Oldalképek
PDF
ePub
[graphic]

ܪ

From the Church of England Quarterly Review. pass upon the countless dead, and in the sure and Truths and Fictions of the Middle Ages. The certain hope of which, moreover, holy church hath

Merchant and the Friar. By Sir Francis PAL- taught him to part for a season with those who GRAVE, K. H. London: Parker.

have fallen asleep in Jesus.

So is it also with the history of man—the events The“ past” is a word fraught with deep mean of the past are pregnant with moral life for the fuing and interest : to the imaginative it suggests in- ture. Every one of them has had its use in the numerable visions of varied forms ; to the reflective, social system, and has proved a seed of fruit for the lessons of wisdom and materials for fecund thought; harvesting of other generations. It is our part to whilst, forming, as it does in that which it recalls, use the knowledge which they bring to the fulfilbut one link in the great chain of eras that unites ment of its rightful purpose, neither wasting it in the first enunciation of God's mighty purpose of the creation of pleasing visions or recreative fanmercy to its final consummation, its chiefest use is cies, nor passing it by as too cumbersome for the to furnish in its contemplation grounds for wisely hastier progress of modern energies. History stops judging the present and anticipating the future. us in our course through life to point us to the

It has been well observed that whilst the Al- paths which our fathers trod and the deeds which mighty is most beneficent, he is also most frugal, they did ; and then come hope and wisdom to lead teaching his

creatures, by that which may be known us onward and teach us how 10 avail ourselves in and red by all men of him in the works of his our forward course of what we have seen. To hands, that the exercise of true liberality depends stop not at the bidding of the one, or to loiter upon provident care, and consists in the exact pro- where we are stopped, is alike unwise-in other portion of the supply to the necessity. All nature words, no knowledge of the past or reflection on its is pregnant with this truth : there is not a leaf that history can be profitable which does not furnish us falls nor a flower that fades to waste ; not a form with elements of moral strength and wisdom for the that seems to perish, that does not, in its ashes, future. The fulfilment of man's destiny is in procontribute to the sustenance of life : there is not a gression, the proper developnient of which, like the drop abstracted from the ocean that does not yield a unfolding of a flower, is manifested in the varied blessing ; not a particle of inanimate matter that forms of great and primary principles, increasing in has not its distinct use, and that does not, in its beauty as they approach the term which God has place, help on the great work of reproduction. appointed to them for the bearing of the fruit orWaste and want are words, indeed, which have no dained to each. No man can properly fulfil his place in the vocabulary of divine providence ; there place, and do the work allotted to him in the presis no necessity for which there is not a supply-ent, who does not with two-handed strength and nothing which in the constitution of the supply has skill hold the past and the future—the past for the not its proper function. The seasons come and go, wisdom which it gives, and the future for the hope noiseless in their change and mighty in their opera- which it contains. No man is fitted for the active tion ; each has its work, to see that nothing be lost. and practical duties of life who dwells with the What winter kills contributes to the nourishment of dead; nor can he, on the other hand, deal wisely summer life; whilst the seed that falls in autumn and kindly with those around him, if he blot the and seems to perish revives in other forms in spring. memories of those who have gone from his mind, Frugality and mercy are indeed twin sisters: their boast in his ignorance of their virtues, or be caregracious labor is one of love: the one saves that less of the sources of their failings; whilst for the the other may dispense: without provident care foundation of every solid edifice, whose uses are the necessities of nature never could be met, and for other generations, the deepest lessons are to be from all that dies a new existence springs. “Gather | learned in the contemplation of the structures which up the fragments that nothing be lost,” were the our fathers built. There are many, however, who words of our blessed Lord, and they contained no in our days mistake the musings of poetry for the mere passing admonition, but a great and glorious reflections of wholesome philosophy ; who, in their truth : they were, in their place, a revelation of the contemplation of the past, sit down and weep over mind of him who created nothing without a purposo, the visions which they bring to being, till all in whose sight nothing perished, and who has so strength for action is gono: there are others, wondrously ordered all things and their goings as again, who despise the uses of poetic thought, and that there should be neither loss nor waste. They have no sympathy but for utilitarian materialisms. who dream of annihilation havo neither eyes to see To them the past has neither a charm nor a lesson ; nor minds to understand, and it is only " the fool”: to them the future is nothing but a speculation ; who " saith in his heart there is no God;" for they are, as the word goes, “ practical men, who deeper and mightier truths even than that of the neither know nor care for anything beyond present wondrous supervision of divine providence are realities, who judge all the spiritual phenomend of taught in the decaying seed and substance. He humanity by hard statistics, and measure hearts and who looks intelligently upon them sees a germ of minds by a coarse arithmetic of profit and loss. future existence, and counts upon their resuscitation Neither the one nor the other are fitted for the exiin forms of vigorous beauty. He knows that, gencies of the times, which require, for the super“except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and vision and right understanding of all which they die, it abideth alone ; but if it die it bringeth forth produce, a deep acquaintance with the spirit and much fruit;" and when he sees it die he looks in mind of man, in whatever form they may have been hope for the promised life. Thus, in all things developed—in whatever way it is possible that they which surround him, he learns not only that in their may yet be manifested. decay there is no waste, but that out of death comes There is no lack of learning in the age in which we resurrection life. Whilst he gives faith to the rev- live. It is, indeed, wonderful how the secret elation of " life and immortality" which the Lord sources and springs of ancient knowledge have has “ brought to light,” he beholds in all that na- been traced out and laid bare to the gaze of allture brings before his eye an unfailing evidence of how the customs, modes of thought and habits of the reality of that great event which shall some day life, ways and works of our ancestors, have been

[ocr errors]

66

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

a

placed, as it were, on a stage of exhibition, that childhood; but, apart from its feebleness, the one all who choose may become conversant with them. has nothing in common with the other; and this From the mysterious days of swarthy Egypt, with very feebleness is that of the plant, not newly all the wonders of her occult science, down to the sown, but worn out in the production and bearing age when the mail-clad warrior gloried in his of fruit. It has a knowledge and an experience strength, or the merchant prince in his argosies, is which childhood of itself never can attain; and, now reduced to the form of a familiar tale ; and whilst to learn is common to all, to unlearn is an books of elementary knowledge deal as unceremo- impossible process. Yet this is needed to make niously with centuries, and treat as knowingly of the old man once more in all respects a child, and their events, as the smaller histories of our school- throw the present into the past. It matters not, boy days dared to do with the subject of the French therefore, whether this error manifest itself in furevolution or the geography of the provinces. tile efforts to recall the practices and spirits of paEtruscan monarchs, the mighty conteniporaries of tristic ages—to bring back the cowl of monachism the shepherd king of Israel, have been gazed at for and fondly fancy the system will come with it-or a single moment in their tombs, in all the glorious to revive the ancient sports and pastimes of rural panoply in which they were laid to take their sleep manhood : there is something abroad which will for ages: the wanderings and sufferings of God's interpose its veto. The spirit of the age, which ancient people have been deciphered in what they now is, will not yield to that of the ages which are have written in their way; the very grain which gone; and, though there is much that is pleasant the builders of the pyramids have handled is grow- in the memory of the departed, there is too much ing in many parts of Europe ; the food of which of serious import in that which is upon us and bethey ate, the chairs on which they sat, the cos- fore us—too much of coarse materialism and stern tumes which they wore, all may behold who choose; reality to suffer us to lose one atom of the strength whilst, with the days of Norman William and his we need for present strife in vain repinings for the rapacious host, the polished Saracen and the stern past or fruitless efforts for its revival. Let any crusader, the stately knight and mitred abbot, one, for a moment, reflect upon the progress of the the wilely scrivener, the cowled monk and burly last sixteen years. It is just that period since the friar, we are now as familiar as with our kith and first railway in England, in its more developed kin a few degrees removed. The imagination has, form, was opened; when the lamented promoter indeed, but little to do in recalling a vision of the of the scheme met with his death in the inaugurapast: knowledge has furnished her with all the tion of a system which he foresaw would exercise material she can need, and that so abundantly and so great a power on the destinies of the world. minutely as well nigh to render her own legitimate And now all Europe is interlaced with iron roads; occupation of mental creation useless. She has the ends of the earth will soon be brought toonly to produce some of the many forms with which gether; there will be hardly a land to which there the memory is stored—to bring about them the ap- will not be means of ready access—hardly a clime pliances of scenery and dress—to abstract from which shall not own beneath its influence men of them the coarser and sterner elements which tell every speech brought together as to a market place. of discomfort and oppression if she be in no truth. Who can foretell the consequences ? A greater ful mood, and retain such as speak in all their rude social revolution than that which awaits us has not development of high resolve and kindly feeling- been recorded in the annals of time. Haste in and she will have at once before her for her contem- thinking, haste in action, are already amongst the plation a pleasant picture of other days and their characteristics of the age ; and the power and vedoings, wanting nothing but life to make it a locity of steam are but the symbols in the physical reality.

of that which exists or is coming forth in the After all, however, the picture is but a picture- moral. It were a mad effort 10 endeavor to force a representation of life and not life itself: it is the the speed of modern locomotion back to the dilatovision of what has been, but which will never be ry processes of our fathers—it is as mad an effort again : of an age which, having fulfilled that part to seek to restrain the hastening spirit of this age of God's great purpose allotted to it, has passed to the staid and stately paces of the past. This away and become as the seed to the plants—the love of railway motion is the index of the mind gerininating principle of other forms—in which, of the day, at once an effect and a cause : an effect ihough the fruit of ihe past is seen, the past itself, of the immediate onward progress of man to a as it was, will never be reproduced. It is a great given end; and a cause fruitful in result of the inerror to think otherwise, and yet it is the error of creasing ratio in which all moral development is the day—the error into which many gentle minds taking place. Let any one judge of that which is have fallen, wasting the energies which present to be by that which is—let him, by the simplest exigencies so much need in fruitless efforts for the arithmetic, try to ascertain, from the data which revival of that which, in its past form, is forever he has, what may be the probable amount of hudead; or spending them in melancholy mournings man progression in the course of the next few for that which ought not to be mourned for. The years, and he will at once admit that it is as unmatter which perishes has fulfilled its purpose and wise as it is impossible to seek in the ages of the obeys, in its decay, the law of its being ; whilst the past fitting garments for the growing and gigantic spirit that was created to survive is still existent, forms of the present. Whether all this be for good though in some form which, for lack of discern- or evil is another matter : we deal with facts, and ment, we do not readily recognize. It is not we think it is with facts that all must deal who God's purpose to reproduce the past, but out of the would come to any right conclusion as 10 what is past to bring forth the future: this we may learn or what

may

be. from the contemplation of that which is within our It is very possible that there is no greater amount own experience. The man is the same as he who of happiness amongst men now than there was in was the child; but, once attaining to manhood, it former days. A vision of feudal times has in it is impossible that he should be ever a child again. many forms of poetic beauty; but it has, also, its Old age, it is true, is sometimes called a second darker shadows. Noble daring and warrior

[graphic]
[graphic]
[graphic]

>

strength, the glorious panoply of war, the pageant-made meet for her inheritance of light and prery of knighthood, manhood in all the fearless de pared to share the throne of her Lord. This is velopment of its hardy energy, are there; but sad enough, when coming from born Romanists grouped with them are the wrongs of the “ vil- themselves; but issuing from neophytes, who have lein,' the shackle on the hands of the serf, the ra- been, it is to be presumed, conversant with their pacity of the noble, and the suffering of the poor. Bibles and accustomed to large and comprehensive It is no difficult task for fancy, in gazing upon the freedom in examination, it is a striking proof of the ruined hall or castle of other days, to people them magic process by which, the moment submission with life, and so create a picture of that which she is made to Rome, every fruitful capacity is rendered deems them to have been in their primeval strength sterile and barren to the seeds of iruth-every and glory; but she will too often forget the real in power of the mind is fettered down in servile subthe beautiful, and omit, in her creation, the ele- jection to a narrow system. ments of discomfort, misery, and abject depend- We have been led into these remarks in perusing ence, which too surely existed. Nevertheless, we the book whose title stands at the head of this artiapprehend there were many things tending to ame- cle. It is a book full of interest, combining amuseliorate a condition which so many are apt to look ment in the amount of information assorded with upon with contempt. If feudality had its oppres- ample materials for reflection. The crudeness and sions, chivalry possessed its amenities—if the church the quaintness of the antiquarian are visible was dark, it was hospitable and mindful of its throughout; but its chief value is in the enunciapoor; and it would be hard to prove a worse estate tion of principles of great truth and wisdom. for the laboring classes than that which they now Whatever rust there may be is the rust of gold; endure ; where, in the midst of boundless luxury, and if the knowledge which it contains sinells privation is the rule and not the exception with the somewhat of the dust of the book-shelves, we are working man, where death from starvation is a well assured that it is the result of deep research, common occurrence, and where the church's char- and that of the author's own labor, and not of secity has been exchanged for the iron rules of a cruelond-hand purloining. law and its merciless administration. The truth, Sir Francis Palgrave has chosen as a vehicle for however, is still the same, that whoever would be the information which he gives, and the reflections the benefactor of his age must be so, not in forcing which he makes, some fictitious events (which can back its spirit to suit the forms of other days, but hardly be called a tale, but rather detached and in preparing fitting garments for its enlarged ca- graphic scenes) in an epoch fraught in all its assopacities, its increasing wants, and energies in ciations with the deepest interest. He has put his these.

matter into the form of an imaginary conversation For every age of man's life there are knowl- between two of the most illustrious men of their edge and strength proper thereto. Childhood has day—the fathers of their class, as far as that its hornbook and its primer, manhood its treatise, fatherhood can belong to the middle ages and the and old age its meditations. In like manner the pioneers in the two broad paths of the knowledge hand of the strong holds up the tottering infant, the which comes from seeing and conversing with men, bond of brotherhood nerves the man, and the feeble and that which comes from tracing physical phestep of the declining is made sure by the tender nomena to their primary principles. His heroes care of kindred or of friends. So it is with the are Marco Polo, the Venetian traveller, and Roger ages of the world; they have had their infancy, Bacon, the Franciscan friar. It is difficult to conthey have their prime, and they shall have their ceive a more felicitous choice for the purpose which final maturity, full of all knowledge and ripe with he had in view. In the one,

he had the exponent all meetness for the consummation of God's great of the energy and enterprise which made merchants and mighty purposes. He, ever in his mercy, pro- princes; in the other, the leader, in that spirit of vides most amply for the necessities of these seve-hardy inquiry, that not only first broke down the ral conditions, raising up men for the times in hedges and fences with which ignorance had surwhich they live, and furnishing his church, or-rounded the Romish domain, but ultimately brought dained to be the light of the world, with fitting the full light of 'ruth to bear upon the structure food and wisdom for the nourishment and instruc- which stood therein. Marco saw nearly as much tion of her children. The great mistake which of the world as has been seen in latter times, and men have made is this on the one hand suppos- penetrated farther than most modern travellers; and ing that there is no light in the sanctuary available though his relations were treated at first as visionfor the guidance of the world in great moral and ary crcations, yet subsequent experience has with civil questions ; on the other, in forgetting that, as few exceptions verified them. she is a body of life, her strength is fitted to her We are not, however, aware that Marco ever day, the very law of her spiritual existence being saw England, and we think that Sir Francis has increase of that strength according to her necessi- forgotten that he and the friar could hardly have ty. Hence men have dreamed of her as though come together, seeing that Marco did not return she were dead for all present purposes, and men from his service of Kublai Khan till 1295, about have gone to the fathers for the light they should which time, according to the popular tradition, have sought of God in existing ordinances, or have Bacon must have been laid to sleep with his fathers. altogether cast the church aside as a mere appur- This literary license, however, we presume must tenance of state pageantry, or an incorporation of be permitted. Both Marco's father and uncle, speculative theories. Some talk indeed, nay more, Nicolo and Maffeo, had preceded him. With a some writing there has been of development; but spirit of enterprise that is not generally thought to of such development as the corruption of death en- have belonged to the civilians of those days, they, genders, rather than of that which properly results having heard that a market for costly articles of from healthful life. The miserable abortions of easy transport existed amongst the western TarRomanistic folly and superstition have been gravely tars, determined to avail themselves of it. They propounded to the world as the glorious aspirations accordingly converted their property into such artiand ripened knowledge of the church of Christ, cles of jewellery as they understood to be in de

[graphic]

a

[ocr errors]

acens,

manà about the year 1254, started on their perilous and Albertus Magnus of Cologne passed for deal. journey, and eventually succeeded in reaching Bok- ers in the black art; whilst poor Roger, at the age hara, at that time a city of the east celebrated for of sixty-five, paid the penalty of his great knowlits commerce. Here, it appears, that they met edge in an imprisonment which lasted until near with a Tartar envoy on his way to Kublai Khan, the close of his life. This imprisonment, it is said, the conqueror of China ; and, being persuaded by he owed as much to his character as a reformer as him, they accompanied him to the court of that to his reputation as a magician; since he did not prince. After some stay the

returned to their hesitate boldly, upon every fitti occasion, to renative country, which they reached about the year prove the ecclesiastics of his day for their sloth and 1269 ; and it was not till about two years after this ignorance. It is recorded of him that he expended period that they again set forward on their journey, no less a sum than two thousand pounds* in the accompanied this time by Marco, who was between course of twenty years in the purchase of rare seventeen and eighteen years of age. Up to this works—a wondrous munificence for such an one as period Marco had never seen his father, and, having he—and at once a proof of the scarcity of books, lost his mother shortly after his birth, had been de- and how highly he prized the knowledge which he pendent upon the care of others, who, as the sequel sought. sufficiently testifies, had not been negligent of the Of this scarcity there are some curious instances trust. The Poli, it seems, were of a noble family, on record; we will quote some of them : “In a and as was then the fashion in Pisa, Genoa, Flor- close roll, dated 29th of March, 1208, king John ence, and the other coinmercial sta of Italy, writes to the Abbot of Reading to acknowledge eagerly engaged in mercantile pursuits, without that he had received, by the hands of the sacrist fear of taint to their blood or disgrace to their lin- of Reading, six volumes of books containing the eage. To this probably is owing the union of whole of the Old Testament.” The receipt is also taste and wealth which afterwards distinguished acknowledged of “ Master Hugh de St. Victoire's the Italian nobility under the rule of the Medici, Treatise on the Sacrament;'' the “ Sentences of the refinement of aristocratic breeding directing and Peter the Lombard;" the “ Epistle of St. Auinfluencing the expenditure of the gains which gustine on the city of God and on the third part of commercial enterprise had won.

the Psalter ;"? « Valerain de Moribus ;” “Origen's In speaking of Marco we must not, however, Treatise on the Old Testament;" and “Candidus forget an older traveller than he into the regions Arianus to Marius.". The following month the of the east, William de Rubruquis, as he was king wrote to acknowledge the receipt of his copy pleased to call himself, whose real name was Ruys- of Pliny, which the abbot had in his keeping. broeck, a friar, who, in the spirit of the times, un- Now, this is a truly magnificent collection for the dertook a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, where period, and the care which is observable in the Louis IX. was then detained a prisoner by the Sar-enumeration, together with the formality of the

This pious monarch had heard of a great king's receipt, shows how highly it was prized. In Christian nation and a certain Prester or priest, like manner, there are similar documents of the John, who ruled them, as existing in the wilds of reign of Henry III., which show the estimation in Tartary; and Father William formed one of a which the library of the new chapel at Windsor, commission of monks despatched by the king on a consisting of eight books, was held : and the value mission of inquiry. Of Prester John and his im- of a certain volume entitled “ The Exploits of aginary subjects, it is almost needless to add, he Antiochia and of the Kings and Others," at that saw nothing; but he found at the court of one of time in the possession of the Knights Templar, and the Khans Christian missionaries, witnessed a in the custody of R. de Sandford, Master of the great deal which must have opened his own mind order in England. and that of his companions-no small benefit to Henry, in his “ History of Great Britain," resociety, considering their character and the age in lates many instances of the costliness of books in which they lived—and bestowed upon the world the beginning of the fifteenth century; by which an account of his travels in the shape of a Latin time, however, it would appear that the scarcity, letter to his patron, which was partly done into and even the price of them, had greatly diminished, quaint English by Hakluyt nearly four centuries if it be true that the Duke of Bedford, in the year afterwards, and subsequently given to the public by 1425, bought the royal library of France, collected Purchas in his “ Pilgrimes.)

by the fifth and sixth Charleses, and consisting of It is worthy of remark that the accounts of these nine hundred volumes, for one thousand two huntwo travellers do not materially differ; and, though dred livres. Another proof of the value of books there were many then, and have been since, scep- in the middle ages is the care that was taken of tical on the subject of the facts which they related them by securing them with chains to the places -though Marco was called in derision “Old Mil- where they stood—a custom which continued to be lion,” and became a subject of burlesque in panto- observed in many libraries so late as the beginning mimic effigy to the Italian populace of succeeding of the eighteenth century. A curious instance of generations-yet, as far as we know, subsequent this is mentioned by French antiquarians, where, experience has confirmed their statements and when a priest named Henry Beda, in the year borne honorable testimony to their veracity. 1406, bequeathed his manuscript breviary to the

But it is time to turn to the friar, glorious Roger! whose wondrous feats and brazen head were * It is hardly fair to allow this statement to stand unthe familiar subjects of our nursery knowledge. qualified. It is what is related in the “Encyclopedia

Britannica ;” but Chalmers says that the money was for He was a great exception to his day, which, not the most part contributed by certain members of the withstanding Mr. Maitland's clever defence of it, University of Oxford, and expended by him, as well in we must still continue to consider a dark one ; for, the experiments which he made, and the construction of whilst posterity reaps in many a way the benefit the instruments which he invented, as in the purchase of of his labors, the common tradition concerning him books. Still, supposing him

to bave spent but the half

or quarter of that sum for the latter purpose, it shows has perpetuated the ignorance of the Romish the estimation that was put upon them and their scarChurch in the legend of his magical skill : -both he city.

[ocr errors]
« ElőzőTovább »