogues which he made for the son of Charlemagne, uses like formulas the little poetic and trite phrases which abound in the national poetry. What is winter? the exile of summer. What is spring? the painter of earth. What is the year? the world's chariot. What is the sun ? the splendour of the universe, the beauty of the
of hours. What is the sea ? the road of the brave, the frontier of earth, the hostelry of the waves, the source of showers.' More, he ends bis instructions with enigmas, in the spirit of the Skalds, such as we still find in the old manuscripts with the barbarian songs. It was the last feature of the national genius, which, when it labours to understand a matter, neglects dry, clear, consecutive deduction, to employ grotesque, remote, oft-repeated imagery, and replaces analysis by intuition.
i William of Malmesbury's expression.
? Trimitus (pantorum procerum prætorumque pio potissimum paternoque præ. sertim privilegio) panegyricum poemataque passim prosatori sub polo promul. gantes, stridula vocum symphonia ac melodiæ cantile, næque carmine modulaturi bymanizemus.
and Greek, who, in the decay of the other two, brings to the world a new civilisation, with a new character and genius. Inferior to these in many respects, it surpasses them in not a few. Amidst the woods and fens and snows, under a sad, inclement sky, gross instincts have gained the day. The German has not acquired gay humour, unreserved facility, the idea of harmonious beauty; his great phlegmatic body continues fierce and coarse, greedy and brutal; his rude and unpliable mind is still inclined to savagery, and restire under culture. Dull and congealed, his ideas cannot expand with facility and freedom, with a natural sequence and an instinctive regularity. But this spirit, void of the sentiment of the beautiful, is all the more apt for the sentiment of the true. The deep and incisive impression which he receives from contact with objects, and which as yet he can only express by a cry, will afterwards liberate him from the Latin rhetoric, and will vent itself on things rather than on words. Moreover, under the constraint of climate and solitude, by the habit of resistance and effort, his ideal is changed. Human and moral instincts have gained the empire over him; and amongst them, the need of independence, the disposition for serious and strict manners, the inclination for devotion and veneration, the worship of heroism. Here are the foundations and the elements of a civilisation, slower but sounder, less careful of what is agreeable and elegant, more based on justice and truth.' Hitherto at least the race is intact, intact in its primitive rudeness; the Roman cultivation could neither develop nor deform it. If Christianity took root, it was owing to natural affinities, but it produced no change in the native genius. Now approaches a new conquest, which is to bring this time men, as well as ideas. The Saxons, meanwhile, after the wont of German races, vigorous and fertile, have within the past six centuries multiplied enormously. They were now about two millions, and the Norman army numbered sixty thousand. In vain these Normans become transformed, gallicised ; by their origin, and substantially in themselves they are still the relatives of those whom they conquered. In vain they imported their manners and their poesy, and introduced into the language a third part of its words; this language continues altogether
1 In Iceland, the country of the fiercest sea-kings, crimes are unknown; prisons have been turned to other uses ; fines are the only punishment.
? See Pictorial History, i. 249. Following Doomsday Book, Mr. Turner reckons at three hundred thousand the heads of families mentioned. If each family consisted of five persons, that would make one million five hundred thousand people. He adds five hundred thousand for the four northern counties, for London and several large towns, for the monks and provincial clergy not enumerated. ... We must accept these figures with caution. Still they agree with those of Macintosh, George Chalmers, and several others. Many facts show that the Saxon population was very numerous, and quite out of proportion to the Norman population.